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As the shadows approached him, Nedu covered his face with his hands. If he was going to get out of this, he needed his face intact.
Oh, God, how did I get here??
Then the blows landed. He had received four heavy blows to different parts of his body when a thought struck him.
“MONEY! MONEY! I HAVE MONEY!”
He backed himself towards where he felt the gate should be and continued yelling as loud as he could.
“I HAVE MONEY. ABEG ABEG, I HAVE MONEY.”
“Ehnn, oya oya make una wait.” A deep voice called out.
One last slap hit him as everyone backed off. The lights came on and he saw a short heavily bearded and muscled man standing by the switch. Truth be told, if he saw this man roaming the streets outside, he would lose all sense of safety. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the King of this Palace.
“Oya come here.”
He straightened up and winced from a pain on his side. He then looked around the cell for a better view. These guys were hard core; some were probably killers.
“Are you deaf? I said come here fast fast.”
Nedu almost jumped and briskly walked towards King.
“How much you hold for there?”
Nedu reached for his pocket for the cash the policewoman had slid back in his hands earlier and handed everything over to King.
King frowned as he started counting the notes.
Oh, God, let it be enough. I can’t come and die in this place tonight.
Suddenly King smiled, showing three missing teeth.
“Ehen, wetin be your name?”
“Nedu? From where?”
“Ahn ahn, you be my brother sef. You for talk that one since nah!”
“Oya una come take una share. Leave this boy o, na my person.”
A few minutes later, he was seated in a corner with King and some other guys. They had shared the spoils and the room had settled. It was then they asked him what he was doing there.
He told his story through their laughter and side comments, feeling strangely at peace.
“Jay Jay Cee… why did you choose the palace? Don’t you know this is where they keep baddos?” A black skinned guy with a large forehead asked.
“Bros, how could I have known? I thought I was coming here to lounge.”
They all bust out laughing and soon they were all trading stories. Of all he heard, three of them were in for armed robbery, out of which one claimed he was wrongfully accused. Two of them were there for public fighting, and another for running a scam. One guy quietly said he shot someone dead. Nedu made a mental note to avoid him throughout his stay there.
King had stabbed someone…for cheating him.
What was he cheated of? Proceeds from a successful robbery.
It felt strange to Nedu, how seemingly normal they all were. Yes, they were criminals, but still just normal (well almost normal) people.
They gisted through the night…he lost track of time.
“Don’t worry, them go come release you for morning. You no suppose dey hia, na just because the officers don high finish. You go just settle them small thing commot” King reassured.
Then an idea struck Nedu
“Bros, abeg I need your help.”
King eyed him wryly. “E go cost you o.”
A few minutes later, he was speaking in a quiet tone to the policewoman who had processed him earlier. After which he went back to sit down.
CLANG! CLANG!! CLANG!!!
The sound of the loud metal door stirred everyone to their feet. Nedu couldn’t hide the smile on his face when his fellow hengineers were pushed in and the door slammed shut behind them.
He kept smiling as he watched their confused expression
He kept smiling, and waited as he saw them try to toughen up as they took in the room
He kept smiling, and waited till they seemed to get their confidence and move towards a corner of the large cell.
And then just when he felt they felt somewhat safe, he reached for the switch and called out.
“OYA. LIGHTS OUT”