It was the evening of what had been a dull and rainy day. Chinedu was
waiting in a room with two other men; he had been asked to ‘report for duty’, as
an operation was scheduled for this night. He was nervous, because unlike the
past few operations, he had not been given any details. While he waited, he tried
to pry information from the other two men. Serubawon, tough and surly, ignored
him altogether; Chancer, quiet and tense, told him to wait for their leader,
Dabaru, to come – he would tell him everything. Chinedu was edgy because the
people he was more familiar with, Gbenro and a few others, were not there.
About an hour later, the door opened, and Dabaru entered, followed by Okey,
another member of the gang. Dabaru was a tall, rangy man who had the air of
someone scenting for danger around him. He had been involved in armed
robbery for over five years; more than once, his sharp instincts had helped him
evade capture. He called them all to gather round so that he could explain the
“We are going to this address in Lekki tonight. I hear that someone there is
keeping some money there this night.” He stared fiercely at one of the other
boys, “Okey, you know the place, right? The place I showed you when we were
driving in the area the other day.”
Chinedu was puzzled. “Is Okey driving tonight?” he asked.
Dabaru turned to him and smiled. “Yes, Okey is driving instead of you. I
think it’s time that you took part in a actual operation.” He turned back to the
others and continued explaining details of the operation, but Chinedu’s mind was
elsewhere. He knew that this day would come one day, but he hadn’t thought
that it would come so soon. His heart beat faster as he thought of what would
happen. He had gone on shooting practice sessions with the gang before, but
practice was one thing; real life was something else.
Eventually, Dabaru finished with the explanations and told them all to get
into the car waiting outside; the guns they needed were already in the boot. As
Chinedu passed him, he put his hand on his shoulder and said “We will make six
million naira from this operation; I know you will not disappoint. Just be strong
like you were in the last operation.” Then he followed them out and entered the
car, which promptly revved and sped off towards Lekki.
Chinedu shook his head as he recalled how horribly wrong the operation had
gone. His role had been to climb over the wall of the compound at the address,
then threaten to shoot the compound guard if he did not open the gate for the rest
of his colleagues. Unfortunately, the guard had panicked and run towards the
house, raising the alarm. Chinedu had him in his sights; but he found that he
could not bring himself to pull the trigger. He stood there, sweating and
trembling, as the rest of the gang shouted at him to let them in. Suddenly, there
was a gunshot, and he felt a sharp pain in his leg. The robbers heard the shot,
and that was their cue to flee. Chinedu collapsed and as he lay on the ground,
blood seeping through his jeans, he heard the wail of sirens in the distance
He woke up the next day at Apongbon. Five days later, the police doctor had
bandaged the flesh wound on his leg inflicted by the house owner’s pistol but the
pain in his heart went deeper. While his answers to the interrogations had saved
him some beating, he had been charged for armed robbery. His mother had
visited once but there was nothing she or anyone could do. He was not up for
bail and the police were were almost ready to transfer him to Kirikiri. He was
sitting quietly while the other inmates raved and ranted, when a couple of prison
guards approached his cell and unlocked it.
The prisoners began to chant at the guards, but they glared fiercely back and
pointed to Chinedu.
“You… come with us. Oga wants to see you.”
Which oga, and why does he want to see me? Chinedu wondered, as they
walked down the dark corridors that led to the prison‟s chief superintendent‟s
The guards knocked and entered. Two men were sitting at the table; one was
dressed in uniform – Chinedu guessed that he was the superintendent – and the
other was tall, dark and wore an expensive babanriga.
“Is that the boy?” the tall man asked, pointing at Chinedu.
“Yes, sah,” one of the guards replied.
“Hmm…” The man stroked his chin for a while, and then he spoke. “You…
you were brought in from an armed robbery, right?”
Chinedu, staring in astonishment could only nod his head.
“I am Alhaji Galadima,” the man continued. “I am here to talk about the
gang that you were part of…”
It turned out that the Alhaji, who was a police officer, was looking for
information that would help him end the operations of Chinedu‟s former gang,
who were still active in the area. On inquiring, he learnt of Chinedu who had
been part of the gang, but was now in custody. Galadima realised after talking at
length with Chinedu that he had no great loyalty to the gang members, as they
had abandoned him the moment he had been caught, and had not contacted or
been to see him since. Chinedu said he would co-operate with the police in
supplying information. Galadima also saw from the conversation that Chinedu
was quite an intelligent person, and soon teased out the circumstances that led to
him joining the gang.
His co-operation led to two members of the gang, Serubawon and Okey,
being caught. It also meant that the Alhaji was able to arrange for him to be
released sooner, and in addition, he volunteered to fund Chinedu‟s education to
university level “because it would be a shame for such a fine young mind to go to
waste.” Chinedu‟s eyes misted over as he remembered the Alhaji‟s benevolence,
but he quickly wiped the wetness away, as he slowed down his car to park at his
He sat behind his mahogany desk starring into space, his chin nestled in his
palms. His eyes were wide open but his vision was nil; he was lost in dreamland.
He could see her; young, beautiful and promising. Everything about her
enchanted him. Her smile was unique and different from what he‟d ever seen on
the other women a
He got up and strolled to his door and peeped through the pigeon hole. There
was a gorgeously dressed woman standing at the secretary‟s desk but he could
only see her back view.
„Sir? Are you there?‟ The secretary‟s voice came through the intercom again.
He hurried back to the table and tapped the intercom button.
„Let her in.‟
He couldn‟t tell who she was but from the „good look‟ of things through his
pigeon hole, he was willing to take the risk.
The door swung open and Ayo was awed as he beheld the feminine spectacle
that waltzed into his office.
Her svelte figure bore a body fitting red dress with rosy frills at the edges
which stopped at her knees, exposing a set of long caramel tanned legs.
She wore a long hair that sat gracefully on her shoulders; her face looked
spotless and fresher than a baby‟s butt.
She wore no make-up except lip gloss. From the look of it, she didn‟t even
need make-up. That would be an overstatement.
She smiled, closed the door, walked up slowly to his desk and peered down at
him through her sparkling eyes, well enhanced by contact lenses.
„Umm…hello?‟ he muttered, standing up to receive her hand shake, while
trying hard to recollect where on earth he had met her.
„It‟s me, Jennifer.‟
Her name suddenly triggered something in Ayo‟s head as memories came
flooding his mind like a tsunami; the day he met her through a friend at a
conference organized by the CBN two years ago at Abuja, how she had seduced
him at the after party only to leave him hanging at the table because of some
important call she got that required her to go to the ladies; how he had waited till
the party was over and she never came back.
The mind update finished and he came back to the real world.
„Ha! Jennifer. What a pleasant surprise. How did you find me?‟
He had every reason to be angry about how he was ditched two years ago but
her smile and bewitching eyes had an effect too powerful to neither ignore nor
allow any other sentiment.
„I‟ll always find you. I have connections. And you gave me your card,
She came round his table and stood very close to his chair. An exotic perfume
assailed his nostrils. Her hand went to his chin and caressed it softly.
Ayo felt his armpits go wet as he totally lost his composure.
„I missed you.‟ Her soft voice was taunting the hormonal noises in him.
„You left me behind…‟
„Shhh…I know and I‟m sorry‟
She sat on his lap while still holding onto his chin.
Ayo‟s heart skipped several times. A woman‟s acceptance of fault and
apology coupled with this smooshy drama was like sweet wine to his soul.
„So what brings you here?‟ He was still able to summon up the common sense
to find out why she came. His brain was trying hard to be rational against the
building rage of sensual adrenalin.
„I need your help with a loan. Can I count on you?‟
By this time she had drawn her face so close to his, he felt himself beginning
to loose control. She leaned closer, her breath fanned gently against his face, her
lips almost brushing against his…when the intercom buzzed.
Ayo‟s fist slammed at the button, heavily pissed at the interruption.
„What?‟ He half yelled at the intercom.
„Sir! The operations manager is on her way to your office!‟ his secretary‟s
voice came whispering through the speaker. Thanks to the regular tipping he
gave her to serve as his lookout for trouble.
Like a jackrabbit smoked out of its hole, Ayo came to his senses, pushed
Jennifer off his lap and quickly ushered her into the toilet.
„What‟s going on?‟ she asked taken aback by his sudden reaction.
„I promise you dear. I‟ll get you the loan. But I need to settle some matters
with people that might be a pain in the neck. Just hide here for a few minutes and
keep quiet. Trust me, okay?‟
She wasn‟t sure she understood all he had just said but she very well
understood the part about getting the loan.
„Okay. If you say so.‟ She walked gracefully into the restroom.
Ayo closed the door just as Funmi came into the office.
She was already halfway into the office when she stopped dead in her tracks,
her nose twitched.
„What‟s that smell?‟
„Is that a woman‟s perfume I perceive?‟
„So? Are you the only female staff that wears a perfume?‟
‘Are you sure that girl is not in here?’
Funmi waved her hand in annoyance.
„You know who I’m talking about. I actually came to complain about her…‟
„Yes, Iphey. I‟m getting tired of that girl. She‟s so incompetent. She doesn‟t
perform up to expectation…‟
„Would that be…your own expectation?‟
„Are you saying my own opinion doesn‟t count? Do you know that she took
off for lunch over an hour ago and is not back yet?’
Trust Funmi to always answer a question with a question, two in this
instance. Ayo smiled and looked at her, he had to think of a way to distract her.
He looked her over from the nicely weaved hair that stopped at her ears atop a
set of cute gold earrings to the well dry cleaned trouser suit and finally to the
shiny black high heels on her feet.
„You look lovely today.‟
Funmi was cut off balance by the remark. It was the last thing she expected.
Ayo moved closer and stroked his hand down her arm. When she leaned
towards him, he straightened and adjusted his tie.
„You know I like you Funmi but on this one, I‟m sorry. Your opinion doesn‟t
count. Besides you and Bisi, others seem to think otherwise of Iphey. They find
Funmi drew back and sighed heavily. She looked at the floor, then looked
back at him, hurt shone on her face.
„Ayo, why are you doing this to me?‟
„You used to be so loving and compassionate…‟
„And you used to be single.‟
„So? Are you not married too?‟
„It doesn‟t work the same way.‟
„Why should it be…‟ She suddenly stopped. She thought she heard something
in the bathroom.
„Funmi, this convo is over. Now if you‟ll excuse me…‟ Ayo began but she cut
„Is there someone in there?‟ She was already walking towards the restroom.
Ayo maintained his calm but his mind raced. He had to stop her from going
But it was too late as Funmi‟s hand rested on the door knob and turned it.
Ayo closed his eyes tightly as if it would shield him from the impending
When he opened them, she was still at the door turning the knob. It was
„The door is locked‟, she said in a tone that demanded an explanation.
„It‟s under repairs and fumigation, you probably heard the rat in there.‟
Her hand quickly left the door. She hated rats and the mere mention of it.
„I thought you were hiding Iphey in there.‟
Ayo burst into laughter.
„Stop it. It‟s not funny.‟
The intercom buzzed. Ayo hit the button.
„Sir, Iphey‟s coming! She‟s looking for Oga Funmi‟ The secretary‟s whisper
came loud and clear.
„Did she say Iphey?‟ Funmi asked.
„Yep. She did.‟
She gave a flustered look, refusing to meet his eyes. She now felt embarrassed
that she might have overreacted. She turned and walked to the door.
„Good thing she watches out for us.‟ She said.
„Us?‟ Ayo questioned but she was out the door before he could get a reply. He
heard her dialogue briefly in her usual nastiness with Iphey outside the door.
Then they were gone.
He suddenly realized there were beads of sweat on his forehead and mopped
For a brief moment, the thought of Iphey came to his mind again. Funmi
wanted her out of the picture, out of this branch or sacked for some flimsy reason
but he wasn‟t going to let that happen. Funmi had served her purpose and was
married now. He needed a replacement and Iphey was the perfect and even
He would handle all this later. For now he had other pressing matters.
He knocked on the restroom door.
„You can come out now.‟
He heard the lock turn and Jennifer came out.
She was smiling. She had heard all the drama.
„You‟re a bad boy. Is that how you trick women?‟
„Come on. Not all women, like fingers, are equal.‟
„By the way, thanks for locking the door. I never thought of it‟, he said placing
himself back in his chair.
„I might look gentle but I‟m not a stupid chick‟, she replied stroking his face
with her well manicured fingers.
„Now, where were we?
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