The day grew darker as the setting sun gradually disappeared behind taller trees. With the little light left, Benita was able to access her room - although she thought of it as a prison cell. The room had only one window. Its yellow curtains was pulled aside, giving her a view of the trees outside. A plastic table and chair sat at the far eastern side of the room. A table fan rested peacefully on the table. Opposite the table was a wardrobe. Its open doors revealed it was empty. There was no bed in the room, no bulb and no carpet.
Looking out the window from where she sat with her back up against the wall, Benita could make out the trees and even some fruits. The trees went on for a considerable distance, making the environment green. Talking about the environs, she wondered if there were people in the area. She wondered if these people regularly passed by the house. And then she wondered if she could call out to them for help, when they passed. Unfortunately, her wondering was rewarded only by the silence of the coming night.
She sighed, and it wouldn't be the first or last time. It would have been better if her situation was just a bad dream that she'd eventually wake up from. But it was real. From being tied up and whisked away in a car, to being tied up and locked up behind closed door, in a house she knew nothing of. She looked at her binds. They were strong. She would have considered using her teeth to try loosening it again, if it wasn't already hurting so bad.
Benita had always been smart - knowing what a person was plotting even before he/she could execute it. That was why she was so angry with herself for not seeing the signs, starting from the fact that he preferred her to meet him up at Queens' Supermarket, when all he should have done was leave the care with a mechanic and still make it to their date. Like that wasn't enough, he drove past the restaurant under the pretence that he wanted to show her something. Then he said he was driving to safety. Who was chasing him? Who was he hiding from? Or was it a clear case of kidnapping and hiding her away in a place no one would ever suspect her to be?
"What kind of problem have I gotten myself into?" she sighed again, shaking her head. Silent tears rolled down her full cheeks. Her vision blurred and she choked on the cry that threatened to escape her throat, reducing it to a muffled groan. And what about her parents? What about Helen? What about her business? What about all the appointments she was supposed to keep during the week?
Helen's husband went on a business trip and being pregnant made her unable to do certain things. Besides, she was in her third trimester and needed help. It was why she came over to Benita's in the first place. But now that she was away, who would watch out for Helen? Who would care for her? Sure, Helen was definitely thinking her best friend was having a good time with her new found love - love indeed. She had never fallen in love with any of the men she dated in the past. But now that she actually fell in love and experienced those butterfly feelings, he turned out to be a kidnapper, maybe a ritualist too, as she did not know what would eventually become of her.
Definitely, as the night advanced and she still didn't return home, Helen will try to call her up. If after several rings she doesn't pick up, Helen would raise alarm. She would alert her parents and they in turn would alert the police as well as hire private detectives to help find their daughter. True, her parents will worry about her sudden disappearance. Helen would worry too, especially for her safety and the event they had to organize by weekend. They all will wonder if Beny was still alive and where she was. They will wonder if she had been kidnapped and if yes, wonder who the kidnappers were. They would wonder for what reason was she kidnapped. The question was truly puzzling, for she too did not know why.
She was pulled out of her thoughts by sounds of activities - first, a loud crash, plates and pot being put together, feet walking around and Tobi's baritone calling out to another. Timothy. That was the name she heard him call. Tobi seemed to be telling Timothy what to and what not to
"Don't soil the mattresses. Put the lamps here. Can you please get the brooms from the booth?"
So he has an accomplice? She thought, wondering who Timothy was as he didn't come in with them. And then she wondered why she had even been surprised In the first place. Kidnappers don't work alone. She thought. They are always in groups going around, spying on targets and executing their kidnap plans together. All they thought about was the money to be made. It was in situations like this she blamed the government for their short-sightedness and the fact that they deliberately refuse to develop the country and create jobs for the citizens. For if there were jobs available, the rate of crime would be on the low.
She listened again to the activities going on outside her room. She heard feet approach her door and then walk past it. A few minutes later, the person walked past her door again, obviously heading back to wherever he was before.
"Timothy, get me three packs of noodles from the store please. That's what we can eat for the night. We eat something better tomorrow. Bring some onions too",
She didn't hear Timothy respond, but she was sure he had done exactly as he was told, because she suddenly heard Tobi say his thanks.
Benita wondered again, who this Timothy was. He seemed to be a quiet and very obedient accomplice. Besides, she was yet to hear him grumble. Some accomplices are easy to plead with, and they'll let you go. Once, after her uncle was kidnapped and released a year ago, he told them about his ugly experience. Fortunately for him, one of the kidnappers was rebellious against the others because he felt cheated in an earlier deal. So when her Uncle saw their irreconcilable differences, he promised to pay a reasonable sum of money to the rebellious one, only if he could help him escape. Sure he did. And yes he paid, to avoid being kidnapped again.
However, her case was different. Even if she managed to see this Timothy and even promised him heaven and earth, he didn't seem like the type to betray Tobi. He did exactly as he was told, no questions asked. It wouldn't stop her from trying though. It was better she asked and he said no, than not to ask and live everyday wondering about what would or would not have been.
It was sometime later, she saw the light - yellow glow, from underneath the door. Either it was a lamp or they had electricity in this forest. It wasn't her concern. All she knew was that she had lost both her freedom and comfort all in the name of loving a stranger. In as much as she treasured the word escape, she didn't know where to start from.
Benita pulled out of her thoughts at the sound of approaching feet. This time, the owner didn't pass by. He stopped in front of the door and took his time to unlock and open it. It was Tobi, the one man she now despised. He came in with a lamp in one hand and a thin mattress which he lay by the window and covered in a pink floral bedspread.
"What is that for?" She asked, maintaining her position.
"Isn't it obvious?" He asked back without looking at her.
"Tobi, look at me" she said. But he didn't look at her. "I said look at me!" She screamed at him. He obeyed. He turned and looked down at her. She searched his eyes for any form of remorse or emotional instability that she could use to her advantage. But there was none. Just a blank expression.
"What do you want with me. What did I ever do to you?" She asked. "My parents will worry. My friend will freak out".
"I know. But you will be fine. And at the end of all these, you wouldn't see me again. You wouldn't have ro remember the danger I put you in.", He turned to leave.
"At least tell me what you want". Her voice stopped him in his tracks. "What do you want with, or from me?"
It took a while. A long while in fact. She almost thought he wouldn't answer her. "You remember I told you I was in dire need of 4 million naira to repay a dept I collected for the revamping of my business?"
"Yes" she whispered.
"You told me you could help. But I know that 4 million naira is not something you can just cough up without sinking your business. Time is against me and the person I owe seems to be loosing his patience fast."
"So kidnapping me would suddenly give you 4million?" She frowned. "Or are you going to sell me out to those bloody traffickers?"
"I have your phone. After we've settled in for the night I will call your father and request a ransom. He is your dad. You are his only child. He loves and cherishes you and he has the money to give without batting an eye lid. You told me that yourself. I'll get you something to eat." He changed the topic, "so you can wash up and rest for the night. The days ahead of us are going to be tough". He turned and walked out.
"Shit!" Benita cursed. How could she be so stupid? During their dates, she realized he was always asking about her family and she was eager to give him all the information he needed, thinking it was all part of courting and getting to know each other well. She remembered the day she told him those words - He loves and cherishes me and he has the money to give without batting an eye lid. And now she was paying for being such a loud mouth. How could she have been so stupid? Yes, Tobi was the first man she fell in love with. That was why her mistakes with him were great and numerous. Who would have thought he was gathering information for his own selfish purpose? "Arrggg!" She slammed her tied hands against the cold floor.
A few minutes past and Tobi returned with a tray of cooked indomie and fried egg. A plastic bottle of water lay at one side of the tray. He placed it down in front of Benita before stooping to loosen her binds.
"Please eat up", he said, still working on the ropes. "You need your strength".
She caressed both her wrists as the bind came off. It was a relief to have the ropes stop biting into her flesh. However, she was certain she wouldn't eat the food or drink the water. He had outsmarted her a number of times. It was time to wake up and ensure he didn't win another game with her.
"I know what your type does", she crawled back away from him and the food
"And what does my type do?" He eyed her, unmoved.
"Feed their female prisoners fat on food laden with sleeping drugs and sometimes, hormone drugs. Then when the effect starts taking place, you sneak back here to have your way with me".
It started as a soft chuckle, and then laughter. "If I wanted to fuck you right here and now, Benny, I would have done it right away. In fact, since the day we met". He said, "you know the interesting part? Despite your new found hatred for me, you will enjoy it. You will love my kissed and caresses. You will love my thrusts and you will beg me for more, over and over and over ag...."
Tah! Her palm met his cheeks. A resounding echo followed it. She moved so fast, he didn't realise until he felt her open palm against his cheeks. "That is for talking rubbish."
He looked at her, jaws clenched. She feared he would hit her back. But he stood up, looked down at her briefly and walked toward the exit. "Knock the door loudly when you're done." He left and locked the door behind him too.
Benita was still panting hard from the physical exercise she had just indulged in. Slapping people wasn't normally her stuff. But with Tobi, she was sure she could even pick up a knife and use it to scare his face. But how could she? She looked into his eyes when she expected that he would hit her back. What she saw made her insides turn. It was like he was fighting the urge to say something, at the same time, there was sympathy and that particular look that always assured her that Tobi truly loved her. Then she got confused. If he loved her, why kidnapped her? Why subject her to this humiliation? Oddly, she still liked him a lot, she still expected that he would say everything was a joke and then release her. She still wanted to be his girlfriend, fiancee then wife. But obviously, Tobi had something else in mind. The way he walked out of the room and slammed the door shut said it all. He was angry. Besides, after waking out the room, she heard a thud on the door, like someone had resting fully on it. With binds undone, she moved closer to the door and pressed her ears to it. She heard Tobi's faint voice.
"Christ!" He sighed, leaning against the locked door. "What I'm I doing?" He rubbed his palm against the cheek that was slapped. "I deserve it. I know. But I have to do what I have to do. Its only for the best".
To be continued...
©Karo Oforofuo. February 2017
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