TURMOIL- CHAPTER TWENTY
I listened to the driver and two of the passengers argue about what to do with me. They had alighted from the bus to check out what had caused the ‘almost accident’. I continued to groan and writhe as if in pain. My theatrics was obviously convincing as the driver was freaking out.
“We have to take her to the hospital! Look at the state she’s in.”
“What! Driver you dey craze? It’s 8 pm! When we go reach Lagos if we turn back now.” An irritated voice pronounced.
“No min’ the yeye driver. Mr good Samaritan. Na her condition make her come block us for road?” This was followed by a long hiss. I hoped that person didn’t come close to me or my car, because he sounded angrier than the rest. Lord knows what kind of damage he’d do.
“But it looks like she’s in labour!” The poor driver came to stand by my door. “Sorry madam. Is there someone we can call to come to stay with you?”
My answer was a loud scream, followed by huffed out breaths through my mouth. The lessons learnt at childbirth classes came in handy big time. The driver stepped back. He wiped sweat off his forehead with a trembling hand.
“Erm, eh, sorry madam.” He turned to his passengers. “Please, we can’t leave her here like this. Maybe there’s someone that can help in the bus.”
He ran back to the bus, the irate passengers hot on his heels. I watched them leave, hoping they wouldn’t just start the ignition and drive away.
Come on Basheer. Time’s running out. I can only stall them for so long.
The wail of a siren shattered the silence of the night. I sat up in my seat and stared out the window, ears pricked up in attention. Had I heard wrong? Then I heard it again, this time closer.
I stepped out of the car and waited. The bus driver and his passengers were still arguing and didn’t notice me at all. The sound of the siren got closer and closer. I stepped further away from the car, eyes squinting into the inky darkness. I could make out a car, approaching with top speed. A few seconds later the car came to a stop just behind the bus. The driver’s door opened, and a man jumped out running.
Basheer. Thank God.
“Hey, Assalamu alaykum. I’m right here.” I ran towards him waving my hands in the air.
He glanced up and immediately he saw me, began to run towards me.
“Jemima, Subhanallah! Are you alright.?”
“I was just about to go check out the bus’ plate number before you called out.” He switched on a flashlight and surveyed the area, an incredulous look on his face. “Jemima what did you do?”
“I stalled them. There’s no time to explain, Basheer. Zulay is on that bus with Mas’ud.”
He nodded. “The police are right behind me. I’ll go and talk to the driver.”
The driver and the passengers were already looking on stupefied.
“Madam are you okay now?”
Basheer spoke before I could answer the driver’s question. “Yes, she is. We have reason to believe that a kidnap suspect is on board your bus. Teenage female. Carrying a two-year-old.”
“Yes, I think we have someone who fits your description onboard…”
“Hey abeg make I pass. I want to go down!”
Zulay. She must have heard Basheer’s voice and was trying to escape.
I looked at Basheer. He nodded and immediately ran to the bus. “Please don’t make way for her. She is a thief. Zulay unhand my son this minute!”
I could see her standing in the bus, Mas’ud in her arms. Other passengers on the bus were already getting to their feet now, following Basheer’s proclamation. One of them even held Zulay by the shoulders. The bus was a cacophony of loud voices now, each vying to be heard over the other.
“Stay where you are, young lady.”
“Ehen, she be ritualist?”
“So that baby is not your own. No wonder the boy no gree to stop crying since.”
“Abeg, push her down make we put tyre for her neck!”
That comment startled me. Why did some Nigerians know only to resort to ‘jungle justice’? To take the law into their own hands? We only wanted to get Mas’ud back and hand Zulay over to the authorities, not burn her alive.
“Please let me get in.” Basheer was saying. He was trying to get on the bus. He pushed through the crowd of passengers and made his way in. Zulay fell to her knees as soon as she saw him. I couldn’t see her face, but I could hear the tears in her voice.
“Abeg, no kill me. Na devil make me do am, please Abu Mas’ud.”
Without a word, Basheer lifted a sleeping Mas’ud out of her arms. He turned to leave. Zulay grabbed at his trousers.
“Oga, please. Don’t leave me here with these people!”
“I won’t.” He pried her hands off his clothes and stepped out of the bus and came to me. His face was wet with tears.
“Jemima, I don’t know what to say. Thank you so much.”
I stroked Mas’ud’s head, tears blurring my vision. Poor baby. Alhamdulillah, it all ended the way it did. Others were not so lucky.
“It was nothing. Hadiza would do the same for me. I’m just glad Mas’ud is safe now.”
“I’ll call Hadiza to give her the good news.”
The police arrived shortly after. Zulay was currently sat handcuffed in one of their cars, awaiting her journey to jail. The officers were taking down the statement of the bus driver and some other passengers. Mas’ud was currently in Basheer’s car, sleeping.
Basheer and I waited beside my car. I was exhausted but fulfilled. It felt good that I had succeeded in stopping Zulay. I thought of Abdul. Where was he now? What was he doing? Why hadn’t he called me? For sure, after this crazy adventure home was the only place I could go. Maybe he didn’t want me back? Or maybe he just didn’t care.
“Madam, I’d like to take your statement.”
I hadn’t even noticed that the detective in charge of the case had walked up to me.
“Sure sir,” I told him everything that happened, right from the mechanic’s shop, until the police arrived. When I finished, he was shaking his head, as if in awe.
“Madam, I have to say that what you did was extremely dangerous, but incredibly brave.”
“I was just helping my sister out. Couldn’t think of any other way at the time.”
“She’s just being modest,” Basheer said smiling.
The detective was still shaking his head. “Your actions saved the police a ton of work. Thank you. Maybe we’ll even recruit you into the force”
We laughed at that. I couldn’t even imagine myself being a policewoman. I cringed at the thought.
“By the way, officer. What took you so long? I thought you were right behind me.” Basheer asked, still smiling.
“Oh, we had to stop by the scene of an accident. It was terrible. Both cars damaged beyond recognition.”
I gasped. Terrible stuff indeed. “My God! Were there any fatalities?”
“Unfortunately yes. Two of the victims’ bodies are on the way to the morgue now. The third is in very critical condition and has been sent to the hospital. I hope he makes it.”
“I hope he does too.” I didn’t know this person, but I felt obliged to pray for his recovery. He probably had a family waiting for him to return home.
One of the junior officers walked up to the detective and whispered in his ear, after which he handed him a transparent bag.
“Ah, the recovered phone from the accident victim’s car. I’ll just switch it on to see if I can get the contact of a next of kin….”
“If I may sir.” I cut in
“Please go ahead, ma’am”
“Perhaps you should look through the call logs and check for the most frequently dialled number.”
The detective smiled. “Brilliant idea. I told you you’ll make a good detective.”
Basheer and I waited while he scrolled through the phone. “I see a number here that he’s been dialling since 4 pm. Here goes.” He dialled the number and announced a few seconds later. “It’s ringing”
Almost at the same time, my phone began to ring as well. It was in the car, so I turned my back and leaned into the car to pick it up. My heart soared when I saw the caller ID. Abdul.
When I heard the detective’s voice on the other end of the line, I almost twisted my ankle turning on my heels. He was looking at me in utter shock as well. No, it couldn’t be! Not my Abdul. I was supposed to go back home to meet him and hopefully start afresh.
My eyesight started to blur, everything was fuzzy. My heartbeat was pounding loudly, echoing in my ears, alongside the fading voices of Basheer and the detective. The feeling in my body slowly drained away until finally, all was black.
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