He has been writhing in pain since the masseur’s hands left his body. He had resigned to his fate of at least a week of intensive recovery therapy. The elbow joints were swollen and inflamed. He found it difficult to raise his hands, even just above his shoulders. His fears of a fracture, however had been allayed by a quick scan conducted by the medical team of his rescuers, the Public Bureau. He got the help of the rescuers because they did not have his identity. No one really liked a publisher, let alone a nose poking flat foot cum journalist in a crime-ridden city as that. At least not in the year 2010. Everyone only looked after his interest, as the common saying went there. He had earlier been severely beaten, like a thief caught in the act.
The venue of the hockey match was partially filled. It was not surprising as the game was not popular after a century of its being introduced to the locality. It has not caught on. In fact, the buzz around the game was recent! What was causing the tipping point? He had to find out, he assured himself! His erstwhile assistants, Musa and Lawrence had stumbled on a lead. It had seemed that the recent kidnaps of city council officials and ransom payments were somehow connected to the game. How could that be? He just could not answer this question. Unfortunately, Musa and Lawrence had since left him. They suddenly grew too old for spooky jobs. That was their excuse…something along that line. He, on the other hand had considered them too timid and felt betrayed.
His eyes had caught it again. That same code. Why on this zipped duffle bag? Only few people would have noticed the colour coding. But he was not just anyone. He was a trained crime investigator with 26 years of experience. His recent excursion into investigative journalism was not without a good foundation. Yes, that colour combination could only be a code! In his world, you would not take such a thing at face value. He could not have missed that one too! The wrist band on the captain of the home team also was similarly coded. And the bag belonged to the captain of the visiting team. He now knew that this was not just a hockey match. It was a broad day meeting of the Zagallok. A public meeting of the cult was never thought possible.
Various terms were exchanged on the pitch. He heard that one. 173. The referee had called out to the visiting team. He had never heard that one before in a game of hockey. He searched his pocketbook, nothing like that. He sprang to his feet and headed to the changing room of the visiting team. The locker numbering started from 174. The other room it must be. He thought. The numbering on the home team lockers ended on 172. He was disappointed and agitated at the same time. 173…173…173. He kept playing it in his head. Why the omission of 173 in the numberings? He did some spatial re-orienting of the number. 173 is ELI. Was that not a biblical prophet’s name? it must mean more than that. He reasoned.
He strolled towards the park thinking. Voilà, there you are, he had thought. He had found it. The plate number of the council chairman’s Ford Mustang 2009 edition was PROPHET. He looked through the windows and found nothing unusual. He then noticed two young men sitting and chatting under a tree nearby. They both had the colours on their ‘Aviator’ sun glasses’ frames. He pretended to be admiring the car and gently walked back. He still had the question? ‘Where is locker 173’?
There must be another locker room. He figured out. He was correct. The chairman had a locker to himself. Honourable Akinomo Elijah Durojeje was a social elite. Only few knew him by his middle name. He dropped the name many years ago when he converted to new age, a pseudo-religion. He became disillusioned with the movement and retraced his steps to embrace the common religion, obviously for political reasons. Our man, the publisher knew what he was up against.
He stole a security pass to get to the VIP room. And right there was the locker, 173. And on the floor was the duffle bag. He opened it. All that was inside was a book of names, signatures and photos and addresses. There were thumbprints that must have been made with bloodlike fluid. He knew it. This was the members list. Surprise, surprise. Musa and Lawrence were members. Almost all his friends and former colleagues, too. He closed the book and returned it into the bag. Zipped it back and left. There was no need for taking anything. No need for pictures too. He had been in this profession long enough to develop a strong memory. Moreover, he knew he was being watched. There were cameras everywhere.
He left the room and headed to the exit of the building. ‘Stop’! ‘Yes, you’. He was searched and nothing unusual was found on him. He was then handed over to two men to escort him out of the premises. The same two young men he had seen outside earlier. The escorting also included pummelling and slapping. His phone was confiscated, and he was let to live because nothing injurious to the cult was found. They had assumed he was a petty thief. He was thrown out of the moving car close to the Public Bureau’s office and was fortunate enough to get the help.
He recovered well enough and published The Breach and Hockey, Bloody Fingerprint. That was the book that exposed the goings-on in the public place. He was later awarded a civilian medal of the city