Sunday, 2 December 2018

Kidnapper's Plight

He stepped away from the door and closed his eyes. Still, Ochuko could not shake the effect the girl had on him. He could not understand why her calm, sad features invoked such feelings of despair in him. The image of her tethered to the bed like a Ramadan ram, wearing the same clothes she had been wearing every day for the past seven days, suffused him with regret and pathos. 

Her name was Fechi. She was about fifteen years of age, light-skinned, plump and short. She was their latest victim, the newest lamb his gang looked up to for the Golden Fleece.

The six-man gang of kidnappers was created about three years ago by Obule (‘Chiefo’ as he was fondly called by his boys). Ochuko recalled how Obule had cajoled him into joining what he had termed a ‘lucrative business venture’ back then. He had been weak, he had given in, using his joblessness as an excuse. It had turned out to be as juicy and profitable as Obule had promised, and easy to execute. All they had to do was target easy prey such as children of ‘big men’, women with rich husbands or old folks with wealthy children. They never asked for less than five million naira as ransom, and the sharing system was always fair. Ochuko could now boast of over seven million naira in his account.

He took one more look into the stark, depressing little room, before shutting and locking the door.

He went in search of Obule.

The rest of the bungalow was just as rugged and sparsely furnished as the room in which the girl was cooped up. It was an abandoned building at the end of a street of similar near-ramshackle buildings somewhere deep in the bowels of Ikorodu.

Ochuko found Obule outside the bungalow. He was sitting alone on a wooden stool beneath a dongoyaro tree. Tall and ruggedly muscled, he fitted perfectly into anyone’s image of what the leader of a gang of kidnappers would look like.

“Chiefo, we need to talk.”

“About what?”

“The girl now. When are we going to let her go?”

Obule’s ever-present scowl deepened. “Why are you talking like you don’t know our mode of operation. Is it possible for us to let her go without collecting the ransom money? O’boy make sense now. We have to keep her here till her father pays.”

“I know. I am just afraid of something happening to her while she’s still in our hands.”

Lailai! Nothing will happen to her in our hands. You better make sure of that… after all you are her caretaker.” Obule gave a small chuckle at his own pun. “Shebi Rino and Hassan have gone to town to pick up the dough from her old man. Let’s see how that goes na. It’s her father that is causing her suffering and not us. I don’t know why the yeye man has been delaying since.”

Those words were barely out of Obule’s mouth when they heard the clang of the gate swinging open. They both pivoted to face it, duplicate looks of expectancy in their eyes. They knew it had to be Rino and Hassan returning from their rendezvous, and they were right. Rino and Hassan sauntered through the gate and made straight for them. The moment he saw them, Ochuko’s heart took a dive for his feet. There was no trace of the large sum of money the duo had gone to collect.

Obule shot to his feet, an alarming look of fury contorting his features into a gorilla-like mask.

“Where the money?” he queried the two.

“The man no show o,” was Hassan’s response. He was the only member of the group that was from the western part of the country. “The baga no just show up.”

There was a moment of stunned silence, like the lull before a storm. And the storm did come. Obule fumed and raged in fury. “I should just kill the girl right now and put an end to this nonsense once and for all!”

Ochuko was stunned.

“Bull, calm down, man.” That was Rino, him whose real name no one knew.  He was a very light skinned fellow, and the youngest of the lot. He spoke and acted like one who had just returned from            the States, and he had nicknames for them all which he insisted on addressing them with. Obule was Bull, Ochuko was Chucko, Hassan was Hans, Uzor was Uzzie but Junior because his name was already a Western one, remained Junior. With his light complexion and false accent, Rino was easily and always mistaken for a half caste American.

“I’m not calming down!” retorted Obule. “What game is that man playing with us? He promised to be at the pick-up zone today with the money.”

By now Uzor and Junior had joined the foursome, attracted by Obule’s noise. Ochuko was certain Fechi was hearing everything, and could imagine how scared she must be at the moment.

“I wish I can call the baga right now, but no, that’s too risky,” Obule was saying as he toyed with his phone. “I would have liked him to hear us hurting his daughter, maybe then he would know we mean business.”

Ochuko was really nervous now; he had never seen Obule like this.

“I am tempted to call him right now, I’m really tempted…” Obule was still saying as he continued to scroll through his phone, a Blackberry Bold 5. Then suddenly he stopped, his face screwed into a comical expression of surprise. “Obasi eee!” he screamed after some seconds. “See this man o.”

“What is, Chiefo, what is it?”

“See the news flying about on Twitter. It’s on breaking news that Chief Emezuruike has paid the ten million naira ransom money to the kidnappers of his daughter and he is now awaiting her safe return. Imagine that! Imagine him claiming to have paid us, when he did not even show up at the rendezvous. This man must pay for his lies!”

He continued ranting like that, promising to make Chief Emezuruike, Fechi and the whole of the Emezuruike clan pay for the slight on the gang, while the other members watched him quietly. They knew the bane of Obule’s life was his bad temper, and whenever he was riding on a wave of fury like now, it was best to let the storm of his anger run its course and peter out.

But peter out it did not. This time, Obule’s temper seemed to increase the more he ranted. Then he announced decisively, “It’s time to put an end to this nonsense. We kill the girl and send pictures to her parents. Come on, guys.”

He made to rush into the bungalow, but Ochuko jumped into his path. “Common, Chiefo. Don’t make critical decisions when you are mad. Remember your promise never to kill any of our victims …”

“Promise ko, promise ni,” Obule snarled and made as if to brush Ochuko out of his way.

“…besides, what’s to make us certain that the Chief did not truly make the drop like he claims?” As he spoke, Ochuko threw a loaded glance at Rino and Hassan.

“Wetin you dey try talk? Say we collect money from the man come dey lie for Chiefo? Ehn?” Hassan flared.

“You saying shit, man,” Rino added.

Ochuko saw that his words had had the desired effect on Obule. He now had an uncertain look in his eyes.

“Are you guys sure that Chief Emezuruike did not make the drop?” he asked quietly.

“Ah! Chiefo you dey wound my heart,” Hassan exclaimed, hitting a fisted hand on his chest to buttress his statement. “How you go believe say we fit do than kind thing? After all these years wey we done dey?”

“Na question I ask.”

“Chiefo, I swear…I fit use anything swear. In fact, make we go call the man for phone together, make him come talk am again say him drop money.”

“Okay. Make we go town go call the man then,” Obule accepted. “Junior, follow us.”

In fifteen minutes they were all gone—Obule, Rino, Hassan and Junior—to somewhere far from their hideout, in order to prevent their location being traced from the phone call. Ochuko knew what he needed to do and knew he didn’t have much time to do it. He had to help the girl escape before Obule and the others returned. He knew once Obule returned with proof that Fechi’s father had indeed defaulted, he would do as he had promised – kill the girl or hurt her badly. He had to prevent that and the only way to do it was to help her escape.

The Story Continues>>> Click Here for the Final part


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