Njuguna woke with a start. Something had scratched his left forearm. Not a scratch really, it felt more like a firm running of fingernails across the skin. He sat up in the large circular bed; sweating, convinced that someone or something was in the room with him. This was the fourth time he had been roused from his sleeping pill induced slumber by this eerie sensation. He looked around his bedroom and saw nothing. It’s a dream, he thought. Just a bloody dream. A soft glow from the security lights outside filtered into the room through the heavy curtains, giving an ethereal feel to the room. The fancy alarm clock on the nightstand said it was five past two in the morning.
Njuguna left his large warm bed and wrapped himself in his silk kimono nightgown. He grabbed his pack of Camels and headed carefully down the ornate marble staircase, holding tightly to the gilt baluster. His hip was still tender after the surgery and he didn’t want to risk a tumble. He limped into the large fitted kitchen, full of the latest German technology and realised he didn’t quite know where the coffee was. After all, that was what servants were for, right? By the time he was pouring himself a mug, all the cabinets were wide open, evidence of the fifteen minute search. He leaned against a counter, gratefully clasping the hot mug and lit a Camel with the gas burner, having misplaced his prized silver Zippo lighter somewhere in his office about two weeks ago. The smoke detector began to beep so he moved to the living room. Maybe he’d watch some TV and drift off. Yeah, maybe.
The police investigation had absolved Njuguna of any wrongdoing in the torture and murder of Samuel Bosire, a prominent businessman who had categorically refused to sell his haulage company to Njuguna. Samuel’s company had won the lucrative government tenders for transporting produce from the government’s ambitious agricultural schemes in the country’s semi arid areas and Njuguna, a patron of the previous regime, had lost out badly. After Bosire’s refusal, Njuguna organised for his abduction and torture, trying to get him to see sense and sign Njuguna’s company as a sub-contractor. He was tough, Bosire, and even after being electrocuted, half droned and having all his finger and toe nails pulled out with pincers, still swore that he would get his revenge on Njuguna, in this life or the next. Njuguna, the smart man that he was, had the torturers, some henchmen he’d hired, killed and their bodies dumped in the Nairobi River. Bosire’s body was burnt.
Bosire’s wife had visited Njuguna at his plush office three days after the discovery of the body and solemnly promised him that he would rue the day. Njuguna laughed it off and told her to get bent. That was a fortnight ago.
Njuguna jolted awake, dropping the half empty mug on the fluffy, pearly white carpet. This time he was sure he wasn’t dreaming. His forearms and the left side of his face actually stung. His heart rate soared as he saw the blood welling from the small parallel gouges that ran down both forearms. He touched his face and his hand came away wet with blood. He heaved himself awkwardly to his feet, wincing at the sharp, electric pain from his hip, leaving bloody handprints on the immaculate white leather recliner he’d been sitting on. He looked wildly about the room, suddenly a very frightened middle aged man. His silk nightgown hung askew on his frame.
“Who’s there?” he blustered. Nobody answered. The curtains rustled a little bit and he jumped. The hip protested.
“I said, who’s there!”
Njuguna was not a man given to superstition but after the coffee mug rose into the air on its own accord and smashed into the overly large plasma TV screen, he gave a small squeal and hobbled up the stairs. He had a gun somewhere in the house and figured he would need it to deal with whoever was trying to fuck with him. As he ascended, a loud crash came from the kitchen and as he turned to look, he trod on one end of the gown’s sash, lost his footing on the slippery marble and tumbled backwards, his mouth open in a silent nooooo. He landed on his side, slamming both his head and hip on the hard marble floor. His vision started to grey at the edges as a fine mist of exquisite pain filled his mind. He couldn’t even scream, it was so bad.
Something kicked him. He tried to open his eyes but the pain consumed all his senses and he couldn’t see. It kicked harder and he felt something in his chest crack. He wanted to scream but another hard kick crushed his lips and broke his front teeth. His dislocated jaw dangled to one side and suddenly he was choking on his own blood.
You will rue the day.
Njuguna’s housekeeper found him, curled up in the foetal position, dead. A pool of blood had formed around his head and his face looked like it had been pounded with a pestle. She screamed and ran out of the house.
Outside a small ramshackle hut in Nyamira, Bosire’s wife’s driver handed a thick envelope to a wizened old crone who stood in the hut’s doorway. Despite the pouring rain, he had politely refused her offer for him to come inside the hut. He did not want to see what was in there.
Calabashes, goat skulls, dead shrivelled lizards, little bits of bone.
He wanted to leave as soon as possible for the recent heavy rains had made the dirt tracks leading here almost impassable. She took the envelope and secreted it somewhere in her thick sweater. As the driver left, the old woman turned and entered her smoky hut. The fire in the middle of the single room had burnt down to the embers and she needed to relight it. She pulled out a shiny silver Zippo lighter and bent over the fireplace. She hummed as the flames caught.
© Stephen Mwangi Ichungwa 2009.
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