GRACE - Episode 9

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Nigeria's Leading Fictional Story Blog - British Airways, London, China Indonesia, Abiriba, Abia State, Ore, Ritualists, Ritual Killers, Murky Adoption Schemes, Criminals, Abeokuta, Grace, 2.7 million Naira

“My late wife’s name was Fumilayo,” Gbenga began. “Quite frankly, I was a complete playboy in university…until I met Fumi. She changed my life. I fell in love with her completely and she with me. I loved her so much that I could not bear to hurt her. I wanted to be the best boyfriend I could to her, so I began to change my ways. She brought me closer to God, showed me the light that I went on to pastoral school after graduation. She worked to support me and when I left pastoral school, I was posted to Oyo. She operated a poultry in the parsonage to augment my meager earning. We were happy, and soon, she had a baby girl. We named her Yewande.” He paused for a moment and took a deep breathe. I squeezed his hand gently as I gazed into his eyes. I could see that tears were forming around his eyes.

“One night, we were sleeping and I heard a loud bang on the door. I went to find out who it was. I thought that one of my parishioners was in dire need or something like that, but before I got to the front door, armed men rushed into the building. They began to beat me up. They dragged Fumi to the living room and began to ask for money. We had a church expansion launching ceremony earlier that day, so they thought the whole money was still in t parish house. I made frantic efforts to explain to them that the money had been deposited in the church bank account, but they would not hear of it. I gave them all the money we had in the house, but that was not enough. Before my very eyes, they shot Fumi and Yewande to death. They said I should watch them die so that when they returned again, I’d have the money ready for them, else, they’d kill me too.”

Again, Gbenga paused as tears streamed down his face. I wiped his tears. “They died?” I asked him. I could not possibly believe that anyone would do that to innocent people, but then, I had to remind myself of the difficulties and torture I had gone through in the hands of such men. “I watched each of them die in a pool of blood. I wanted to bring them back to life, but I had no such powers. For months, I cried and asked God why he took everything that he had given me. To this day, I have no answer to that question, but somehow, I learned to move one little step at a time. For a while, I gave up pastoring, but somehow, God brought me back. That was part of the reason I could not let those terrible men hurt you that night. I was willing to die than to tell them that you were there. Letting them hurt you would have killed me. Not again, I had to protect you. I wish I could have protected Fumilayo and Yewande.”

“Are you saying that the couple sold my child, Grace?” I asked the private investigator. He nodded eerily. A raging storm swept through me. I clenched my fist and pounded the desk in front of me. I could feel hot blood darting through my veins in utter chaos. I had hung my hopes on finding Grace and we had come so close…My private investigator, Rotimi had tracked down the man and woman who called themselves Mr. and Mrs. Olabisi. They were in fact, criminals who bought and sold children to couples, ritualists and human traffickers for hefty amounts. The two of them were not even married. They worked together and had amassed tremendous wealth by dealing in children. The man whose real name was Oluwatobi owned a mansion in Lagos and was married with two children, while the woman whose real name was Omowumi lived in a palatial estate in Abeokuta. 

It had been six years and a lot had happened. I was married to Gbenga and we had a little girl by the name, Titilope. Benjamin and James were sentenced to twenty five years in prison while Foluke got a fifteen-year prison sentence. I started a thriving importation business, dealing in children’s clothing. I bought goods from China and Indonesia and sold them in wholesale at home. Gbenga was now pastoring at a flourishing Redeemed branch in Lagos. I went abroad a number of times a year and recently, I had taken my parents and siblings with us (including Gbenga and our daughter) to Paris on holiday. Amid all these, my heart still hungered for Grace. I wondered where she was and what had become of her. I continued to pay Rotimi and he did a great job indeed. I was overjoyed when he told me that he had tracked down the so-called, Olabisis. 

Rotimi contacted them and threatened to expose them. They offered him money to keep him quiet but he insisted on finding out what they did to Grace. After immense threats and pressure from him, they confessed that they had sold her to a ritual killer in Ore for 2.7 million naira. “Can we find the ritual killer?” I asked Rotimi helplessly. I saw Grace in my sleep and each time, she called to me. Her absence from my life etched painful scars on the walls of my heart. I knew there was not much I could have done at the time, but I still felt some guilt for her situation. Just like Gbenga felt over his wife and daughter, I wished I could have protected her more. “There is not a chance that she is still alive. From what I have heard, these ritual killers keep the children for a short time. As soon as they find a client who needs the blood of a pure infant for blood money ritual, they sell them to them and help perform the rituals during which the children at killed,” Rotimi explained. 

His words tore at me like a bear tearing at the flesh of its helpless prey. Palpable emptiness walked all over me, yet I hung on to hope. “What if they sold her to a family that wanted a child?” I asked. “The chance is very slim,” Rotimi countered. “I am willing to pay whatever it takes. Please Rotimi, find the ritualist and dig out what they did to Grace. I don’t care what it takes,” I instructed him. Reluctantly, he went to Ore in search of the ritualist. When he did find the ritualist, he refused to discuss his business with him. Rotimi contacted his friends in the military and they picked him up. After heavy pounding in the hands of soldiers, he began to sing out loud. “I sold her and some other children to a merchant from Abiriba in Abia State,” he offered. 

“What is his name? Where can we find him? What does he do with children that he buys?” Rotimi asked him in quick succession. “He does a bit of everything,” the ritualists answered. A streak of blood lazily walked down his face from an open cut on his forehead. “He sells to ritualists in his area and to couples looking for children. He also sells to people that send children abroad and sell them for heavy prices through some murky adoptions schemes,” he explained further. “Where can we find him?” “I don’t know. All I know is that he operates out of Abiriba.” “Kato!!” A military boot struck his forehead again with brutal force. “Officer, please I don’t know where to find him.”  “What is his name?” One of the soldiers asked him. “Uzo Idika,” he answered as he wiped a dense stream of blood off his face. 

They kept him in military detention while Roitmi and one of his investigative assistants headed to Abiriba. Once he reached there, he spent a decent amount of money in Umuahia to get some police cooperation. After greasing numerous palms, he finally found a top ranking officer willing to work with him. The officer, DSP Chidozie Okoro deployed three plain clothes detectives to work with him. Also, they provided him information on Uzo Idika, whose clandestine activities were not unknown to the State police. Before Rotimi and his team could reach Idika, he went into hiding. Someone in the police had tipped him off. Several attempts to track him down proved abortive. A whole year went by without luck. During that period, I wrestled with agonizing pain, praying and hoping to find my daughter. 

“I have been doing this for over ten years now,” she said to me. “I own multiple wholesale shops from Aba to Port Harcourt,” she explained with infectious enthusiasm. “That is great. I am still young in the business, so I own a single shop in Lagos,” I answered. We were seated on a British Airways flight from Beijing to Lagos through London. She was very talkative. As soon as she realized that we were in the same business, she began to talk non-stop. “I would love to visit you in Port Harcourt to learn a few tricks from you,” I suggested. “Of course! Here is my address,” she replied eagerly. “I live in one of my father’s mansions in Port Harcourt. Well, he bought the house in my name, so no one knows it is his. You know, one has to protect their own. He has a lot of enemies in his line of business,” she added. I looked at the name she had scribbled down for me on a piece of paper and my eyes got bigger – Chinyere Idika.” 

Of course, under the circumstance, I was inclined to think that everyone that bore the surname Idika was related to the criminal Uzo Idika, who had gone into hiding for over a year. More so, her comment about the house suggested that it was the kind of place his father may be hiding in – well, if my hunch was right. If the house was not in his name, then, Rotimi and his group had no chance of tracing it. “Can I come and visit you soon…like next week?” I said feigning excitement and curiosity. “I would love to have you over, Abimbola,” she replied. “I will call you as soon I settle back into Lagos and make plans to come and see you in Port Harcourt,” I said emphatically. “I am looking forward to it already.” “So where are you from?” I asked. “Abiriba. I am not sure you’d know it. It is in Abia State,” she replied. I could hear my heart racing. Although the flight was fully air conditioned, my palms began to sweat profusely. 

“I am very sure that Chinyere is his daughter and that he is hiding in that house,” I said to Rotimi. I had called him over to the house as soon as I returned. Gbenga was seated across the room from me. He too believed that there had to be a link between Chinyere and the elusive Uzo Idika. “There are many Idikas in Abiriba,” Rotimi argued. “It is a common name in the area,” he insisted. “I know, but how many of them buy houses in their daughter’s name to hide the true identity of the owner? That tells me that the owner has something to hide,” Gbenga reasoned. “Exactly!” I yelled. A week later, Gbenga and I drove an airport rental car from the Port Harcourt airport to G.R.A., where Chinyere lived. Rotimi and his men were in the area; firmly camped around the house, in fact, ready to pounce at any time. The house was a mansion indeed. The compound was vast and every square inch of it was covered with concrete floor on the outside, which was carefully plastered and impeccably decorated. There was a large three storey building in front and a one storey building behind it. Both buildings were painted white. Flowers of all sorts adorned the compound. You could smell the scent of the blooming flowers in the air. Bees hummed and darted in all directions as they searched for nectar. Inside, the floors were covered with Italian marble. They glistened as you walked around.

“I am so happy to see you again Bimbo,” Chinyere said excitedly on seeing us. After exchanging pleasantries and introducing Gbenga to her, she gave us a tour of the house. As we walked around the house, we noticed movement in the smaller building behind. There was a man with a woman who sat on the balcony of the first floor sipping wine. The man seemed in his late fifties or early sixties, while the girl was barely twenty, from the look of it. I had never been more certain of anything in my life. When the man heard our voices as we asked Chinyere question after question about the premises, he quickly retreated into the building, dragging the girl with him. 

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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GRACE - Episode 9
Nigeria's Leading Fictional Story Blog - British Airways, London, China Indonesia, Abiriba, Abia State, Ore, Ritualists, Ritual Killers, Murky Adoption Schemes, Criminals, Abeokuta, Grace, 2.7 million Naira An African Literary Blog
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