After Shaggy had made his much needed call, speaking as though to his girlfriend, to leave the other two thugs clueless, he’d then proceeded to pick the tray of incessantly ringing phones, left the sitting room and went to Java’s room.
He found an old fridge in there and was shocked to find the lump of iron was working. He pulled out the chilled half bag of sachet water and went towards the cell.
The silence that suffused that corridor and the cell was so heavy Shaggy knew it was a forced silence borne of tension.
When he cleared the front of the rods, the guys were once again seated with their backs leaning at the far end of the room. Shaggy sighed, and was impressed at how controlled they all seemed, he could bet that Morgan, the DSS agent was keeping them this way.
If he’d been an amateur in things like this, their silence would probably have spooked him; it would probably spook Nkakad, since the criminal expected his victims be sacred and begging.
His eyes found Java just as he’d left him an hour ago. Shaggy didn’t know what to think of that, but he grinned at them suddenly, as though he was their best friend, “Water, guys,” he declared, lifting the half bag of sachet water for them to see.
One of the guys, the one that measured up in height to Morgan, bent his head in a contemplative angle, probably wondering why he was being nice.
“Come on, guys, I’m just being kind here, the weather is hot and well, everyone needs water at some point,” he shrugged.
“The kind thing to do would be to let us go,” a fair complexioned man sneered.
“I would, if I had the powers, but I don’t.”
The other tall guy got to his feet and neared the rods dividing them, “Come closer, would you?” he whispered, his voice almost like a siren that lured.
Was he like a magician, Shaggy vaguely wondered; the guy’s voice was designed to make one draw closer to hear him better; an old espionage trick.
“Naaa, man,” Shaggy chuckled, “Not happening. I can only stretch the water to you,” he said and did just that.
Not surprising, the bag of water took a bit of effort to fit through the rods gap. But, the tall guy, ingenuously, spread the bulk of the sachets and the bag passed through.
“Your voice sounds familiar,” the tall guy said, handing over the water without even looking.
Shaggy nodded with his grin, “Yes, I have one of those generic voices; I’m like your next door neighbor.”
“I don’t have neighbors.”
“You do know King Edem isn’t going to get away with this,” Morgan finally snapped, seeming fed up with their small talk.
Shaggy nodded, “Knowing who you are, Morgan, I believe you,” he said sincerely and then walked away from the visibly dumb founded men.
When he got back to the sitting room, he didn’t know what to think when he noticed one of the two thugs, shucking his phone quickly into his pocket and unsuccessfully arranging his expression to innocence.
“What was the meaning of that?” Daniel asked in confusion while he gulped down the precious liquid.
“When you asked him to come nearer, did you want to hug him?” PJ asked innocently, and even though his joke was grossly inappropriate in that moment, it didn’t stop the guys from choking on their water in mirth.
“No, PJ, I was going to punch him in the sternum and then his throat and then slam his head against the rods for good measure which would definitely render him unconscious, then search his pocket for keys or a phone,” Slay explained coldly.
“Remind me not to piss you off,” PJ murmured and handed Richard a sachet of water. The boy collected it, murmured thanks and drank it with no feeling in his eyes.
“So, they dump an unconscious Java here, complete with his belt, wristwatch and phone, but the phone is useless since it’s coded; are they testing us?” Ebong griped wearily.
“To what purpose?” Slay added.
“I wish Wana was here,” Daniel muttered.
“Why?” Morgan asked abruptly.
“She’s good with locks,” Daniel said with obvious pride.
“Better than Morgan?” PJ asked in shock, because Morgan had used the pin in Java’s belt to try and pick the heavy padlock over the gate of rods, but to no avail.
“She practices with different locks.”
“How?” Slay frowned, “Like she goes out and buys padlocks and practices opening them?”
“Yes, she actually does that,” Daniel replied with a proud grin, but then the smile left his face when he recalled their predicament.
“None of the women have spoken about this,” PJ pointed out.
Daniel sighed and rubbed his face, “Well, I guess that’s why she calls it her guilty pleasure. I’m the only one that knows.”
“And I guess it’s time to wake this dude,” Morgan declared determinedly and prowled to where Java lay, Slay followed.
Slay had a palm over Java’s mouth and behind his head, lifting him slightly from the ground while Morgan bit open a sachet of water and with no remorse, turned the cold liquid on Java’s head.
Java sputtered awake and would have screamed if Slay’s palm wasn’t over his mouth. The guy sucked in a deep breath through his nose but then blew it out urgently because he’d sucked water with air and it hurt his nostrils.
When his coughing subsided, Morgan pinned him with a threatening stare, “Before I beat you to death, unlock the code on your phone…we have calls to make.”
Java squinted at all the men in the cell and wondered who they were? The plan had been to kidnap Morgan but there were five other dudes in there with him, apparently his eyes expressed his confusion.
“Don’t worry, Java, we have so much to talk about but first, unlock the phone,” Ebong said in his usual grandfatherly manner as he handed the phone to the terrified Java.
With jittery hands and a pounding heart, Debbie made a sharp swerve into the untarred street her children’s school was situated. Her eyes widened and a sob wrenched from her throat when she saw the milling crowd in front of the school and the sheer amount of cars parked haphazardly along the way.
She slowed and parked a little distance away from a blue van.
When Wana had called to give her the disheartening news, she’d immediately called PJ and had gotten no answer, basically confirming Wana’s fears and thus beginning her worst nightmare, except she was awake and experiencing the horrid, ripping terror of the situation.
Barely able to breathe through the choking hold of terror in her throat, Debbie rushed past the blue van, vaguely shocked that the driver sat back calmly as though the news of a school held hostage by criminals was not fascinating enough to bother him.
Unlike the strange driver, Debbie and probably the rest of the metropolis had headed to the school gate. Wana had told her it was rowdy, so she’d described exactly where she’d be, which made it easier to struggle through the stifling crowd, moving with a direction in mind.
Wana was there and so were the other women, their eyes red rimmed from crying but currently looking determined, unlike the other mothers who just wailed and called relatives.
“Wana!” Debbie called out as she struggled through the last vestige of the crowd, before making her way to the shrub beside the police vehicle where her friends stood.
Debbie broke into a helpless sob as she hurried into her equally pregnant friend’s arms.
“Why is this happening to us, Wana, why? What did we ever do to anyone? What is God punishing us for?” Debbie wailed and wasn’t comforted even when her friends rounded her, offering comfort; they seemed to have adjusted to the idea.
But when Debbie pulled away, she saw that they all sobbed with her, albeit silently and she felt ashamed for being weak because, even Alero in the seventh month of her pregnancy, seemed to be holding it together.
“You of all people should know God would never abandon us and He isn’t punishing us either,” Cecil said right in her ear because she didn’t want to shout above the din of the crowd filled with wailing mothers, shouting fathers and equally shouting cops and onlookers.
Debbie sobbed as guilt suffused her heart from questioning God, then she nodded, sniffed and looked at her friends, “Any news?” she asked in a croak.
Cecil pushed Eddy towards her before putting in earplugs and seemed to be listening intently to something from Wana’s phone.
Alero must have seen her frown of confusion, “She’s listening to the recording of Wana’s call with Daniel when he’d been…kidnapped,” she explained, momentarily choking on the horrid word.
“Oh,” the exclamation came out as a sob and tears promptly dripped down her cheeks. She suddenly wondered how PJ was faring; how her children were faring, were they scared; where they hungry?
“And the police I’d managed to speak to said the proprietor had activated the security system that had locked down the whole school,” Eddy reported soberly, her eyes were red and obvious worry reflected there.
“So the security system hadn’t been a bluff, but then, locking the children in there with the kidnappers…”
Wana interrupted her, “I’m worried the children will get hungry soon, it’s an hour past the closing time.”
Debbie nodded because she’d just been thinking that same thought; and as moms, they’d all been thinking it…worrying about it.
Eddy heaved, wrapped her arms under her breast and visibly tried to control her grief. The heavy emotion was like a ripple, when one of them expressed it, the others experienced the same pain.
Alero kept her hand on Eddy’s shoulder even as tears shun in her own eyes and the DSS agent took a deep breath to bolster her courage.
“Security systems work on electricity, shouldn’t the electrical company be called out here to cut wires or something?” Alero heaved frustratingly, she was sweating bullets in the sun but she only seemed worried for her family like the other women.
“It’s solar, remember, the proprietor said the school used solar panels, inverters and batteries,” Eddy replied, her eyes reflected the helplessness everyone felt.
Wana was there but then it felt like she was having an out of body experience; like the reality of her child being held hostage in his school and her missing husband, was actually happening to someone else and she watched from a distance.
She had wondered over and over who could be doing this; who could target all of them this way? Dimly, she was glad Richard hadn’t returned from his training, had he been targeted too? He was one less person to worry about; at least, his phone had been switched off when she’d tried his number.
The only phone that had been switched off, the other men’s phones just rang without answer. If only they’d ask for ransom, she’d do anything to save her husband and child.
She hadn’t really been listening to what the women were saying, she was scoring the crowd as though she’d suddenly spot Daniel walking towards her with an apologetic mien, explaining how he’d lost his phone and her child being locked behind the electric fence of the school would have all just been a bad dream.
The impossibility of that thought made her heart squeeze. Wana had just been about to look away from the grief of the other parents whose children were also locked up when her eyes caught sight of a familiar looking woman who worked in the school.
Wana frowned and bolted into the crowd without a second thought, following the woman’s green head-tie and ignoring her friends’ shout of her name.
The police had said all workers were inside with the kidnappers and the children, according to the last and only call gotten from the proprietor hours ago, so what was this woman doing outside that gate?
The crowd was a deterrent to her speed but even with her pregnancy and difficult maneuvering in the crowd, Wana was a determined mother. She gritted her teeth and kept the short woman in sight, at least the crowd wasn’t letting her go any faster, though without a baby bump, the short woman moved easier.
When it seemed as though she’d never get to the woman, luck shun on her and the short woman stopped to chat with someone she knew. Wana finally got to her, daringly hooked her elbow with the woman’s own and determinedly dragged her to the fringe of the crowd.
“Mma…” Wana begun but the woman hugged Wana instead in full commiseration for the present predicament they all found themselves.
“Oh, eka Tony,” the short woman sobbed, calling Wana ‘Tony’s mom’ in dialect, as she usually did when Wana stopped to chat with her every time she arrived to drop or pick up Tony.
Wana usually called her Mma, a term of respect like ‘grandmother’, not because she was that old, but the ravages of life sure showed on her weathered face.
Mma was a cleaner at the school and since it was a nursery and primary school, her work was round the clock as kids made being messy a profession.
As she was about to ask Mma why she wasn’t in the school compound, the other women stumbled from the oppressive crowd with frowns on their faces.
“You just took off,” Eddy accused.
“…with no explanation,” Alero griped, seeming out of breath like Debbie and finally Cecil.
“Sorry,” she said guiltily but went ahead with her questioning.
Mma answered her in vernacular, first of all expressing how lucky she was that she wasn’t holed up in the school with the other people. She explained that the school had just appointed two new cleaners and therefore she’d been given a few days of rest.
“God will bless Miss Abigail…” Mma started saying when her eyes widened and she blurted, “Miss Abigail too did not go to school today, I saw her in the market! Mbok, she’s very lucky too,” Mma gushed in ardent gratitude, not caring about tact seeing as the women standing beside her had children in that school.
The women exchanged shocked looks. Everybody knew Miss Abigail basically ran the school and she was passionate about it. That she’d not been in school on a Monday was cause for curious alarm.
Cecil didn’t understand this but Eddy explained it to her.
When Mma finally left, Cecil hurdled with the women, “So, you think this Abigail has something to do with the kidnapping attempt?”
“I’m with Wana on this one,” Debbie said, “It’s suspicious that she would stay away from the school on a day like this, like she knew this would happen.”
Eddy silently agreed with them but it wasn’t much to go by, it was too much of a conjecture. The mild Miss Abigail could probably have been ill or some such excuse that would make her stay home from school.
“Luckily, I know her house,” Wana announced, looking both excited and determined; of course, she needed a direction, what to do to get the children out…they all did.
Alero gave her a shocked look and she shrugged, “I dropped her off at home once,” Wana explained.
“I have to go pick up Ruth, it’s past five and her school closed an hour ago,” Alero said, biting her lower lip worriedly.
As though reading her mind, Debbie declared they’d keep her posted.
Wana had the look of a lioness, fierce and ready to do battle, she was ready to tear poor Miss Abigail to pieces in that instant and Eddy would not allow her commit a felony, so she was going with her.
The crowd in front of the school was increasing and it was a struggle to make their way to where they’d parked their cars. By the time they left the oppressive surge of the crowd behind, Cecil had made a decision and decided to share it.
The women hurdled anxiously around her car and their nervous eyes met hers expectantly.
Cecil cleared her throat, “After listening to Wana’s recording and making some calls, I might know where to find your husbands.”
Their gasps and widened eyes were an expected reaction, Wana would have spoken but Cecil lifted her hand to stop her and continued.
“Eddy is aware that the office is scanty of agents right now. New recruits are still at camp and since it’s post election season, many agents have been assigned escort duties to newly elected government officials. I do not have a team to go in and rescue,” she said soberly.
Alero’s hand went to her chest as though trying to curb the intense pain that suffused her heart. With tears in her eyes, she cried, “Seriously, what about the police?”
Eddy shook her head immediately, “I was a police officer before being an agent and I know how things are done there. You remember I had to break Slay from prison so that he could help get my brother from the kidnappers and I didn’t even know Slay was an agent then. That was because I had no faith in what the police could do. They will fumble and end up hurting the victim.”
“They do not care about our children in there, neither would they care about our husbands,” Eddy paused to take a deep breath to calm her ire, “We obviously have to do this alone,” she declared determinedly.
Wana perked up and had a pure evil smile on her face, “We’ve done this before, what’s the plan?”
“These are kidnappers, Wana,” Debbie pointed out, “If we are doing this on our own, it won’t be…it can’t be…we don’t even have weapons, we are women, for crying out loud,” she finally cried in despair.
“We aren’t just women, Debbie, we are mothers and we will do anything…anything at all to protect our own!” Wana declared defiantly.
“Okay, slow down ladies. Before we charge into war, we need to make a choice, are we to leave the children in there and go rescue the husbands or are we to rescue the children first?” Cecil asked and was sorry to see the deflated fervor on the women’s faces.
“Jesus,” Debbie murmured, clearly seeing the dilemma.
Alero griped, “We don’t even know how to rescue the children.”
“That’s another thing,” Cecil pointed out, “But…since we have a lead with this Miss Abigail, which is better than nothing; we should follow it and see the outcome…for the children first.”
Wana nodded vehemently, as did the other women. Because they knew, even if someone had managed to kidnap their husbands, the men were far from defenseless like the children.
Cecil continued, “Debbie, we need you here to give us updates of whatever happens, no matter how insignificant it might seem,” she directed, taking up the leadership role.
“Alero, after picking Ruth, you need to return here to be with Debbie.”
“Of course,” Alero replied, eager to do anything.
“I, Eddy and Wana will visit this Miss Abigail. If she was seen in the market, Wana, I don’t think she’s involved with the kidnapping, her actions are too innocent,” Cecil pointed out and Eddy nodded in agreement.
“But…” Wana bristled, she needed a face to the enemy, she needed someone to blame, someone she could fight.
“But…” Cecil cut in, “But, from what all of you have said about her dedication and passion to the school, I’m hoping she knows or has an idea how to get the children out.”
Wana sighed wearily and agreed with a curt nod. Cecil was right, if anyone knew a way into the school…if there was a way into the school, it would be Mistress Abigail.
With nods of agreement and determined expressions, the women dispersed to carry out their roles, each silently praying for the safety of their family.
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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