Blood splatters in the air as Thomas’s Gang clashes with Road Transport Union

Blood splatters in the air as Thomas’s Gang clashes with Road Transport Union

“Hey Oga, find something for your boy!”

Thomas ignored the young man, a youth he guessed to be anywhere between twelve and seventeen years old. It was very hard to tell. Some of the people surviving on the streets of Lagos were so malnourished that they were in a state of arrested physical development.


“How about you, Big Oga?” the boy begged as he circled around Kenny. “You look like you’ve got plenty of money to spare.”

Kenny waved him off as if he were swatting away a pesky mosquito. The boy had no intention of going away empty-handed, and he certainly would not do so quietly. He zigzagged between Kenny and Thomas before turning toward Sadoki. He was about to try his spiel one more time, but the look in the muscular man’s steely eyes made him jump back a step.


The three men continued walking, hardly allowing their gaze to stray sideways. The size of their bodies and the determination of their gait made other street urchins think twice about approaching them.

“You did contact the others, right?” Kenny asked Thomas.

“I called Jimmy,” he explained, “and then we put the telephone tree into motion. When Jimmy called me back, he assured me that everyone had received the information regarding the meeting venue.”


Kenny had decided that morning that a change of venue was in order. He didn’t say why, although Fanni had told Thomas that he suspected the wrong person might have seen them gather at unusual times for their meetings.

“Kenny pointed out a guy that he thought had been lingering around the neighbourhood too much recently,” Fanni had told Thomas. “I think he wants to mix things up a bit in case someone is trying to track our movements.”

Thomas had pressed Kenny about the potential dangers of being tracked, but he blew off the concern. “I just like to keep everybody on their toes,” he maintained. “I don’t like it when the team gets too cocky. Cockiness often leads to complacency. In our line of work, complacency leads to death. I need to keep the members sharp, so I throw a wrench into the mix once in a while and make sure they respond as quickly as possible.”

The explanation made sense to Thomas, but he found Fanni’s story more plausible. Thomas himself had noticed a few regular faces hanging out in their team’s neighbourhood on a habitual basis, so much so that he wondered if he should mention it to Kenny. On one level, he thought this would prove to the Boss that he was actually paying close attention to his surroundings. On another level, he was afraid that he might be developing a severe case of paranoia, and pulling Kenny away from other important matters was likely to make the big man angry. There were, after all, other team members whose jobs were to ensure that the coast was always clear.


“The warehouse is down at the end of this block,” Kenny stated as the men sauntered past a deserted bus stop. “We’ll discuss a little business and then everyone can have the rest of the night off.”

That sounded just fine to Thomas. It was Friday night, the clubs would be jumping, and he had a nice wad of cash burning a hole in his pocket. He had already arranged for Nancy to meet him for a little night life. After a few drinks and some sensuous trips to the dance floor, he was hoping the two of them might take another seemingly aimless stroll, with the final destination just happening to be Nancy’s apartment.

“Hey, motherfucker!”

The shout came from somewhere next to the bus stop. It was immediately followed by the sound of shattering glass. The three men turned around to see a large man brandishing a broken bottle. At his side was the Area Boy who had just been begging them, looking very smug and obnoxious under the protection of the giant brute. Thomas watched as more figures emerged from the darkness. A few seconds later, they were surrounded by many mean and scruffy looking men.


“Look who we have here,” the thug with the bottle sneered.

Sadoki spat on the ground. “And who do we have greeting us?” he growled. “I suspect it is a bunch of stupid motor park touts or, judging from the smell, a pack of flea-ridden hyenas.”

Kenny let out a loud laugh and shook his head in disbelief. “Yeah, I can tell by just looking at them,” he snarled. “They’re nothing but a flock of boneheaded touts for hire. They can’t find a job on their own. They have to wait until some desperate coward slips in here in the middle of the night and dangles some bills in front of their faces. The stupid bastards probably don’t even know who paid them off.”

“It wasn’t one of the transport unions, that’s for sure,” Sadoki added.


“Of course not,” Kenny agreed. “If these dumb losers legitimately worked for the unions, they’d be on our side.”

The man waved his broken bottle in the air. “We aren’t on anybody’s side,” he yelled. “And that’s bad news for you!”

Thomas drew in a deep breath and tried to assume a menacing pose similar to the ones taken by Kenny and Sadoki. He knew that no matter what he did he could never look nearly as threatening. Not only was he was more than a foot shorter than the other men, his body simply was not built for intimidation. He was a teacher, after all, and his mild-mannered personality seemed to show through at all times.

“Listen up, little puppies,” Kenny goaded. “It’s very late and all of you kiddies should be in bed by now. So put away your little toys and leave us adults to take care of business.”

Sadoki cleared his throat noisily. “Don’t make us call your mummies and daddies,” he warned.

Kenny laughed. “Maybe later, if you’re good,” he tossed in, “you’ll get ice cream.”

Thomas had heard plenty of stories about motor park touts. They were the undesirable product of the government’s well-intentioned attempt to safeguard Lagosian transport workers. The National Union of Road Transport Workers had been set up to protect the rights and promote the interests and welfare of transport operators throughout Nigeria. In Lagos, unfortunately, some of the branches of the union had mutated from a source of protection into a supply of extortion and bloodshed. Thugs had taken over the officer positions, and they made themselves rich by shaking down drivers at bus stops and motor parks on a daily basis. Most of these thugs could barely read or write, but they managed to rake in enough money to purchase dozens of fancy houses, expensive vehicles, and flashy jewellery.

Naturally, the potential for acquiring such an exorbitant amount of cash led to a great deal of infighting within the alleged unions. Rather than control the situation in an appropriate manner, political leaders and law enforcement officials could not resist the opportunity to take advantage of it. As corruption took over the union, public officials and police officers were perfectly willing to look the other way, for the right price. The touts were always more than willing to pay to relieve themselves of the hassle. Lawmakers also used the touts to their advantage. They often commissioned them to intimidate or, when necessary, completely eliminate any candidate’s competition, as Kenny and his team were learning first-hand.

The spoiled thugs always reached a point where they no longer wanted to get their hands dirty by committing the brutality themselves, so they tossed coins and sandwiches at local Area Boys to encourage them to get dirty on their behalf. Thomas was very troubled by the young age of some of the gang members. Many of these kids were as young, if not younger, than the kids he had worked with when he was a teacher in Ife. He was looking at lost lives, youths who may have had the potential to be doctors, scientists, professors, artists, musicians, and great thinkers had they only entered into the world under different circumstances.

At that particular moment, however, Thomas was less inclined to feel sorry for the boys’ lost youth and more disposed to worrying about his own personal safety. With each step the gang took forward, he felt the likelihood of his escaping without a scratch getting slimmer.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Everyone turned to hear the harsh voice roar through the air. When Thomas looked, he saw one of Kenny’s bodyguards approaching, followed by other members of their team. In an instant, the numbers suddenly evened out. Kenny motioned to the crowd.

“Looks like we have quite a gathering here tonight,” he cracked. “It’s too bad nobody brought a keg. Then we could really have a party.”

Hoping to utilise the element of surprise, the man hurled the broken bottle directly at Sadoki, striking him on the shoulder. That turned out to be a big mistake. There was one thing Thomas understood about Sadoki in the short time he had known him: one would be mistaken to attack him in any conceivable manner. That would only serve to make him mad.

And mad he became. Sadoki launched himself at the man. In one acrobatic move, he managed to throw him to the ground and pummel his fists into his face until he was bleeding profusely and completely unconscious. In that instant, the melee was on. Bodies began flying, and limbs punched and kicked with reckless abandon.

Out of instinct, Thomas began flailing his arms, most of the time hitting nothing but air. Occasionally his hand whacked up against someone’s hard skull, but he couldn’t be sure if he was doing any significant damage to subdue his attackers. For a while, it seemed as if the only thing he was succeeding at was hurting his own knuckles. In the mayhem, he could not even be sure that he was hitting the right people. At one point, he came dangerously close to slugging Sadoki in the gut, something for which he was quite sure he would pay for later if he wasn’t more careful.

Blood began to splatter through the air, dousing all of the riot’s participants, with nobody really sure whose blood it was. Some men succumbed to their injuries and dropped limply to the ground. Thomas could not be sure if they were merely knocked out or if they were dead, but he had no interest in checking their pulses. He doubled over suddenly as someone jammed a fist into his side, nailing the floating rib and almost taking his breath away. He lurched for a few steps in an attempt to pull himself out of the fray, but there was no escape. He was struck again from behind with a hard blow to the back of the neck, jolting him back into the centre of the ring of bedlam. He managed to connect one of his punches to an attacker’s jaw, sending the kid staggering backward into Kenny. Kenny picked up the boy’s slight frame and tossed it over his shoulder like a discarded piece of clothing.

Meanwhile Sadoki was fending off multiple attackers, most of whom had found that ganging up on the big man was no more effective than fighting him solo. Sadoki threw a kick to one boy’s groin, which sent him crumbling to the pavement. He then wrapped his arm around another boy’s throat and squeezed until the body went limp, fighting off others with his free arm.

Kenny and his men were doling out punishment to their attackers, but they were also absorbing some shots as well. One of the bodyguards had a swollen eye and Kenny was bleeding from the mouth. Thomas hadn’t been bruised this badly since he was pummelled in the street on his first night in Lagos.

“Police! Police!”

The scream broke through the air, resounding over the grunts, cries, and scuffling of the fray. Thomas immediately recognised the voice. It was Fanni, the computer expert, yelling at the top of his lungs. The last remaining touts turned to run away, some of them staggering in pain. The silhouette of one young boy appeared to be running with a broken arm flailing lifelessly at his side.

Kenny grabbed Thomas by the arm and pulled him up to the side of a building. The other team members jumped into the shadows to keep out of sight.

“Relax, guys,” Fanni said through some panting. “The police aren’t coming. I just screamed out to get those guys to run — and they did, the cowards.”

Thomas leaned over, braced his hands on his knees, and tried to catch his breath. Kenny patted him on the back.

“You did all right out there, Word Man,” he remarked. “Your fighting style isn’t exactly pretty, but you got the job done. You’re one tough teacher.”

From his doubled over position, Thomas simply nodded. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to accept such a compliment.

“Did anyone bring a car tonight?” Kenny asked.

“I got one,” a bodyguard answered.

Kenny gently pulled Thomas upright. “Good,” he said. “Give the brain boxes a ride back home. On the way, you guys use your neurons to figure out who set us up tonight.”

“What about you guys?” Fanni asked. “Can we call you a cab or something?”

Kenny waved him off. “The muscle boys can walk it.”

Thomas had barely taken a full step forward when a blaring voice assaulted his ears.

“Go to hell, motherfucker!”

Before he could turn toward the voice, he was struck in the head by a high-speed projectile. The next thing he knew, he was looking up at the sky.


á   á   á   á   á


“No! That hurts!”

Nancy batted Thomas’s hand down as he tried to touch his face.

“I know it hurts,” she said, her exasperation clear, “but you have to let me finish.”

Thomas gritted his teeth and tried to hold still while Nancy carefully picked the tiny pieces of glass out of his temple with a pair of tweezers.

“I don’t know what kind of bottle that guy threw at you,” she muttered, “but it certainly exploded on impact. Then again, maybe you just happen to have a very hard head.”

Thomas playfully reached down and slapped her thigh.

“Brace yourself,” she warned. “I have to wash out the cuts with peroxide. It might sting a little.”

She poured some liquid onto a cloth and then dabbed it onto the wounds.

“Yeee!” Thomas screamed.

“I told you!”

“Do you have to do that?”

Nancy threw up her hands in mock exasperation. “No, Thomas,” she remarked. “I could just let your face get completely infected and wait for the pus to ooze into your eye.”

Thomas reached over and patted her thigh. “Okay, go ahead,” he groaned. “I’ll behave.”

He gritted his teeth as she meticulously washed out the series of small cuts. Most of the bleeding had stopped, but one cut required a bandage. She measured the area, cut the gauze, and carefully secured it to the side of his head with first aid tape.

“It’s a shame you weren’t able to go to university as you wished,” Thomas said. “You would have made an amazing doctor.”

She flashed him a mischievous smile. “We can play ‘Doctor’ right now if you want.”

Thomas smiled broadly. “That’s a good idea,” he replied. “I think I’m in need of more medical attention.”

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