February 2, 2015.
“Gentlemen, who are we?”
“WE ARE BACHELORS!”
“What do we want?”
“TO BE SUCCESSFUL!”
“Behind every successful man, there’s a woman!”
“FALSE! FALSE! FALSE!”
“Do we need women to be happy?”
“When shall we get married?”
A smile sneaked from the left corner of his lips. They had impressed him with their responses. Walt Shakes knew he had fired up the room, and a smug expression soon found a way unto his face. It was the first meeting of the year for Bachelors’ Anonymous, an organisation devoted to achieving success and finding satisfaction without all the drama and stress that came with emotional commitments. The rules of the organisation were simple: look good, smell good, converse wittily, flirt reasonably, but avoid getting emotionally involved (though celibacy was not exactly part of the regulations). The organisation believed in the philosophy of “No Women, No Worries”, and regularly sensitized its members on the need to resist societal and family pressures to settle down. Success was not sexually transmitted, and no woman deserved to live off the sweat of a man to whom she had made no material contribution. The organisation was also a place of refuge for the heartbroken and the serially friend-zoned, who felt the need to steer clear of the dating game. Of these gentlemen dressed in tuxedos that evening, Walt Shakes was chief.
“When you successfully get down with a girl, and she asks, ‘what are we’, how do you respond?”
“We are nothing but pencils in the hand of the Creator”, a voice chipped in from the front row.
“Thank you, Jerry.”
Jerry Chiemeke had been a staunch member of Bachelors’ Anonymous for years now, and was next in rank to Walt Shakes. Jerry in particular had a chequered history. Lawyer and retired priest, he joined the organisation after two successive break-ups, and had since resolved to be non-committal, leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake. He knew just what to say, but like he usually said, “it’s one thing to say, and it’s another to feel the very words that take leave of your mouth.” He had risen quite fast, and was in charge of recruitment, as well as anti-friendzone seminars.
“I wish to officially welcome you all to another year”, Walt continued, as the men in the room sipped from their champagne glasses. “As you know, it’s the month of February, and there is every tendency to get mushy, particularly as that date we all detest draws nearer. It’s our duty to avoid excessive chivalry, to put up strong mental defences, to…….”
That was as far as Walt went. He could not have possibly gone further. The bullet had sauntered in from the glass window behind him, and decided to settle somewhere at the back of his neck, bringing him to his knees.
To use the word “pandemonium” to describe the ensuing atmosphere would have been a grand understatement. Glasses and saucers went up in the air, and people bundled over each other as they tried to find the nearest door. The meeting had been taking place at the top floor of a tall building in the heart of the city, and amidst the confusion, one of the men look a leap through the window, causing some bloodstains seconds later to the tarred road below.
“Walt is down! The Chief is down! Someone call State Police Headquarters. Someone call an ambulance. Get help. Take cover”, Jerry screamed.
But it was too late to follow that last instruction. Bullets quickly rained in like confetti at a wedding ceremony. The shooter(s) had apparently switched to a long-range assault rifle. At the end of the shower, many bachelors had been put to ground. The room took the shape of a makeshift morgue. No key players had been put to sleep permanently, but some nursed a bullet wound or two; Jargo Akpoveta was hit in the thigh, Whiz Iwundu was hit in the buttocks, and Hannu Afere was groaning in pain from a bullet wound to his groin. Akintunde Aiki, though still breathing, had been shot in the abdomen, and the shower had also grazed Hafiz Oseni’s arm.
In all the carnage, Jerry wondered how he was still standing. The two men who had flanked him were brought down, each with a bullet to the back of the head, yet he had someone managed not to get hurt. It was like that verse in Psalm 91:
“A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right, but you shall not be harmed.”
Jerry had no strength to issue more instructions. While his surviving colleagues tried to salvage what (& who) was left, he quickly made his way out of the building, and on getting to the road, began to observe the other end of the street for any vantage points. The panicky screams from frightened citizens who had heard the gunshots interrupted his thoughts from time to time, but he struggled to maintain focus.
It had been a Monday evening, and he had spotted only three buildings; a bank, a hotel and a church. He strained his eyes, looking closely at their respective top floors from where he was. The angles of elevation were stretched, but he soon got an answer. He faintly heard someone sneeze. A sneeze….from the direction of the church! Jerry crossed the road, his eyes solely on the church. It did not take long for his target to realize that a discovery had been made, and in a matter of seconds the shooter glided down the church bell, making a run for it.
The route of the chase involved traffic jams, populated markets and overcrowded bus stops. On multiple occasions Jerry bumped into people and their wares. He tried to keep up with the shooter, but months of Orijin and insufficient exercise soon began to take their toll. He soon began to pant in the middle of the road, and after about six minutes beckoned on a Keke rider for an exclusive ride.
“Just dey go anywhere wey I point. I go pay the money”, Jerry said, speaking between spurts of havy breathing.
He knew he had long lost his target, but he could not call off the chase. He kept directing the Keke rider, whose frowns grew in strength, while he looked at both sides of the road.
About thirty minutes passed without any headway, and Jerry was about to pay off the now furious rider, when he spotted someone clad in an all-black attire at the far end of a secluded yard to his left. He looked closely. His search was over.
“Bros, take your money. Nor talk anything. Just go”, he said in a hushed tone.
The ride had cost Jerry about N2,000. He couldn’t be bothered. Money was the least of his worries. He had found the person who took out his colleagues, and while he was eager to exact vengeance, he had to be smart about it.
Jerry gently took off his jacket, loosened his tie and put them on the ground. He then began to tiptoe towards the direction of the shooter, who donned a mask and whose back was turned to him all the while. The plan was to launch a surprise attack, while keeping his target alive so he could elicit information as to the identity of those sponsoring the attack on his organisation. Jerry moved stealthily, but soon had to stop in his tracks. The sound of a broken bottle greeted his ears from behind. He began to feel dizzy and in a matter of seconds, lost all consciousness.
The shooter turned, walked towards Jerry’s motionless body, and clasped hands with the (equally) masked individual who had administered the blow to Jerry’s head. Together they carried him out through a narrow section of a yard to the road, and hurled him in the boot of a waiting car. Just before they got in to make a getaway, the two took off their masks and gloves.
“See how this mask just scattered my hair. Can’t wait to get to base and take off my bra jor. You need to get your nails done sha”, one said to the other.