Celebrating East African Writing!
The stories you are about to read, are connected, or not. You decide.
The meeting was fruitful. An hour of successful haggling with the sharks had left Harry Oloo feeling chuffed. It was the last in a long series, seeking to raise capital for his real estate venture. He had just gotten his first cheque from his new partners. He could now envision the new house he was going to buy and a replacement for his faithful beat-up Honda Civic. One of the men he was meeting was Hiram Kimani, a local shyster who ran a string of spare part shops and cheap bars in downtown Nairobi. It was with this man that Harry was now walking across the foyer towards the large revolving glass doors.
Hiram had known Harry’s father when they were both younger men. Together, they had run successful businesses in the late ‘70s and the ‘80s until Harry’s father had died of a brain aneurysm and Hiram had pretty much taken over the whole business. Harry’s family never saw a penny of the elder Oloo’s stake in the business after that.
“You know, your father, he was a clever, clever man,” said Hiram. His arm was around Harry’s shoulder. They looked like father and son. Harry wanted to punch him right there and then but he needed the capital Hiram and his cronies were now willing to inject into his project. “And I see you have taken after him.”
“When do we proceed with the lawyer?” Harry asked. He wanted to get the paperwork all set up before these people changed their minds. His girlfriend of three years was pregnant and he was very low in cash.
“Patience, young man,” drawled Hiram. “In three days, you will receive a package in your mail and in it will be all the paperwork you need. You don’t have to do anything. Just sit back and enjoy the money.”
Harry stopped. Why would these guys set up his business for him? From what he could tell they didn’t know shit about IT. They were old school guys from Kiambu who were still getting to grips with the functions of their cell phones. “I don’t understand, Mr. Kimani. It’s my business, how are you even getting the documents without my approval? I thought you were the silent partners.”
Hiram laughed loudly. Two ladies walking towards the lifts turned to look. “Silent? Young man, there is no such thing. If you want that kind of arrangement, go see your bank manager.” He fixed Harry with a glare. Harry’s face fell.
“You did go see him, didn’t you?” Hiram laughed again. “And let me guess, he said no?” Harry nodded. “I am your friend young man. With me, you can build anything you want. You want to sell houses, fine. You want to sell cars, fine. But if I am your financier, you will do it my way. Savvy?”
Harry was fuming. This…asshole was even now still messing with his life. Hiram was the reason Harry and his siblings had to go to public school and wear second hand clothes. Hiram was the reason his mother had to work eighteen hour days, sometimes more as a nurse, taking up double shifts to provide for her children. This man who was now telling him he wanted a part of his business. His business!
“Alright, Mr. Kimani. We’ll do it your way then.” Hiram nodded. They had reached the doors. One of Hiram’s minions came running up to deliver a message. “You go on, I’ll be right out,” Hiram said.
Harry pushed the heavy gilded revolving behemoth. He hated revolving doors, why couldn’t a door just swing open? As Harry stood outside on the street waiting for Hiram, he noticed a street bike idling some way down the street from where he stood. The rider on the sleek machine was dressed in black racing leathers and seemed to be waiting for something. The morning was chilly and steam curled up lazily from the bike’s large exhaust pipe. The rider seemed to be looking straight at him.
Behind Harry, the large door spun slowly. As Harry turned to see if it was Hiram, he heard the bike’s engine rev, a sound like a very, very large angry wasp. Hiram stepped out into the day, a middle aged man in an expensive suit, gracefully concealing his large gut, fed off Harry’s father’s hard work and time slowed down. Harry saw the bike swing out into traffic, the engine screaming. The rider had what looked like a submachine gun in his left hand and a rapid series of loud spits filled the air. The air around Harry was suddenly full of whizzing turbulence and the glass panels on the large door behind him were splintering. Harry clearly heard five bullets smack into Hiram’s torso with a sound like a lump of wet clay would make if thrown against a wall, each hit staggering the man back a step. The bike, a Kawasaki ZX-1000R, Harry saw, zipped up the street, narrowly missing a reversing truck and disappeared. Someone was screaming.
Hiram was dead. He lay on the street with his eyes open, his blood running into the gutter. Guards from the building were asking Harry what happened, a small crowd was gathering, staring in wonder at the dead man. Car alarms were wailing and there were two policemen running towards the scene, their AK-47s at the ready.
The next day, in a small room with at Central Police Station, the tapes from the building’s security cameras were being reviewed. The detective in charge, Inspector Mwiki, stared intently at the screen as Hiram, grainy and black and white, stepped out of the building. Then he shuddered and staggered as the bullets hit him. The footage from the camera that could have best captured the fleeing motorcyclist was loaded into the VCR next. There was a view of the street, people walking about, cars driving by, then a pixellated blur whizzed by, almost hitting a large florist’s truck that was backing out of its parking spot.
“Slow that down!” the Inspector yelled. The technician ran the footage again at half speed. The pixellated blur went by again. Everything else was in focus, except the bike.
Inspector Mwiki crossed himself. He had not been to church in thirty years, but this seemed like a good time to go back.
The Traffic Incident
The tea girl stumbled on the raised, badly installed door frame of Inspector Mwiki’s office and a little tea spilled from the cups onto the tray. Mwiki frowned but said nothing. She set the tray on the edge of his crowded little desk and left quickly, mumbling an apology on her way out. Chief Inspector Kimwa, sitting across the desk from Mwiki, took a cup from the tray and sipped the hot liquid appreciatively. “You need to get that fixed,” he said, pointing at the door with his long chin. “So what happened then?”
Inspector Mwiki also sipped his tea. The milk/tea ratio was off, again. And the sugar was too much. He set the cup down on a low table next to his chair. “The matatu driver, his friends call him Jamo, told me that after he got back on the road, he noticed the Land Rover was moving slowly on the outside lane, like its driver was waiting for him to pass. Once he overtook the Land Rover, the guy sped up and came very up close behind him and started hooting and showing him, er, rude hand signals.”
Chief Inspector Kimwa laughed softly.
“Jamo ignored this and drove on. That’s when the Land Rover rammed him from behind. He lost control and veered off the road. The Rover screeched to a stop in front of him and the driver jumped out.”
“What happened then?” asked the Chief Inspector.
“It’s a bit unclear,” said Mwiki, grimacing from his latest sip of the tea. “Some of the passengers say the guy had a pistol, but Jamo tells us that when the guy was approaching the matatu, he had no weapon in his hands.”
“Who got shot again?” the Chief Inspector wanted to know.
“Ah, continue then.”
“According to Jamo, the Land Rover driver came up to his window and started shouting all sorts of abuse at him. Jamo says he was really frightened at the time because he figured he was dealing with a mad man. He tried to roll up his window but his engine had stalled as he ran off the road. The Land Rover guy pulled him out through the open window and beat him.”
“He beat him?”
“Badly. Broke his jaw, collar bone and his right forearm.”
“What were the passengers doing then?”
“Apparently nothing. Kenyan complacence, you know.” The Chief Inspector nodded. “Until the conductor slid open the door and rushed round the front of the matatu to help his driver.”
“That’s when the Land Rover guy pulled a weapon?”
“According to the front seat passengers and Jamo, the driver, yes.”
“Apparently the conductor had a blunt weapon of some sort, a jack or something, so Mr. Rover pulled a pistol and shot him in the left thigh.”
“Yeah, and then he jumped back in his Land Rover and sped off.”
“Nobody got the Land Rover’s number plate, description, anything?”
“Now, my friend, here’s where it gets a bit weird. One of the passengers in the front seat actually took a picture using her phone, you know, those ones with the cameras? She took a photo of the Land Rover, the guy and the number plate as the car sped off. We do know it was a grey vehicle.”
“So why don’t we have the suspect? If you have the registration, a picture of the guy himself and the car, why are we even discussing this?”
“The images the lady took were, er, unusable.”
“You know the way they blur out parts of a picture on TV, like if it’s an interview and they don’t want to show the interviewee?”
“Pixellation, yes. What does that have to do with this?”
“That was exactly what happened with the images she took. Everything else was visible except the Land Rover, its driver and its…”
“…number plate,” the Chief Inspector finished.
“Well, yes. I got some graphic designer to look at the photos and see if they were doctored in any way. He assured me they hadn’t. We even used the lady’s phone to take some test snaps and they all came out fine. It’s all very strange.”
“Yes, well,” the Chief Inspector rose to leave. “Keep me informed if you have any leads. We can’t have people shooting each other over traffic incidents. Thanks for the tea, I think.” He smiled as he opened the door and stepped out of Mwiki’s office, almost tripping on the frame as well. “Get that fixed!” the Chief Inspector yelled from the corridor.
Inspector Mwiki leaned back in his hard wooden chair and looked at the pile of papers on his desk. He took another sip of the (horrible) tea He searched for the case file in the desk top morass in front of him; wanting to go through it one more time, see if there was anything he had missed. He opened the folder and his jaw dropped, spilling some tea onto the front of his shirt, like a baby’s dribble. His investigative report, all his carefully typed pages, the eyewitness statements, crime scene photos and printouts from the lady’s camera phone were all blank pieces of paper. There was no record of the case. None.
Inspector Mwiki left early that day. He had developed a serious headache.
“I need another gaff.”
The match flares and the man inhales deeply. The small room is already hazy with blue Sportsman smoke. A broken wooden ashtray in the middle of the table is overflowing with smouldering cigarette butts.
“Where was I?”
“You were telling me about the car.”
“Ah, yes. The car. It was nice, the car was.”
“That’s all I remember right now. You want the details, you pay me more.”
“You don’t understand, do you? This is not a game. Do I look like I’m playing with you?”
“I’m sure you’re a serious man. But information is not free in this fucked up coalition world, is it? I have something you want; that makes me the supplier. You are the customer, you want my product, you pay. It’s that simple.”
The hefty man in the cheap, ill fitting shiny suit pushes back from the table and stands up. The crotch of his trousers is all scrunched up. He walks to a corner of the room and stands there, staring at the wall like an admonished child.
“How much?” he asks.
“I don’t know. Depends on how important this is to you. Make me an offer.”
The hefty man in the corner whirls around suddenly. The man seated at the table is surprised that such a large man can move so swiftly. The fat man has a gun in his hand.
“Stop fucking about!” yells the fat man. “Or I will shoot you. Tell me about the car!”
“Well, well, well. Impatient you are, sir. Go ahead, shoot me. Put me out of my misery if you want. Doesn’t matter to me, one way or another. It’s your loss, not mine. So go ahead, pull that trigger, if you can fit your fat finger in the trigger guard.”
The man seated at the table takes the last drag of the cigarette and scrunches the butt in the ashtray. He leans back in his hard plastic chair and interlaces his fingers behind his head. He looks at the fat man pointing the shiny chromed automatic at his chest. They stare at each other for a long moment. Slowly, the hefty one lowers the gun and then secrets it somewhere under the back of his suit jacket. The man seated at the table smiles.
The fat man approached the table and sits down. He sighs, a heavy sound that reminds the other man of a deflating truck tyre. He opens his hands expansively. “Fine, I’ll pay more. Let’s hear it,” he says.
“Alright, but first, I’ll need another gaff.”
This writer says, “I had an idea about using snippets of what could be a larger story in the same context as a short story. The passage is self contained and forms a story all by itself. I have a blog where I have been posting these original short, short stories. www.scribeofhades.blogspot.com”