It was friday evening; a long awaited one for Ibukun, Damilola and Chikwelu. They had worked their butts off for two straight weeks, traveling from state to state. They were IT personnels for one of the largest new generation banks in Nigeria. They were an envied lot in their offices as they were the only staffs of the bank that kept irregular work hours and were not mandated to keep to a particular dress code. In fact, watching them now, you would have trouble believing they were staffs of a bank. Ibukun was wearing a blue jeans trouser with a blue T-shirt with an angry smiley and the words inscribed, “Boys Are Not Smiling.” It was ironical because right now, his laughter reverberated the empty banking hall as they strolled towards the exit. Damilola had on a plain white T-Shirt, soiled with pepper sauce, the cause of Ibukun’s bellow, and combat shorts with the pockets bulging with tools. He was munching away at a lap of peppered turkey they had ordered earlier. Chikwelu was a couple of steps behind, talking intimately to his girlfriend on the phone. He was dressed in a well starched and sparkling white shirt and light blue jeans and a pair of blue sneakers. He was the most dressed of the trio.

Their itinerary began on Tuesday last week with a trip from Lagos to Enugu. They were there for three days working on a crashed server in two of the bank’s branches when another call came in. They headed to Benin where they spent two days. From Benin, they headed to Kano where they spent a day before boarding the morning flight to Port Harcourt. They had been in Port Harcourt for almost seven days now and were due to return to Lagos the next day. The back-breaking work they had done for two weeks without break had taken its toll. There weren’t too tired but they just needed a good time.

“Have you called Tony?” Ibukun asked, suddenly reminding Chikwelu who had joined them after he got off the phone.

“I haven’t o. Make I call am now sef.” Chikwelu said, whipping out his iPhone and dialing.

“I hope Tony won’t dull us? I’m stressed out man. I need to cool off. I just need one fine yarinya to keep me company tonight.” Ibukun said, with excitement.

“Which kain useless man you be?” Damilola asked in between chomps. “Nor be you just do introduction last month?”

“Ehen?! Nor be only introduction? I never marry yet jor?” Ibukun replied, dismissively

“Even when you finally get married, I know you won’t stop chasing women.” Damilola jeered.

“You don be seer now abi? This one when you don see my future finish.” Ibukun retorted, throwing a soft but unexpected punch at Damilola’s shoulder. His half eaten turkey lap fell from his grip and bounced on the beautiful marble floor of the banking hall.

“You see wetin this fool don do?” Damilola complained to Chikwelu, who remained behind, talking on the phone. Ibukun burst into laughter as he dodged a kick from Damilola.

“Abeg Dami pick you meat jare. Anybody dey look you?” Ibukun continued, laughing. Damilola shrugged and picked up the fallen piece of meat. He blew on it with all the force he could muster to dislodge any dirt that might have stuck to it from the marble floor. Ibukun continued to laugh.

“I nor blame you.” Damilola said as he resumed dealing with the big chunk of peppered meat. Chikwelu joined them again as they approached the revolving doors.

“Ok, Tonero has three hot girls. They are all bankers and they are looking to have a good time.” Chikwelu said excitedly.

“My nigga! I knew you won’t fail!!” Ibukun said, raising a palm for a high five which was smacked.

“Three girls? I told you guys I’m not getting involved in this one.” Damilola said.

“C’mon man! Don’t be a pussy. We are in PH man. Its Sin City!” Chikwelu said, chiding Damilola.

“One bad experience is not enough for you to…” Ibukun began to say, but a fast kick by Damilola on the knee made him buckle as Chikwelu roared in laughter.

“You want to say something?” Damilola said in mock menace to Ibukun.

“Bros, abeg! Na joke I dey o.” Ibukun said in mock fear laughing.

They stepped outside the bank premises and the warm air outside was a welcome change from the low temperature room where they had been cooped all day. It was a little after 10: 30pm and they waited as their driver drove up to them. Chikwelu went to speak to Jonah, the head security man briefly before he joined them in the car. They always left him the passenger seat because he was the taller of the three.

“So, where to now?” Damilola asked.

“The hotel. We need to freshen up and meet Tony at that club we went to last time.” Chikwelu replied. The driver started the car and drove out.

“Abeg, make we find where we go buy condom first. I’m out of stock.” Ibukun said. The driver, the man they called Eliri, courtesy Ibukun because of his diminutive stature laughed.

“See Eliri dey laugh o. I know say una PH girls no good so I must protect myself.” Ibukun retorted.

“I’ve got some in my bag in the hotel. Since I’m not joining you guys tonight, you can use my supply.” Damilola said.

“So you’re really not joining us tonight? Na wa for you o!” Chikwelu exclaimed from the front seat.

“You won’t understand. The kind of relaxation I need is just beer!” Damilola said.

“Dami, you too like drink sef! Ah ah!” Ibukun chipped in.

“And you too like woman.” Damilola retorted.

As they drove into their hotel, Chikwelu’s phone rang again. He spoke briefly and hung up.

“Its Tony. He’s at the hotel bar already.” He said.

“That’s my cue. My drinking starts now.” Damilola said as he stepped out of the Toyota Yaris.

“Ok. You keep him company while we freshen up.” Ibukun said to Damilola. At Eliri, he said, “You dey with us na, abi?”

“I dey with una bros.” Eliri replied in his characteristic squeaky voice that matched his stature. The last time they were in Port Harcourt, they had kept him supplied with enough booze. Eliri was a champion. He seemed to have an unlimited reservoir for alcohol without ever getting drunk, despite his diminutive stature. “Small but mighty” Ibukun had called him.

A few minutes later, Chikwelu and Ibukun emerged from their hotel room, having changed their work clothes and strolled to the bar, where Damilola, Tony and three ladies were sitting. Tony had already taken the liberty to order a bottle of Jack Daniels and Power Horse, on Chikwelu’s tab which he drank with the ladies. Damilola remained loyal to Arthur Guiness and was on the second black bottle. The ladies were cute but heavily made up and were almost identically dressed in the skimpiest dresses you’ll ever see. They were plump and they all seemed to have big jugs. Chikwelu paired up with the fair one while Ibukun rubbed his palms together in satisfaction. It was going to be a long night. In fact, they had no idea how long a night it would be.

They all rose and bade Damilola farewell, asking him one last time to join them but he refused. He just wanted to drink till he was high enough to go to sleep.

“Don’t forget our flight is for 8: 30am. I don’t want to miss it because of you guys.” He said. Ibukun made a funny face at him and they left.
………………………………………………

It was 7: 15am before Damilola stirred. He’d drunk himself aground last night and couldn’t remember how he got to the bed. He felt groggy with a bad hangover. However, all that cleared when he glanced at his watch.

“Shit! Shit!!” He exclaimed as he jumped out of the bed and rushed into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, he was out of the bathroom and was fully dressed when he decided to call the boys. Chikwelu’s phone was switched off; Ibukun didn’t answer his.

“I hope these boys are not still sleeping o?” He muttered to himself. He arranged his bag and then went to search them out. They had taken adjoining rooms. He knocked on Room No. 23 and 24.

“Chikwe! Ibukun!!” He called. “We are already late o. Its almost 8 o’clock. Our flight is in thirty minutes.”

No answer.

He knocked harder, yelling louder but apparently, they weren’t in the room. He strolled down to the bar while dialing Ibukun’s number. The phone rang without any response. He changed his mind and went to the reception.

“Did my friends come in last night?” He asked the uniformed lady across the counter.

“Your friends? I’m sorry sir but my shift just started a couple of minutes ago.”

Seeing how troubled he looked, she asked, “Is there a problem sir?”

“Not really…” He said, unsure of himself. “If I could only get them on the phone…” He continued, more to himself than to her, his phone pressed to his ear.

“The doorman’s shift is done but he’s still around sir. Perhaps he could help you…?” She asked.

“Perhaps, he could…” He was about to hit redial when a call from an unregistered number came in.

“Hello?”

“Oga…” The voice on the phone said breathlessly. “Na me.”

“Eliri?” Damilola asked.

“Oga wahala dey o.” There was a voice in the background that said, “focus on your driving” distinctly. The phone exchanged hands.

“Dami, we are on our way to the hotel now. Get your bag ready, we are leaving this town now!” The urgency in Chikwe’s voice was shocking.

“What is going on…” But he was cut short.

“Get the spare keys and check us out immediately. We are getting close to the hotel. And withdraw plenty cash from that atm terminal close to the hotel!” He hung up.

Dami sensed something terrible was up and instantly he rose to the occasion. In a few minutes, all that was required of him was done while he waited impatiently at the reception with trepidation.

The glass doors slid open and a dirty, bruised Chikwelu with tattered, blood stained clothes stepped in with urgency. Damilola rose at once and Chikwelu went to meet him.

“Why are your clothes tattered? Why are you bruised? Were you guys in a fight? Where is Ibukun? What happened?” All these questions gushed out in one breath but Chikwelu remained silent and picked up the two bags on the floor containing laptops and other tools and headed for the exit. Damilola followed suit, half expecting an explanation. Every one at the reception knew something was amiss and the gossips started. It was only when they stepped outside that Chikwelu spoke.

“We were mobbed outside the club. Ibukun is barely alive!” He said with a shaky voice.

Damilola was shocked beyond words and stopped in his tracks.

“Come on! We have just a few minutes to make it to the airport. Its not safe to remain in this town for one more second than is necessary!” He shouted angrily.

Damilola, totally confused, hurried up as they strode to the now battered Yaris. Chikwelu entered the back seat and motioned for Damilola to enter the front seat. Even Eliri was not spared. His clothes were torn and he had a nasty gash on his fore head. There were shards of broken glass from his door window all over the car. He came out and hurriedly put the bags in the trunk while the engine was running.

It was when Damilola entered the passenger seat that he saw the bloodied and limp form of Ibukun in the back seat. Tears welled up in his eyes and his throat dried up. Ibukun had a bandage around his head, his chest was bare and bloody, with multiple stab wounds, which were bandaged. Some of the exposed ones were deep with a tinge of purple, others were just lacerations. His eyes were swollen, his nose was bleeding.

“We have to take him to a hospital.” Damilola said hoarsely when he found his voice.

“No.” Ibukun said, weakly. “Let’s just go home.”

“We just dey come from clinic.” Eliri said.

“No airline will allow us fly like this.” Damilola insisted.

“We’ll clean him up and change when we get to the airport.” Chikwelu said rather calmly. “Before we board, call the office to send an ambulance to the airport.”

Damilola nodded as they rode in silence to the airport.
………………………………………………

Ibukun died two days later in a Lagos hospital while in the arms of the woman he loved but never had the chance to marry. The details of what happened that friday night remains in doubt as they are sketchy. It was gathered from the party goers in the club that Ibukun was trying to rob someone outside the club when the mob descended on him.

Chikwelu was in the rest room when it all began and came out to find his friend being mobbed and joined the fray to save his friend.

It was Eliri who saved them from the irate mob. He drove into the thick of the lynching with horns blaring, knocking down some members of the mob when he saw his benefactors being beat up outside. The mob cowardly stepped back and Chikwelu, thinking fast, forced a half dead Ibukun and himself into the car which sped off before the mob had a chance to recover.

Tony and the three plump ladies were no where to be found.

Of course, Ibukun was no thief but till now, nobody knows what really happened.

NB: This story is dedicated to the four victims who were brutally murdered by members of the Aluu Community in Port Harcourt on trumped up and unverified allegations of theft.

May God rest their souls.

Amen.

Follow Malcolm on twitter @saymalcolm

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