He lay flat on the cold floor, his nose immediately filled with the earthy smell of the ground, his body shook with fear, apprehension and despair.
“Where is the money, where is the girl?!” The men kept yelling at him.
“What girl? Oga I no know wetin you dey talk about!” He managed between blows and kicks landed on him by expert hands and heavy boots. “The money dey under my seat.”
One of the men reached under his seat and pulled out the plastic bag. “Sir, it is just thirty thousand here!!”
“I found the bag!” A voice called from the back of the truck.
He had a brief reprieve as the men all went to see the said bag, what bag are they talking about? He wondered. His question was answered when one of the men who had been pummeling him came up to him with an empty school bag.
“How did you get this bag?!” The burly man who had been kicking asked.
“I swear oga, I never see that bag for my life!”
“Talk true!” Another said smacking him above the head.
“Oga na true, I no know where e come from. As you see am, na so I see am.”
The burly man moved aside and started talking into the radio.
“Sir, this is Obidi, we found the bag but the money is gone. We have a man in custody, the bag was in his possession. Yes sir, we will bring him back to the station.”
“Ah Oga, station?! Wetin I do na?! Na work I just dey close from now. I no do anything oh!! Abeg, I no do anything oh.”
His entire plea fell on deaf ear as he was handcuffed and bundled off in a police vehicle.
Catherine had just finished saying her rosary when her phone rang, she did not recognize the phone number, she hesitated, deliberating whether to pick it or not, ever since the kidnap of her daughter, she had become suspicious of unknown numbers. The phone rang and stop and began again and the third time she finally picked.
“Hello?” She squeaked.
“Mommy, mommy, turn on the TV, Rebecca is on TV!”
“She is on SETV, I just saw her now. Turn on the TV!” Why did Isabella sound so excited, her heart was ramming fast against her rib cage, threatening to burst through. Had something bad happened to her Rebecca? Why was she on TV? Oh God please keep her safe.
She turned on the TV and rewound the footage, thank God for modern technology. She screamed for joy when the image of her eldest daughter and her boyfriend appeared, she did a little victory dance round the table.
“Hello Isabelle, yes I just saw your sister, she is free, and this is live. She is free, she is well. Lemme call your uncle.” I hope they have not given them that money, she thought to herself as she dialed Emeka’s number.
After Emeka hung up, he sat at his desk, a torrid of emotions coursing through him. These guys had played them all for fools, from the get go; they had had them chasing ghosts. Was it really a kidnapping if there wasn’t an actual kidnapping? It might not be that was left to the court to decide but if they were guilty of anything, then it had to be extortion and that in itself was a grievous crime.
The criminals had vanished into thin air, the only suspect they had in their custody was a lowly truck driver who just happened to be bait in a real big game of catch and release. He had long being released, he had made a call to the family of the boy who was supposedly kidnapped alongside Rebecca and like them, and they had parted with some money, even though it was considerably smaller than theirs. The police were under orders to search anybody with a backpack or any bag of any kind, all trunks and all cars leaving the city, he knew that they were casting their net in shallow waters but they had to try, they could get lucky but even he had to admit that the chances of that happen was next to impossible.
“Obidi, come in.”
“Obidi here, over.”
“Any development on the case? Over.”
“Nothing yet, we have some people in custody but I suspect that we do not have our targets. Over”
“Okay, keep up the good work. Over and out.”
The police had asked them to get down and everyone was being searched amidst silent protests and grumbles, there were two people in front of him on the line waiting their turn to be searched, the bag had passed through the hands of about five people before he got a hold of it and as per the plan, was to deliver it to Ice Man in Port Harcourt and Chijioke was determined to carry the plan through regardless.
Without hesitation, he dashed in between two cars and disappeared into the bush, conscious of the voice yelling for him to stop but he did not stop. Something wheezed past his ear and before another bit into his midriff knocking him to the ground. He stood up gasping for breath; he could hear movements in the bushes around him and more gunfire, bullets were flying around him like fireflies, he crouched as he made a break for it, aware of the wet, warm liquid sliding down his jeans and the aching pain burning in his side. He just needed to put a huge distance between him and the police.