Click here to read the previous chapter Walk In The Dark, Walk In The Dark: Episode 2, Walk In The Dark: Episode 3, Walk In The Dark: Episode 4, Walk In The Dark: Episode 5, Walk In The Dark: Episode 6, Walk In The Dark: Episode 7 and Walk In The Dark: Episode 8
The soldiers jumped off the various trucks and menacingly walked in various directions into the bushes, Major Collins and a few others stayed back in the makeshift camp they had set up. He was seated behind a crate that was being used as a table, a map with different markings on it before him, a radio in hand and a bunch of other soldiers looking over his shoulders.
Days of investigation and research had led them to Abiku, it had not being easy but Major Collins was determined to pull all available strings to get to his godson. The last clue the police had, was the CCTV footage from the ATM and from there the bus seemed to vanish into the thin air. To the police maybe but not to someone who was privy to much more equipment of espionage and security. Three different military drones and CCTV cameras had picked up the trail of the bus described as a white bus with a red roof and lost it around the Ajao axis which was a surveillance blind zone, which would explain why criminal activities were rampant in the area.
Residents in the area had stated that at least once in a while, a truck drove into the bush and came back moments later, at first they had thought it was a property owner but they were certain there were no ongoing projects in that area. Yet twice a week the same truck made the same trip in and out of the ship. It could be nothing they said but it was worth investigating.
“Abiku is a large expanse of land and the men can not cover it all, that is why I instructed that they use the V formation, from the East, West, North and South, that way, what one teams misses, another might find.” The Major said, his hand hovering over the map.
His subordinates nodded in approval, it seemed like a good plan, it was only a matter of time before they closed in on their targets.
They had rounded up five of the kids and were in the process of being taken back to the house by Dayo and Akin.
Slaughter, Bello and the one they called Smokey, followed the lead of the dogs as they sniffed their way through the forest, there were just a handful of the kids remaining and they were very certain that before the end of the day they would all be accounted for.
‘Walai!! I go show those children pepper. Them go hear nwi!!’ Slaughter snarled. Bello did not doubt him, he just as much wanted to inflict pain on the kids for making him venture into the wild. He waved off the fly that was buzzing in his ear. God damn flies, they were everywhere!!! He was supposed to go into town today but here he was chasing after these stupid kids.
He could wait to get his hands on them! He shook with rage at the thought.
He saw the smoke before he saw the small hut made up of mainly corn stalks and raffia. His heart leaped for joy, freedom.
“Look!” Ade exclaimed, pointing to his find.
“They might be in cohorts with those guys.” Kemi said.
“Haba!! Why you go talk like that! They are just farmers. These guys live here during the week and go back into town at weekends. They have no business with the demons who kidnapped us.” Musa said convincingly.
“I agree with Musa, there is no way they are connected. With the distance we traveled to be here, there is no way these people and our captors know each other. They may have a phone with which we can reach our parents. We are going home.” Ade said excitedly. Faith wriggled excited on his body.
Kemi sighed, somehow all these seemed too easy, she had a bad feeling about it all but she did not want to be the only one with a negative vibe and so she tried to act excited.
She followed the others, her eyes searching the terrain, expecting their captors or their scary dogs to emerge out of the blues but they did not till they reached the little spot that had nothing but the thatched house and a pot burning over a fire. Whatever the person was cooking, smelt delicious.
There were farm tools with soil crust still on them laying near the makeshift door or the hut. There was also plastic shoes covered in dirt lying in front of the door.
Standing from a distance. “Kpam, kpam, kpam.” Ade said imitating the sound of a knock on wood. There was no answer. He tried again, “Kpam, kpam, kpam.” No answer.
He was about to to try a third time when a voice, asked; “Who be that?!”
Startled they turned to see a woman with a wrapper tied all the way to her chest, soaking wet, carrying a bucket that had seen better days emerging from the bushes. A bit of sod was still caught in her bushy hair. She had obviously come out of a bath.
She walked up to them, her look a mix of surprise and curiosity. She dropped her bucket near the farm equipment’s and placed the soap with which she had bathed out of sight in the rafters.
“Wetin una dey do here?!” She asked, standing akimbo.
Kemi guessed she should be somewhere between thirty to thirty-nine, she was of a slim frame but her biceps were thick and so were her calves, an evidence of her line of work. She looked homely enough but there was something about her, that struck her as odd but Kemi could not place her fingers on it. She knew instantly she could not trust this woman.
“We were kid…” Ade began before he was cut off by Kemi.
“We got lost, we are students of River Basin University. We were here on an agricultural expedition before we got lost. This little girl is the daughter of the lecturer and I am very sure that he is turning every rock to find her.” Ade stared at her in surprise.
“Ehnn?!” The woman said.
The look in her eyes told Kemi the woman did not believe her but she did not want to take a chance that she was one of the kidnappers and tell them they had escaped.
“Yes ma, please we were wondering if you have a phone we could use?” Kemi asked.
“Yes but I no get battery. My phone done die, you know say light no dey inside this bush and na like 2 bars I carry enter here. E just die this morning as I dey answer call.”
That bit of news deflated all hope the kids had harbored.
“But one of my friend fit come later, I sure say him battery full.” The smiles returned to the faces of the kids at her information.
“How far is the main road from here?” Kemi asked.
“E nor too far, na about three hours. Na 500 naira Okada we dey usually use enter here. Na that my okada friend dey come later. He wan bring something for me.”
This was the best news yet, the Okada man was their ticket out of here.
The woman went into her hut and came back moments later fully dressed in a gown, her skin glittering from the petroleum jelly she had used to moisten her skin.
“I just cook finish, make I put for una?’ She asked already dishing out beans and yam, “E no plenty but una go manage.”
“Thank you ma.” They chorused after she placed the food in front of them. By now they were already settled inside the sparsely furnished hut, that had just a mat and a clay pot of water and a lamp that hung unlit from the roof as her only belongings. The only light in the dark, cool room was from a hole she had made in the wall.
She sat away from them, eating from a half moon shaped calabash, same as theirs, only smaller. She ate without speaking, her attention on her food, only casting them side ways glances once in a while.
While she ate, Kemi noticed she kept her “dead” phone within reach, come to think of it, she had not let the phone out of her sight since they came here. For a phone that was supposedly dead, she seemed too attached to it. Kemi’s suspicions sprang up again but she remained calm. She did not want to panic the rest.
“Hope una belle full?” She asked, as she gathered her bowl and those of the kids. She refused Kemi’s request to help her put away the dishes. As she stepped out, kids lay on their backs, relaxed, waiting for their saviour; the okada man to come save them.
When she did not come back after a while, Kemi decided to go look for her. She snuck quietly, without the others noticing, she was nowhere in sight, she stalked to the back of the hut and still could not find her, the bowls were there but she wasn’t. She was about to go back in when she heard someone talking, she snuck to the sound of the voice on tiptoes. She found the woman with her back to her, her hand over the mouthpiece of her “dead” phone, talking in hushed tones.
“They dey here now, make una hurry. I lie for them say okada dey come. I don do my part, if una dey come bring the money come oh!” Shivers trickled down Kemi’s spine in waves like a waterfall.
She hurried back to the hut and sat next to Ade, without a word.
“My friend go soon show.” The woman said as she came in moments later, she headed to the clay pot to fetch a cup of water to drink. Just as she brought the cup to her mouth, Kemi landed her a heavy blow with all the strength she could muster with a hoe handle she had picked up as she came in.
“What are you doing, are you mad?!” Ade screamed at her.
Kemi bent beside the now unconscious woman and picked up her phone. She switched it on. “Thought she said her phone was dead?!'”She then proceeded to dial the last dialed number, it rang for a while and when someone on the other end of the line picked up. Kemi put it on speaker and the voice of Bello came at them like a sucker punch.
“Them still dey there? Hello! Hello.” Kemi cut the line and switched off the phone.
“We have to leave here immediately.” She said and without another word headed towards the door.
When the call came, Bello was elated, they had them now. Money was a very good incentive for almost everything. The moment those kids got missing, they had called some of the farmers in the area; who were in the know about their business and offered fifty thousand Naira to anyone who could lead them to their whereabouts. So when Nkechi called informing him that the kids were in her place, he smiled knowing that his quick thinking had saved them a lot of hard work.
He placed a call to Dayo and Akin via the satellite phone, asking them to join them at Nkechi’s place. He did not have fifty thousand on him but he had something better to give her. Desire stirred in his loins. He and her had being intimate on several occasions and this was not going to be any different. He often went to her hut, whenever he was hit by the urge to feel warmth and touch of woman but never let her visit them at the house and never divulged the location either, no matter how much she begged.
When the second call came in, he knew something was not right and then the line went dead abruptly and when he tried calling back, the line was switched off.
“Slaughter, make we hurry, make we hurry. My mind dey tell say something done happen.” He immediately set off on sprint, his pump action bouncing on his back, the cutlass secured to his belt making a patting sound as it hit his thigh. Slaughter followed suit, wondering what had gotten his friend agitated.