The car pulled up just outside the bank, and Iphey stepped out, anxiously
glancing at her watch again.
The window on her side slid down, and Chinedu peered through it. “Are you
sure you’ll be OK? I hope your boss won’t eat you alive for this,” he asked.
“I will be a few minutes late, but I should be fine; I’ll find an excuse that will
work. At least, as far as I know, there’s no meeting that I need to be present at.”
Iphey still wondered whether Funmi had a nasty shock waiting for her when
she got back, but that was something she could worry about later. Right now, she
felt so happy at the prospect at starting something really solid with Chinedu that
everything else paled in comparison.
“OK. Oh – before I forget – can I get your number? You can be sure that I
have no intention of deleting it this time – but I’ll make up a song with the
numbers in it, just in case I lose the phone,” he joked.
Iphey laughed as she gave it to him. “Please call me, and let’s set something
Chinedu smiled back. “Yes, let’s see if we can start afresh. Actually, I just
remembered that you don’t have your own transport to get back. How about we
kill two birds with one stone? I can pick you up this evening, we can go
somewhere nice and then I can drop you off at home.”
“That sounds like a great idea.”
“Yes, I thought so too. OK, I’ll see you later.” He waved at her, and watched
admiringly as she walked towards the bank entrance. Then the window slid back
up, the engine revved and the car took off towards his office.
As he drove, Chinedu was lost in thought. He really wanted to make things
work with Iphey, and he was glad that he had this chance… but he recalled her
unease about his history as an armed robber.
“Sometimes, I wonder why I had to go and say that. Perhaps things would
have been better if I had kept this close to my chest,” he mused.
The more he thought about it, the more he felt it would be better to make a
clean breast of things and tell her what had happened in his earlier years…
Chinedu and his four younger siblings were had grown up in Ajegunle, where
their father worked as a clerk in an office and their mum sold provisions in a
small store. But it was not a happy marriage; the money both their parents
brought in was rarely ever enough to feed them all, so there were always rows
over why the children did not have school uniforms and books, or when the rent
was going to be paid so that the landlord would stop harassing them.
Chinedu remembered those rows with a shudder; they were violent, searing
affairs that left him with ugly memories. He also remembered his father often
saying to him and his siblings in a bitter voice: “See the suffering that being poor
can bring. If you know what is good for you, make sure you study well so that
you can get a good job and live in a big house, not this..” gesturing around their
cramped one-bedroom apartment. So he coped in his own way by immersing
himself in his studies; perhaps he could spirit them away from this miserable
existence if he became a doctor, or an engineer. Fortunately for him, his ability
matched his desire, and he excelled at school, so it looked like his hopes might
Unfortunately, at the end of his second to last year in secondary school, his
parents separated. His father was tired of being belittled by his wife and left to
stay with another woman he had been having an affair with; his mother was only
too glad to see him go, as it would mean an end to the endless beatings and
abuse. But that meant that the burden of looking after the five of them weighed
even more heavily on her, and in the end, this meant that Chinedu had to help to
augment the family income by acting as an Alabaru, a load porter at the local
market. Needless to say, this meant an end to his studies.
Chinedu recalled his time at the market with mixed feelings. He missed going
to school; in addition, the work was hard and competition for customers was
fierce. However, he soon realised that the place was alive in a way that he had
never experienced as an ordinary market-goer. There was always something
going on; in addition, there was a whole underside to life in the area that he had
never realised existed until he started hearing stories from the sellers and other
regulars who frequented the place.
He soon made two friends, Polycarp and Gbenro. Polycarp was a friendly,
rather quiet boy who had also been working at the market as a porter for two
years. But Chinedu was more more drawn to Gbenro, a much livelier person
who always seemed to have a ready jest on his lips. One of the area boys, Gbenro
was his nickname, no one seemed to know his real names. Chinedu also noticed
that although Gbenro was not much older than him and did not always do any
specific job with the area boys, he always seemed to have a good deal to spend.
His curiosity pestered him to find out more; he still longed to return to school,
but the meagre tips he got from his work meant that this would be a long time
“So Gbenro, how you come get all dis money wey you dey spend yanfu-yanfu
for here, now? No be only this area boy work you dey do here?” he asked one
day, after his curiosity would give him peace no longer.
“Ah, bro… dat one na special ting…” Gbenro looked shifty all of a sudden. “I
fit tell you, but…”
“But wetin?” Impatience joined curiosity in prodding him.
Chinedu gave a deep sigh. This was the moment he often replayed in his
head; the moment his life took a dramatic turn, as a sequence of events began to
unfold. It turned out that Gbenro, who ran errands for a gang of armed robbers
in the area, had actually been waiting for an opportunity to recruit him to be a
part of the gang. So Chinedu started out as an errand boy, passing along
information; due to his popularity and having grown up in the area, he knew
almost everyone. With time, he graduated to being a participant in the actual
robberies, either as a lookout or driver. It had all been part of the excitement of
being a teenager, he played cops and robbers and saved some money for his GCE
exam. He assuaged any lingering doubts by thinking that no one was being hurt.
Until the day everything went horribly, horribly wrong.
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