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Celestine Okwe and the other police officers walked slowly towards the huge mansion, their eyes searching every nook and cranny for any unwanted surprise.
The darkness had begun to wane and in its place, hanging low in the morning sky was the silhouette of the rising sun. Its seeping rays revealing the carnage that was the night before. Bullet ridden cars and houses, spent bullets, dead bodies and shards of glass littered the place, it looked like a scene of out of one of his many favorite action movies.
He kicked an empty shell, sending it skidding down the tarred road, startlingly the others, he gestured his apologies as they continued their descent towards the mansion at the end of the close.
“What is happening outside?” Iron Jackson asked Mrs. Alao.
“The police have arrived but the thieves have locked themselves inside the Oforka’s residence.”
“They are trying to escape through the back.” Her husband chipped in.
“Smart move,” Jackson said from his position on the floor, his head propped against a sofa, his hand pressed against the tourniquet around his torso. “But if they do not have access to the house, they have just made themselves sitting ducks. Where are the police now?” He asked wincing.
“They are in front of your house sir.” Mrs Alao said. “The Oforka gate is opening.”
Iron Jackson gave a sigh of disbelief and a grunt as he got up to go to the window.
“I cannot believe those guys want to give up, they must be up to something.” Jackson said staring out the window.
“Maybe they really want to give up, they are boxed in, there is no place else to go.” Mr. Alao said.
“The guys I went toe to toe with would not give up so easily.”
“Papa, you should lie down, don’t stress yourself till help comes.” Mrs. Alao pleaded.
“Don’t worry my dear, I will be fine.” Having said that, they all turned their attention to the gate.
Just then they heard a car rev and speed out of the residence, stopping briefly to pick up their colleague who had opened the gate and sped off towards the gate. The sound of metal crashing against metal filled the air as the big SUV brushed passed the Honda that had been neutralized just in front of the gate.
The approaching policemen dove out of the way before shooting at the big hunk of metal on wheels marauding towards the exit.
“After them! Get in the van, do not let them get away.” Linus yelled running towards their stationary vehicle.
A COUPLE OF MINUTES EARLIER
Pablo and Co had tried without success to gain entrance into the Oforka residence, there was no way they could get to the fence except through the house. After so many futile efforts, they gave up and started looking for other alternatives that did not involve surrendering.
“Martino shey you sabi hot wire car?” Zeus asked off handedly.
“Wetin that gas do with anything?” Martins replied angrily.
“This na car.” He said pointing to the SUV parked in the yard. “If we fit use commot this area, we go ditch am, find our square root.”
That immediately brightened everyone’s face, Martins got to work and in no time had the door open and was fiddling with the ignition. He had been stealing cars long before internet fraud. He tried the ignition and the car purred to life.
“Chelekwu open gate, make sure you use the car outside as cover, then jump in once we make it out of the gate. Fast!!!” Pablo said.
As soon as Chelekwu pushed open the gate, Martins floored the accelerator sending the black SUV gunning out onto the tarred street, stopping briefly to pick up their colleague before speeding towards the exit.
“Omo the car na bullet proof!” Chelekwu squealed with glee.
“Na big man life na.” Pablo said, his words dripping with spite.
“The police are still following us!” Zeus called out, sticking his head out of the window.
“I go try lose them for early morning traffic.” Martins said.
The SUV swerved between cars at a dangerous sleep, at this time of the morning, the cars were few and far between but there were still those who were still trying to get home after reveling in the club all night and then there were those who lived out of town and were trying to get to their places of work before the usual Abuja morning traffic.
Meanwhile a couple of cars behind them, the police car was chasing after them with equal velocity, intent not to lose them.
“Shout at the car, careful not to hit other cars!” Linus ordered.
“Oga bullet no dey enter, e be like na bullet proof!” Someone screamed.
“Shoot the tire na!!!” Linus interjected.
The car in front of them rammed into a sedan as it tried swerve past it, sending the sedan crashing into a barricade. Linus knew they had to stop the maniacal car before it did more damage.
The police van was no match for the SUV and try as they could, they could not get close enough to try a PIT maneuver, that left with one choice. Immobilize the car.
The car was swaying so much Celestine was having a hard time focusing, he wasn’t the best shot but he knew he could take this shot. The commanding officer was yelling at them to shoot, if only he would do it himself. He grabbed hold of the railing of the van as the driver took a hard left, almost throwing off the back of the Hilux.
“Hold me.” He yelled over the sound of the roaring engine and blaring siren.
He aimed down sight at the the speeding SUV in front of him, then squeezed the trigger, for a brief second it seemed like he had missed his target but then the SUV began to sway violently, before flipping over. The sound of mangled metals and breaking glass filled the air as the call somersaulted several times before coming to rest on its roof.
Pablo was banged up so bad, he could only see through one eye, he was lying in a foetal position on what used to be the roof of the car, blood seeping out through many gashes on his mangled body. Martins was trapped in his seat, barely awake and in considerable pain, a piece of bone was pushing out from his hand, he was moaning but not moving. Chelekwu and Zeus were both motionless tangled up at the back, their faces a bloody mess, Pablo did not need a doctor to tell him they were dead. Their loots had spilled all over the vehicle, he gathered as much as he could inside one of the bags and tried to escape through the compressed window, he could hardly fit through but he pushed through anyway screaming in pain, as his aching body rubbed against jagged metal.
He dragged himself off the scene, intent to disappear before the approaching siren got any closer. He mixed in with the crowd of helpers who had gathered around the heap of metal that had a couple of seconds ago been their escape ride, refusing every plea to sit down, he hailed a taxi and hopped in just as the police car arrived the scene.
“Take me to the nearest pharmacist.” He moaned.
“Sir, you follow for people wey comot for that accident? Oh boy you lucky oh!”
The driver will probably not know how close he had come to losing his life, Pablo thought to himself as his eyes shut involuntarily.
The accident scene was swarming with people, who were trying to help. The dead had been brought out and laid out by the side of the road and Martins was being loaded on the back of a waiting ambulance.
“They say one of the victims walked away from this and has boarded a taxi.” Celestine said to Linus.
“Search all the hospital and clinics, also put out a search other on our perpetrator.” Linus ordered his subordinate.
“Yes sir.” Celestine replied walking away from the scene.
Eleven AM and the Hilob close was buzzing with activity, it will be a while before sanity, for now the residents had to contend with the cars conveying news crews, medical personnel’s and the police, driving in and out of the estate at will.
Mike sat in his doorway watching Rita and Atinuke drive off in his car, which was technically Rita’s, as his was still in the mechanic. It had been an absolutely torrid night for him in every sense of the word. He had lost his pride, dignity and his fiancée all in one night. He looked back into his living room, the girls had really done a number on it, they had turned it up side down and destroyed everything in their path, fixing and replacing them would really put a dent in his pocket.
“Damn!!” He exhaled with a drop of his shoulder.
Mr. Alao was on the phone with his insurance company, they had promised to come inspect the damage done to his house to determine if he was due any compensation. His wife had gone with Iron Jackson to the hospital, leaving him to supervise the cleaning of the house. The hired helps had done a great job but the house was still in shambles. The sooner the insurance paid up the better. For now he and his wife were going to live in a hotel.
The bullet shells in his pockets clinked as he fidgeted with them. It had been a most exciting morning for Chijioke, grandpa Jackson was lying in bed, wires running from his body to 2 two tubes suspended over his bed. The nurses had wrapped his arm and torso, he looked a bit pale but he was breathing better now according to the nurse who had just come to check up on him. His grandma had cried her eyes out when she was informed that her husband had been struck by a bullet. Chijioke was afraid that his grand father was going to die, just like his friend, Henry’s grand father’s had died a couple of months before. Henry had said his father cried when that had happened, Chijioke did not want his dad to cry and did not want his grand father to die either. So it gave him great joy when the nurse had told his grand mother that her husband was going to be okay.
His grand mother had already called his parents and they were already on their way down to Abuja, Chijioke hoped they would not want to cut their vacation short, he still had a lot of exploring to do. He planned to capture as much of the robbery scene from last night, so he can show off to his friends in school and at home. He was going to show his friends the clip he had captured of his grand father being driven to the hospital, then of the dead armed robbers, which fascinated him because he had never seen a dead man before!!
He pulled out his camera phone and snapped a picture of his grand father, he was going to be the most interesting person in his class next term.
“What are you doing Chijioke?!” His grand father said groggily.
Chijioke froze, his grand dad had woken up, he darted out of the hospital room to go fetch his grand mom who had left moments earlier with Ada to go get them something to eat from the cafeteria.
“Jackie.” Margaret Okafor whispered as she stood in the doorway.
Jackson looked at her, as she walked gingerly towards him and encompassed him in a hug so filled with emotions and many unspoken words that overwhelmed him. In that moment, he realized how stupid he had been to have walked out into the night knowing he might have lost his life and broken so many hearts.
He held his wife closely, paying no mind to the ache in his arm.
“I am sorry nnem.” He whispered into her ear.
“You’d better be!” She said with a sniffle, “Our children are headed down here, just be prepared to face their brunt, since you don’t listen to me anymore.”
Iron Jackson smiled as he let go of his wife, always the mother hen, she opened a food flask and the aroma of the meal therein rent the air. His stomach growled, time to eat he thought to himself, after that he will be prepared mentally and physically to face the intense grilling that was to come.
The air was thick with celebration and merriment, it was the middle of the harmattan season but the atmosphere was warm, music blared from speakers positioned strategically at different positions in the vast compound of the close. Two weeks had passed since the robbery incidence, serenity had returned to Hilob Close, everything had been returned back the way it used to be, so much so it would have been difficult to convince a stranger that a full blown battle had been fought here a weeks earlier.
A party was being held for Jackson Okafor who had become the new hero of the close, he had earlier in the day being hosted by the police commissioner and the Minister of the FCT, for his act of bravery but had been left with a stern warning to leave the vigilante work to police but they acknowledged that without him loss of life could have been unavoidable. He was awarded a handsome sum and a promise with the President. He had been so elated.
It had been a crazy two weeks, just after he was discharged from the hospital, he had head straight into one interview after the other, his face was on every TV station, his name adorned every newspaper, they were calling him “Old soldier with the heart of a lion.” He was enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame, even though Margaret felt he should be bed ridden.
He looked across the yard, the Oforkas were seated at a corner with the Alao’s, making merry like the other. The police had recovered some of the jewelry and briefcase that had been stolen from them. They promised to continue looking for the missing armed robber and were operating based on information gotten from the other surviving robber.
The Oforkas did not care either way, they were just lucky to be alive and so was Mallam Shehu who had been a lucky recipient of generous donation from the resident of the close and good friends who were concerned about his ordeal.
Security had been tightened in the close, the security team had been changed and a more experienced and efficient crew were employed. The gates were shut at six PM and now strangers had to call in to confirm an appointment before they were let through. CCTV cameras had been installed also to make surveillance easier. It would be a long time before another daredevil team made an attempt on the close.
“I am happy, you are okay.” Margaret said, breaking him out of his reverie.
“I am happy to okay too nkem. (term of endearment)” He said, raising a glass to his beautiful wife.
The sleek car cruised down the road, its occupants engrossed in a conversation, it came to a stop in front of a beautifully decorated building with the words Krypton displayed in colorful neon lights. The parking lot was parked full with cars just as sleek, the faint sounds of music could be heard from inside the majestic edifice. It was a Friday night and ravers were blowing off steam in the way the knew most to, partying.
As the man and his girl approached the huge bouncers posted at the entrance of the club, a voice called out at the man, who was clutching the hand of the beautiful, tall woman dressed in a figure hugging sequined dress. He turned to find himself face to face with several armed men.
“You are under arrest.”
The man let out a sigh, as he let go of his partner’s arm and walked towards the man holding a handcuff.
“Mr. Pablo, you are a hard man to track.” The officer said as he clasped his arms behind his back in the handcuff and led him towards the waiting police van.
The woman stood rooted on the spot, in shock and unable to explain what had just happened.
The police had been on the trail of Pablo for months, a trail that had led them through five different states, finally coming to concluding in Lagos. They had been tipped off by an old associate of his, that he was a regular patron of Club Krypton and they had laid siege and made their move the moment he had made an appearance.
Celestine Okwe looked at the gloomy man handcuffed in the back seat, no matter what was said of the Nigerian Police, they were efficient when need be, they might not be at par with the normal standard of law enforcement around the world but they did their job as best as day could. His heart swelled at the thought, he had just closed his first case, one of many, he hoped.