Continued From Part 2
Mr. Dada returned thirty minutes later with sizzling fast food for three. He went into the special room and untied Anastasia. The three of us went to the dining table and attacked the food. The food wasn’t the greatest, but it was edible. Barely.
“It’s time to go to bed,” God remarked, “tomorrow is another day.” Then he turned to Anastasia, “Listen to me carefully, young lady, I don’t want to tie you down. So, you’re going to behave yourself. All the doors are securely locked and the windows are burglary-proof; there is nowhere for you to escape. And please don’t try anything funny. I’m a very dangerous man. Don’t try to play smart with me. You’re a very beautiful woman; it would be such a pity if you lost that beauty. You will be allowed to sleep on the bed in your room while we sleep here in the living room. Because the room has no personal toilet, I’m not going to lock you in. But always remember that I’m a very light sleeper. There would be a loaded pistol under my pillow. The lights would be on all through the night. Sleep tight. Good night.” With that, he went to lie down on the couch, with his gun resting under his pillow. Anastasia stared at him for a moment before heading to her room.
“Where am I going to sleep?” I asked.
With his eyes still shut, he abruptly replied, “The floor.”
Again, my hatred for him grew like pregnancy. The man could really make a sunny day cloudy with his dispositions. I laid on the bare rug; there was not anything on which to literally rest my head. Undoubtedly, my neck would be sprained by dawn.
Dawn came earlier than I thought. The major part of the morning was spent watching our captive. Mr Dada went out again to get us some breakfast. I was even beginning to feel like a captive too. The day went off slowly. He spent a longer time trying to find us dinner this time; he spent over two hours.
Finally, the D-day arrived—a Wednesday. At exactly ten o’clock, he placed a call to Mr Oputa.
“Good morning, Mr Oputa,” he said, “Listen very carefully, sir. You will have to deliver the money by 2 this afternoon. Failure to do that will cost your daughter an ear. Now this is the instruction: leave two bags containing fifty million naira each at 55 Alora Street, Yaba. Alora is a very popular street in Yaba and number 55 is an uncompleted building. Remember, the bales must be in a thousand naira denominations and the bags must be padlocked. Just drop the bags in the building. You shall be contacted by 3pm about where to find your daughter or a part of her.” Call ended. He turned to me and said, “Oscar, this is where you are most needed. Pull this successfully and you’ll have a clean record with me, and an additional twenty million naira reward.”
I knew what was coming but I asked anyway, “What do you need me to do?”
“You will go and bring the money.”
“Because I need to stay behind and watch over Anastasia.”
A plain-faced lie; an obvious phonus-balonus. From small fibs, mighty prevarications grow. I was no stupe; I knew he was pushing me forward to walk into the lion’s den. The Managing Director could have gotten the police involved. I could be walking into a trap. Mr Dada was pushing me as a pawn. I found myself agreeing to go into the den. I must have been under a spell.
He checked his wristwatch and said, “You should now be on your way; there may be heavy traffic jam. The earlier you leave the better. You should arrive there by three o’clock. Take the car.”
“I’m not going in that car without its license plates!”
Mr Dada shrugged, “If that’s what you want. The plates are in the booth. You can screw them back on.”
I spent thirty minutes to fix the license. Then I drove out of the compound at exactly one o’clock. I got to the location at a couple of ticks past 3pm. The street was a filthy one in which fierce dogs chased piglets through the refuse and barefoot children played in the mud. Before getting out of the vehicle, I carefully scanned the area for any suspicious person lurking around. I exercised a patience that would have made Job weep with envy; I spent a whole fifteen minutes in the car, surveying the environment. Satisfied that there was nothing suspicious, I came out of the vehicle and went into Number 55, Alora Street. There, at a corner, were the bags. The zips were securely locked as instructed. Without wasting time, I picked up the bags and headed for the car, whistling like a frightened kid walking home through a graveyard. A part of me was expecting policemen in large numbers to come out of their hidings with guns drawn. Fortunately, nothing of such happened; all I could see around me was a priest swearing at a cab driver over a fare. I dropped the bags in the back-seat and drove away. My heart was banging furiously as I drove homeward. Here was a hundred million naira in a seat behind me! My mind told me to get lost with the money. No one would find me. Even Mr Dada would not be able to do anything to me. I would live in affluence under another name. I had a chance to become a very rich man. I could change my name to someone else. I had been a hussler all my life, and I didn’t foresee the day when I would be able to finally relax comfortably and stop scrambling for a crust—an opportunity to redeem myself from my wretchedness had just presented itself. I would be a fool if I didn’t grab it. The crazy man could go ahead and report my fake certificates. To hell with him.
I was about to take a different route when one other factor crept into my merry-go-round brain; my mind drifted back to Anastasia. That poor girl. I couldn’t imagine what Mr Dada would do to her if I didn’t return with the money. I couldn’t allow him to cut off her pretty ear. He could even kill her in anger. No, I couldn’t allow that. Anastasia was worth more than a hundred million naira to me. No, I wasn’t going to run. I hoped someday Anastasia would realise the sacrifice I made for her.
I drove back to the bungalow. By the time I was close to the house I was singing mightily and revising the lyrics of that old spiritual to ‘Swing high, sweet chariot’, for I was in a frolicsome mood. The gate was ajar so I didn’t need to come out of the car. I drove straight into the compound, debouched from the car and carried the bags out. They were quite heavy. I was expecting Mr Dada to come out of the house and help with one of the bags. But the over-bloated proud man didn’t come out; I wasn’t surprised. Well, he should have the money and get everything done with. I might not care to break bread with him, but I was more than happy to bake the loaf. He should release the innocent girl to her father.
But there was no Mr Dada when I entered the house. I dropped the bag on the floor. I called his name but there was no reply. I sat down tired. Maybe he went out to get some dinner. The time was already about 6pm. After resting for five minutes, I decided to go and check on our captive. I went to where Mr Dada usually hid the key of the room.
When I opened the door, what greeted me was shocking.
Lying faced down on the bed was Anastasia. There was a gruesome bullet hole at the back of her head. There was blood everywhere. The room was like a slaughterhouse. I shrank back in horror. How the hell did this happen? Why would Mr Dada kill her? What did the girl do wrong? My heart shattered into pieces! Hot rage clouded my vision. I was so mad that I couldn’t stand straight. I held onto the doorframe for support, still confused and angry. There was a hundred million naira in the sitting room and the corpse of the girl I loved in the bedroom. Where the hell was Mr Dada? I was in a state that wrath could go no further.
Then my phone rang.
The number was hidden. I needed no one to tell me it was Mr Dada calling. I picked up the call immediately.
“Hello Oscar.” I nearly fainted when I heard the voice. Rationality spun out of control. At first I thought I was losing my hearing. Sweat broke out of my forehead. The voice—the voice I was hearing wasn’t Mr Dada’s. Oh, my God!
Unless my hearing was beyond repair; by jove, it was Anastasia’s voice!
The voice gave a loud laugh at the other end. I couldn’t believe my ear. How was this possible? Before me was the corpse of Anastasia. How come she was speaking to me on phone?
“A-a-a-nastasia?” I asked, my voice breaking horribly.
“You sound surprised to hear my voice, Oscar.”
“You-you are dead.”
Then it dawned on me. My eyes were opened. I understood the horrow going on. The phone was still pressed against my ear as I walked towards the corpse. I turned it around and my fear was confirmed. The corpse wasn’t Anastasia; it was another fair lady dressed in Anastasia’s clothes.
“She’s not you!” I heard myself whisper into the phone.
“Finally!” She breathed.
“What’s happening, Anastasia?”
“What’s happening is that you’re being played for a sucker, Oscar. Like an Ipod Shuffle, you allowed yourself to be played.”
Continue Reading: An Ace For Oscar Part 4