Her thin slow beep comes on as she tucks herself into bed. She groans and stretches for the phone. She clicks on the message. “What?” She says excitedly. Veronica rolls on the bed. She covers her mouth with her hand. Seeing Veronica is still asleep, she sighs, smiles, and drops her phone.
_______________________________________________ Veronica yawned and stretched as she opened her eyes. “Rita,” She called.
“Sister, good morning. You are awake,” Rita replied.
“Yes, I am awake because all your rattling wouldn’t let me sleep. Why are you up so early? And why are dressed? Where are you going to?”
“Veronica, all these questions this early morning,” Rita responded and turned to Veronica.
Veronica gave her a surprised look.
“Ahh, sorry o, Sister Veronica,” Rita jokingly corrected herself and they burst into a laugh. After some seconds of laughing, “Well…I’m going for an interview and they said to be there before 8. And you know I have to win against Lagos traffic to be there on time. “ Rita explained.
“See my baby girl o. Ehen, what interview is that?” Veronica asked.
“Well, you know I’ve been applying to be a host, and yesterday this show noticed me so I guess this is it,” Rita replied as she packed her things into her bag.
“What show?” Veronica inquired.
Rita put her hair behind as she bent to pick her shoes. “It’s a new game show called ‘knockout’.”
“Knockout? I have not heard of it before,” Veronica said and climbed out of bed.
Rita put her shoes in a nylon bag. “Yes, it’s new. I’m going to be among the first hosts they will be interviewing for their show.”
“Are you sure about this?” Veronica asked with a worried look.
“Definitely. Wait let me show you something,” Rita said as she brought out her phone from her bag, she unlocked it, swiped left and right, and went over to sit with her sister.
“This is the address,” She and Veronica stared into the phone. Rita took it and swiped again, “This is the flier with the people who own the show in it,” Rita said smiling.
Veronica tried to smile, “Yea, it looks legit but I don’t know, Rita.”
“Come on Sis. I know you are worried about me but I’m a grown woman and I can take care of myself and besides I’m chasing my dreams,” Rita assured her.
“Yes you are,” Veronica chuckled.
“Okay we’ll do it like this, once I get to the place I’ll call you. I’ll video call you so you can see the place,” Rita suggested.
“You promise?” Veronica asked.
“Cross my heart. Hope to die.” They both giggled.
“Oya come and be going before you go late. After all, there is nothing I’ll say that’ll make you change your mind,” Rita said.
“Nothing o,” Rita voiced as she stood up. She picked up her things and headed for the door. She opened it, “Bye big sis,” and then shut it.
“Bye, call me,” Veronica yelled. She sighed and went back to bed.
“And then four hours later…,” Veronica tells her fiancé.
_______________________________________________ Veronica entered her boss’s office with some folders, and as she stepped in, the folders fell from her trembling hands and she held on to the doorway.
Her boss and his secretary looked in her direction. “Veronica?” Her boss called.
“I’m sorry,” Veronica apologized and squatted to pick the folders up. The secretary joined her.
“Are you okay?” The secretary asked her.
“I’m fine, Chioma. I just felt dizzy. That’s all,” Veronica responded.
“Are you sure?” Chioma insisted.
“Go to the sickbay. I’ll give these to him and bring them back to you, okay?” Chioma told her.
“Really?” Veronica asked. Chioma nodded, smiling. They stood up.
“Go on,” Chioma urged her.
“Excuse me, Sir,” Veronica managed to say out.
“Okay, Veronica,” her boss replied. Veronica walked out of his office.
“I didn’t see her calls or even a video call. I thought it was nothing. And then I went home, she wasn’t there. Her number was switched off so I thought maybe her battery was flat. So I decided to wait but then I fell asleep. I woke up and she wasn’t still back. 4 am and my baby wasn’t back. That’s unlike Rita. That’s why I freaked out and came here. You have to help me,” Veronica expresses in tears.
“Hey, hey, hey, hey, don’t do this, okay? Calm down. Don’t cry,” Kachi consoles her as he dries her tears with his hand and hugs her. “You know the address, don’t you?” Kachi asks her. Veronica nods.
“Good, so we will wait till it’s a little bit bright, then we will go,” he tells her.
Veronica breaks off from the hug. “A little bit bright?” She asks furiously. “What if something happens to her?” She yells, “I’m not waiting for when it’s a little bit bright. I’m not planning to marry a soldier if I have to wait till it’s a little bit bright to take important actions. Besides, it’ll be a little bit bright by the time we get there. We are going now.”
Kachi is shocked. “Okay, I’m sorry. We are going now,” Kachi says calmly.
“Good,” and she storms out of the house.
“Something is wrong with her. Something is wrong with my sister, Kachi. I can feel it,” Veronica says, sadly and lowly.
Kachi glances at her and faces the road. “Baby, she’s fine, trust me. We are going there to get her, and hopefully as a new employee. You’ll see,” he assures her. Veronica folds her arms and looks away.
The day is already getting brighter. Veronica slowly sits upright. “What’s happening there?” She asks.
“Where?” He replies as he passes the scene where people are gathered by the roadside.
“Stop, stop, stop,” she urges him.
Kachi brings the car to a halt. “What is it?” He asks.
“I want to see what’s going on,” she tells him.
“But baby, you can’t just stop in a place you don’t know to join bystanders,” he advises her.
“I don’t feel comfortable. I feel like we should check it out, please,” she pleads.
Kachi sighs, “Fine but we won’t take long, all right?” Veronica nods.
They approach the crowd, they try to see what is drawing their attention. Veronica manages to see through; from the legs to the hand, the twin bracelet. She froze; feeling nauseous and dizzy as flashing lights cover her vision.
“Veronica, Veronica,” she faintly hears Kachi’s voice. She blacks out.
She put on her heels and knocked on the gate. “Who is there?” The gateman asked.
“I’m here for the interview.”
The gate opened and she entered.
“Good morning,” she greeted.
“Good morning,” the gateman responded. “Welcome. Just go into the building, you’ll be attended to,” he instructed her.
“Thank you,” she greeted, smiling.
She cat-walked into the building still smiling with confidence. She scanned the beautiful interior and also saw some girls being led into different doors.
“Hi, may I help you?” A voice cut her scanning. She looked at him; tall, handsome, and well built.
“I’m Rita. I’m here for Knockout’s interview,” still smiling.
“I’m Julius. The boss’s PA,” Julius introduced himself. “
“Nice to meet you,” Rita said.
“Nice to meet you too. Can I see your CV?” Julius asked.
Rita reached for her file, she brought out a paper and handed it to him. Julius rushed through it.
“Nice,” he remarked.
“Hope there’s no problem?” Rita asked nervously.
“No, not at all. They saw it before calling you here and I think your CV is impressive.”
“Follow me,” he orders.
Rita followed him through a door. It’s an office.
“Sit,” Julius told her as he took a seat at the other side of the table. He pressed a sanitizer into his palms and rubbed his two palms together. Two casually dressed men entered. Rita looked back. “So who did you tell about your movement?” Julius asked and Rita faced him.
Unsuspectingly, “my sister,” she responded.
Julius took a pen and tried to write.
“So where does your sister live?” He demanded.
With a nervous laugh, “why would you want to know that?”
The man of her left landed a backhand slap on her cheek. Rita screamed and another slap landed on her right cheek. Rita burst into tears, “what did I do?”
Julius indicated with his head. One cupped his hand over her mouth, while the other twisted her hands behind her. Rita moaned painfully as they dragged her out of the chair. Julius stood up and began to undress. Rita’s eyes widened in shock as she understood what was about to go down. Rita struggled with the powerful men as they forcefully and firmly laid her on the table. Julius picked up a black box and took out a pair of scissors. He faced Rita with a devilish smile.
Rita, with all the strength she could muster vehemently wriggled her body but she couldn’t break free. Julius bent over her, and he slowly cut open her dress from bottom to top. Tears fell down Rita’s eyes.
Sans pity, “I’m sorry you honored Knockout’s invitation,” Julius told her as he climbed on her.
Veronica opens her eyes. Kachi rushes to her side in the bed.
“You are awake,” he utters. She looks at him, “it wasn’t a dream, was it?” She asks with a pale countenance.
Kachi shakes his head.
Veronica stares at him.
“My colleagues went to the house. There was no one there. We are still on the search hunt.”
Tears fall from Veronica’s eyes but she doesn’t blink. She rubs the bracelet on her wrist.
“There’s something you should know,” Kachi continues. Veronica doesn’t take her eyes off him.
“She was raped,” Kachi reveals.
Veronica gasps, her mouth opens in shock and she starts breathing fast.
Kachi grabs her, “Stay with me, baby. Don’t go off on me again.”
“My baby, my poor baby. They treated her like an animal. They didn’t just rape her but they left her for me without a head. You’re going to find them. You’re going to find them,” Veronica sobs.
Kachi embraces her, “I will, my love. I will”.