The men drove the car to the express then they stopped. They brought out the body and placed it by a tree. They arranged the body in a sitting position and they drove away in a squeal of tires.
Pa Okolie was frantic now. He had searched everywhere for the boy but no one seems to have seen him. He had called neighbours, gone to his late brother’s house to ask the driver and police orderly who were still there. The police had asked them not to leave the house or the community until they concluded their investigations. They were surprised to hear that Tochukwu was missing.
He had gone to the police station to report the matter. They were in uproar over there for reasons he could not fathom. He stopped a policeman who he was familiar with
Pa Okolie: “James what is going on? What is all the noise for?” he asked, his eyes observing the rushing policemen getting on Hilux trucks and driving off.
Officer James: “am not supposed to divulge police work o. but D.P.O has got warning from Lagos that a wanted criminal is heading this way, so we are on alert to find him. We have been posted to different paths of the town. I have to go. Later.” He said, whispering to avoid being overhead.
Pa Okolie stood deep in thought. “Wanted criminal coming here? Na wa o. What does this community have that a wanted criminal is coming here? One of these boys have committed in Lagos again, abi?” he thought.
He turned and went back to the house, confused and worried. His wife accosted him at the door, her eyes hopeful but he shook his head, walked into his room and shut the door as she burst into a wail.
Femi stood observing the house quietly, smoking. He took the last drag then threw the stub to the ground and ground it to the dust. The heat was oppressive, he fanned himself with his handkerchief then he moved off the wall he had been leaning on. He crossed the road and approached the house. He ignored the car packed some few meters away and walked into the compound.
The house was silent like a cemetery. Not a sound reached him as he walked to the front door. He drew close to the door and stood. He raised his hands then he hesitated. The hair on his neck stood as a chill held his spine.
“This house is too quiet. Are there no persons in this place?” he thought worriedly to himself. He dropped his hands and walked around the house, peering through the windows. All the windows had been shut and the curtains drawn, so he could not see a thing. “this feels wrong. Where is everybody?” he thought as he got to the back. All the doors were locked.
He turned and walked to the front and out of the gate. He shook his head and walked away from the house. The engine of the car that had been parked by the side of the road started and the car drove away.
The police orderly hidden behind a drum came out of hiding and placed a call. He informed the receiver of Femi’s presence. The driver came out of his own driving place and they entered the house again.
Sabine and Jessica drove straight to the village on leaving the airport. They drove in just as the Femi left. The police orderly came out to welcome them and quickly informed Sabine that Tochukwu was missing from Pa Okolie’s house. Sabine felt her heart give.
“God, first mummy was kidnapped then Tochukwu? What was I thinking, rushing to Lagos without proffering proper security? God!” She burst into tears.
Sabine: “what was the reason for your presence in this house, if not to proffer security?” she asked seizing the police orderly by his shirt collar.
Jessica wrenched Sabine’s hands from the man’s shirt. the swelling on her lips had gone done but it was still bruised
Jessica: “this is not the time to start apportioning blame, let’s go to your uncle’s place and find out what he has done to find your boy.” She said angrily.
Sabine: “if anything happens to my son. I will make sure you all burn in hell. All of you.” She shouted, her eyes red with strain.
Jessica sighed and took the keys from Sabine. She started the car and Sabine entered.
Jessica: “both of you come with us. I don’t think my friend is in a good frame of mind right now. I need directions to this uncle, Pa Okolie’s, place.” She said as the car throbbed idly.
The police orderly and the driver entered the car. As they moved to leave, a lady walked into the compound. They looked at her curiously as she walked towards the car. Sabine looked at her, recognising her, got out of the car.
Sabine: “what are you doing here?”She asked, her voice bristling with anger.
Anita: “Please i know my husband has offended you beyond redemption, beyond forgiveness but i come on his behalf. He has made mistakes, he is not perfect but he is all i have and i love him. Please forgive so that this cloud can leave us. We have our own battles to fight. With you anger against him, he won’t be strong enough to fight them with me. Please, i beg you, one woman to another.” She said, her voice trembling as she went on her knees before Sabine.
Sabine: “i don’t have time for this. My mom and son is missing. You can come with us.” She said, re-entering the car.
Anita got up, dusted her knees and got into the car.
Samuel slowed down at the crowded spot on the express.
Jude: “what is the problem? What is happening there?” he asked, looking at his wristwatch.
Samuel parked the car on the side of the road and stepped out of the car. He walked to the crowded spot. The police was there, trying to control the crowd of onlookers. He approached one of the onlookers and asked for details. He could spy the body been placed on the police van.
Onlooker: “Nna men, na one woman wey dem be kidnap o. Person see am beside the road come call police o.”
Samuel: “which woman be that?” he asked, fear gripping his heart.
Onlooker: “na Madam Ogbonna na. Her husband na big man for this state when he dey alive and he hand open o. I wonder who go do this kind thing to woman wey dey still mourn her husband?” the man observed
Samuel trudged through the throng surrounding him and got back to the car. He slide behind the seat and sighed.
Jude: “so?”He asked, curious.
Samuel: “It is Sabine’s mother. She is dead.” He replied quietly. Jude sighed deeply.
Jude: “let’s go.” He said calmly. “I hope Sabine won’t go over the edge on hearing this o?” he thought as Samuel drove away from the scene.
Femi was fuming. “Nothing was going as planned. What do i do now?” he looked at the motley crew he had gathered together for the job and sighed.
He got up from the chair and stepped out of the room. He brought out his phone and dialed Tunde’s number
Femi: “Tunde howfar? This level be like e don cast o.” He said wearily.
Tunde: “where you dey?”he asked coolly.
Femi: “we dey one motel for Umuahia .The motel is one stupid place. Call this ramshackle thing Golden Rose. Nothing golden or rose for here o.” He replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Tunde: “make i show?” he asked, coolly.
Femi:”No. Don’t worry. I think i know where to go now. Later.” he said, ending the call abruptly.
He went back into the room and informed the others that they were moving. They all piled into the car and sped off the town.
Sabine jumped out of the car and rushed into the house. She met Mama Onyedikachi coming into the sitting room from the kitchen. She immediately grabbed her, crying for her child. The old woman joined in crying. She protested her innocence and asked them to ask her husband. She told them that she had overhead him discussing something with her son. A discussion that had to do with making Sabine and her mother pay for the supposed slight of not giving him a share of his brother’s wealth. As he spoke, Pa Okolie stepped out of the room, angry at the noise. His face tightened in fear on seeing Sabine.
Sabine: “Where is my mother and son, sir?” she asked politely.
The two men pounced on him, immediately. He stuttered and tried to explain that he did not know but they were having none of it. The police orderly made a quick call. As he ended the call, Pa Okolie’s phone began to ring. The police orderly snatched the phone from Pa Okolie and picked the call at the same time, putting it on speaker phone.
Onyedikachi: “Papa, there is a problem o. Auntie is dead o. She had an heart attack as we were changing locations o. I dropped her along the express. I am leaving town until things cool down. I will call you when i get to where i am going.” He said as soon as the call was picked.
Everybody heard Onyedikachi’s statement and turned to Pa Okolie. Mama Onyedikachi wailed as Pa Okolie slumped to the floor in terror.
Onyedikachi: “Is that mama? You picked the call near her?” he asked, perturbed by his mother’s grief.
Sabine was already on my knees crying. She held her head as sobs wracked through her frame; tears and catarrh trailing down her chin. Jessica squatted and tried to console her. Anita walked to Pa Okolie and whispered in his ears. He shook his head in rejection. She whispered harshly then he shrunk within himself like a dried leaf. He finally stood up, his body shaking. Several years had sloughed off him in just few minutes.
Anita motioned the police orderly to give him the phone. He dialed Onyedikachi’s line and asked him to tell him where to meet him, explaining that he doesn’t want to answer questions about the disappearance of Tochukwu. Onyedikachi told him and ended the call. He turned with tears in his eyes and told Anita. The police orderly made a quick call again, move to rush out of the house and stopped.
Femi entered the house with two other men, wielding a gun. He didn’t smile. He walked to Pa Okolie and using the pistol is struck him on the head and the old man passed out.
Femi:”that is for taking food out of my mouth.” he said quietly then he turned to Sabine and smiled
Femi: “Hello Sabine, i believe we have unfinished business about some money?” he asked, a red gleam in his eyes.
Question: Where is Tochukwu? Do you think Sabine can purse vengeance in the state she’s in now?
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