I wrote this in response to a 1000-words-or-less writing prompt: You are a hero, in a city that never seems to have enough of them. Suddenly, disaster strikes… “and it was such a peaceful Tuesday morning.”
Sergeant Kalu sighed.
“How far, bro?” his partner asked, kicking a loose stone idly as he waved at the sky blue SUV that had just driven past their checkpoint. “Why you dey breathe heavy heavy?”
Kalu glanced at him, hearing the grin in his voice. He suspected John-Bosco knew he didn’t like him using that term, “bro”, and was deliberately goading him. Nor did he wish to reply the question, because he wasn’t about to talk about his feelings with a man he didn’t respect.
“Nothing, no mind me,” he said, shifting his rifle as he adjusted his back on their patrol truck.
John-Bosco grunted. That was fine with Kalu. With any luck there would be no further conversation and for his part he would be more careful to avoid any more sighing. He eyed the other man as he patted his back pocket—the money from the SUV’s owner—and felt a heat in his own pocket from his share of the money they had “collected” so far today.
Kalu felt ashamed. He had entered the police force to be a hero in this city that had too few, but the years under his belt weighed heavy on him now. He had tried to resist the bribe culture, but the practicalities had forced him to reconsider. John-Bosco was by all rights meant to be his junior officer but he had remained a sergeant while his mates had risen in the ranks. Kalu was incredibly good at his job, one of the best officers in decades, but no one seemed to care about that anymore. And while his already meagre salary stagnated, his family grew, school fees jumped and the economy tanked in just the past three years under the current government. The bribes were simply how many survived now.
Even his wife had started to treat him with contempt, with an unmistakable sneer when she mocked him for his “principles”, saying it like it was a dirty word. He thought of her now, with sadness. He wondered what she was—
The sound exploded into his thoughts. And then movement out of the corner of his eye. He was already dropping to the ground beneath their truck as he turned to see what was moving, and realised with a second wave of alarm that the movement was John-Bosco also dropping. Except the man was dropping face up, blood spurting out of his neck. It was bright red, the blood, and the way it squirted put Kalu in mind of the effect of squeezing a pure water sachet. Funny, what you noticed in times of terror.
Kalu held his rifle, and tried to listen above the pounding in his ears of his own heart. He heard the screeching of tires, cars breaking and then reversing to turn back from the scene the checkpoint had become. There were a few more shots. And then he heard another screech, but in the opposite direction, where he couldn’t see because the truck was in the way. He bobbed his head over the side, quickly, hoping the cage in the back would serve as a protection of sorts.
He did not expect what he saw.
The sky blue SUV and two men, clad all in black, standing in front of it and another in flowing agbada a couple feet behind them. Where had they come from? Even as he thought that, he realised: they could have been in the boot which of course he and his partner hadn’t actually checked. The money in the dead man’s pocket had seen to that. So why had they come back to kill them—or was it just John-Bosco?
Kalu saw the guns in their hands. They looked like those ones from the American films, the AR-15s, he believed they were called. He clutched his rifle tighter, like a drowning man might clutch at a straw.
He thought about calling for backup, but it was quiet now, and they would almost certainly hear him. Even then, who was he kidding? Backup was almost certainly not coming in time anyway, not with how thin the force was spread. Could he run? That wasn’t going to be an option, except he could jump in the truck—but that SUV would almost certainly catch up if these people were so inclined.
Wait, it’s quiet. Not even footsteps. Were they just standing there? Can I afford to look?
He chanced it one more time. They were still there. Except now the “owner” at the back gestured with his fingers. Come here. They’d seen him.
He couldn’t run, couldn’t get backup. He could play the hero, he thought, but his wife would probably curse him even more.
He swallowed painfully, mouth dry, put his gun down and his hands up, and stood, very slowly.
Then he walked around the truck and toward the men. This is how I die, last-last.
He stopped a few feet from the men. They glared at him. The man behind them was even shorter than he had appeared in the car, but heavyset. He was grinning, all teeth.
“Sorry about your partner,” he said, “but I mean you no harm. I just have an offer for you: The only way you get to walk away from here alive is as my employee.”
Kalu stared blankly. Funny, the thoughts that pop into your head in moments of the unexpected. All he could think about was how the day had started as such a peaceful Tuesday morning.