Uncanny discovers crime pays – with punishment
It was not yet 9pm but Uncanny was already through a bottle of Henessey, one J&W and a Five Alive tetra pack. He crushed his fourth stub of marijuana amongst tinfoil wrappings that were crumpled around bony remnants of barbecue chicken, pepper sauce, and roast gizzard, lit his fifth roll. As the marijuana smoke curled lazily out of his nostrils, his latest girlfriend Bella – a dark Efik beauty — began to plant small, wet kisses across his face. Reclined cosily in a sofa, one hand holding a marijuana stick and the other hand kneading a soft, fleshy thigh was as close to bliss as anyone could get, he thought.
No doubt, things would get more deliciously intimate soon enough but then he was content just reclined there, thinking thoughts of sudden delightful riches.
He hadn’t expected the $100,000 ransom for the Local Government Chairman’s wife they’d kidnapped exactly a week ago to have come in without incidence. In fact, it had been all too easy. Planning had been good, execution flawless.
Her driver had taken her in a black Nissan Armada by exactly 7pm for her routine midweek shopping at the Spar.
“Instead of going straight through Wuse market and encountering the hold up,” He remembered Last Card saying, looking up at a driver whose eyes were watery red from marijuana smoke and ogogoro. ” Go through this express way.” He tapped a white quarter inch line on a map.
What particularly baffled him was the success of such a simplistic plan; its highlight was the driver stopping the Armada in the centre of the express way to attend to a supposed engine problem. Kidnapping her in the Nissan Armada was out of the question because the car had been fitted with a car tracker and demobilizer, the driver explained at some point.
So the idea was to stop the car on the express way and then delay sufficiently till she suggested that she continued in a cab. This was the dicey part, Last Card explained. Anything – ranging from calling one of her husband’s drivers, hailing a cab herself or deciding to wait for a mechanic to come — could happen. So it was imperative that the driver not only suggest a cab to her but equally help her get the cab — all without appearing suspicious.
Even that aspect worked out painlessly.
In response to a pre-arranged sms signal, Uncanny drove a marked Mitsubishi — she said preferably a marked cab — to the spot on the express way where the Armada was parked.
She was a cheerful, companionable, chatty lady, and he felt the briefest pang of regret when he saw the look of apprehension on her face as he suddenly drove off the road into a small grass clearing about 3 kilometres from the Spar.
He remembered her cry of terror when Miasma and two other fellows, Long head and Unbeatable emerged into the clearing, wielding automatic pistols.
Quite needlessly, Long head waved his gun in a threatening gesture at her, warning her to be silent. But she was already shocked to silence, both hands clamped tightly over her mouth like to repress a scream.
They led her to a black Hilux truck, blindfolded her and sat her upright in the back seat, flanked by Miasma and Long head. Unbeatable drove.
The location was an abandoned construction site outside Abuja. They took gold jewellery, a Blackberry Porsche, and N120, 000 from her hand bag. Then locked her in a decrepit container sparsely furnished with a plastic chair and makeshift bed made of a wrapper spread over flattened indomie cartons.
Over the next 10 days, which was the duration of negotiations for the ransom, Uncanny ran 4 night shifts. The room reeked perpetually of stale smoke, urine and spoilt food and he wondered how the woman had survived the ordeal without health complications. Not to mention mosquitoes and countless other blood suckers.
She barely ate the foofoo and egusi soup that she was fed once a day but drank a lot of bottled water.
She was wholly cooperative and never complained, that he was grateful for because he wouldn’t have enjoyed using any form of force on her. But he found her marked silence somewhat disturbing.
If he hadn’t been the one that had picked her when she’d been so pleasant and chatty, he’d sworn she was a mute. Not that you expected much conversation from a hostage but her silence felt wrong, he recalled. Sometimes when spoken to, she’d look disoriented, giving no reply.
He hadn’t been present when Miasma and Last Card had dropped her off at a location the negotiators were asked to pick her but no doubt she’d gone quietly.
Not that he’d give a damn if she’d gone deaf as well. But she could become a deaf-mute someplace, sometime else.
He sipped Henessey and fruit juice from a glass.
The music from the home theatre system was loud but he could hear passionate sounds of lovemaking from an adjoining room.
Miasma and an albino prostitute he fondly called Pawpaw. What did that fellow actually see in a middle aged woman with a pot belly? For all he cared the man might have been ‘jazzed’– enslaved with some local love potion.
He chuckled and his companion looked up at him. “What’s funny?” She pouted.
“Nothing, my dear”. He shrugged. “Thinking of things.”
“I hope I’m one of the things you’re thinking of.” She raked a hand playfully through chest hair.
“You’re always on my mind, sugar.”
She grinned, rose slightly and straddled his belly. “Now I’m on you.”
“Body on me” he sang the first line of the Nelly/Ashanti/Akon track.
“Head or tail?” She asked with a mischievous glint in her eyes and he guffawed loudly. ” My bad chic!”
He leaned forward to kiss her. “I think I’ll go for….”
The wooden sitting room door exploded off its hinges and into the room suddenly, followed by a police officer aiming an AK 47 rifle.
“Move and you die!!” The officer barked, levelling the gun at him as he tried to shove off the girl across him. Three more officers toting rifles poured into the room.
Miasma suddenly burst out of the bedroom, one hand brandishing an automatic pistol and the other holding up his trousers.
It was a grossly miscalculated, senseless move.
A rifle thundered twice and he took the full impact of Ak 47 slugs in his chest, hurtling backwards.
He was dead before he slammed hard against the wall behind him.
Pawpaw screamed from the door way.
“You’re a dead man” the officer who’d first come into the room snarled at him, flashing a pair of handcuffs.
He raised his arms in surrender as they officer closed in but the man smashed the rifle stock into his face. He screamed.
Through a film of red hot pain, he saw the handcuffs clamp around his wrists; a hand clamped around his neck in a vice like grip and dragged him to his feet.
Bella had slipped to the ground beside the sofa and was whimpering, shivering violently in terror. Another officer yanked her to her feet and slapped handcuffs on her wrists.
Pawpaw, equally handcuffed, kept weeping and mumbling pleas as they were escorted out of the apartment to a waiting police van outside.
He had no idea how long he’d been in the oppressively hot, stinking cell crammed with an innumerable number of cell mates. And that was because he’d been drifting in and out of consciousness. But there was sufficient daylight filtering into the cell to let him know it was late morning.
Last night he had been welcomed into the cell with hard slaps and punches to the gut. Nausea from the heat and beatings was overwhelming and he puked miserably, a rich fragrance of alcohol and fruit juice filling the entire cell.
That had prompted a fresh round of beatings; then he was ordered to mop up the mess with his trousers by sitting on it. He equally surrendered N2000 to the leader of the cell mob, a wiry dark fellow with a scar under his right eye who identified himself as Olori.
He was certain somehow that Long head and Last Card were dead — as dead as Miasma. He greeted the knowledge with faint stirrings of remorse.
Unbeatable, true to his name, might have outwitted the cops and fled town.
Genuinely baffled, he wondered how they had been busted. Busted before he had time to properly stash away his own $20,000 cut, he thought with deep regret. It was just wads of $100 bills stuffed under his mattress and in a manila folder inside his wardrobe. He’d converted and spent about $3000 within the week (Bella had ingested more than 2/3rds of that). The cops hadn’t spared him a moment to lock his bedroom door and for all he knew, the shattered front door was an open invitation to stragglers in the neighbourhood.
He gritted his teeth in frustration.
God alone knew what had become of Bella and Pawpaw. Probably detained and gang-raped; stories of such police ‘hospitality’ abounded.
His head sunk wearily between his knees. He would do anything for a roll of weed at the moment, he thought.
His thoughts were interrupted by the noise of stirring bodies and loud murmurs. He looked up.
Two police officers stood in front of the iron bar gate of the cell, scowling at the cell mates who were clustering at the gate and making various pleas.
“Ugochukwu Kani!” One of them, a bald, squat fellow, called out.
Uncanny started, a feeling of dread settling over him.
Was this when they took him outside and summarily executed him or handed him over for torturous interrogation?
“Don’t let me come in there to get you o!” The second officer shouted as he unlocked the gate.
He got up and ambled painfully towards them, shoving through the crowd standing around the cell gate.
He was handcuffed,escorted briskly to another building within the premises, and shown into a solitary room.
The room was lit with a single low hanging 60 watts bulb that illuminated a bare wooden table and a chair.
The bald officer unlocked his handcuffs, shoved him brusquely.”Go and sit down.”
Interrogation, torture it was.
Terror suffused him. What wouldn’t he say before the first steel-capped boot connected with his ribs or the candle flame scorched his scrotum, before hard blows of a baton fractured bones or punches crushed his face further? What wouldn’t he?
Every second spent waiting for the door to open, and reveal his interrogator, was nearly agonizing.
After what seemed like eons, a lock turned and the door glided open.
A figure in a light grey suit strode in.
“Jay?” His eyes widened in shock and he jumped to his feet as he recognised the figure. “Is that you?!”
The visitor closed in; a hot stinging slap knocked Uncanny backwards, dazing him.
“Are you mad?!”
Uncanny cringed as his elder brother reached him in two quick, menacing strides.
“Do you know that woman is a mental case now?!” Another blow descended, driving him hard against the wall behind. “Considering her profile, you should be dead by now – like your other colleagues.”
Uncanny slid to the floor, tears — not for the victim but for his pains — streaming down his face.
The other peered down at him with a mixture of disgust and anger. “Get your sorry self off that floor and follow me!”
Every other thing that ensued he seemed to experience in a trance-like daze– from signing off at the counter, getting back into the rest of his clothes, walking to the Honda Jeep waiting outside the SSS premises, to getting into it.
It was only when they were well on their way back into Abuja did it finally dawn on him the possible enormity of what had just occurred.
Sobs of shock and gratitude wracked his entire frame.