Tunde was coming out of the restaurant with his daughter when he spotted Nike in the distance, locking up her car. He approached her before she left for the restaurant.
“Hello, Nike” He called to her. She turned around to look at him.
“Hi.”She looked at the little girl who bowed slightly in greeting.
“Good afternoon ma” Gift greeted politely.
“How are you?”Nike nodded to her. “This is Fatihat Ali’s daughter, I presume? In addition to cheating on me, you also have grown –up kid with her, who you never told me about. What other secret did you hide from me? ”She asked coldly.
“She is my daughter, Nike. You are right about that but you need to listen to what I have to say. Can I give birth to a daughter this old in a matter of few years?”He asked with a resigned sigh.
“But you never find it in your heart to tell me all the time we were together, right? If you think you can go scot-free with cheating on me, you are highly mistaken.”Tears filled her eyes. She walked away before she made a fool of herself. He watched her with a heavy sigh.
“Who is she?”Gift asked curiously on their way home.
“She is or was my girlfriend until your mum came along and turned my affair upside down. I intended to marry her.”His voice was faintly accusingly.
“I see. Do you still love her? You still want to marry her?”She asked curiously as she looked at her father. He frowned thoughtfully as he stared at the road ahead.
“Well, I don’t love her as much as I used to but I want us to be friends, instead of this bitter enmity.”He shrugged.
“If you don’t love her as much as you used to, it is better you stop disturbing her. Maybe you are not meant to be.”The little girl said philosophically.
He grinned to himself. Like mother, like daughter, he thought with reluctant admiration. “Dad, I thought you are dating my mum?’She asked after a moment.
He laughed out loud. “You are your mother’s daughter.”He ruffled her hair affectionately and she smiled with a shrug.
It was the annual general meeting for Abeebs Groups. It took place in Abuja. Fatihat got a short notice of the meeting because she has been out of office due to her school programs.
The meeting took two days but the return flight was canceled and rescheduled to the next morning. Fatihat checked back into her hotel room which was still available and changed into a casual wear to go for stroll.
“Hey, where are you going?’ She heard Tunde called out to her as she walked out of the hotel premises and she turned to see him talking to one of the local boys who work in the hotel. The boy laughed at something he said, greeted fatihat in Hausa and walked away. “So you can still speak your language so fluently. I’m surprised.”He walked up to her. They moved out of the hotel premises together and went into the town.
“Why won’t I be able to communicate in my native tongue? I was born and bred in the north.”She shrugged.
“What do you think of the AGM?”He asked after a moment.
“Well, I’m impressed. The company has improved and it is growing every day. You are doing an excellent job.”She said with undisguised admiration.
“You are also a blessing in disguise, you virtually rescued the company.”His voice was full of gratitude. She raised an eyebrow at him.
“So I am a blessing in disguise now? I can’t believe I heard that right.’ She grinned. He pushed her unto the road and pulled her right back, playfully.
“Look at your tribes’ people. I’m sure that is the way you used to dress when you were little.”Tunde pointed to a little girl, sitting beside a tray of biscuits and sweets in a mini market just beside one of the modern parks in the capital city. She was dressed in faded Ankara blouse and skirt which had seen better days.
“You are right. I have lots of that when I was small.”She moved over to the little girl and picked up some chewing gums. “Kuna da canji?(Do you have change?)”She asked in Hausa as she held out an N200 note to the girl.
“Bani da canji amma zan gaya wa ‘yar’uwata don taimaka mini neman canji(I don’t have change but I will tell my sister to help me find change.)”The little girl looked at her quietly.
“Ina ‘yar uwarsa? (Where is your sister?)”Fatihat asked curiously. The little girl pointed towards a group of young men selling different petty things. There was a young lady standing among them. The lady was dressed more or less like her younger sister but it was obvious she was selling more than the plantain chips on her head to the men from the nature of their conversation. “Ku je ku samu ta. zan jira ka (Go and get her. I will wait for you.)” Fatihat sat down on the bench and signaled to Tunde to do the same while the little girl skipped away.
“What is the problem?”He asked quietly. She was explaining when the little girl came back with her big sister.
“Good evening madam.”The young lady greeted cheerfully in the English language heavily tinged with Hausa accent.
“Evening, Young lady. Can you get my change now, please? I don’t have all day to waste.”Fatihat got to her feet. The young lady frowned slightly.
“Is there a problem?”Tunde asked in a puzzled voice.
“She looks like someone I know in my past. Her name is Fatihat Ali and she is my half-sister.”She replied as she stared intently at her. Fatihat frowned as she stared back.
“Who are you?”Fatihat asked coldly.
“I’m Bilqis Ali and this is my baby sister, Aisha Ali. We have three other brothers, Yusuf is the eldest and the twins, Isiak and Ismail came after me.”She touched her chest and touched her sister’s shoulder.
“Oh my God!”Fatihat covered her mouth in horror as she stared at the little girl who stared back at her without recognition. “She was just a baby when I left home.”Fatihat said to her companion who was just looking on as the drama unfolded before his eyes and turned to back to the young lady standing before her. “I thought Yusuf left you, guys in Kaduna. How did you get to Abuja? How did you escape the war?”Fatihat lifted the little girl and hugged her warmly.
“I escaped with my boyfriend in the middle of the night with Aisha. I’m not sure how the twins escaped though. It was so painful how we lose contact with each other. It is really you, Aunty Fatihat? You look so beautiful.” Bilqis hopped from one foot to another in unbridled excitement.
“Where is your mother?” She asked curiously. Bilqis uttered a string of very dirty; raw Hausa language which made Fatihat covered her ears in horror. “Tunde, meet my younger sisters, Bilqis, and Aisha, the baby of the house. Yusuf is in my house, we met in Lagos. Can we go back to my hotel now or you have things you want to pack at home?”Fatihat asked. She shook her head vigorously.
“We don’t have anything to pack except ourselves. Is Uncle Tunde your husband?’ Bilkis asked with undisguised curiosity. The two adults burst into laughter.
“I guess the leopard never changes its skin. You have always been a curious kid. Let’s go back to our hotel then, it is getting late.”Fatihat held on to the little girl’s hand while her sister poured their wares into a big nylon bag.
“Don’t worry, Bilqis, I will soon be part of your family because I intend to marry your sister. “He teased but Fatihat ignored his comments.
It was closing hour at CTC international school. Everywhere was milling with cars owned by parents who came to pick their kids in school or by drivers that were sent to pick their kids.
Lekan was in his mother’s car, sitting beside the driver but the car could not move because a company’s car was blocking their way. The company car belongs to Abeebs group of company and the driver came to pick Gift Abeeb.
She was standing on the owner’s side of the car, waiting for the driver to unlock the door from the inside when a jet black 504 saloon car came out of nowhere and sped towards the unmoving car.
Before she could open the door to get in, a door on the driver’s side of the saloon car popped opened and the little girl was snatched up like a piece of cotton wool, then it was speeding away.
The driver came out of the car and stared after the fast disappearing car in absolute shock. Sweat trickled down his body.
“Are you still standing there? My sister has just been kidnapped.”Lekan screamed at the driver, jutting him out of his shock.
Pandemonium broke out in front of the school.
“I’m in soup.’ The elderly man ran into the school premises to report the kidnap event to the school authority, closely followed by Lekan who was fighting to hold back tears. The school informed Yetunde who in turned informed Chenille and Josephine.
The police authority was informed as well but since they were expecting her parent back that day, they didn’t bother to call and informed them of the tragedy.
Tunde hired a cab immediately they were out of the arrival lodge of Muritala Mohammed local Airport.
Bilqis sat in the front beside the driver while Aisha sat between Fatihat and Tunde as they were driven out of the Airport premises.
“So where is your boyfriend? You said you came to Abuja with him.”Fatihat signaled to the driver to slow down so that she could buy a newspaper from the roadside vendor.
“He left me for another girl who doesn’t have much responsibility the way I do. He wants me to choose between my sister and himself.” Her sister shrugged.
“You chose right.”Tunde patted her shoulder reassuringly.
“Tunde is right, baby girl. You are in Lagos now and for good. What do you want to do with your life?” She asked as she paid the vendor for the paper and rolled up the Car window.
“I want to go back to school. I have always wanted to be a nurse.”
“Look here, baby girl, it is easier said than done. I know you guys were pretty good when you were in school but if you want to succeed in anything, you have to hands off men for now and sit real tight for your studies.”
“I’m not a flirt. I did what I have to do to keep us from starving.”Tears filled her eyes. “It is okay, Bilqis.”Tunde gave Fatihat a reproachful glance. She shrugged unapologetically.
“Aisha, Ina fatan kuna jin dadin ku (I hope you are enjoying yourself)?’Fatihat spoke to the little girl who did not understand a word in English language and she nodded shyly.
Fatihat straightened up the paper to start reading and froze in absolute shock.
Boldly written in the Guardian newspaper was the headline was: THE YOUNG FEMALE CEO, FATIHAT ALI A.K.A DELILAH SMITH’S ONLY DAUGHTER, GIFT ABEEB WAS KIDNAPPED IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!!!”
It was followed by the full detail of the incidence as narrated by Lekan and the Driver. Fatihat and Gift’s pictures were posted boldly on the front page.
“Somebody is toying with the head of a cobra. “She stated with a harsh laugh. Tunde took the paper from her trembling fingers and read through it in shock and fear.
“What is the problem?”Bilqis turned to look at both adults.
“My daughter was kidnapped yesterday. and nobody could call and tell me what happened.”Fatihat was obviously looking for whom to lay the blame on. Her heart ached and she tasted fear at the back of her throat.
“You have a daughter?”Bilqis turned to stare at her incredulously.
“I’m sure everybody is doing what they can at the moment. They thought we will fly in yesterday. There is no sense scaring us before we get back since there was nothing we could do from there.”Tunde’s voice was reasonable.
“Damn, she is not everybody’s daughter, she is mine. Someone could have said something. Anything could have happened between yesterday and today, damn it!’ she shouted at him. He gave her an angry look.
“If not for the circumstances on the ground, I would have known what to say to you, Mama Gift.”His voice was cold.
“Is this the right time for you to start fighting with each other? She belongs to both of you, right?” Bilqis asked quietly, directing the question to both of them but it was Tunde who answered her.
“She does belong to both of us but she has always acted as the power woman who knows it all.’ He said with obvious anger. She hissed viciously.
The Badmus family were already in the house when they got home. The Abeebs came in shortly afterward.
Yusuf was the only person who recognized and acknowledged the presence of his sisters, albeit absently.
The police were obviously doing their best but nobody knew Gift’s whereabouts or has any clue to where she could be found. They do not know the reason behind the abduction. Fatihat walked into her study room, closely followed by Lekan who was talking non-stopped about how it all happened.
She was grateful that the little boy actually remembered the plate number of the saloon car because she was determined to prove to the world that she hadn’t moved with the men of the underworld for nothing!
Tunde’s phone vibrated. It was a message alert. He brought out the phone and stared at the text message. He notched his brother in the side and showed him the text message. “Your baby is innocent but she will pay dearly for her father’s sins. May her soul rest in perfect peace!” Wale whispered out the message as cold chills ran down his spine.
“What did you do again, Tunde? Who is it this time around?” He whispered furiously.
“I didn’t offend anybody, not intentionally anyway.’ He whispered back, feeling sick with fear and horror.
Wale got to his feet, snatched his wrist and practically dragged him out of the house into the open compound. “I’m sincerely getting tired of you and your problem. Now an innocent kid is going to pay for an offense she knew nothing about, can’t you think of anybody, a business associate or jilted girlfriend?”His elder brother shook his shoulder in frustration. “I can’t think of anybody except maybe Nike. I’m sure she can’t do anything as horrorful as kidnapping and killing an innocent kid simply because things didn’t work out for us.”He tried to sound convincing.
“Are you sure? Does she know about Gift?” Tunde nodded miserably.
“We met in an eatery a few weeks ago. She guessed that she was my daughter from Gift’s striking resemblance to her mother but she can’t do that, can she?’ Tunde stared at his brother with growing horror.
“I don’t know. You knew her better than I do. Maybe you should try and get hold of her before it is too late.”
“Please don’t tell Fatihat about the latest development. She will skin me alive. I have caused her nothing but trouble in her entire lifetime.”He fished his car key out of his pocket, and then put it back when he remembered his car was not there.
“As if I could, please get away and salvage what you can before it is too late.”He watched Tunde left the compound at a run, and then went back inside to know how far fatihat had gone with her series of phone calls.
A young boy walked towards the public phone booth and glanced furtively around him before he slipped in. He was a fifteen-year-old boy but his face portrayed the hardship, sense, and experience of a man in his twenties.
He was clad in dirty black trouser and an equally dirty black coat whose collar was turned up to cover his neck. A cap also covered his cap and he looked like a moving shadow whose identity was not known to anybody who met him on the way.
The phone booth was empty at that hour as he had expected.
Fatihat was dressed up and ready to leave the house by 8 pm. She was tucking a loaded gun into the ankle holster in her jeans and rolls of bullets as well when she heard a knock on her door. She quickly pulled down her trousers and straightened up in time to see the door opened and Lekan came in. It was the first time he was spending the night in her house and she desperately wished the situation was different from this.
“You look like Superman.”He gave a quick grin as he took in her dressing at a glance. She was dressed in black T-shirt and black boot-cut jean which effectively covered the solid heel ankle –length stilettos boot she wore. She had pinned her mane of hair on her head and covered it with a black scarf.
“I’m a superman in a real-life game which involves your sister’s life.’ She told him quietly. That sobered him up instantly.
“Today’s the third day. I hope she is still alive?”His voice ended in a teary whisper. She enveloped him in a tight hug.
“I hope so too. Josephine knew where I am going in case anything happened but if mum asks about me, tell her I’m asleep because I don’t want her to worry about me.”She folded his palm over a piece of paper.
”What is this?”He straightened out the paper and looked down at it.
‘That is where I am going.’ She bent in front of him and held his face in her two hands. “I wish this were a different circumstance but whatever happens, I’m glad you gave me this little chance to know you. Always remember I love you so much, baby.”
‘Are you going to die?’He asked, his eyes widening in fear. She laughed softly.
“Not if I can help it, I’m a born survivor. See you soon, baby.”She gave him a swift hug and dashed out of the room, then took the back door and ran into the night.
“Are you saying you didn’t see her yesterday?”Wale asked incredulously. His other siblings stared at him in horror.
“Her number was switched off. When I got to her house, I was told she has traveled out of the country a few days ago.’ His voice was resigned as he glanced at his mother. Her eyeballs were red and swollen from tears. She also refused to talk to Tunde since she heard the obscene text message. ‘I tried to see her best friend but she won’t even see me, talkless of taking to me.”He added with a shrug.’
‘She could have given the order before she leaves the country. My instinct is rarely wrong.”
“You are just so unlucky with women. Tunde, why do you always end up with the revengeful type? First, it was Fatihat. Now, it is Nike. Na wa’o” Tayo, the baby of the house said ruefully.
‘How will he not end up with the revengeful type when he himself is a bad specimen of men who had no regard for womanhood?”Yemi said coldly from where she had been concentrating on her bible. Tunde sighed inwardly.
“Have you received another text message since yesterday?”Wale asked after a moment. Tunde passed him his phone.
“But you are not sure she is the one behind the attack, are you? It is just an assumption because she felt jilted by what happens between you and Fatihat.”Tunde shrugged with a nonchalance he was far from feeling.
“What is it, bros? Is there another message from the vampire?”Tayo asked when he saw the shock on his eldest brother’s face as his gaze scanned the message in the inbox. He nodded and then proceeded to read out the message.
“Painful, isn’t it? This is just the beginning of the game between us. You will learn not to trample on other people’s feelings. Cheers!”Wale ended with a sigh.
The noise of a power bike coming up the driveway broke the pensive silence in the room. The brothers exchanged glances but it was Tunde who went to find out who was paying them a visit at that hour.
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