“The Thief” is one of the outstanding stories of the second biannual Short Story Contest 2016 written by Uchechi Princewill Akachi, Nigeria.
“Quiet!” she said in a low whisper. “We don’t want him to spot us.”
I settled myself slowly in the area farthest from the dry leaves that coated the savannah floor in the beginning of the dry season. “I’m trying my best to be quiet but there are just too many leaves. We should have taken the rear just like I said,” I whispered back, expressing discontent.
We had arranged the stakeout in the afternoon of the previous day and had completely mapped out the area using her grandfather’s blueprint markers and some old cardboard. There were five perfect hiding spots but three had been abandoned because though they hid us sufficiently, they provided no easy means of escape should we require one. Linda vehemently opposed my choice for our stakeout point because she argued the spot limited our field of vision.
“You know why I refused the rear,” she said, shaking me out of my reverie. She seemed irritated but less confident, which meant she was also uncomfortable with the situation. I pushed my luck, “but we have backup!” Backup was a small digital camera fixed onto a tree, which had a bird’s eye view of the surrounding grassland. It was a miracle we even got a place to hide, five places in fact! We guessed this was also his reason for choosing this spot - a bare field on which no one in his/her right mind would dare engage in suspicious activities.
“He’s moving!” Linda said, happy to be rid of my pestering, as we both focused on what he would do next.
“Did you bring it?” a clear, soft, but firm voice said from the spot where I had meant for us to hide. Our eyes widened in the realization of what was now a contingency unplanned for: he was not alone. Linda shot me a glance as if to say, “I told you so”.
They were right in the middle of my preferred spot and we would have been caught right then if my plan had been followed. I opened my mouth to say something but then the familiar voice of Mr. Richard, the man we followed, boomed with its thick rich bass saying, “I did, but not all of it. The police have now begun to look into it and although I’ve been as random as possible, it’s quite easy to see that it’s the same person that keeps stealing compatible satellite and radio equipment from around the neighborhood.”
“You must get me the rest or you won’t get the rest of the money,” the clear voice came again.
Hatred welled up in our hearts for Mr. Richard whose love for money had cost the life of young Chinwe who died of electrocution from the severed wired end of their equipment, which was burgled. He must have purposely kept that bit of information out of his conversation with the stranger. “I don’t need your money,” the booming voice of Mr. Richard retorted shakily and with unmistakable bitterness towards the stranger. “I want my daughter back. You promised she wouldn’t be killed.”
“Settle down Richard, we are still old friends. You scratch my back, I scratch yours,” the stranger said in a strange accent.
The hatred in our hearts now turned into knowing pity. His daughter was not having holiday lessons in Abuja; Aisha was kidnapped! Linda turned her back to me and started down the escape route while whispering, “Sule, stay here and watch while I go get help.” I was startled and alas, it was too late to stop myself. I had already let out a sharp cry, “Wait! You can’t leave me here.”
Realizing what I had done, she broke into such a run that even the Jamaican runner, Usain Bolt, couldn’t catch her! No sooner had this happened than a hand from behind the small bush grabbed me and pulled me out. “Who are you? What do you think you are doing? Who was with you? Where did they go?” the voice was no longer clear and soft but now filled with a terrifying resonance that shook me to my core. “That’s the Ali kid, ummh… Sule Ali! He’s heard everything, I’m sure. I… I can’t do this… He can’t tell the police. The police in Nigeria are very brutal! I’m dead,” added the voice of Mr. Richard.
“Do you know who I am?” asked the clear voice. I shook my head to indicate the negative. He was not Nigerian, he was probably Asian with his slight accent- Chinese, no, Japanese. “Good,” he said. Something was moved. A hand was raised. I blacked out.
I opened my eyes, my head throbbing, my bones aching, my… “How am I still alive?” my voice sounded strange.
“He’s awake,” Linda said, bringing my parents and a nurse into the room immediately. I had a lot of questions. I looked at Linda with a puzzled expression while ignoring what the nurse was doing to my left arm. She seemed to understand. “They knocked you out. They were about to kill you,” she choked on the last words. “We came… with police. They are in custody. The girl, Mr. Richard’s daughter… they found her. The police say the camera is enough evidence.”
I didn’t hear the rest. I smiled and drifted into sleep. I suddenly awoke again. “…but why? Why did he need all those electronic parts?” I asked.
It was my dad who answered this time. “To build an EMP, to disable security and rob the banks,” he said.