The three storey structure stood proud and erect, it's dull brown paint were already peeling off the walls, the metal bars were rusted and the doors were creaking in the wind. The inhabitants of the building were going about their daily routine.
Suddenly, the gates swung open and three police vans sped into the compound, closely followed by two armored trucks. As the vehicles screeched to a halt, uniformed men jumped out, totting submachine guns as they took formation, surrounding the house in seconds.
The door of the leading van opened and Police Inspector Doris stepped out. She too was in full gear, down to the bulletproof vest. And she was the only one carrying a pistol. It was her weapon of choice for any operation whatsoever. After all, one of the upside of being in charge was getting to use whatever weapon she damn well chose.
She slammed the door shut as she took a quick survey of the compound. She could see men, women and children peeping from behind curtains.
"We split into four teams." She began, raising her voice so all the officers could hear her. "Beta Team, I need you to clear the area ten kilometers to the east. Charlie Team, you do the same ten kilometers to the west. I don't want civilians within those areas. Move out!"
"Yes sir!" The respective teams chorused and marched out of the compound.
"Delta, you go into the building and evacuate the civilians. Your job would be to get them safely out of the blast radius. Go!"
She watched them move in, "Alpha Team, you would remain with me and the bomb squad. The moment the civilians are out, we find that bomb!"
Inspector Doris was at her wit's end. Her most recent murder case was slowly turning into something else. Something even bigger than her.
She had been investigating a series of high profile murders, involving top government officials. And for three difficult weeks, she followed the killer's trail around the streets of Lagos. Until she finally discovered who he was: Stanley Gbebodi.
And that led to his arrest.
After an intense interrogation, he had revealed that the murders were only the first phase of his plan. And the next phase was to bomb a community in Lagos.
After more interrogation and some deals, he eventually gave up the location of the bomb. Letting them know it was a time bomb and scheduled to blow up in forty minutes.
That was thirty minutes ago, now with less than ten minutes to the explosion, Doris impatiently watched as the civilians were escorted out.
Many of them followed meekly, the guns and the expressionless faces of the officers didn't encourage conversation. But there were still those who wanted to know why they were been forced from their homes.
There was no time for explanations.
"Just get them out." Doris muttered, she checked to make sure her pistol was fully loaded. And as the civilians emptied out, "Alpha team, with me. Bomb squad, take the rear."
The bomb squad only consisted of a man and his female partner both were decked in protective suits.
Guns raised, they trooped into the building. While she wasn't expecting any attack, she also had to be vigilant. In her line of work, surprises were deadly.
"Okay," she said once they were inside. There was no way they could cover the entire building in time. "We split up. Turn everything upside down. Bomb squad, you stay down here until the bomb has been made."
"Yes sir." The officers chorused and then they scattered off in different directions. Up the stairs and into rooms.
Inspector Doris took the first floor, the nuzzles of her pistol leading the way as she moved into a living room.
"No reason." Stanley had said when asked why he had chosen that house. " I only chose it because it was the easiest I could hide a bomb without getting caught."
Recalling this, she stopped to think. People lived here, families with little children playing around. So the only place for the bomb not to be found would be somewhere no one went frequently. And where could the be?
She turned and hurried down the stairs back to the ground floor where the Bomb squad stood.
"I think I know where it is."
She led the way to underneath the staircase she had just climbed.
"I need a flashlight!"
One of the officers ran to the van to get it. She shone the beam in the dark belly of the stairs, dispelling the shadows. Cobwebs, lots and lots of them clung to the walls.
There were junk scattered about, abandoned over the years. The floor was covered with dust so thick it felt like a carpet even under her police issue boots.
She surveyed the place, sweeping the beam all over. There was no sign of the bomb.
Then she noticed the floor. One part of it was less dusty than the rest, and the dust in that area had been disturbed very recently.
Bent double, she made her way in. There was a table that was covered by a tarpaulin.
She checked her time, they had less than three minutes.
She pulled off the tarpaulin and adjusted the table to reveal the bomb.
It had a silver casing, with green, red and yellow wires all over in crisscrossing lines like arteries of the body. In the middle was a digital timer which was steadily ticking off.
"I've found it!" She cried, sliding her pistol back into it's holster. "It's gonna blow in two minutes!"
The bomb squad got in, their movements clumsy by the bomb suits. There was no time to take the bomb out. They would have to defuse it under the stairs.
"All units, the bomb has been made!" She said into her radio, "I repeat, the bomb has been made. Retreat beyond the blast radius."
"What about you?" The leader of the squad asked as she pocketed the radio.
"I'll see this to the end."
"Good." He didn't argue, "we need a fifth hand to hold the flashlight."
They set to work, their heartbeats pounding in their ears. The squad were decked in protective suits, but Doris wasn't. There was little a Kevlar vest could do against an explosion.
The countdown got to a minute.
Sweat poured off her brows, her hands shook slightly but she said nothing. Her eyes steadily following the countdown.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
She saw as the leader separated wires with the help of his assistant. He was picking and rejecting, selecting only the ones he saw fit.
Doris's heart was racing, she was feeling sick in her stomach. But still, she showed them light as they worked on. Quiet and precise, like well oiled engine. She could see they had worked together a lot seeing as they were saying nothing to each other but worked so well.
Then he began to cut the wires.
One after the other, he clipped them off. First a red, then a yellow, then another red... Like that, in an organized manner, he kept cutting...
As the digits raced on down, he parted two wires to reveal a third. This would be the final cut.
The assistant helped him and held them apart. He raised the clipper.
He put it to the wire. It was a green one, it's color a bit distorted under the harsh glare of the flashlight.
He cut it.
The countdown froze.
Doris's breath came out in a whoosh, it was then she realized she had been holding her breath. She crawled out, not minding the dust and cobwebs, then hurried out of the building, breathing in deep gulps of fresh air.
Her chest heaving, she had to rest against the van. Her close shave with death had affected her worse than she had imagined.
Behind her, the squad emerged. They had placed the bomb in a containment box and the assistant carried it to the van. The leader stopped beside her.
"You did good Inspector." He commented, "not everyone would have attempted what you just did."
"You did good as well. Because of you, those civilians still have a home."
He shrugged at that, "the bomb is top military grade. I don't know how your criminal got his hands on it, but I can say he must have serious connections."
"Okay, thank you." She told him, frowning at this new piece of information. It was only a confirmation to the theory she had feared all along.
Stanley Gbebodi was a sick murderer, but he was only a pawn in the schemes of someone more powerful and smarter. Someone determined to cause chaos in the country. The introduction of the bomb had changed the game, and hence the rules.
This was no longer a murder case, it was now a case of terrorism. And seeing as the players would be changed as well, the case would be handed over to the military to deal with.
She let out a sigh, if there was one thing she didn't like, it was not finishing something she had started.
But she had no choice in this matter. Bureaucracy won't permit.
She pulled out her radio.
"The bomb has been contained. I repeat, the bomb has been contained. The civilians can be released to their homes. All teams get back here. We leave ASAP. Over."
As some of you have noticed, this is not my first story featuring Inspector Doris, this is in fact the third story. But note that each of them are independent stories and are not continuations of each other. The only common character they have is the savvy Inspector.
If this is your first time encountering the Inspector, you are very welcome. And you can find the other two stories here and here. I hope you enjoy them.
Thank You for reading.