“How are you?”
Chiugo’s eyes flickered open to the blackness. She must have dozed off while watching Grojband. Today was a public holiday, so Mummy had let her stay up late. Chiugo liked cartoons a lot. “How are you?”
Coco was on a talking spree this early and Chiugo wished he would shut up and stop disturbing. Loco was the family’s twenty-five year old African grey parrot, and has been with the family since he got bought as a hatchling.
“Good morning. How are you?”
Coco only rambled this much whenever someone was up first, but it seemed too early in the morning for that and Chiugo wanted to go back to sleep. Remembering she had a room, and a bed too, Chiugo was about getting off the couch when she saw him. Despite the darkness her eyes easily made out the figure slowly walk passed the couch where she lay. He had Daddy’s height and muscled figure, and he wore only shorts. Chiugo watched him approach where the gadgets were with his back to her. But there was just one thing – Daddy was not home! Chiugo was thirteen years young, but not ignorant to know when her home was being robbed. She held her breath and stayed still.
Within a span of seconds, this intruder had disconnected the DVD player and crept off towards the front door, but Chiugo remained still as her heart beat hard as she fought hard not to tremble. Finally mustering the little courage she could, Chiugo raised her head just in time to see him slowly shut the door behind him. With the glowing yellow bulb in the stairwell just outside the door, she briefly made out his very dark face and bushy hair – an image that would stay embedded in her memory for a long time. The instant the door was shut back, Chiugo leaped off the couch and ran straight inside!
Mabel shoved her seven year old son’s arm off her again as they both slept beside each other. She had woken up about an hour ago to find out her youngest child had snuck in her room and climbed into her bed while asleep; a habit of his whenever her husband was away on his official assignments. Mabel never minded this, she loved her children more than herself, but right now, she savored this sleep way too much to be disturbed. She felt herself drifting off again when she suddenly felt a hard tap on her shoulder. Mabel’s eyes flew open and then she raised her head ready to land a resounding slap on this nuisance who dared disturb her slumber, but the sight of her daughter made Mabel reconsider.
“Chiugo?” she called surprised. Mabel suspected something was not right before her daughter started talking. “What is it?” Then Chiugo leaned closer and began spilling all she had just witnessed minutes ago to her mother’s shock, but before her daughter was done talking, Mabel had jumped off the bed, worn her slippers and dashed out of the room with Chiugo’s hand in hers. “Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?” Mabel questioned her daughter as they hurried down the corridor which led to the living room but Chiugo shook her head in reply. “You know you watched a lot of TV last…Jesus Christ!” She suddenly exclaimed as her eyes fell on the vacant space below the flat screen, where their DVD once occupied. It was gone!
“He took it, Mummy,” Chiugo said finally glad to prove she wasn’t seeing things. “I saw him!”
“NO!” Mabel let out again, pointing. “And who did this evil to my lace?” It was then Chiugo saw what greatly distraught her mother a lot more than their stolen DVD. Someone had placed her expensive new lace material over Coco’s cage – most definitely to shut the talkative bird up. He must have really given this thief quite the surprise. Then Mabel hurriedly grabbed her priced material off the cage, regretting not taking it inside after having it ironed last night. It had taken her about thirty minutes to prize it down to an affordable price somewhere around Balogun market.
“How are you?” Coco sounded off again finally glad to see again, but no one was in the mood.
Everything seemed to going too fast for Mabel as she tried hard to keep her composure, especially for the sake of her children. She hurried for the front door, tying her wrapper in the process while her daughter followed suit. Mabel had to alert the neighbours as quick as possible. Getting to the door, she swung it open, and then both mother and daughter froze in shock. Standing right before them was the shirtless intruder himself, and he seemed to be wrestling with a large black duffel bag, as he forcefully trying to shove their very own DVD player through its opening.
“Oh, my….” Mabel muttered.
“AAARRGH!!” The robber suddenly cried out with the scariest face and making both terrified mother and daughter scream back in panic. Shoving her daughter back into the apartment, Mabel hurriedly slammed the door shut and then locked it with trembling hands. Never in their lives had they being this horrified. Those bulging eyes still haunted their memories as their hearts beat hard.
Only if her darling Uche were here, he would have known what to do. Mabel’s husband was a real man, always knowing how to take charge of things. He was the safest person alive to be with – only second to her beloved Jesus Christ.
“My phone!” Mabel called tightening her night robe as they rushed back into the living room. “Get my phone from the room.” And Chiugo was off while Mabel tried not to panic for the sake of her children. But she knew she had to alert somebody. Everybody! Every second she wasted was only an added one for this intruder to get away. Forget the phone! Mabel’s Nigerian instincts suddenly kicked in and she rushed for the glass sliding door which led to her spacious first floor balcony. Outside was still dark and quiet as Mabel grabbed hold of the iron railings. Then she took in a deep breath.
“OLE! OLE OOO! THIEF! THIEF! EVERYBODY, COME OO!”
Mabel’s voice was so loud, she heared herself echo down the street.
Segun instantly sprang up from his bench. He rarely slept deeply, not even after a bottle of Brandy. He loved alcohol as much as he enjoyed his secret sexual trysts with Salome, Mrs. Oti’s very pretty cook in the next compound. He had never been married but he wasn’t fussing about that, even at thirty-four. But he liked his life so far.
Snatching up his machete from under his bench, Segun burst out from his security post all vigilant and ready to strike. He recognized Mrs. Okoye’s voice anytime. He liked and respected Mrs. Okoye a lot – very nice lady. She was thoughtful of him every month. And she was pretty too.
“Thief?” He called back. “Where?”
“Segun, dem don thief our DVD!”Mrs. Okoye called down in pidgin from her balcony. “Check the back of the house; he hasn’t gone far!” Then Segun dashed off as fast as his sturdy legs could carry. He hadn’t bothered to wear his slippers in fear that they would slow him down. He had to get this unfortunate bandit! He had to impress his employees – Mrs. Okoye especially.
Segun was behind the house in seconds – eyes and ears at full alert. Thank God those idiots at the Power office had been lenient with the light overnight; they just made his job much easier this early morning. Pausing, Segun sighted a figure run out from behind the large water tank with the large bag dangling from his shoulder, and then he gave chase without hesitation. He knew a thief when he saw one!
“THIEF!” He called out brandishing his weapon. There was no escape except through him. “Stop there! I say stop!” Segun was almost upon him now as he raised his machete, and then he swung hard for a clean slash. But to his utter shock, this prowler swiftly leaped high and out of reach almost with little or no effort at all. Astonished at such impossibility, Segun saw him disappear over the wall in a second, wondering how that had been humanly possible. He felt totally incompetent at that moment.
Junior was fully awake now.
He had seen when his older sister had woken their Mummy but he had gone back to sleep immediately they had left the room. Junior knew his Mummy would be back in bed with her warm and soft self for him to cuddle. He was a reputed “Mummy’s pet” but Junior loved his Mummy too much to care what others thought of him.
“OLE! OLE OO! THIEF! THIEF!”
Junior’s eyes shot open again at the cry from outside. Whatever must have been brought to his Mummy’s attention seemed serious. There were cries coming through the open window, and there were heavy footsteps. Junior kept still. He was alone in the room and there was something else…..Junior was afraid of the dark. Looking up at the window, Junior’s wild and childish imagination envisioned this supposed thief suddenly jumping in through this open window and unto the bed where he lay. Junior’s heart began to race; he was yet to see this thief, or thieves, but fear already had the best of him.“THIEF! THIEF! EVERYBODY! MY DVD OO! THEY HAVE ROBBED ME! THIEF!” Then Junior flew off the bed and out the room as fast as his seven year old legs carried him.
Chuka was already out of bed.
All the heavy footsteps and cries could not be ignored now. Flicking on the light switch, he swung open his wardrobe and snatched his strongest leather belt, and there was the plank just behind the wardrobe. The last carpenter had left it behind but Chuka had saved it, hoping it would come in handy someday. At fifteen, he already thought himself a man, and playing this tough amongst many other things was a way of showing it. Swinging his belt over his neck and bare chest, Chuka got into his slippers and then charged out of the room, brandishing his piece of wood almost like a mid-century Barbarian going on a raid. His blood rushed with both fear and excitement. Emerging from his room, the first person Chuka saw was his baby brother who almost ran into him out of fear.
“Where is everybody?” He inquired, but before Junior could reply his brother, their mother and sister rushed in through the curtains that separated the balcony from the living room.
“I’m going to the back!” Mabel called out tying her wrapper with one hand while raising her phone to her ear. She was alerting as much neighbours as possible. “I think Segun has seen him!” She said rushing passed her two sons.
“Look!” Chiugo called to her two brothers, pointing. “They stole our DVD!” Then Chuka’s eyes flew open in surprise; he had left a disc inside. No more The Walking Dead anytime soon. Then they heard their mother’s voice calling out from outside, and so were others now. The time was almost five in the morning now, and the quiet street in this small suburb of Lagos was starting to wake.
The ensuring five minutes flew by so quickly and everyone was awake now, taking to the streets, brandishing their torches and weapons of choice. They were assured the damned prowler could not have gotten far. Someone had to pay for disturbing their sleep after all.
Watching most anxiously with her children from their balcony, Mabel prayed this “agent of darkness” would get caught as soon as possible. This devourer! She was a constant and dedicated tither; how dare he break into her home and steal a product of her hard earned money. It was Uche’s money though. But whatever…..Mabel wanted it back!
“I hope someone has called the police,” she said looking out to the road as a commotion was heard and they all looked up. “What is happening?”
“I think they’ve seen him,” Chuka said in excitement.
“How do you know?” Chiugo questioned eyeing him.
“Why else would they be shouting?” Chuka asked back still looking on. “See! They’re chasing someone!”
“Catch him!” Mabel suddenly let out clapping her hands with excitement. “My God! They should catch him!”
“Mummy Chuka, is that you?”
Mabel looked down to see Mrs. Talabi who lived on the ground floor; her husband had joined the raging mob on the road.
“Yes o!” She called back. “Do you know that rogue broke into our house and stole our DVD?”
“Aah!” Their shocked neighbour exclaimed raising her hands dramatically.
“My daughter saw him in the parlour and quickly came to wake me,”
“But what was she doing there, Mummy Chuka?”
“She slept off watching late night movies,” Mabel called back. “Thank God he didn’t see her – before dem go twist my pikin neck make she no fit raise alarm,”
“Ah! God forbid o!” Mrs. Talabi exclaimed.
Chiugo frowned at her mother’s last statement.
“My sister, God forbid!” Mabel called back. “The girl just kept quiet and watched him; I’m sure the blood of Jesus was covering her.”
“Pfft!” Chuka quietly scoffed and rolled his eyes. He hoping these women would just stop talking now. Then there was another uproar down the road and he looked up.
“They’ve caught him!” He cried out with excitement.
“It’s a lie!” Mabel called back, but the excited mob proved otherwise.
“They’ve caught him, Mummy! Look!” Chuka was pointing far ahead this time, but Mabel could not fathom how her son saw so well in the dark. The excited mob came into view now, and they seemed to have someone in their grasps. Heavy curses and insults were heard in diverse dialects, and then Chuka suddenly raised his weapon and rushed back inside crying out in excitement to his family’s shock.
“Chuka, get back here now!” Mabel called out. “Chuka!” But Chuka already had a mind of his own at fifteen, and when he had it in his head to feature in this frenzy, then no one was taking this thrill away from him. Chuka was out the door and racing down the stairs already.
Segun shoved his way through the crowd. He was furious and badly wanted his pound of flesh from this rogue that had dared step into his compound and render him incompetent before his employees. Segun’s pride had never been this dented.
“Oloshi!” He cried, sending his huge fist straight into the now apprehended robber’s face. “My compound for that matter!” Then he seconded it with a slap amongst others who lashed out with sticks and other hard objects. The crowd was growing now.
Zeb was on a mission. He had been tailing the furious mob for minutes now without taking his eyes off the apprehended culprit. The vigilant mob had finally grabbed him behind a dumpster, right beside Zeb’s own house.. There was no way he could have gotten far with the whole street out for him. These people were showing no mercy this morning as they rained beatings – with hands, wooden and metal objects of various shapes and sizes Zeb could barely make out; and the sounds made against their unfortunate victim were loud enough to break bone. But what did Zeb care?
Unknown to every person, Zeb was a very cryptic gentleman with very mystical knowledge and abilities. His attention had gotten picked the very moment he noticed how unfazed this unlucky robber appeared, despite the heavy rain of beatings. Every object seemed to bounce off his body without leaving as much as a scar. It hadn’t taken Zeb long to sense the dark energy surrounding this man. Now raising his walking cane, he subtly walked into the crowd, barely making body-contact with anyone.
Zeb had been a loner most of his adult life and at fifty-three, he still was no fan of too many humans, except for times like now, when someone had to learn the taste of the pains of his actions and Zeb was first in line to teach that lesson.
He was on a mission!
Mamus had been stealing all his adult life. In fact, he was the craftiest and sneakiest of all his peers, it almost seemed God-given. But the God he served must have turned deaf ears on his prayers before venturing out for this very operation. Only if he had left when his cousins he had come with tonight had opted for them to leave hours ago. They had successfully raided a supermarket down the road, but letting his greed get the better of him, Mamus had chosen to stay behind for extras. Mistake! Big mistake!
The blows and slaps were coming from all directions against his body but Mamus felt nothing. As long as the ring remained on his finger – his right middle finger, he was impervious to harm. And all he needed right now was the perfect leeway to orchestrate a swift getaway, even if it meant abandoning his hard earned loot.
Mamus identified himself as Christian, but he had also grown to strongly believe in the power of Baba, and his ring too. They had never failed him in past operations. Mamus always felt like a god whenever he had his prized ring on, which was every time.
“Free me abeg,” he adamantly called, which only intensified the crowd to lynch him the more. They were oblivious to the fact that this stranger felt nothing.
Then Mamus felt someone grip at his right hand – then his finger. He spun instantly! “NOOO!” The ring was off now, and gone with its new owner who disappeared into the crowd just as swiftly as he had come. Mamus’ eyes bulged out in horror now knowing he was in for a whole lot of pain. He was a dead man now!
Mr. Oseni was shocked to see his wife beside him amongst the crowd. He had specifically demanded she stay in the house with their two children and lock the door till he returned, but Mrs. Oseni would have to disobey her husband this time around. Her husband saw a defiant fierceness in her eyes he had never seen before and he thought it better to leave her be.
Mr. Oseni understood his wife of almost seventeen years now without need for word. Then he sighted the large frying pan in her hand; it was the largest of her collection and she was out for vengeance; not just for the looting of her supermarket – but for their son they had lost to an armed robber’s bullet last year. They had hopefully awaited the rapid response from the police while hesitating to open their door, making the maddened bandits decide to teach the uncooperative family a grim lesson for wasting their time. Bidemi was just thirteen.
Mrs. Oseni was the first to land her frying pan against this criminal’s skull. POW! They heard the robber cry and cower in pain, but this furious wife and mother was far from done. She struck him harder – again and again. Every strike was a release of such repressed rage, and Mrs. Oseni had a small sense of closure. POW!
Mr. Oseni had never seen his wife act so viciously, especially in public; and then it hit him how much we never really know what people are capable of when pushed against the borders of anger. But there was no time to linger, Mr. Oseni was here for his own pound of flesh, and then a vulgar tout with immense body odor suddenly stepped into his way.
“Make una bring tire, make we burn am!” He shouted as loud as he could while the robber helplessly begged for mercy.
“Get out of my way!” An agitated Mr. Oseni let out shoving this local champion without a second thought. Having full view of this stupid degenerate that had dared to raid his wife’s store, Mr. Oseni snatched out the small kitchen knife concealed in his robe, and then he plunged it into the young thief’s left eye-socket without hesitation.
“YEEE!” The unsuspecting robber screamed out in the darkness while Mr. Oseni felt the squishiness of the punctured eye as he pulled back the knife. His hand was smeared with the thick redness that had gushed out, but he was too indifferent to be unnerved. The thief was helplessly screaming in pain and grabbing at his face now. Mr. Oseni knew he was in a considerable amount of pain and that alone gave him pleasure. Very few amongst the mob had witnessed what had just ensured but said nothing. They would rather see this man in pain and make him a proper example to every robber out there.
Tossing the bloodied knife to the ground, Mr. Oseni took hold of his wife’s hand and led her away from the crowd and back home. The steam was let out and a part of them felt relieved, even though they knew it wasn’t bringing their departed son back. Rest in peace, Bidemi. That was for you.
Chuka had successfully found his way to the angry mob now and the screaming criminal was in sight; his gushing eyeball was the most grotesque sight the teenager had ever seen. Despite the darkness in the air, everybody could see this unlucky individual bled as much as he perspired. But these street folk were showing no mercy. Chuka stretched out his hand and barely struck the man on the temple with his plank, nearly missing him in the process. Then he stepped back and watched the furious mob met out worse.
“Ahan! Chuka, you dey here?”
Turning, Chuka saw a surprised Segun beside him still brandishing his cutlass.
“Yes now!” Chuka replied, confidently revealing his weapons. “This moron stole our DVD!”
“He’s a dead man today!” Segun called out before rushing into the crowd again. “Your papa! Beat am! Kill am! ”
It was obvious their captive was in intense misery now as he cried for mercy.
“Abeg oo!” He tearfully called out. “I take God beg una, ”
“Sharrap there! God punish you!”
“Na the tin wey your mama and papa teach you, abi?”
“You are nothing but a hooligan!”
Feeling left out, Chuka stepped forward and swung his belt from a distance, striking the crying man on the back this time. All Chuka needed was his own chapter of this story so he could rub it to his peers how he had played part in the capture and brutality of the thief whom had dared invade his home. Chuka’s self-esteem had never felt such a boost.
Finally mustering the courage, Mabel climbed down the stairs, and in the company of Mrs. Talabi, they approached the crowd which had brought their captive into the compound. Mamus – all pathetic, full of bruises and scars now had been shoved to the ground in a pool of his own blood. He prayed for death now. It was his plausible escape from this public humiliation and torture. The regrets came now.
Segun was now in possession of the bag of stolen items, and to everyone’s surprise, the Okoyes’ was not the only house on the street that had been robbed. Then began the interrogations, and Segun never hesitated to give a heavy beating with Chuka’s plank. This was his compound – his territory! Mamus had confessed his name and owned responsibility to the stolen gadgets, but he was yet to give up his accomplices. No one believed he had come alone. Then Segun resumed the beatings again; despite Mamus’ two broken arms, a dislocated ankle, a heavily bruised skull, punctured eye, and several lacerations allover. Mamus was bawling like a baby now – not for mercy now, but for death to come.
“Oh, no! I can’t look at this!” Mrs. Talabi suddenly called out all unnerved as she held Mabel’s hand. “Let’s just call the police!”
“Then go inside your house, Mrs. Talabi!” Alhaji Taofik called back retrieving his stolen laptop. “Nobody forced you out!” He and his wife were once victims of armed robbers.
Roughly dragging Mamus off the ground, Segun shoved him down unto a plastic chair and then he took out a wooden stool and stretched the thief’s right leg over it. To everyone’s horror, Segun raised his massive machete over Mamus’ femur.
“Talk now!” He threatened.
“No, please…” A horrified Mamus begged.
“I say talk true!”
“Cut his leg!”
“Do it!” The angry crowd seemed to want blood.
“Last chance!” Segun called out. An excited Chika could not wait for the guard to split the robber’s leg in half. Mamus’ desperate pleas only irritated Segun who raised his weapon ready to slice through flesh and bone.
“Segun, I don’t want blood in my compound!” Mrs. Okoye finally called out. “You people shouldn’t be this heartless! This is a human being,”
“What are you saying, Mrs. Okoye?” Professor Oti from the next compound asked. He and his wife were also once victims of armed robbers. “This hooligan broke into your home; what if he had harmed you or your children?” A majority of the crowd began to call out in support.
“I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished, but…but this is barbaric!” Mrs. Okoye argued. “You people should just mix water and cement for him to drink, and then let him go.” Chuka was the first to face his mother in astonishment. Speaking of barbaric!
The police siren suddenly came into audible range to some of the crowd’s displeasure – Segun’s especially. He still had so much to teach this thief.
Watching the commotion from their balcony, Chiugo and Junior had been forbidden to come downstairs by their mother, and they were fine with that. The police van pulled to a halt just outside the compound and the officers hopped out. Someone had gotten the initiative to alert the authorities, and Mabel and her friend, Mrs. Talabi were relieved. And as for Mamus, he was trapped between cursing and blessing his lucky stars. He wondered if the police’ arrival was a salvation, or was that the snake pit itself. But he was in so much excruciating pain to reason it all in his head as his blood still oozed freely from his body to the ground all to nobody’s concern. There was no time for regrets now. He knew the risks before venturing into robbing people. Mamus wished this hell on nobody like him out there as he weakly looked up at the hateful crowd one more time with his one good eye while the torn ligaments painfully dangled from the other. Exhaling deeply, Mamus hung his head and stopped moving.
- It was over.