Everyone was fully awake earlier than usual. The governor knew he had to be at the office today to avoid major suspicions. He was already dressed in his suit as he watched the bodyguards arrange the money in more discrete black bags. Sewa Banks on the other hand was still in her night robe, sitting tensely on one expensive couch with her arms folded under her bosom. After waiting for several minutes, the bodyguards finally stood up, both looking tired.
“It is all packed sir”
The governor looked at the guard. He racked his brain, trying to remember his name but he couldn’t come up with anything. Come to think of it, he didn’t know the name of any guard; they were as impersonal as the household furniture. Not that they have never told him their names, they just were too insignificant to him, he didn’t think the names were worth remembering. “What did you say your name is again?” he asked the guard who just spoke.
“Mark sir” he responded, looking blankly at the Governor.
Tunji Banks turned his head to the other guard. “And you?”
“James sir” the bassy voice of the other called.
Tunji looked at both of them, trying to determine which one was the strongest, then settled on James. “You would take the money there.” He said. “Drive to Oshodi and make the drop. Make sure that you return with my daughter safe and unscathed, do you understand me?” he said harshly.
“Yes sir” James answered. Mark seemed to have relaxed, relieved that he was not chosen for the hideous task.
Tunji advanced towards James slowly in a threatening manner. “If by any chance you come back here without my daughter” he began menacingly, “not only would you feel my wrath, but everyone, right down to the most insignificant person in your sorry lineage would have the full impact of my scorn; do you hear me?”
James swallowed. “Yes sir”
“Even if it is by crook, I want my daughter back here, safe and unscathed; do you understand me? Safe and unscathed” he echoed
Again the James nodded. “Yes sir”
Tunji’s eyes lowered to the bags, he couldn’t believe that the money was going away. Where would he get another money to finance his campaign? His head was aching terrible just from thinking about the misfortune that had befallen him.
Sewa approached James and looked up at him with teary eyes, placing her small palm against his chest. “Bring my daughter back home” she pleaded. “I beg you”
“I will do my best ma’am” James replied, looking uncomfortable.
The governor had had enough of the whole drama. He pulled his wife away from James and glared at the two men. “Take the bags to the car” he dropped icily. He glanced at his wristwatch; it was few minutes to six. James would have to drive fast in order to get there without the hindrances of Lagos traffic. He followed the men to the car and watched them deposit the bags in the boot. “Where is your phone?” he asked James.
“You broke it yesterday sir” he answered cautiously.
Tunji glared at him. “so, how do you expect to receive instructions from the kidnapper if you have no phone?” he barked. He pushed his hand into the waist pocket of the suit and fished out one phone. “put your sim inside and keep the phone glued to your side. I don’t want any mistakes today, do you understand?”
Already, he was beginning to have the feeling that something would go wrong.
“Yes sir” James responded, palming the Apple phone in his hand. Hurriedly, he put in his sim card and powered the phone. Without much time to waste, he jumped behind the wheels and zoomed off. The governor and his wife watched the car exit the compound until it vanished altogether. With heavy hearts, they turned and went back inside. Tunji knew that he should be at the state office by now, but, he just couldn’t think of leaving the house without knowing that his daughter was alright. Moving back to the small parlor, they waited, just as the kidnapper had demanded.
“Please don’t wake up… don’t wake up” Lara murmured prayerfully as she ran away from the small building, towards the bush. Lara charged into the bush, not minding whatever she found within which might pose a threat to her. Surely, nothing would kill her faster than a gun at this moment, and since her captor had a gun, he was her greatest fear. Her heart was at the opening of her throat and she might just swallow it out of fear and die of her own accord without the aid of a gun. Wait a minute; what on earth had prompted her to escape in the first place? She wondered. it must be the devil, she concluded because she was beginning to have the sickening feeling that she was making a huge mistake. ‘Should I go back?’ she wondered for a heart-stopping second. She internally scoffed at herself. It seemed the devil was getting used to giving her stupid ideas now. Holding on to her sheer will and stubbornness, she moved fully into the bush. She could as well have passed the pathway the vehicle drove through while coming here but that would leave her too exposed, right? She made sure that she was not far away from the path though; it would be terrible if she got lost in the bush. She imagined being captured and used as breakfast by hideous creatures and nearly died of panic as she increased her pace. The bush hindered her movements, slowing her down. Branches tore at her face and hands, leaving blood in their wake. She ignored the pain which shot through her bare legs as it landed on several objects in the bush. The darkness was maddening and she found herself turning her head continuously, praying that she would pull off this escape, but soon, after a few minutes, she had the strong feeling that her prayer wouldn’t be answered.
She turned her head. Was she hearing another person’s footsteps asides her own? She inhaled deeply and released it, trying to erase her apprehension. Fear was probably making her ears work overtime. She tried to stop herself from listening too keenly but she could still hear it. She stopped and stood still with her heart racing beyond control, trying to determine if she was truly being followed or becoming paranoid. She stood still, trying hard to listen above the continuous racing of her heart. She couldn’t hear a thing again except the ‘tick tick’ sound associated with bushes. Releasing a deep sigh, she continued, faster now, trying to make sure the trees and plants around her were not making her movements noticeable. But why wasn’t she getting to a road yet? Wasn’t there a road leading to this crazily lonely place? Panic took over as she considered that possibility. Then she heard it again, footsteps! Was she going crazy? She wanted to run but the trees around would not make that possible. Maybe she should have used the pathway after all. She might have run faster and maybe by now, she would have arrived at a major road.
Shaking away her regrets, she hastened her steps, looking over her shoulders at every point in time until her neck strained. Then she heard it – a low frightening chuckle which she knew definitely belonged to her scarred captor. Oh no! No, this can’t be happening! She was paralyzed with shock as she stood rock still. Why can’t anything just work in her favour just this once. She turned her head. No one! Where was he? Or was she imagining it? Oh, with all the calamities befalling her, she can’t be crazy too, can she?
“Omolaaraaa” the voice called tauntingly, shocking her. Suddenly, she was running, not giving a damn about the twigs pulling painfully at her hair and the scratches that she was receiving all over from all the trees around. She just couldn’t let him catch her. She probably would bleed to death or get bitten by a snake if she continued in the bush but she was between ‘death’ and DEATH himself, and frankly, the personality seemed worse now than the actual dying. She whined as her legs hit stones painfully.
The captor’s voice chuckled. “You can’t hide” the voice echoed. “I see youuu”
The man had obviously spent enough time watching ‘Lord of the Rings’, and just like Frodo, fear curled up in her until she felt she might actually go crazy. Is he drunk? Maybe I should stop! It is better than waiting for him to catch me right? She mused. I can tell him that I was just frying to have a morning jog! Surrender!! Her brain screamed at her but she couldn’t make her legs stop! They seemed to have a brain of their own.
“I am gonna catch you Lara” he called again. He seemed closer now. Oh God no! She refused to look back! She had the undiluted fear that she might turn back and find him just behind her, ready to grab her and kill her for real. Suddenly she saw a light coming from a far end. Wait, it that a headlamp? Oh, please let it be! The light seemed to be moving closer.
Throwing caution to the wind, she increased her pace and started screaming. “Please heeelllp” she screamed. “Help meeeeee” she just had to get the attention of the person. As she drew closer, she became certain that it was a car. The day was becoming brighter. Whoever it is must be off to work. She just had to get to the road before he drove past.
“Now you are getting on my nerves woman” the scarred man sounded angry now.
“Heeeeeelllpp” she increased her voice and her pace as she felt the footsteps closing in on her. Suddenly, she broke into the road, stumbling and almost falling flat on her face. The car pulled to a halt, almost running her over. “Please… Please help me” without waiting for any approval whatsoever, she opened the door beside the driver and jumped in. “Go go go” she yelled and the car jerked forward, speeding like the hosts of hell were pursuing. Lara turned her head to look at the road behind and saw the enraged face of her captor glaring at the car. She slumped in her seat as relief washed over her entire features. She had made it! She escaped. It almost seemed unbelievable, like one of those scenes in American movies. If this car hadn’t been there! She turned gratefully to her rescuer with a huge grin on her face. “Thank you so much sir” she murmured breathlessly. “You just don’t know the magnitude of what you have done for me”
The man driving turned his head to her slowly. “You don’t have to thank me”
Her mouth went dry as she stared at him. She recognised him! He was the same man she had seen at the boutique some days back…
Teresa stood lazily from her bed and yawned. She was surely enjoying this leave. Young as she was, she was a bank manager, thanks to the super connections of her dad. But she wasn’t that young though! She would clock 28 in a few days! She was the oldest amongst Bola and Lara, yet, they were so closely knitted, no one would notice. Her phone rang and she knew it was either Lara or Bola. She had set the same ring tone for both of them. She stared at the screen and saw that it was Bola.
“Hey babes” she cooed into the phone, holding it with her shoulder as she went into the bathroom for her toothbrush.
“Terry G, how are you”
Teresa smiled. Bola would always call her that. “I am beautiful as usual”
“Would you stop flattering yourself? Have you heard from Lara?” Bola asked over the phone.
Teresa frowned. “I was thinking of asking you the same thing. She hasn’t called for two days now, it is so unlike her. You know she can’t do without me”
Bola hissed. “When would you be serious?” She scolded. “I have called her number endlessly, she isn’t picking up. You think we could go over to her place this morning?”
“Yeah! Sounds like a good plan, besides, I still need to steal that tube gown she forcefully claimed at the boutique the other day” she said, smiling mischievously.
An hour ago, Sewa had been the one pacing as Tunji sat, trying to be a man by keeping calm but now, they were both pacing the length of the small parlor. James still hadn’t shown up yet. What could be keeping him? Several evil thoughts clouded their thoughts. The only person who seemed a bit calm in the parlor was Mark who stood like a statue with his arms behind him. Surely, the state government house isn’t that far from Oshodi, is it? He checked the time again, it was just a few minutes to 8. Where the hell is that boy?
“Oh Tunji, what is going on now ehn?” Sewa moaned as she paced continuously with her hand against her throat. “Why isn’t he back yet?” She gazed at him questioningly
“And how do you expect me to know the answer to that?” Could his wife be more senseless? He isn’t omnipotent! What sort of answer did she expect him to give?
“It is your job to know” she yelled at him. “Are you not a governor? What sort of governor are you if you cannot govern your own family” the anxiety was getting the better of Sewa.
Tunji glared at her. “Shut up woman, or so help me God, I would shut you up myself”
Sewa hissed. “Nothing must happen to my daughter! You hear me Tunji? Nothing!”
Just then, the door burst open and James crowded the entrance, looking fazed and totally vulnerable, like a man about to be dragged to the firing squad. For some seconds, everyone just stared at him. He took two steps which brought him fully into the room. Sewa looked behind James nervously as fear took over. “Where is my daughter?” She gasped out quietly. James remained quiet as he shifted agitatedly. “Why are you so silent? I said where is Lara?”
James was shaking. “I… I…” he stammered.
“I… I what?” Tunji countered as he approached James menacingly. “Where. Is. My. Daughter” he drawled, his muscles fueled with rage.
James swallowed and raised his head lightly, shivering despite his muscles. “Sir, I followed all their instructions, I made the drops but when I got to the place they said Miss Banks would be, she wasn’t there.”
“Nooo” Sewa wailed.
“I searched everywhere sir… I did all that was asked of me… They didn’t not meet their end of the bargain… I didn’t-”
The governor’s fist swung suddenly and connected with James’ nose, sending him reeling to the floor. Sewa gasped. James gripped his bleeding nose as the Governor approached him. Tunji’s face was a furious mask, making him look as dangerous as a lion. “What did you just say?” He gripped James by the collar of his shirt and jerked him, hitting his head on the tiled floor repeatedly. “Are you telling me that both my daughter and my money are gone?” He roared. “Do you think you can toy with me and go scot free?” He bellowed. “Ohhhh… You have just made the worst mistake of your miserable life. I would teach you a very bitter lesson, one that you wouldn’t forget in a hurry, you swine”