Her chest felt as if a rabbit was running circles in it, leaving her feeling faint and breathless. Who else was involved, God not Lawrence too! The thought of the man who she hoped someday to be married to being involved in extorting her family, made her feel dirty. She embraced herself, somehow trying to shield herself from the shame that would come with the knowledge.
As if sensing her doubt, her uncle said; “Your boyfriend’s family was extorted too, we went to visit the family, when the news broke. I thought he was involved; turns out I might have been wrong. But we will still be keeping a tab on him.” Her uncle’s statement seemed to be a rock off her shoulder, leaving her paralyzed with relief. He was innocent; she felt that in her bones.
She was both physically and mentally fatigued by the time she was done with the police men, she literally had to drag herself to her bedroom, where she fell asleep immediately she laid her head on the bed. They would go see her dad later in the day, her mom had promised.
The pile of money sat on the table, crisp and clean, its scent filled the cool interior of the hotel room, Chijioke was seated in the only sofa in the room nursing a flute of champagne; once in a while he would grimace, as his wound still restricted his movement.
Sixty four thousand dollars! He had never seen or touched that type of money in his life. He touched it again, just to ascertain he was not dreaming, burying his face in it for good measure. This was the stuff of dreams. He whooped at the top of his voice startling the other occupants of the room. Chijioke and Loretta.
“I am fucking rich man!!” His voice was rich with pride and excitement. “Babe I will give you the world.” Loretta guffawed.
He had had his doubts while he cooked up this plan; he had expected a few hiccups but save the Engineer’s stroke and Chijioke’s brush with death, the plan had gone flawlessly, though he had to admit to himself that there was a time when he thought Chijioke had absconded with the money. When the money did not arrive at the appointed time, he had tried Chijioke’s number and found it had been switched off, he reached out to their other associates and they assured him that he had left and was headed to Cross River to meet him. An hour later, he still had not arrived, he ordered his associates to find out if he had being arrested and that too came up as negative. To say he got any sleep that night was a fallacy, as he tossed and turned, wondering what had become of Chijioke and his ransom.
When he heard the knock on the door the next day, he almost exploded with joy when he found a pale looking Chijioke at the door, loot in hand. First thing he did, was leave his place and rent a hotel in one of the worst parts of town, he would lie low there for a few days before he made his next move. The police were probably onto him now, both Larry and Becca; especially Becca would not hesitate to flip on him when they find out what he had done, so keeping a low profile was an absolute necessity now.
“Here is your share, make sure you share in amicably amongst yourselves. You guys did an awesome job; the police are still chasing shadows. I do not have to remind you of the need to keep your head down till the heat cools off.”
“Haba, you no need tell me.”
“Here is something for you to go treat yourself.” He offered him a wad.
“Chairmo! You too mush!”
“This is for me and my people.” He said putting a larger pile, bundle after bundle inside a duffle bag. “By next week, I go don jaway from this country.”
“What about my share?” Loretta chimed in.
“My share is your share.” He said with a forced smile. He noticed her forehead furrow into a frown. I hope she does not turn out to be a problem for me or else. He let the thought drift away, she could be taken care of; he need not worry too much about her.
“Chijioke call down for a chicken pepper soup, I need to wash down this happiness with something hot and peppery.”
Two weeks had passed since the kidnap saga and the police had not managed to make any arrest, the closest they had come to making an arrest had been a bust, as the guy was already in the wind but they had a name and they were adding more and more names to the list on which Isaac sat as number one.
When Rebecca had informed her uncle of her suspicions, they had mobilized men to search the premises of his said uncle’s house, only to discover it was a house on lease and its owner was abroad and was in no way related to Isaac. They had tracked down his family but they too had not being in contact with him for months, careful scouring had unearthed a blurry image of the cap wearing fiend who had taken the bag from him, captured by an unsuspecting girl who was just taking pictures, an ATM camera had also captured another man carrying what they hoped was the same bag, heading away from the market, it was not much but it was enough to rustle the leaves and cause them to make mistakes and hopefully smoke them out. These pictures had been circulated around all stations in the country and an APB had been placed on all of them including their inside man inside the telecomm giant company.
Emeka knew that as days turned to weeks and weeks to months, the chances of their wide spread net capturing its targets grew slim but he trusted that they would make a mistake as was human nature and they would be captured. For now they had to bide their time, his hands were filled with trying to explain to his superior why they were left in the dark about one of the biggest kidnap cases to have hit the state in recent times. He puffed out his cheek in frustration and went back to the paper work on his desk.
His mom was getting better according to the doctor but needed to undergo the surgery as soon as possible to enable her continue her recovery, the dilemma was finding the money, his dad had exhausted all options open to him and all he did now was pray, every moment of the day, pray that God will somehow miraculously cure his wife, which he thought was pathetic. God had forsaken them, if he hadn’t, his mother would not be lying in bed near death. His decision to travel to Cross River after his school closed for the semester instead of Abuja where his family lived was firmly because he wanted to be as far away from the depressive and death wrenched air that had encompassed his family of late. It still hung heavy in the air but somehow he did not feel affected by it.
He felt his mother’s frail hands, her pulse was weak but it was there, she had barely opened her eyes in the past couple of days, all she did was sleep and eat what little she could and sleep again.
“Mommy, you will be okay, I promise.” He said caressing her arm gently. Somewhere in the room, a patient released flatulence, to his disgust; he could not wait to get his mother out of this pigsty of a ward!
His phone rang, it was Becca, their relationship had become strained since they got back, she partly blamed him for her dad having to walk with a cane for possibly the rest of his life, if he had not walked Isaac into her life, all these would never have happened. They had fought every time they spoke and they were both avoiding talking to each other, it had been close to a week since they last spoke now and Lawrence found himself wishing she was not begging for a fight as he was not in the mood for one.
When he was outside the ward, he answered the call. “Hello.” He said emotionless.
“Hi babe, how is your mom?” She had not called him babe for the longest time.
“Her condition is still the same, she still needs that surgery.” He heard her sigh.
“I wish there was something I could do, I had planned on asking my dad to help but then this happened.”
There was a moment of awkward silence that seemed to last an eternity, with nothing but their breaths coming over the phone.
“I got to go babe. I will call you later; I think the doctor just went to my mom’s bedside.” He lied, as the silence was making him uncomfortable.
“Alright, I will call you in the evening. I love you.” “I love you too.” He said, a few weeks ago he would not have doubted if he meant it but nowadays it felt so untrue. As he made to go inside an orderly brushed past him in a hurry. “Oh boy watch where you dey go na!” If he heard his protest, the man did seem to be bothered as he continued on in a hurry.
“Idiot!” He spat out.
When he got to his mother’s bedside, he found a package with his name waiting for him. There was about eleven thousand dollars in the box and a brand new iPhone, the phone started to ring and he answered.
“Baba, how you dey now, you don get your share abi? If no be you this deal for no happen. Money wey dey there dey enough to carry your momsy go abroad for treatment. Keep your head low brother, I hear say eke dey find me upandan; me, Chijioke, Earnest and Ukpaka. I dey SA as I dey talk to you now, boy flexing for Naija na joke, choi! I dey plan enter Europe soon, you know say mans need dey waka around. Try jaway as soon as your mama well, you hear?” The phone went dead immediately.
Tears welled up in his eyes; finally his mom was going to be okay, when he did not hear from Isaac for a while he had thought he had disappeared with his share of the ransom. The last week had been a torment, worrying about being caught had left him emaciated and a shadow of himself, his family had being worried and had chalked it down to his mother’s condition, if only they knew. He had been racked by guilt for deceiving his girlfriend but he had no choice, his mother’s life was at stake and he had made the not so hard decision to indulge in crime to get her better health care. One day he would confess his crimes to his beloved and he hoped he would be rich enough to pay back the Eze’s, for now his mom was his number one concern.
His mother stared in bed and opened her eyes, Lawrence smiled at her. “Don’t worry; everything will be alright from now on.”
By Stephanie Egberike
Like her page The Sweet Perspectives