I was a dejected man after I discovered they planned to kill me. How could any human being kill another human being that he knew next to nothing about? How could they be so casual about it? This was the life of a person, for God’s sake! Not some chicken or goat being led to the slaughter. Did life have no meaning to them?

I have never really had cause to think about the ways of the evil men of the world. What made them tick. Why they acted the way they did. But even then, I sat back, melancholy crushing upon me with its great weight, all I had were questions and no answers. My heart was filled with regret. I should have listened to my mother. Was I now going to leave this world without an offspring? My lineage would just be forgotten just like that?! My death would certainly destroy my mother. In all the confusion, I had forgotten to alter my will. If I died now, Veronica was going to get a lion share of my wealth!

The thought of this stilled my heart in panic. No! It wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t going to betray me after all I’d done for her and still get her slimy hands on my fortune. In fact, I meant to leave her without a dime. A volcanic anger erupted within me. Tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of regret that I hadn’t been any wiser, tougher. My breaths became labored. My chest heaved. My temperature heated up, making me sweat. My hands trembled violently.

A cold fury and determination gripped me. I wasn’t going to give up to this. I wasn’t going to allow myself get killed. I wasn’t going to give Veronica the satisfaction of messing me up both ways. I had to find a way…there had to be another way. I sat on the floor, my back against the wall and closed my eyes. I just had to think! However, my mind was absolutely blank. The thoughts on how to escape that I forced into my head fizzled out as soon as they came. After several exhausting efforts, I dozed off.

I awoke with a start when I heard the voices return. Where they coming to kill me already, I panicked? I picked up a broken piece of block which lay nearby and kept it behind me. It wasn’t suitable enough. It was too big. There was a rectangular piece of wood. I rushed and picked it up but dropped it in disgust when I discovered how light it was. I positioned myself against the wall to get a good view of what outside this room looked like when my assailants would open the door. I sat on the ground, the little block well within reach and waited.

The door opened and Scarface came in followed by the other guy who seemed to be the brain of this outfit while Scarface was the brawn. He was on the phone again and this time, I noticed he had a white handkerchief over the mouth piece of the phone. My eyes quickly took in details of what was outside for the brief second it was open. Scarface was shocked at my new position and didn’t seem too happy about this but he remained silent. He came towards me and glowered. I felt my heart fly as I swallowed hard.

“You have know where the drop-point is. Leave the money there, then we’ll get back to you.” His cohort was saying, not paying me any attention.

He spoke in clear terms. There was a brief pause while he listened to the voice on the phone.

“You don’t. But I assure you that if you don’t pay up, we’ll just kill him and dump his body where he’ll never be found and that’ll be the end.”

His voice was soft. He spoke in a quiet manner I found disturbing. It wasn’t menacing but I had this feeling that this guy meant every word. My right hands slowly stole behind me where I felt the block but it didn’t give any comfort. He listened again and then put the phone on speaker. He squatted in front of me while Scarface looked on, looking quite alert. His eyes where deep brown. His face was smooth and I actually thought him handsome. He had a pointed nose and really red lips. He would look good in a well tailored blazer. He studied me briefly and smiled.

“Your wife seems to be worried about you. Talk to her so that she knows you’re alright.” He thrust the phone to my face.

“Ronnie?” I said, my voice hoarse. I didn’t know what to say. I was angry but when she spoke…

“Willy, are you alright?” She sounded tearful and my emotions gushed out without restraint.

“I am not ok. I haven’t done nothing wrong…” I cried but I was interrupted as “Softvoice” stood up and walked away, placing the handkerchief back on the mouth piece. I stood yelling that she shouldn’t pay them a dime, that they wanted to kill me but I was pushed back down roughly by Scarface that my head hit the wall. I recoiled in pain, my hands holding the back of my head.

“You’ve heard him now. He’s alive and…” He looked back at me. “Not too well, I’m afraid. I don’t know how long he can continue to live like this.” There wasn’t an iota of pity in his voice. I felt rage well up within me but I was helpless.

“If you don’t pay up, we’ll probably come for you too. We have resources beyond your imagination. Not even the police can save you.”

With that, he cut the call and came to me fury in his eyes. He grabbed me by my shirt.

“Don’t you ever speak out of turn again, you hear me?!”

I was shocked at the sudden change in his eyes and voice. This guy was a psychopath. He released me and without another word turned around and walk towards the door, Scarface at his heels.

“Who hired you to do this to me? How much is the person paying you? I can do much better. You know it!” I said desperately.

Soft voice turned around, looked at me and smiled.

“Don’t be a wise ass.” He said softly. He opened the door and they both walked out, locking the door behind them. I had a glimpse of what looked like a corridor that was just as uncompleted as the room I was in.

I sat back and wondered how I was going to get out of here. The window protector was solid. So my only escape route was through the metal door. There was no way I could pick the lock or break the door. I had no such skills or strength. Besides, even if I had lock-picking skills, it wouldn’t work against this kind of crude metal door that I began to believe was made for the purpose of keeping kidnapped victims securely. I let my mind wander while I subconsciously sought a solution to my dilemma.

I slept off without even knowing. I was terribly hungry and the little water I had left, I had consumed. I couldn’t tell how long I’d slept or how long I’d been here but I knew it was getting close to a week because of the growth of my beards. I had to do something quick before I died of starvation. I prayed to God every time I woke up from hunger-induced sleep to rescue me and he answered me; though in the way I least expected.

I was wide awake after some time when without warning, Scarface charged into the room with a snarl on his face. I didn’t know what or who made him angry but with the way he came at me, I knew I was in deep shit. He picked me up effortlessly like a rag doll and flung me across the room. I fell across the make shift table and chair at the center of the room. He had this murderous look in his face. His breath stank of a mixture of marijuana and dry gin. He gripped my neck with both hands and choked the life out of me as I struggled to get back my balance. His fingers were like a clamp! I struggled to breathe while I trashed about wildly thinking this was how I was going to die. My finger struggled weakly to loosen his clamp-like grip but it was useless. He was way stronger than I was, especially as I was delirious with hunger.

“You bastard! You bastard!!” He snarled, spittle dribbling from his lips onto my face, his breath raspy. I was too shocked and couldn’t speak no matter how hard I tried to in order to reason with this demented animal. Why did he want to kill me? Hadn’t they picked up the five million naira ransom, I wondered realizing that if there was a change in their plans and they weren’t going for the twenty million that they said they would, this could very well be my last moments on earth. But it didn’t explain Scarface’s anger. Something must have gone terribly wrong somewhere.

My lights started getting dimmer and I realized that this was real. I was getting strangled to death. I looked towards the door, expecting Softvoice to come in and save me from this madness. It was then I realized for the first time that the black metal door stood ajar. Freedom! I felt a surge of hope. My oxygen starved brain rattled off suggestions in quick succession. I poked my fingers on both hands into Scarface’s two eyes with all the strength and force I could muster. I felt my right finger poke hard at something mushy and squishy; his eyeball I presumed. He backed away immediately, letting out a blood curling scream of pain.

“Ye! My eyeeee! You don dead! You don die finish!!” He screamed continuously as he staggered away from me, raving like a mad man. He covered his eyes with both hands. While he struggled to regain his sight, I rolled over, hitting the floor with a thud. I didn’t feel it. My whole body was numb as I sputtered, coughed and inhaled a large amount of air into my lungs at the same time. My adrenaline was pumping now. I sprang up to my feet, knowing the remaining few seconds were the fine line between life and death for me. I wanted to rush for the door but I knew if he came after me, he’d catch up and overpower me with ease and I’d surely face a painful death. My eyes latched onto that half broken cement block. With speed that I never knew I possessed, I picked the block and with both hands, crushed it on his head with all the strength I had left, just as he was getting ready to launch the second wave of attack.

He grunted as the block disintegrated in several pieces. It was a solid cement block. I confirmed it in that moment of impact. Scarface’s eyes were blood red and he looked stunned and disoriented, not believing that I could just turn the tables around in a split second. He sank on the floor on his hands and knees, shaking his head several times. I was impressed. He ought to have passed out but he didn’t. He was a very strong man. I moved to the side as he crawled and aimed a perfectly timed kick with my right leg, catching him on the jaw. I swear I heard something break before he fell on his back, looking dead or passed out. A sharp pain shot through my ankle and knee cap. I leaned on the table catching my breath from the first physical exertion I’d had in days. My head was throbbing and my heart was pounding so loud, I could hear it in my ears.

After a few minutes, I staggered weakly towards the open door and walked out. I shut the black metal door, bolted it firmly and turned the lock. After putting the key in my pocket, I looked around. It was just an uncompleted building. When I got to the exit, there were bushes and trees all around. It was the wee hours of the morning. It was dewy and the sun never looked so beautiful. I inhaled the fresh air and looked around. The building must have been abandoned for years. I walked unsteadily towards an overgrown bush path…

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