This will be the last time. But that was the same thing he said the last time and the time before. Yet, he is determined never to walk down this road again. He has been remembering the faded memory of his mother too often of recent. Sometimes she wears a wig like she does in the photo his father has displayed on the mantelpiece and sometimes she only wears a smile with the rest of her body blacked out. Her eyes tell him everything he wants to know. Her smile is one of dissatisfaction. Today will be the last time.
They had planned everything. It will be simple enough, entry and exit will be clean. This is what bothers him. He hated plans that were easy and straight forward. The more complicated, the better. But he had neither a choice nor a say in this matter. He wonders how the rest of the crew will react later tonight when he tells them he is done. It has been five years. They were fam, blood but he has to stop.
Sting walks into the room, his diamond studs twinkling on his right earlobe like a star in a dark night. Even if he hadn’t seen him, he would have smelt him. He had a distinctive body odour. That was the first thing that had struck him that day five years ago when he had rolled under a packed “danfo” to escape the chasing mob. The five minutes he spent waiting out the crowd was enough for him to get used to the smell for lifetime “Ready?” Sting asked.
There were murmurs from around the room and he had an overwhelming urge to tell them he wanted out. He didn’t. “Let’s go!”
They shouldn’t have any problems. They had stalked the target’s social media page and knew he would be away for at least a week. He still posted pictures of he and his family from their Dubai trip a few hours ago. He had tweeted at someone that his younger sister would be home. AY had run into her and they had quickly become friends. He will be letting them in.
All they wanted was the content of the safe. Sting hadn’t revealed how he found out about the safe and its contents. It was worth five million naira. This was the largest heist they had ever been part of and they had to bring in two others to make five. AY was one, the other was the man’s driver. The driver lived in the Boy’s Quarters and his job was to leave the gate open and stay out of the way after. The Mai Guard would be praying at this time. They were to complete operations before he completes his prayers. Nothing could possibly go wrong.
Sting had the gun. He never carried a gun. Ake carried a knife which he hardly ever used. They never resorted to violence… There was just this one time, but it was the only time. He had taken a walk round the compound earlier in the day and he knew the terrain quite well. Once more he felt that tug, the urge to back out. He ignored it.
He looks at his watch, it is exactly 8pm. He can hear the muezin call in the distance as they make it towards the gate. He was to act as the sentry at the gate, just in case anyone chooses to pay an unexpected visit in the ten minutes they will be in the house. Sting and Ake will go in tie up AY and the girl; get the jewels out of the safe and walk right out. It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn’t asked if Sting knew the combination for the safe …It was too late to ask.
He tried to get his thoughts together. Perhaps he will go back to school. At 22 it isn’t too late for him to try to get a degree. His father had tried to talk him into getting one earlier but he hadn’t been ready. He remembers that day, under the danfo when he first met Sting, how he levitated between holding his breath and holding down his morning meal due to the stench coming out of Sting’s body. He should have been in school that day but he had chosen to try out something he had watched in a movie and make some fast money. He had waited out the angry mob and when he wanted to leave, Sting had stopped him, saved him actually, he was older in the game and knew there was always that one person who would not leave with the crowd. The man had finally left convinced that he had vanished into thin air. “Sting,” Sting had said as they rolled out from under the bus and they had become friends from that moment.
The sound of the gun shot brought him back to reality. It had come from within the house leaving him quite confused. They had agreed no shooting. The sound of a scream from the house reverberated forcing the Mai Guard to abandon his prayers and start running towards the house. He watched him go, hoping his comrades will be running out any moment. Instead he hears AY screaming. It took him a while to realise what AY was saying then it registered.
He slips out of the compound as soundlessly as he can and then begins to walk away leisurely at first as the crowd begins to gather, no one pays him any heed. He stops himself from breaking into a run, that would be fatal. He gets to the car. Ake had left the key in the ignition. He gets in and drives off slowly. He would drive towards Seme and then disappear. The only hello they will be getting from him will be from the other side of the border.[color-box] Abigail Anaba is a writer, teacher and thinker. She has been in the writing business for about fifteen years where she worked mostly in the movie and TV industry with writing credits to “Eve”, “I Just Came Back”, among others. She recently published her debut novel, SectorIV. [/color-box]
“Iyen ko la n so jare ogbeni, that’s not why we’re here. Leave smartness alone and focus on why I brought her to you in the first place. A l’omo n so kati kati o n s’oro smart. I need to be sure nothing is wrong with my daughter before anything else. Can you assure me of that?”Doctor Bode had been our family doctor for as long as I could remember, so Dad’s somewhat rude antics didn’t faze him one little bit. His benevolent smile just grew wider, and his eyes more reassuring. “Chief, I can categorically tell you that nothing is wrong with Tunmishe. It’s probably the stress of her upcoming bar exams that’s getting to her. I’m willing to bet she has not been getting enough rest lately due to her reading schedule, so I’ve instructed the nurse to give her some tablets to help her sleep. Once she takes those and gets some rest, she’ll be as right as rain. Trust me on this Chief.’’ “Okay o Doctor, I will if you say so but if you saw what I saw last night you would be worried too. I couldn’t wait for the day to break before rushing her here. However, since you say it’s rest she needs, then I will make sure she gets enough it. Exam kan o le wa s’omo l’ese fun mi, ti o ba see se l’odun yi a de se l’odun to n bo. It’s not like she hasn’t done enough to dust the exam sef.” Turning aside to face me, he continued speaking. “Sebi you heard him with your own ears Tunmishe. Please, take it easy o. Exams will come and go and I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Mo fori iya e be e, jo o ma ko ba mi o.” I didn’t say anything, although I wanted to. Wisdom made me just sit there like a zombie, looking contrite and nodding gently repeatedly, waiting for him to finish so that we could go home. Eventually we left the office, Dad walking in front looking regal in his expansive white agbada with the doctor and his flapping white coat in tow. I followed, a few paces behind both of them. Doctor Bode accompanied us to the garage where both of them leaned against the smoothly tiled wall and spent some additional minutes animatedly discussing their teams’ exploits in the English Premier League. Dad loved his football and never missed any opportunity to discuss it with whoever was remotely willing, sometimes even with people who were not. Finally he looked at his watch and realized that time was far spent. “Oshe gan ni Bode, maa tu ma a ri e. I will definitely give you call you in a week or two at most. I think I want to come for my regular checkup a few weeks ahead of schedule sef. The way people are just succumbing to strokes and heart attacks left and right these days is a big cause for concern. Ko ju ma ri bi, gbogbo ara loogun e.” “No problem Chief. Anytime you’re ready just call me. You know our doors are always open to you and yours, any day of the week.” “Oshee mister open door, hospital wa je bi t’eeyan a maa sere lo ni gbogbo igba abi, bi eatery or amusement park? Oloun ma je a r’aisan la n gba l’adura l’ojoojumo, and as if your fees are not exorbitant enough. Gbese re o!” Dad burst into loud laughter and Doctor Bode joined in. I watched disinterestedly from where I stood a few feet away. At last we said goodbye and got into the car, Dad as usual spread out at his preferred ‘owner’s corner’ while I deliberately chose to sit beside Nnamdi the driver, to avoid being lectured by Dad about the need for adequate rest all the way home. The ploy didn’t deter him that much. ***** He was waiting for me. Dressed in all-black attire and invisible to all but me, he sprawled just beside Tolulope on the living room sofa, his long legs stretched out in front of him as if he belonged there. His shoes peeking out from beneath the coffee table were black too. Tolu jumped up and ran to hug me immediately we entered, totally oblivious of his presence as usual, just like Dad and Nnamdi, who had followed us inside carrying Dad’s black leather bag. The black bag, very similar to those preferred by Jehovah’s witnesses on their evangelism forays accompanies Dad everywhere he goes, except maybe the shower and the toilet. It is always on the bed beside him while he sleeps. Maybe I should even start to call it mommy. He watched me greet Tolu. He watched me flop down on the single seat beside the water dispenser and fling my shoes carelessly in the direction of the rack near the visitor’s toilet. That habit used to annoy mom when she was still alive but now nobody cared. Tolu resumed her seat on the sofa and picked up the novel she had dropped earlier. He watched me pretend as if I didn’t know he was there, knowing I did. How could I not? Even if I wasn’t looking at him directly, his presence hummed silently through the air and touched my skin with its energy, making the fine brown hair stand on end. Who could ignore that? Just as I settled back into the welcoming seat to focus my attention on the ice skating event showing on television, he opened his mouth and started singing. It was that song again. I am okay, totally healthy and not hallucinating according to Doctor Bode. What then would explain Jude, sitting there as handsome as ever, dressed just like he was that night two years ago, when he died an untimely death on that dark and twisted campus road, a victim of my drunk and reckless driving. That song again, loud and hollow, it haunts me alone, just like the accusing look on his mangled face. “Hello from the other side…” ***** By @Maskuraid