There’s drumming and dancing as the Kankurang makes his way through the town. He holds a cutlass in each hand, occasionally drawing them against each other and then across the floor. His body is a consistent vibration, the hairs on his costume bob with every step. The drum beats increase in tempo and he screams up to the heavens. Gradually the clouds begin to darken. Almost on cue, the crowd behind him begins to dissipate, thinning out until he is alone in the middle of the road. He looks about him, confused. The drummers are last to leave – They pack their drums and casually walk away. The clouds open, the rain starts and the masquerade is on his own.
Often his mind would wander back to that notification; The sound his phone made, the small ray of light touching the surface of his dark room, the disclaimer in bold, bringing all of what he considered his hard work to nought. In these moments, he would remind himself of the popularity the whole charade had brought him at least. Sure, the public outcry had lasted for all of 2 weeks before fizzing out to some scandal involving a married celebrity and an Instagram model but yeah, at least it had happened. He had some 17,000 followers on twitter still. Fizzing out by the day but still relatively large. If push came to shove, he could at least sell his account. However, that would mean killing of the celebrity; and that was all of what he had left to show for his hard work. Maybe he could regurgitate all of the attention one day and make something more of it this time. It had all happened so quickly. He had barely had time to lament his loss. How was he supposed to realise the opportunity his unfortunate circumstance had brought him when all of what he felt in that moment was misfortune.
Sometimes, he found himself spending hours on their twitter account – The one they claimed to recognise. The bastards. Kwaku Tanko was the most annoying. The way he had carried himself on T.V. those two weeks, using all sort of legal jargons to justify his companies failure to give him what was due him.
“How many retweets for a Katanka Mensah car”
“30k,” they had replied.
He had gotten a whooping 40,000, surpassing his expectations, and theirs, obviously. The bastards. Soon as he hit 30,000 they posted the disclaimer. His hard luck was none of the twitter handles that were purportedly theirs were verified. Including the one that had guaranteed him the car. There were convincing updates on manufacturing dates and events on both the disclaimer account and the one he had “contracted” with, but no way of telling which of the pages were really theirs. Fucking bastards.
He found the box outside of his room when he came back from work that evening. Average sized; enough to hold a small battery, brown, no name, no address, only a typed note.
He closed the door of his one bedroom apartment behind him and sat down behind his study desk. Under the dim light of his dying bulb, he peeled of the heavy sellotaping around the box and stared inside it. Jesus! The retreat was immediate. He had never seen one in real life but the gangster films he had seen on T.V. meant he knew what a bomb looked like. The box had two compartments: In one, there were about 4 sets of explosives, each with 5 sticks of dynamite bound together by a small clock and a thick seam of duct tape. In the other, there was a remote and a folded sheet of paper.
With quivering hands he drew the paper out of the box and unfolded it, revealing a series of shapes and edifices; the detailed plans of a large building. Red and green highlighters had been used in certain areas of the sketch, indicating the spaces most effective for an explosion. He turned to the back of the sheet and found even more typed instructions. It was an entire narrative, stretching from the top of the sheet to the very bottom on how to get into the Kantanka building without being noticed, the positioning of CCTV cameras, Kwaku Tanko’s office, the combination to his safe, everything. And at the very bottom a message,
“Good luck ;)”
It took seconds before he fully appreciated just what was happening. Someone wanted him to get back what was his and then some. He was going to steal from the fuckers and destroy their entire enterprise in the process.
He was going to. Of course he was. He had to. He was….
The only criminal he knew in real life was his cousin Kwamena Essien, and all he did really was pickpocket in crowded places at Kwabenya and run his mouth more than he was worth. There was no way Kwamena had ever held a gun, or broken into a building, or bombed anything. He was positive of this; but the more he read through the instructions on the back of the sheet the more he was convinced that although the job could be done without any sort of criminal expertise, his racing heart would not mind the company. That was it. The only reason why he got Kwamena involved if he was being honest with himself really was for the motivation. For the most part, he honestly believed he could pull it off all by himself. The security was lax, and both times he had taken a taxi past there to scope out the place, the details of the plan seemed to pan out with the actual facts. It could be done, but yet, he still believed he somehow needed his cousin.
It took just one listen for Kwamena to agree to participate. He nodded his head the whole time as if he could not wait for him to finish the story, then picked up the plan from across the table and began pointing out the things he claimed to recognise from past “operations” of the same calibre and what he thought were flaws. None of which he really had experienced or were in fact flaws.
He wanted to interject, but worried how to without offending his cousin. How was he to go about telling this person, who thought himself a criminal mastermind that he did not believe he had in fact experienced any of what he claimed to have experienced, and that a stranger’s note held more promise of safety than his bravado?
“If we go through the reception area, we can avoid the cameras and still make better time. In things like this, you do not always have to follow the building plan. The plan will not tell you about the cameras. I am telling you, cameras in offices like this are placed in a right-angled position; see where the door is …. “
It took some convincing to get Kwamena to comply strictly with the plan, and not without a lot of ‘You don’t know anything’, ‘Are you sure you can do this? You’re weak’ and ‘If this gets fucked, it’s on you’ – But that was all that he could do. By the end of their conversation, the power dynamics had changed. Kwamena, had become some sort of de facto leader. He instructed more than he asked that his friend Paa Kow come along as a driver, and Paakow’s brother, Nii Aryi, who was only 14, join them.
“These things, anything can happen, if the driver gets shot, who will drive? Use your head. Paa Kow has to come.”
Repeatedly he reminded himself the plan was too solid to fail; even with all these intervening factors, it was bulletproof.
Crouched behind a set of wild weeds, the cousins stared at each other and then at the brightly lit office. The entire building buzzed with light and human activity. They had not anticipated this. Why were they working at 2 am in the morning?
He stared at the building some 20 odd seconds, lost inside of his own head. Still on his knees, he made to turn around. Kwamena yanked him back angrily.
“What are you trying to do?”
“This is a suicide mission chale. What are we doing out here even? This whole thing is crazy!”
Kwamena’s brows furrowed. He grabbed at his cousins collar and pulled him into his face.
“We’ve come too far for this bullshit. I asked you, you said you could do this, so what the fuck is going on now. Half-baked revenge is no revenge at all. Have some balls.”
They made their way through the weeds, the weight of their bodies crushing against their knees.
Another thought occurred to him; one that they had throughout the planning process and even now not bothered to consider – The loss of human life. All those people going by their merry way, oblivious of the risk snaking its way through the grasses. He stopped. Kwamena was already at the escape hatch behind the factory kitchen where they were supposed to enter through.
“Kwamena, Kwamena stop.”
The older man turned towards his cousin, a hand already on the doorknob.
“We can’t bomb the place though. Let us just take the money and go. There are too many people”
Kwamena crouched and quickly made his way back to his cousin, the rage in his eyes pulsating.
“So you the plan bi your own, you nor read am or what? We have to set off the bombs to close out the security men and the police when they arrive. There has to be only one way in and out by the time we finish.”
He was visibly shaking, a blob of saliva stuck at his throat, chocking his words as they came out.
“I n—gg, I no go fit chale. I can’t do it.The pe— Them nor do we anything.”
Kwamena glared at him, then turned back towards the door without another word.
A siren blared loudly through the clearing, jostling the three boys inside of the pick-up truck to attention. Paa Kow looked about him hurriedly, his hands firmly placed on the steering wheel at ready.
“You hear any bomb?” Paakow was talking to his brother.
Since he had narrated what had transpired between Kwamena and himself to the brothers, both had fallen into silence and refused to look at him, much more address him directly. He sunk further into the back seat, shivering.
“Nii, you hear any –“
A loud explosion rung through the air, shaking the ground underneath their feet.
He closed his eyes tightly and began to pray.
Paakow started the engine and pushed the cars controls into reverse. He sped back violently, changed gears midway, and spun the car around. Nii Aryi’s head slammed against the front window. He put on his seatbelt quickly, feeling the sides of his head as he stared about in the darkness for any sign of Kwamena.
Kwamena run towards the car, a duffle bag dangling in each hand. He was screaming something but none of them could hear over the trucks purring. Nii rolled down his mirrors.
“OPEN THE DOOR, OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!”
The 14 year old fumbled the car door open and hopped out. He was halfway towards Kwame when the silent slit whisked past his ears. He slowed down, wondering what the sound was. The second bullet hit him squarely on the forehead. The boy’s body buckled to the ground. Kwamena jumped over the corpse and kept running.
From the backseat, He froze in horror. The world caved in around his face, shutting down his senses. All noise about him fell to silence. He did not hear Paakows screaming till Kwamena was inside the front seat and shoving their screaming driver to action.
More bullets whisked through the air, some hitting the sides of the car. Somehow Paakows feet found the acceleration and they were moving again. He sped through the rough road, his entire face covered in tears and mucus. The car was a zigzagging mess. Their driver was driving blind.
Kwamena turned around towards the backseat and stared at him. He had not noticed his cousins face in all of the commotion. He was covered in soot and blood. Somewhere about his head, he was bleeding. His voice was barely a whisper when he spoke.
“They were not just making cars in there.”
The car swerved into a turn and they were met by the bright headlights of a waiting chain of what looked like armoured cars.
The pick up stopped. Across the dark clearing, four armoured vehicles and a single pick-up truck locked in a standoff. All three men held their breaths.
The silence seemed to last forever. Dread hung inside the air like a wet towel, its weight bearing down discomfortingly on the three men. Paakow’s tears were all but dry now. He sniffed in deeply and stuck his hand underneath his seat, emerging seconds later with a locally made handgun.
“Paa, Paa NO!”
Kwamena did not reach him fast enough. He stormed out of the driver’s seat and opened fire. The barrage was immediate. Bullets rummaged through the car, tearing through flesh and bones. Kwamena, who had lifted himself up from his seat in an attempt to take cover at the back’s body slumped over the space between the driver and passengers seat. Blood trickled down his mouth as the clustered noise of bullet connecting with metal sounded on. Paakow was dead even before he got out completely. His body drooped in an arc mere inches from the open door.
Slowly, the noise reduced to silence.
He opened his eyes and he was still alive somehow. All about him was blood and pieces of human meat. He heard the measured pacing of combat boots and screamed his surrender.
He fell out of the car and unto his knees, his hands raised in submission, eyes closed for fear.
“DON’T SHOOT! PLEASE! DON’T SHOOT!”
There was quiet. Tentatively, he opened his eyes.
“Wha- What are – ?”
A bullet tore through his brain.
ART CREDIT: JOHNETTA TINKER – LETHAL FORCE (2016)