“Lilah, Let me have my cash back please.” It was the next morning. She was still struggling from the remnants of the few hours’ sleep she was able to snatch when she heard Michael’s cold voice.
Her body tensed as danger signals went off in her head. She cracked her eyelids open to see he was actually holding a gun to her, her gun! He had obviously searched her purse for the cash but saw the gun instead. The cash was in her boot which she never removes whenever she was out on a job.
She remained still, her mind calculating her next move because there was no way she was going to part with the money she had worked very hard for.
He was standing beside the bed on her side when her stiletto-clad foot shot out abruptly. It caught his arm and the gun clattered to the floor.
In the split second, before he recovered from the shock, she was out of the bed like lightning and diving straight for the gun. His arm caught her in the rib when he reached for it as well but she ignored the sharp pain. Her hand touched the gun and she came up with it a few distances away from him. He backed up immediately and lifted his hand in peace at the dangerous glint in her eyes.
“Wow! You are as smart as you are beautiful.” He grinned at her.
“I don’t play games with my life, Cross. Drop your wallet and the cash on you at my feet.” She told him coldly.
“Common, Lilah. I just want to know if I can work out a deal with you. I have a job and it is only a woman who can do it.” His voice grew persuasive. She pulled the trigger. The bullet missed his leg by an air’s breath and drilled a hole into the soft wood of the bed. He stared at her in horror.
“I’ve never taken a life in my life, Cross but I’ve never missed my target either. Do as I say or you will regret ever meeting me.” She said in a coolly detached voice. Reluctantly, he bought out his wallet and emptied it at her feet. “Now I want to hear what the deal is all about.” The gun did not waver as she stared unflinchingly at him.
He couldn’t help mentally saluting her courage. It seemed as if he has just come across the right woman for the job if he played his game well, he laid his card carefully on the table and watched her consider it.
“I will think about it and get back to you. Drop your card on the bed and get the fuck out of here. I don’t trust you.” She shrugged.
“I’m giving you just three days to get back to me or else I will haunt you down and you know what that means.” Their gazes met and locked and she felt the first shiver of fear crept down her spine. “Just get out.” she indicated with her head and he did without another word.
“That was how I become the only woman in the notorious cross gang. Josephine was shocked and scared when I told her about it on getting home later in the day. I’ve already made up my mind on the way home because I knew I can’t back out, even if I want to but I was thrilled and scared as at the same time. Life took a different turning for me and Jose. Money rolled in and we moved out of her dingy one-room apartment into a tastefully furnished mini flat in the heart of surulere but I wanted more. I have scores to settle and I need money and connections to do it. Of course, I’m getting the connections from our profession. I can still remember the first time I met the whole gang, the shock,and disapproval that gradually changed into reluctant admiration. Michael had told them tentatively about me but they were all bucking at the thought of a woman in their gang and were actually arguing about it when I walked in on them.” She grinned at him.
“Were you not scared?”Yusuf asked intrigued.
“I was scared and excited at the same time but my inner confidence kicked in like it always did in situations like that.” She gave him a steady look.
“Are you sure you are doing the right thing? I think we can pull through without a woman.” Dapo’s voice was full of doubt. He was the second in command and popularly known as ‘Stone’ among the gang.
“No organization can survive without information. She is our best bet if we want to pull through that deal. Wait till you meet her and reach your own conclusions then.” Michael’s voice was laced with a hint of annoyance as he picked a wrapped paper from the bowl that was being round.
They had been on the issue for the past two days and it was getting on his nerves. They were sitting in their hide-out with their boys waiting for them to address them and he hated the fact that they had to bring that particular argument to their presence. As if on cue, a roll of shots went into the air and they all freeze in their different postures. There was just a thought moving through their mind: they had just being discovered by the police! The boys were about to scatter in different directions when Fatihat walked in, clad in black jean trouser and t-shirt with a baseball cap. Her voice was devoid of make-up and she was holding a .45 automatic pistol that wasn’t hers!
“Oh, boy! You sure made an appearance.” Stone said with reluctant admiration.
“I did. Good evening to you all.” She bowed slightly, looking from one to the other until her gaze clashed with Michael’s own. He winked at her, even though he wasn’t smiling. “That is not your gun, bad girl.”Michael nodded at the weapon she was carrying, practically echoing the other’s thoughts.
“It wasn’t. It actually belonged to the guy watching out for this place. I figured I can’t tackle him physically and he may have the inclination to embarrass me. I knocked him out with the butt of my gun before he knew what hit him and picked up his gun on my way in. I’m sorry about that.” She smiled ruefully at him. Reluctant admiration turned to respect in their eyes. “So can we start this right away please?” she pulled a chair and sat astride it. She put the gun into the holster in her other booth and pulled out her pack of cigarette as she listened to Michael cross addressed them.
“Our modes of operations were mostly high-way and bank robberies. Being a woman is also an attribute I used to the gang’s advantage to filter out information from unsuspecting men of high classes and positions. In short, we were a highly successful gang and I become a millionaire almost overnight. I bought cars and a huge house in Omole where I rarely stayed anyway but Josephine lived there. As with every other field, there were male chauvinists, men who hated me simply because I’m a woman. They want to put me where I belonged as a woman. To their sick mind, a woman belonged to a man’s bed and nowhere else. I was Michael’s woman and they all knew it.Micheal loved women but I think he simply fell for me. I was his weak point and I knew it as well as he did. He gave me the key to his heart, his apartment and bought so many things in my name. I was also a signatory to his account and he had the naivety to tell his lawyer to transfer everything to me in the event of his death. I guess a few of them thought they could get to him by hurting me and they tried one night. Michael had traveled to his hometown and I was alone in his apartment when my two visitors came in, uninvited.” She paused as she got to her feet and poured herself a glass of wine from fridge that was in the corner of the study room. She took a deep sip and turned to her brother who sat, staring at her as if he was in a trance.
“I knew they were armed but the nearest weapon I had, was in Mike’s bedroom. I was coming out of the kitchen in a robe that covered just my pant and bra.”
“What did you do? How did you escape, unhurt?” He asked anxiously as he imagined the scene in his mind.
“I caught them unaware. I went straight to the sitting room where they were and they looked surprised for a moment.” she could almost see it again as if it happened the previous day.
“Well, see the bad girl herself. Where is our boss?” The taller of the two, known as Scalpel regained his composure faster than the other one. He smiled at her as he rubbed his palms together.
“That is a silly question. You all know he is not around. What do you want?” She watched in disgust as their eyes roamed her body in the short silky robe she wore.
“You are a big girl and we don’t need to tell you why we are here.” The second man, known as John told her with a malicious grin, gesturing to her body.
“If I don’t cooperate, what will you do?” She asked with a blank look.
“By the time we finish with you, you will be begging us to have you, bad girl. We are going to strip you naked and tie you to the bedpost where you have been fucking the boss. We will taste Oga’s honey pot and be gone before you know what is happening.” Scalpel’s smile turned malicious.
Fatihat pretended to weigh her options before she shrugged and dropped her robe without warning. Their eyes bulged, nearly popping out of its socket at the sight of her body in skimpy bra and pants. John clutched his crotch with a groan.
“Who is coming first?” Her voice was lowered in a seductive whisper as she glided towards Scalpel who was watching her, mesmerized and wrapped her arms around his body. He held her waist as if he was in a dream and stared down at her boobs pressed against him. Her hands moved down his back to the back of his jeans trouser where she had seen the butt of the gun peeping out when she came into the sitting room.
She pulled out the gun and stepped back to their amazement. John tried to reach for his weapon when he realized what had happened and she shot his ankle. He screamed with pain as he held on to his foot and scalpel calmly stepped away.
“You, two get out before I decide to damage something that will be irreparable.”
“I will personally make sure you regret this.” Scalpel threatened as he helped his colleague out of the apartment.
Eventually, they realized that if Fatihat reported the incidence to Michael, they would be in deep trouble. It was with bated breath that they awaited his return and an alternative plan to disappear immediately if he knew about the incidence. However, Michael returned a few days later and was casually curious about John’s bandaged ankle.
“I got injured during a fight in our neighborhood, boss. A guy shot me in my ankle.” He lied glibly as he avoided his gaze.
“You had better be more careful in future before you lose a leg to senseless fight.” Michael cautioned casually as he moved away and walked into the meeting room.
John released a sigh of relieving and exchanged a glance with Scalpel who was hovering nearby. “I have to give it to that girl. She is a matured brood.” Scalpel said with reluctant admiration as he walked over to join him.
“My admiration for that beautiful woman just went up a notch but I will try not to remember her in that skinny bra and pant.” John grinned as he limped forward, supporting his weight on his good leg.
“Don’t drool too much, boy-o before you get into further trouble than this.” Scalpel teased as he followed him into the building.
“So you didn’t report them to Michael?” Yusuf raised an eyebrow at her.
“No, I didn’t report them because I know I can defend myself if they come back. If the time comes when I can no longer defend myself against randy men, then I deserved to be raped again.’ She smiled faintly. ‘Michael loved me and he was very possessive. He was also a ruthless man who has no respect for lives. He would have wasted their lives for crossing his boundary. I didn’t see any sense in that.” She shook her head from side to side and paced the room, obviously disturbed by the memory of her past.
“Were you not scared when you were leaving with a man like that?” He asked with something close to awe.
“I wasn’t really scared because I believe I have nothing to lose but I was scared for Josephine because she believed I will either be killed by Michael in a flare of one of his rotten temper or in one of our outings. It was part of the reason I was faithful to him throughout the duration of our relationship but Josephine will hear none of It.” she grinned to herself.
“So how did you rid yourself of him or you are still part of the gang? Please tell me you are not.” He practically pleaded with her. There was a pregnant pause as she poured herself another drink.
“I killed him.” She stared straight into his eyes. He thought he would vomit his lunch as he stared back.
“You did what?” He croaked in disbelieve, feeling faint.
“You heard me alright.”She took a long sip of her drink and put down the wine glass. She paced back and forth with her hands clamped together. “I never regretted killing him. I was with the gang for more than two years. Apart from my share of the looted treasures, Michael took very good care of me so much so much that I barely touched my money. Like every other thing in life, I know the good time will end someday and I was mentally preparing for that day. He thought he knew everything about me but he didn’t know jack except for the fact that I’m orphaned and I have nobody except him. He even thought my house was locked up but Josephine was living there and he didn’t know about her. The gang knew even lesser except that they called me ‘bad girl’ and I’m their boss’s woman. Our last operation was very bloody.” She took a deep breath and faced him.
“I didn’t know what happened or what went wrong but before we realize it, the police were after us and half of the gang was killed. I usually dressed like a man whenever we go on operations, so the police did not even know that there was a woman among the gang. It was at that operation that I realized that a good warrior lived to tell the story only if he knows when to flee the war zone. I made my escape before it got worse and we met in his house.”
Fatihat was nursing a glass of strong drink when Michael barged in, covered in a mix of blood and dust. He went straight to the drink cabinet and poured himself a strong drink as well. Then they sat in silence for a while.
“Are you okay, Lilah?”He asked in concern after a moment.
“I’m fine.” she nodded curtly.
“I’m truly sorry for putting you through this. I guessed something went wrong somewhere and I will find out what it was.” He swore to himself.
“Don’t make excuses for me. I knew what I was walking into when I joined The Cross and I think you should quit when you are still ahead.” she told him firmly.
“What is the meaning of that statement? I don’t give up that easily, girlfriend.”He snarled at her.
“Why don’t you channel your talent into something else? We can get out and cool off till the heat dies down, then start an honest business with what you have. This is a good and fresh opportunity for you, Michael.” She told him passionately.
“When did you become a pastor, Lilah Smith? Spear me the sermon please, It is the only life I know and it is what I will do again and again. You are either in or out.” He stared frostily at her.
“What about the lives of those who are gone? Do they mean anything to you at all?”
“It is their lives and their time to go. A good warrior should know when to quit and run for his life.” He shrugged nonchalantly.
“Other people’s lives matter a lot to me and I won’t join you in your second round of craziness. I am not in at all.” She got to her feet and dropped her wine glass.
“That is always the case of women. You developed cold feet when the going gets tough and looked for the next pot of soup.” He snarled. Her palm connected with his cheek in a resounding slap.
“Don’t you dare categorize me with all the bad things women do. You are worse than most men.” She spat at him.
His eyes saw shining stars and his temper climbed into a very dangerous level. It was the first time he was this mad at her and it happened to be the last. “You bitch. I can do without you.” He came towards her menacingly. She reached down and came up very swiftly with her .45 auto pistol in her hand. “You won’t dare kill me, will you?” He said with open disbelieve.
“I will if you won’t listen to what I’m telling you. You deserve to rot in hell, you fucking idiot. All those people do not deserve to die and you still want to go ahead with your stupid plans to rob more people. Don’t you have a conscience at all? It is either you do my wish or I will gladly kill you to spare the world of your rotten presence.”She told him very coldly.
“Will my conscience buy you fine clothes and shoes and cars and houses, you ungrateful bitch?”He came towards her with a furious snarl.
She kept retreating until she had no choice than to defend herself against him. She shot him in the head. He fell backward, dead on the spot. She wiped the gun clean, broke it into pieces and flushed it down the toilet. She pulled off her dirty, soiled clothes and burnt it in the backyard. She went to take her bath in a hurry and changed into a dark, green combat and a t-shirt. She picked up Michael’s gun and cartridges and tucked it away in her tote bag. She packed everything that belonged to her and every feminine article in the house and dumped it in her car. She went back for the last check and bent over the rapidly cooling corpse for a hard, quick kiss on the cold lips.
“When next you come back to this earth, avoid women and stay clear of crimes. Both will kill you over and over again.” She hit the body with her booth and got out of the house, then, she disappeared off the surface of the earth for nearly twelve months.
“I learned that the remaining members of the gang were eventually rounded up and Michael’s apartment was ransacked with a toothpick but they only found his corpse. None of the other members knew my real name and I was gone until the investigation finally died down like any typical Nigerian investigation. Most of the properties he acquired during our time together were in my name. Those ones that had belonged to both of us, I sold them as discreetly as possible. Money makes things work in this country and when you have loads of it, you can get away with anything. I did!” She said with a triumphant smile and he sighed with little envy.
“You are a lucky woman, fatihat. Many aren’t that lucky.” He said quietly.
“I know I am. I could have died in that last operation or could be rotting in jail by now. Josephine was the happiest when I came back home finally, free of the dreadful gang forever.” She grinned openly. The door to the study room opened and her sister came in. “I was scared to death when I heard about the downfall of the gang but she called me that night and assured me she is safe. I’ve always regretted introducing her to that kind of life in the first place but we have to survive.” Josephine picked up the bottle of wine and poured herself a drink.
“You, guys have come a long way and you have done well for yourselves.”Yusuf said with a little tinge of envy.
“Your sister is the one with the armed robber money but I will help her spend it sha.Are you game?” Josephine asked solemnly and they all burst into laughter.
“So our admission came through a few weeks later and we are back in school as old mamas.”Fatihat said quietly.
“We should be through by next year, so I guess it is never too late to be what you want to be, no matter how rough the road is.” Josephine gave the young man a solemn look and he nodded in absolute agreement.
“Please come out. My dinner is getting cold.” Chenille called through the open door.
“I didn’t even realize we’ve spent hours in here.”Fatihat glanced at her slim, gold wrist watch and whistled softly under her breath. They filed out of the room.
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