This story is by Raheemah Afegbua and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Amal saw her older brother, Musa as he rounded the corner of their street in his Toyota Corolla. She hurriedly waved away the man she was talking to and skipped to open the entrance gate to the compound and let Musa in.
“Who was that?” he asked getting out of the car as Amal collected his laptop bag from his grasp.
“Oh, nobody, he was just asking for a direction.” Amal averted her eyes as she rubbed her right ear.
The next day Musa waved at his sister as he left for work. About 10:00 am, a call came in through his smart-phone with ‘unknown caller’ ID.
Musa always felt goosebumps rise on his arms whenever a call with an anonymous ID called his phone. As an officer of the police force, he has been trained to expect the unexpected. He felt something was about to unravel with the call he was about to receive. Call it instinct.
A heavy breathing filled his ear and he could hear the shuffle of feet in the background. Musa felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise as he continued to listen to the breathing.
“Who is there?” Musa got up from his chair and moved to the windows with his legs apart and his right hand balled into a fist at his side. “Don’t you have the guts to speak? If you think you’re scaring me, then you’re definitely mistaken.”
He disconnected the call. He stared blankly out of the window, a frown wrinkling his forehead.
The phone vibrated in his hand as he moved to leave the window.
An unknown caller again. Musa’s nose flared and his breath came in short bursts.
“Who do you think you are?” he said angrily. “Speak now or never call this number again!”
“Ha, ha! Haha. You have just two hours to rescue your sister or be forever guilty of causing her death!” the voice from the phone boomed. Musa heard a slight echo as though the caller was in an empty building.
“Who are you?” Musa’s face clouded as he ran his hand through his hair. “You better not hurt my sister or else- .”
“Or else what?” asked the voice. “Are you going to kill me?” A burst of sinister laughter pierced Musa’s ear.
Keep calm now, Musa.
“How do I know you are not fooling around and you really have my sister?
Silence followed Musa’s last word. He removed the phone from his ear to look at the screen; the anonymous call was still connected.
“Brother, I’m here. . .he . . .he has kidnapped me-,” Amal’s rushed sobbing came clear to Musa’s ear.
“Amal! Are you-” Musa started, his eyes opened wide.
“Do you believe me now, Inspector Musa?” snapped the voice.
“What do you want?!” Musa bared his teeth, his nostrils flared.
“Now you’re talking. You must bring five million Naira to a place which I shall name in an hour’s time.”
“What!?” Musa stiffened and he could feel sweat running down the back of his neck. His palms slicked with sweat. “Where would I get such amount. I’m-.”
“I don’t care. Your time starts now!”
Musa looked at his watch. It was 10:15 am. He dialed a number.
responded the phone voice recorder. He redialed the number ten times as he paced the length of his office, his left hand in his trousers’ pocket.
His sister’s number wasn’t connecting!
She’s really been kidnapped!
Musa dropped into his chair.
It had just been the two of them for ten years and Musa had never allowed any hurt or pain to affect his little sister. His lips twitched briefly, he knew that Amal would object to that. At eighteen and due to start her University study in a few days, she thought she was all grown up.
His office wall clock read 10:40 am.
Musa tapped his fingers on the table.
He grabbed his laptop and quickly opened his online banking platform account; all he had there was one million Naira.
Musa stared at the screen and made his decision. He would leave his fellow officers out of this and go it alone. He wouldn’t risk Amal’s life.
After three different calls to friends, Musa slumped across his chair, his lips and chin trembling. With a dim look of hope in his eyes, he grabbed his phone again.
“Iman, can you lend me four million Naira before 11 am today, please?” Musa said, his trembling hands making the phone unsteady. The gasp from the earpiece made his heart pound and his mouth went dry. “Please, I shall pay you back by month end.”
No success there either.
Musa scrubbed his face with both palms then tried to rub the stiffness out of his neck.
He grabbed his phone on its first ring and accepted the call without a look at the LCD.
“Where’s my sister?” Musa croaked.
“Are you scared?” asked the voice in a jarring tone with a mocking undertone.
“I am not scared! Don’t you dare touch her.” A vein visibly throbbed in Musa’s neck.
“Don’t act smart by informing your colleagues. You shall find her lifeless body if you dare tell anyone.”
“I’m telling no one.”
“That’s a good boy. You have less than an hour or else-.”
Musa sat at the reception area of his bank. He had finally convinced his bank manager to loan him four million Naira. It would have to be deducted from his salary account at an interest, but he’d done it.
He turned his wrist and looked at his watch, 11:50 am. Twenty minutes left.
“Please, God, let me get there in time to save Amal. Please,” Musa muttered as his feet tapped away at the floor tiles.
Musa stood up to pace the corridor leading to the manager’s office. Sweat beaded down his face and his body stiffened with his hands in his pockets.
“Mr Musa, come in, please,” a voice from inside the office beckoned.
“Yes?” Musa took a seat in the chair across from the man.”Is the money ready?”
“No, I’m sorry. We need your signature.” The man pointed his finger at the paper and gave Musa a pen. “You omitted it when you completed the form.”
“Please, hurry up with it!” Musa scribbled his signature across the line and handed the document back.
“I am doing my best as it is,” grunted the Manager.
“I’m sorry for snapping,” Musa said with a flicker of a smile.
Musa was back pacing the corridor when his phone rang.
It’s the kidnapper.
“It seems you think I’m joking about killing your sister if I don’t see the money in the next fifteen minutes.”
“I am bringing it, please,” Musa repeatedly glanced at the manager’s door. “The bank is arranging it.”
“Remember to come alone to our agreed venue for the exchange. Any suspicion of hanky-panky from your end and your sister is gone!”
“Please, don’t harm her-,” Musa started, only to hear the dial-tone from the disconnection.
At exactly 12:14 pm, Musa dropped a bag at the stated point and stepped back as he waited in a pensive state.
A minute later, Amal came from behind a parked vehicle and ran towards Musa with her outstretched arms. He met her midway with a bear hug as he murmured a heartfelt prayer of gratitude.
Musa took Amal to see the doctor immediately after they left the scene.
Thank God everything was okay with her. Musa wouldn’t have forgiven himself if anything had happened to his only sibling.
A lingering doubt kept coming back to him anytime he recalled the kidnapping incident and how sudden it was. As usual, Musa ignored the feelings and strolled towards his sister’s room for a request.
He heard whispers coming from within and recalling his doubts, placed his left ear on the mahogany door and listened.
“Don’t dare cheat me out of the five million Naira. We agreed on a 50-50 split.”
Musa’s eyes went wide as he stood rigid with his hands clasped to his mouth.