Mercenaries for Hire – a true life story Pt 3 “If you think adventure is
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; Its lethal.”
It was quite a ride that Monday morning. Despite leaving Ife at dawn, the journey lasted a little over two hours. Dozens of police checkpoints lined the road at every turn. The cab could only manage 50km/hour on the poorly maintained road for several minutes at a time. But as soon as fresh air flowed into the car, bringing the freshness of the country air to their senses, Alex and Tayo slept the whole time. The sickening bounce and sway of the car as it maneuvered through potholes and unevenly lined asphalt was not enough to stir the young men from the “distressing” sleep. Adebola, with his eyes wide open the whole time, hoped he wouldn’t have to make the trip again. He already felt road sick.
Every journey with a beginning has an end, so did this one. Alex woke up to the view of the emblem into the Polytechnic. It was nothing fancy, just a humongous concrete relic that was a constant reminder of the struggles that the school faced. The two concrete columns were defaced with campaign posters and all sort of illegible writings up to the height that one would require a ladder to etch a graffiti. With the way the emblem looked, it could easily symbolize the state of disrepair and ruins of the infrastructure that laid therein. It was a sharp contrast to the beautiful campus that Alex was used to.
That didn’t bother Alex. There was money to be made and it didn’t matter how the place looked.
He nudged his friend up. “We are here”
“Its about time” Tayo replied with feigned animation, cleaning off the spit dribble at the corner of his mouth.
“We arrived just in time. The first paper starts in 20mins and we must meet with Kapo first.” Adebola declared.
“Sure thing boss” and they alighted from the vehicle. Alex did not care to look back at the car.
Tayo did. He could hardly believe that they rode in the cramped steel entrapment that had a life of its own as it wobbled off into the road. The road had certainly taken its toll on the car.
Adebola led the way and the two friends walked at a safe distance. They were now in unfamiliar territory, on their own and without a back-up plan. They were at the mercies of their host. But Adebola posed no threat. He trudged on like a man with a purpose as they veered off into a beaten path and into the fringes behind the school lecture classrooms and administrative buildings.
The morning sunlight had unwrapped more colors from the sleepy monochrome the night before held in the town of Esa-Oke. But the fading colors of the building and the sudden glow of rusty orange of the unpaved path felt eerie and strange in contrast.
Alex and Tayo were led into a make-shift shed, one of the many, where students could buy quick supplies of stationaries, non-alcoholic drinks and similar materials. The shed was made of rusty aluminum sheets nailed together against wooden planks for support. There was only one person seated comfortably on a make-shift wooden bench. He was a diminutive middle-aged man, who wore a thin moustache under his over-sized nose. His face was anything but friendly, but when it broke into a smile, he appeared more agreeable.
His handshake felt warm when Alex took it, like someone who hadn’t slept much. But when he spoke, his voice carried the authority that was indisputable.
“Good morning, my name is Kapo. You must be Alex” he said with a smile.
The exchanged pleasantries as Alex introduced Tayo.
“Thank you for accepting to come over to Esa-Oke. I hope you had a smooth trip” He didn’t wait for a response as he continued.
Two young men walked into the shed, both dressed for the examination, it would seem.
“Everything is prepared for you you see. No one is going to trouble you. We have sorted everyone out.” Kapo continued.
“Here” he handed over his examination slip with his registration details to Alex.
“Just fil the details into the script and leave when you are done” Kapo instructed.
“Kapo, I don’t feel like writing exams today, can one of your mercenaries write for me?” the husky voice of one of the two guys who joined moments earlier filled the shed.
Adebola started to speak, but Kapo waved him quiet.
“Is your friend able to write for Lado?” Kapo was asking Alex.
“Sure thing Boss, as long as he is willing to pay for it right now” Tayo spoke for himself. The look on Alex’s face didn’t meet his approval.
“Then we have a deal” Lado’s husky voice responded
An envelope with money was quickly exchanged with Tayo and a registration slip sealed with a firm handshake and the spark of light at the end of a stick of cigarette. Lado puffed in satisfaction; you could tell that a burden had just been taken off him.
Adebola wished the friends well and directed them to the examination hall. At this point they were now truly all by themselves.
Alex and Tayo walked towards the hall with bated breaths. A careful observation of the terrain cleverly masked underneath a carefree stride would hide their anxiety. As they passed through the side of the designated examination hall, they saw students peering out of the window opening, that had since lost its glory, to gaze at them. Some in hushed tones, others pointing a finger, while some spoke with their eyes.
There was a building excitement from the other students in the hall as though they had long awaited their arrival.
It was now 8am.
As they approached the door into the building, the students broke into an animated cheer welcoming the two boys. The boys did not acknowledge their shouts of excitement but proceeded to take their seat in the 100-capacity hall.
Some students tried to meet their gaze in acknowledgment, some with a smile, some with pleading eyes and others with scorn. They couldn’t quite tell who was friendly or not, but the less said the better.
“It must be a big deal to have students from Great Ife in their midst” Tayo gloated as he pulled out a wooden chair with numbers matching the registration number on the slip he held. Alex was on the other side of the hall.
The invigilator, a young unassuming man, called the students to order as the chatter continued minutes after the two boys were long settled.
Tayo wore a smile when he saw the first set of questions.
“This is indeed easy money” he concluded.
Kapo was waiting at the shed when the two boys arrived.
The first two papers had been sorted and just as they had imagined, they didn’t break a sweat. They had earned the first amount for the week. If this was a sign of things to come, the boys were in for a fun-filled hustle.
Word had spread quickly about the two boys and their mission. Students stood in clusters with animated voices as the two boys walked by. Some even mouthed some pleasantries which were never replied.
“You guys are the real deal” Kapo gushed, his tobacco-stained breath assaulting Alex’s nostrils.
“I heard you were done in record time like it meant nothing. This is amazing” Lado babbled on.
“Would you like some palm wine and cigarette? Let’s celebrate” Kapo started to collect disposable cups to pass on to the boys.
“We are very hungry. I think we should find something to eat first” a disinterested Tayo replied.
“Great! Here is the plan” Kapo paused to light up another cigarette.
“We will go to this local restaurant first to eat and then we will visit the palace of the Owamiran of Esa-Oke. You know as strangers in this land you need to pay homage to the rulers of the land” small rings of faint smoke escaped his lips as he spoke.
“Then there is a party later tonight at my girlfriend’s apartment in town. I am sure you will find our fun side very interesting” with this said, he let out a throaty laughter, low and reverberating enough for Lado to join in.
“Would there be enough girls there Kapo, because there is no party without the ladies?” Tayo’s animated enquiries elicited even more laughter from the two men.
“Plenti girls, so tey you go taya”
“Fine girls o” Tayo teased.
This time, they nodded their heads.
Adebola was nowhere around.
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