In the Name of Friendship

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Chapter 23: On the Horn of a Dilemma

Aiman sat down on the gazebo that was situated in the balcony of his house, sunk in deep thought.

His promise to Shinta was still ringing in his ears; A promise that he was not sure he was able to keep.

Aiman was caught on the horns of a dilemma. He was wondering whether he should quit as a robber like what he had promised to Shinta or ignore Shinta’s words and continue being a robber.

He realized if he stopped being a robber, he would run into difficulties in finding a new job. Even if he got a job, he was not sure that his salary would cover Dinda’s medical expenses.

On the contrary, if Aiman didn’t quit as a robber, he was bound to disappoint Shinta. She was willing to risk her career as a police officer in order to help him, because Shinta believed that he would make atonement for his crimes and finally could become a better person. So, how could Aiman betray Shinta’s trust?

But quitting as a robber meant that Aiman had to sever relations with Prama, Reza, and Putra, and he didn’t think he could do that. Although they were criminals, they’re still his best friends. All this time, those three men were very kind to Aiman and his sisters. They were also always be there for them when they needed help. How could Aiman leave them behind?

Aiman casted his mind back to the first time he met the robbers. It had been three months since he and his sisters moved to Jakarta, but their lives didn’t get any better. Despite applying for hundreds of jobs, Aiman still couldn’t get a steady job. All this time, he could only do menial jobs which usually wouldn’t last long and his salary wasn’t enough for him and his sisters to live on.

At that time, Aiman had spent the whole day going around the city, looking for a job. But he had no luck with finding a job. On his way home, unexpectedly, Aiman got waylaid by two burly men in tattered clothes. One of the men had a wispy beard forming on his cheeks and chin. Meanwhile, the other man had a mustache on his upper lip.

“Mind out please— you’re blocking my way!” Aiman said.

Instead of standing aside, the two men pinned Aiman against a wall. The bearded man whipped out a knife and held that knife to Aiman’s throat. “Give me your money!” he demanded.

“I—I don’t have money,” Aiman stuttered.

“Bullshit!” the mustached man roared.

“I—I swe—swear I don’t have any money,” Aiman stammered.

“Search him!” the bearded man told his friend.

The mustached man nodded as a reply.

While the man with a wispy beard pinioned Aiman against the wall, the man with a mustache on his upper lip frisked Aiman. Unfortunately, he found Aiman’s wallet that he kept in his back pocket. He pulled the wallet out of Aiman’s pocket and opened it, revealing a few notes inside.

“You said you don’t have any money. So what is this?” the man with a mustache flared.

“Please don’t take my money! I need the money to pay my sister’s medical expenses,” Aiman begged.

“As if we cared!” The man with beard sneered.

“Let’s split!” said the mustached man.

The bearded man relinquished Aiman’s arms and he and his friend started walking away.

“No! Wait!” Aiman came after them.

“Give me back my money!” Aiman tried to seize his wallet from one of the men. Unexpectedly, the other man pushed Aiman over.

The two thugs cackled when they watched Aiman groaning with pain as he landed heavily on the ground.

Aiman attempted to rise to his feet, but one of the men kicked him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him.

While Aiman struggled for breath, the two men intended to make a dash. However, their ways were blocked by a gang of youths consisted of three members.

The three of them were the same age as Aiman. The first man, who was dressed in balck jeans and navy blue T-shirt with a picture of dragon on it, had white skin and short, slightly curly black hair. The second man had a swarthy complexion and short straight black hair that was shaved off on the left and right sides. He had a black T-shirt with a picture of a skull on it with jeans on. The third man had a fair complexion, a little slanted eyes, a sharp nose, and rather long straight black hair with bangs thrown to the side of his forehead. The grey sleeveless T-shirt that he was wearing revealed a tattoo of a fish bone-shaped on his right upper arm, meanwhile, his upper left arm was tattooed with a picture of spoon and fork.

“Get out of our way! We’re in a hurry,” one of the thugs who had stolen Aiman’s wallet barked out an order at the three young men.

“How dare you talk to us in that tone of voice?! Don’t you know who we are?” the man whose arms were covered in tattoos stormed.

“Who are you?” the man with mustache asked them back icily.

“We are the ones who own this territory,” the man with curly black hair retorted.

The two thugs blanched after they heard the young man’s answer. Each gang in this city had its own territory. And they knew that the gang who owned this territory was notorious as the most powerful gang in this area of the city. Other gangs were frightened of them. It was stupid of them to trespass on their territory. And more fool them for stealing here.

“What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing in our territory?” the man with a swarthy complexion demanded.

“We—we were just passing by,” the bearded man replied.

“You’re just passing by, huh? Then what have you done to him?” The man with curly black hair pointed to Aiman.

“We didn’t do anything to him,” the mustached man rebutted.

“Don’t lie to us!” The man with tattoos snapped at them.

“We—we’re not lying. We swe—swear we didn’t do anything to him,” the bearded man told lies.

“Hey Dude, what have they done to you?” the man with a swarthy complexion asked Aiman.

“My wallet was stolen by them,” Aiman told them.

“So you stole his wallet, huh?” the man with curly hair asked them angrily.

“No, we didn’t,” the mustached man refuted, and the bearded man nodded in agreement.

“Cut the crap and give him back his wallet now!” The man with tattoos on his upper arms ordered in an intimidating tone.

“But—” Before the bearded man could finish his sentence, the man with tattoos grabbed him around the throat and squeezed.

“I SAID GIVE HIM BACK HIS WALLET! NOW!” he bellowed.

“O—okay,” the man with beard stuttered. He then looked at his friend. The mustached man nodded before he pulled Aiman’s wallet out of his pocket.

The man with curly black hair plucked the wallet from the mustached man’s grasp and finally said in a threatening tone, “Get out of our sight now! Don’t you dare show your faces in our territory ever again!”

Without saying anything else, the two thugs cleared off.

After the thugs disappeared from view, the three young men marched over to Aiman who was still sitting on the ground.

“Are you okay?” The man with a swarthy complexion queried as he held out his hand to Aiman.

Aiman took the swarthy man’s hand, and the man finally helped Aiman to his feet.

“Yes, I’m fine,” Aiman replied.

“Here’s your wallet!” The curly haired man handed the wallet back to Aiman.

“Thank you very much for your help, Guys,” Aiman said with gratitude.

”Not at all.”

“Hey, no sweat!”

“No problem.”

The three young men answered in unison.

“By the way, my name is Aiman,” Aiman introduced himself to them.

“I’m Prama,” said the man with tattoos on his upper arms.

“I’m Reza,” the man with curly black hair said.

“I’m Putra,” the swarthy man said.

“Nice meeting you, Guys,” Aiman uttered as he shook each of them warmly by the hand.

“Nice to meet you too, Aiman,” the three of them responded at the same time.

“I am extremely grateful to all of you for your help, Guys. You know, the money in my wallet means a lot to me because I need the money to pay for my sister’s medical treatment. I can’t imagine what would happen to my sister if I lost all my money,” Aiman was blabbering while the three young men listened carefully to his story.

“Oh I’m sorry, Guys, I shouldn’t have spilled out my troubles to you like this,” said Aiman.

“Oh that’s okay, Man,” Putra said with a smile.

“So your sister is sick, Aiman?” asked Prama.

“Yes,” Aiman answered, “My youngest sister suffers from leukemia.”

“Oh I’m so sorry to hear that,” Reza said sympathetically.

“Thank you,” Aiman responded with a sad smile.

“I hope your sister will get well soon, Aiman,” Putra prayed.

“Yes, I hope so too. Now, I’m still trying to get a job that pay well so that I can cover the cost of my sister’s medical expenses,” Aiman told them.

“So you’re looking for a job right now?” Prama enquired.

“Yes, I am,” Aiman replied.

The three young men looked at each other meaningfully before they exchanged a nod.

“If we offer you a job, will you accept it?” Reza questioned.

Aiman’s heart leapt at their offer. “Of course. If you offer me a job, I’ll gladly take it.”

“Wait, Aiman! You can’t make a decision before you find out what sort of job that we do,” Putra advised.

“What do you mean?” Aiman inquired in bewilderment.

“If you are interested in the job we offered you, you should meet us again here at midnight tonight,” Prama stated.

A frown creased Aiman’s forehead. “Midnight? Why do you want to meet me at midnight?”

The three young man smirked, and then Reza said, “You’ll find out soon enough!”

“Okay. I’ll come back here and see you tonight,” Aiman agreed.

“See you tonight then, Aiman,” said Prama.

Before Aiman could give a response, the three young man already left.

(((((

Later that night, Aiman returned to the place where he first met his new friends as they had promised. He was clad in a red bomber jacket over a baby blue shirt and black trousers. A pair of black shoes completed his appearance.

After waiting for a few minutes, a car lastly pulled up in front of Aiman, and Prama, Reza, and Putra hopped out of the car. The three of them wore a black jacket with a hood, jeans, and a pair of sneakers.

“Hey Aiman,” they greeted Aiman.

“Hi Guys,” Aiman responded.

They all then exchanged a brief hug.

“Have you been waiting long?” Putra inquired.

Aiman shook his head. “No, I’ve just arrived here.”

“Good, it means we’re not late,” Reza mumbled.

“So what job do you want to offer to me, Guys?” Aiman queried out of curiosity.

Instead of answering Aiman’s question, Prama asked him back, “Can you drive?”

“Yes, I can,” Aiman replied.

“Perfect! That’s exactly the answer that we need,” Putra exclaimed.

“What are you talking about?” Aiman didn’t understand.

“You’re going to be our driver for tonight, Aiman,” Reza explained.

“But Guys, the problem is I don’t have a driving licence yet,” Aiman told them.

“Don’t worry, Man! The police won’t do a sudden examination of licenses at this hour of the night,” Prama convinced him.

Aiman chuckled. “You’re right. Okay then, I’ll drive for you, Guys.”

“Okay. Here you are!” Putra took the car key out of his pocket and held it out towards Aiman.

Aiman took the key.

“Let’s go!” Reza said.

Aiman climbed into the driver’s seat. Then Putra got on to the passenger seat, while Reza and Prama hopped into the back seat.

“By the way, where are we going?” Aiman enquired of them.

“Just drive! I’ll give you directions later,” Putra answered.

“Got it.” Aiman rammed the key into the ignition, started the engines, and the car finally pulled away.

“‌So this is the job that you want to offer to me? A driver?” Aiman asked his new friends.

“No, it’s not,” Putra refuted.

Aiman’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “Then, what sort of job do you want to offer to me?”

“Just wait and see!” Prama, Reza, and Putra gave Aiman a wicked grin.

Those three young men told Aiman to go around the city for some time before they ordered him to park their car across from a convenience store which stayed open 24 hours a day in a suburban area.

Putra, Reza, and Prama pulled up the hoods of their jackets to cover the back and top of their heads. After that, they each produced a balaclava from their pocket and then put it on.

“What are you doing, Guys?” Aiman queried in panic tone.

“Don’t ask; just watch!” Prama snarled at Aiman.

“Leave the engine running, Aiman! We’ll be back in a hurry,” Putra barked an order.

“O—kay,” Aiman stuttered.

“Let’s go!” Reza said, and finally he and his two friends jumped out of the car.

Aiman looked out of the window and watched his new friends walking across the road before they stopped in front of the convenience store. His eyes dilated with horror when he saw the three of them produced a gun and finally barged into the store. Through the store windows, Aiman could see his new friends robbing the cashiers at gunpoint.

“Oh my God, they are robbers,” Aiman screamed in his mind.

After those robbers got what they wanted, the three of them rushed out of the store. Afterwards, they crossed over the road, and lastly piled into the car.

“Drive!” Reza ordered as he helped his friends stash the stolen money and their guns in a secret compartment on floor of the car.

Aiman wanted to obey their command for fear that they might shoot him. However, shock rooted him to the spot.

“What are you waiting for, Aiman? Drive the car! Now!” Prama snapped at Aiman.

Aiman was still in a state of shock, thus, he was unable to move.

“Aiman, you’d better start the car now if you don’t want to get caught!” Putra suggested urgently.

“He’s right. If they don’t leave right away, the police might arrive here soon, and they will eventually get caught,” Aiman thought.

Aiman mustered his energy to move. Then without wasting time, he put his foot down, and the car finally roared away.

After they were far enough from the convenience store, Aiman slammed on the brakes, making the car came to an abrupt halt.

“What are you doing, Aiman? Don’t stop— drive on!” Prama protested.

“No, we’re not going anywhere before you all explain to me what you’ve just done back there,” Aiman stated firmly.

“Just like what you’ve seen, we robbed that store. There’s nothing else we need to explain,” Putra said calmly.

“So this is the job you’re talking about? A robber?” Aiman bellowed.

“Yes.” Aiman’s new friends who turned out to be a gang of robbers nodded their heads at the same time.

“Oh Guys, don’t you know that what you all are doing is wrong?” Aiman questioned them.

Prama elaborated, “We acknowledge that what we’re doing is wrong. But admit it, Aiman! It’s quite a struggle to make an honest living nowadays. So we have no choice but to rob. Because if we didn’t do it, we and our families could die of starvation.”

“Think about it, Aiman!” Putra remarked, “If you agree to join us, Aiman, you’re going to make so much money that your annual salary will look like chicken feed.”

“He’s right,” added Reza, “‌It’s the easiest way to get rich quick. Don’t let the chance to be a millionaire slip through your fingers, Aiman!”

Aiman pondered over the robbers’ words. They were right. It was difficult to find work nowadays. All his efforts to get a job proved unsuccessful. If he joined them, he could earn a lot of money in an instant. An easy money. And he would became rich overnight.

Who didn’t want to get rich? Especially for someone who was born and raised in poverty like Aiman. To be filthy rich was something he had been dreaming of all his life. That dream was also the reason why Aiman decided to migrate from Karawang to Jakarta to seek his fortune.

But Aiman realized that It was immoral to steal. He didn’t want to provide for his sisters with the money that he got illegally.

However, just like the robbers who were afraid that their families would die from starvation, Aiman was also afraid that Dinda could die if he failed to find the money to cover the cost of her medical expenses.

Now, Aiman couldn’t decide whether he should accept their offer or not. His heart wanted to take the offer, but his mind was telling him to turn it down.

“So what do you think, Aiman?” A question from Reza broke Aiman from his trance.

“Please don’t rush me! I need time to think about it,” Aiman pleaded.

“Okay. We’re not going to rush you into anything,” said Putra.

“Yes,” Prama agreed with him, “you don’t have to decide this matter at once. You can think it over and give us your decision later.”

“But remember, Aiman! We need a decision on this by next week. Because we don’t have a plenty of time,” Reza emphasized.

“Okay, I understand. Thanks, Guys,” uttered Aiman.

“Here’s our contact number if you want to tell us your decision!” Putra scribbled down his phone number on a piece of paper and shoved it into Aiman’s hand.

“Okay,” said Aiman as he put the paper in his back pocket.

“Bear in mind, Aiman! Whatever you have witnessed tonight is just between you and us,” Putra reminded him.

“Yes, you have to promise us that you won’t tell anyone about this!” Reza demanded.

“Okay, I promise I will never breathe a word of this to anyone,” Aiman stated.

“I hope you keep your words, Aiman. Because if you dare to tell on us to the police, we can guarantee that your sisters will suffer the consequences,” Prama threatened.

Aiman swallowed hard. He knew these robbers meant what they said, so he had to make a vow in order that he wouldn’t endanger his sisters. “Please don’t involve my sisters in this! I swear by my sisters that I will never tell anything about you to anyone.”

“Good!” they exclaimed.

“May I go home now?” Aiman asked hopefully.

“Sure,” they answered.

Aiman opened the door and was about to get off of the car, but enexpectedly the robbers held him back. “Wait, Aiman!”

Aiman turned to face them. “What else?”

“We have something for you.” Putra pulled out an envelope from his jacket and handed it to Aiman. “Here you go!”

“What is this?” Aiman queried confusedly.

“That is your payment for tonight,” Reza replied.

Aiman furrowed his eyebrows. “Payment?”

They nodded.

“But I haven’t done anything for you yet,” Aiman said.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Aiman. You have driven for us tonight, remember?” Prama reminded him.

“Oh yeah that’s right,” Aiman muttered.

Aiman stared at the envelope in his hand. To be honest, he didn’t want to use the stolen money from those robbers. But he realized that he needed the money to pay for Dinda’s treatment. That’s why he had no choice but to accept their money.

“You don’t need to give me money you know, but thank you.” Aiman put the envelope in his pocket.

“You’re welcome,” they replied in unison.

“Okay, I have to go home now,” Aiman announced.

“Okay. See you next week, Aiman,” they said.

“See you, Guys,” Aiman responded.

(((((

Once Aiman got home, he quickly went to his bedroom and locked the door so that his sisters couldn’t see what he was about to do. Sitting on the bed, he slit open the envelope from the robbers and took a peek inside. He gave a gasp of surprise when he saw a bundle of banknotes inside the envelope. He tipped the contents of the envelope onto his bed and then began to count the money carefully. He was staggered at the amount of money that he received from the robbers. Apparently, they gave Aiman more money than the salary that he usually earned for months put together.

Aiman quickly slipped the money back into its envelope, and finally stashed it under the bed. He didn’t want his sisters to get suspicious if they found out that their brother suddenly could have that much money.

Leaning his head against the headboard of his bed, Aiman started to mull over those robbers’ offer. He admitted that the offer was too good an opportunity to miss. Moreover, it was difficult to find work in the present economic climate. So he couldn’t just turn down such a good offer.

After a few moments’ consideration, Aiman finally decided to accept their offer. He was so desperate for a job that he would have done anything. Even if he had to be a robber.

Who cares if what they did was amoral? He thought that there’s nothing immoral about wanting to earn more money. Aiman didn’t give a tinker’s damn about what people would think of him if one day they found out that he became a robber. The most important thing was he could make a comfortable living for his sisters. If he had a lot of money, he didn’t have to worry about how to pay for Adinda’s medical treatment again. So there would be a bigger possibility that Dinda would make a full recovery. And Aiman would also be able to help Alya to fulfill her dream to become a doctor.

(((((

The next day, Aiman contacted the robbers, and they finally met at the same place as yesterday.

“Why do you want to meet us, Aiman?” Putra questioned.

“I’m ready to tell you my decision, Guys,” Aiman answered.

“So what did you decide?” Reza enquired.

“I want to join you, Guys,” Aiman told them with certitude.

“‌Welcome to our gang, Aiman,” Prama beamed.

(((((

That’s how Aiman met the robbers: Prama, Putra, and Reza. From that day forth, the four of them became good friends. Aiman soon learned that they’re just young homeless people who became ensnared in a life of crime. The urge to survive in a poor and harsh environment drove them to steal. No one ever guessed that underneath their violent exteriors, they were actually very caring people. The three of them were very affectionate towards their families, and always showed solidarity with their friends.

Now, Aiman was in a quandary-should he quit as a robber or shouldn’t he? It was honestly a tough decision to make. On the one hand Aiman wanted to keep his promise to Shinta, but on the other hand, he didn’t want to end his friendship with Prama, Putra, and Reza.

“Wait!” Aiman said to himself as realization dawned in, “Just because I quit robbing, it doesn’t mean I have to sever my friendship with the robbers, right? We still can be good friends like we used to be. Anyway, it isn’t forbidden to make friends with criminals, right? This way I won’t let Shinta down, and I don’t have to leave my friends either.”

Aiman was planning to tell his friends about his decision tomorrow. He hoped Prama, Reza, and Putra would appreciate his choice. And it would be better if they wanted to quit being robbers too like him.

This was the perfect opportunity for Aiman to make a new start. He couldn’t let himself be trapped in a life of crime forever. He had to start going straight for his own good. And it’s for the sake of his sisters too. Aiman didn’t want to provide for Alya and Adinda with stolen money for the rest of their lives. They both deserved a much better future.

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