Writer, Poet, Social Commentator
The eyes were still the same, an endless moistness of innocence and purity, unflinching in its gentle regard, vaguely unaware of its effect on people. She peered at him over her rimless glasses, reaffirming his childhood theory that women looked dazzling in glasses. She was not unnervingly beautiful; at least, that’s not what he noticed at first. She was the ‘creeping beauty’ type. The kind of person you woke up one morning and realised you were in love with. She was created in several hundreds of chapters, each a true avowal of a master craftsman, a bestselling story filled with intrigue and awe; each chapter containing words he wanted to savour forever. Her face radiated when she smiled, like the sun had stowed its facula somewhere underneath her skin.
Her hands kept the same rhythm; she had an amusing tilt to her head as she flipped page after page of documents sitting on her desk. Her long hair stretched down her shoulders as she cocked her head to the side, its shinny sheen relishing the cool from the conditioned air within the bank. It felt alive like a group of kids enjoying freedom from the shackles of guardianship.
Her name was Talatu and though he didn’t admit it at the time, he was in love with her.
Theia Mania (the madness of the gods; or love at first sight) is not a thing people readily associate with, especially in societies like Nigeria. Research has shown two bases for love at first sight: The first is the attractiveness of a person, which can be very quickly determined, with the average time in one study being 0.13 seconds. The second is that the first few minutes of a relationship have shown to be predictive of the relationship’s future success, more so than what two people have in common or whether they even like each other.
“Mr. Fadiga?” her voice resonated through his veins, like oxygen to his heart and the race began, as every ounce of blood competed to pass through his heart. Each note from the sound of his name springing from her mouth was like heavy cologne in his nostrils. He inhaled deeply like one intoxicated from excess alcohol, shook his head lightly as he walked across to the Head of Operations’ Desk and sat in front of her. Their eyes locked and she raised her eyebrows, then, he realised he was staring.
‘What do you want this time?’ she asked, with a shy smile. He looked down in mild shame acknowledging her gentle rebuke. This was the fourth time he had come to the Bank that day, to ‘enquire about some banking procedures’. It was not going to be his last he chuckled to himself.
He looked up again and their eyes met, “I have a confession to make” he told her. ’You are under arrest!’
He looked intently at her expecting shock, surprise, shame; he saw none of those, only the calm gentle gaze of a prey turned predator. She put her pen down slowly, removed her glasses and placed them inside her blue Prada bag.
‘Inspector,’ she smiled seeing the shock on his face. “I was wondering when we were going to cut to the chase’ she leaned forward on her table looking at him, amused.
Ah, so she knew he was a police officer. She had been toying with him all this while. Interesting.
“Talatu Ndema, I know who you are. I know the things you have done. I’m taking you in for Fraud’ Inspector Fadiga stood up and walked round her table, pulling his handcuffs out from his jacket
Talatu laughed out loud and threw her head back. Everyone in the Bank’s Lobby stopped to watch. She got up and stretched her hands out towards inspector Fadiga, wiggling her hips. The inspector sighed and put the cuffs on her hands. She pulled him close to her as soon as he touched her and hissed in his ears.
‘You will never put me behind bars. This is way beyond you. How do you think I knew who you were?’ she stepped back smiling.
That smile again. He shook his head. Some people never realised that the country was being cleansed. This was 2016. A lot had happened since the last elections.
The whole bank was quiet now. Even the cream walls of the Majority Trust Bank on Adeola Odeku seemed to lean over, trying hard to hear his next words.
‘Let’s go’ he ordered as he packed her handbag and dragged her round the desk and towards the stairs.
She took her time walking down the wooden stairs. He couldn’t help notice her shoes; blue, six-inch stiletto heel Prada. They were perfect. He pulled out his ID card to display to the Bank Security guards who were watching, wondering whether to stop him or not. They decided to let him go.
The sun was scorching; somehow he wished she had spent longer on the stair, too late now.
Corporal Musa already had the car running. He was a handsome man in his early twenties. His slim physique from his Fulani Origins didn’t allow him to look imposing as a police man and he was grateful for the desk job. The car was a black Toyota Yaris 2014 model; standard Nigeria Police Force vehicle, unmarked, unassuming but decent. Finally someone had the good sense to appreciate policemen. Why would he go to the roads to collect Fifty Naira, when he could sit at his desk and solve crimes, whilst waiting for his paycheck at the end of the month? It wasn’t great pay, but the Police Force wasn’t for getting paid.
Corporal Musa came out of the car and opened the back door as Inspector Fadiga gently tucked Talatu’s head into the back of the Yaris. He got a whiff of the scent of her hair and inhaled sharply. He pulled back quickly, threw her handbag in and slammed the door shut. Corporal Musa looked at him enquiring, but was ignored. There was still a small followership from the bank, starring, wondering what had just transpired. He could tell that they were curious. Many phones were already recording the episode. What do you need a press conference for, the Inspector thought?
“Musa watch her,” Fadiga ordered and turned to face the onlookers in front of the bank.
He looked behind him at the Park ‘n’ Shop mall. Not bad for a backdrop he thought as he walked towards the crowd and their cameras.
‘Please do not be alarmed”, he addressed the onlookers. “This is a police operation under the Inspectorate of the Law Enforcement & Avoidance Department (LEAD). We have successfully apprehended the leader of the gang popularly known as Pyramid. You will get a proper report in the news soon. Thank You.”
He turned back to his car, leaving behind an excited group of people. None of them felt the need to ask any questions. They were amateur wannabe reporters, bloggers perhaps, all trying to be the first to get the latest news out to their teeming friends and followers. He was sure that in a matter of minutes, the news would be all over the Internet, overflowing with the amount of exaggeration expected of any Nigerian public report. But it would do.
The Blue Ford Ecoline looked innocuous; it was parked right at the centre of the road, along the Awolowo Road corridor, facing towards Onikan roundabout. It should have been towed away in less than five minutes of being there, but the PHCN stickers on its sides would have told any inquisitive traffic official that the vehicle belonged to the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, a Federal Government Agency. Its hazard lights were on.
Jolomi was tired of waiting. They were meant to be here in exactly 30 minutes. Lagos; who plans a mission in Lagos? The traffic alone could upset anything. This was going to be a long wait, he sighed, as he reclined the driver’s seat in the Blue Ford Ecoline Van he was sitting in. He drew his hat down across his face and closed his eyes.
The banging on the side of the van woke him up. Obinna opened the passenger side of the van and jumped in. He was a slim tall man with a protruding forehead, several pimple’s noticeable on his light skinned faced. He was dressed in navy blue jeans and a black tee shirt. He brushed his brown timberland boots on the car mat as he sat.
‘J get ready, you are up’ he said. ‘You have all your gear?’ he peered into the back of the van from the little partition behind their seats and nodded. ‘Good.’
Jolomi didn’t say a word. He grudgingly set his seat straight and started the engine. He revved it up a little and waited. That was how Obinna liked his partners. Professional. He could hear the faint sounds of a siren approaching. From his rear view Mirror, he could see the black coloured Toyota Yaris clearing a part along the Awolowo Road Corridor. The image of the Yaris was getting bigger in his mirror. Jolomi could see Obinna quickly put on his seat belt and tense. He smiled. Chicken. He revved the engine again and swerved to his right, slamming into the driver’s side of the Toyota Yaris just as it passed by his side. Both cars skidded across the tarred road and slammed into the culvert beside Fidelity Bank PLC.
Corporal Musa tried to open his door but it was stuck. Bastards Inspector Fadiga thought. He was going to teach this reckless driver a lesson. He had stepped out already and was inspecting the damage. Musa looked behind the car to confirm if Talatu was fine. Ignoring her taunting look, he squirmed across his seat to the passenger side of the car and got out just as Inspector Fadiga was grabbing the driver of the van. Musa ran to the Inspector.
“Oga, don’t hit him o! He is not worth the wahala. Abeg see people gathering.”
Inspector Fadiga grunted and released the driver’s dungarees. The driver was tall, black and cruel-looking, definitely a six-incher; perhaps that was why he drove like a maniac. The inspector was not as tall as the driver but it didn’t matter, he was a well-muscled man. His taekwondo black belt was an added advantage and he was not scared of a brawl. But Musa was right; LEAD could not be seen in the light of the old Nigeria Police behaviour. He cursed and muttered under his breath before looking to the sky in shame. He turned to look at the driver of the van and his passenger. PHCN Staff, he spat on the road, showing his displeasure again. He had not had any electricity in a week. All these talk about prepaid meters was going nowhere. He could not wait to switch to one of the newly founded private energy companies. The traffic was already building behind them as motorists tried to navigate the wreck. The ones who got through paused to scan the situation before speeding on. He knew what was on most of their minds; Police versus PHCN. Nobody cared after that?
Inspector Fadiga thought for a while then decided.
‘You!’ he pointed at Obinna, ‘Follow me. ‘Musa, go in their van, they will follow us to the station and then we will decide how to fix this damage’.
He walked to the Toyota Yaris and shuffled to the driver’s side. This was muscle-justice but he didn’t care, they were going to fix his car. It would take too long waiting for the Police administration to get his report signed, then get the insurer, then get the cheque and all other things. He started the engine and honked for the fair complexioned passenger of the van. Musa was standing by the van watching the men talk with each other. He turned to look at Talatu, she was gone, only her blue Prada shoes remained.
“Musa!” he shouted and turned just in time to see Obinna pull out a silenced 9mm Beretta. Musa didn’t have a chance. The shots tore out his heart from close range, his well starched white shirt immediately blotted by the red of his blood. Inspector Fadiga ducked immediately as Jolomi aimed for his car. Glass shattered all around him. He pulled out his Glock 39 and returned the fire randomly. He heard Obinna Scream and kept shooting. He squeezed himself to the passenger side of his Toyota Yaris and got out. The shots continued then stopped. He noticed the blood from his left side and pressed his hand to it, just a scratch. He sighed gratefully. He reloaded his Glock and peered through the window of his car at the van. Jolomi was in the driver’s seat and the other passenger, with the smile, Talatu! They zoomed off.
Inspector Fadiga dashed towards the sprawled frame of Corporal Musa, cautious of Obinna’s lifeless body beside the corporal. He could see peopled peering through the windows and from the corner of the buildings around. Several cars on the road had their doors wide open, empty.
‘Somebody call an ambulance!’ he screamed as he bent down to inspect the Corporal’s body.
No one did anything. Nobody could. This was Nigeria. Who were you going to call? What numbers?
He holstered his pistol and checked the Corporal’s pulse, then Obinna’s. He cursed and kicked the air viciously, cursing with abandon. He put both hands on his head in despair. They were both dead.
***********************TO BE CONTINUED**********************************