Victim of Greed
By Tony Chuks Modungwo (Nigeria)
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
Immediately, I got to the BB’s den, I started gathering as much information as I could get. Bone was the marksman of the gang. He’d started his criminal life as a political thug. He was a professional killer. He always shot his target without missing. He was cadaverously thin, hence his name “Bone” He’d a military-style moustache. Human life wasn’t worth more than that of a fowl to him. He was addicted to vice and marijuana. He’d a girlfriend he loved so much. Her name was Grace. His name was on the wanted list in four states of Nigeria. He was about twenty-six years old.
Rasta was a chronic womanizer. Making love to numerous women was his favorite hobby. He’d an impressive criminal career. He started stealing at the age of nine. He’d participated in more than one hundred robberies as at the time I joined the gang. He was muscular, iron-fisted and stone-faced. He rarely smiled. He always wore dark goggles to hide his fire-red eyes. When a gun could not be easily used in an operation, in order not to arouse attention, it was he that strangled the victim or beat him to death.
Komoko was the driver of the gang. He’d an exceptional talent for driving. He’d been a taxi driver in Lagos for many years, so he knew the city like the back of his palm. He was a free spender and was always broke. He spent everything he realized from the robberies in a good-time spree. He loved liquor and drugs, especially the latter.
You needed to see him in action, and then you’d know that the driving feats performed by James Bond in most of his films were child’s play. All my life, I’d never met a wilder and more dangerous driver.
He operated any vehicle with or without the key. He was an expert in destroying security devices installed in cars, be it devices to demobilize vehicles, pedal lock, wheel lock.
Shagasha was the boss of the gang. He was a fierce-looking young man of thirty. He was smart and tough as nails. He was always elegantly dressed. He moved in top social strata. He owned a sleek Toyota Celica and a Nissan Patrol. He couldn’t be easily identified as a robber. He lived on the fast lane, inflicting pains on people without qualms. He usually posed as a managing director of a motor firm. This was where vehicles stolen by the gang were sold and the dismantled ones sold for spare parts. He seldom participated in the real operations. He was responsible for arranging all operations while the execution was led by Bone. He was very rich. “I can’t leave crime; being a good citizen again will be boring. I know I may die young, but I want every moment of the short time I’ll spend on earth to be exciting - lots of women, drugs, booze, what have you,” he once said. He carried the best ladies in town and lived in an executively furnished duplex. Shagasha, popularly known as “the boss’, had handed me over to Bone to tell me the norms of the gang.
He was the brain of the gang, and was a graduate of psychology. He was armed with good education, but couldn’t find a gainful outlet for his alert and articulate mind. He formed the Bloody Brothers gang to wage a social war against society.
“Among our rules are: You’ll never refuse to carry out instructions given to you by the leader of any operation. Losing of nerve during or before an operation could lead to banishment from the gang. Mentioning of the name of any member of the gang, when caught during an operation, is a serious offence punishable by death.” I’d no alternative but to accept.
I’d participated in a number of robbery operations before Shagasha came with the news of Biola’s kidnappers.
The first was along Lagos – Benin expressway. We blocked this very busy road by mid-night and robbed travelers. We operated for three hours and made a lot of money. Bone only stabbed a man. We killed nobody that day.
We hailed the man carrying his family in his Mercedes 190E and he stopped.
“Surrender all your valuables,” I ordered.
He obliged. But Bone wasn’t convinced; the man compiled fully.
“I want to search you,” he told the man.
He searched him and found five thousand naira on him. He was furious. “It is dishonest people like you that have ruined this country. You can’t obey simple instruction. You must be a thief; that is why you hid this money,” Bone said accusingly.
“I wanted to have something to transport my family to our destination, after you take our car,” the man explained.
“Who told you we want to snatch your car?” Bone queried.
He pulled out his dagger and stabbed the man on his arm. “I would’ve killed you, but because of your family, I’ve decided to spare your life. Try to be more honest in the future,” Bone told him.
The following day, when we woke up, we assembled to celebrate our success the previous night and to share our loot.
Shagasha came with cartons of beer and bottles of hot drinks. Everyone was free to choose whatever he wanted to drink. Rasta went into his bedroom and returned with a heavy reap of marijuana.
“I wanted to serve this nation, but I was denied the opportunity, so it isn’t my fault that I rob to survive,” Shagasha said defensively. “The day I graduated I was mad with joy. I felt my dream had come true. I had a dream to improve my poor family and the society at large. Austere measures of government notwithstanding, my father did his best to provide for me, but it was grossly inadequate. I practically starved, trying to make ends meet and they never met when I was in the university.”
“You’re very lucky you went to the university. My father was a driver for a company and he traveled extensively. My mother was a palm oil hawker. Most times, she was in the streets, hawking. As a result, I spent most part of my youth roaming around the streets with gangs of delinquents,” Komoko said.
“My situation and yours are similar to an extent,” Rasta said. “I started stealing at the age of nine. Our neighborhood was filled with boys of my age, who were sent out of school because our parents couldn’t pay our fees. With our parents struggling to raise money to pay our fees, we were left roaming streets, with nothing concrete to do. Most of us drifted into crime,” Rasta said, as he drew on the marijuana burning in his hand.
“My father believed that after my university education, I’ll become a “big man’, and help train my younger ones. That was why he made a lot of sacrifices to see me through school,” Shagasha said, with a look of undisguised hatred in his eyes. “After all my suffering, I got no job for two years after graduation. I felt frustrated, humiliated and dehumanized. The people my father borrowed money from for my education were always at our door demanding for their money,” he said bitterly.
“Your father really tried,” Komoko contributed. “When my mother found it difficult to control me, she sent me to live with her brother, who was a teacher. “Brother John will help me impart some discipline on you,” my mother said. He was a known disciplinarian. He believed that indiscipline could be eradicated by corporal punishment,” Komoko said.
What happened? Was your uncle able to bend you?” I asked.
“If he succeeded, I wouldn’t be here. At a point, I found my uncle’s disciplinary measures too draconian. Anytime, I broke a rule, he thrashed me mercilessly. One day, I revolted. As he pulled his belt to give me a good thrash, I snatched it from him. I decided to give him a test of his own medicine. I flogged him with the belt until he ran into his bedroom and locked the door. I packed my things and returned home.”
We busted out laughing, till tears ran down our cheeks.
“All of us had a difficult upbringing. My life have been an uphill task right from youth,” Bone said. He drank all the beer in his glass at a gulf and wiped off the foam that had settled on his moustache. “I am from a poor family and I grew up in the ghetto of Mushin. Hardship characterized my youth,” Bone said.
He’d a face of someone who had known a lot of suffering.
“I started to smoke cigarette and drink alcohol early in life. I soon graduated into smoking marijuana, which we nicknamed “stone”. Emboldened by alcohol and stone, I started to steal with my other friends. We stole anything that was left loose,” Bone expatiated.
“In my own case, my father believed that proper upbringing was the greatest legacy he could leave behind for me but he couldn’t afford it though he tried,” Rasta said. “Everything went on smoothly, until my father caught me making love to one of our neighbor’s daughter in the bathroom. I was thirteen then and the girl was ten. Hell was let loose. The whole adults in our compound held emergency meeting. Disciplinary action to be taken against us was the only item on the agenda. Many suggestions were made but my father’s suggestion was the one accepted.”
“What was it?” I asked curiously.
“Grinded pepper was applied to our sexual organs.”
We busted out laughing again. Komoko had a paroxysm of coughing.
“I lack words to effectively describe my experience that day,” Rasta continued. “After this incident, mothers locked up their daughters, whenever I was around. I wasn’t really the type of boy any conscientious mother would like her daughter to associate with.”
“What did your mother do?” I asked.
“She supported my father’s action. When I was going to school the next day, she refused to give me food. Inside the bus, I was standing near a woman in the overcrowded bus. As the bus approached my school, I snatched her bag and jumped down from the moving vehicle. The force with which I snatched the bag caused the woman to fall out of the bus. I didn’t wait to know if she died or was only injured. I ran off with the speed of lightning. Luckily I wasn’t wearing my school uniform, because it was torn. I couldn’t be traced. I bought myself food with the money I got from the woman’s purse. I became a thief to escape the humiliation of poverty,” Rasta said.
“Komoko, how did you become a driver?” I asked.
“When I returned home, my father took me to a friend of his to train me on how to drive. I was once a driver for PNP, before I joined the Bloody Brothers. Those thieves overused me and were not ready to pay me well, so I quit.”
“How about your father? Is he still alive?” Shagasha asked.
“No, he is dead. He was killed at a police checkpoint for refusing to give bribe.”
“It is very unfortunate, the way our police kill innocent citizens. Chuks, you have not told us anything about your past,” Shagasha said.
I had told them that my name was Chuks.
“It is not different from the rest of you. My parents are poor. I grew up in Ajegunle. Despite my parent’s financial inadequacy, I was able to attain the university, where I read Industrial Chemistry.”
“My God! Then what are you doing here?” Komoko asked.
“Just like Shagasha said, I have been unemployed since I finished my national service.”
“What kind of country is this?” Rasta asked.
“I am the first child of the family and I have nine younger ones,” I said.
“Jesus!” Shagasha shouted.
“I’ve had enough of everything. I want to go and see Grace,” Bone said, stretching as he stood up.
“I better look for a beautiful girl to sleep with me tonight to conclude this celebration,” Rasta said.
“I will join you, Rasta,” Komoko said.
“Alright gentlemen, I am calling it a day. Goodnight all,” Shagasha said, as he picked his car key and stood up. “It has been a great night.” We were all casualties of poverty.
A week later, Bone invited us to accompany him to Grace’s father’s burial. Grace was the daughter of the Chief of Badan. Badan was about one hundred kilometers from Lagos.
In order to fulfill the tradition of the Yoruba people, Bone spent money lavishly, like a drunken sailor. Thanks to our successful operation along Lagos – Benin expressway. The rest of us helped to boost his ego, by equally parting with our money freely. We became the focus of attention in Badan.
During the night party, we’d great fun. Food and drinks were in abundance. Bone and Grace made sure we were well taken care off. On the table next to us, a man was drinking malt.
“Hey brother, are you just out of the hospital?” Shagasha asked.
“Why do you ask?” the man replied.
“Why the hell should a healthy man be drinking this stuff?” Shagasha inquired.
“Is it meant only for those who have just been discharged from hospital?”
“Yep! Or woman,” Shagasha said.
“Do you know that alcohol is a drug and is dangerous? Do you also know that alcoholism is a sickness that can kill, if not arrested in time?” the man asked.
“Skip that. How about Spaniards who drink wine while eating instead of water? Some Germans substitute beer for water. Are all of them alcoholics?”
“If alcohol is that dangerous, why does the government allow the proliferation of breweries in the country?” I asked.
He smiled benignly. “It’s unfortunate really. Too much alcohol always cause avoidable destruction to the body. Alcoholism has physical, mental and social effects on its victims. The physical effects include: blurred vision, impaired balance, liver disease known as cirrhosis and its milder form known as hepatitis, extremely low fertility and reduction of the ability to smell and to hear clearly. The mental effects manifest in the form of amnesia, insomnia and disorganization of sense of judgment. The social effects are even more serious. It leads to broken homes with its attendant social problems, absenteeism from work, general inefficiency and eventual loss of jobs, increased crime waves, juvenile delinquency, death as in the case of drunken drivers and negligence of responsibility,” he said judiciously.
“Who are you? A medical doctor or what?” Komoko asked.
“No, I am a member of A. A.”
“What does that mean?” Rasta asked.
“Alcoholic Anonymous,” the man replied.
“What are you supposed to do?” I asked.
“We’re supposed to help alcoholic victims. Alcoholic anonymous started in U.S.A. in 1935 by a New York drunk, who was a stockbroker and an Ohio surgeon, who was another drunk. Luckily, we have a branch in Lagos, so I hope you’ll come and join us.”
“You’re joking,” Shagasha replied. “To some of us who can handle alcohol, it can be a great fun. But those of you, who can’t, it is good you join Alcoholic Anonymous,” Shagasha advised.
“It’s not easy for anybody to accept that he’s a drunk. But Alcoholic Anonymous has a way you can do a personal diagnosis, by answering some questions.”
“Alright, let’s hear the questions,” Shagasha said, without noticeable enthusiasm.
Rasta and Komoko had lost interest in the discussion. They concentrated in drinking their beer and smoking.
“Do you drink to escape from worry or troubles?” the man continued. “Do you get into financial difficulties from drinking? Do you’ve drinks first thing in the morning to calm your nerves? Have you tried to stop drinking on your own but couldn’t? Have you switched from one kind of drink to another hoping that it’ll help you from getting drunk? Do you’ve marital problems with your spouse? Do you wish people should mind their business and stop telling you what to do?”
“And if the answers are yes, what happens?” I asked.
“If your answer is yes to three or more of these questions, then you need help. Poor feeding makes the effect of alcohol more devastating on the malnourished citizens of the developing countries. Even the World Health Organization (WHO), has condemned the rapidly increasing consumption of alcohol in many third world countries,” the man said dutifully.
“I think this talk has gone far enough. I don’t want to go any further. I am a man and I take a man’s drink. I hate men who have feminine characteristics,” Shagasha said, his eyes flashing with annoyance.
At the end of the argument, I noticed that Rasta and Komoko were watching three expensively dressed ladies, gyrating their buttocks in an alluring manner to the music produced by a popular juju musician.
When the music stopped, Rasta sent for Grace. “Who are those girls with great tits and fat buttocks,” he asked, pointing to the girls where they sat.
“They’re my friends,” Grace replied smiling “Do you like them?”
“Yes,” Rasta replied. “Call them to come over here.” Rasta told her.
Grace invited the ladies to our table and introduced them. They smile coquettishly and sat down.
“What will you like to drink?” Rasta asked.
“Stout,” two of them responded. The third one requested for whiskey or gin; any that was available. She was huge, tending to the fat side.
“We can provide you anything you want,” Rasta told them confidently.
“Komoko, let us get more drinks from the trunk of the car,” Rasta said.
Komoko stood up and Rasta followed him to where the car was parked. We had come along with some cold drinks to avoid shortage. They returned with a carton of big stout and two bottles of scotch whiskey.
The ladies were served the drinks of their choice. They were on their feet again, when the musician resumed playing, followed by Rasta, Komoko and Shagasha. I sat down and watched. When they got to the dancing floor, the three ladies rotated their buttocks so rigorously that they received resounding applause from spectators. The ladies were great dancers. They danced all conceivable styles.
Later that night, they got themselves paired up. Shagasha had the one called Esther. She was beautiful and was wearing trousers and a Tee shirt that fitted her slim body to perfection. Rasta’s partner was Janet. She’d an inviting figure and was very cheerful. She radiated charisma. Komoko had the fat, huge lady. She was very beautiful too. Before we left Badan for Lagos by five thirty, the three ladies had agreed to follow us to Lagos. Shagasha came in his Toyota Celica, while Komoko drove his Mercedes 190E. I wasn’t interested in any woman, I’d a big problem, and I still didn’t know how to solve.
About ten kilometers to Lagos, Komoko ran into an iron bar that was in the middle of the road. He didn’t see it because he was drunk and was on high speed. The iron bar damaged the right rear tire seriously.
Shagasha who was following closely behind avoided running into the Mercedes narrowly. We parked off the expressway. The ladies were asleep and were not aware of what happened.
Komoko opened the trunk of the car and brought out tools to change the tire. At this point, four men emerged from the bush. One was carrying a pistol; another carried a cutlass and the remaining two carried clubs. The one with pistol released two shots into the air.
“Place your hands on your heads and remain still,” he ordered. “Boys search them,” he told his men, covering us with his gun. My mouth hanged open, the wild beating of my heart sounding overwhelming loud in my ears.
“We don’t have money on us. We have spent our money. We are just coming from a party. However, I have some money in the trunk of my car, do I get it?” Shagasha asked.
“Go ahead and get the money. Don’t play any games or you’ll have yourself to blame,” the man with the gun warned.
Shaghasha went to where he parked his car and returned with his gun blazing. The leader and one other fell down dead and the remaining two jumped into the bush and disappeared.
“I wish you a better luck in your next world,” Shagasha proclaimed, with a maniacal gleam in his eyes. My chest was rising and falling with alarming rapidity.
We quickly changed the tire and drove off. The ladies didn’t wake throughout the shooting. They were deadly drunk. When we entered Lagos, Shagasha drove to his house, while Komoko drove to ours.
I knew I was romancing with danger if when I joined the the BB gang. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to cut my losses now, and run --- before it was too late, before I was killed? I knew I ought to run, now, while I still had the chance. Senator Harrison had the money and connections with which to find Biola. At a second thought I decided it was too late to run away, of course, I shouldn’t have come here in the first place. I had to acknowledge the fact that I must do whatever I can to find Biola to be able to get access to the family’s accumulated wealth.
We woke late the next day because of the excess alcohol we consumed at Badan. The two ladies that slept with Rasta and Komoko had left. Bone was still in Badan with Grace. And it seemed to me that the sun had never risen so brightly and with such sparkle as on this morning.
Soon we gathered to relive the experience of the previous day. Komoko brought out the hot drink that was left unconsumed. We began another round of drinking without breakfast.
“I don’t like very beautiful women,” Komoko said, as he swallowed some brandy.
“Why?” I asked.
“To win their love, you’ve to spend a fortune, warding off other competitors.” He fed a cigarette into his mouth and lit it with a lighter. He pulled at the cigarette and released a cloud of smoke.
“You talk like someone having inferiority complex,” Rasta said, lighting his marijuana. I love beautiful girls, no matter the cost of keeping them.” He filled his lungs with smoke and exhaled the smoke slowly.
“But some of them are very unfaithful,” I added.
“That’s when you are not taking good care,” Rasta replied.
“I love them ugly or very fat,” Komoko explained. “These groups of women always lack much attention, so to keep you, they are ready to do anything you ask them to do. I love especially fat women because I don’t have to beat around the bed looking for them. Just stretch out your hand, they are there.”
“I told you, you’re suffering from inferiority complex,” Rasta said emphatically.
“Call it anything, you like. It was a friend, who gave me that strategy and it has always worked. Every time we went to party, he must take a girl home to sleep. I wondered how he always succeeded while I most times failed. I then sought his advice.”
“What did he tell you?” I asked.
“He said that while we ran after beautiful girls, he relaxed and looked for a girl, who wasn’t receiving enough attention. By the time, he moved over and engage the girl in a chat, he would’ve restored the girl’s confidence that at least someone admired her. She would believe, afterall, she was beautiful in her own way,” Komoko explained.
“Ugly and fat girls turn me off,” Rasta complained. “I wouldn’t go for them even if they cost me nothing.”
“One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” I added.
“Since I tried the formula and it worked like magic, I have developed the habit,” Komoko said unrepentantly.
I’d a more serious problem to sort out, so I left them arguing about the shape and looks of women that attracted their fancy and went into my room to think of how to locate Biola’s whereabouts.
Lying lonely in my room, my thought wandered. Then I remembered the second operation I participated after joining the Bloody Brothers. The operation was bloodier than the first.
Our informant in Chiedu Company Limited rushed to our den on the evening of my fourth day, to inform us that the Accountant of the company was going the next day to collect the staff’s salary for the month.
“When do you expect him to be back from the bank?” Bone asked.
“Fine. Do you know how much is involved,” Bone asked eagerly.
“Yes. Five million naira,” the informant replied.
“Are you very sure?” Rasta asked delightedly.
We were at the company the next day exactly at ten o’clock. Bone shot the two policemen, who escorted the Accountant to the bank. They slumped and died instantly. Bone also shot the Accountant three times on the head. He slumped hopelessly to the ground like the dry leaf of a banana plant.
Rasta and Komoko loaded the bags containing the money into our car, while I shot sporadically into the air to scare the other workers away. After Rasta and Komoko had loaded the bags into our car, we rushed into the car and Komoko took off with squealing tires.
When we counted the loot and it was exactly five million naira. Our informant was very accurate.
All these operations have been disturbing me greatly, because I knew that if we were arrested, my plan to locate Biola and rescue her would never materialize. I decided on this personal risk, because our police couldn’t be depended upon to solve any complicated crime. Many cases of missing persons and assassinations were still unsolved.
The third operation was even the boldest and the bloodiest. It was a bank robbery. Komoko and Raska were detailed to investigate the bank’s operations and their security strength. Three days before the operations, they dressed in suits and drove to the bank.
“We moved freely as if we were customers and took note of the bank’s system of operations and their security strength,” Rasta reported, when they returned.
“The bank opens to customers at eight thirty in the morning and close to customers at two o’clock. Between two o’clock and five o’clock, they balanced their books,” Komoko reported.
“How about the security strength?” I asked
“There are two policemen with old Mark IV rifles, two Alsatian dogs and three security men armed with clubs at the gate, while seven security men maintained order in the banking hall,” Rasta replied.
“Does the bank have burglary alarm?” Bone asked.
“No,” Komoko replied. “We specially watched out for it.”
“It won’t be difficult to rob the bank, then,” Bone said encouragingly. “Once we are able to silent the policemen and the dogs, which I don’t think shall be difficult, the bank is ours. What can the security men do with clubs?” Bone concluded.
“When do we carry out the operation?” Rasta asked.
“The day after tomorrow,” Bone said. “It will be a broad day operation. Breaking into banks when they have been locked is not an easy thing. We shall strike exactly at ten o’clock.”
Before the operation on the agreed day, everybody assembled in Bone’s flat. Shagasha had arrived that morning with a big parcel of marijuana and bottles of hot drinks. He was away to Italy while the plan was going on and only arrived the night before.
“Gentlemen, I have come with these stuff to keep you in the mood, so feel free to take as much as you can.”
Everybody rolled a rap of marijuana and lit up. As we smoked, we flushed the smoke down with whiskey.
We drove to the bank in Bone’s Concorde Mercedes bearing fake number, dressed in black suits. Bone sat in the front passenger’s seat, while Komoko was at the wheel. Rasta and I sat behind. Shagasha did not participate.
At the gate, Bone shot the two policemen before they could lift up their Mark IV. I shot the dogs. The security men ran away with a speed that would make Carl Lewis an amateur. I came down and collected the police rifles. When I entered the car, Komoko drove into the bank premises at top speed. Immediately he stopped, we rushed into the bank hall with our pistols drawn.
“Everybody on the floor,” Bone ordered.
One of the cashiers attempted to run.
“Make a move and get your head blown off,” I warned.
The receiving and the paying cashiers had themselves locked up in small cages with small windows at which they paid or received deposits from customers. Rasta, and Komoko forced the doors open. We packed all the money in each of the cages into big bags each of us carried. While we did this, Bone covered everybody in the bank with guns in both hands. Sylvester Stallion would grind his teeth in envy.
One customer dived Bone attempting to disarm him. He shot him dead. Everybody remained motionless. Some citizens who had been able to arrest robbers had been well compensated by the police boss, so the bloody bastard thought Bone was the type an unarmed citizen could arrest. He paid dearly for his folly.
In minutes, the bags of money were inside our car. As we tried to drive out, a car tried to block us. Rasta pulled out his gun and fired at the driver. He slumped against the wheel. The car crashed into an office near the bank injuring some people.
Komoko drove off at a great speed, executing some dangerous maneuvers. Just as he gets to the next junction, the traffic light turned red. He continued without stopping. A car that had moved forward on seeing the light turn green was forced to stop abruptly. The car following it clashed into its rear.
When we counted our haul, on getting to Shagasha’s house, it was ten million naira. That evening, radio and television station announced that the bank manager claimed we made away with fifteen million naira. The dishonest son-of-a-bitch had stolen five million naira for himself.
Lagos was in an uproar, at the audacity and brutality of the bank robbery. The police were baffled.
“Thank you guys. The operation was well planned and beautifully executed,” Shagasha congratulated us.
We decided to take some break and allow the dust to settle. Shagasha rushed in a week after the bank robbery and asked everybody to assemble in Bone’s flat. After we were seated and lighted our marijuana, Shagasha brought out a newspaper and I immediately caught glance of Biola’s picture on the front page. I was anxious to know what had happened to her. “The police are yet to find any clue to the kidnapping of Senator Harrison’s daughter. The boyfriend who was released a few weeks ago from police custody has dropped out of sight. The police have locked up his friend who bailed him. The police will be grateful if any member of the public can give any useful information as to how to find the girl or the boy. Senator Harrison has offered to pay one million naira to anybody who can give valuable information on how his daughter can be found,” Shagasha read from the newspaper. My heart had missed a beat when I heard that Kola had been locked up. It was unfortunate; I could not do anything about it, because I’d to find Biola. Before Locomotive introduced me to Bone, I’d disguised myself. I wore an artificial beard, moustache and side bonds. Not even my parents could have recognized me then. I’d explained to Locomotive that I didn’t want those that knew me to recognize me.
After he read us the news he folded the newspaper and dropped it on the rug. Every one of us looked at him expectantly to know why he read us that piece of news. He reached into his suit’s inner pocket and brought out a cigar. He unwrapped it, bit off the end, and lighted it with a gold lighter. When the cigar was glowing, he took a sip at a glass of beer on a stool by his side. He could talk all night as long as his beer glass was kept full.
“Gentlemen, I’ve just read this piece of news to you because this is the kind of golden opportunity I’ve been waiting for all my life. The idea occurred to me only yesterday, when I came back from Italy. If we can carry out this operation successfully, we’ll spend the rest of our life in luxury.”
“What are you talking about? Come straight,” Bone said impatiently.
Shagasha ignored him and took a mouthful of beer from his glass and emptied the remaining beer in the bottle into the glass. He wiped the back of his hand across his lips. Rasta coughed. The smoke of the marijuana had taken the wrong track.
“I know you’re eager to hear what the operation is all about,” he continued. He took a long drag at his cigar and exhaled the smoke through his nostrils.
“Senator Harrison’s daughter is in the hands of the kidnappers and her father wants her back badly. Her mother’s health has failed, because of Biola’s disappearance.”
This man must be crazy, I said in my mind. Everybody knew that.
“We are going to find her and return her to her father, if he can pay what I shall demand.”
“Where are we going to find her? The police have been looking for her for the past one month without any success,” I said breathlessly, trying to still the wild beating of my heart.
“Forget about the police. If the police have a man with half my talent in organized crime, they would have found the kidnappers. The problem with the police in this country is that people join it as the last resort. There are few gangsters in this Nigeria that can handle a five-million naira operation. And I know them. If it’s not the Red Devils, it’ll be the Underworld Brothers or the Dangerous Buddies.”
“How do you know?” Komoko asked. He picked up his glass and quaffed the whiskey as if it were water. He refilled his glass again and gulped it down.
Shagasha threw back his head and laughed. “I’ve not been in crime for years for fun. It’s likely to be the Red Devils. They have a farm and I suspect that is where they’re keeping the girl. However I shall confirm.”
“If you find out the group holding the girl, what shall we do?” Rasta interjected.
“Eliminate them and take over the girl. Then her father will have to pay twenty million naira, if he wants to see his daughter again,” Shagasha said.
“Don’t be unrealistic,” I said. “Where will the man get twenty million naira from?”
“You don’t know anything? The man has been stealing from the national treasury, it is time somebody steal some of it from him. Do you know how much he was paid for building Domino Housing Estate? He even left most of the houses uncompleted. The man is worth billions.”
“He might not be willing to part with so much money,” I said.
“I know how I’ll handle him. Let’s get the girl first. She’ll help to persuade her father.”
“How’re you sure the girl is even alive?” I ask again.
“My instinct tells me she is alive, especially, if she was kidnapped by the Red Devils. Mojo, their leader loves girl so much, he can’t kill such a beautiful girl. I won’t be surprised if he has been abusing the girl sexually.” That was exactly what happened. When we rescued Biola, she was pregnant.
I heaved a sigh of relief at the prospect that Biola might still be alive. I would think of what to do when we have taken her over. Shagasha promised to come back later that week to give us details of the operation.
“Don’t you think we could be fiddling with a time bomb by involving ourselves with this senator’s daughter? You know the police are always at their best when matter concerns an aristocrat,” Rasta said, his shoulders slumped as if he carried the weight of the world.
“Bullshit,” Shagasha shouted. “Why haven’t they found her? If the police get tough, then we get tough too,” he scoffed. “You want to live forever? To convince you that I mean business, I’m going to take part in this operation,” he said confidently.
“We have been having too many encounters with the police lately. And they are now equipped with sophisticated weapons,” Rasta complained. He stared into his beer as if he might be able to divine the future in its surface.
“Shut up! You yellow fool!’ Shagasha snorted with rage at the suggestion. Senator Harrison will not involve the police in this. I’ll use his daughter to convince him to leave them out of it. This is going to be our last operation. After this, we shall all retire from crime and go into profitable clean business. There will no longer be any encounter with the police.”
Nobody retired to any business, because the operation was bloodier than any of us anticipated.
The operation was very bloody. Shagasha returned that week with details of the operation. The operation was planned for a week ahead. He distributed pistols to us, but I refused to accept. I’d my homemade pistol from Awka. He was surprised I had a gun.
On the eve of the operation, I took my gun completely apart, and cleaned and oiled each piece as the dealer showed me, before reassembling it. On the day of the operation, he brought a black 504-saloon car with foreign number plate. He also handed each one of us a black mask and hand gloves. He brought a roll of marijuana and four bottles of hot drinks. They were meant to give us impetus before the time of the operation. The final instruction was: “Shoot any living thing at sight, except any feminine figure, which might be Biola.” He said’ he’d confirmed that it was the Red Devil that kidnapped Biola.
BB was really a bloody gang. Bone told me that they were the best-organized gang. “A group was once trying to outclass us, so Shagasha had to send them a Christmas present. On the eve of Christmas, he sent them a well-wrapped time bomb. The bomb was spring – triggered to detonate when the package was opened. All the members of the gang were wiped out, and their den severely damaged. For weeks, curiosity seekers drove slowly by the bomb-damaged building, their mouths hanging open at the signs of raw violence.”
Casting a smirk of contempt at Bone, I shouted, “My God!”
As we waited for departure time, Bone asked what each one of us would do with our share of the ransom. Everyone said what he hoped to spend his fortune on, ranging from the practical to the unrealistic and the wasteful.
“I shall collect Grace and go abroad. I’ve been dying to see U.S., especially Hollywood where I learnt that most of the world’s famous film actors live. I might settle there and never come home again,” Bone told us. Komoko said he would pack into an expensive hotel and live there till he died. Rasta said he would like to create a record by making love to almost all the women in the country. “With that kind of money in my pocket it won’t be difficult,” he added. I told them I had made no plans, but would do any thing that appealed to me, when I receive the money. Shagasha had gone to collect something from his duplex. A sense of unresolved business hung over me dampening my mood.
At eleven forty-five, we drove off in the black 504. We arrived at the farm by mid-night. To our greatest surprise the lights in the farmhouse were on as if the Red Devils were expecting us. Rasta suggested we plan the operation for another day, but Shagasha refused. “It is today and no other day,” he affirmed.
We alighted from the car half a kilometer to the gate of the farm. Kokomo drove the car some distance into the bush. We walked towards the farm with our pistols drawn. We entered the farm by climbing over the fence because the gate, not unexpectedly, was locked. “Spread out,” Shagasha ordered. Immediately we were inside the farm, we raced to the house. I ran toward the rear and Komoko followed. As we were trying to force the back door open, we heard a shot. Someone screamed.
“Bone is already in action,” Komoko said. “He is always trigger-happy.”
As if this shot ignited the members of the Red Devils they came out from all available entrance to the house with their guns blazing. I ran back to take cover in a small bush near the back of the house. Komoko ran away to where I knew not. From where I lay, I saw one of the Red Devils shooting into the night, at nobody in particular. The shots were mainly to scare than to kill. I took a good aim and squeezed my trigger. He gave a wild scream. His gun fell out of his hand. He took a few tottering steps before he dropped face down.
I looked at my gun. It was smoking. Tears clouded my eyes. This was the first time I’d ever killed a fellow human being. But for the sake of Biola I had killed, and was ready to kill more. I loved her more than any other living thing. I wiped tears from my eyes with the back of my hand. The night was alive with gunshots coupled with screams of the wounded and the dying. Nobody appeared through the back door again. I lay in the bush listening to the shooting inside the house. At the time, I thought I could join the rest inside the house; a man appeared through the door dragging Biola. At the sight of Biola, confirming she was alive, I felt an unexpected surge of pleasure. I quickly got hold of myself and ran after them. I couldn’t shoot at the man for fear that I might get Biola instead. The man was moving very fast and Biola was following like a zombie. I shouted her name, but she didn’t stop. The man replied with some shots in my direction. Bullets zipped pass my face.
When I was near them, the \man opened fired on me again. Luckily, I saw him in time, so I threw myself to the ground. When I stood up, I ran zigzag fashion towards them. When I got reasonably close, I dived the man’s legs. He fell and his gun fell out of his hand. He tried to get hold of it again, but I kicked it further away. A tough struggle ensued. Biola continued running without looking back. The man was really strong. He nearly subdued me but I wasn’t a black belt holder in karate for fun. My instructor had told me that hitting was not important, but hitting and hurting was. Every hit must have a target, and every target a reason. “For effective hit aim at best targets like groin, throat, solar plexus et cetera,”he instructed. I hardened my fist and drove it into his groin. He became motionless. I bent down and picked his gun.
As I was straightening up, Bone appeared. “Did you see Mojo and the girl? They have escaped,” he said. His breathing was hurried. I pointed to the ground and he saw Mojo lying still motionless.
“And where is the girl?” he asked.
“She ran away.”
“Let’s go in search of her,” Bone said, moving into the dark bush. I followed.
“How about the others?” I asked.
“Rasta has been wounded and Shagasha is dead. I haven’t seen Komoko,” he said without any sign of sympathy. “The fewer we are when we get the girl, the richer we shall be,” he said.
If you think you’re getting a kobo by kidnapping this girl, you better think again, I said in my mind. We continued the search for over two hours without any sign of Biola. As we made through the bush, thunder rumbled in the distance like the boom of cannon. I drew my shirt around me when a chilling wind rifled through the trees. The weather had taken a turn for the worse. The low-hanging gray clouds threatened to burst at any moment, releasing their torrent upon the earth below. The wind picked up. Branches swayed in the trees.
I looked up. “Looks like we’re in for a drenching.”
The bush became very dark and we’d no source of light. Soon the rain started to pour down. We could find no escape from the relentless deluge. The rain continued to pour down on us as we searched for Biola. Each hour’s passing seemed like a year to me.
We saw a crevice among the rocks; we headed for the opening at once, believing she might have taken shelter there. Although the cave seemed small, it took my full height. I shivered so much that my teeth chattered. I gathered up a meager supply of firewood and found a few stones to try to strike them to make a spark.
After almost thirty minutes of rubbing the stone together, I became discouraged, about to give up when at last the small pile of wood finally ignited. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much dry wood to use for fuel, but the fire provided enough warmth to give us at least some relief from the dampness.
When the fire began to glow, we saw Biola lying on the floor of the cave about three meters from us. I guessed she got tired, fell down and went to sleep. Bone went to her quickly but I was already down on my knees, checking if she was all right. I was careful so that Bone didn’t detect I knew her.
“She looks all right,” Bone said.
I put my hand to her brow. Her skin felt hot. “She has fever,” I declared.
Waiting for the rain to subside, we curled up before the fire trying to draw warmth from the small blaze.
“I’m so cold.” I murmured.
“Same as me,” Bone said.
When the rain subsided, I hoisted her over my shoulders in fireman’s carry and started to walk out of the bush. I began to walk fast trying to get to the car as fast as I could. I didn’t slow down when the path started steeply up a small hill. My breathing became labored and my heart pounded with exertion, but still, I didn’t slacken my pace. It was a tedious walk. Though Biola had lost a considerable weight since she was kidnapped, she was still heavy. When we got to Mojo, he was just regaining consciousness. I told Bone to find a rope, tie his hands together and bring him along. On our way to the car, Bone offered to help me but I refused. I didn’t want the brute to touch my darling with his bloody hands. As we emerged from the bush, Komoko walked towards us.
Bone hissed. “So this bastard is still alive?” he said tactlessly.
“Please get the car down here,” I told Komoko.
He saw the girl on my shoulder and ran off without asking any question. We arrived at our den by four o’clock. In the car, Komoko told us that Rasta was dead. We carried Biola to Rasta’s bed and left her to sleep. We locked the door. It was later, I understood she was under the influence of drug. We handcuffed Mojo and chained his legs to Bone’s bed, before we went to sleep.
In the night, I lay awake tossing over the iniquitous Mojo. I didn’t know when I slept off. When I woke in the morning, I started to rise, but I drew back in pain. My muscles felt stiff and sore from the fight with Mojo and carrying Biola out of the bush. After a few minutes, I got up reluctantly and trudged to Rasta’s room.
I went to see if Biola was awake. I opened Rasta’s flat but she was not there. I was shocked. A shiver ran through my body. I rushed to tell Bone. But he was gone also, but Mojo was still there. To say that his bedroom was in disarray would be an understatement; it looked as if a hurricane had struck it. It was a sign that Bone left in a hurry. Rage poured through me like molten lava. I fought against it, knowing that now more than ever I needed control of myself, for my sake and for Biola’s. I went to Komoko’s flat and found him still sleeping. I shook him awake.
“Where is Bone?” I demanded, as my eyes widened with indignation.
“I don’t know. I’ve been sleeping since we came back. Is he not in his flat?”
“Don’t sit there and ask me stupid questions,” I barked. “Bone has disappeared with the girl.”
Komoko jumped to his feet. “What? Disappeared?”
“No. Vanished,” I said angrily. “Motherfucker.” A lump of anger formed in my throat. With enormous effort I swallowed it.
“How about Mojo?”
“He is still there. Of what use is he?”
“He could tell us when Bone left.”
We went to interrogate mojo. “I saw Bone packing in a hurry but I don’t know where he has gone to.” I didn’t take kindly to having my loved one kidnapped right under my nose, nor did I cherish the humiliation I underwent with the police and Senator Harrison.
“Do you know if he went with Biola,” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
I went to him and slapped his face with all my might. “You don’t know anything. If you hadn’t kidnapped Biola, I wouldn’t be in this mess,” I told him. I realized that I could, when truly pressed, be a very dangerous man.
“When did he leave?” Komoko asked.
Mojo coughed, clearing his throat nervously. “Almost immediately you went away. He didn’t sleep.”
“Why did you kidnap Biola?” I asked wanting to do him more physical damage. He might be the guy who knocked me out, on that fateful day, I thought.
“Chief Duro paid us to kidnap her.”
“Chief Duro? The politician?” I asked with utter disbelief.
My blood felt near to boiling. “Did he say why?”
“He claimed her father ordered him to be kidnapped during the last election.”
“Why didn’t he kidnap her father? Is Biola a politician? Chief Duro must be an idiot,” I fumed.
“Old boy, stop wasting time asking irrelevant questions, let’s go in search of Bone and the girl,” Komoko said.
I cleared my throat before, I asked, “Where do we start?”
“Grace’s house. If we move fast, we’ll meet him there.”
“No. We won’t go there now. We’ll wait till dusk. Bone can’t escape before tomorrow. He will try to get the ransom today. Do you know where Grace lives?”
“I need a drink,” I said.
We walked across the street to a bar. Komoko asked for whiskey and I ordered brandy. When it came, I drank it down in a single swallow. I sighed. I took a deep breath.
For several moments, I forgot my pains as we sat drinking, watching and listening to the awesome panorama of the bar.
Later that evening we gave Mojo drugged food, before we left for yet another tough operation.