The van screeched to a halt, and they stormed out.
Five of them. Guns drawn.
All corporals, and a commanding sergeant.
Every man’s heart a sounding cymbal.
This was the part of the job nobody loved. If things slipped, it could be the last day of breath for some, or all of them.
Cpl Izu and Yakubu set up a faux check at the junction, and began stopping vehicles.
CO Wale and Cpl Dappa walked eight cars in, advancing from there — it was a tact that trapped vehicular movement.
Cpl Allen stood by the van. He was fresh on the Full flush armed squad, and was the oversight.
Intelligence had it that the robbery suspects were in a white Lexus SUV, and were headed to Ikuve waterside for possible boat exfil.
They were in the area, and had responded to the call.
“Be advised, suspects are heavily armed.” The operator had said over the radio.
The motorists and passersby could sense the tension. This was not a drill, this was not a drill.
The soldiers flanked the cars as they moved, guns cocked, hands by the trigger. The noisy junction had become serene. Spectators piled in earnest.
“Una never see soldier before?” Sergeant Wale said with a tight smile.
“Oya everybody disappear from this place!”
It hit him before he heard it. The deafening rat-tat-tat of a machine gun.
Shouts of panic. Cars braked and reversed. People ran out of their cars. Spectators scattered. Pandemonium.
“Get down! Stay down!” Sgt Wale screamed as he hit the ground, bullets and glass splinters raining around him.
He fingered where his vest had caught the bullets, and clenched his teeth as pain rippled through him.
He turned, and with his hands gestured an advance formation to Yakubu and Izu who were huddled behind a truck .
Dappa, crouching beside Wale, aimed his rifle at the side of the driver’s window, and they waited.
As expected, the gunfire ceased, and a masked head peeked out through the window. It hung limp almost immediately as the bullet with compelling speed entered its left eye, exited, and lodged in the window frame.
The doors swung open, and as the bad men spilled onto the road, the soldiers emptied magazines into them.
The two exiting from the left back door got slugged in the leg, face, chest, and stomach. They dropped to the ground — dying.
The four from the other side spilled into the unguarded opposite lane. They took the duffel bags with the loot, and scattered into different directions. Shooting sporadically in the air.
Cpl Allen, who had been hiding in the van calling for back up, saw one of the robbers run haphazardly into the street opposite him.
“ Charly Oscar! This is alpha two. One of the suspects is running into Cassidy street, over. Should I pursue? over.” He said into the radio.
Cassidy street was the heavy duty spare parts hub of the city. Warehouses lined both sides. Containers were offloaded daily.
The lone robber dashed through an open door into an empty one.
Dust in the air, the smell of sweat accosted his nostrils. The half clad haulage boys scampered for safety at the sight of a masked man with a gun.
“Charlie Oscar! Charlie Oscar! This is alpha two.” Said Allen as he panted into the radio.
“One of the suspects is in sight. Do I pursue?”
The radio coughed static, and he tucked it in his bullet proof vest, cocked his rifle, and crossed into Cassidy street.
People pointed nervously as he ran, crouching and standing, till he arrived the warehouse.
A roar from the bad man’s gun sent him cowering to the ground for cover. The bullets clanged into the gate, and ricocheted into him. One caught his left hand.
He ran behind a line of engines, breathing hard.
He looked, and a finger was missing — with his wedding ring.
He grabbed his rifle, aimed at where the bullets had come from, and fired eight shots.
“You are surrounded!” He shouted. “Drop your weapon, now. It is over. Come out. All your men them don die. Come out, I no go fire you.”
The bad man pulled his mask off, and dabbed his eyes.
He winced as he raised his shirt, revealing a bullet entry wound. The blood streamed down, soaking into his crotch. He pushed the mask into the wound, his lip caught between his teeth.
The sound was gospel to Allen’s ear. The man was wounded. He rose and aimed his rifle again.
Another rifle shot startled him to the ground. Just then, his radio crackled to life.
“Alpha two! Alpha two! Do you read me? Alpha two, over. What is your position in there?”
Cpl Allen peeled off the radio. “This is Alpha two, for Charlie Oscar! Suspect is likely wounded. I am negotiating surren…”
A black face came up from behind a caterpillar wheel in the distance. With it came two hands, blood stained.
“Suspect is surrendering. I repeat, suspect is surrendering.” The soldier croaked into the radio.
“Kick out the gun!” He shouted at the bad man, rising from his cover.
“This rifle na your chest e point o. One careless movement and you don die o!” He said, moving towards the paling man.
He waved in the rest of the squad as he passed the gate, and they swarmed into the warehouse.
“Lie down.” “Lie down.” “Lie down.” “catch ground.” They screamed.
Cpl Izu frisked, slapped, and pushed him to the ground.
“Fowl wey dey stroll enter native doctor house, na die him dey romance with nau.” He said, cuffing him.
A laughter made them turn, and there was Dappa prying into the bag of cash.
“Oboy, these guys get mind o”
“I tell you my brother.” The Sergeant said, and they laughed.
Back at the scene of the shootout, the suspect and his dead comrades were handed to a waiting team of the police anti robbery unit.
The three civilians caught in the crossfire had been carted off in an ambulance to the hospital.
As Cpl Yakubu eased the hilux into traffic, he dug his fingers into his pocket, and retrieved Allen’s.
“Oboy, wallahi you carry bad luck o. You never even reach six months.” He said laughing, as he handed him the ringed finger.
“No be God save Oga today?” Allen retorted.
Then he smiled, and said.
“My own be say, finally my wife go gree person hear word for wedding ring.”
“She go wear am for your right hand.” Sgt Wale said,
and again, they laughed. All five of them. Brothers. United in arms. Purpose. Service. Sacrifice.