01 Jul The Trophy – Episode 2
“It’s a b-e-a-utiful summer this year, jubilation’s in the atmosphere, I can tell ya, and a big, big, welcome to Russia for the FIFA World Cup or as we say over here, dabro pazhalovat!
Ehimi got to his house, tired and hungry, but with a brisk and optimistic mind about the next day. No one was at home . . . at the next breath, he heard footsteps, eerie horrifying gentle footsteps, moving into the house in the lounge . . The intruder grabbed his arm swiftly and grasped the metal from his hand. “Fool!” He grunted and struck him on the head . . . Very certain he was lifeless now, the intruder left him alone while the body crumpled to the floor . . . a young man of just nineteen, donned in just a towel, was left murdered in his house
Past things should remain behind. The team was back on its feet this year . . . They were set to grab the much-coveted trophy . . . Femi was the one leading them now. He had taken up Ehimi’s role . . . but a year after, the same feeling was coming upon him. He felt his life was at risk . . . and so they retired for the night afterwards immediately. All alone.
Femi was awakened with a sound of a door squeaking open . . . The intruder’s footsteps continued sounding and soon it was rapidly approaching where they were . . . A terrible shock petrified him and Itunu instantly . . . Their lives literally would be determined in seconds.
The room was pervaded with grave-silence. The whole night seemed to ooze a very creepy quietness. The only sound Femi and Itunu could hear was the pounding heartbeats that was rocking in their chests—and the eerie footsteps of the intruder still pacing in their house. A shock so horrifying indeed was travelling through their veins.
The door to the room in which they were in now opened. Mysteriously. Femi immediately cuddled Itunu so tightly in his arms closing his eyes as he expected the worst yet. How could it be? What would become of them? And who was haunting them so cruelly like that? They waited for the worst . . .
But no one was there yet.
The intruder was still pacing in the sitting room in fact. They could hear the footsteps. In a very strange and terrifying way, the door had opened by itself. The surging night breeze was clearly at work. Not only was it rushing into the room and swaying the curtains, it was also multiplying the dread of Femi and Itunu. Quickly, Femi summoned courage to walk over to the room door and shut it back—silently though—and then lock it. He breathed a very heavy sigh as he continued shivering for fear. He could barely even stand on his feet as they were vibrating heavily. Oh God! Where are you? Please protect us now, I beg You. The tears coursed down his cheeks as he prayed in his heart and returned back quickly to Itunu that was on her bed after shutting the door. The both of them were practically ravaged with fear. He looked at young Itunu. She was crying so profusely also.
“Don’t worry, Itunu, nothing would happen to us,” he tried relieving her as much as he could. It was as though the devil himself was practically sitting on their shoulders breathing down their necks and bombarding them with every form of horror.
The intruder was still pacing all over, entering from room to room. His movement was really increasing the pounding of their hearts. But they had to just wait quietly and patiently in Itunu’s room. Time was ticking. But it seemed like a whole lifetime that the intruder spent inside their house. Just then, surprisingly, they heard the intruder walking out of their house and then he closed the front door back. It was quite shocking and they were confused.
His footsteps continued to sound as he walked out of their compound totally. At first it seemed so surprising and impossible, but they were sure of what they’d heard. They were really sure. The intruder had walked into their house and walked into different rooms but failed to come into Itunu’s room where they were in. How could it be? Femi lingered in Itunu’s room again for at least another thirty minutes. He wanted to be very certain the intruder had left totally and wasn’t probably hiding somewhere. After some time, he summoned courage again and decided to check other places in their house to be certain they were very safe now.
Silently and gently, he stood up and left Itunu’s room. He gave a heavy sigh with a determined mind and then tiptoed into various rooms in their house. To an unbelievable surprise again, there was no one in the house. Thank God! The relief he felt was so unexplainable. His pounding heart decelerated now. At least a lot of time had gone and Femi was sure the intruder was finally gone. The clock read 11:55pm now, almost midnight. God had really saved the lives of Itunu and himself. For no reason, the intruder walked out of their house and left them unhurt. They didn’t even see him. But at least they still alive. They felt so grateful. It was a miracle.
Just then, Femi looked over to where he’d kept his laptop to let it charge before—in the sitting room. Mysteriously, it wasn’t there anymore. How come? The intruder had stolen his laptop and left with it, he knew immediately. A severe pain developed in his heart. That was one of his most precious possessions—which he’d saved a lot of money to buy. But now it was gone. A tear dropped from his eye. To hell with whoever the intruder was. His laptop was gone. But at least, their lives were still intact—which was more important than a missing laptop. He’d gotten a big testimony now in any case. His life didn’t end like Ehimi. Whoever the intruder was, what was he really after in fact—concerning the strikers of the Hawks FC?
Femi moved over to Itunu’s room after that. That’s the best place in the house both of them felt most secure. They would stand in for each other as best siblings. Although they couldn’t really sleep for most part of the night due to the terrible dread they’d experienced, they felt a perfect serenity, so indescribable, now.
Very early, by daybreak, Femi arose quickly. He felt a strong need to inform the neighbours about what had happened the previous night. You couldn’t let such sensitive security issues just lie like that. Quickly, he went over to other apartments and did what he thought best. Mr. Johnson, Felicia’s dad was also informed about it.
“Well, when did you notice your apartment was broken into—by the intruder?” He asked Femi who was in their apartment now.
“Around past 10, or 10:30pm,” Femi replied.
“And he took nothing else from your apartment except your laptop?”
“We’ve got to be more careful. We’ve got to inform the cops,” Mr. Johnson suggested with a sonorous baritone voice. A six-footer, he was quite chubby with a crisp skin that confirmed his posh standard of living. He was an accountant and although was married, his wife had travelled out of the country for her job annual routine. So he was left alone with Felicia, their only child, about eighteen years.
“Sleeping in our flat afterwards wasn’t easy. The fear was very intense,” Femi admitted to him.
“It’s not going to happen again, believe me. It’s just quite unfortunate that your parents aren’t around,” Mr. Johnson said. He knew they weren’t, although he didn’t know the exact details why they weren’t—that Femi’s dad had died and mum was admitted in the General hospital. He was still a new resident in that area in any case (not spent up to three weeks yet).
“Yeah sir,” Femi mumbled as the thought about his mother’s condition revived sharply in his memory. 200,000 Naira was still needed urgently in order to carry out the palliative cancer surgery on his mum. He knew. Himself and Itunu were all alone for the main time. Nevertheless they would remain as so—and as orphans—for a very long if their mum, Mrs. Aina, wasn’t operated on as quickly as possible—in less than a month. Femi needed help desperately. But there was no one he could look to for help concerning the health of his mother, although he was still optimistic about being awarded 200k if he became the highest goal scorer in the on-going Lagos Championship Cup. But you couldn’t count on that, you know. What if he failed to? His mother’s life would be at stake. So he made up his mind, not the least easily at all though, to inform Mr. Johnson about the situation and get any little help he could—no matter how little. 200k was really huge!
“Well,” Mr. Johnson replied him after, “I’ve also got lot of things to take care of, you know, here and there . . . and I don’t think I can help about the situation.” His reply came like a huge meteor crashing so strongly upon Femi’s heart. It was really painful. Femi was depressed. He hadn’t expected such reply in such manner in fact. It made his heart bleed and he was wishing he hadn’t discussed the matter with Mr. Johnson in first place. It seemed quite inhuman of him. He had tried . . . but was disappointed now. That’s just what he didn’t like about him. He felt God needed to help him now urgently. His first hope, Mr. Johnson, was gone. He didn’t want their mum to just die like that. He sighed heavily and shook his head. All would be well, he encouraged himself pitifully.
Almost at the next breath, Felicia came out of the blue with bag hanging from her arm and she was stroking her dog pet in her arms. “I’m ready to go to school, dad,” she told him then she waved to Femi who was still in their apartment. “Hi.” She’d known he was around and had heard all what he’d told her father. Seeing her again that morning, his heart seemed to whisper some dear words to him now. She was endearing enough. She wore pinkish top, red trousers with black jacket spiced with a long brunette hair.
“Alright, dear,” Mr. Johnson said. “You can come and take this.” He dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out some pocket money for Felicia who went over there immediately and collected it. “When would you be back today?” He asked her.
“Two,” her crisp answer came. “Or Three O’clock at most. I’ve just few lectures to attend every Friday but I also want to go shopping with my friend, Rose, after that.” She dropped the cute dog pet down, Ken by name, a white Labrador breed.
“Alright and er . . . please take good care of yourself, honey,” her dad told her.
“Will do—and you too,” she threw him some air kiss as she smiled and came out of their house while Femi also did too, heading to his own apartment now. Her dad was a loving father indeed to her, her best friend.
Despite the quite far distance to her school (all the way from Maryland where they lived), she maintained a high level of seriousness to her studies. She didn’t reside in the school hostel, quite right, but she was famous in her Microbiology class—not just because of a striking beauty but because of the cool brains she had. She always captured everyone’s attention. Unbelievably, she attended same school as Femi too. And it was just that morning the both of them knew—when he asked her. There was more alike in them now. Fridays were lecture-free for Femi, although today was the D-day for the Quarterfinal match. His team, the Hawks were meeting St. Thomas FC. The match was fixed for evening though. They’d prepared for it, poised to finally grab the Trophy and Femi wasn’t ready to lose out to any entity.
He informed her about it all as they walked out. “Football is great, and I really love it,” she admitted to him.
“Of course, it’s cool,” Femi nodded with a grin on his face.
“Er . . . so what else do you really do apart from Geosciences and football?”
Femi was quite surprised though delighted at the question. It was all about familiarizing together. “Well, I play the drums too—at my fellowship though.”
“You attend church too?” The question came with an enormous shock as an expression of surprise overtook her face.
Femi was quite confused at the question. “Yeah I do. Is there anything wrong with that?”
“Maybe or maybe not,” she answered. “But I personally choose not to believe stuffs like that. Not anymore. I don’t go to churches and I’ll never go.”
He had never heard that kind of reaction before. “Really? Do have any personal issues with that?” Who’d ever say that, he thought.
“Not really. I just wasn’t brought up with stuffs like that. And lot of strict rules in them.” Her family practiced a sort of atheism. Femi was just knowing.
“Not good enough, believe me. Being close to God is what guarantees us a good life, both here on earth and after our lifetime too.” He maintained his stand.
“I never want to still. I’ve got my life to live.” She shrugged.
“You may not go to church now, believe me,” he told her, “but remember that four hefty men will carry you on their shoulders and drag you into a church one day when you die. And you’d face God afterwards. But it could be late by then.” He said with all certainty. And she could feel the gravity of those words. It was a fact and it was very true. There wasn’t anything she could say to deny or argue that fact. Probably, she tried excusing herself. She’d give it a thought later in any case and so the duo went on their different ways immediately after waving goodbye.
Time always flies. By noon, Femi’s phone rang and he picked it up. On the other end of the line was a man who introduced himself as Police Sergeant Mike. Strangely, he had something to tell Femi and he wanted to see him so urgently. Femi was summoned to the Police station, the one closest to where they lived, and he went there straightaway. With a fear-stricken heart though.
“Is this laptop here yours?” Were the first words that came out of the Sergeant Mike’s mouth immediately Femi met with him and he showed Femi a laptop.
Very surprised, Femi examined the laptop carefully. “Yes,” he replied. “How did you get it back?” It was his own. It was the same laptop the intruder had stolen from his apartment the previous night. A large smile formed on his mouth and even heart now.
“We caught a guy when patrolling your street yester night,” Sergeant Mike narrated. “He was with the laptop, we arrested him and found out that the laptop wasn’t his. We had to check the personal files in the laptop to determine and contact the owner. We were able to get to you.”
“Mighty Lord!” An awestruck Femi breathed. It seemed so surprising and unbelievable. But it was true. His laptop was indeed recovered for him by the cops. He couldn’t contain his joy. Soon, he narrated to Sergeant Mike what had happened in their house the previous night—about how the intruder had broken into their apartment. He also related to him the account of Ehimi’s murder. An intruder had also broken into his apartment in a very similar manner. That was a year ago, on a day to a very important match. Same was thing was recurring now.
Sergeant Mike hummed long. “I’d personally look into this case then. And I’d interrogate the intruder more to know what he know about the previous incident. For the mean time of course, he remains in our custody.”
“Thanks a lot, Sergeant,” Femi appreciated him. It all seemed without his effort. “I’d follow up on it sir, and I’m confident that Ehimi’s murderer would be exposed soon. Thanks.” He felt very grateful. He had lots of gist for Pete, his best friend. Thank God for people like Sergeant Mike! Certainly, he was returning home with his laptop now, luckily, more so prepared for the crucial match in the evening. He alone was leading his team, being the top striker. So he was nearly indispensable, very essential to the Hawks team.
16:00 Hours and it was match time. All the boys had assembled at the football pitch that evening for the Lagos Championship quarterfinal and St. Thomas FC guys were also around, looking all armoured up. Hawks FC coach, Mr. Chuks, had drilled the boys enough and he perfected tactics with them now.
“We don’t really know what to expect from these guys so it’s best we possess the midfield and retain a strong defence,” he told the team. “We’d use 4-5 -1. Christian and Ugo maintain the extreme wings at MDF but always got to close up with Femi at the top when attacking and y’all must be very fast. Ball distribution should follow your favourite Tiki-taka but never let the ball waste time behind. Always be on the offensive. Let’s give it to them and show them who the Hawks truly are, c’mon boys!” His husky voice grew louder.
“Sir yes sir!” The delighted Hawks teammates roared together, very optimistic about the match. Everyone knew St. Thomas FC as the underdogs among the qualified teams after all. They needn’t panic. The FIFA World Cup was still going on in Russia. But this was their own World Cup. They were set to give it all they could to qualify for the Semi-finals. The grief they’d had when the country’s national team failed to qualify from Group stage earlier that week was enormous enough. This Trophy was going to be theirs this time around!
The whistle went and kick off! The Hawks maintained the tactic Coach Chuks had prescribed but it was very difficult to do that. It took a lot of time to get themselves and St. Thomas FC guys weren’t so easy as they’d expected. They were very tough in fact. Very tough. They were able to successfully counter the Hawks’ tactics and by half time had scored three precious goals (one from a fifteen-yard free kick set piece though). The best the Hawks could reply with was just a goal Femi gave them. It appeared Hawks FC were the underdogs now. The whole team was very agitated including Coach Chuks. By halftime, he was literally pleading with the team especially with Femi as they were in the locker room, practically disappointed.
“You guys can do better than this. And we can still beat these guys,” he encouraged them. “We’re going more offensive now, but would position a double 4—Sejiro and Williams please. Pete remains number 10, I’m substituting Timi with Eniola to play number 8. Strikers remain unchanged but we’re changing formation to 4-2-1-3 now guys,” he strategized illustrating the tactics on a board.
By second half, the Hawks managed to net another goal—Thanks to number 7, Christian. The pressure and panic was very much on both teams as they each struggled to win this match. Femi was giving his all, including the other teammates and Coach Chuks too. If he failed this match, he would be sacked and this would be the sixth time the Hawks would crash out of the annual tournament. They weren’t ready to lose. You too, you could feel the tension they felt. They needed a miracle desperately. Thoughts about the 200k rocked Femi’s mind too. He really needed to win because he needed the money for his mum. Oh God, please! By 72nd minute, the score line was 3-2 against the Hawks and they needed just a goal urgently to equalise in order to drag the game into an extra time. Unfortunately though, St. Thomas FC’s number 11, Danjuma, netted another goal for them through a fast counter attack, placing the score line on 4-2 totally against the Hawks making the situation totally hopeless now.
They never expected this kind of difficult game from St. Thomas guys. It was really unfortunate. They needed two more goals now—if possible three—within 18 mins in order to win the match otherwise Femi’s hope and the hopes of each of them would be crashing into the sea! Coach Chuks needed a better miraculous tactic again now. How could they win in few minutes? A terrible pressure permeated their brains and fear rocked in their hearts. Is this how they’d lose shamefully to the underdogs today?
Episode Three coming up next week. The Hawks really needed to win the match against St. Thomas FC. What could the team do as they were left with only few minutes to losing? And how else could young Femi raise up the 200,000 Naira if they lost the match and the most-coveted Trophy? Don’t miss next episode!