This is the final episode of the story. Have a fun read!
The first time I saw Deji, the only word I used to describe him was ‘cunny’. He isn’t tall, in fact, he is stout but his eyes and commanding presence can make any person ill at ease. We met in his house; a small one room apartment with a 32 inch LG tv that seemed too big for his cubicle. On that day, I realized that Jensen, Josh and I were not the only guys involved in this deal; there was Laura- the insider from the bank; Okoro- the driver to take us to our final destination; Twitter- the agbero-looking driver to drive us to the bank and back to Okoro. The meeting commenced with a prayer by Laura. It was strange to pray in such circumstances and it made me wonder how God felt. My burdened conscience was lifted after two rounds of shots of shepke were shared by Twitter. Deji commenced the meeting.
“As you all know, I am the one that called for this meeting and my name is Deji. I have been working with Transcend Trust Bank for over 8 years now and I am tired. I want to leave this country and I know all of you here have plans too. Laura here is my colleague and girlfriend,” he paused and winked at Laura and she smiled flirtatiously,” and we know that bank well. She works at the Bulk Room and everything will go smoothly if we stick to the plan.” He paused and looked at all of us sitted in his cramped apartment. “If you are not interested, e go better if you comot now o” His stern looking eyes bored into ours but nobody moved. My heart raced as I looked at Jenson, who seemed as calm as still waters.
“So we are all in!” Deji said. “That being said, I will delve straight into the plan. Okoro will drop us across the road. We won’t go into the bank together but one after the other in a space of 15minutes. The security guys at the electronic doors are in on this and we will show a sign to get in. At exactly 10:15 am, we will all be inside the bank and I will make the first shot to alert you guys. You will have your masks in your hand and wear them immediately I shoot at the ceiling. Myself, Laura, Jenson and Tunde will be inside the bank while Josh mans the entrance with the two security guys. After the robbery, Okoro and Twitter will be parking outside in a bus and we will get into that bus and drive down to Mushin, dump that car and get into another waiting vehicle there to take us to the outskirts of Lagos and then, another car will take us from there to our final destination which is Lokoja. After all this travelling, we will part ways after two weeks. Any questions?”
Jenson asked first. “Which branch we de enter?”
“Police no de around that area? Jenson asked again
“We don settle dem.”Deji said smiling
“How much is our cut?” I asked
He turned to me and said we will share it equally.
“10 mill each?” I asked
“Yes. Hasn’t Jenson told you how I operate?” the question threw me aback as I turned to look at Jenson and his cold smile frightened me.
Twitter asked the next question in his gruff voice. “Abi police de man that bank? How we go do?”
“I don tell una se make you no worry”
“One more question Deji; I hope there will be no violence?” I asked
He smiled mischievously. “None whatsoever.” The room was filled with smiling faces and excited whispers but Deji’s voice drowned ours when he spoke. “But we will have ammunition just in case of any gbege. Another thing is that we won’t start spending the money till after the 2 week duration.”
The meeting ended and Deji said in 2 weeks, he will text all of us and get us informed on when to strike. My nights were sleepless and my days were worse than I they had ever been. I avoided seeing Jovie for fear that she will see right through like she does. Instead, I called her often and assured her that I will get that phone for her.
The D-day came and that morning, Laura prayed with all of us. I found this quite odd but I guess God answers all prayers. Twitter brought the guns and gave me a 31AK magazine, loaded with 30 rounds of ammunition. The gun felt heavy in my arms but not as heavy as the cloak of fear wrapped around my body.
The operation began by exactly 10:15 am. The innocent strangers lay on their stomachs on the cold marble floor. All their phones were tossed to me and Jenson while Deji, Laura and Josh were in the bulk room. I heard people sobbing and one lady praying in Yoruba but the cloak of fear and heavy gun made me numb. The mask was so itchy but I was grateful because it hid my trembling lips and chattering teeth. I was visibly shaking when one man in corporate held my feet and said; “it doesn’t have to be this way, my young man. Abeg, make una no do us anything.
I kicked off his hands and blurted out without control.”you are speaking pidgin with me because you think im not a graduate abi? Or that I don’t understand stupid English abi?” when he did not reply, I kicked him hard in the stomach until he cried. Jenson stepped in between the man on the floor and I before I could stop. The woman who prayed in Yoruba prayed more fervently and the crying and sobbing in the bank increased.
“Shut up all of you or kill someone!!!!” Jenson screamed and the whole place fell silent. He crossed over the bodies and got to where the woman who prayed in Yoruba lay. “Abi you wan die? Make I no hear kpim from anybody again for here!” when the hall fell silent, we heard a woman screaming from one of the offices. I was about to go into the office when I heard Deji’s voice and eventually his groans while the woman’s wails broke out in the silence of the banking hall. I felt sick in my stomach and struggled to swallow the small vomit in my mouth. When Deji told me there will be no violence, I did not know rape was not included. After a few seconds, Deji, Laura and Josh rushed out with the big Ghana Must Go bags and we followed suit. When we got out, Deji released shots in the air and people, who had walked around freely a few seconds ago, ran for their lives. The police men we had seen outside the bank when we came in were nowhere to be found. I had no time to think as we rushed into the bus and drove away. Everything happened in a blur from then on. We had changed up to 3 times and had exchanged cars more than Deji had told us. Countless times, I checked the rearview mirror but surprisingly, no police man was on our tail. I still did not breathe easy until we arrived Lokoja by 11pm that night.
The house Deji led us into was an uncompleted house. There were no furnishing or paintings but there were tall windows and thick black curtains. We all sat on the cemented floor and exhaled, each with his/her own thoughts. I broke the silence.
“Deji why did you rape that woman?” I asked, staring into the darkness.
“Because I wanted to. Do you have a problem with that?”
“You told me there will be no violence and that it will be a clean job!” I shouted.
“What the fuck is wrong with this son of a bitch? I wanted to-“
“Enough!” Laura cut in
Twitter was the next person to speak. “Why you rape am, Deji?”
The house fell silent for a few seconds before Deji spoke. “She is Mrs. Tawa. She is my boss and she wronged me.” he said silently. He continued after sneezing a couple of times because of the dusty house. “I was supposed to be promoted two years ago but she never gave my name to the higher authorities because she had wanted me to get involved in a fraud but I refused. So I had sworn to pay her back. I raped her and poured my sperm in her. I pray she gets pregnant”
I laughed out loud into the night. It did not exactly sound like laughter because it came out dry and mocking. “You raped her because of this sob story?” I stood up to face Deji who sat a few steps away from me. The room grew tense but I did not stop. “You raped her because of that? Do you know that there are after-rape drugs to terminate any active sperm? don’t you realize that your stupid, careless action would have risked our lives?” I asked angrily. Before I could say any other word, Deji charged towards me and in a split second, the short stocky Deji was bashing my head with his stubby fingers, with my back flat on the floor. I tried to fight back but mehn, that guy works out. The room went into frenzy and I was grateful when Jenson rescued me and drew me out of the house. We stood outside and Jenson allowed me breathe before speaking.
“Are you okay now?”
“What do you mean by ‘are you okay now’? I gingerly touched my bruised lip and tasted blood. I spat it out and looked at Jenson. “We’ve been friends for over 8 years now, when were you going to tell me you are involved in armed robbery?”
He scoffed. ”And who says I am?”
“Are you kidding me? The money you gave to your mum, the mysterious late nights, the new Blackberry phone and so on! What kinda game is this?!”
“don’t be a fool Tunde! If you had it so good, why are you here? don’t give me cold stares and judgmental comments! You of all people sabi how far! How were you going to buy that phone for Jovie? I told you to leave that girl-“
“Abeg, abeg don’t start at all with Jovie! Do you know what it feels like for someone like her to love someone like me? Fatherless, broke and hopeless! I am damaged goods and over the years, she has been the only sane and whole thing in my empty life”
“So you see, we all have a reason to be here tonight. Deji is here to prove something to the world; you are here to prove something to Jovie. It is the same thing, so stop pointing fingers and feeling too proud. We stole and that’s it!” he patted my shoulder and smiled. “You see my friend, we will be millionaires at the end of tonight.”
He turned to leave but I held him back. “Aren’t you scared? Aren’t you afraid that we will be caught?”
“I am but I had no other choice. My mum has cancer Tunde.”
The news he shared with me made me dizzy.“What?! And you never told me?”
He smiled sadly and looked away from me. “She found out when some doctors came to the market and ran free check up on her fellow traders. It was the weekend you and Jovie spent together. Prior to that, she did not know. So I have to do what I have to do to take care of her. She is all I have left after my father ran away. That was the reason why I joined Deji full time. He is the organizer of the gang and knows some top people in the police force. don’t worry Tunde, we will be alright.” He patted my back and left me standing outside, looking into the dark starless sky.
By 2am, we shared the money and the Johnny Walker Josh brought was shared and eventually, we were all high and exhausted. But no matter how tired I felt, I could not sleep like the others and it wasn’t because I sought for a comfortable mattress but because dreams kept haunting me anytime I dared to sleep. I dreamt of the man at the bank and heard the woman who prayed in Yoruba rain curses on me. I tried turning on my phone against Deji’s orders and immediately I did, I received a text from Jovie.
Baby where in God’s name are you? I have been callin ur fone but it’s not goin thru.we are in trouble.I’m pregnant and u r d fada.i don’t know wat to do. Call me once u get dis.xoxo.
I read the text over and over again and still could not digest the information I had received. I had mixed emotions; first of all, I was happy because I had 10 million naira to do something with me life and then take care of my dream girl and our unborn child but secondly, the thought of being a father scared the shit out of me. I was about to tap Jenson so that I could share my news with him when I saw the rays of headlights and heard car engines groan to a stop. I started sweating and tapped Jenson quickly.
“Guy, person de outside” I whispered.
“I bin hear something like that too just now” Jenson said. He woke the other guys but we heard no movements outside. Deji asked us if we had our guns alert and we all nodded. Just when he tried to peep through the window, the doors were broken down and beams of light flooded into the dark house. I peed on myself because I knew my life had ended. The police held out their guns and read out our rights.
Till now, I can’t remember what happened or how everything in court happened. I remember that I pled “not guilty” but was still found guilty. I remember that the day our sentence was pronounced Jenson’s mother fainted in court. I remember that Jenson had cried so hard the policeman had begged him to stop. And I remember that Jovie never came to the court house even though she knew I was in jail. Not until yesterday…
The policeman told me there was someone who came to see me and it was Jovie. I was happy to see her and she looked divine; she wore a fitted gown and her make-up was surprisingly mild. I sat opposite her in the dusty room that was called Visiting Room. The policeman that stood behind me made me uncomfortable but I had to make the most of this visit.
“I am so sorry Jovie…” my voice trailed off when she started crying. But she pulled herself together almost immediately.
“How are you?”
“I look and feel like shit but I’m happy you are here. Seeing you-“
She cut me off.” The baby is not yours Tunde.”
I raised my brows .“What do you mean by that baby?”
“Please don’t call me that Tunde and I mean what I said.”
“So you are not pregnant?”
“I am but the baby is not yours…its Adam’s.”
I stared at her for a long time and reeled in my anger.”Is this a joke?”
“No Tunde. That is why I am here.”
“Have you gone gaga? Are you saying this to punish me further? I am sorry-“
“I don’t love you Tunde! Can’t you see that? I am sick and tired of your apologies and trying to make everything perfect even when you know I have hurt you! You are not the man I loved in Minna and seriously, I don’t love you.”
I did not realize that I had started crying until I started sniffing.” Why Jovie? Why didn’t you tell me you did not love me? Why did you stop loving me?”
“I stopped when you gave up on life. In Minna, you were so zealous about everything and all of a sudden, you moved in with Jenson and you became satisfied with whatever leftover life fed you with. I stopped when you accepted everything and anything I did without fighting back. It was as if Lagos swallowed you up and chewed your balls-“
“Enough!” I said, wiping off my tear stained face. “How dare you sit there and tell me these lies when you were out there, sleeping with Adam? You know I calculated the whole thing abi? I know that baby is my baby. We were together and you told me Adam went on transfer and-“
“I lied.” She looked at her feet and looked back at me.” We were having issues and he travelled to see his ex. He came back and we made up. I wanted to also see if I still had feelings for you and that was when I realized that I did not.”
“So why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because you keep saying ‘I am your everything’ and all that. I did not know how to let go of what we had in Minna and just felt that if I leave you, you would take it very badly. Plus the fact that nothing about you changed; you gave up on life, you refused to look for any job or even think up business ideas and kept selling those damned recharge cards”
“Those ‘damned recharge cards’ fed me Jovie, while you were sleeping with another man!” I said angrily. I held my head in my hands in exasperation.” Do you know why I did what I did? I mean, stole?”
“No. Why did you do it?”
“Because of you. You were all I could think of when I joined the gang. You were my motivation to do anything. So how can you sit there and tell me you stopped loving me? How do you want me to understand that? I have worked hard all my life. I tried getting a job but it did not work out. Plus, I am 30 years old and the work force in this country wants 24-26 or 27 year old youths. What did you expect from me when you already gave up on what we had and I held on to threads of hope? Tell me what you expected me to do Jovie?”
“I expected you to fight back” she said silently.
She sat before me with tears rolling down her face. I looked at her and at that moment I realized something very disappointing. I realized that throughout my life, I had no hope for anything. I never had dreams or visions like other people. All I lived and hoped for was to get a job and live a normal life. I had built my entire life around people like my dad and Jovie and the moment these people left me, I started from scratch, and I looked for someone else to build my hopes on.
She got up from the bench she sat on and I noticed her round stomach. She took her bag from the table and looked at me sadly. “Good bye Tunde”
“Take care Jovie and take care of him… or her.”
I knew that was the last time I will see her. I knew she was carrying my child and it killed me deep inside to see her walk away while I paid for sins she made me commit.