Freedom

Two minutes were left. Everything was perfect; the plan had been executed perfectly. Next step was to exit the vault becoming rich forever. Victory was an arm’s length away, they could smell it; a life of forever and after, but if only. There was a problem — deep within their hearts one person bore hatred and rage.

“What are you doing, Victor?” Tope roared. “This isn’t the time for games.”

The third man in the room, Dipo, was absolutely terrified because Victor had a gun pointed at him.

“Victor!” Tope repeatedly shouted his name. “Answer me! Are you going to throw everything away? We dreamed, brother.”

“Leave me,” Victor screamed back. “Patiently I have waited for this moment. I hate this bastard so much. Fuck! He has to die.”

“Victor, please!” Tope cried. “This isn’t the time for this. Put your feelings aside, business is business. ”

“What’s this rubbish now?” Dipo fearfully asked. “Make we commot for here this guy. You too dey misbehave.”

“Dipo!” Tope violently shouted. “Calm it. Fucking calm it. Victor isn’t the type to act irrationally so what the heck did you do?”

“Don’t you dare say another fucking word, you piece of shit,” Victor blasted Dipo. “After all we have done for you? You went behind my back and broke my trust. You deserve to die!”

“Victor!” Toped calmly him. “One minute left, bro. Time is of the essence, let us go.”

Victor shook his head.

“He took what’s mine.”

It was then Dipo understood and he let out a miserable laugh.

“Is that why?” He laughed again. “You fool! I did you a favor!”

“50 seconds, Victor!” Tope continued his warnings. “Remember, I bet you fucking do, I am never going back. I will take any drastic measure to avoid back to prison.”

Victor began to cry. “I’m sorry, bro.”

BANG!

A gun went off, a body dropped.

***

It began a year ago when Tope was released from jail. He was locked up for armed robbery and had gotten released earlier for good behaviour but majorly because the prison was reaching full capacity with its inmates. Tope, unlike the previous times, kept a low profile in jail — no gang involvement, no big boss shit, no hidden weapons, nothing. He kept it clean as a whistle. Tope was the man with a plan. Every decision was calculated with foresight. “Maximize profit, minimize cost” was his motto.

“The path with less risks should be the one taken. The easiest route isn’t always the safest,” He repeated constantly with every opportunity.

On the day of his release, Victor awaited him at the gate with his black Toyota Corolla. They embraced each other deeply. Both men grew up a stone throw from each with mothers as enemies. A little altercation between both boys brought them together. A shock to many how they had become inseparable, morning to night they were side by side, plotting, being nuisances, planning the future together. Their most memorable moment that forged the brotherhood was one fateful Saturday night. Both boys had a spot at a junk yard they hid in whenever they couldn’t weather the storm they had provoked. Although being the bigger of the two, Victor always looked up to Tope because he had the ambition. That night, Victor leaned on a demolished car while Tope laid on it. Tope’s eyes stayed fixed on the skies in silence.

“We’d make it,” He blurted out. “Even if I have to give my blood sweat and tears, we will make it.”

Victor gasped.

“Anywhere I go, you go,” He continued. “We are brothers, for life. Anytime we fall, I will kick us back up. I must.”

Both boys ignored their respective mothers’ advises on the obvious destructive paths they would both lead each other.

“I trust the crooked road over the straight road,” Another of Tope’s sayings. “Nothing should come easy and if it does, it comes with a price. Beware.”

“How was prison, again?” Victor teased, pulling out of the hug. “I hope you were a good boy?”

Tope smiled and punched his friend in the arm.

“When am I not?”

Both men entered the car and drove off. Victor as always had his friend’s favorite Cuban cigars and henntin the car but for the first time, Tope wasn’t interested.

“I have a job,” He randomly mentioned. “One final job- Crème de la crème; the climax of our lives.”

“Huh?” Victor was baffled. “Didn’t you just get out? Are you insane? Do you want to go back in?”

Victor hit the breaks abruptly and stared his friend in the eyes. The deep intent was visible. Nothing Victor could say to change his friend’s mind and he knew. It was intense.

“Don’t you have faith in me, again?” Tope posed a rhetorical question. He knew Victor could never lose faith in him. “I am dead serious this time. This is the last and final time we would ever have to do this. The plan is flawless.”

Victor’s fingers trembled on the steering wheel. Tope’s aura was getting stronger and unsettling, Victor felt uneasy in his gut. It wasn’t disbelief or mistrust, none of that. Tope had his moments of being dead serious but that moment beat the rest, and it was then Victor understood the severity of his friend’s claim.

“I rather die than go back in there,” Tope concluded.

Victor exhaled at that moment.

“Die trying, huh?” Victor smiled with fear. “What’s the plan?”

Tope had been staring out the window for a while. Chills were sent down Victor’s spine. It was unusual for his friend to return from prison this cold. He could only wonder what had happened on the inside.

“We are going to need six guys,” Tope replied.

Tope’s brilliant plan was to rob, yet again, another bank. At first Victor sighed with discomfort with intent to opt out but at the end of the plan review, he was drawn back in. Quite frankly, the plan was simple, no hassle whatsoever. The job was to rob one of the smallest banks in the neighbourhood- First City Monument Bank. Victor came to learn it was an idea Tope had harboured for years; it was his contingency plan. Tope was fed up of struggling and doing time, he wanted and needed to retire. A father to a five year old daughter he barely saw, he swore to do different because his father had failed him by ghosting the family, but he was on the path of becoming his father.

“What do we need six guys for?” Victor asked.

“The more the better.” He replied.

“What?” A baffled Victor replied. “The pie gets smaller when its time to divide it!”

“Don’t let greed take control of you,” Tope warned. “There will be more than enough to go around. We are looking at two hundred million Naira, if not more.”

“That’s a lot!” Victor was excited. “How on earth are we going to take all that to the car without being noticed?”

Tope smiled.

“Asides being a smaller financial institution in comparison with the powerhouses, its location is the safest for us,” He began. “First city monument bank is the furthest bank from any police station or any possible location where help is feasible. For the robbery we need a maximum of 20 minutes, factoring any unforeseen circumstances. I don’t take chances, you know that. The closest police station is 30 minutes away and we are in Lagos. Come on, the traffic.”

Victor was in awe.

“A bag of one million Naira will be used to cause a commotion just outside the bank to facilitate an easier get away.”

“So why do we need six people?” Victor asked. “And how are we splitting it?”

“Everyone gets an equal cut,” He replied. “Like I had said, the more the better, the faster.”

“Alright.”

“The five of us would be in the bank, the sixth person will be the get away driver.”

The plan was simple and basic, too basic Victor felt Tope was holding out on him.

Overtime they searched for the three people to complete the team. Victor’s girlfriend was always part of their heist. A master of disguise, Oyinda was in charge of scouting their next target. Although Tope had done his recon, further more was needed. Never repeating a disguise, Oyinda entered the bank on several occasions giving detailed reports of the strengths and weaknesses of the bank. Unsurprisingly, the bank had fortified it’s security but that didn’t pose a problem for Tope. The upgrade was minimal and expected.

Eventually, the team was complete. For the next 12 months, they covered every single detail of the bank. After each recon mission, they would meet up at the boys’ childhood hideout. It had been completely deserted. Strategies were orchestrated, back up plans were created and plans were fortified over passing of blunts and shots of henny.

All six people had gotten their roles: the getaway driver, Oyinda would pose as a customer in the bank during the heist feeding her colleagues information with signals unknown to outsiders, a member of the team would be stationed in the banking hall with the hostages, and the remaining three were in charge of filling the bags with money.

By passing security at the gate was the easiest part. There is a sense of entitlement from almost every Lagosian and Tope took that to his advantage. There were four poorly trained security men stationed at the gate who had a habit of asking for “something small” all the time. Tope planned to lace four one thousand naira notes with Strephatoxm, a chemical that would enter their bloodstream on contact and knock them out. It was Oyinda’s job to ensure it reached the hands of all four. The getaway driver would double as a security guard who will then be stationed at the gate in the absence of the usual four. The bank would be inaccessible to anyone on the outside once the four guards become incapacitated. The get away car will be parked in front of the gate for the quick get away. As Oyinda doubles as a hostage under the watch of Dapo, the 3rd man, they would keep the banking hall under control while the three men steal as much as they can. They were good to go.

Tope being the leader gave commands that had to be adhered. Two months before the heist he advised everyone stay clean and get everything out of thier system. He gave them the freedom to get loose one last time before the operation so they had partied like never before, also in celebration of their incoming success. The gang went to a club far away where they won’t be easily identified if their plan did fail. Feeling under the weather a few hours into the night, Victor called it an early night and went home. He didn’t feel the need for Oyinda to leave with him so he left without her. Even if shit was to go sideways, she had Tope so he was calm.

Victor stood outside waiting for his uber driver who was 20 mins late, but being a little intoxicated, it felt a lot less than. Just when his Uber arrived and he had gotten it, he saw Oyinda walk of the club.

“Oyi-“ He paused, startled. “Hold on he told the Uber driver.”

Dipo had followed her out. He watched them for a bit being suspicious. She was smiling sheepishly. It was weird because both of them never seemed friendly with each other when the whole team was together.

Dipo Ajayi was a street level conman known for petty crimes — shop lifting, pick pocketing, lock picking etc, and he was very good at what he did. He should have been major leagues but his attitude towards his job held him back. A skilled thief but very nonchalant. Victor and Tope had used him over the years for small dealings, nothing large. It wasn’t just them, everyone else who worked with Dapo feared he was incapable of going big even though he was extremely skilled. Being the persistent fellow, he continuously begged both men to put him on.

“His skill could come in handy,” Tope suggested. “We should use him now. Who else can we trust?”

“No way! You are messing me with.” Victor retorted. “He would hold us back.”

“You have to stop assuming, bro,” Tope advised.

“Have you forgotten all so soon?”

Tope shook his head.

“With what’s at stake, he can’t afford to fuck up this time,” Tope assured an unconvinced Victor.

“Alright,” Victor replied, still unconvinced. “The time will come.”

Victor watched carefully from his Uber.

“I’m starting the trip,” the Uber driver announced.

With no reply from Victor, the driver repeated himself and then started the trip. By then, tears rolled down Victor’s eyes because Oyinda had cozied up to Dapo who In turn was grabbing her ass. In a matter of seconds they briefly kissed and hoped into a cab. A broken Victor sat solemn in the Uber with an engagement ring in his hand. The stakes were high, their momentum was buzzing, Victor felt it was the right moment to pop the question, so he faked his illness to get home in time just to surprise her. Throwing the ring out of the cab, he instructed the driver to take him home. The ride home was a painful one. Everything he had done was for her, their future.

“I’ll buy you the world,” He swore Oyinda. “Anytime you want, I promise it’ll be yours. I’m serious even if I have to die to get it.”

“You play too much,” She teased.

“I’m serious!” He beat his chest. “That’s how much I love you. I’ll move the ground beneath your feet for you. We will live in a mansion, you’ll have maids are you beck and call. Chefs to prepare those fancy rich people food that barely fills you up.”

They both laughed.

“I love you, Yin.”

“I love you too, Vic.”

She laid in his arms as they stared at the stars together.

Victor planned Dapo’s downfall and thought the best time to ruin him would be during the robbery. He thought wrong.

******************************************************************

All the customers screamed at the sound of the gun shot. Dapo’s eyes clashed with Oyinda’s.

“Don’t kill anybody under no circumstance.”

That was Tope’s rule he repeated every single day till the final moment. Something had to have gone terribly wrong. Unlike Dapo, Oyinda wasn’t a newbie working with the gang. She knew Tope never compromised for anything which is why the gunshot terrified her badly.

Dapo was losing the crowd and didn’t know what to do. Oyinda, using her eyes, instructed him to stay him and get the banking hall together. She got up on her feet and attempted a fake escape, but Dapo grabbed her in time slamming her into the ground and almost choking her to death. His actions make them assume he is a monster simply because of his assault on Oyinda. He had regained control all that was left was for the three men to come out with the bags and an explanation.

*******************************************************************

Balo the sixth man stationed on the gate lost his cool when he heard the gunshot. Standing still with fright watching every pedestrian who was around the bank at that moment quickly dispersed. Constantly looking left and right, unable to make a decision. He looked at the stop his timer: 40 seconds left. Then there it was again, another gun shot.

“Fuck me,” He whispered under his breath.

******************************************************************

Victor fell like a log of wood to the ground. Dipo stared at Tope with disbelief.

“What the fuck man?” Dipo screamed, wiping blood off his face. “Isn’t he you-”

Dipo was unable to finish his sentence because Tope had shot him in the chest.

“Don’t compromise the mission you fucking idiots,” He screamed. “I told you to wait. I fucking told you, Victor. Yes, he fucked you girl, I know. I have always known and so fuck what? So fuck what? Now you have ruined it. You ruined it because of pussy. I told you I am never going back and I will take any fucking drastic measure. Bye, brother.”

Tope walked out with five bags on his back into the banking hall. Oyinda and Dapo were puzzled seeing only Tope carrying so many bags on his own. Dapo walked up to him.

“Where are Dipo and Victor?” Dapo curiously asked.

Oyinda was suspecting foul play and when she noticed the gun in his hand, the jig was up.

She quickly rose to her feet bringing out a gun from her bra, but before she could act upon her intuition, Tope gunned down both of them down killing them instantly.

“Don’t fucking compromise the mission,” He whispered under his breath. “Don’t fucking compromise it! I won’t go back for anyone!”

Tope exited the bank but Balo was nowhere in sight; the car was gone.

freedom
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