The police had asked them to get down and everyone was being searched amidst silent protests and grumbles, there were two people in front of him on the line waiting their turn to be searched, the bag had passed through the hands of about five people before he got a hold of it and as per the plan, was to deliver it to Ice Man in Port Harcourt and Chijioke was determined to carry the plan through regardless.
Without hesitation, he dashed in between two cars and disappeared into the bush, conscious of the voice yelling for him to stop but he did not stop. Something wheezed past his ear and before another bit into his midriff knocking him to the ground. He stood up gasping for breath; he could hear movements in the bushes around him and more gunfire, bullets were flying around him like fireflies, he crouched as he made a break for it, aware of the wet, warm liquid sliding down his jeans and the aching pain burning in his side. He just needed to put a huge distance between him and the police.
He kept running but his legs felt weighted down by led, in the distance he could see the door; his escape route but try as he may he could not reach it, the door seemed to be running away from him. Behind him he could hear the wails of sirens, the barking of pursuit dogs and the pounding of feet as the police followed hot on his tail, he looked around for a place to hide but in the darkness, all he could see was the door ahead and not much else.
He could feel a sweat run a cold, slippery, path down the burrows of his back and melting into the helm of his jeans, his feet made a squishing sound in his shoes as blood from the wound in his side filled it up.
The pain in his side felt like an icy jolt of lightening each time his feet hit the moss covered ground. The bag on his back made a “pam” “pam” noise as it bounced around, its weight doing little to aid his escape, the door was coming more and more into perspective as he came closer to it, he could see the dogs; big as rams, their shaggy bodies weaving expertly through the darkness, their eyes like burning lamps in the blackness, their yellowed teeth glistening, lit up by the fire from their eyes. If only he could reach that door, he could shut this nightmare behind him, he put more spring in his steps, his outstretched hand reaching for the door.
Suddenly he could not move, try as he could his legs would not obey his command, the darkness gave way to light and he found himself standing ankle deep in mud; where had it come from. The dogs and their keepers were drawing closer, screams of “kill am, kill am” filled the air, he was sinking now and the more he tried the faster he sank, the wetness of the ground had now reached his chest and he knew that he would soon be buried in this wet, rubbery, red soil, the door had disappeared, in its place were bright lights and its luminosity was blinding him, forcing him to momentarily forget that he was sinking and shield his eyes from the fierce, bright light.
“Chijioke, Chijioke.” One of the policemen slapped him hard across the face. He felt helpless, disappointment filling his heart, he had failed, after all they had been through; he had failed them.
He opened his eyes to find a scrawny looking man hovering over him in a dimly lit room, his face furrowed in concern. He sprang up alert but the pain in his side forced him to lie back with a wince.
“Chijioke, what mischief have you been up to now?” His cousin Chuma asked. “You came here bleeding like a Christmas goat last night and blacked out as soon as you walked in.”
“Where is the bag?!” Chijioke asked wide eyed.
“Relax nwokem, I kept it in the corner,” he said pointing to the blood stain covered bag, “and do not worry, I did not open it, whatever problem it is you have caused now, I do not want to be party to it.” After a brief pause, he continued.
“Are you the reason there are policemen roaming the streets?” When his cousin did not answer, he left his side to go look out the window.
Chuma was not under the illusion that his cousin was innocent, he had heard rumors of his exploit as a cultist, it had been hard to accept it because he was still the same boy who had been a mass server as a kid and led prayers during the Block Rosary, whose parents were outstanding members of the catholic community! The apple did fall far from the tree on this one. He had seen it coming, the friends he kept were far from saints and all advice for him to steer clear of them had fallen on deaf ears.
That was a gunshot wound, he knew that for sure, he had seen a number of cadavers with the same wound and was certain the gunshots from the night before and the presence of the police in the area were all connected to his cousin but he had learnt long ago to always mind his business and he was going to do just that.
“Jioke, you know you cannot stay here? You have to leave, I do not want any problems with the authorities, I would be graduating in less than six months and I do not want to jeopardize that. I hope you understand.”
Slowly rising from the bed, his every movement marked by pain, he felt run over by a fourteen wheeler, his left side where the bullet had lodged was on fire causing him to grimace with pain. He threw his legs over the side of the bed, his body print marked by sweat from lying down on the bed, his head felt woozy as he tried to stand, so instead he reached for the shirt his cousin had given him and shrugged it on, heaving a sigh when it was finally on.