The itch (4)

“Oga make you try to dey control your temper o,” Cletus said, finally speaking out. He was one of the men who had accompanied Johnjohnson on last night’s raid. His friend, Samuel, the one Johnjohnson had shot in the stomach, was lying beside him barely breathing. Taking him to the hospital was out of the question as doing so might raise suspicions. However, they had employed the help of a notorious doctor whom they paid heavily for such instances and who was now at this very moment barging into their hideaway, a face-me-I-face you building on the outskirts of town. The doctor was a handsome middle aged man, clean-shaven and tall. His face currently depicting worry, he exposed the dying robber’s wounds.
“Hmmm, I’ll need to operate. Has he eaten anything?” He asked.
“Not since last night,” Cletus replied still eyeing Johnjohnson who stared away into the distance non-chalantly.
“Okay, help me bring out those bottles and vials from my bag. That one there, use the syringe to withdraw 20mls. Good, now give me something to tie his arm with so I can access his veins…”
In a very short while Samuel was on infusions and had been given an anaesthetic to knock him out. Ignoring the dirty environment, the doctor cut the man’s stomach open.
Cletus looked on in fascination as the doctor worked. He wished he had been fortunate enough to get a tertiary education, but his parents had not been able to afford the tuition fees. He couldn’t understand how someone like Johnjohnson who could easily have become a university graduate could go into armed robbery. He knew even with Johnjohnson’s poor educational background that he was inherently a smart man if only he would apply himself. Once or twice Johnjohnson showed off letters from offices in which his mother had goone to beg for a job for him, and boasted that he would not accept the jobs since no job could pay for his flamboyant lifestyle, although to look at him, his men couldn’t fathom what was flamboyant about him. At the same time he had refused giving his men the opportunity to seek jobs when they asked for it. The man was a devil, a real dog in the manger. He turned back his gaze to Johnjohnson who was now scratching an itch in his armpit. He sighed and turned back to the doctor who was sweating small liquid bullets with speckles of blood stains on his face.
“Right, that should do it.” The doctor said, and began to sew the man up. “He’s going to need a lot of antibiotics to prevent infection. Oga john, are you listening to me?”
Johnjohnson turned away from his reverie and faced the doctor, his right hand stuck in his left armpit, massaging it. “Ehn?”
“We need to place him on ampiclox.” The doctor repeated.
“Okay doc, sure.” Johnjohnson said. “Are his chances good?”
“Sure they are” the doctor said in an unconvincing flat voice. “I want to go, I’m on call this morning.”
“Here you go,” Johnjohnson pressed some naira notes into his hand. The doctor counted it and grimaced.
“The job didn’t work out.” Johnjohnson sniffed and went back to scratching his armpit.
The doctor stared at him. The money was paltry but he knew better than to refuse the offer if he wanted to get out of there alive. Johnjohnson had an explosive nature and could become belligerent at any moment. Working for these criminals had been fun initially, treating them in the middle of the night and getting random huge sums was kind of like an adrenaline rush for him, but recently things hadn’t been going well and the doctor had begun struggling in his career. He had been looking for a means to start afresh on a clean slate but had so far not been able to find an opening. They would deal with him if he refused to treat them, his best bet was to leave town but that also meant restarting his career; and he wasn’t ready for that yet either.
JJ continued to scratch his armpit with deep concentration and the doctor became curious.
“Wetin u dey scratch?” he asked
“Nothing, be like say mosquito bite me,” JJ replied, still itching.
“Let me have a look.” The doctor came closer and inspected the hairy armpit. He studied the skin for bumps or an abrasion or any kind of rash. He found none.
“Wash the place well, it doesn’t look like anything though.” The doctor said and turning, he headed for the door. “Give that guy antibiotics. He seriously needs it.”
Once again JJ nodded and waved the doctor off. He was too busy scratching the itch to notice his men were looking at him with hatred and disgust.
“Oga but this thing wey you do yesterday no good at all,” Cletus began as soon as the doctor left. “When you start to shoot your own boys? Abi na so the woman winchi you reach?”
JJ turned to him, his eyes red, his hand never leaving his armpit. He looked from one man to the other; most of them lowered their gazes when he got to them but Cletus met his gaze defiantly.
“Cletus, take your time.” JJ said evenly. “He was undermining my authority, and you don’t do that in this group. Una wan come dey get breeze pass me abi, me wey gather all of una from gutter!”
“Oga no be so,” Jarius, one of the quieter men said, “We no dey question your authority, but the matter get as e be. If to say you dey more patient, we for hammer pieces yesterday.”
Johnjohnson hissed and went back to the window. Samuel who was still recovering from the anesthetic groaned and held his stomach. The others turned to him momentarily.
“That…that woman…was she really your sister?” Samuel asked.
“Yeah.” JJ replied. He gestured to one of his men and was given a cigarette. He lit it and took a long puff, blowing the smoke out into the cool morning air.
“She curse you no be small.” Samuel said, coughing.
JJ turned back to his men. They were all looking at him with fear in their eyes. He suddenly threw his head back and laughed loudly.
“See them! Na hin dey make una dey fear?” Oya, you come here!”
Jarius stepped forward. JJ brought out a gun, collected some bullets from a wooden drawer, loaded it and handed it to him. Then he took a few steps back and pulled off his T-shirt.
“Shoot me.” JJ said, taking another puff of the cigarette.
Jarius looked around at the other men uncertainly. His hands trembled as he aimed the gun. Closing his eyes, he fired. There was a loud bang followed by a cloud of smoke filling the room. Somewhere outside, a door burst open as some of the neighbours took to their heels.
Johnjohnson stood there grinning and dusting something like gunpowder off his chest. He scratched his itching armpit again momentarily and glared at them.
“Oya you, find me one machete there!” He shouted to another man who promptly brought out a machete and without being asked hurled it at JJ. It bounced off his torso harmlessly.
“You dey craze o!” Johnjohnson laughed and the man grinned back. “Make una no fear, like I said, I am fully covered in charms. Nothing and I mean NOTHING can harm me!”
The men stood up and cheered their Oga, and JJ acknowledged their cheers. No one noticed that Samuel had stopped breathing.

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