By Sarah Oyedo
Ewere’s gut twisted sharply as it carried the message to his brain; they were coming for him. Earlier, he had killed the lights, arranged his phones and laptop on the chrome table of his small sitting room. Then he hid what was to be hid and waited silently by the door for doom.
Peering through the window, he saw moving shadows undulating in the low light. He contemplated the distance from his apartment to the fence. Too far. He’d never make it and even if he did, the intruders most likely had people crawling the other side. Also, his apartment, an elaborate boys-quarter was roofed with white cement and unconnected to any other building. What was once a choice property has now left him an isle in a desert; trapped with nowhere to run.
He’d had a foreboding feeling today when he brought home the money. His hackles had been continually raised as he carried the one million naira tucked in his backpack. The money was withdrawn to pay off workers who did major construction in the hospital his late father was erecting before he died. But a fight broke out within the workers union before he got back and everyone was packed off to the police station. By the time the issue was resolved, it was too late too to make payments. The same night and there’s an ongoing break-in.
Ewere drew in shaky breaths as he heard footsteps approach briskly. They were here…
He beckoned to his boys with his hands and pointed to the apartment. It fit the description and the black Camry saloon car was parked by the side just like she said it would be. Silently, he prayed the rest of the intel was good because this was the whole point of the operation. Not scooping a few thousands from those students but this one; hard, raw cash. If it was enough, he’d let the boys have the rest from other raids while he took this one and made away from the country. This country that was stifling him, forcing his hand to do the things his grandmother who raised him will turn in her grave to see. But his friend already told him he knew an agent that could help him process his visa with less than a million. He’d dust his shoes off the shores of this broken country and then, make grandma proud.
One of his soldiers leaned besides as they sidled against the wall “that door nah iron gate. How we wan take break am?”
“Don’t worry” he replied, quietly. “I go reason with the guy. She say nah doctor. He suppose get sense.”
The soldier nodded in acquiescence. When they got to the door, all four of them, he signaled for positions to be taken. He’d speak correct English with this doctor, he thought. Let him see they’re equals, just in different professions. He banged on the door faintly.
“Oga we know you is inside. Just open the door because if we open it for you, you go regret it.”
If the occasion was only remotely different from this one, Ewere would have guffawed at the horribly mangled English. But the only thing this voice made him want to do was leave his skin behind and run for the hills. It carried over unspoken threat soaked in the sinister.
They bang heavily, yet quietly on the door and the voice repeated the threat, only this time, it came with even more raging ferociousness. He drew in a few more calming breaths as realization dawned. These men will break down the door if he didn’t open it. And if they did, he may not survive the night.
As he turned the key to his door, he silently thanked his maker that joy had gone to her back to her apartment. Even after he pleaded with her to stay the night, she’d insisted. There was no telling what these men would have done had they met her here.
Four people strode into the room as the door opened and one, wearing the confidence of only a leader, made a beeline for him. Ewere stepped back hurriedly, the back of his legs connecting with the arm of the couch and he fell ungraciously to the seat.
“Take it easy my man” the leader drawled “we be your friends. No need to be fearing” he leaned in to place a gloved hand roughly on Ewere’s shoulders, his small arm piece casually dangling from the other, while the other men formed a semi-circle around them, closing him in.
“Hope you dey ok?” Ewere caught the flash of teeth masked in the darkness. “we don’t want too mush trouble. You see, we jus wan the money. Give us quietly and we go be going.”
“Sir my wallet is on the shelf. So are my phones and Mac laptop. Just take them and leave” he infused strength in every word so the men will not catch on how shaken up he was.
“Oh thank you!” the leader dropped his weight on to the chair next to Ewere. He signaled to the rest, who worked briskly, using small pen torches to pack his belongings into a burlap bag.
“You’re a doktoh not so?” his tone was cheery and conversational.
“Yes” Ewere replied tightly. These men had done their homework it seemed.
“So answer me. If person have growth on her neck what should he do?” Ewere wondered what he was up to and contemplated a caustic reply but then decided against it.
“He or she should consult a physician for proper evaluation. It could be anything from an enlarged lymph node to a malignant…”
“Oyibo!” he cried, cutting in and the rest giggled to themselves “bros sorry for us nah. No break our head with English” he stood up and rubbed his hands.
“Me and you know say more money dey this house” Ewere sucked in breath sharply, “I like you” he continued “so I didn’t want to do you strong tin. Get up go bring am now.”
“Please there’s no more…” a backhanded slap cut through his denial. The man yanked his much smaller frame bodily and sprawled him on the cold tiled floor, placing a heavy boot on his neck.
“You book people. Una too dey feel smart,” he snarled “I want to take it easy with you but you wan prove stubborn. Boys scatter this place and bring the money!”
Ewere listened from the floor still dazed from the powerful slap as they searched the two roomed apartment. He prayed with everything he had for them not to be successful. If they found that money he was ruined. But, even as he laid there, he experienced a change of emotion. These men who don’t know how hard he fought to win the court battle, to get back all the money owed his late father so he could complete his legacy as his only child; these men who had probably never worked for sh*t in their lives, were ransacking his house looking for money they didn’t own. Rolls of red hot fury filled his lungs till he could barely breathe, the robber’s legs restraining him to the ground. The men returned and reported they couldn’t find it. Over his head, Ewere heard their leader engage his gun.
“You think we come here to play abi?” he placed the muzzle to his head, “if I kee you now nothing is going to happen. The money have value pass your life?” He withdrew his legs from Ewere’s neck and plod the gun sharply into the soft of his belly. Ewere gasped painfully and writhed on the floor. More heavy kicks rained down on him until blood and spit dribbled thickly down his mouth.
“Where is the money!” he thundered angrily, desperately. Just then, one of the boys signaled to the boss. He had discovered a small abandoned fridge just outside the door and wanted him to come check it out. As they stepped out, Ewere crawled from his grovel position and reclined on the chair, wiping the blood slowly. He was about to find out if he would live or die. They returned with the leader clutching the paper sack of money, wearing a benign smile.
“Sharp guy!” he hailed Ewere jocularly, “you go keep am for outside. Chai! You lucky I’m in a good mood this night. If not I for distribute your brain for this parlour.” The men began to troop out quietly until their boss alone was left.
“Nice doing business with you doktoh” he affected a fancy bow and stepped out closing the door behind him. As rancid fear abated his mind, it hit Ewere that the men were absolutely certain he had cash. The question was… who told them???
Read also: #Unforgettable: Igbinoba (Ep 4)
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