6. It Stops Now

I remember this one being inspired by a similar story, with the famous Anas Aremeyaw Anas being behind the investigation…

He picked up the phone, and calmly scrolled through the call log. Finding the number he was looking for, he pressed the call button and held the phone to his ear.

The dial tone sounded twice, and in the middle of the third beep, the recipient answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Yes, good evening. This is Mr. Nathan. I’d like to confirm the deal.”

“Oh yes… uh, yes, sir. I thought for a moment you weren’t interested after our conversation last week.”

A silent laugh over the phone to that statement followed, then, “Chief, once it has something to do with the possibility of making more money, I will always be interested.”

“Oh, uh, ok, sir. Forgive me. I was just distracted by the tone and all…”

“Forget about that,” Nathan said sharply. “It’s time to talk business now. So the proposal is still available, right?”

“Yes, sir. Most definitely. I’ve been tracking a particular target for a couple of days now, ever since our first talk. If you’re ready, I can get to work as early as tomorrow.”

“So soon?”

“Yes. It won’t be any major hustle. It’s Tuesday, right? You can come around on Thursday morning, with the money.”

“Oh, excellent. That would be fantastic,” Nathan said passionately, obviously very pleased with how speedy the process sounded.

“Yes… umm, just to clarify, do I execute straight away?”

“No. I’d like to see the target for myself before you get to do the main work.”

“Hmmm… I see. Not many customers make that sort of request.”

“Well, I’m a different breed. I do my business differently. Any problem with that?”

“No, sir, not at all. The first time we met, I could tell you’re something else. No problems at all. Now that you’ve confirmed the deal, I’m going to get to work on it straight away.”

“Good! So I’ll be expecting your call once the target has been acquired.”

“Not a problem at all, sir. You shall hear from me by this time tomorrow.”

“Excellent. Thank you very much. Good night.”

*                                    *                               *                          *

“Alright, good seeing you! Now that I’ve got your number, I’ll definitely keep in touch,” Joe gushed enthusiastically as he shook hands with the old friend he had just had a long chat.

“Sure thing. Talk to you later, and stay safe,” the old friend said, waving as Joe left the restaurant.

It sure is good to meet with old friends! he thought to himself as he briskly walked the streets. It was around 9pm on a Wednesday evening. As usual, he had a couple of people stare at him in an odd manner as he passed by. He could feel the typical stares of surprise as he went his way. Shrugging to himself, he just said, “Normal.” He was quite used to that sort of treatment, and it hardly bothered him.

As he moved further away from the busy streets and on to the rather deserted road leading to the apartment, a sudden wave of tense fear washed over him. Given the few robberies on that stretch of road, which had only a broken down van by the wayside, this was not a trip the faint-hearted would enjoy taking. Having moved in about two months ago, every time he had to pass around here at this time of the night was a nerve-wrecking one. So far, he hadn’t witnessed any attack, much less experienced it, but a sense of safety and security was far from settling in his soul.

“We really need to get the rest of these streetlights fixed,” he muttered as he walked past one. “And I don’t get why this van has been left by the wayside like this. I’ll definitely have to alert some of the neighbours so we get this thing towed away.”

He increased his footsteps as he walked past the vehicle. “It’s so careless how the owner just dumped it here. Pure breeding grounds for armed robbers and the like…”

He stopped in mid-sentence as he heard a sound.

The back door of the van swung open, and out jumped two figures, both clad in all black.

A first time for everything, goes the adage. A first time nobody ever wants to experience.

Adrenalin poring through his veins, Joe took the ‘flight’ option, and ran, hoping to get close to the neighbourhood as quickly as possible and raise an alarm.

That wasn’t to be. From the moment they started chasing, it felt like Usain Bolt and a clone of him were the ones in those masks. The harder Joe pushed himself to run, the quicker they seemed to catch up.

One of them pounced, catching Joe right by the waist, bringing him down to the ground. As Joe tried to struggle himself out of his aggressor’s grasp, face down on the ground, he felt the second one grab him, and as he was turned over, the first guy let go of his waist.

His first thought was to kick out at the one who had tackled him to the ground, and quickly find out what to do to the second aggressor. The latter, however, had other ideas.

And a seemingly iron fist. Literally.

The impact his fist made with Joe’s nose was enough to knock their victim into unconsciousness.

*                       *                              *                                     *

When he regained consciousness, he was bound up and tied to a chair. In a dark room.

Where the hell am I? he wondered as he winced at the lingering pain caused by that staggering blow to the nose. It didn’t take too long for him to figure out the answer.

He was a hostage at a witchdoctor’s place.

The constant robbery attacks were one thing, but people like him had a far greater issue. His skin pigmentation made him a prospective victim of a wicked superstition that convinced people that his body parts would make them rich and bring them all sorts of good luck and fortune. Already, a number of others had been killed, most likely by this same witchdoctor, and it looked like he would be the next one.

Yep. Joe is an albino.

*                        *                                  *                                   *

Nathan’s phone rang at 11:45 pm. As he peered at the caller ID, he smiled and nodded his head. Pressing the receive button, he said, “I take it you kept your word.”

“Yes, boss. My men were on point tonight. The target is in our custody as I speak. Slightly bloodied, since he tried to put up a bit of a struggle, but he is all right.”

“Excellent! Good work done. I have the suitcase right here. I was trusting you’d get the job done. I shall be at your place by 7am tomorrow.”

“Thank you sir… um, about execution. Are you sure you don’t need it done now? I wouldn’t want to waste your time…”

“That’s a non-negotiable, please. If you have to sedate him or something like that, you can do that. But do not kill him until I get there and inspect him for myself.”

“I could take a picture for you and…”

“Kind sir, like I said, I do my business differently. I made it clear that this is how I want it. Do you want us to successfully and affably conclude this transaction or not?”

The doctor sighed over the phone. He had met a few tough customer, but this man was something else. Clearly a lover of money, and one controlling man. “Yes, Mr. Nathan, I want it completed. I’ll order my men to hold on until you arrive. Probably have him knocked out before you come.”

“Perfect. I will see you tomorrow. Good night.”

*                                   *                             *                            *

6:30 am, and Joe had barely slept a wink. Remaining in a sitting position for more than 6 hours was definitely nowhere near comfortable, and at this point, movement felt so painful, with the rope starting to cut into his flesh. It felt like death row at that point: knowing he was going to die, but having no idea when.

As his eyelids fluttered a bit, the sound of a key turning in the lock revived him, and he looked in snide contempt as the two thugs who accosted him at the van walked briskly towards him.

“You pathetic bastards!” he spat in disgust as they moved closer.

Their response was to send him back to sleep, as they both delivered devastating Tyson jabs to his face.

*                                   *                                       *                                  *

Thirty minutes later, one of them, hearing the knock on the front door, walked up to it and opened it to meet Nathan, dressed in a business suit, a hat, and a briefcase in his right hand. “I’m here for the albino parts,” he announced in a rather arrogant tone of voice. The thug, obviously unamused by this, nodded with a blank expression on his face and signaled him to come in. As he did, the thug asked him, using his hands, to put down the briefcase and put his hands up, so he could be searched. After the searching process, he was beckoned to enter the room where the victim was.

After knocking, Nathan opened the door to find the witchdoctor, the second thug wielding a knife, and a shirtless Joe laid out on the floor in there.

“Oh yes, Mr. Nathan, good to have you here. It is clear you are a man of your word,” the witchdoctor said enthusiastically.

“Of course I am!” Nathan responded, almost scornfully as he tossed the briefcase at the other thug, who caught it. “You can count the money in there. Six thousand dollars.”

The witchdoctor nodded. “Great. Now you can observe the sacrifice.”

Nathan then walked nearer to Joe, still unconscious. “Mmmm… no black spots on the face, I see. Good, good…”

For the next few minutes, the witchdoctor and his servant waited, with tints of impatience, as their difficult customer did what seemed like a full body check.

After lifting the victim’s right leg, he stood up, pulled out a small piece of paper and a pen, and put down some notes, after which he handed it to the witchdoctor, who smiled and shook his head as he looked at the content of the note. “You are certainly one of a kind, Mr. Nathan.”

“I know,” he responded smugly. “Trust me, I know.”

The witchdoctor quickly signaled to the servant, who had just rolled his eyes at Nathan’s statement, and made a throat-slitting sign. The servant immediately stood up and nodded.

Just then, there were weird sounds coming from outside the room. The witchdoctor immediately perked up. “What’s that?”

Nathan seemed unperturbed. “What’s what? I don’t hear anything.”

Then came the sound of wood being crashed through. All three inhabitants in the room jumped at that.

“Go outside and find out what it is!” the witchdoctor yelled at his thug, who quickly and silently obliged, quickly rushing to the door and opening it to find out what was going on.

As the witchdoctor and Nathan peered out of the door, they saw a plethora of armed SWAT forces starting to swarm in. The thug didn’t go too far before yielding to the orders of one officer to kneel and put his hands behind his head.

“FREEZE! HANDS UP! DON’T MOVE!” the one in front of the other officers yelled to the two.

A look of bewilderment on his face, the witchdoctor put his hands up, absolutely stunned. “But how did this happen? How did you know about this?” he hysterically asked, terrified at the sight of those guns pointed directly at him.

As one of them walked over to him and cuffed him as they recited the regular rhetoric, he was stunned to notice that none of them went to Nathan. The guy didn’t even have his hands up.

Nathan suddenly raised his voice. “Dear forces, this is the place where greed and wickedness rules. Much to the extent that people as callous and evil as him,” pointing to the witchdoctor, “are willing to shed innocent blood just because of some stupid beliefs that don’t even exist.”

Incredulous at the reality that he had fallen victim to an undercover operation, his jaw dropped open. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…” the officer behind him continued as he struggled for words.

“Take him and his servants away. Let me find Joe and see if he’s awake,” Nathan said.

The witchdoctor’s eyes grew wide. “Wait a minute,” he started as the officer started to lead him away. “You mean you know the albino, and you both set us up? I can’t believe this! How dare you!”

Nathan hardly paid him any attention as he and his first goon were taken outside, with the second one already cuffed and in the waiting car. Walking back into the room with two other officers, he checked to see if Joe had regained consciousness. It took them a few minutes to revive him, but once he awoke, he sighed with relief and smiled as he saw the familiar faces.

“You guys made it! Thank God. Those bastards are like some iron human beings! Ugh! I still feel the pain in my nose,” he said, touching the tip of his nose and wincing.

“Sorry, Joe. I’m sure it does. But at least we came through. Now we can deal with these monsters and bring awareness to the troubles your kind go through. You did a good job!”

Sitting up, Joe grinned and saluted. “Yes, sir! Couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. It’s tiring living in fear of being used for some senseless sacrifice. The time to take action against these atrocities starts now.”

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