“Some people claim police take bribes because they are being poorly paid. But that is far from the truth. Police the world over are known for taking bribes, whether they are being poorly paid or not,” said Amos Tarpeh.
He and Mr. Samuel Gboyah were sitting under the plum tree drinking palm wine.
Mr. Gboyah said, “The police are no better than criminals. I can’t help but wonder if they are ever going to curb crime in this country.”
Amos said, “They will never succeed at that, as a matter of fact. Remember few months ago the police caught some criminals with bags of marijuana but later claimed that the marijuana had all turned into banana leaves?”
“I heard the same nonsense but was hardly surprised,” said Mr. Gboyah. “The police do whatever they like nowadays, with no fear of anyone. Little wonder than that if you call them on the phone about an armed robbery they play deaf ears.”
“They don’t play deaf ears to everybody,” said Amos. “Whenever a rich man is being robbed, the police arrive at his house in a flash. I have heard that our rich people pay protection money to the police, who negotiate with the criminals to remove from their lists those targeted for possible armed robbery.”
“I wonder what will happen when guns are finally in the hands of the police,” said Mr. Gboyah.
“Then we won’t be able to tell the difference between a policeman and a criminal.”
The two men sat talking well into the night, with growing anger and displeasure at the wave of criminal activities sweeping through Monrovia at top speed amid police inefficiency and corruption. The Liberian National Police seemed to have grown more useless than the toothless gum of an old woman.
That very night, at about two o’clock in the morning, Mr. Gboyah was awakened by violent knocks on his door. He sat up suddenly, trembling, and awakened his wife.
“Sophie, someone is trying to break the door open o!” he whispered. “I think they are armed robbers!”
“Nonsense,” said Sophie sleepily, “there’s nothing in this house that an armed robber would steal except this rotting mattress and our clothes.”
At that moment, the door shook so violently that it seemed the house was about to collapse.
Sophie sat up quickly, wide awake, and began trembling more violently than Gboyah himself.
And then came a voice from outside, “Yor open the de door or we will break it open and kill everyone!”
“Let’s shout for help,” Gboyah said.
“It’s no use,” Sophie told him.
And so they sat for several moments helplessly waiting for the armed robbers to break in. Fortunately, the door seemed surprisingly stout and unyielding. It just rattled as the armed robbers pounded it violently. Just that evening, as though he had had a sixth sense, Gboyah had had more locks installed behind his door and a number of iron bars to buttress it further. That, along with the mortar and pestle and a few chairs that Sophie often placed behind the door at night, gave Gboyah and his wife confidence that the robbers would not break in; or before they did, someone would have come to their rescue.
But when an almighty knock came, broke a lock, and knocked several bars from behind the door, Gboyah and his wife knew better than to keep silent.
Sophie was the first to begin shouting for help. Seconds later Gboyah and the children joined her in an ear-shattering chorus.
“Neighbors! I say neighbors y’all come oooooooooooh! We’ve got armed robbers at our house! Neighbors can you hear us?! Somebody please call the police! They’re about to kill us!”
They shouted at the top of their lungs for half an hour, but no one came to help them. By then the armed robbers seemed to have abandoned their efforts to force the door. But Gboyah could hear them murmuring outside.
Perhaps they are afraid, he thought, or have realized the futility of robbing poor people…
He was in the middle of his thoughts when the voice that had first spoken among the armed robbers spoke once more, filling him with cold terror.
“Yor finished shouting for help?” the voice said, cool, indifferent and undaunted.
“They’re afraid to call for help,” said a second voice.
“Maybe their mouths have gone dry,” another voice said.
“All right men, our people have grown afraid to call for help,” said the voice that had spoken first. “Now we will help them. Everybody, let’s go!”
“Neighbors! I say neighbors yor come ooooooooooooh! We’ve got armed robbers at our house! Neighbors can you hear us?! Somebody please call the police! They’re about to kill us!”
After that, the armed robbers promptly broke the door down, knocking off all the bars and locks behind it.
Brandishing clubs and cutlasses and wielding beams of torchlight, they rummaged through Gboyah’s things for a full minute, then collected Gboyah’s old trousers, his children’s clothes, and removed the tattered mattress from under them.
As the armed robbers walked out of the room and into the darkness, the ringleader said to Gboyah, “Old man, next time you should try to shout louder. Perhaps God will come to your rescue.”
Gboyah nodded absently.
When the police and neighbors finally came in the morning, Gboyah, who was busy repairing his door, said to them, “Last night it was me; tomorrow night it will be you. But know one thing: Monrovia is a paradise for criminals, and sooner or later they will come for you, too; and the police won’t be there to help you either.”