POPS’S ICE CREAM STORE was at the corner of the plaza adjacent to the mosque in Zone 3. Its glass window, which spread across the corner, gave you a great view of the street in front of the plaza, as well as the sidewalk leading up to it, depending on which side of the corner you sat. The name of the store, “Pops’ Ice Cream Parlour” was sprawled across the window on both sides in red neon light, in the style of a ’50s Americana stores. It was part of the plaza that made up the strip of shops, businesses and pharmacies that lined up the road. Not to mention the mosque, the hospital and a clinic and the church once you reached the end of the road and turned the corner.
Throughout the years, Pops became the place to meet, argue, stare at girls, and make fun of other people. It was where we got the name the Fab Four from Pops himself, going all the way back to our first year in secondary school when the store first opened. The store was a constant in our lives, seeing us through secondary school, university and, eventually, unemployment.
Then one day, a new store opened across the street. It too sold ice cream and as a plus, had an arcade. It was a Baskin Robbins type franchise with more than 31 flavours of ice cream to choose from. The new kids in the neighbourhood went there, the adults went there, and families went there. We also went there, but couldn’t stand the line and all the Alté teenagers with their new fashion sense. We had our spot anyway and it was at Pops, where we felt comfortable and the ice cream still tasted good.
A year after the new store opened, things were different for Pops and for us, too. The changes in the economy hadn’t been so great to everyone. Of the Fab Four, only I still had a job at a factory which was struggling to pay wages. Pops himself was facing his own crisis. He ran a four-man staff team, two in the kitchen and two at the cashier. With the change in the economy, he was down to a two-man team; one in the kitchen and one at the register, with Pops helping out when needed.
Pops had decided to move his store. He’d been planning it for a while. The rent on the store had been increased steadily in the past few years, not to mention all the kids who used to frequent his business had all grown up and moved out of the neighbourhood, while the new kids went across the street to the new place.
Pops told us he had decided to move his business to the neighbouring district of Zone 2 where the rent was much cheaper with little to no competition to his establishment. But even moving was expensive, he said. While we were not fans of his decision, we understood. We also weren’t really fans of the neighbourhood he was moving too, especially Kevin, who almost got beaten up there once for checking out some guy’s cousin. It happened while we were in secondary school, but it still hurt Kevin’s feelings, who said a man should never be beaten for his admiration of a woman. He clearly didn’t admire the wrong women enough.
One day, while sitting at our regular booth, the four of us were approached by Pops, who would converse with us whenever he had time. “I really want to retire,” he said. “I’ve been selling you kids ice cream for over ten years. Maybe that’s a sign I should really quit, instead of this move. Either way, I’m still going to need money.”
“We’re going to miss you,” said Ralph. “I mean, where will we get our ice cream from once you leave? We don’t really like Zone 2.”
“You’ll go over there,” Pops replied, pointing in the direction of the obvious answer. He eventually went back to the counter and continued serving his remaining customers.
As we sat in the booth discussing our future and sundry, Hrag kept quiet. He then asked, “Is Pops’ business insured?” No one was sure. “We should find out,” he said. No one thought much of it.
One day, while hanging out at one of the neighbourhood gardens that sold beer, where we went to smoke freely, Hrag asked, “Do you think if Pops got robbed, or say, his shop got damaged, his insurance would cover that?”
“Well, that’s what insurance is for,” I said.
“Yeah,” replied Hrag. “But don’t you have to prove that that’s truly the case and not otherwise?”
“Prove that what is the case?” I asked.
“That you were robbed or that your shop was damaged due to an accident,” he said.
“I guess,” I replied. “Why?”
“Nothing, I’m just thinking.”
Hrag put out his cigarette bud in the ground. “I want to show you guys something,” he said as he started walking. Almost instinctively, the three of us followed him.
Hrag had a natural ability to lead; he’d always been like this since we were kids. He took us to a seemingly abandoned plot of land, which in reality was semi-abandoned, but as we walked further in, there was an open garage of mechanics who fixed cars and a few who dismantled them for other particular cases. Hrag walked to an old Volkswagen Beetle.
“What do you guys think?”
“Are we travelling back into the past?” I asked.
“No, it’s a getaway car.”
It was there that Hrag talked about robbing the ice cream store. He spoke about it in hypothetical terms to the point we couldn’t tell if he was joking or this was the beginning of his origin story as the next Joker.
“Well, I know you’re not serious if you want us to use this old car as a getaway vehicle,” said Ralph.
“How fast does this car go?” asked Kevin curiously, who thought Hrag had the potential to be a really good writer if he wasn’t out pranking his friends about a potential robbery.
“It goes faster than your brain,” replied Hrag. “Plus who’s going to look for an old Volkswagen?”
“Who’s not going to look for it?” I asked. “They’re very few. You’re not up to a good start as a criminal.”
The next day, while at work, during lunch hour, I got called in by the accountant who had taken over running the factory after the last few managers quit. I was told I was being let go at the end of the month and the remaining salary I was owed was to be paid in three months after they sold the factory to a buyer who was currently working out a deal with the company.
I walked home as it wasn’t far from my workplace. Later that day, I met Hrag at the garden and told him about my day. He was sympathetic, but I had other things on my mind.
“Your idea, were you serious?” I asked.
“What idea?” he asked.
“The ice cream shop.”
“Is this your villain origin story?” Hrag asked with excitement.
“I’m serious, too,” he said.
“How do you plan on doing it?”
“With my friends,” he said. “Or should I say, ‘accomplices’?”
He was enjoying this much than I anticipated.
“He has a pretty good alarm, you know?” said Hrag. “I’ve heard when it goes off.”
“Well, how do we switch off the alarm?” I asked.
“Well, we kinda need the alarm to go off to make it look like a proper robbery, which it is, so . . .”
“They don’t work; I’ve heard him mention it before.”
“So just the alarm then.”
“The alarm can go off for a bit, but if it goes on for longer than a minute that’s when the police come.”
“How do we turn off the alarm?”
“There’s a switch.”
“Man, I’d rather not steal from Pops,” I said. “Don’t know why I’m even indulging your fantasy.”
“How would you do it?” asked Hrag. “Hypothetically?”
“I wouldn’t do it at all,” I said. “I mean is there a way to steal respectfully?”
“What does that even mean?” asked Hrag. “I don’t think there’s such a thing as stealing respectfully. Someone loses something and the other person becomes a thief, that’s how it works.”
“I mean, hypothetically, if I was to do this, I would want Pops to be involved, let him know about the plan.”
“You want to tell the victim to be a part of it?”
“Yeah, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and this way he can be like a co-conspirator.”
Hrag looked at me for a few seconds, “Yeah. I’m never doing any job with you, ever.”
About a month passed and Hrag and I revisited our conversation. There was a more serious tone to it now. “I’d rather we did this without any noise, to be honest. I already have enough anxiety planning this,” I said. My mind had been made up at the possibility that I was about to willingly commit a crime and leave a stain in my heart.
We discussed about the alarm and I disagreed with Hrag’s idea of breaking in and letting the alarm go off. If there was a way to silence the alarm beforehand, my heart would be at ease.
“How do we get someone to turn off the alarm from the inside, before the day’s end?” asked Hrag.
There was a silence.
“Ask Pops?” we both said at the same time. It was hard to tell which one of us was really being serious and who was only half-joking.
The next day, we went to Pops’ Ice Cream Parlour. We went without Ralph and Kevin for obvious reasons. Pops was at the counter so we approached him as he was away from any customers. They were very few anyway. Our plan was to tell him of our scheme and if he disagreed or showed any sign of disgust, to both laugh out loud, claiming we only pulled a prank on him and tell him how much we were going to miss him.
“So Pops, you were telling us the other day that your insurance covers theft, right?” I asked
“Yes,” replied Pops.
“And fire, right?” asked Hrag.
“Yes, what’s this about?” he asked.
“Okay, suppose we say—”my voice turned into a whisper—“suppose someone was to steal from you, you’d get your insurance money, right?”
“Yes, that’s how the insurance works, among other things.”
“Interesting,” I said, stalling to get the main part of the gist.
“How would you like to have your insurance money . . . like quick?” asked Hrag, noticing I was taking time.
“What do you mean?” Pops asked. He looked serious like he was about to hear bad news, which he sort of was. So we told him our plan. He listened and then told us to sit down at a booth. “I’ll be with you in a bit,” he said.
We did as we were told, only to wonder if he was planning to call the police on us and whether we should just go tell him it was a joke. We were thinking of either that or standing up to leave and never returning again when he came and sat in the booth with us.
“I am disappointed in you, boys. Whose idea was this?” he asked. “I don’t want to know,” he continued, before we could point fingers or feign that we were joking. “You were such promising young boys,” he said. “Everyone has it hard these days.”
He seemed genuinely disappointed and I’m sure a bit of him was, but then he said, “But if I leave the alarm off, won’t the police ask why I left it off and get suspicious when they come around the following day?”
Now you see, we hadn’t thought of that, nor had we seen this side of Pops before. You think you know a person and then they surprise you. “If the alarm wasn’t working for a week, then I could have the perfect alibi, meaning I didn’t plan this with you, which I didn’t,” he said.
We both stared at him confused. I wondered if he was going to tell us he was joking or whether he was really dastardlier than he let on.
“But won’t one of your employees be seen as a suspect?” I asked.
“If not all of them,” Hrag added.
“I can shout about it when the customers are around,” Pops said. “This way I’ll tell the police maybe one of my customers heard me complain about my alarm system.”
We really did not know who this man was. I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop when he said, “So, it’s just going to be the two of you?”
“Well, yeah,” said Hrag. “Just the two of us.”
“Who’s going to lookout for passers-by?” Pops asked.
“I guess I’ll do it,” I said.
“And your getaway driver?” he asked. “Ideally, you need three men. One to come in, one to lookout, and one to drive off. I’m just saying, if I’m going to risk my business for this, we might as well come correct. Isn’t that how you kids say it?”
And so the plan was on. Pops was going to wreck his alarm system a few days prior to the planned robbery, removing himself from any implication of conspiracy or cover up or whatever the term is when you’re involved in something and we . . . we were going to rob an ice cream parlour. But we needed, at least, one more person.
“We need a getaway driver,” said Hrag, when we walked out of the store. “It’s the first thing I thought of.”
“Yeah, but not with your stupid Volkswagen,” I said.
We both stood on the curb in front of the ice cream store, processing what had just happened.
“I know at least two people I trust,” I said.
“You think they’ll agree?” asked Hrag.
“Do you know any criminal you trust to drive us?” I asked. Trust was upmost, so we decided to see if we could convince Ralph or Kevin, or both.
* * *
Planning a robbery is one thing, convincing other people to join you is another.
“You want us to what?” asked Kevin.
“Help us steal or stage a fake robbery,” I explained.
“But we are stealing real money, not Monopoly,” added Hrag.
“Are you guys serious?” asked Kevin.
“It’s crack,” said Ralph to Kevin. “They’ve probably tried to sell everything they have to get whatever they’re smoking. I say it’s crack.”
“No, listen,” I said. “Pops’ in on it.”
“Crack head!” said Ralph eating from his bag of chips, as he lay on Kevin’s bed. He looked over the bed sheet and said, “Bruh, I hope there’s no sperm on this?”
“Listen. Politicians steal, okay?” I said.
“Those motherfuckers steal with a pen,” said Ralph. “You want us to do it ourselves and aid your drug habit. What is it, crack? C’mon, tell us. We’re your friends.”
“Okay, tell you what, let’s just go to the ice cream store and have some ice cream,” I said.
“That sounds like a great idea,” said Ralph, getting off the bed. “I can’t wait to share this joke with Pops. Obviously I won’t, because we don’t need him to know about your problem. Your secret is safe with us.”
So all four of us went to the ice cream store and when all the customers had gone, Pops approached us. “So we’re good?” he said, assuming that Ralph and Kevin were in.
“Er, Pops, could we just go over the plan one more time?” I asked. “So that Ralph and Kevin could hear it?”
“We discussed this, alarm off for a week, you guys come in, robbery, insurance, we split the cash.”
“We what?” asked Ralph.
“You didn’t tell them?” asked Pops puzzled.
“They just needed to make sure we were all on the same page,” I said. “Thank you.” I turned to Ralph and Kevin, “Let’s go.”
Once outside, I turned to them again, “Now do you believe us?”
Ralph was still stunned. “Pops has a crack problem, too?”
* * *
And so the day came. We spent it going over our plan, but mostly we played Grand Theft Auto Abuja in preparation. Our plan was simple, to make it look like a proper robbery and in doing so, Hrag got some equipment, a couple of crowbars and a blowtorch. Pops was going to leave the safe open; we just needed to make it look like it was forced open. The problem is when you rent equipment from the rogue neighbourhood dealer, word got around. You could pardon Hrag for not being the smartest tool in the career criminal box, seeing as it was his first time. In Hrag’s defense and to an extent ours, we didn’t have the money we later found out we should’ve paid Mutt the dealer to keep quiet. As it turned out, not only did Mutt specialise in getting you everything, but he also specialised in telling everything to anyone who walked into his shop, this included the local loan shark and resident gangster’s right-hand man, Oz.
The local loan shark and resident gangster who I fear to mention his name was known small-time criminal. But in our small town, he was big.
So around 6pm a van pulled up to Ralph’s garage where we were chilling—a little bit of healing, you know the rest—when knock, knock! The knock on the garage door persisted.
“Who’s that?” asked Hrag.
“I don’t know,” said Ralph.
“Hey!” said the voice from outside the garage. “Open up!”
“You think it’s the police?” asked Kevin.
“What?” I asked.
“Maybe Pops told on us,” said Kevin.
Finally, Ralph stood up. “Put out the weed,” he said.
We hid our blunts and Ralph sprayed the garage as quickly as he could with a little room freshener he kept ever since his little sister asked what that smell was when she walked in on him smoking. Ralph opened the garage door and there stood a rather huge man. His name was Oz.
“Hey,” said Ralph.
Oz kept quiet as he looked around to see what he might be dealing with. He noticed some of the tools we borrowed from Mutt carelessly displayed on the floor. “Right,” he finally said. “Are you the kids who saw Mutt about borrowing some tools?”
“Who are you?” asked Ralph.
“Question is who are you?”
“Er, you came to my house,” retorted Ralph. Ralph had balls where some of us lacked.
Somehow, Ralph’s father, Professor Finkelstein jogged by from his usual evening run. “Hey guys,” he said. “Hey dad,” replied Ralph as we waved, hoping this might cause the rather large Oz to feel weary and move away. “Hey, Professor Finkelstein,” waved Oz with a smile.
“Hey, don’t forget to submit your paper!” replied Professor Finklestein, as he halted. “You know my son?”
Ralph almost wanted to say he didn’t know who Oz was.
“Oh, I didn’t know he was your son, professor. We met the other day at a garden and he impressed me with his knowledge of quantum physics. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, sir.”
“Well, he better not help you with your paper,” said the professor, as he walked to the front door, “See you!”
As soon as the professor walked into the house, Oz turned to Ralph with the smile on his face gone. “I’m the man who knows your family. Get in the van. All of you! Don’t even think about yelling for help.”
I won’t lie, I had seen enough episodes of Boardwalk Empire to know this could be our last ride. If it was a TV series, it is where the episode ends until next week. But there’s more.
After being terrified into the van by the mighty Oz, we sat quietly in the back as he drove. No one thought of attacking him, and I doubt it had to do with the partition between us. The van was extremely clean; probably due to the bleach used to get rid of the blood and fingerprints of people they might have killed. My imagination ran wild.
“So, are you really a student of my dad?” asked Ralph.
“Shut the fuck up, kid!” said Oz.
That was the only conversation during the whole ride.
The van finally stopped and we stepped out into what appeared like an abandoned workshop. Oz led us to through a hallway to a room, walking behind us.
The gangster’s layout was well decorated, more like an office than where two-bit criminals and snitches would be brought before being disposed of. There was the prerequisite safe in the corner with God knows how much was kept in it. A rather bulky-looking bodyguard was at the door, who didn’t say a word, but spoke with his hand stretched out, his palm facing you, meaning “halt.”He held the doorknob, pushing it forward, meaning you could enter. The boss, El Jefe, Oga Pata Pata, looked like Michael Sheen, the actor. (As a matter of fact, when they do tell our story as I know they will, because Hollywood loves a good biopic, I want Michael Sheen to play the gangster.)
“This them, boss,” said Oz as we entered.
“Sit,” said the gangster.
Everyone nervously sat; even Oz, except that he was comfortable.
“Not you,” said the gangster to Oz.
“Sorry, boss,” said Oz as he stood up and assumed the standing position of first soldier. It was nice to see someone who wasn’t intimidated by Oz’s size.
“Imagine my surprise,” began the gangster, “when I sent Oz here to get equipment for our construction company.”
Now you and I know damn well the gangster did not have a construction company, certainly not one that involved renting equipment from a two-bit criminal.
“You have a construction company?” interrupted Hrag. That was a stupid question.
The gangster rolled his eyes at Hrag’s interruption as I did, too, in my head.
After being so rudely interrupted, the gangster continued, “Only to find out Mutt had rented them to a bunch of kids apparently trying to rob an establishment. Am I correct?”
We kept silent till he banged the table and asked again, “AM I CORRECT?”
We started saying yes, except for Ralph who had the liver to say, “We don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Honestly at that point, I wasn’t sure what Ralph was talking about. The gangster nodded his head at Oz, which caused me to quickly reply, “YES” again for fear of what might happen when a gangster nods his head at one of his minions. Ralph said yes, too.
“See? That’s not so hard,” said the gangster. “Now what’s the establishment you boys plan on robbing again?”
“Er, it’s the ice cream parlour on Chicken Capitol Street,” I answered.
“The new place or Pops?” he asked.
Ralph and I answered at the same time, except I said Pops and Ralph called out the Baskin Robbins type franchise. Again, the gangster made a quick nod at Oz who moved closer to us.
“It’s Pops!” we answered at the same time.
“Oh, I like his ice cream,” said the gangster. “My daughter used to go there when she was younger. What happened, he lost his crowd?”
I got even more frightened; I wasn’t sure how old his daughter was but I was praying to God she wasn’t one of the girls we tried to chat with on numerous occasions who called us toxic.
“Isn’t he closing shop?” asked the gangster. “I heard through the grapevine Pops was considering shutting his business. It’s hard to compete with these franchises you know?”
“Where’d you hear that?” asked Ralph.
“Oz gets me ice cream there. He heard,” replied the gangster.
I thought for a moment why we never met Oz at Pops.
“Tell you what,” said the gangster. “I’m going to let you rob the store. On one condition. I’m going to get a cut. 20 percent as disruption to our construction business. That, or I call the police and tell them about your little endeavour.”
“You’re going to snitch on us?” asked Ralph.
I imagined what episode of The Wire Ralph thought we were in.
“Snitching would imply I was part of something to begin with,” said the gangster, who then paused for effect. “Am I part of something here, gentlemen?”
We were confused on how to answer the question. Two of us said yes and the other two said no. He rolled his eyes, realising how amateur we were.
“If I’m part of the crew, I cannot snitch, that would go against my code, hence I can’t call the police. So, am I a part of the crew?” he asked.
We answered, “Yes!”
“Good,” he said. “Then I won’t snitch on my crew.”
“How do you know we’re not going to cheat you on the money?” asked Hrag.
“Oh, you won’t,” said the gangster. “That’s why Oz here is going with you. To make sure you don’t get away with my 20 percent. And if I find out you stuffed any bills in your pockets . . . As a matter of fact, after the robbery, you come here and we search you, make sure you haven’t hidden any money elsewhere. You have a getaway car, no license plate?”
There was silence. “There’s an old sea green Volkswagen Beetle I was thinking of,” Hrag started speaking, before keeping quiet. The silence was better than his answer. The gangster looked at Oz momentarily and the two burst into laughter. “Really?” asked the gangster.
Till this day, I never fully understood Hrag’s obsession with that car.
“How about a Ferrari?” asked the gangster.
“Isn’t that flashy?” I asked.
“Ah, they’re smart,” he said to Oz, then turned to us. “But still stupid enough to use a car no one uses anymore, making it easy to identify them when the police come looking.” He looked at Oz, “Get them a Honda or something.” He looked at us as if to drive home the point, “Everyone in town drives a Honda!”
Oz whispered something into the gangster’s ear, something about “stolen” and there being four of us. “Right,” said the gangster. “Let’s just use the van.” He turned to Oz and said, “Make sure it’s spray-painted by tomorrow.”
With a robbery van and Oz now becoming the fifth Beatle, we were good to go.
The night went by slower than we expected. Oz had dropped us at Ralph’s house with warnings not to go anywhere or to even think of calling anyone in authority. To make sure, he took our phones and said we’d get them back once the job was done.
“What do we do now?” I asked.
“We have to tell Pops, right?” asked Hrag.
“Why? What difference would it make?” asked Ralph. “We just have to go through with it.”
For all our conversation with the gangster, not once did we mention that Pops was involved. This was our mess now and Pops already created the perfect alibi. It was past 1am, when Oz came back to pick us up. By then we knew shit was about to go down. Operation Sundae was in full swing.
Meanwhile, that evening, Pops was having a crisis of his own. Of his two member staff, Haruna, whom he designated as the co-manager and who had an extra key to the store for when Pops was not around, thought he’d do something good for his boss. All week, Haruna heard Pops complain about the alarm. He also noticed how Pops was reluctant to any suggestion of fixing it, saying he’d handle it when he was ready. Haruna knew Pops was having financial issues and assumed, perhaps, his boss didn’t want to spend money fixing the alarm because he had more pressing things to do with his funds.
Even though Pops closed the shop for the day, in fact, insisting that he’d be the one to close, Haruna had an idea to repay Pops for all his kindness. Haruna’s cousin fixed and installed alarms, so an hour after Pops closed the shop, Haruna returned with his cousin to take a look at the alarm.
Upon inspecting the alarm, Haruna’s cousin was confused, as he realised the wires had simply been removed. He informed Haruna who also found it curious, but nonetheless asked that the wires be put back if possible, and to be sure the alarm was working. His cousin did as he was told and sure enough the alarm worked when tested. After they were done, they closed the shop and left. Haruna was proud of himself.
While watching a documentary about fine dining in Italy, Pops received a call. It was Haruna. His staff usually didn’t call him after work. He picked up to an ecstatic Haruna. “Oga, good evening,” said Haruna. “Evening, Haruna. Is everything okay?” Pops asked.
“I just wanted to inform you that I had my cousin fix the alarm, sir. I knew you were complaining all week about it, so I asked my cousin if he could help. It’s been repaired,” said Haruna.
There was a pause on Pops’ end of line.
“HEEAAYYYYI!” Pops finally responded, “CHINEKE!” Another pause. “God bless you, Haruna. Thank you, ehn. You don’t know what you’ve done for me, ehn. I will see you at work tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Haruna. “Goodnight, sir.”
Haruna was pleased.
Pops cut the line. After calling onto Chineke, everything else Pops said was him trying to maintain his shock and composure. Any other day and his love for Haruna would’ve tripled, but not today. He looked at his other phone, the one that was connected to the alarm. He had dumped it by his nightstand. He didn’t notice the security alert because he was probably in the shower. That, and the fact that he assumed he wouldn’t need it close by. Pops pondered what to do in that moment. He wanted to call us, but part of the plan was no phone calls between us all week. He decided to break the rule and called all our lines repeatedly. No one picked up. Moreover, Oz had seized our phones.
At 1am, Oz showed up. We got to Pops’ store and as agreed the alarm had been “damaged” a week earlier, so all we had to do was break a glass and make the store look like it had been broken into. Oz stayed in the car as he had been ordered to by his boss; just in case the plan went south and the police showed up, he could make a quick getaway and leave us. Of course, we didn’t know this at the time. We naively thought he was ride-or-die all the way, or at least for the job.
“Hey guys,” I said as we broke in. “It just hit me, we had Pops bungle his alarm for a week. What if someone else had robbed this place before us?” We all paused momentarily, before breaking into laughter at the possibility. It would’ve been a totally different story and Netflix series, instead of the proposed biopic movie in my head, where I became a criminal and eventually turned my life around to become Malcolm X, giving my life to Allah.
We headed to the counter where the cash register was and the safe was hidden just beneath it with all the money. We didn’t have to break the safe open, all we were going to do was use the crowbar to hit it repeatedly and make it look like that’s how it was broken in.
“Where’s the crowbar?” asked Ralph.
“I left it,” replied Hrag.
“I’m just kidding. It’s here.”
Worried we would take all the money to the gangster and he would swindle us for more than 20 percent, we stashed some of it in a bag and kept it at the bottom compartment of one of the two fridges. We got the rest of the money and ran the hell out.
In the morning it was all over the news. “A Cold Robbery.” Local news reporters had shown up, nothing major really; just a sizeable crowd including locals, as well as us, and people who always try to get in the shots of local news cameras. Pops had arrived early to the store and called the police. He removed the bag of money under the fridge and put some back into the cash register before anyone showed up. He seemed very apprehensive considering the night he had. After repeatedly trying to call us the night before, in the morning he received a surprising text from us about the money in the fridge. He chose not to respond, but decided to head to the store instead.
The police came earlier, after other shop owners and passers-by alerted them. They came in to ask Pops questions when he arrived. He feigned shock and confusion. Shortly after, a genuinely shocked Haruna arrived and was questioned by the police. He explained he had his cousin Musa fix the alarm after Pops left. Pops confirmed having a conversation with Haruna about it and even coming to the shop to confirm it was working. Now Musa was a suspect.
“I drove here yesterday to confirm the alarm had been fixed,” said Pops. He’d driven to the store to turn it off. “It was,” he told the police.
As I stood outside the shop, a reporter decided to plunge into the crowd to ask some people what they thought of the robbery. As it happened, she came to me. “Young man, are you a member of the community here?”
“Er… yes, ma’am, I am,” I replied.
“How does it feel to have such a place like this robbed within your community?” she asked.
“Um, it’s a tragedy, ma’am. A damn shame,” I said.
“And what do you think is going to happen now?” she asked.
“I… I suppose we’re just going to go to the other ice cream store.”
At that moment, I noticed Hrag walking towards the crowd. I approached him and we walked to the shop. People weren’t allowed in, but Pops asked for us to be brought through. We had a brief conversation where everyone could hear us.
“Oh, my God! What happened?”
“Who would do such a thing?”
“Did they take anything?”
“Do you have insurance?”
“You mean no one stole ice cream?”
That was Hrag overselling it.
“God will provide.”
“Whatever has been taken will be returned to you in Jesus’ name.”
Throughout our condolence, Pops had a very stern face. Finally, he walked us to the back to show us the damage “the hooligans” had caused. As we were away from the police, he asked us what happened last night. We couldn’t fill him in on everything as we whispered and he told us he had to come back to the shop last night. We asked why and we got a picture of why his face was switching from stern to apprehensive. For all our planning, we didn’t factor in Haruna or Musa or Oz and the gangster. “For as they plan, so does Allah plan,” came to my head.
The police called for Pops and informed him based on what they’d heard from him and Haruna, that Haruna and Musa were going to be held as suspects till they were sure they had nothing to do with the robbery. Pops insisted that Haruna was innocent, but the police said till they heard from Musa they couldn’t be too sure.
Three hours later, Musa was in police custody fielding questions. He was flabbergasted and stupefied. He said to himself it was the last time he would ever do anything for his cousin or anyone for free. An hour later, both Musa and Haruna were released and picked up by Pops. Musa seemed to take everything in stride after that. After all, wetin Musa no go see for gate?
Abdulnasir Imam is a professional screenwriter who lives in Abuja. He is also a freelance writer and content creator, and he is interested in working with people who can turn his stories into something for screen and pay him for it. His forthcoming short story collection is titled The Fear of Driving Backwards (And Living in Retrospect).
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