The Stought Brothers: ‘The Mystery at the Market’ – Chapter 6
A BarbWire Exclusive Fiction Short Story Series…
Here is the sixth serial installment of the middle grade (ages 8-12) story, The Stought Brothers: “The Mystery at the Market.” First, a brief reminder of what this is and then the installment begins.
Nonfiction is great. But fiction is important too. And instead of just complaining about all the filth that is out there, we should start producing entertainment—culture—as well. Producing solid entertainment for kids is particularly important.
Furthermore, publishing a serial story is an attempt to expand what BarbWire is. So along with being a place for columns and opinion pieces, I’d like for BarbWire to become more like a magazine. Columns, editorials, and articles are all integral parts of magazines, but fiction and other cultural writings are as well.
You can read more of my reasons for experimenting with this idea from an earlier post.
Click on the “The Stought Brothers” tag at the bottom of the post to view all the chapters of, The Stought Brothers: “The Mystery at the Market.”
The Stought Brothers: “The Mystery at the Market”
By Gunner B. Summit
Heathcliff looked down at the hole he had torn in his pants. He had slid feet first into the base during one of the times he was runner. That ripped the material in the knee of the left leg of his pants.
He looked over at Reggie who took off the plain ball cap he was wearing. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with his forearm and then put the cap back on his head.
“So what do you want to do for the rest of the day?” Heathcliff asked him.
“I don’t know,” Reggie mumbled.
“Did you remember to grab your phone?”
Reggie glared at him. “Yes.”
Heathcliff smiled. His foot scuffed against the sidewalk as it passed over a part of it that had cracked and buckled upwards.
The boys were walking out of the residential neighborhood where Dan lived. They could see the part of town where the market and sidewalk vendors were in the distance. “You hungry? I’m hungry,” Heathcliff said.
“Yeah, I guess,” Reggie said. “And I need something to drink. I’m still spitting out dirt.” He was referring to when he slid headfirst into one of the bases and got a mouthful of dirt.
They walked another four to five blocks and then stopped at one of the stands filling the sidewalk. An older woman wearing a bandanna on her head and a colorful blouse and skirt worked the stand. She asked them what they wanted. They selected some fresh fruit and a bottle of water each. They paid the portly woman and then left.
The boys walked a little further down the street and found a cut out between two buildings. It wasn’t an alley. It was just a small space wide enough for the two of them to just barely fit into it. They stopped there to eat their fruit and drink some water.
Neither one of them wanted to talk about anything serious. So they just said a lot of nonsense back and forth to one another as they ate and drank. This went on for a few minutes and then another conversation caught Reggie’s ear.
“Remember that time we came up with the game—” Heathcliff started saying.
“Shhh,” Reggie said to him, holding up a halting hand as well.
Heathcliff looked at his older brother. Reggie looked back at him and pointed to two women who sat on a bench outside one of the shops. The wooden bench was about 20 feet away from the boys. Reggie touched his ear and Heathcliff knew he wanted him to listen to what the women were saying.
Their conversation was difficult to hear. All the other people in the area and the noise from street traffic were quite loud. But Reggie and Heathcliff did the best they could, making sure not to stare at the women as they eavesdropped.
“So you’re going to delay the surgery?” the first woman said to the second one. She wore a solid yellow blouse.
“What choice do I have?” the second woman said. “I have to find another hospital now that I can’t use the Lagos Tranquility General Hospital.” She shifted the large handbag on her left shoulder.
“But what if you can’t find another doctor who will do the surgery soon?” the woman in the yellow blouse asked.
The woman with the handbag threw up her hands. “Then I’ll have to wait. But my nephew insisted that something bad is going to happen at the hospital this week.”
Reggie and Heathcliff looked at one another. Something bad was going to happen to the hospital where their dad was visiting? But they didn’t panic. They kept drinking their bottled water. And they made sure they gazed away from the women.
“And how are you sure he knows what he’s talking about?” the woman in the yellow blouse asked her friend.
“You know my sister. She never raised my nephew right. And now he hangs around with all the wrong people,” the woman with the handbag told her. “He said his friends have heard from someone in the hospital that something bad is going to happen to it.”
“Then it’s just hearsay,” the woman in the yellow blouse said with a wave of her hands. “Your nephew is probably just telling tall tales.”
“Maybe,” the woman with the handbag replied. “But I’m not taking the chance. I’m not going anywhere near that place. I’ll find another doctor.”
Both women got off the bench and started walking away. “My nephew might be lying but if he is, he’s a creative liar,” the woman with the handbag said. He even told me the name of the group that’s behind it. What did he say it was? That’s right. He called it Al-Sayf.”
The women were now out of earshot. Reggie and Heathcliff watched them walk out of sight. Then they started walking back towards the Gwanis’ condo.
“What do you think about that, Reggie?” Heathcliff asked. Both boys threw their empty water bottles in a trash can.
“I don’t know,” Reggie told his brother. “But we better tell mom and dad about it fast. We can’t take any chances.”
* * * * *
Rasheed had just gotten off a shift at the Lagos Tranquility General Hospital. He had taken the photographs just as Ahmed Al-Majid had ordered him to do. He photographed the parking lots, the emergency room entrance, and everywhere else where vehicles had access.
Ahmed and Al-Sayf had already known where they could place a vehicle at the hospital prior to Rasheed’s photos. However, the new images would help verify that earlier intelligence.
Rasheed had walked through the streets of Lagos after his hospital shift ended. After about 30 minutes, he reached a vehicle repair shop. Al-Sayf owned the business.
The business really did repair vehicles. Al-Sayf made sure of that because it wanted to make everything about the place seem normal. Making minor repairs and doing body work on vehicles for the public ensured that no one suspected that anything illegal was going on in it.
But, in fact, the repair shop was also a place for the terrorist group to prepare for operations. Rasheed grabbed the dirty and scraped metal handle to the front door and pulled it open. He entered and walked through the front of the building, smiling at people as he passed them. The front part included the cashier and waiting area.
He walked through that room and went through another door. This led him into the garage area—the one used for repairs for vehicles owned by public customers. He kept walking to the back of the garage and went through yet another door.
Inside that door was a small office. And at the back of that small office was one more door. Rasheed walked through it and into another garage area, this one much smaller than the first one . . . and hidden from the public.
This garage area could only hold one vehicle at a time. And a vehicle was currently in it. It was a truck that normally would be used to haul around water or other liquids. Al-Sayf was going to use it to destroy the Lagos Tranquility General Hospital.
The terrorists had taken apart the truck before Rasheed had arrived. They had made modifications to its chassis in order to strengthen it. Then they had put the truck back together.
The reason they had to strengthen its framework was because they were going to load it without about 2,000 pounds of explosives. That would be enough to destroy a large portion of the hospital building. And it would be enough to destroy a lot of the surrounding area.
Ahmed was in the garage and he saw Rasheed enter it. “Greetings, brother,” he said. Rasheed dutifully responded. A guard walked to Rasheed. Rasheed handed him the camera he had used to take the photographs.
Ahmed motioned to him and Rasheed walked over to him. Another guard was beside Ahmed just as before. “Your photographs will greatly help us,” Ahmed told him. “You have proven to be a great asset once again.”
“Let me tell you how this VBIED will work,” Ahmed said to him. He wrapped his arm around Rasheed’s shoulders. The Beretta 9mm handgun in the holster on Ahmed’s hip pressed into Rasheed’s side. “We will fill the tank of this vehicle with the explosives. We will also put a blasting cap into the tank. That will start the explosion once the vehicle is in place,” he said while motioning at the truck with his hand.
“And how will we detonate it once we drive the vehicle to the hospital?” Rasheed asked.
“Ah. I’m glad you asked that,” Ahmed said with a wave of his finger. “We will use a radio signal to detonate the explosives once the driver is safely away from it,” he said.
“And since you have done such a good job for us, Rasheed, we want you to be the man who drives the vehicle to the hospital,” Ahmed added.
Rasheed couldn’t believe his ears. “Me?” he asked while sticking a thumb in his chest.
Ahmed laughed. “Yes, you, Rasheed.”
Rasheed thanked him, and then Ahmed dismissed him. When Rasheed was gone Ahmed called one of his guards to come closer to him. “Be sure you have both the radio and the cell phone hooked up to the blasting cap and explosives. That way, if one of them fails we can rely on the other one.”
The guard said he understood. Then he asked Ahmed, “But we’re still going to detonate the explosives as soon as Rasheed reaches the position at the hospital. Right?”
Ahmed looked back at him. “Of course. He has done well for us. But we cannot afford to allow him to walk away from the vehicle. That may give them time to clear out parts of the hospital. Rasheed will have to become a martyr for us.”
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