Paul had never being good at anything, he never excelled at school, never got along with his peers but there was one thing he excelled at; and that was taking things that didn’t belong to him. At first it had started with taking the pencils of his classmates, then he moved on to stealing their lunch, over time he graduate to stealing money from his parents and neighbors when they were not looking. He was not particularly bright, so no one ever suspected he was capable of stealing.
Growing up in a rough neighbor with absentee parents had helped also hone and chisel his craft and on his fifteen birthday, he dropped out of school, to learn a trade as a vulcanizer but that did not stick. He soon joined a group of younger boys who specialized in robbing pedestrians at night and they terrorized the neighborhood, so much so the cops were called in to help stave them.
At age 27, Pablo; as was his street name after the late Colombian drug lord, who he idolized, had become a full blown criminal with a rap sheet longer than both his forearm. Extortion, larceny, armed robbery, kidnapping, fraud, he did it all. His picture hung on the notice board of all the major police station in Abuja but had never once being caught, that was because, he liked to take the low key jobs; jobs that did not raise too much noise or involve too much risk. If it was too risky, he always shunted the job to someone else.
That was until the economy in the country went belly up and his ventures started to yield less and less each day and he knew he had to take that risk, just once to make up what he was losing.
One day, one of the men he ran along with, brought him a job that involved loads of cash with minimal risks and against his better judgement he took the job. It was after all, a stick up.
Fast forward 48 hours later as he cowered behind a car, bullets flying about, he knew he should have declined the job and stick to what he knew best, low risk jobs with 100% guarantee of safety.
He looked over at Bucket, lying in the middle of the road, his blue shirt sporting wet, red dots, he felt a cold chill run down his spine. Who was shooting at them? The policemen were locked away in the security post, their informant had not made mention of any extra security tonight, so who was shooting at them?
A huge boom, sounded from somewhere to his left; a gun, he had never heard that sound before and he had been around so many to be able to tell them apart!
He decided then and there, he was not going to die here, with or without the money, he was determined to escape this place.
He fired blind shots in the direction of the Honda and ran to join the three remaining members of his gang, just as he approached them, he heard that sound again and a shearing pain tore through his leg. He crashed into the others, clutching his legs and moaning.
“Walai, them don shoot me! Where that shot come from?”
“Upstairs, from the corridor.” Ronaldo; nicknamed after the Portuguese footballer.
“What about the men for that Honda?” Pablo asked, his face contorted in pain.
‘”them don run enter that house.”
Two sets of shooters, what was going on here?!
“How long has this being going on?!” The words poured out like venom from Rita’s mouth.
“Babe, can we not do this now, can’t you hear what is going on outside?!”
“I swear to God, I will run outside screaming if you do not answer me! How long have you being screwing this prostitute?!”
“I will not stand for you calling me a prostitute.” Atinuke growled.
Rita lunged at her with her full might but Mike stopped halfway through her course.
“Please can you ladies calm down, world war 3 is going on outside and you are here bickering.”
Those words seemed to trigger something in both women and they immediately turned their rage at Mike and started raining punches at him.
Mike was a lover and not a fighter and knew that with two against one the odds were greatly against him, he broke free and ran into the bedroom, locking the door behind him, the voices of the angry ladies trailing after him, their angst against each other forgotten and now focused on a common enemy.
“You will not stay in the room forever, you will surely come out to meet us.’ Atinuke” said from the behind the door.
Mike was determined to stay as long as possible inside this room, till the women cooled down or were placated.
Meanwhile on the balcony of the Okafor’s resident, Jackson was looking down at the street, adrenaline like he had not felt in years coursing through his tiring body, he had not felt this alive in years, his heart was pumping so hard, he had to sit down a bit to gather himself. He missed the feeling of living on the edge, ever since he got married, he had had to tone down but tonight he felt as if he could take on a whole battalion.
From his vantage point he searched both ends of the streets for any signs of life and found none, he knew they were still out there, hiding, waiting. Time to take the fight to them.
“Any child that says his mother will not sleep, will also not sleep. Stupid thieves, they will rue the day they picked this neighborhood for their nonsense.”
He went inside loaded up on ammunition’s and headed for the back door. As a resident, he knew all the nooks and cranny of Hilob estate better than these miscreants; through the path behind his wife’s garden, he could walk down till he got to the Gbenga’s the first building in the close and with the cover of night and the cars, the criminals will be easy pickings.
“Maggie, come and shut the door.” He called out to his wife.
“Papa Uche, where are going, are you going out there?’ She asked terrified.
“Someone has to teach those punks a lesson. Since our policemen have proved incapable of that, maybe it is up to me to teach this generation a lesson or two.”
“Biko zie nna’m, (please my my love), do not go out there. I do not want to lose you, who would I stay in the huge house with if you are gone?!’ Her voice began to quake, she was visibly shaken and distraught.
“Shut up woman and just shut the door, nothing will happen to me. I will be very careful.” With that he stepped out the door.
Maybe he was a little harsh on his wife, he thought to himself as he skulked through the night but it was the only way she would have let him leave. He really had to show these boys who was boss and discourage future criminals about the folly of attempting to disrupt the peace they enjoyed here.
He gradually shuffled through the well cut grass, his Tommy gun, up and his trigger finger ready to pull.
Twenty minutes later, he was in front of the close, the criminals had shot out the streetlights, so visibility was zero. He hid the shadows of the car, crouching till he came to a figure sprawled on the floor, motionless. Apprehensively he approached it, his gun trained on it, when he was close enough, he turned the body over. It was Mallam Shehu, he felt for a pulse, he was breathing but was seriously injured, he was bleeding from a shoulder injury, possibly from a gunshot.
Mallam Shehu stirred awake.
“Shehu, where are they?!” Jackson whispered.
“Who, what?” Shehu stammered. “Baba,” that was what Mr Jackson was fondly called by other residents, “what are you doing outside?!”
“Where did the criminals go?” Jackson asked, impatiently.
“They went down that way.”
“I will get someone to come help you. Just hold on.”
“Baba be careful, those boys are dangerous fa!”
“So am I!”
Jackson peeked from the back of the car into the darkness, he looked to his left and right, he did not find any movement or anybody. Just as he stepped out of the safety of the car, he noticed a sharp movement to the his left but it was already too late, he felt the sharp pain before he heard the sound, the impact of the bullet drove him hard into the ground knocking the breath our of him.
A figure emerged from the darkness and walked towards where he lay, Jackson had pictured so many scenarios where he had died but never in one of them had it being by a gunshot wound.
The approaching figure could have been the angel of death for all Jackson knew, because each step brought certain death. This was the night Jackson finally meets his waterloo.