Celebrating East African Writing!
Ken stood still in his room. It had taken him everything to pretend non-chalance when Jasmine was leaving. All the while he had felt like taking her and rushing to the safest place he could think of and keeping her there.
She had asked him the day before if he would accompany her to Mombasa. He had told her about his recording appointment at the studio, and she had seemed relieved. Karl Weiss had told him she would be. Karl was making all the information she needed to give to Gogo available. Gogo could not suspect that they were on to him yet, otherwise he would warn his boss. A little loss for a bigger gain, Karl had told him.
He wondered if there was any hope the massive eruption he was anticipating would not take place. In that case, he would need to complete a thesis paper before the end of Semester break. The file folder which contained his research was in Jas’ room. He had taken to studying in her room because it was just a little larger than his, and quieter. His next door neighbour had no regard for hostel rules. It wasn’t very easy to be studying Commercial Law, with Li’l Wayne cursing about lollipops in his junkie style drawl with the accompaniment of extra-strong earth-shaking, wall-cracking beats.
Ken pushed his feet into the white loafers and swiped the bunch of keys off the desk top. He had planned to visit his mother in Kericho for part of the break. That was cancelled under the circumstances. As it was, staying in the city to help Weiss’ people with the coding had taken up time that he would rather have spent at Jas’ side.
He had called his mother and told her that he had to stay in the city and complete a research project. She had accused him of putting his music before family. Ken had let her go with the line on music. Three days ago he had finished recording his first single, even as Jasmine was laying a dusty floor somewhere being kicked.
Dad was an overambitious politician, with strong interests apart from the Kenyan politics, and a brutish sadistic personality that had almost always terrified Ken when he was a child. Emmanuel Wanjala, larger than life in politics, and everything else.
Ken thought that Ndovu Park must have been built as some kind of housing scheme. There were 16 houses arranged in two rows in a rhombus formation around a grassy area that might have been a play area for kids. The Park had 2 gated entrances, one that exited on the main Athi – Nairobi highway and another that exited at the entrance of the Main Campus. Also available were basketball and tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a small restaurant. Up to 160 students from The University lived at Ndovu Park.
Right now, though, the Park was almost a ghost town. Most of the students who lived at the Park came from upper middle class families, or were foreign students. They all seemed to go home, visit with friends or go on tour trips on Semester breaks although the Park’s management policy allowed for students to remain on site during the
The image in his mind was alive and vibrant. Damn, the girl was beautiful. That day when he first saw her in the Dean’s office he had just watched her in stupefied admiration. The girl had walked in, tall, challenging his 6 foot frame, and dressed in between a diva and a tomboy. Sports vest that revealed a swimmer’s arms, well fitting fade blue jeans torn at the knees that beautifully carved out her wide hips against a slender waist, and high heeled ankle boots. They had both waited not talking to each other, her nervous because she was a fresher and him impatient because over two years at the University he had already figured that the Dean had no sense of time.
After half an hour she stood up and let out a rapid staccato of German. His knowledge of the language though meagre at the time told him that she had cursed quite explicitly.
“Is he going to show up at all?” She asked, turning to face him with her hands planted angrily at her hips. He had bit his lip to suppress a burst of laughter.
“No? Well, then…” she threw her hands up and started to storm out.
He had unfolded himself from the wall where he had been leaning, “It’s a she, and she will show up. Just not now when we expect her to. You speak German.”
She stopped and turned, “Yeah.” She stared at him for a very long moment and he had wanted to write poetry. Instead he showed her around campus, took her to the café for lunch. Next thing he knew, he was in a confused relationship. He acted like her big brother, even busting the nose of the boy who cheated on her. She acted like his little sister, even nursing him when he came down with a vicious flu.
They both dated other people, well, at least for very brief periods, but they spent the bulk of their free time together.
Ken’s train of thought was interrupted by the figure that stepped out from behind a tree ahead of him and ducked towards House 5. Semester break mischief? Last semester break, someone broke in and rummaged in rooms while tenants were away and made off with personal valuables. Small time, but added up it may have been a lot.
He paused to see where the figure went, but did not see a thing. He made a note to warn the security guys on his way back and hurried on to House 2.
House 2 seemed to be less deserted than his own house. There were voices coming from a room downstairs and he could hear strains of music from upstairs as he rushed up the flight of stairs to Jas’ room. As he reached the landing he looked down at the bunch of keys in his hand and tried to get the key to Jas’ room.
He was standing right in front of the door when he finally saw that it was wide open. He felt disoriented for a moment and looked back to see if somehow he had ended up at the wrong door. He turned back to see that the door was wide open enough, to allow him to see nearly all of the room. There were two men in the room. One was opening drawers at the dresser and dumping all the contents on the floor, before ruffling through them and obviously not finding what he was finding moved on to the next drawer. The other one had dumped Jasmine’s CD collection on her bed and was going through every single one of them, opening, closing, and dumping in such a systematic disorder.
He turned and started running the same second that one of the men turned and saw him. Ken heard a shout, looked over his shoulder for a nanosecond and saw the silver flash of a knife, and the blunt end of a gun, and found himself very much attached to his will to live. Damn! He should have talked to security guys first!
He heard the pounding, couldn’t figure out if it was his feet, his heart, or his pursuer’s feet. He saw the door near the stair landing open, and two girls that he recognised as house tenants emerge. They didn’t seem to register his flight until he was almost upon them, then they started screaming. He looked over his shoulder and saw the man with knife gaining on him, and the one behind aiming the snub nosed handgun at them.
He took a dive, pushing the girls down the stairs, them screaming all the way and he anxious to avoid both the knife and the bullets. A shot rang out. Ken ducked again, and the girls screamed again. In the downstairs hallway, the girl from the downstairs room was just emerging from her room with her boyfriend. Ken and the girls from upstairs pretty much landed on them, tripping, tumbling, screaming, and still running towards the dark outside, away from a knife and a small gun that was still exploding bullets.
Ken wondered in the haze of the flight, what they would do once they were outside. It would surely be easier for them to shoot at them in the open. He was about to shout to the guys to head for the next house when a force of searing heat slammed into his side, momentarily paralysing him.
As he fell, he saw his fellow students running on, and the man with the knife was over him. He lay there breathing with the pain from the nerves of his body returning to life. The man spat to the side as if with disgust, then turned and raced after his partner who was already heading into the woods that bordered the park.
Ken pulled himself to a sitting position, looked at the shiny object that had made a clutter a few seconds before, then Kelly was at his side.
“Oh my God, Ken, you are bleeding! Call the Police. Someone call the Police.”
Ken pulled himself to his feet, thinking that Kelly needed to get her head out of her American dream cloud as long as she lived in Kenya. He lifted his shirt, to look at the point where fire-pain seared his ribs. Kelly gasped, he frowned. Just a bullet graze, he thought as he let the edge of his shirt drop and he ambled towards the shiny object the familiar assailant had dropped.
The two men sat soberly across from each other. They were at a house in Lamu. Mwamba had rushed here to consult with his boss and friend. Both of them looked exhausted. The woman, who stood next to them leaning against a wall, was in her mid-thirties, tall and muscular. On usual days she would be dressed in a stiff business suit, looking very much the part of a very qualified Personal assistant to multi millionaire business man. Today, she wore a grey vest with black combat trousers.
“In my house, Mwamba, you kill my wife in my house. Damn it, couldn’t you work out some other way to sort it out?”
“There was no time. She has always betrayed us. You know it as well as I do. She had to die, for the sake of the business, and for Jasmine’s sake.”
“You could have gotten her out of the house.”
“I intended to. She must have sensed I was on to her. It came down to her or Jasmine. I made the choice. I made the sacrifice. I would have sorted it out and cleaned up. I just didn’t expect Jasmine to come home.”
“She always takes the bus. I should have guessed she would want to come home fast.”
Nadia watched the two men, with no more of the confusion she had felt when she first came to work for Karl Weiss 7 years ago. The men were friends and business partners. They also shared a wife and a daughter. It had gone beyond even her liberated mind. Both men were more committed to each other, and the girl, than to Aisha Weiss, or even their own businesses.
“I think there is something else you guys should think about. Jasmine managed to access more than the shipping files. She knows.”
“Maybe that’s good for her.” Karl said with a sigh, leaning back in the couch, “It can be very difficult to protect a person who is not aware of the danger.”
Mwamba stood up and walked to the windows. The house was an old Lamu Arab house, two storied, with a parapet. It was up on a cliff, so that from the study which they were in, the view stretched out to the village below, iron sheet and makuti roof that created a pretty collage for an idle view. To the left the beginning of the ocean was visible. On the other side of the house the ocean would spread out in a vast expanse with adornments of white waves breaking, and an occasional dhow or speed boat passing by.
Mwamba owned the house, having bought it from the son of the original owners, after the parents died, his sisters got married and he decided to move to the Arab Emirates for work. It had been old and rather dilapidated from time and the elements. He had restored it, renovated in some places, so that he could have a modern house with the beauty of an old culture. Today, when he came here though, the massive Lamu doors, the scent of udi and the sight of his Persian furniture had not elicited the feeling of comfort he always expected. There was a bitter taste at the back of his tongue.
“We’ve done a poor job of protecting her haven’t we?” It was more of a comment, the look in Mwamba’s eyes accusing Karl of negligence.
“Of all the things I ever considered protecting Jasmine from, I never thought to include her mother. I still cannot believe how much Aisha hated her own daughter. To set her up against that Clown killer, that was unbelievable.” Karl seemed defeated for once in a very long time.
Nadia shuffled her feet, drawing attention to herself.
“There’s so much to do, but you have to stay out of sight, Karl. The detective has been very busy. I doubt that his investigations will yield much, but they might turn the spot light on the other deal. I’ll go to the ship today, and start the transfer.”
Karl nodded, “I’ll come with you, I might as well be of some use. Mwamba is going back to the house. He’ll assess Jasmine’s safety. I’d prefer her to stay away from this mess until it blows over.”
Mwamba stepped to the table and picked up a cigar, placing it in his mouth, for a contemplative moment. Then looked at Karl with something akin to anger, “I think we should keep the boy out of this.”
“No. I trust Ken. If it wasn’t for him, there are a lot of things that would pass us by. You know that.”
“He still is his father’s son. His loyalty will always be to his blood.”
“I disagree. He will be useful to us. Keep him with Jasmine. I want Jasmine to be safe. I want her to be able to continue with her life after this. But like I said, it is easier to protect someone when they are aware of the danger. We should have taught her as soon as she was old enough to understand.”
“Karl, damn it, we have gone through this before. Don’t give me that crap. I do not and will never agree with you. Jasmine is not a mercenary. She deserves a life being who she wants to be.”
Nadia cleared her throat, feeling more and more like the eternal nanny to two men who were capable or running a business, killing with no compulsion and fight over how to raise a child. A child who was old enough to make her own choices.
“We have to move. Time is short. Mwamba, what will you do about that Gogo?”
“I’ll handle it. You secure the cargo. Fast. All this shit on land will blow over, hopefully with Wanjala too, but we take no chances.”
Nadia cocked her head, waiting for Karl to stand up. The man suddenly looked much older than his 54 years, the bags under his eyes prominent, the grey at his temples whiter, the blue of his eyes washed out.
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