But it was getting harder to stay positive, as seconds turned into minutes and minutes into hours, the only lead the police had, turned out to be a bust, they no longer had a location on the SIM that had called them; in fact it had been deactivated. They had started to run a trace on the number that sent the picture but the police had told them not to expect much because like the other one, this one too was not registered. Both were part of a bulk that was reported stolen a couple of weeks ago from a registered distributor of said SIM. The police had issued a warrant to the telecommunication company to block all SIM from the stolen batch and they had been only too glad to help but they knew that would not stop the perpetrators.
Catherine Eze looked at the picture of her daughter again, she looked so frail, so tired, so scared, she ran a finger gently across the screen of the phone, as if somehow her daughter would feel that even in her darkness moments, she had her mother’s love. She left the living room before the tears welling in her eyes came to fore.
“Nwannem (my brother), do not worry, we are currently doing everything in our powers to ensure the safe return of my niece, I promise you that no harm will come her way.” Even as those words left his lips, he knew he should not make promises over something he had no power over but it could not be helped, the sight of his cousin and sister in-law looking drained of spirit had prompted it. He could only imagine the torment they were going through, moments before Catherine had gone in teary eyed trying to be brave, her husband on the other hand looked worn and kept staring at the floor and sighing.
“Why haven’t they called with their demands? It has been an hour since they sent that picture.” Mr. Gregory Eze asked looking forlorn.
“They will call.”
“Bros, police full here, they dey inside the house, them dey roam the streets with mufti.” The man spat into the phone.
The voice at the other end said, “That was to be expected, I would have been disappointed if he did not call the police. Like I said, keep an eye out, lemme know when something suspicious happens.”
“Okay, I will do that.” With that, he put the phone in his pocket and blended in with the dusk traffic.
A pretty somber atmosphere hung in the hitherto cozy living room, the expensive décor did nothing to lighten the mood, as everyone in it sat with their heads hung; Emeka on the other hand was pacing holes into the tiled floor, his hands clasped behind his back. Then suddenly the phone that had been sitting idly on the tampered glass top, vibrated into life, its shrill ringtone filling the empty, soulless vacuum in the house.
No name, just digits, Emeka noticed as his cousin brought the phone to his ear.
“Hello?” There was a long silence, only the static came over the speakers that the phone was connected to.
“I explicitly said no police, the ransom has been increased to twenty million and if you want to test my patience again, I would seriously not recommend that. I will call you by noon tomorrow with more instruction.” The phone went dead.