Tola was elated. This had to be the happiest day of her life. She could feel the soft purr of the Mazda engine, the smoothness of the wheel in her palms. She took a deep breath, the sweet scent of new leather filled her nostrils.
“Oh girl you are so lucky”, she murmured to herself as she drove into her street, her thoughts filled with her man, Dapo.
Just then, music began to play in the glove compartment. A ringtone? Did Dapo forget his phone? She wondered. It was supposed to be a brand new car.
Dread filled her gut as she parked and opened the compartment. She spotted the mobile phone twitching as it vibrated and picked it up.
“You thought we would never catch you ehn?”, the voice was deep, gruff.
“Your husband’s car smuggling days are over Mrs Oni, just surrender yourself to us and if you tell us the location of your husband’s smuggling operation you might even be able to save yourself”
Tola was bewildered.
“What are you talking about? Wrong number!”
The press of a button ended the call. What was that about? She was about to put the gear in drive when the phone rang again. Seriously who is this? She decided to ignore it. Ten minutes later as she parked in front of her house, she could ignore it no longer. Whoever it was, was not going to stop calling. She picked it again.
“So that’s how you want to do it abi? We can see that you are not ready to cooperate. You’ll be hearing from us again”
Tola hissed. Some scammers trying to pull a prank, she thought.
The next morning Tola came out of her flat in a hurry, lectures began in 30 minutes and she was late. She ran to the car and almost tripped over herself when she saw what had been spray painted on her brand new car.
“Thief! Ole! Confess! We know where you live!”
The two front tires were flat. It looked like someone had used a big knife on them.
“Oh my God!”.She trembled.
Two days later, Tola was still troubled. Who could be pulling such an elaborate prank on her. No one came to mind. She drove into a secluded tree lined section of the parking lot in the mall she frequented. She didn’t like parking in the sun.
As she got out, she noticed two men walking toward her. One was tall, lean and heavily muscled. The other was shorter, with a wide chest and just as tough. They both wore blue Pepsi face caps and dark sunglasses so she could not see their faces.
Part of her wanted to jump back into the car and drive off, but she had already gotten out so she decided to act natural. This was a public place after all, maybe they had nothing to do with her. The two men approached, the tall one smiled, a very sinister smile.
“Good afternoon Mrs Oni”,he said. She recognized the voice from the phone call a few days ago.
“You have the wrong person. I’m not married and my name is Tola. I think you have me confused with someone else.”
The short man shook his head in mock surprise.
“Can you believe this 419 woman? Does she think we are stupid?”
The tall man crossed his beefy arms and laughed. He eyed the car then looked back at her.
“Is this your car?”
“Of course it is, my fiancé bought it for me”
“Oh really?”, they both looked interested now. The tall man moved closer. “Tell us about this fiancé of yours, where does he get his cars?”
Alarm bells rang in Tola’s head. She was not sure who these people were but she was not about to be exploited. She stuck her nose in the air and tried to look as confident as she could.
“I don’t know! Why don’t you go ask him!”
The slap came out of nowhere. The force of it slammed Tola against the car. She felt a sharp painful crack as her head hit the roof of the car. She was dazed. Her hand was only halfway up to protect her face when a fist came at her. She felt herself buffeted. Pain riddled her nostrils and there were tears in her eyes.
A grip tightened on her blouse – ironically the newest one Dapo had bought for her, and she was dragged around the car into the semi darkness beneath the trees. Should she have tried to run? No chance. Blocked by the car and the short broad shouldered man she could hardly see.
She tried to double up, but the man’s knee exploded into her face. Tola crashed face down, her head buried in a small heap of someone’s foul-smelling left over meal. It was hard to breath. She tried to struggle but one fist was clamped in her hair and the other whipped her body, used it as if it was a boxer’s training gear. She stopped struggling. She was helpless. The last thing she heard before she passed out was:
“Tell your husband or fiancé or whatever you call him, if he doesn’t give us what we want, you will never be safe again.”
Funke Oni sighed as she ended the call. It had been a clever idea to leak the information to the dealers, to make them think the girl was her. Only a few in the modeling industry knew her real name. She was right to assume these people did not know who she really was.
The plan the Chief Inspector set in motion had only just begun and Funke found herself shivering in excitement.