The Last Agent Provocateur
By Chika Onyenezi (Nigeria)
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THE LAST AGENT PROVOCATUER
The sun was falling behind the horizon. The vultures kept flying over the huge dirt that littered Douglas Road in Owerri. The putrid smell hung on the air like hydrogen bonded with oxygen in water. The flashy Mercedes wheeled towards Rotobi Street. Prince couldn’t bear the smell of the dirt; he wound down the glass of his car and spat through the window. The commercial motorcycle man riding beside his car cursed him for doing that and even banged his fist on the bonnet of the car. Prince didn’t utter a word to him, which was unlike him; maybe he had learnt to control his anger. Or maybe he had lost his magic wands, those magic wands that helped him trample on any law and got away with it, those magic wands that controlled the police.
The last change of government had put Prince in disarray. During the last administration he had all the power to do anything he wanted but today he was on his own, as it were.
He used to work with a company called CALIBER MAFIA. This company, which had branches across the country, was formed by the former governor of Oketun State during his election. The former governor of Oketun state was able to organize some unemployed youths and gave them special training under a contracted military officer to pupate electoral crimes. His experimental force successfully saw him through the election – he won the election. The Democratic Peoples Party which the governor of Oketun was a member now made the operation of the CALIBER MAFIA known to the party. Consequently they were contracted across the states to install governors with their mafia ways for the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
They went to any length to see that their clients won their elections: they murdered, maimed, stole ballots and committed all sorts of crime just to see that their political motive was achieved. When they became famous in the job, they were hired to help install a President for the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), a job which they executed successfully.
Prince was the brain behind all their executions in the country. He became so notorious for this kind of crime that they nicknamed him ‘gallows officer’. In the year 2000 election, Prince successfully butchered the president’s political opponent – the job that exposed him to many spiritual and physical challenges. Pointing a rifle at Chief Damilola Otumba was not an easy task; he had to acquire the skills and the will to shoot. In the course of the operation, he cleared ten armed men from a point in two minutes before getting to his lounge. He left sixteen bullets in chiefs Damilola’s stomach. This single act put the opposing party in chaos. This happened a night before the Election Day.
But today the President they installed had declared them wanted. And the founding ex-governor was facing charges of corruption. This move by the President infuriated Prince and his group. He found it easier killing politicians because he believed that all of them had their sins painted on their faces. And if he had to kill one last person, it was the president of Nigeria for betraying them. Consequently they declared war on the politicians they installed. But their war left them staggering. The power of incumbency fell on them with every legal whip. Nobody ever believed their stories including the police; they were seen as the bad guys.
Following the events, he was declared wanted by the police. The man they installed in the Presidential seat cut the Cut link with their group. For the President this was the only way of remaining on the seat and clearing himself of murder charges. The rule was clear: hunt the hunters. CALIBER MAFIA’S are the hunters and should be hunted down to the last man.
Top men in the organization had been arrested and wasted without any formal record of their arrest and execution. They are being wiped out like birds with extreme case of flu. Then Prince knew escape would be the best choice for him rather than facing the gallows as a common criminal.
Prince drove into the little restaurant in Rotobi Street. He parked his car under the mango tree. This shabby looking restaurant, built with unpolished woods, was famous for attracting the attention of wealthy men. Rumours had it that the lady that owned it used spiritual power in form of talisman to attract her customers. But the fact is that the location of the restaurant was obscure and at the same time exposed. Though it was in the heart of the town, the police would not expect their suspects to be eating under the mango trees. The compound was covered with tall mango trees, and coloured lights were wired all around the trees. An evening like this, you would find rich men with their cars and woman toasting to success.
As he got out of the car, he looked back to see if he was being tailed. Swiftly he walked over to the road and scanned the area. He had once nearly walked into trouble during his early days, he was sent to execute a political rival. He had followed him to a hotel and strangled him. Soon after the act he realized he was being monitored by a police. However, he managed to escape. Since then he was always careful.
Right now he had only one way of escaping; he would cross over to Cameroon and then to France. He removed a stick of Cuban cigar from his pocket and stuck it in his lips, leaned on the mango tree and lit it. His life was even a mystery to him. He was afraid of his own self and what he could do. He could remember when he was a little boy, he was often taken from one witch doctor to another, and they kept saying that he was possessed by a bad spirit that he would die very soon.
And indeed, it was like he died many years ago at the University of Nsukka that night he and others were initiated into the secret cult. Nobody had ever felt what he felt that night. Nobody could see what he saw that night; he saw hell open its wings and said here lays terror upon earth. That’s what made even his own living a mystery to him. From that day, killing became nothing to him. Without mercy he slew men and quickly rose through the ranks in the cult of those days. His fingers were too quick to draw pistols; he could throw knives into the opponents’ throat from a far distance. He handled many professional riffles like pump action, AK 47, Kruger riffle, automatic and semi-automatic gun.
As he leaned on the tree and smoked, his hands were ready to draw the English pistol in his belt. At thirty, he still had those magic fingers that could detect turmoil.
He was a very handsome man; many girls would like to leak his feet. He had well shaved beard and mustache and a handsome oval face. He brushed his hands over his thick bushy eyelids. He gazed at the back of his palm, which had a scary scar sustained during a shootout in the university. He received four bullets on that hand, but luckily for him they only chopped off the flesh. Event of that day taught him that after all he was a mortal and could be brought down any day.
A young man with scarf on his head and a toothpick between his teeth emerged from a corner. He roamed about for some seconds before seeing Prince in a black suit under the mango tree smoking. He didn’t want Prince to see him so he approached the mango tree from behind. Prince flipped off the cigar and quickly turned and held the young man’s hand. The young man was dazed by his speed and grip. Prince looked into his eyes and said:
‘Don’t ever approach me from behind!’ His breath smelled of smoke and liquor. Then he added, ‘Are the boys ready?’
‘Yes, I was able to organize six other boys from the ghetto, and they are real good,’ Acid tried to explain to him. Prince knew that working with untrained men, common thieves, could cost him his life. But what else could cost him his life faster than not executing this job. From where would he get the amount of money he needed to leave the borders and start a new life? He knew that such men could attract the attention of the police. All his life he had been working with trained minds (even in the university). He knew that when these untrained minds had money on their palms, they would waste it. He knew what to do; as soon as the job was done, he would cut the flow of information.
Acid knew what Prince was thinking; he knew he was underrating him and others.
‘Bros, they are really good,’ he assured. ‘And they got record; it’s just that they have never had an opportunity for a real job like this.’
Prince didn’t care about that. All he cared about was his decision to leave Acid as soon as the job was executed.
‘Tomorrow I will check out the field,’ he said. ‘I want you around the bank. Don’t tail me; just stay around, maybe across the main road. The weapons have been arranged, tell the boys to prepare their minds… I don’t have time.’ He dipped his hand into his pocket and brought out another stick of Cuban cigar and handed it to Acid. ‘That’s ten dollars. It might be your first and last to smoke a Cuban cigar.’ he said, smiling.
Acid was just a local criminal operating within Owerri, but he had once worked with Prince. He was one of those CALIBRE mafias hire and dump along the way. At this particular point in time, Prince found him useful, which was why he hired him again. He headed back to his car, started the engine and drove into the street of Owerri.
He still had one good friend left at 33 Artillery Brigade, so he drove there. The military men at the gate knew him as the captain’s friend. The opened the gate for him. The captain was training a company of soldiers, so he went to his office and waited for him.
The captain beamed with smiles as he greeted his old friend in the ways of their fraternal university days: locking their index fingers together to show brotherhood. The visit secured for him; four Kruger rifles, three AK-47, six pistols, one bazooka, plenty of small arms, and a cartoon of TNT. All were to be returned after use, except those that could not be replaced.
Prince went to POINT bank to see whether it would be accessible. Dressed like a gentle man, he was ushered into the bank like a king. He was taken directly to the assistant manager’s office. As they were going, he took notice of the metal detector door with a camera, then the banking hall, which had six cameras each attached to the ceiling, disguised as chandeliers. He noticed the mirror covering the counter wall, for reflection, and the security room built underground for the security staff.
The manager was a brisk looking man, carrying out his duty in a professional manner. He also had a professional smile to welcome him.
‘I am the manager of TB Company,’ said Prince. ‘We will be bringing the sum of twenty million to deposit here.’ The manager welcomed him and thanked him for considering banking with them. Then Prince left. As he was leaving he saw the strong room down the passage. All he needed for the job were ten armed men around the compound with Assault-riffles. As he drove into the street, he saw Acid across the road. He smiled at him and drove into the street.
On the D-day, the weapons were laid before their eyes as Acid and ten other boys gathered round a table. They all swore with their blood that after the operation they would pretend they hadn’t known each other. They all selected their weapons. Prince carried the bazooka and TNT into the car. They brought in five cars for the operation; two cars to block the two ends of the road; three to storm the bank. He spelled the terms of sharing with them if successful and they all agreed. Prince knew how to play with a metal detector; he wrapped some small arms in a wet cotton wool before packing them in a briefcase. With Acid as his driver, they drove off. Others would come at his signal; when they get a text message they would storm the bank premises and block the two main roads. Then he would handle the rest all by himself.
As soon as he arrived he was taken into the assistant bank manager’s office. Then he sent the text message. As he opened the brief case before the assistant bank manager he took out a pistol and pointed it at him and kicked the door shut. And the security alarm sent a beep to the security room.
‘Raise your hands up!’ he commanded the assistant manager at gunpoint. ‘Face the wall! No tricks!’ The assistant manager obeyed, his heart palpitating. ‘Now, lock the door!’ He obeyed and threw the keys to Prince.
The security banged their fists on the door in an attempt to break in and clear the threat. But Prince stood his ground. The whole bank security was drawn to the door of the manager’s office. They stood there ready to fire. The other security points in the bank were left unattended when the other boys came, leaping like hunters towards the entrance. The main road was immediately blocked, causing a traffic jam and making it impossible for any security to move in. Two men stood with guns on the road ready to blast anyone that made any suspicious move. Four of them, including Acid, stormed the counter, stopping the whole banking operations. They moved swiftly and took positions at the entrance leading into the administrative office. When the security that were at the assistant bank manager’s door had the noise in the main banking hall they realized that they had been ambushed. The ten armed security were cleared by the boys.
Then Prince opened the door and walked out without any obstruction. The bankers quickly opened the strong room and all the money there was about five hundred million naira, was roughly carted into their cars. The boys outside started shooting and the rough bullet of Kruger rifle zinging in the air made the motorists to abandon their cars and run way. The police made no attempt to come close to the scene even though their station was a stone throw from the bank. They were afraid of the sophisticated weapons used by the robbers. The bank was almost raised down; there were bullet holes everywhere. Casualties were rushed to the hospital, the dead to the morgue. Burned cars littered the main road.
Prince settled the boys with a million naira each, which was enough to swell their heads. Then to Acid he gave five million naira.
Early the next morning he cut his afro to change his looks and made his way to the border. He took a commercial car to Oron; a city beside the sea, from there he would enter Cameroon.
The news of the raid was all over the air. Since the local police couldn’t handle the case, a group of FBI was sent into Owerri the next day to thoroughly investigate the case and report to the presidency directly. The chairman of the bank announced a ten million naira reward for anyone that could facilitate the arrest of the robbers.
A strong man-hunt was organized and within eight hours of the crime, six suspects were picked up in a hotel. That arrest led to the arrest of Acid. After torturing the boys, they forgot their oaths and revealed the truth.
By the time Prince got to Ikote-Ekpene, the FBI had already stationed some men along the road. His mind never told him that the security had a clue of his whereabouts. But the number of armed men on the road block told him that things weren’t in order. They whole people in the bus in which he was travelling were told to come down for a search. His disguise would have made it difficult to recognize him. But having discovered his hair during a raid in a hotel the security was no longer searching for a man with afro. He was easily spotted by the crack squad who was well motivated to find the criminal.
Prince, Acid and the rest of the boys were all shown on the national television. Prince was filled with regrets. Inside him he knew that one day he must surely pay for the blood he spilled.
Prince and all the boys were executed and buried in one grave like chickens.
That was the fate of the strong man; the terror of his land.
They were trained for their interest, the die for their freedom. For them he was the last agent provocateur.
Men like him still thrive, men with magic hands to draw the pistol still around. But non-has his wit and bravery. He was the last and the last was him.