Mustapha was finding it hard to keep still. His stomach had done a number of flips when his mother had shown up instead of the driver to pick them up. She and Richard had been having a number of arguments recently because he insisted on putting her on house arrest since the party without telling her why. Lillian was fed up, and had snuck out of the house while Richard was at the study to pick up the kids. He couldn’t be as mad that she went out because of the children, she thought. Besides she needed to get some fresh air.
“Hi guys! Guess who came to pick you up!”
The trip back home to the present was all a blur— all Mustapha could do was to try not to focus on the ropes digging into his skin, wondering if it was hurting Abiye as much. He looked at his mother who had been tied into a corner with Nneka and Aisha, with the armed men ogling at his older sister’s flawless skin and tried not to lose his temper. Asides Nneka, no one could take bullets and live, and most importantly if his older sister tried to do so, she needed to have the bullets extracted from her before they heal and get shut within her body— that would require surgery; something they couldn’t expose her too. Even if she could, there was no guarantee that she could get shot at first, so he did his best to keep calm.
The door creaked open, and the armed men looked behind them. A stout looking man walked in with a mischievous grin that looked as clear as it would have if the room wasn’t dimly lit. Lillian couldn’t make out his face quite easily, but the children except Mustapha gasped. They had better eyesight, and the one time they had met this man was enough to have his identity registered.
“Good evening… comfortable?”
Lillian narrowed her eyes. The voice sounded strangely familiar.
“Who the hell are you?” Lillian blurted out before she could stop herself. “What did we do to you?”
Mustapha had his heart racing, but chose to only raise an eyebrow.
“You’ll know why you’re here soon enough.” The man said with a chuckle before walking out.
Mustapha rolled his eyes. Why did he come here if he had nothing to say? He already knew that he was the one behind all this— he didn’t need any confirmation.
Like the man has read Mustapha’s thoughts, he came back in talking on the phone.
“Yes… like I said, they’re only here for surety.” The man said with a chuckle. “All I need is for you to get back on board, and not a single hair on their head would be harmed. Just talk to them— you’ll know they are fine.”
He placed the phone at Lillian’s ear. “Choose your words wisely woman.”
Muyiwa could barely contain his anxiety, but he knew better than to attract attention. Fredrick gave him a small smile and motioned to the hostel door, and he nodded.
“I’ve gotten your exit pass— we don’t have much time.” Fredrick said to him in a low voice as they walked to his car. Muyiwa’s palms were sweaty. He had so much to ask but didn’t know where to begin, so he chose not to speak just yet. Fredrick seemed to understand that, and decided to go right into what they already knew.
“It seemed Chief Benson has your mother and siblings.” Fredrick said, driving a little faster than he normally would (he was known to be particularly careful on the road, so much that it frustrated Mustapha to be in a car with him). “He called earlier today asking that your dad become his lawyer again, or he hurts his hostages.”
Muyiwa was silent— too silent. Fredrick turned to look at the young man and found him staring out of the window in deep thought.
“Mr. Fredrick would you might stopping the car for a minute?” Muyiwa asked quietly, and he obliged. Immediate he did Muyiwa stepped out of the car and unto the sidewalk. He learned over to reach for a thick, rusty iron rod not too far off. He shook the sand off it and turned to Fredrick.
“We can go now— thanks.”
Fredrick silently drove on to the house, saying no more. Each distance covered filled him with dread, for Muyiwa made no comment and asked no questions, choosing rather to squeeze and contort the stray iron rod he picked up into different shapes. Fredrick could only imagine what was on his mind.
“Yes… just you— no funny business.”
Chief Benson was filled with glee. Richard knew better than to call the police. He was known to be quite sensitive when it came to his family, and this was a culture inherited from his father that was quite known by those who had anything to do with the older man back in the day. His grin wiped into a frown when he heard Richard’s request over the phone.
“I don’t see why you want to bring your son along… but it honestly makes no difference.” he answered with a shrug, even though the lawyer wasn’t physically present to see it. “For all I know, he could have been here among my hostages. But I promise you that I’ll kill all your family with me if I see anyone else— even that PA of yours, especially those boys of yours you had helping you earlier.”
“Your conditions will be met.” Richard said with a sigh. He had no problems with all that was requested and even if he did, he had no strength to argue. He was just glad he was allowed to bring Muyiwa along. “Just tell me where, and make the meeting today please.”
“Even if you brought those your boys, my men are even more armed than they were that day.” Chief Benson gloated as if he had not heard what Richard had said. “So if you like yourself you better don’t—”
“I said we have heard Chief. Text the address and I’ll show.”
As Richard hung up, he let out another sigh. “Fredrick, you’re staying. Only Muyiwa can come with.”
Fredrick’s eyes widened, but he nodded in response.
“What I don’t understand is why he still wants you as his lawyer.”
“I think it’s because I already know quite a number of things, maybe too much— he’s not sure, and would rather not take that risk.” Richard explained rather quickly as he rose from his seat. “I’m already entangled in the conspiracy in one twisted way; it’d be better not to bring in any more outsiders.”
The text came in no time, and Richard set off with Muyiwa immediately. They were to meet by 9pm, but they were there about an hour earlier— Chief Benson had no problem with that. They were led into a mini-flat that had no furniture on the inside, except two chairs and a table, and Chief Benson was sitting on one of them with two heavily armed men standing on either side of him. The men searched them for their phones and weapons, but didn’t find any on them.
“I’m glad that you could join us. Have a seat Richard.”
Richard complied without much thought, and turned to glance at his son, who stood right behind his chair.
“So let’s get right to it.” Chief Benson said, tapping his finger on the stack of papers right before him. “I’ll let your family go once you sign this.”
“Let me see them at least.” Richard said as calmly as he could. “Anything could have happened from the time we spoke last.”
“They’re fine, I assure you.” Chief Benson said with the wave of a hand. “Let your son confirm… you’d know better than to try anything funny.”
Richard nodded solemnly, and one of the armed men led Muyiwa to another room. He looked sternly at Chief Benson, wishing he could wipe the smug look off his face. “I’m definitely not signing this until my son comes back to ensure me all is well with them.”
Muyiwa got shoved in through the doorway, but he kept his cool. The small room had Mustapha tied in a corner with Abiye, and Lillian with Nneka and Aisha at the other. His hands tightened into fists, but he still struggled to maintain his composure. The armed man that had shoved him in had returned back to the other room where his father was, leaving the two men that were here before with him alone. He couldn’t do anything until his mother and siblings were clear out of sight, so he just stood there staring at them.
“Are you guys okay? Did they hurt you guys?”
Lillian and the others shook their heads, but they dared not answer because of the guns pointed in their direction. Muyiwa let out a small sigh and retreated back to where his father was. His father gave him a distressed look and he nodded dejectedly. “They’re unharmed sir.”
“You see? Now go ahead and sign the damned thing.” Chief Benson said a little impatiently this time. Richard shook his head.
“Let them go.”
“You’re making too many demands Richard.” Chief Benson said, his voice expressing how irritated he had become.
“Look, it’s me you want. I won’t move here until the contract has been signed and for even safe measure, I’ll leave my son with me here. But especially the little ones and my wife… let them free. They’ll sit in the car and wait till we are done. Put all the armed men on us till I’ve signed all the necessary documents I don’t care— but just do this last favor for me.”
“You seem not to like your first child as much as I thought you did.” Chief Benson said with a laugh. “I see no reason why I should oblige, so I won’t.”
“Then I won’t sign this document.” Richard said indignantly.
“Then watch your wife and children die one after the other. Bring them out.”
The other armed men came out with the hostages untied. Only Lillian was trembling. The kids looked distressfully at their father instead, as if hoping that his decisions were part of some master plan.
“So… who should we start with: your wife or your youngest child?”
Richard’s eyes widened as Lillian and Abiye were shoved to the front, with both armed men pointing a gun at each of them.
“I’m thinking… both.”