NOV 18, 2022
"Enter there," Gwafa pointed to Mzee Tembo, who directed the Renault into the Treichville Station.
He parked at the remote end and they removed the djellabas and the masks before they stuffed them underneath the driver's seat. Mapacha removed the luggage from the car and set it on the pavement. Together with Gwafa, they proceeded to wipe the car down and removed all traces of their fingerprints. Mzee Tembo and Banou watched out for nosy onlookers, but it was still a relatively quiet Sunday. Satisfied with the wipe-down, Gwafa locked the car and walked towards a small tobacconist shop on the other side of the station where an old Arab man was seated outside with a cigarette. He seemed to recognise Gwafa and they talked for a minute. Gwafa handed him the car keys and thanked him. He picked up two packs of cigarettes, paid for them and walked back. As he approached the others, he spotted a porter and waved at him to come over. The porter pushed his trolley quickly, enthusiastic that he had finally scored a gig. As he loaded their luggage, Gwafa tossed Banou a fresh pack of Gitanes. She smiled appreciatively, unwrapped the pack and pulled out a stick. Gwafa lit it for her as he lit his own Caporal. Leisurely, they all walked away from the car. The porter found them a white 404 Station Wagon and he quickly stowed their bags onto the back. Mapacha clung to the diplomatic bags as Banou paid the porter.
"Airport," Gwafa told the driver from the back seat.
It was almost an hour before they got to the airport. As the taxi wound its way down the broad boulevard, the amiable driver was eager to learn if his passengers had enjoyed their holiday in Abidjan. Gwafa, less focused on the conversation affably responded. The taxi finally arrived at the terminal door and they all hopped out. A porter rushed towards them when he saw the luggage and quickly loaded their bags onto his trolley. Mapacha placed the heavy diplomatic bags on top of the luggage, and they followed the porter into the terminal. Banou first stopped at the newsstand and selected a couple of magazines that she paid for. They went through customs where the officer, largely unconcerned looked over their bags and waved them on. The immigration officer, a new face that Gwafa had not yet seen before eyed them suspiciously.
"Where are you going? There is no flight at the moment.
"Gwafa pulled out his operator license and aircraft's manifest. "I have my own aircraft. My clients were over here on business and now I am flying them back to their country."
"So, you are the pilot of that Skytrain? The one who loaded the bicycles yesterday?"
"Yes. They are for my client, Mzee Tembo."
This immigration officer was a lot more thorough as he inspected the pictures and matched them to their faces. Once he was satisfied, he slapped the passports with an exit stamp and handed them over to Gwafa.
The porter led them to their plane. He unlocked the rear storage compartment and loaded their luggage. Gwafa opened the crew door, and they all climbed through it. There was only space for two seats at the back as the rest of the plane was full of bicycles and tools. Mapacha handed Banou the diplomatic bags and she set them next to the bicycles. Gwafa tipped the porter and did a quick visual inspection of the plane before the groundcrew got to action. They connected the power unit to the plane and fired it up as Mapacha in the co-pilot seat watched Gwafa run up the plane. A few moments later, the plane pushed off and lined up on the runway. The air controller relayed some final instructions to Gwafa before he cleared him for take off. Gwafa throttled the plane up, and it lazily lumbered down the long concrete-pressed runway. Without much ado, the Skytrain lazily took to the skies. Gwafa retracted the gear, followed air traffic control's instructions, and finally nosed the plane away from Abidjan towards Conakry.
An hour and a half later, Gwafa made the announcement.
"We have finally cleared Cote D'Ivoire airspace and are now flying over Liberia."
They all sighed as relief washed across them. Mzee Tembo's adrenalin finally wore down and the gentle rumble of the plane rocked him to sleep. Banou, still unsettled from the morning's happenings laid the stack of magazines on her lap and she thumbed through a home decor one. As she reviewed the magazine, new ideas popped into her head. In the cockpit, Gwafa and Mapacha finally relaxed as they discussed planes. He was keen to educate Mapacha on aviation, given his enthusiasm.
Around 4.30 PM, the Skytrain landed at Gbessia Airport and they all trooped out to stretch their legs. It was a brief stopover, and Gwafa had the plane refuelled in record time. Forty-five minutes later they were back airborne over the ocean. The next four hours were dull and finally in the distance, surrounded by darkness, Gwafa recognized the brilliant shimmer from the lighthouse of Josephine.
"Hey, Tembo we are home," he said.
Mapacha watched the tiny specs of light dotted all over the island. They reminded him of little embers of a fire that glowed from the breeze and then faded from consumption. Gwafa chatted with the air controller and he received instructions on his approach. He made the changes he was requested before he glided the plane towards the bright lights of the runway. The island breeze caused a bumpy landing and Gwafa steered the Skytrain down the long runway. He taxied it to the apron and switched off the engine while the ground crew choked it.
They all climbed out through the service door and Mzee Tembo, sore from the flight finally stretched his body and cracked his joints. Mapacha unloaded their luggage and with Gwafa's help, they unloaded the bicycles and tools. A customs officer appeared and led them towards the bonded warehouse where he counted the units before handing Mzee Tembo an assessment form. He would have to return in a few days to pay duty for them and have them transported to his shop. The porter rolled their luggage towards the modest terminal.
"Ola Gwafa," a cheery voice came from the booth."Welcome back. Was it a good trip?"
"Bonsoir. Yes." Gwafa responded.
The immigration officer gave their passports a once over, noted the stamps on their passports and stamped them into Ilha de Florença.
"Hey, Gwafa, if you are here for a few days there is a major party at Dunas Beach next weekend. You should come."
Gwafa smiled. "I will see man. Thanks."
For the customs officer, it was routine. He had already seen them unload the bicycles, so he felt uncompelled to open their bags. He inspect the seals on the diplomatic bags that Gwafa normally transported and waved them through. They all headed out of the terminal and into the parking lot. They were all relieved to be back on the island.
"We did it." Mzee Tembo said. "We actually did it."
Despite his fatigue, he was immensely pleased with himself.
"Here, take the bags. We meet tomorrow at Nsia's in the evening?" Gwafa asked.
"Yes. Sure." Mzee Tembo said.
"Great working with you big guy."
Though he would not admit it, Mapacha had actually enjoyed the trip.
Mzee Tembo left first followed by Banou, then Mapacha and finally Gwafa. On the way home, Mapacha rolled down his window in the taxi and let the island breeze wash over him. He had missed the island.
It was a trying morning for Mzee Tembo. Indeed, he was content to wake up in his bed. Though he would never admit it to her, he had missed Una. She served him his favourite porridge for breakfast which he enjoyed with a humongous sweet potato. Una marvelled with glee at the beautiful fabrics he had brought for her. She was determined to find the most talented tailor she could afford and get the most exquisite dresses made. The women in the circles would finally recognise her for her fashion sense.
They drove together in the Peugeot to the shop. When they got in, Mzee Tembo stared, surprised that she had reorganised the shop and it was cleaner and better organised.
"Hey, where are the bicycles?" he asked, noticing his near-depleted stock.
"Oh, I sold them."
"All of them?"
"Yes," Una responded inattentively.
He squinted at her.
"You sold nearly seventy bicycles in a week?"
She stared at him confused.
"Yes. Did I make a mistake?"
"How? Did you give them a substantial discount or something?"
Una was still confused.
"No. The listed price. Is there a problem? The money is in the cash box."
Mzee Tembo opened it and saw it stuffed with bundles of pounds. He was apprehensive of what to say next, so he merely stared at her.
"Eh, Tembo, what is the matter?"
"No, nothing. I'm just surprised. How did you sell all the bicycles this quickly?"
"Well, I was at my lady's meeting and I explained to them that they could make their businesses more efficient by hiring a delivery man and buying a bicycle, instead of paying for a taxi. One lady came and bought one, and she gave it to her worker. Then she came after two days and bought two more. She told her friends and they all came from across town and bought the remaining units. We need more bicycles because we are almost out of stock."
He was astonished.
"OK. I will get more stock. There are some new models at the airport that I need to go collect."
She smiled at him and went into the kitchenette where she brewed tea for them. He sat on his seat and counted the money in the cash box. She was a genius. The money tallied. She seemed pleased with the business, and he decided he would encourage her to get more involved. This would give him enough room to pursue his new life of adventure.
Banou relaxed with a cigarette on Nsia's terrace. She knew the others would be along shortly. Her mind replayed the raid in the residence and she was surprised at how easy it had been to wield a gun. The plan had worked, and they had managed to get away with it. She recognised Mapacha's footsteps as he walked up the stairs, as Gwafa's animated voice followed him.
"Ola Banou!" Mapacha greeted her.
"Hey, Mapacha. Hi guys."
She smiled at them as she went downstairs to get them drinks. When she returned, the conversation had already started. She dished out the drinks and joined in. When the drinks finally run out, it was time for the business. She picked up the glasses and placed them on the side table.
Mzee Tembo placed the four diplomatic bags on the table. He fished out the guns and returned them to Banou and Mapacha. He then pulled out the money and handed it over to Banou.
He then pointed to the drinks tray.
"Mapacha pass the tray."
Mapacha laid the tray on the table and poured out the bags of diamonds. Together, they counted the plastic bags and watched the pile grow. From the rooftop, they could hear the newsreader as he announced the news on the radio downstairs.
"And news reaching us from afar. The government of Cote d'Ivoire has accused Guinea of masterminding a raid on the official residence of a government minister. Our sources reveal the agents injured four guards and two maids before making off with a cache of top-secret government documents. Nothing else of value was taken, and this has left to speculation that the agents were keen on obtaining government secrets. . ."END
Mapacha and the gang will return in a new adventure. Mapacha: Mughamarat f'almaghrib.