The huge warehouse and its large compound were a hive of activities that Friday.
thirty-four workers labored in the mid-afternoon heat, offloading goods from two giant shipping containers on trailers parked within the compound. There were three men in each container, bringing the cartons of goods out from deep inside the containers to their open rear end where other men took them, two big cartons per person, carrying them on their hands and shoulders into the huge warehouse where other men worked hard, piling them up systematically, from the floor to the high roof.
A separate team of workers also labored, carrying cartons of other goods from another section of the warehouse out into the compound where more men worked, piling the goods up in different sections of the large compound for the big buyers or directly into big heavy-duty trucks in readiness for transit.
Alex was the foreman in charge of the work teams, an enforcer, the guy who kicked ass to make sure a good work pace was maintained all around. He was also in charge of all shipments to the warehouse. Once a container arrived from the Apapa ports, the warehouse manager would sign off on it and it then became Alex’s responsibility to offload and transfer the contents of that container into the warehouse using his workforce. Containers of goods from Asia, the UK, Europe, and the United States arrived at the warehouse at a rate of at least a dozen each week and traders from all over the country, even outside it, were always ready to buy up everything so there was always lots of work to be done and a workforce to be kept sharp.
Five giant containers had arrived at the warehouse overnight and the offloading work had started at nine o’clock that morning. It was past one o’clock now, two of the containers were already done with and the trailers had departed again for the ports. The third and the fourth containers were being worked on now and the last container trailer was parked just outside on the street, awaiting its turn to back into the compound and get offloaded.
Alex had lots of control but never did much of anything, which was one reason he was okay with the job for the time being. He had two assistants who did the yelling and the work teams were all made up of professional laborers who knew the drill. They all knew too how tough and hard Alex was.
Sweating and toiling in the heat, the men worked steadily for another two hours until the containers were empty, then took the customary thirty-minute lunch break as the two empty container trailers started up and moved out of the compound. The last container trailer backed in to take their position and the work was set to continue again.
Satisfied the new container trailer was in perfect place before giant doors of the warehouse, Alex took the lunch break like everyone else. He’d already had some roasted sweet yams and vegetable sauce delivered to his office from the canteen across the street from the warehouse. His office was a small one on the ground floor of the narrow one-story block of offices built to one side of the compound. The manager and his assistant had their nice air-conditioned offices on the top floor, but Alex’s office was a dump right next to that of security. For furniture, the office only had an old wooden table, an even older swivel chair and a ceiling fan that hardly did its job well. The windows and doors of the office were always open so the fan didn’t bother him that much and he always had a good view of the compound and any ongoing work.
Just when Alex was almost through with the food, his cell phone rang.
He picked it up from the table and check the caller I.D.
It was his younger brother.
The little guy wasn’t bothersome at all. If Kent was calling now when he knew his big brother could be very busy, then there was sure to be a very good reason. Alex took the call.
“Hello,” said Alex putting the phone to his ear.
“Good afternoon, big brother.”
“Afternoon, man. What’s wrong?” Alex could already hear the worry in his brother’s voice.
“It’s my laptop, big bros. I think it’s gone.”
Alex sighed. “That’s not possible, Kent. That laptop is brand new and you haven’t used it for up to a year.”
“The laptop was good, it was a power surge that caused the problem. Most of the components on the motherboard are burnt.”
“Sounds like you plugged it into one of these small Chinese generators.”
“There’s never light in my hostel, bros. I have to go out to a barbing saloon to charge my phone and the laptop. They use the small generator there.”
“You should have used some sort of voltage protector. Those Chinese generators are destroyers and that laptop was expensive.”
“I used a voltage protector, bros, but it was apparently fake too, China.”
Alex sighed again. “How much will it cost to fix the motherboard?”
“There are too many damaged components on it,” said Kent quickly. “The engineer says it will be better and cheaper to buy a new one.”
“Fifty thousand naira. We’re ordering a new one from overseas and if we move now it will be here and all fixed up in time for my exams.”
Alex knew that the price had been properly padded up and inflated like all yearly national budgets in the country, but students did these things to solve other monetary problems they didn’t want to talk about. “Alright, I’ll send you the money along with your allowance for next month and some extra pocket-money too. Make sure you buy a good voltage protector this time and make sure it is nothing made anywhere near China.”
“Ah, I will never make that mistake again, big bros. Thank you, thank you so much.”
“How often do you go down to see mom now?” asked Alex.
“At least once every three wrecks.”
“From now on, make it every weekend and any other chance you get. I’m going on a short mission soon and until I get back, I will be counting on you to take good care of her.”
“Hope this is nothing dangerous?” asked his younger brother at once in a worried voice.
“No, Kent, and don’t mention it to her. This is just some routine training stuff, a week or two and it’s over. I am depending on you to take very good care of our mother while I’m away, our sister too.”
“No problem, big bros. I will take good care of them, but you’ll need to give me something extra to cover transport fares for the regular visits home, that’s my only problem in that area.”
“You’ll get it,” said Alex and got off the phone, put it aside and turned back to his meal.
Once finished with the last of his food, Alex picked up his phone again and dialed the bank to check his account balance. He had just over two hundred thousand naira in his two accounts. He transferred all of it into the accounts of his brother and mother then sat back in his chair to rest for the final few minutes of the break.
He did some deep thinking too.
By four o’clock, the laborers were done and paid off, Alex inspected the piled-up goods in the warehouse with the manager and then they stopped for the day.
As usual, Alex took a commercial bike home, but this time, didn’t stop at the G & N resultant, he went straight home. Once in his apartment, he found the calling card still on the table where the Alhaji’s assistant had dropped it yesterday, he hadn’t touched it at all since then.
He sat down in an armchair and dialed the phone number printed boldly in gold on the card.
The call was answered right off.
“Hello, Mr. Okoye.”
Alex recognized Mr. Basil Audu’s voice immediately.
“How did you know it was me?” asked Alex.
“Your military file also contains your contact info. I have your number keyed into this phone, both numbers actually.”
“Right. I want to talk to your boss.”
“Okay, just a minute please.”
The line went quiet for a moment, and then, the Alhaji’s deep voice came over the line.
“I take it we have an agreement, Mr. Okoye?”
“I guarantee you will get your niece back or El Soldat’s head on a plate. Fifty million is my price, half up front, the rest later along with the file. I also want the extra thirty million naira bonus as well.”
“Agreed,” said the Alhaji too quickly. “Text your current bank details to this number right now and the money will be transferred into your account at once. You should get two bank alerts within minutes, not one. Once you have confirmed the transaction, call me back right away, I will be waiting.”
The line went dead.
Alex did as he was told and was surprised when barely five minutes later, he got a bank alerts for, not twenty-five, but thirty million naira. The money had been transferred into his account from a Zenith bank account that carried only a number. Both Zenith bank and his bank had sent him alerts. He called the Alhaji back and the line was answered right off.
“Are you now satisfied, Mr. Okoye?” asked the Alhaji.
“The money I got is in excess of twenty-five million.”
“I know, Mr. Okoye and you will get the same amount when this operation is over, plus the full bonus, sixty million in all. Chalk it down to a generous gesture from a new employer who expects complete loyalty and dedication. Details and information for your flight to Abuja tomorrow morning will be forwarded to you by my PA, Mr. Basil Audu, shortly.”
The line went dead in Alex’s ear.
Later that night, for the first time in six months, Alex went for a long run on the dark streets of Ijegun.
To Be Continued…
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