Strap in for the next instalment of His Captive Princess.
CHAPTER TWO Part One
One year ago
Zain Bassong strode along the dusty unpaved road, his limbs heavy and muscles stiff as he surveyed the devastation.
Armed guards—Zain’s men—scouted along the edge of the road, checking the houses for survivors.
Most of them lay empty, the occupants had fled.
He hoped most had escaped the massacre.
The blood of those who hadn’t stained the scorched terracotta earth in dark patches underneath the strewn bodies they stumbled upon in their search.
The eerie silence was a deafening clang only broken up by the occasional call out by one of his team when they found a survivor alive in this chaos.
Sometimes, a small whirlpool of dust would roll only to flatten as if nature, too, had lost hope. The sun glared down, making his skin and shirt damp from perspiration.
“Here!” Samuel, one of his adoptive brothers, called out. “It’s a boy. He’s still alive.”
Zain ran. A member of the medical team who had responded to his request for emergency services raced on ahead.
He reached Samuel as he lifted a child out of the partially-covered drain running along the side of the road and placed him on the smooth concrete veranda of the closed shop with a sign that read “Yara Fashion.”
“The others?” Zain asked and pointed at the adult female bodies still in the gutter.
“Dead. Gunshots.” Samuel replied, wiping the boy's face.
Zain’s stomach rolled with nausea, and he fought to retain his composure. This wasn’t the place or time to give in to the emotions threatening to overwhelm him. He needed to focus on saving as many people as possible.
The child trembled, his breath coming out in gasps as he muttered and cried. His body was covered in dirt and blood, and it was difficult to see if he had any physical injuries.
“Clean him up and check him over.” Aliyah, another adoptive sibling, called out from where she attended to someone who lay on another concrete terrace. She led the medical emergency team whose job was to determine the degree of urgency for each case.
Zain had seen her team in action enough times to have a rough idea of how things worked.
The dead or dying were at the bottom. The injured were prioritised based on those who needed immediate help and those who could wait.
They would be transported to the nearest hospital, which was about sixteen kilometres away in Boma.
“Get some water,” he shouted as he squatted in front of the boy who couldn’t be more than ten years old, from his size.
One of the guards ran to one of the trucks and grabbed a bottle from the stack they had brought along.
“Don’t be afraid. My name is Zain. What’s your name?” he asked in the local language, keeping his tone gentle so as not to frighten the boy.
The boy kept his gaze riveted on Zain. “Ifeh.”
“Ifeh, are you hurt anywhere?” He wiped the boy’s face with his handkerchief. The smudges seemed to be dirt, not blood.
The boy shook his head and coughed.
“Here’s the water,” someone said behind Zain.
He didn’t look up, just moved his hand, so the bottle was placed on his palm. He unscrewed and tilted it.
The boy gulped down the drink to halfway before shoving the bottle in Zain’s direction.
“You can keep it in case you need more.”
“Thank you,” Ifeh replied, clutching the plastic container to his chest. “I know who you are.”
“What do you mean?” Zain asked.
“You are The Professor. Papa talked about you.”
“Yes, I am.” Zain smiled. There were few in this region who didn’t know of him even if they’d never seen him. “Ifeh, can you tell us what happened here?”
The boy swallowed, and his body started shaking. “I was playing with my friends on the street when men arrived in trucks. They were the bad men Mama talked about with her friends when she thought I was not listening. They were carrying guns and started shooting people. I told my friends to hide, and I ran as fast as I could until I saw Mama. She pushed me in the gutter to hide. She said I should stay quiet. I went in. But before she could hide with me, they shot her, and she fell on top of me. They killed Mama.”
The boy sobbed.
Zain pulled the crying child into his arms and hugged him. His heart broke for the kid and the many others who had lost loved ones.
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