Celebrating East African Writing!
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The metal door sang as blow after blow landed on it. The sound reverberated in the tiny vehicle, making it sound as if thousands of mallets were hammering away at the door. Inside the van, two men listened or rather, one man listened helplessly as death tried to claw its way into the temporary refuge they had managed to find in the vehicle. One of the men, Oscar, had been shot and though Tabu, his colleague had managed to stop his bleeding, he appeared to be in excruciating pain. He kept swimming in and out of consciousness sweating profusely and mumbling nothings to his only audience, who had more pressing matters to attend to at the moment than listening to the incoherent murmurs of a seemingly dying man.
Two hours before
The bullet proof vest made his slow progress uncomfortable but he trudged on. “Where is Oscar?” he asked himself for the umpteenth time, wondering where his partner was. “Probably by the front desk, trying to woo the new secretary, Ruth,” he thought chuckling and shaking his head. Oscar had no chance with Ruth, for Tabu had already “been there” and “done that”.
Tabu Robert doubled his effort as he came within earshot of the van’s engine noises. Within moments he had come round the corner and was a bit surprised to find a small group of four hurdled by the van, apparently discussing low tones. Three of them wore the characteristic yellow and blue of the city’s police and the fourth was none other than Oscar. Oscar looked up at the sound of Tabu approaching with the chest of money. He whispered something to the other three and left the group to meet Tabu halfway to the van.
“Hi,” he said. “Is that the cash? Let me help you with that.”
Tabu was only too pleased to oblige.
“Where were you?” he asked, handing the bulky chest to an ever grinning Oscar.” Thought you’d gone to chat up Ruth. Better hurry or someone will beat you to it.”
Oscar waved off his last comment.
“Woohoo! This is heavy! How much do we have here?” he asked.
“Fifty million in cash…and we better hurry. Or else we’ll be stuck in traffic till midday…and how come you are not wearing your bullet vest? You know how Kirimi get all emotional and stuff if we don’t put on our vests.”
“Hahaha…Kirimi’s a farg…I don’t like the damn things and besides, I don’t think I’ll be needing it today.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Tabu absentmindedly, checking his watch.
Oscar fumbled a bit as he replied.
“Nothing…I mean…what’s the worst that can happen?”
His black visage split into his usual toothy grin as they reached the van. Oscar introduced him to their escorts who apparently he had already gotten acquitted to. Tabu thought it was a bit unusual to have more police escorts than company employees transporting money, but he assured himself that it was probably because of the sheer amount of cash they were transporting.
Without much ado, they all got into the van and before long, Tabu and two of the policemen were hurdled up in the back of the security van commenting on the weather as Oscar drove them across town towards their destination.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
The banging stirred him from his stupor. Tabu looked at his watch. It had been twenty minutes, twenty whole minutes of nothing but clanging and banging yet the door still held strong. Tabu cringed as each blow landing, never knowing which blow would the one to crack open their shell. He knew the door would eventually give way, and when it did…Tabu shivered at the thought.
He looked at his watch again. It had been thirty minutes since they had switched off the van’s company tracker.
“Surely by now someone at headquarters must’ve noticed, “he muttered under his breathe to no one in particular.
The thought must’ve also dawned on whoever was banging the door, for with an almighty grunt, he started clobbering the door with blows that made the entire vehicle rock.
BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG!
Outside the van Oduor, the one using blows trying to open the door, clanged on like a man possessed. The other two watched on in utter silence as he raged on. For two minutes he gave the door all he had but to no avail. Getting to his feet and cursing fluently, Oduor took out his gun and fired two quick shots into the door hinges but they all ricocheted into the walls, hardly leaving a scratch. They would have to look for another way in.
One of the two had been watching his colleague do his thing moved forward.
“Tabu, it’s me again, “he whispered, after rapping smartly on the door.
Inside the van, Tabu who had wet his pants when the first shot went off and almost done even worse when he heard the second shot, looked up wild eyed when he heard his name.
“Tabu, can you hear me?”
Tabu tried to drum up enough courage to speak but when he opened his mouth, nothing.
“I’ll assume you can hear me. Am giving you one last chance to open the door. There’s enough money in that chest for all of us. Just open the door and we will act as if none of this ever happened…”
Tabu came as close as one possibly could to believing what he heard, but there was no way he was going to give in so dumbly. He looked around for the umpteenth time willing himself to come up with a reasonable plan to escape but to no avail. Half formed plans flashed across his mind, each wilder than the last but nothing viable enough to act on.
Not a sound. Tabu strained his ear, listening for a muffled footstep, cough or anything. Nothing. Oddly enough, Tabu found the silence more unsettling than the seemingly endless banging he had endured a few minutes earlier. He got up, walked to the van wall and pressed his ear to the wall. Still Nothing. But that wasn’t it. Something wasn’t right…something. Then he realized it. No muttering… Oscar had stopped muttering.
With a cold sinking feeling Tabu stumbled forward. He fumbled at Oscar’s neck, checking for a pulse and sighed with relief when he found one. He wiped the drop of sweat that had formed on his brow and got back to his feet. Listening for anything. Nothing.
“Enough of this! Oscar act now,” yelled a gruff voice from outside.
For a moment, Tabu did not fully comprehend exactly what he had heard. He instinctively turned to where Oscar had been lying but was puzzled to find no Oscar lying there. Then as he tried to stand, he heard some movement behind him and before he could turn, stars erupted before his eyes as felt something hard hit his head with a muffled thump. For a moment, he thought his head would split in two due to the pain but then everything turned black as he fell into an endless pit, spinning, spinning…
Beep. Beep. Beep.
An odd beeping brought him back to life. He had to escape. He had to save Oscar. He had to save the money. He tried to get up but couldn’t. Strong but gentle arms held him down.
“Lie down child, no one is going to hurt you.” whispered as soft feminine voice.
Oscar opened his eyes just a sliver. An elderly nurse was peering down her spectacles at him. He looked around. Judging from what he could make of his surroundings, he was in a hospital.
“What happened?” he asked, raising a hand to rub his forehead, trying to remember what had occurred.
“Easy, child. There’s time for questions later.”
She handed him a glass of water which he gulped down.
“Oscar,” he whispered.” What happened to Oscar?”
He dreaded what he was about to hear.
“Am sorry, but your colleague did not make it. We’ve looked everywhere but we can’t find the body. They must’ve dumped the two of you into the river as they escaped. Some kids playing by the river saw you drift past and called their parents. As for your colleague…we haven’t found a body yet.”
And with that, the old nurse walked away, leaving Tabu to his thoughts.
Later that night, he lay awake still trying to figure out what had happened. Flashes of what had transpired kept popping up in his mind but all in a senseless jumble that, try as he did, didn’t make sense.
Oscar not breathing.
None of it made sense. Then unbidden to him, a gruff voice…
“Enough of this! Oscar act now!”
Tabu sat bolt upright. For a split-second, he did not understand but then his mouth fell agape as comprehension dawned on him.
“Oscar,” he whispered into the dark. “Oscar, you sneaky bastard.”
©Agar Frank (Early man)