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A lift, A Smile and......
Amabulo Street was as busy as ever and it did not take long for Yeibiri and Amaere to spot a taxi.
"Take us to Akpose Street," They told the taxi driver. "Akpose Street!" He exclaimed. "Ha, I no dey go dat street abeg! Samm, I no dey go!"
"Why not?" Ebiere asked.
"Abeg ladies, I no fit go der-ey! I tink I don tell you say I no dey go der!" The taxi driver insisted.
"Na me go tell you say dat Akpose Street be like war zone!" He hissed and sped off.
"Can you imagine these taxi drivers!" Yeibiri complained.
"Ah.....ah! Don't be melodramatic! It's only one taxi we have stopped so far. Look, there's another one just rounding the corner, let's stop it. "Taxi! Taxi!" Ama-ere called.
"Wer una wan go?" The driver asked.
"Akpose Street," Ama-ere replied.
"Ehn, you say na wer, madam?" He asked and drove off even before she had had time to answer.
"What did I tell you?" Yeibiri queried, smiling.
"Ama-ere, can you see what our city has turned to? Just a few years ago, Akpose Street was one of the best places, now taxi drivers are afraid to go there! I cannot say I blame them though since newspapers keep reporting all many of horror stories every day. If it is not armed gangs openly shooting at each other, it would be rapists moving from house to house or robbers raiding shops, homes or ..."
"My sister Yeibiri, this is what the world has turned to! Are we not supposed to be developing? Is the democracy we now have worth anything? What is the purpose of any government if the citizens do not enjoy peace and security? After all, the military regimes ..."
"Hey, hey, hey, leave the military out of it-O!" Yeibiri laughed.
"I know things look gloomy but Ama-ere...."
"Gloomy! Horrific, is more like it I dare say!"
"I see a private car coming, lets flag it down and ask for a lift." Yeibiri said.
As they waved, the driver appeared not to have seen them and continued moving but stopped suddenly and reversed until the car almost brushed Amaere. Both girls quickly jumped out of harm's way as the driver came out and apologised profusely. Two persons occupied the car, the driver and an important looking man wearing a gold wristwatch and expensive looking rings on four fingers of his left hand and three, on his right. Deducing that the expensively dressed man must be the owner of the car, they addressed him directly, explaining their plight. He listened attentively, smiled, nodded and agreed to take them to their destination.
The girls were very grateful and thanked him effusively before entering the car. Ama-ere sat in front with the driver while Yeibiri sat next to the owner.
"Driver, Akpose Street is not far from here, just take the second left turn as you round the corner." Ama-ere directed.
"It's okay madam, I know the place." He responded.
Relieved, the sisters relaxed and smiled. However, as they approached and rounded the corner, the driver kept driving straight ahead instead of making a left turn.
"Ah driver! You have just passed the left turn my sister asked you to take." Yeibiri told him.
"Don't worry, I know Apkose Street very well and I promise to take you there. I just want to collect something from my friend who lives a short distance from here and after that I will take you right to your door steps." The owner assured.
About ten minutes after the above exchange, the car stopped in front of a phone booth. A hefty man with blood shot eyes appeared and without much ado, got in and sat beside the car owner. He exchanged pleasantries with the ladies and the car sped off.
"Where are we?" Yeibiri was the first to speak.
They found themselves in the middle of a forest and their hands and legs were tied with ropes made of cane.
"Oyin-maa!" exclaimed Ama-ere.
"What happened to us?"
"Your guess is as good as mine!" Yeibiri responded, frowning and turning her head from side to side.
"My sister, we are in serious trouble. What are we going to do now? What kind of place is this? Oh! I'm so afraid!"
"Let me think." Ama-ere said, gritting her teeth.
"Please my sister, think fast-O! Ooo! How did we get ourselves into this ..."
"Hey, Ol' boy den don wake up-O!" Came a deep voice.
"Did you hear that?" Whispered Ama-ere.
"Yes my sister!" Yeibiri whispered back.
"Ol' boy, I say den don wake up!" Said the voice a second time.
"Don't you know what to do? I repeat, don't you know what to do?" An authoritative sounding voice questioned.
"After over ten operations, you still behave like a nonsense novice! I would have sacked you from this job a long time ago if you were not so fearless. Idiot! Take them before Snake Eyes to determine their suitability. You know how it is.. for either the political people or have you forgotten? Don't just stand there moping! Move your dirty legs my man!" The man ordered in an irritated tone.
"Yes bros, I'm sorry! Please don't be angry with me. You know I am depending on the money I make here to...."
"O, that's okay! Just get on with the job!"
Ama-ere and Yeibiri shivered like feverish rats as the one who was apparently a guard, approached them.
"Stand up!" He ordered. The shocked and dazed duo struggled to stand up but stumbled and fell on top of each other since their feet were still tied. They dared not to speak. The guard looked at them coldly and put a cup to Ama-ere's lips. "Drink! I say, drink it quickly!"
When Ama-ere declined the offer, she was given a resounding slap which caused her to see many coloured stars.
"I say make you drink dis juice now or else..!"
The man said, forcing the 'juice' into her mouth and down her throat. The same treatment was meted out to Yeibiri. Satisfied that the concoction had gone into the bellies of the girls, the guard cut the ropes around their ankles and led them into a hut. The sisters' eyes widened in terror as they noticed a shrine inside the room. There were cowries, dried birds, sculls of moneys, red-coloured beads, feathers and different sizes of knives. Two ordinary looking men sat in front of a circular table, right in front of the shrine.
"Sa! Dis na di wack!" The guard said, pushing the girls towards the man with reddish bulging eyes. The apparently drugged girls slumped in front of him. "Snake Eyes, what do you think?" Asked the second man.
"Danger, I like the wack well, well! We go use one tomorrow night, then we fit sell di oda one to Flykey for five hundred thousand."
"Dat na very good idea." Danger agreed.
"Guard, make you put dem for di second hole. I no tink say wack dem plenty der like dat. Tell Panto say di small girl and di tall boy wey den bring dis morning, na for kaput dis night. You hear me so?"
"Ye sa, Oga Snake Eyes!"
"Oya! Take dem comot!"
Ama-ere was the first to regain consciousness. The room was dark but as her eyes gradually adjusted to the darkness, she noticed Yeibiri sprawled a few feet from her. There appeared to be no other person in the small room with them. Fearing to speak, Ama-ere crawled to Yeibiri's side and shook her gently. "Yeibiri wake up! Wake up!"
"Hmm, who is it? Leave me!" Yeibiri mumbled sleepily.
"Wake up! It is me," Ama-ere whispered urgently.
Yeibiri's eyes snapped open and she sat up as the situation registered in her consciousness.
"Ama-ere, where are we now?" she asked agitatedly.
"I don't know my sister. All I can tell is that we are still being held by people who may be ritualists or kidnappers," she responded.
"What is that noise? Listen!" Yeibiri told her sister.
As both sat still on the bare floor and listened, they heard sounds resembling those made by dying cows. They heaved a sigh of relief.
"I think we must be held near a slaughter." Ama-ere opined.
"Most likely! There is a tiny window next to the door, why not peep and see ..." "Good idea! We may be able to attract the attention of the butchers and help might come our way." They agreed that Ama-ere would stand on Yeibiri's shoulders and peep through a crack in the window. Ama-ere had barely looked out for one minute when she slid down from her sister's shoulder and slumped onto the floor, breathing heavily and shivering as if a bucket of ice cold water had been poured all over her body.
"What is the matter?" Yeibiri asked anxiously.
"Tell me, did you see anything, anybody?" Ama-ere merely muttered something unintelligible and Yeibiri was forced to punch her sister in the head to bring her back to normalcy.
"Please my sister, talk to me! You are scaring me by behaving this way. What did you see? Please, tell me." Yeibiri implored. Ama-ere started rolling on the floor, sobbing.
"O Yeibiri, those animal-like sounds we heard were not made by animals. We are in a human slaughter house, eyy-ooo!"
"Teyea-ma!" Amaere exclaimed, almost screaming before she covered her mouth with her palms.
"O! Temearau! Oyin-ma! O my ancestors! Where are you? O, help us! Help us!" They cried uncontrollably.
The two sisters held each other tight and were drenched by their own tears. When the tears dried, the duo was forced into a survival fight mode.
"We must think clearly and work out a strategy of escape," Ama-ere told her sister.
"Yes my sister, I agree with you. Let us remain strong and never give up. These misguided creatures called ritualists must never be allowed to win!" Yeibiri stated, all tears now gone.
The sisters were therefore mentally, psychologically and spiritually prepared when their captors came to take them away. A man, who spoke impeccable English accompanied the original guard.
"Which one did Snake Eyes assign to me?" The newcomer asked.
"Anyone of them you like is okay. E no matter at all Oga ..."
"But are you sure they will be suitable for our purpose? Why are they still unconscious? We don't want them dead before the high priest has had time to perform the ceremony. ..."
"O no, Oga! They will not die. Some people no get strong head for the drug wey dem dey give dem, nain make dem bi like dis Sa. Anoda tin be say, I give dem big dose make dem no kon wake up before time." The guard explained.
Satisfied, the newcomer instructed the guard to load his human cargo in the trunk of his car. Ama-ere was the one taken to the car and unceremoniously thrown into the trunk. After what seemed like several hours, the guard came back and carrying Yeibiri on his shoulder, took her to the back of a warehouse. As she was lowered to the concrete floor with a thud, the apprehensive but calm young lady noticed some reddish water flowing through a gutter. She scanned the area quickly through almost closed lids and this was no easy task. The place was next to a thick bush and apart from the guard, no other person was in sight. The guard, believing his prey to be still unconscious, was relaxed and did not pay much attention to her. He whistled several times but the person or persons whose attention he sought, did not appear. Irritated, he whistled some more then called in a loud voice, "Gangi wo! Gangi wo, wack don come-O Wey you na?"
While calling, the man decided to obey the call of nature and squatted a short distance from where Yeibiri lay. That was her chance and she seized it. She rolled to the edge of the gutter and dashed into the forest as noiselessly as a snake after an attack on a prey. Running with all the strength in her body, she dared not look back. She jumped over sticks and tree stumps like a professional steeplechase jumper! All sense of time was gone as the now invigorated escapee ran non-stop until she suddenly came upon a newly graded road.
Realising that she was close to a town or village, Yeibiri stopped momentarily. She looked to the left, then right, before allowing her instincts be the guide. At long last, she came across two elderly women returning from either a bush market or farm. Oh! The relief and joy of seeing harmless human beings! Yeibiri did not even realize that she was hugging the old ladies until they pushed her away in fright. The women were quite alarmed, thinking that they were in the presence of a mad woman. The excited Yeibiri managed to calm herself enough to explain in pidgin and gestures that she needed direction to the major road. It turned out that the major road was less than fifteen minutes walk from where they stood. Finding a vehicle posed a challenge because of the way she looked. Apart from the torn clothes and dirty brownish hair, there were fresh wounds all over her body. In the end though, she was lucky enough to board a commercial bus. Paying the fare was another matter but mother luck, haven decided to be on her side touched the heart of one of the passengers, who gladly paid it for her.
Even though Yeibiri was now safe, she could not rest because of Ama-ere. As soon as she re-established contact with her family and informed them about what happened to her and her sister, the entire family and friends swung into action. There was heated debate about the best or appropriate course of action to take.
"Our first option must be the police," said the father.
"No! I don't agree. What police are you talking about? Have you heard of any similar cases they have solved?" Asked the mother.
"Well, no! But there's always a first time and. ..."
"No buts and the first time may take a hundred years and you and I know that it's our children and their children that will leave to see that day. My dear, we just don't have that much time to waste. The life of our precious daughter must not be put in jeopardy by endless wait on official this and official that!"
"Okay mother, let's hear the opinion of our friends too. They also care deeply and want to help in every way possible." Yeibiri told her mother gently.
After exhaustive discussions, it was decided that the police, private investigators as well as traditional religionist would be engaged. This three-pronged effort proved so effective that in less than one month and with Yeibiri's input, the ritualists' den was discovered.
This led to the arrest of several persons, including many so-called wealthy individuals. For the first time in the history of the country, highly placed persons with unexplained sources of wealth were publicly tried and given long prison sentences. The criminals apprehended at the location described by Yeibiri, were charged to court and sentenced to thirty years in prison but Ama-ere's whereabouts remained a mystery. The arrested men claimed that many of their victims were transferred to different parts of the country, while others were sold to the persons who contracted them to supply the 'wacks.' These transactions were done through several intermediaries and it was impossible to trace many of the real brains behind the trade, they said. As all the leads proved inconclusive, hope of ever finding Amaere alive started to deem for her family.
This was the position, when a cousin drew Yeibiri's attention to a newspaper article five years after Amaere's abduction. An investigative reporter assigned to unearth the menace of ritual killings, apparently stumbled on a ritualists commune. Incredibly, the complex was situated right in the centre of a highly populated city! Among his discoveries were tens of disoriented young men, women and children. Law enforcement officials were informed and they promptly sealed off the premises. Everyone found in there was arrested, while the victims were taken to the teaching hospital for medical evaluation. Yeibiri wasted no time in arranging a visit to the hospital in the hope that Ama-ere may be among those rescued. In order not to create needless anxiety though, she decided not to inform any member of her family just yet. As she boarded the commercial vehicle, which was to take her to the hospital, there was a nagging feeling about the wisdom of her decision. Notwithstanding this, she decided to trust her instincts.
As the taxi inched closer to the hospital, Yeibiri could barely sit still. Anxiety, fear and yes, hope comingled in her mind to create a cocktail of confusion.
"We don reach, madam. Madam! I say we don reach di hospital," repeated the driver, looking at her closely.
"O! Thank you driver! Make you wait for me, you hear!" "I hear but you never pay me-O!"
"Ah! Abeg no vex." She said and quickly opened her handbag, brought out the money and handed it to him. He looked on curiously as Yeibiri started walking unsteadily towards the entrance of the section marked, 'emergency.'
"Dat woman well so?" He murmured.
"Me, I no fit wait for person wey no even fit bi person sef. See as hin dey look back, dey look every side. Hey my Lord! Abi na ghost person kon carry today?" The man turned on the ignition of his car, revved the engine and sped out of the parking space as if would-be robbers were chasing him!(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Lift, A Smile"
Copyright © 2019 Gesiere Brisibe-Dorgu.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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