A slim, fair, veiny hand left the padded steering wheel of the Toyota Venza, despite its two-day shine, and began to timidly travel. The left hand of the owner held brief for it, hardly having any work to do. The wheezy automobile was on a comfortable hundred, doing a good job of consuming the road with gusto. The adventurous hand left the wheel, and downwards it went. It passed the shiny automatic gear stick, and probed further. It went some distance before it crossed the wide gulf separating the two seats, and the speed slowed as it felt home. Home was none other than the soft, chocolate laps of the incredibly beautiful young lady, whose aquiline nose was emboldened with a nondescript make of dark shades. She tried to shift far from his reach, but saw the utter foolishness of the effort, and resigned herself to what she got. In five seconds, the fight in her was not sated yet. A hand came from nowhere, fair and plump though, and did some magic on his hands which drew a small tinge of blood.
The reflex was sharp, and it created the desired effect. The hand shot back almost immediately, and it was on his red lips in no time. Her wonderfully carved mouth curved in a mock laughter, as she enjoyed the fleeting pleasure of the little pain he went through.
‘Yeeeee! Na so u bad reach?’
‘Face your driving.’ The smile was broadening, as she replaced the weapon in the glove compartment. A small pin.
‘My own wife? For this, you get a full dose. Watch me!’ his hands got hold of the gear stick, and prepared to shift to the neutral gear. His leg inched slowly to the brake pedal, as he slowed down to seek adequate parking space.
‘If you try it, I will shout. I will claim the obvious. Try me!’ she shrieked. On a more pleading tone, “You know we have less than two hours to the nearest guest inn. When we get there, I don’t need to tell you the rest’.
She knew it would work. And work it did. She watched out of the corner of her eye the arching of his back as he leaned back on his seat, and the engine throatily responded to his touch, the car nosing animatedly forward and into the dusty afternoon.
‘For the records, that last statement was your only savior from the obvious fate that would have befallen you this afternoon. You would have had a firsthand taste of what it feels to be with an Okoromadu, the regal heritage that flows in our veins, worst of all refusing such royalty of an advance from us, dissipated under the debilitating heat of the mid-afternoon bloom of the sun. You would have…..’ he was always like this when his emotions were excited. He would go on and on, treating her to those ear-drilling vocabularies that had endeared him to her two years ago. She removed her shades to make faces at him. Her nose and the flesh around it perked up a little, before the eyes swished up and down, sizing him up playfully. The shades returned to their place, and their post of duty. The bold effect again.
A bend appeared. Joe Okoromadu swung the car expertly, and when he was done, he met one of the most shocking sights of his life, that was to change the entire course of that carefully-planned weekend. A long row of cars were lined up some metres ahead of him, numbering nearly twelve, and he thought he saw legs of people in the ditch by the side as he approached. About thirty metres ahead, he made out a vague figure of a statue, which turned out to be a towering man in the next two metres. It was then he realized the reason there had been no oncoming cars for the last twenty minutes. His heart skipped, but he knew what he must do, looking sideways at his wife whose glasses had come down, and the fear was emblazoned on her pretty face. Steeling himself, he looked ahead at the robber about fifteen metres ahead, who was getting ready to usher him to his position for the necessary action. He was hooded, and with one hand held a Russian AK-50. He had on a military camouflage on top, and a plain khaki for trousers. He looked imposing and powerful, and a bit young, from the toning of his body.
His attention was taken from the criminal by what he thought was stifled screams somewhere around. His wife broke down and started weeping. His leg was on the large brake pedal, and with shaky hands, he pressed on his hazard lights. He approached slowly. His speed reduced considerably.
Inside him, nearly ten feet from the robber, he decided he could not stand what he knew was going to happen. He could trade the car…he had five others….better and more flashy…..he had at least three hundred thousand in the car somewhere…but his wife? He would die first.
‘Get down, honey, and brace up. Its going down’, he said listlessly, himself visibly shaken and his eyes full of mist.
‘You will get us killed! Do you know these people? They are called robbers! Armed! Please honey! Stop for them!’ she cried, gripping the steering wheel tight.
He looked straight till he connected with the mean eyes of the man, through the little space left on his face. He was still guiding them on where to park.
With a mind made up and that stubborn resolve to go through it, which he had always claimed was an Okoromadu trait, he glanced at his wife one more time. No, this will NOT happen. The cries and screams came again from the adjoining bushes by the side, and some harsh barking of baritones were stifling them. Gently but sharply, he pushed his wife’s hands from the wheel and blazed his full headlights at the man in front of him. The Venza was trotting, but on immediate command from her lord, she hit fifty kilometers an hour in three seconds, with a loud turbo roar.
His intentions was not lost on the man, who suddenly realized he had no plans of stopping. He raised his rifle, but the Venza was merciless on him. He was just too late.
He pirouetted in the air at least eight feet, and landed on the cement kerb five metres ahead. His eyes popped out, as the nozzle of the rifle pierced his side on which he landed. There appeared a crack on his now bare and wavy-haired head, that reminded Joe so much of the first time he watched a chick hatch out of an egg. Some whitish stuff peeped out, and followed by a deluge of blood.
In his panic and fearful oblivion, he didn’t hear the last two barks of the AK-50.
He blew on for the next ten seconds or so, eyes red and dripping like he had done some hard crying. He shifted the gear to second drive, and the exhaust pipe started to turn red, with a doubling of its distance per unit time. Even with the fifteen-degree Celsius ambience in the Venza’s interior, he still felt drops of sweat break from his armpit, as he gripped the wheel, his foot nearly on the floor near the brake pedal. The piece of engineering, equal to the task, without complaining, delivered torque to its fullest, trees and bushes flying past like they were in a straight centrifuge. He found that with each passing second, the vibration on his hands, and his body entirely, were giving way. He became more and more in control, and was oblivious of his wife, who had been stupefied by shock. It was not quite ten minutes, and the next sight that faced him was now, really sickening. His breath came in short sharp gasps.
About fifty metres on, another operation was going on, full scale. The road was this time barricaded with large steel drums, and it was only peacefully passable if he meandered through it. His wife’s mouth gaped open, when he turned to her. About five large men were loading bags into a 2007 Tundra. There were pieces of paper which turned out to be naira notes littered all around them. On both sides of the road, men and women were lying, in different stages of unclothedness, shaking like chickens in the rain. The number of cars were ten, five parked neatly on each side of the road, and their occupants lying face down while all their belongings were carted away.
He was not daunted.
Realizing that talking to her husband was as useless as knocking on a truck tipped to the full with sand, she covered her face with her hands, and took refuge under the glove compartment, as the Venza rammed into three rows of drums, and lost her beauty, at at least a hundred kilometers an hour. When he got close, he went down, and with one hand pushed down hard on the gas, and steadied the wheel with the other. Thankful the drums were not stuffed, Joe gunned the throttle on and on, as bullets riddled his car, and battered it unrecognizably.
At the end of the three-second ordeal, all three men lay stone dead, guns beside them. They had made a gross underestimation of Joe’s resolve, and thought a few shots would force him to stop. But they suffered a worse treatment than Aninih, as the blood made their faces so unsightly, and Joe was sure there was no integral bone in their bodies. The remaining two dove for cover, being rookies and having no experience of handling guns. One boy that had all the semblance of a student got up, took one rifle, and shot the three men twice each.
Joe left the flurry of activity that followed next, and sped on into the approaching evening. Thirty seconds later, he turned to look at his wife for the first time. He smiled at her. Even in her disillusionment, she still looked breath-takingly beautiful.
‘We did it, honey.’
This time, it was her hand that packed bag and baggage, and set out on a ten-inch journey. Home was his thigh, too. She squeezed, gently.
Suddenly, like fate was not through with them, Joe looked through his rearview and saw a Mercedes 230E bearing towards them, lights full and nearly flying. Taking advantage of the straight, free road, he recalled the Venza to duty, and was assured by what he got, even in the battered state. He increased the gap as he was sure it could be no other people but those he had severely dealt with. With his right hand locked in his darling wife’s, he made sure he hit two hundred kilometers an hour on the ten-cylinder engine, yet he found he could not completely shake off the Mercedes. He was soon to know the reason, for in no time, he noticed the first cough from the engine, and before the spark died from five of the plugs, cutting the power, the eager Benz had already overtaken and double crossed him, the sound of sporadic shooting warning him of his doom. He could count at least seven men huddled up in the car.
His hands locked tighter on his wife’s, as he looked at her with a sad finality.