It had been over an hour and she still hadn’t been able to get through to her parents, she had used both Lawrence and her phone and still was not able to connect and she was getting frustrated. Each time it would seem like it was about to connect and then the line went dead, she thought it was her phone but when Lawrence’s did the same thing she just about gave up.
She tried texting and it kept failing to deliver, even the bloody wifi in the hotel would not connect, she had called the reception and they said there was no problem with the wifi, so it must be her damned phone. She pushed it aside, eager to push away every thought of her inability to connect with her loved ones; it was so frustrating.
The phone Isaac had gotten her was twice as expensive and twice as stupid as the one she had before, she had wanted to refuse it; because she hated to be indebted to anyone especially Isaac but he had insisted she accept it as a gift and penance, she gave in when Lawrence coaxed her into accepting it, now as she looked at the fancy gadget perched at the corner of the dresser, she wished she had resisted and accepted a simpler phone.
“Becca your parents are fine, stop being such a mommy’s pet and come over to the bed, it’s getting late and you know tomorrow is packed full of activities.”
“I have half a mind to call a cab right and head on home; I would feel so much at ease if I can only hear Isabella’s voice, just to know if she is alright. Right now, my heart feels like I lost someone.”
Lawrence heaved a sigh. Women, he thought, always worrying about the littlest things, he got out of bed and went to sit with her at the dresser. He put a hand across her shoulder and she leaned in.
“They are all alright and you are worrying your forehead into a knot because that is what you do. I promise you, tomorrow, we will find a means to get across to your folks, even if it means knocking down all the doors in Cross River to get a damned phone that works. It is the network; you know how it gets during this time of the year?”
She felt a little bit better, but deep down she still felt something was wrong and knew only the voice of her parents or either of her siblings would set that feeling, still she followed her boyfriend when he pulled her towards the bed, tucked her in and turned off the light and somehow her worries seemed to go to sleep too. There would be ample time to worry tomorrow, she thought as the dark hands of sleep embraced her.
Thick smoke bellowed from his pursed lips and dissipated into thin air as it made its ascent towards the POP ceiling, the air conditioned room was at least eighteen degrees, yet he sat naked from the waist up, his mind occupied with thoughts that far outweighed the cold.
Isaac had known for a long time that he was not destined to make it in life the right way, he was not the clichéd good boy turned bad or poor boy hustling any which way to make ends meet, in fact he came from a very wealthy family, so wealthy even that his father had disowned him because his wayward ways were threatening to tarnish the pristine image, he had spent years and fortune creating. His father was good with numbers, his older brother was good with people, their only sister was a medical doctor, his younger brother was on his way to becoming a practicing lawyer, yet Isaac had been stuck seven years in the university reading a four year course. Education was not his calling, he had told his father that much but the old man would not listen; he was not going to have a half baked literate in his home, he had told Isaac several times.
Isaac had his father’s penchant for numbers and his brother; Albert’s finesse with people and had wanted a little money to travel abroad and get into the import and export business but his father had insisted that he must first finish school before he started to nurse any such thought.
His first dance with crime was in his first year in the university, he had walked into his father’s room on an errand and happened upon his cheque book, he tore out three slips, from in between the sleeves, so that only a keen eye would notice the discrepancies with the serial numbers. Forging his father’s signature had been easy; needless to say his first year was glorious, since the guys and girls flocked around the one with the biggest wad in his pocket.
Since he could not depend on the chance that his father would leave his cheque book unguarded again, he sorts other means to fuel his lavish lifestyle. It was during this period that he had been introduced to the Supreme Vikings Confraternity, where he met a lot of people of like mind and drive; rules were wasted on them and they were all on a fast lane to life. At this point his education began to suffer, while others were in school, he and his friends would be at the bar drinking beer and making trouble, even when he did go to school, he always ended up at the back which was always reserved for the NAS (Non Academic Students); students who weren’t actually considered students by their peers, because they only appeared during tests and exams.
For a while he got by on his pocket money and what he “obtained” from other students but when the schools anti-cult began to clamp down on cult activities within the campus and its environs, “obtaining” became difficult and after four years, money stopped coming from home as his folks believed he had graduated, even though they did not see any evidence to that effect, still his father had cut him off.
Internet scam became his most viable source of income, it was rife amongst students at the time, the universities were filled with students with questionable source of income, who drove flashy cars and lived luxurious lives. At first it had only being targeting vulnerable older women while posing as foreigners working overseas, the profiles they created to gain access to these women; were usually invented and beautifully crafted or stolen from other social media sites, and were so water tight, that even if a skeptic were to dig, they would not find much, unless they were the FBI or Interpol. They would first begin with small talk and getting to know each other and what they did for a living, where they resided and the likes, then they would arrange a date for when he “got back in four months from his post as an engineer in Africa” helping to build one of the continent’s longest bridge to make up for keeping her waiting, a “small gift” usually jewelry bought with stolen credit cards and the location of the goods bought were rerouted electronically, so many times that authorities lost track of them.
Over time he would buy clothes, shoes and anything else that would tickle the fancy of the mark, all these was done to gain her confidence. Then on the day he would have had to arrive, he would call his mark that he had been robbed by the taxi he had taken to the airport and was now stranded and needed just a few dollars for his flight, hotel and a new phone with a promise of payment on arrival, since he has spent over a thousand dollars on her, his mark would have no qualms sending him two thousand dollars which amounted to about four hundred Nigerian naira; usually a Yahoo boy had more than one mark, some worked out, others didn’t but if three out of five paid that was about one point two million, a lot of money for a student.
Once payment was made, the point man was scrubbed out of existence and a fresh one created. But even “magas”; a term they used for their marks, would not be magas forever and soon the internet love scam began to wane in popularity and they delved into hacking and ATM card splicing which was even more popular and lucrative, even though it required more work.
Isaac found himself thinking of the first time he had conceived this kidnap plan, it had come to him by accident; a joke Lawrence had told his girlfriend. They had been watching an episode of the popular US series CSI, about a girl who had planned her own kidnapping with her boyfriend to get her father’s attention, only for her to accidentally end up dead. He remembered vividly what Lawrence had said that day, “I will just lock you up in my room for one week and demand ransom for you and you and your dad will be non-the-wiser.” They had all laughed at the ridiculousness of it all but somehow the thought kept nagging at him, what if it could be done? Can it be called kidnapping if there was no actual kidnapping? Of course it could be done, all he had to do was create an illusion, keep his audience focused on the big picture while the real magic happened in the background.
Now the plan was hatched, there was no going back. He eased out of the bed, the girl in the bed beside him stirred, he paused, anxious for her not to wake up. He went into the bathroom with the voice muffler to make a call, he made sure the door was secure before perching on the corner of the bathtub.
The phone rang three times and on the fourth time, someone at the other end picked up and as expected it was not the Engineer. For what seemed like an eternity all he could hear was the breath of the person at the other end, calm and steady, waiting for him to speak. He waited a while, knowing every second wasted was one he could never recover.
“Nothing has changed; we are still a go for tomorrow.”
“But the money is not ready, as we speak Engineer Ifeanyi is bedridden, please give us more time.”
“I could give you forever but each second I give you is a second that Rebecca does not have. Noon tomorrow, better have my money or it is bye-bye.”
“But….” The phone went dead before he could finish.
Isaac sneaked back to bed and slid under the covers, his mind already fine tuning every detail for the drop off tomorrow. He knew the cops would be everywhere, he counted on that and had already made contingency plans for that, by the time he was done with his plans the Eze’s would not know what hit them. He was too excited to sleep, so he preoccupied his thoughts with what he would do with the money, obviously he would have to share it with his accomplices but once that was done, he was going to take his share of the money and flee the country; he had not made mention of his intention to anybody, just so if ever they were found out, no one would know where to start looking. He was going to spend the first few years hiding in different African countries before he made the giant stride to Europe. He could not wait.