“Why mummy?” Jake whined. “I’m a big boy now.”
“Jake, mummy said that someone could steal us, if we don’t wait for her,” Joanna said, pulling her twin back.
When they started to squabble, Bunmi bit back a smile as she walked pass her children and got through the revolving door first.
“Leave me alone!”
“No, Jake. We have to hold hands now. Mummy said so.”
“But, you’re holding me too tight, Jo!”
“That’s enough, both of you,” Bunmi said sharply. “Jake, you know the drill. We all have to hold hands till we get to the car. Jo, loosen up your hold a bit, okay.
The parking lot of the store they had just come of out was almost deserted and dimly lit, so she couldn’t see her son’s face clearly. But, she was certain it wore a frown now. Just like his father’s.
Her mood soured and just when her thoughts were about going to the man that had fathered her children, she heard the sound of car doors being slammed shut. Turning in that direction, she saw two men get out from the back of a dark-coloured Honda Accord. From where she stood, she thought it was the latest model, but she wasn’t sure. She looked away, not wanting to make eye contact, but before turning away completely, she noticed them walk towards her and the kids.
Quickly, Bunmi pulled her children to the car. Something about those men worried her.
The tall one wore a grey hooded shirt and his face was obscured by the hood. It was as if he shielded his face because he wanted to remain anonymous and that worried her.
She quickly glanced at the entrance of the shop, where two parking attendants sat on stools, chatting. One threw his head backwards and laughed. Bunmi could hear that raucous laughter, but she quickly noticed that they were not looking in her direction.
Maybe, I should just go back to the store, she thought, even as her feet moved forward, closer to the car. The men walked briskly, taking long strides in their direction.
“Jake, get into the car.” The hairs on the back of her neck were standing, so she spoke sharper than she had intended. She lifted her son and almost shoved him into his car seat, in her panic. She didn’t bother to strap him into the seat before shutting the door. She pressed the sensor on her key and locked all the car doors, then rushed past the shorter man who was almost at her car.
When she went round to put Joanna into the car, the tall man followed her to that side. She glanced at him, her heart pounding now. Even close up, she still couldn’t see his face clearly. Without speaking, she opened the door lifted Joanna and shoved her into her car seat. Before she could shut the door, the tall man held it and slid smoothly into her car, taking the space just beside Joanna.
When he shut the door, without a word, Bunmi put both hands to her mouth. This cannot be happening.
By now, the second man was at the door of the passenger side. His eyes bore into her.
“Get in and drive.”
Hands shaking, she opened her door and got into the car, while he got into the car, beside her. She glanced at the attendants again. One of them had stood and was looking at her car.
She strapped herself in, put the car in reverse and slowly backed out of the parking lot. The attendant sat again and resumed his conversation with his partner.
“Mummy, who are they?”
“Hush, Jo.” She looked back, saw the tall man leaning over Joanna and stepped on her brakes.
She ignored the man beside her. “What are you doing to my daughter?” She spoke calmly because she didn’t want to alarm her children, but her heart was thudding so loud, she thought everyone could hear it.
When she heard a click, she realized that the man had been strapping Jo in. He leaned over Joanna to get to Jake and a second click let her know that he had also secured his seat belt. She couldn’t relax still. “What do you guys want?”
“You talk too much, lady. Drive.”
Bunmi cast a look at the man beside her. There was nothing in his voice that instilled fear. His voice was smooth and refined, not guttural or high-pitched, like she had expected, considering the circumstances. She was scared, all the same.
As she pulled out of the parking lot, Joanna started whimpering. Looking through the rearview mirror, Bunmi tried to make eye contact with her daughter.
“Hush, baby. Mummy will handle this, okay.” Amazingly, Jake was silent.
She noticed the Honda Accord pull out from the lot, to a position directly behind her.
Only a few cars were on the road, but she didn’t find that surprising, considering they were in a quiet neighbourhood. Also, it was a Sunday night and most people would be home, getting rested for another work week.
Why did we have to be out now? Why did I choose tonight of all nights to indulge the children’s ice cream cravings?
When she hit the middle of her forehead with her right hand, the man beside her gave her a sharp glance. She slowly lowered her hand to the steering wheel.
This doesn’t seem like a random abduction, though. They seemed to have been waiting for us.
Suddenly she was filled with cold dread at the thought that they had, most likely, been followed.
It’s one thing to hear about kidnapping incidents going on in Nigeria, while safe in America, and another to actually be at the mercy of some brutes.
At that point, she saw a well-lit sign, indicating that she was getting close to a petrol station. Her first instinct was to drive in there and raise alarm, but, she quickly crushed the thought.
They might not have shown me any guns, but I’m sure they are armed. I can’t risk jeopardizing my children’s lives.
Glancing swiftly at the station, she noticed the metal barricades and realized that no one was in there. At that time of the night, they had obviously closed.
That’s another reason why that was a bad idea.
Bunmi was sweating profusely. Even her palms and the soles of her feet were damp. Stretching her hand to the middle of the dashboard, she pressed a button and lowered the temperature a notch. When her hand was back on the wheel, the man beside her reached out and turned on the radio.
She had been listening to music from a CD earlier, so the opening beat of the remixed version of P Square’s Chop my money filled the car. He turned up the volume a bit and leaned back in his chair.
She glanced at him again. He was staring ahead, but his shoulders were moving in sync with the music.
What kind of a lunatic is this?
Almost immediately, she got to the junction that turned into her grandmother’s street. She had been staying there since she and the kids returned. So, instinctively, she started to turn to her right. The driver of the car trailing behind them honked thrice and at the same time the man beside her, whom she now thought of as Loony, spoke sharply, “That’s not where we’re going.”
Bunmi’s fear increased as she slowly backed out of the street. I was right, this is no random incident.
When she got to the end of the road, the only place to turn was left. Seeing the police check point, a few meters away, she was filled with anticipatory joy. When she got closer, she started to slow down.
“Don’t even think about it.”
This was the first time he had spoken, but there was something about the voice of the man at the back that seemed familiar. Even as she struggled to remember where she could have heard him before, she stubbornly pulled to a stop in front of the policemen. The Honda drove past them.
“Don’t even think of saying or doing anything you’d regret,” Loony told her calmly. He removed the seatbelt from around his body and lowered his window. He smiled and spoke to the unarmed policeman, who had come to the car, “My broda, how una dey find today?”
“Bros, wetin man go do naa? Na work carry person come out this cold night.” He peered inside the car. “Ah, oga mi, you dey enjoy o. See as all of una fine so. Even Davido dey play im music for una sef. Chai! Na the real silver spoon life una dey live so!”
Loony laughed, as the policeman, whose uniform showed that he was a constable, started to sing Dami Duro in discordant tones.
He put his hand into his jacket and withdrew a leather wallet. From it, he brought out a crisp note, which he handed over to the constable. “Oya, take this one hol’ body.”
When he raised it to peer closer, Bunmi saw that it was a thousand naira note. “Bros, na you be the baba! You go live long o!” He quickly squeezed the note into a ball and held it tightly in his fisted left palm.
When his partner drew closer, Loony dug out another note and handed over to him as well. Amidst hand salutes and praise-singing from the policemen, he spoke to Bunmi through clenched teeth, “Drive.”
Smiling, as she pulled away, he waved to the policemen and wound up his window.
“What were you thinking?”
She ignored Loony, silently bemoaning her lost chance. Loony’s earlier admonition had not been the reason she hadn’t uttered a word to the policemen. It had been the knowledge that his partner was sitting at the back with her children.
Why have they been silent this long? She slammed the brakes immediately in panic.
“What!” Loony cried, as he pitched forward. He hadn’t worn his seat belt after the interlude at the checkpoint.
She ignored him and looked back. The twins were fast asleep. Despite the circumstances, Bunmi found that mildly amusing.
Only a child can sleep through this horror.
Turning to continue driving, she found Loony glaring at her. “Sorry,” she muttered.
He rolled his eyes and brought out his phone. “Where una dey?”
He was silent, as he listened to whoever he had called. He nodded once. “No wahala. We don pass them. Just wait for there.”
Turning to Bunmi, he replaced his wallet and said, “Please, park the car now and get down.”
“How?… What do you mean?… What about…?”
Shaking, she complied. He got down too and came round to the driver’s side. She moved to let him pass, when it was clear that he wanted to open the door.
“I beg you,” she pleaded. “Take the car. Take whatever you want. Please let my children go.”
He frowned. “Wetin I wan use your children do?” He pointed to the passenger side. “Abeg, enter front, before you kill pesin.” He shook his head. “Women drivers.”
She stared at him for a few seconds, before racing to the other side. Quickly, she climbed into the car and strapped herself in with the seat belt. He got in too and drove off.