Mr. Oforka was buried in his iPad but raised his head when the car began to slow down.
“Jonah, what is going on, why are you slowing down?” He asked his driver.
“Oga, there are people standing in the middle of the road.”
The driver parked the car as he was unable to move any further, the chief security came to stand by Mr. Oforka’s window, signalling to him to wind down.
“Good evening sir, I think there is something you should see.” Mr. Yinka said as the glass partitioning slid into the door.
Yinka handed Mr. Oforka the piece of paper when he got to the little gathering, he read it and read it again to be sure that he read it right.
“Is this some sort of a joke?!” He asked under his breath.
“We don’t know, it got delivered at the gate earlier in the day.” Mr. Yinka offered.
“So we have called the police and informed of the situation.” One of the residents replied.
“This could just be a prank, kids these days have no respect for boundaries.” Margaret said, thankful her husband had chosen not to come out to join the raucous, as he called it.
“Kedu ebe e no? (where are you?)” Mr. Oforka asked the person at the other end of the line after the dail tone.
“I am at home.” He could hear the agitation in his wife’s voice, “I have just finished hiding the valuables in the house in the safe.”
Mr. Oforka’s gaze went to the briefcase lying on the seat in the car. He felt fear run down his spine.
“I am with other residents at the gate, the police are on their way. Maybe all these is just a prank. I sure hope it is.” He heard his wife sigh. “Don’t worry my love, everything will be alright as soon as the police arrive.” He was soon talking when the police arrived, their siren piercing the subdued atmosphere in the estate, lifting the spirits of its residents.
The officer who seemed to be in charge, exchanged pleasantries with Mallam Shehu before he walked up to the chief security officer, who handed him the piece of paper.
He squinted as he looked at the paper, raised it up against the dying light of the sun and began to read out loud.
“Good day beautiful residents of Hilob estate, this is to inform you of our intention to visit your humble abode today to collect what is due us. Our advise is for you to corporate fully with us, so the operation will be smooth and quick. Country no good but man must whack. You people can spear some from your plentiful bounty. Deuces.”
Officer Linus read it again, this time quietly before turning to speak to the eager ears of the residents.
“I want to believe this is some sort of prank.” He paused to allow the murmuring in the crowd to dissipate before he continued, ‘notwithstanding, we are going to post men at the gate and a few will be on patrol. So have no fear, go about your daily activities, we are here for you.”
The crowd stood around to ask questions and deliberate the Officer’s words before they gradually began to disperse.
When Oforka got home, he ran upstairs and stowed away the briefcase in the safe along with his wife’s jewelry. Meanwhile up the drive, two buildings away, Mallam Shehu’s son; Audu, crept down from the hole in the ceiling, covered in dust and cobwebs, into the waiting arms of his father.
“Did you hide it well?” Shehu asked, his forehead furrowed with concern. The little boy nodded, “Tor, go and eat, ka ji ko?” Tension eased, he went back into the living room to join his wife.
At the Okafor’s resident, the air was tense, Iron Jack was watching the news, intent on ignoring his wife who was suggesting that they go to a hotel for the night with their grand kids.
“Woman, I am trying to watch the news here!”
“You never listen, that is your biggest flaw, would it kill you for once to do what I ask of you?!” His wife pleaded.
“So you suggest I leave my own home because some hoodlum wants me to?! Let them come, I am waiting.”
Margaret sighed in frustration and stormed out of the living room. Iron Jack followed her movement with his eyes, hissed and went back to watching his TV. There was no way he would leave his home for fear of some nobody’s.
The car passed the gate for the umpteenth time that evening masked by the traffic in the area, its occupants had been banking on that. The driver drove further down the road and parked, while one member disembarked pretending to want to relieve himself.
The security at the gate had become lax in the last hour, the police had now taken seats in their pick up truck while another smoked a cigarette in a chair by the gate, slightly away from the others. The light in the security post had been turned off, indicating that the police were the only ones on duty now.
The guy who was pretending to take a leak walked calmly to the officer who was smoking.
“Who goes there?!” He barked, cocking his rifle.
“Good evening officer, abeg make I use your lighter.” The young man said calmly, still walking towards the officer who was now standing.
“Stop there, I said stop there!!” The officer barked walking menacingly towards the approaching stranger.
As he got within touching distance of the nondescript young man, he noticed movements out of the corner of his eyes, just as he turned to see what it was. The young man with lightening quick reflex disarmed him and in one swoop movement, floored the officer, his own weapon caressing his forehead. He looked sideways to find his colleagues all tied up and gagged, surrounded by men holding assault rifles. It was not a joke after all, these men meant business.
Mike returned to the bedroom with two cups of juice, his eyes fell on the figure draped in bed sheets in his bed.
“It is a damned shame that you have to cover up all that beauty.” She chuckled as he came to sit beside her in bed.
Atinuke sat up, taking the glass he offered, she took a sip and placed the cup on the bedside table. She pulled Mike close and planted a kiss on his lips, Mike reached under the covers and pulled her naked body to his. He kissed her with such fierceness he felt as though he was without breath, yet he did not stop. Atinuke ripped the T-shirt off his body and made space for him to get under the covers with her.
Mike got on top of her, his eyes consumed by the desire in hers, he kissed them, then her ear, her neck and just as his mouth was about to cover the swells on her chest, there was a knock on the door. He ignored it. He continued his exploration of the beautiful canvass before him, yet the knock persisted, unable to ignore it. He jumped out of bed, determined to give the person at the door a good hiding.
“Gimme a minute.” He said apologetically as he shuffled to the front door.
His jaw dropped when he flung open the door to reveal who was behind it.
The men locked the security post with the policemen and two other security guards in it; all tied up and gagged.
“Which flat we dey go?” One of the men asked.
“Flat 5, na there the money dey. Then we go just go round collect offering from the other flats, make them no know say na information we carry come.” The leader said walking down the long graveled road of Hilob Close.
The street lights were on and the road well lit, so they kept to the side, their weapons concealed in the shadows. They soon got to Flat 5, the leader signaled to two of his men to go to the back door, then asked this remaining companions to stay out of sight. Satisfied, he knocked on the door gently, no answer. He tried again, no answer, he tried a third time, this time harder and firmer. The lights came up and a voice indoor asked.
“Wa ye? (Who is it?)”
“Sergeant Momoh ne, (It is Sergeant Momoh), please I need water for my boys.”
“You know what time it is?!” Mallam Shehu voice asked irritated.
“Sorry sir, we had no choice.”
Mallam Shehu became suspicious, there were about eight houses before his on both sides but these people walked straight to his home to ask for water. Something did not add up. He turned on the light on his front porch.
“Step into the light lemme see you.” He asked peering out the corner of the curtain, his eyes searching the night. As the man came into sight, he had a gun pointed at him, shock made him freeze.
“Open the door or everyone in your house dies. Now!!” The man threatened, each word dripping with menace and rage. ‘The house is surrounded, so do as I say, because if I have to force my way inside, walai you will regret it!” On cue his friends came into view.
The door clicked several times and finally opened, Mallam Shehu was already on his knees, hands held up, begging for his life and that of his family.
“Go and wake your family.” The leader told Mallam Shehu. “Conte, follow him, make sure he does nothing stupid.”
They returned moments later, the leader asked all of them to lie down in the living room.
“Where is the money?!”
Without prompting Shehu went into his bedroom and came back with a plastic bag, which he handed to the masked leader.
The leader, checked the contents of the bag, chuckled and handed it to one of colleagues, he kicked Shehu in the stomach.
“Bastard, where is the money?! I am not talking of this chump change. Where is the 5000 dollars you came back with today?”
That revelation shocked Mallam Shehu, how did he know that? Even his wife did not know he had that amount of money in the house. She would not have approved but he was due to fly out tomorrow, first thing and it had seemed like a good idea at the time.
“Ah, oga no such money here!” Salima whispered in between sobs.
“Yes oga, there is no 5000 dollars in the house, I have handed you all the money in the house.” Shehu said.
“Ehn?! Okay, Bucket, waste one of the children.”
Bucket stood over Aisha, who was shivering on the floor and cocked his rifle.
“Wait, wait. I will give you the money. Just don’t my daughter.” Shehu said getting up.
Salima looked at her husband, her eyes wide with shock. “Mallam you have 5000 dollars in this house?!”
Shehu did not answer, as he led the thieves to the spot where he had hidden the money. He pointed to the spot and Bucket asked Shettima, one of Shehu’s son to come get the money. He climbed up and came back with the money stuffed in a plastic bag. He handed the money to one of the thieves, who ordered him to go join his siblings on the floor.
“Oya Mallam, you are coming with us.” The leader said to Shehu.
“Please do not harm my husband.” Salima pleaded, her voice muffled by the floor.
“I promise but only if he does as he is told. Bucket collect all their phones, if you contact the police, he dies.” With that they disappeared out of the door.
Rita stood staring at Mike wondering why he looked he had seen a ghost.
“What are you doing here, thought you were not due back till tomorrow?!”
“Yes but the seminar ended early and decided to come back and surprise you. I tried your phones and they were both turned off.”
Mike swore under his breath, he always switched his phone off any time he was with other women, it seemed like a good idea but it had come to bite him in the behind.
“Mike let me in, I am tired. It was a long flight and the ride down here was hell.” She pushed him out of the way and barged into the sitting room and flopped down into a couch. “Why are you acting strange, I thought you’d be glad to see me?!” She could not hide the disappointment in her voice.
“It is not that I am not happy to see you, I am just surprised to see you.”
Something caught Rita’s eyes and immediately she knew why Mike was acting strange.
“Is someone here?! I swear Mike, if there is another woman here, I swear to God!” She pushed past Mike and headed to the bedroom. She found Atinuke, frantically trying to get dressed. She stood frozen in her track. She spurn around and headed towards the front door.
“Mike you are a bastard!! I told you I will never take this shit from you. You are a piece of shit.”
“Where are you headed?!”
“Home!!” Rita screamed, her voice muffled by the tears brewing in her throat.
“Please Rita hold up, look at the time, you will never find a taxi at this time!”
“I will walk! Leave me alone!!”
“Mike what the hell is going on here?!” Atinuke asked her voice seething with rage.
“Fuck my life. Atinuke please hold on. Rita lemme get my key and at least drop you off.’
“Fuck you Mike, don’t you dare come near me.” Rita screeched.
Atinuke slapped Mike hard across the face, causing Rita to turn and face them.
“You said you were single.” Atinuke stated.
“He is now.” Rita added and continued on.
Braving the sting on his face, he chased after Rita who was walking determinedly down the street.
“Rita wait, baby please wait.” He called after her
Mike followed Rita into the quiet night, aware that Atinuke was probably in his house wreaking havoc but determined to win Rita back. He followed Rita at a distant, pleading with her to stop but she didn’t. Then he noticed something that made him stop in his track. He had come home later than usual and as such did not know of the impending robbery, he had thought the heavy security at the gate was just another frivolity of the rich residents of the close and had paid no mind to them.
So as he saw six armed men walking towards them, his first instinct was self preservation.
“Babe, stop!!” He whispered. Something in his voice made Rita stop. “Look up, thieves!”
Rita looked up and saw the men walking down menacingly towards them, they had Mallam Shehu with them, a gun was pointed to his head.
“Stop there!” One of the thieves commanded.
That was all Rita needed to here and immediately took to her heels heading back towards Mike’s open arms. They ran as fast they could towards his flat.
“Stop there!” The voice shouted again. When they did not stop, a gunshot rang out into the middle of the night.
As soon as they got to his house Mike threw the door close, turned off the light and threw himself on the floor.
“What was that sound?!” Atinuke asked, surprised to see Rita.
“Get down now!! Thieves!!! They are chasing us!!”
“Ehn!!2 Atinuke flung herself on the floor. “Jesu!! Thieves!!! Thieves!!!”
“Would you shut up!” Mike murmured.
I ‘ve seen that many of you had concerns as the story was a bit confusing but that was because the writer was taking you through the lives of the different characters. Now that the action has begun I hope that you enjoy the read as much as I did.
Lots of love