They made away just in time, the wailing sirens getting closer and louder due to the doppler effect. Kola manuevered the Honda skillfully through the light traffic. They all had the nervous, wide-eyed look of desperate men who had committed a crime and needed to flee before their demons caught up and tore them to shreds. They held their weapons on their laps at ready, anticipating any actions that would interfere with their escape. The rainy and overcast morning saw to it that road traffic was at a minimum, many user preferring to wait till the downpour ceased.
There was a ragging sound as Tolu faced downwards and puked his guts out. Smiling, Sanmi knew the feeling.
“Been there, done that”, he thought to himself.
“Slow down now and drive normally,” ordered Yinka. “We don’t want to alert anyone that needs not to know.”
Obeying, Kola slowed down to the normal highway speed limit, the windshield wipers beating to and fro, throwing sheets of water off. They began to relax a bit after several glances backwards showed that they weren’t being followed. Their masks off now and weapons bagged, they made their way to the temporary hideout.
“You guys said we weren’t going to kill anybody,” Tolu said quietly. It seemed he had been crying for a while now.
“Shut the fuck up you fool! I don’t want to hear another word of that from you again,” screamed Yinka from the passenger’s side.
The black look on his face showed that he wasn’t through with the day’s murdering and would shortly commit another.
“Relax bo, we did what we had to do”, Sanmi comforted him. “Those people got what they deserved. And we had to show them that we were not fucking around.”
Tolu opened his mouth to say something but quickly shut it, remembering the threat. The drive took 30 minutes and was uneventful, during which each nursed his own thoughts.
They had left death and destruction in their wake. The bank they had just robbed was a fairly small one in a quiet street in Ikoyi. They had gained access through the security doors by taking a cashier hostage with a concealed knife which passed the security check. Working hours had just began and few customers had been present. The young cashier with fear filled in her eyes had not hesitated in opening the doors giving the rest entry. They had decked the unarmed guards senseless and commenced to commandier the building.
The operation had gone smoothly for a few minutes until one worker had played the hero and gone for the concealed alarm. Yinka, the leader and hothead of this motley’s crew had let him have it, destroying his skull with an entire clip from the AK-47. From then everything had gone downhill, and at the end of the heist 5 people had lost their lives in the bank. The taking had been substantial but it could have been more, had that stupid young man not played the hero. This run cut short, they had made it out just on time, two out of the four bags filled.
Yinka and Sanmi had been tight mates back in the university and not being strangers to violence, the need to keep up their expensive lifestyles had them exploring a new hobby: robbing banks. Needing more manpower, they had enlisted two neighbourhood mates, Kola an automobile enthusiast and mechanic, and Tolu; the latter a yellow-bellied fellow who talked big and acted little.
Before each operation they always did some survellance for weeks before making a move, this being Sanmi’s speciality. He was a careful person and their methods always worked with the least number of casualties. But today had been worse, he shivered inwardly. Yinka known as a loose cannon with itchy fingers had flipped today, killing several people and injuring others. The highest number of casualties ever recorded. As he had fired away, he had seen a crazed look in Yinka’s eyes, despite the mask. He looked as if he relished killing, and did so, despite their agreement before the operation.
Now they were wanted men. Anger surged through him as he stared at Yinka’s head just above the headrest in front of him. What a waste.
Arriving at the hideout which was just a dumpyard overlooking the lagos lagoon, they dumped the stolen car, changed their clothes and disappeared in different directions, each looking like college boys with their knapsacks and casual clothes.
Taking a bike, Sanmi dropped at his Onike residence which he shared with Tolu. It was just a little flat with 2 bedrooms but it served well as a place of retreat after their violent actions. The rest would converge later and then the booty would be shared equally, each doing as he pleases with his own share.
Life had been very hard after his NYSC programme and finding a job had proved abortive at every turn. He had attended a few job interviews but they had all amounted to nothing. A year had passed by since passing out and he was still unemployed and broke as ever. As if by the stroke of luck, one day during his routine job rounds, he had bumped into a former friend and comrade. Yinka seemed to be doing well for himself. He had a Toyota Yaris and a 2 bedroom flat. Desperate and in serious need of resources, he had arranged a meeting with Yinka who promised to hook him up with a job.
The job had turned out to be far from Sanmi’s expectation but he promised to consider the offer. Not wanting to have anything to do with crime and wanting a clean slate from all past actions, he declined the surprising offer and left. Day after day, he searched in vain for a decent employment then had finally landed one with an insurance firm. He was paid a pittance despite his daily labor under the sun trying to sell insurance policies to people who cared less. He had left the job after his once black hair had begun to turn brown and his complexion turned darker from countless hours under the blazing Lagos sun. Being a firstborn son, his father had passed away some years back leaving his mother to cater for the three of them.
His joining the Arrows Confraternity back in university had been a move to provide for himself and siblings from the proceeds he got from carrying out jobs for them. His family had survived on these funds which he lied came from the cybercafe job he did. He had lived well those days with Yinka a close pal and comrade-in-arms always by his side. But life after graduation had been a totally different ball-game. Every man was now left to stand on his own and survival was a struggle at this stage. He had been cut off from all past friends and associates and a life of crime was totally out of the question.
A few weeks after quiting his job, his younger brother had been diagnosed with apendicitis and he died painfully on the day when Sanmi had been just able to raise 35000 naira for the operation. He would have survived if the delivery had come hours earlier. He, his mum and last born sister had cried miserably at the unnecessary loss; the hospital refusing to operate unless the entire sum was paid. After this experience, he had decided to help himself and family in any way he could. He then visited Yinka and took him up on his offer. Being no stranger to firearms, the memories had all come rushing back as he cradled the Ak-47 rifle offered to him before their first operation together. The job had been risky but the proceeds generous. He played his role well but never killed anyone, though his colleagues did so often.
The money had begun to roll in, and they lived large spending big on women, alcohol and loose living. A few months later, he had taken delivery of a brand new Toyota Corolla, showing it to his family as the car he bought from his new job with Shell Oil. Everything had then settled down. From time to time he sought to leave the group but the glamor always drew him back.
They had always been successful in their operations because their intel and survellance was carefully done with tactical precision. Being graduates, their learning came into play in their activities, timing and precision being of utmost important. After some time both men had broken out and formed their new group with 2 new members: Kola and Tolu. Kola was a sleek driver who could jack any car and drive it to any destination with tact. Tolu was from the neighbourhood too: an unemployed small-time crook who talked big but acted little. They were ok as far as they understoood their roles and played accordingly.
That evening, in Yinka’s apartment,the naira notes now carefully arranged in stacks and lined up, they looked up to Yinka for the next instruction.
“You miserable worm”, he said looking at Tolu with a cigarette butt hanging from his lips, “if you screw up, leave your post or question me again during any job, I will end you.”
“I won’t ever again but I just thought it was necessary to protect you guys.”
His sick feelings had now been forgotten in the face of the bundles of notes ready to be shared.
“On a serious note man, you were supposed to be manning the gate with Kola and not entering the bank.” Sanmi said.
“I’m sorry guys, I won’t fuck up again”, he apologized.
Kola who was a quiet one, his low education always making him appear inferior even managed a smile and said,
“Oh boy, see as you dey vomit like small pikin o! So you never see blood before? Na wa for you o.”
“No be like that, e just be say I dey fear make mopo no come waylay us. I think say dem dey engage us for inside so I rush come protect them.”
The money was shared equally and each bagged his own share, retiring to his own place. Yinka and Sanmi then dressed up and drove out of the compound. The night was still young and they needed to do something to relax, clubbing being topmost on their agenda.
The long hands of the law was yet to identify these ones who had carried out a number of hits on bank and filling stations. They were always careful, using only one stolen vehicle as getaway car. With new weapons and bandoliers of ammunitions coupled with their masked appearances, they always scared the wits out of victims long before they started shooting.
Not restricting themselves to an area, they carried out some out-of-state jobs and sometimes operated in joint groups, sometimes pairing to carry out heavy jobs. The sound of Chinese-made Ak47s on full automatic fire never failed to cause jitters in the surroundings and keep ill-armed police away from the scenes.
Yinka had the connections that brought the jobs and ammo, but he never revealed his sources and from time to time, he made deliveries to the man on top. Their present lifestyle kept them busy on a monthly basis, staking out banks and drawing out feasible plans for the takeover. All in all, they lived well.
Tolu lay on the cold tiled floor, blood slowly seeping out of a head wound and pooling around. He had just blown his own head off and lay dead in the reception hall. Other bodies lay scattered around his, most of them customers. Kola had sped off on sighting the Hilux bus which had silently charged down the street, leaving his partners stranded inside the bank. He had hardly driven a few hundred metres when windshield disintegrated, bullets flying through and perforating his lungs and heart. He had been shot from an incoming patrol van. His mouth formed bloody bubbles as he prayed his last prayer. He died a minute later. The security doors had been blown to smithereens and bullets flew through, ricocheting off the opposite walls.
Yinka looked across the door towards Sanmi who crouched low at the other side. His left arm had been shattered by a stray bullet and his abdomen oozed blood from a similar wound but he managed to chamber a clip. His last.
“Are you alright?”
Whincing in pain and holding his hand to the bleeding stomach wound he replied, “No I’m not. I think I’m dying.”
“No you are not dying. Man the fuck up and carry your gun.”
Outside, several teams of mobile policemen lay in wait, firing round after round into the bank. The game seemed to be almost over by now. There were shouts of “surrender and we will not kill you” from outside. They were not too sure about that.
“Please Yinka I’m in a lot of pain, let us surrender. They will spare us.”
His life had begun to flash before him. He wished to God that he could see his mother and sister right now. He needed to tell them how much he loved them. To tell them how sorry he was and how much he would miss them. Nothing mattered except them.
“We are not surrendering anything. We will die if it comes to that but I’m not going to prison.”
Tears of pain and regret began to pour down his cheeks and his vision began to blur and darken. Sanmi tried to move his position but he felt heavy. His arms were like lead and so were his legs. The darkness began to enfold him and he grew scared. Is this how death felt, he asked himself. The voices and sounds were now becoming distant. Nothing mattered now. Yinka seemed to be yelling something to him but his voice was warbled and his face retreating. He breathed his last and died.
Yinka, realizing how alone he was now, limped behind a counter in the reception area. His left shin had been chipped by a bullet. He dragged up a young lady who was laying there, scared to death by all the happenings. As he dragged her towards the door, she pleaded jibberishly, her knees dragging along the floor.
They were not going to take him that easily he thought to himself. He would take some of them to hell with them today. Pulling the lady to her feet, he held her close to him shielding his body with hers, the rifle cocked and ready in his right arm.
It wouldn’t be long now, he thought to himself. It wouldn’t be.