The phrase God is good never made more sense than it did now; the scene before them was picture perfect, a blend of man’s artistry and nature’s wonders. The winding roads were woven with such serpentine dexterity into the lush green of the hills, thick mists rising at the peaks, giving the landscape a surreal appearance.
The air was chilly; she had to fold her hand across her chest to ward it off, she watched as the taxi drifted off into the distance, she suddenly felt scared, as if she was being left behind, eerily it reminded her of her first day in boarding school, watching her father drive off, leaving her alone and in the care strangers, she had had a torrid time in boarding school and had last just six terms, six long and hard terms.
“Are you cold? Oya come here.” Lawrence said rubbing her hands. “We should go find our hotel room, before you freeze to death.”
The bellboy was a tall, chatty, pimply faced kid of about twenty; he said his name was Stanley and was only working at the hotel until school resumes, so he could have money to flex. Rebecca could not help but think he was remarkably handsome and had a smile that showcased his pearl white teeth; a lady killer, this one. The hotel’s white and black uniform fit snuggly on his slim frame and was tucked into shiny brown boots; he carried their luggage on either hand as he led them to their room. When he got there, he opened the door and ushered them in.
“Welcome to your humble abode.” He flashed his smile again, while he curtsied, both Rebecca and Lawrence.
“I think someone likes you.” Lawrence whispered to his girlfriend.
“Has anyone told you how much you look like the actress Linda Ejiofor?” Stanley asked as an afterthought on his way to the door. Rebecca had heard that so many times, she had lost count, Isabella had first mentioned it to her and had put her on the trail of said actress and they did share certain physical features but where the actress was pretty light skinned, she was a perfect tan, she was certain she was a foot or two taller than the actress. And she was better looking, was what she would have said but stopped herself before the words formed on her lips. She flashed the bellboy a smile.
“Can I take a picture with you, so I can show off a bit?” Stanley asked politely. The last thing Linda wanted to do was take a picture, what she craved was a long, warm bath and a long nap. But she begrudgingly agreed.
The excited boy gave his phone, which was a high end Asian product to Lawrence to capture the moment, picture taken, the boy bade them good bye and left.
“Finally, I thought he would never leave!” Rebecca exclaimed, lying down on the bed.
“You should treat your fans better, Ms. Celebrity.” Lawrence chuckled. “I will give you a few minutes to rest, we can’t waste a moment in this room, there are tons of sights to take in and I want to go for a ride in the cable car.” He said excitedly.
“Please, I wan just sleep, abeg!” She said in mock plea.
“No way, twenty minutes is all you get, it’s getting dark.”
When she saw the picture, Catherine let out a heart wrenching cry; the picture had been a confirmation that she was not having a nightmare after all, this was really happening to her, her daughter was probably being held in a dingy room and God knows what her captors were doing to her, who is to say that she would be released if the ransom was paid? She had heard of cases where the captives were killed despite their captors getting the ransom on time. She quickly shook such negative thought out of her head, this was not going to be her lot, and her daughter was going to come home safe, she had to believe that. Her pastor had said that she must pray and only think positive thoughts.
But it was getting harder to stay positive, as seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours, the only lead the police had, turned out to be a bust, they no longer had a location on the SIM that had called them; in fact it had been deactivated. They had started to run a trace on the number that sent the picture but the police had told them not to expect much because like the other one, this one too was not registered. Both were part of a bulk that was reported stolen a couple of weeks ago from a registered distributor of said SIM. The police had issued a warrant to the telecommunication company to block all SIM from the stolen batch and they had been only too glad to help but they knew that would not stop the perpetrators.
Catherine Eze looked at the picture of her daughter again, she looked so frail, so tired, so scared, she ran a finger gently across the screen of the phone, as if somehow her daughter would feel that even in her darkness moments, she had her mother’s love. She left the living room before the tears welling in her eyes came to fore.
“Nwannem (my brother), do not worry, we are currently doing everything in our powers to ensure the safe return of my niece, I promise you that no harm will come her way.” Even as those words left his lips, he knew he should not make promises over something he had no power over but it could not be helped, the sight of his cousin and sister in-law looking drained of spirit had prompted it. He could only imagine the torment they were going through, moments before Catherine had gone in teary eyed trying to be brave, her husband on the other hand looked worn and kept staring at the floor and sighing.
“Why haven’t they called with their demands? It has been an hour since they sent that picture.” Mr. Gregory Eze asked looking forlorn.
“They will call.”
“Bros, police full here, they dey inside the house, them dey roam the streets with mufti.” The man spat into the phone.
The voice at the other end said, “That was to be expected, I would have been disappointed if he did not call the police. Like I said, keep an eye out, lemme know when something suspicious happens.”
“Okay, I will do that.” With that, he put the phone in his pocket and blended in with the dusk traffic.
A pretty somber atmosphere hung in the hitherto cozy living room, the expensive décor did nothing to lighten the mood, as everyone in it sat with their heads hung; Emeka on the other hand was pacing holes into the tiled floor, his hands clasped behind his back. Then suddenly the phone that had been sitting idly on the tampered glass top, vibrated into life, its shrill ringtone filling the empty, soulless vacuum in the house.
No name, just digits, Emeka noticed as his cousin brought the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” There was a long silence, only the static came over the speakers that the phone was connected to.
“I explicitly said no police, the ransom has been increased to twenty million and if you want to test my patience again, I would seriously not recommend that. I will call you by noon tomorrow with more instruction.” The phone went dead.