There were no stars in the sky that night; Chibuzor could tell that much from his position as his vision seemed to dim and brighten alternatively. He was conscious enough to regret not backing up the latest designs for the clothing line company he and his girl were setting up; conscious enough to know the police could see what was happening to him but refused to do anything; thinking about how he was alive with nothing worse than a headache and ripped pants to show for his ordeal. He could hear the clatter of plastic on tarmac and tried to sit up.
A light-headed feeling rushed in on him; his stomach rebelled – he quickly lay on his back once again. From the sounds, it didn’t seem the thieves had noticed him.
Another thing to be thankful for, he decided.
He lay still, feigning unconsciousness, wishing they would just go away. They were mumbling, but for reasons he wasn’t sure about, he couldn’t hear what they were saying.
“Wetin una dey do dia?” said a voice.
Chibuzor’s eyes flew open; the police had come! He stretched his hand, groping for the iron grating of the compound. He found it and pulled himself up, at the same time forcing his swimming vision to focus long enough and seek out who it was that had spoken.
What he saw however made him freeze halfway up.
A figure, a tall and dark figure stood not too far away from the left of Chibuzor. It was what this man was wearing however that made Chibuzor freeze. It was impossible to tell what he looked like because his head was covered with a hood, leaving his face in shadow. He was wearing a dark-colored hooded shirt with a huge, white skull and crossbones printed on the front of it. His hands were wrapped in white bandages; like a boxer would have on before putting on his gloves. Dark-colored jeans and ankle-length black and white Converse sneakers completed his ensemble.
He looked out of place considering the evening heat; there was nothing friendly about the way he stood, in the way darkness somehow clung to him.
The thieves looked at each other and then the self-elected spokesman for the group said, “Oga, waka dey go o. Na we reach here fest. We don even obtain am finis, tomorrow fit be your – “
Chibuzor wasn’t sure what happened. One moment the tout was trying to discourage the stranger, next moment he was staggering backwards trying to keep blood in his nose with his hands. The hooded guy was standing in front of Chibuzor now.
“Oya, drop everything wey you collect back!” the man snarled.
The other touts jumped forward, the smoker pulling out a kitchen knife from the waistband of his jeans, the second wielding a plank. Hooded guy slowly moved backwards, drawing them away from Chibuzor who couldn’t believe his eyes.
God! I must have banged my head real hard, he thought.
Nevertheless, he watched as his savior sidestepped the descending plank and hit its wielder with a left uppercut. Chibuzor winced as he heard the clear crunch of teeth clashing together in a not-so-nice way. The plank wielder went down and screamed through mashed lips and blood-soaked hands. The one with a smashed nose straightened from his crouch and, grabbing the plank, joined the knife-swinger who just sent the knife towards the hooded guy’s midriff in a stabbing move.
A left forearm knocked the knife-holding hand aside and a right jab to the throat put him out of the fight permanently. The knife fell to the tarmac with a clatter and he held his throat with both hands and staggered, thudding loudly beside Chibuzor, breath rattling in his throat.
The loud blaring of a horn drowned out the coughing sounds and a danfo screamed past. “See dis mumus wey dey fight for night!!!” somebody, probably the conductor, yelled.
The plank wielder and the hooded guy circled each slowly, like boxers looking for an opening – and then the plank went up. At that moment, a sound interjected and Chibuzor realized that a phone somewhere was vibrating. The next moment he was once again focused on the tableau before him, forgetting what he’d heard.
He watched as the hooded figure moved aside to avoid the plank with a smoothness that reminded of Michael Jackson moonwalking. He blinked – and the hooded figure was close enough to the plank wielder to hug him. Instead of a hug however, the hooded figure hit him with a swift right-left combination that would have made many a professional boxer envious. In this case however, the street lights were enough illumination for Chibuzor to see the tout’s face change color – and then, he turned his head away as the tout threw up.
The tout fell to his knees and continued to throw up, blood dripping from his nose and mixing with the puke.
Chibuzor was disgusted.
“How you…are you alright?”
Chibuzor stayed against the wall, frightened into immobility. He stared as though hypnotized at the man’s face – at least, where a face was supposed to be. The man’s voice was gruff, uncultured…not too different from what the thieves had sounded like. Chibuzor didn’t move, his heartbeats thunderous in his ears.
“E for beta if you begin dey go o, because dem go wake soon,” hooded guy said, waving in the direction of the touts who were slowly moving again, holding parts of them that hurt. The tout throwing up had stopped, but he was bent over on his knees holding his stomach, rocking back and forth and making moaning noises. Chibuzor left the wall and staggered a bit, feeling for and finding a lump on the back of his head, aware his headache was now a distant pain. He looked at his savior with disbelief.
“What are you, Daredevil…or what…?”
The hood swung his way – and even though he couldn’t see inside it he felt a burning stare.
“Carry your tins dey go,” the voice from within the hood said.
There was a cold finality to the sentence that started Chibuzor moving. He looked around, and spotted his valuables scattered amongst the groaning bodies. Quickly he darted between them and scooped up his laptop, phone, wallet and twenty naira one after the other. Stashing them into his bag, he turned towards the hood who was pointing back towards the busier side of Opebi – the left side from where they were standing.
“Selfie?” Chibuzor asked.
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