by Chris Opia, Lagos, Nigeria.
“Preye, someone’s at the door”, shouted Mama Preye from the courtyard. “Find out who it is.”
“Ok,” grumbled Preye as he shuffled his feet relunctly and made for the door. Why
should someone be knocking at his father’s door this early, he wondered. People should
be at work working to make ends met and not wobbling from house to house making
small talk and looking out for a chance to wash their mouths with a shot or two of Ogogoro (gin)
“Oh, Dickson. It’s you”, shouted Preye as he grinned from ear to ear. Dickson is a friend he admires so much. “I thought it was one of those village gossips. What brings you to my bunk this early? I know you like the back of my hand and can bet you’re not here for idle talk. Even the…”
“Preye, the typewriter”, said Dickson mockingly as he interrupted Preye’s monologue. “Always typing 150 words per minute with your mouth. Won’t you invite me in and offer me a sit?”
“Oh, sorry. I got carried away”, apologized Preye.
“As usual”, uttered Dickson with a trace of disdain in his voice. “Well, I’ve come with an important business deal.”
“Let the gist flow, my guy. I’m all ears”, said Preye with another ear-to-ear grin.
Dickson drew his chair closer to Preye’s and whispered the plan into his ears raising his up with eyes darting from side to side to make sure no one was within ear shot.
“Dickson I must admit that this plan sounds interesting but are you sure just the two of us can execute it well?” asked Preye.
“Trust me, Preye. It is fool proof”, said Dickson as his face beamed with a confident smile.
In less than 48 hours he would not be the unemployed youth that had no say in communal meetings but the proud owner of a rugged SUV. He would drive to Port Harcourt, cruise around the city and have any lady that catches his fancy. Oh this is the life dreamed Preye as sauntered to the courtyard to see what his mother had made for breakfast. He had just seen Dickson off.
Next day, Dickson and Preye were at the arrival lounge of the airport. Preye eyed the smart blue jeans and timberland shoes he wore and made a mental note to buy himself similar ones with his own share of what he was going to make from the deal they were working on.
Dickson was confident that the American Geophysicist would be in the next flight. He would be the key to their million bucks. He waved the card board paper with the name BRIAN BEASLEY boldly written on it. He had no pang of guilt whatsoever that what he planned on doing was wrong. He believed that to make it big in life, one had to take some risks. On the other hand, Preye almost developed cold feet when the fear of being apprehended by the men of the JTF and tried in court for kidnapping gnawed on his conscience. He stifled it with three strong shots of Kai Kai.
Preye was jolted from his ‘fantasy land’ and the thought of cruising round Uniport in his new SUV when a well-dressed middle aged man and towering well over six foot six stopped in front of them making them look like pygmies and said: “Hi, I am Brian Beasley. How may I help you?”
Dickson was dumbfounded. Not in his wildest dreams did he imagine that the Brian Beasley he had planned on kidnapping to get a handsome ransom for was not an American oil company staff but a Nigerian? At least from the man’s accent, he deduced he must be a Nigerian from the Kalabari ethnic group.
“Dickson, you yab o!, thundered Preye in anger as he spoke in pidgin English. “So na Naija man you say make we go kidnap?”.
“Sorry, my guy” replied Dickson remorsefully. “ I think say na white man when I see im name for paper.”
“So you no even see picture na just name you see?” derided Preye.
Dickson apologized once more and promised to make it up to Preye. Being the ‘sharp’ guy that he was, he told Preye about another fool proof plan he just hatched.
* * *
Warm Springs Academy, Port Harcourt, was a private school for children of the wealthy. Rumour had it that its school fees were paid in dollars and that only children of men whose monthly income was not less than two million Naira could afford to send their kids there. That was where Dickson and Preye were headed a week later. Dickson, the master strategist (he made Preye address him as such) was about executing the next strategy to make them make the million bucks he had always dreamed of.
Dickson’s old school mate Benson was now one of the two drivers in the employ of Chief Kiani. Benson had the responsibility of driving Johnson’s only son, Miete, to school. Dickson convinced Benson allow him to go and drive Miete back from school as a way of repaying the favour Benson did him a fortnight ago. Benson who was tired and needed that relief agreed but on the condition that Dickson shall stop by so he can take the boy home from the face-me-I-face you building where they both lived to Chief Kiani’s home less than half a kilometer from there. Mrs. Kiani would blow hot and cold to see an unauthorized person driving her only child home from school.
She was sitting in her living room wondering why Benson had not brought Miete home when her phone rang.
“We have your son. If you want to see him again, you must pay a ransom of 6 million Naira. We’ll contact you again soon. You must not let the Police know.” And there was a click from the caller’s phone.
And there was a thud from the living room of the Kianis. Mrs. Kiani had fainted and hit her head on a stool as she fell. No one realized Miete wasn’t home yet until the neighbours who rushed in on hearing the alarm raised by the housemaid had revived Mrs. Kiani. Meanwhile, Preye was day dreaming as usual when Dickson arrived. It was a rude shock for him to see Dickson arrive alone.
“Dickson, wh-wh-where is the kid?”, he stammered.
“It is a long story” replied a visibly shaken Dickson.
The school head teacher suspecting that all was not well had refused to let Dickson take Miete away except he got a phone call from either of his parents. He blamed himself for being such a fool to have called Mrs. Kiani as he waited in the car in the school compound because he was cock-sure that the boy will be in his custody in a few seconds. The anxiety of hitting the millions he had been hoping to make made him attempt to be faster than his shadow.
That was another chance lost.
“Don’t be downcast Preye”, consoled Dickson. “I have another plan. I’m absolutely sure it’s fool proof.”
* * *
Pa Magnus Brisibe had worked as a psychologist in the civil service before retiring in 1978. He is 81 years old and a widower. He lives in a big house by the riverside. The house is so longer now. He sometimes reminisces about those days when the house used to be a beehive of activities. What with 6 sons and a daughter, the house was fun-filled. Now, all the kids are now parents (his daughter a grandmother) and he a great-grandfather. His grand children and great grand children came during the holidays to spent time with him but this day, he was all alone in the house save for the nurse that doubled as a cook who the children employed to take care of him.
Dickson and Preye had kept the house under surveillance for a couple of days. Kidnapping Pa Brisibe could fetch them a few million Naira especially from his son, Duncan who is the Director General of a federal government establishment in Abuja. Luckily for them, this was the day the nurse will be resuming late as she usually goes shopping for groceries on Wednesdays.
Pa Brisibe’s vision was slightly impaired but his ears compensated for this somehow. Though, Dickson and Preye opened the front door gently and tip-toed towards the reclining chair by the window where he loved to seat on, he knew that someone had entered the house.
“Who goes there?”, Pa Brisibe queried in his old man’s shaky voice.
Dickson and Preye stood still and remained silent. Dickson was first to break the silence.
“We advise you to cooperate with us so we will not be forced to harm you, old man.”
“But who are you and what have I done to you”, asked Pa Brisibe boldly.
“Nothing, old man. We just need you as our meal ticket,” added Preye.
“Yes, we are kidnapping you and will only release you when your son in Abuja pays us eight million Naira”, said Dickson.
“Oh God, what is this world turning to?” lamented Pa Brisibe. “Why do men do wicked things just for the love of money?”
“Young men”, he said in a mellowed tone. “Please, give me that black book and the case housing my pair of glasses to me by my chair. At least, be kind enough to let me indulge myself for only five minutes before you take me wherever you have in mind.” Dickson and Preye looked at each other. Preye shrugged his shoulders and gave the book to the old man. Well, just five minutes will not hurt.
* * *
Someone said he saw Dickson and Preye in Port Harcourt five days ago. They were both passengers on different Okada going down turn. They were a long long way from owning SUVs yet looked contented. They now savour the joy of jointly running a barber’s shop and having lots of stories to tell their customers. They have something to console them.
It’s a quotation from the old man’s book:
“A honest day’s pay from a honest job keeps your conscience away from the drycleaner’s.”