DIARY OF A YOUNG ARMED ROBBER
Agent Talata Mafya pulled up the folded sleeves of her baby pink, cotton shirt, her right hand servicing the left and the left hand returning the favour. She surveyed the surrounding. It was a room. And it looked like it had been vacated in a hurry: the wardrobe doors were open and clothes hung on them, drawers hung open too and the sheets had been ripped off the bed and lay on a crumpled heap on the tiled floor. The air conditioner was still running.
“Somebody switch that thing off. Open the windows,” said Mafya, in that clipped tone that had her colleagues at the Department of State Services referring to her as ‘Mafia’.
Yes, she was from the DSS. She had been drafted to head this task force, a team of five other officers from different arms of the service, two from the Nigerian Police Force; two from Military Intelligence and one from the National Security and Civil Defence Corps. All were hardened professionals according to their track, and service, records and Talata felt she would have no problem working with them.
Femi Oké from the NSCDC found the switch to the air conditioner and put it off while Inspector Salamatu Bala from the NPF opened the windows, letting in a draft of cool breeze.
“We all know what to do. Search for anything that will give us clues as to how they do what they do and where their next target might be...”
Agent T. Mafya (also T. Mafia, Agent Mafia and /or T. Mafia to you) went into full automaton mode. While she walked and talked the wheels in her head ground data into bits of information.
She had been called in to head this unit, tagged ‘The Heads of State Special Task Force’. Grandiose as the name looked, its purpose was decidedly less so. They had been saddled with the responsibility of finding the Heads of State and bringing them down “by any and every means necessary...”
The Heads of State were a group of four hi-tech robbers that had begun to hit major banks and finance houses six months back. They had successfully carried out seven operations since then, carting away about one hundred and fifteen million naira on total, according to official sources. They were flawless in their operations, rarely lasting more than five minutes. Nobody had ever seen their faces because they were always clad in Army Generals’ uniforms and face masks that depicted Generals Gowon, Buhari, Babangida and Abacha. In their last two hits, they had preyed on the homes of two prominent politicians in the state, making away with forty million naira cumulatively. That had sparked the frenzied manhunt for the Heads of State and the creation of this task force. Soon, law enforcement agents and the press had labelled the gang the ‘HOS’.
T. Mafia and her team had gotten a lucky break at Alhaji Sani Garba Lere’s residence. Lere was the second political bigwig to suffer the ire of the HOS. A laundry receipt had been dropped at his palatial mansion by one of the brigands. The return address on it had been of this house. The receipt itself had been issued by a small, obscure laundry house in a forgotten part of town. It had taken the team three days to track the ‘laundro mart’ and, no, they hadn’t serviced any military general or his proxy in the last six months. The team had tracked the return address, bugged the house and waited for what information they could get from those. None but one of the bugs had survived and that was how the HOS Task Force were tipped off that the inhabitant of the house was about to split.
They had arrived too late.
Something at the head of the bed caught Agent Mafia’s attention. She tossed a pillow away and lifted a corner of the heavy Unifoam mattress. There lay a diary. It was a Ministry of Mines and Power issue and had maroon, thickly padded flaps. There were five one thousand naira notes on it. Mafia glanced at the others. They all had their attention engaged elsewhere so she concealed the diary and held up the notes in a gloved hand.
“See what I’ve got”, she glibly announced.
Salamatu spoke first. “We’ll have to get them to forensics to see if we can lift any prints off them.”
“Are the numbers sequentially arranged?” Jay Jay Ofodu from Military Intelligence.
Mafia looked at the money closely and nodded, yes.
“Ah!“, declared Ofodu. “From a bank job. Could be a message?” More question than statement. Mafia mulled that over as she handed the currency to Sally to store in a transparent evidence bag. Then she drew the curtains on the operation.
Later that night, having written and e-mailed her report, showered and had dinner (consisting of noodles and an egg, boiled) she stretched on the sofa, her legs, and a cup if coffee, on the glass topped table in front of her, she opened the diary she had lifted earlier that evening...
She took a long look at the diary. It was the type that came with one flap longer than the other so that it lapped over the shorter flap. She unfolded the flap and opened to the first page. She didn’t know what to expect but she was sure it held a very important clue to the job she had been assigned.
On the first page of the book, in a childishly playful hand, was the inscription:“Diary of an armed robber”
Beneath that, in a smaller, neater prints:“A coward dies a thousand deaths. A soldier dies but once.”
T Mafia took a sip from her coffee cup and flipped over to the next page. The handwriting was captivating, with equal lines and measured curves. She read a few sentences. The language employed was impeccable. Very clever chap, she thought. These types of criminals were difficult to apprehend. They had graduated from desperation to fun. Committing crimes alone wasn’t enough for their ilk so they often upped the ante by leaving clues of their whereabouts, or of their next job, to law enforcement agencies. She had a bad feeling about this one but she pushed the niggling doubts aside and concentrated on the pages in front of her.
“My name is Salihu J. Adam. I have decided to chronicle my life as best as I remember onto the pages of this diary because today I decided, and have been employed, to be an armed robber...”