Ahead Nursery and Primary School was a two story building built in the shape of a ‘U’.
The downstairs was made up of the nursery classes, the PE room, assembly hall, teachers coffee room and the parlor- the room that was for children who had to wait a little while for their parents to come pick them after school.
The first floor had most of the primary classes, from primary one to four, while five and six occupied the last floor, with the principal’s office, the proprietor’s office and offices for all administrative staff.
The ‘U’ shaped building had five entrances all at the front, while doors to downstairs classrooms and offices were located inside the building. All five entrances into the two storey building were wired to the security system as were the main gate and the iron fence rounding the school.
Abigail hadn’t been there when the security system had been fixed, but because her responsibilities in the school had increasingly evolved from teaching to administrative, she’d been plied with handling important letters, especially important ones that needed to get to the proprietor’s table.
In that vein, she had been opportune to receive the letters from the security company after their maintenance, stating the state of the school’s security as incomplete.
Though the fonts of the letter had almost been similar in size to the one used in terms and conditions agreements, Abigail had applied herself and read it until she found what they proposed as incomplete.
When she’d called Cyril’s attention to it, he’d huffed and declared the security people ‘corporate thieves’ as they were hankering to get more of his money.
The school had a back gate, of course, but during the security system fix, the expensive wires and cables needed to entirely complete the wiring had been exhausted. Cyril said he’d just didn’t want to bother about it, and she was glad now that he hadn’t.
The moms, four of them, all surprisingly pregnant, listened to her attentively as the changed into street cloths.
A young lady, that Mrs. Akpan called Stacey, probably Tony’s sister since she bore his resemblance, had joined them with a shopping bag full of cloths; mainly plus size yoga pants and long tops.
“God bless you, Wana,” the women said while finding their right sizes to put on. They did this covered by their cars parked beside the bush Abigail was about to take them through to get to the back of the school. It was dark, so nobody could see them if they didn’t get close.
“It’s just old stock that I’ve been meaning to sale at a giveaway price,” Wana had muttered and had turned to Stacey to explain the situation.
Abigail had seen Stacey’s face blanch in terror as she’d been told about her dad and brother. She was shocked to see Cecil, the older woman return from her car with two handguns and casually handed one to Mrs. Ebong.
Both women had stone cold demeanors in that moment, they looked proficient with the guns in their hands as they went ahead to check the bullets in it and then stuck it in the waist of their yoga pants.
“Don’t look so shocked, they are both DSS agents,” Alero explained to Abigail with a smile, while handling a huge spanner, slightly longer than the length of a small umbrella.
Wana spoke before Abigail could nod in understanding, “Where did you get that, Alero?” she asked with wide eyes that seemed excited from where Abigail was standing.
Alero grinned, “The boot of my car, I have other things in there that could serve as a weapon,” she offered and then led the way to her car when Wana agreed.
“I have a machete in mine but I’m not touching it,” Debbie declared and shuddered.
“You have a machete in the boot of your car,” Eddy said in a tone that expressed she wanted confirmation.
“PJ is an Annang man, of course, he has a machete in the car,” Debbie explained with a small shrug, while she continuously cleaned her sweaty palm on her yoga pants.
“You really should have a weapon though, aunty Debbie, we don’t know how many kidnappers are there,” Stacey advised, while foraying through the boot of Wana’s car and came up with a car jack.
“That is deadly,” Abigail blurted as she eyed the weighty iron in Stacey’s hands.
“Stacey is right, Debbie. We don’t know how many they are, we don’t know what weapons they have, we are going in blind here; although that why everyone has to stay behind Cecil and I,” Eddy said.
“Fine, but I’m still not touching the machete, I really don’t want to wound anyone,” she grumbled and walked to her car.
Abigail shook her head, “I feel like Mrs. Akpan might like the idea of the machete…”
“Please…” Stacey started.
“…don’t mention it to her,” both Cecil and Eddy concluded just as Wana returned with a wheel spanner, the type used to unscrew bolts from the car tires and she looked positively excited to be wielding it as a weapon.
Debbie returned with a fire extinguisher, the small kind, she held it at the neck and swung it experimentally, and Eddy nodded approvingly. Wana handed Abigail an umbrella, the big kind, it wasn’t much but it would definitely stall a man if it came down to a confrontation.
And they were ready to plunge into the bush, but Debbie held everyone back and prayed, if passersby thought this group of women strange, they didn’t say and the women didn’t care.
Abigail led the way with her heart in her throat, she wasn’t an adventurous person, she’d never ventured out to seek excitement, so for her, this was the height of strangeness.
She felt like she stood on a precipice and would fall off at any minute, she couldn’t even imagine what these women were feeling, but she admired their courage; she admired that they stepped out of the usual status quo of whimpering women and were actually fighting for their home.
Darkness had completely covered the sky by now and they were deep in the bush, following the line of the fence but not walking close to it. The lower half of the fence was made of concrete while the upper half was of iron rods, where the deadly electricity dwelled.
At interval, they used the torchlight on their phones and shone it really low to the ground to see. They tried to use it less because they didn’t want to alert anybody watching from the school’s window.
“I really, really hate snakes,” Wana randomly commented making Debbie and Stacey yelp in fright.
“Sshh!” Cecil shushed them and Alero looked like she would faint in fear.
“Why…did you see…” Eddy swallowed her fright and scooted close to Cecil, Abigail not far from her.
“It was just a harmless comment,” Wana explained in chagrinned when she realized she’d scared everyone.
“We are deep in the middle of a thick bush, at night and you just happened to comment that you hate snakes?!” Eddy was livid.
“What is wrong with you?” Alero griped and stumped past her angrily, her hand wedged under her large stomach in support as she joined Abigail at the front of the trail.
“Jesus, Wana, everybody hates sn…” Debbie was interrupted by Eddy.
“Don’t say it!” she hissed over her shoulder and followed an exasperated Cecil who couldn’t stop shaking her head.
Stacey curled her palm over Wana’s arm to walk beside her, but Wana jerked in fright, startled at the sweaty, coldness of her palm and yelped quite loudly, taking off in a run that was unexpected of a pregnant woman in a bush.
Her fumbling run created a ripple effect; all the women ran blindly, nobody wanted to be last, each stumbling over the person in front in their haste to get away from a phantom pursuer in the dark. They squealed, half ran and half hopped over plants, every shadow in that bush was an enemy in that hour, it was actually a miracle that when Abigail paused at the back gate, they all still had their weapons and flat shoes on.
“Oh Jesus, oh Jesus, oh Jesus,” Debbie kept chanting while plastering her body to Eddy and Cecil.
Alero wheezed so audibly it sounded like she was crying, then she went on her knees, “This isn’t good,” she panted.
“What now?” Abigail asked Wana, who had started the run.
“I was startled by…”
“I spooked her when my sweaty palm touched her without warning, I’m sorry,” Stacey broke in and reported in a pant.
Cecil frowned at Alero, seeing her on her knees and holding her stomach while grunting, “Are you okay, Alero?”
“I don’t know, I have cramps in my stomach,” she panted.
“Cramps?!” Wana and Debbie exclaimed in alarm.
Eddy crouched before her and soothingly rubbed her back. “It’s not like labor, just tiny shocks, probably because of the run,” Alero explained.
“Oh, thank God,” Debbie deflated in relief.
“Err…” Abigail cleared her throat sheepishly, “I don’t have a key for the padlock. When I was sacked, I had to hand over everything.”
Wana huffed, “I just need a hairpin,” she declared after helping Alero to her feet.
Stacey immediately shoved her fingers into her natural hair and withdrew two pins, “Here,” she said excitedly, handing it to Wana.
“Bless you, child,” Wana said sagely, causing a snort from Eddy and chuckles from the others.
It took a minute because she wasn’t using sight but feel, to manipulate the lock, but then the rusty padlock clanged open and the gate whirred loudly as they pushed it open.
Cecil stepped closer to Abigail, “Where’s that storage window you spoke about?” she whispered.
Abigail started off to the right of the building, heading for the curve in a low run, making sure her head didn’t bob into view of the several flush windows.
Cecil waved the other women forward, all of them moving in a low run, Alero had to shuffle forward with her legs spread like a crab to accommodate her large stomach s she couldn’t bend entirely, at least not as low as Abigail, or Stacey or Cecil.
The idea was to climb into the storage from the bay window, a large space in the wall that was mostly left open because of the thick fumes of cleaning supplies that were stored there.
“It was fortunate that I brought a car jack,” Stacey whispered while staring at the large bay window currently covered by netting stuck in a rectangular wooden border.
Eddy turned to her sharply, “Why?” she whispered.
Wana looked at the jack in Stacey’s hand and then back to the window, she smiled and nodded, “Just like a car, we could jack the nails holding the wood border from the wall and we have us a wide open window.”
“Err…I was thinking we could just tear the netting…” Abigail suggested uncertainly, and felt self conscious as all the women stared at her.
“Or that too,” Debbie whispered with a grin.
“I told you she’s really smart,” Wana said to Alero who promptly rolled her eyes from where she was leaning tiredly on the wall.
“True, tearing the net will be less noisy,” Cecil agreed and moved forward to try with her fingers, but Stacey walked past her selecting a key from Wana’s key ring and proceeded to make slashes in the netting.
From there it was easier to tear the net from the wood in one long rent, creating a mighty space where they could climb in.
“Okay, before we go in, Abigail, I need you, Eddy and I to try peeping from windows to know where everyone is; hopefully we’ll be able to know how many thugs we are dealing with and what weapons they have and how to creep up behind them.”
Eddy nodded and Abigail led the way. It took a couple of minutes to round the curve and discover the male staffs locked in a small office. Cecil peeped and to make sure that there was no thug in their midst, she made Abigail peep too, she affirmed that she knew everyone in there.
Abigail then tapped urgently on the flush window, getting their attention. They were about fifteen guys locked up in that office and all of them seemed blatantly relieved to see Abigail.
“How did you get out?”
“Where have you been?”
“The children have been crying…”
“What are you going to do?”
“Turn off the solar…”
And many more suggestions were slammed at Abigail through the iron rods protecting the flush window.
“Gentlemen!” Cecil called with authority that instantly shut the men up, “We need your help. How many thugs are there and what weapons do they have?”
A short guy pushed forward and leaned into the space in between the rods, “They were six,” he whispered, “But one got electrocuted,” Cecil’s eyes widened at that.
“The leader has a gun and …”
“Two more of them have guns, one has a small axe and the other a machete,” another man provided quickly.
Cecil nodded, looking down in contemplation, when she looked up she asked, “Is anyone willing to help us protect the children? Because right now, we are just seven women and six of them are pregnant,” she informed them matter-of-factly.
“That’s a lot of pregnant women,” someone whispered in awe.
“Pregnant women with serious courage,” another person added and several men nodded in agreement.
Cecil remained impassive, “They just want to safe their children.”
“Are you pregnant too Miss Abigail?” someone ventured.
Abigail choked in embarrassment, “What…no,” she stammered, shifting away from the window to join Eddy behind Cecil.
“I need us to work together…” Cecil said and at their nod, she told them the simple plan.
THE LOCKED UP MEN might have described them as courageous, but the truth was that they were mindlessly terrified, especially with the news that three of the thugs had guns.
Only the thought of their equally terrified and hungry children made them take in several deep breaths. Deep breaths that did nothing to reduce the hammering of their heart as they made their way out of the storage room and into the corridor that would invariably lead them to the assembly hall.
Abigail’s hands and thighs had served as the wedge to help the women climb in through the window with slight difficulty.
When they were all in position, the locked up male staffs started banging on the office door frantically…
DUCT SEASON 4 continues
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