Celebrating East African Writing!
The radio’s volume was turned low; playing a Benga tune, that distinct music genre that developed in Kenya in the 1960s, but became overly popular in the 1970s and 1980s. Abdi, the lone occupant of the cream Peugeot 504 had been sent back to his youth. Somehow, what you love in your youth becomes a life long passion, and looking at Abdi nod his head to the music of his youth affirmed this belief.
It was quite significant that he could enjoy something at that particular moment for his worn out visage, and bored eye suggested that he was a man weighed down by the misfortunes of life, and therefore an ill suited candidate for any sort of merriment. From his expensive black three peace suit anyone could correctly conclude that any such misfortunes weren’t in any way related to economic strain, and any doubts to state otherwise could be settled by a look at his Kshs. 10,000 shoes which stunk the price.
He was one of those men whom it is said have embraced life and life has embraced them back. The thoughtful observer would therefore be confused as to why such a well off man was in such a miserable emotional, and to some extent physical state, for he was leaning on his seat at the wrong angle, his silk tie thrown over his shoulder and his bulky right hand palm firmly planted between his legs as though to prevent an eminent explosion of whatever could, or may in that location.
That his frame was six feet tall, rather on the pudgy side and inside a cream Peugeot 504 never meant to accommodate people his size, only made the sorry state both comical and curious. So curious in fact that the occupants of a car parked a slot away from his appeared to have developed a keen interest in both man and machine, and that for widely varied reasons as will soon be clear.
The car being referred to was a red Hummer, in particular one of those huge monsters built for egomaniacs, and inside this metal beast were three men who appeared to be their 30s. Two of them, the bulkier ones had occupied the front seats and the third, a short thin man as though the loser in the contest for the front seats remained glum and silent in the back seat.
He wasn’t taking part in his companions’ conversation either actively or passively, for he neither contributed by word nor by lending his ear to the small talk. He appeared lost to the present but ironically was the one most committed to it. His name was Mwangi and his fiery brown eyes, bushy eyebrows and uncombed kinky hair hinted that he was man given to the less than noble pursuits of life, and to know that he was an assassin by profession should only confirm this.
Mumo, in the driver’s seat was addressing Ochieng seated next to him.
“Cars are built for something, a BMW is built for class, a Toyota Collora is built for the poor, a Mercedes is built for prestige, a Hummer is built for power, I could go on but that is not the point. The point is that a car stands for something.”
“What would you say that that Peugeot 504 across is built for?” Ochieng quipped.
“Well, for speed, that machine is a demon dedicated to speed,” Mumo said, and there was a new ring to his tone as he spoke as though his own view annoyed him.
The Ruffian at the back seat, suddenly returned to the present, was just in time to catch the last sentence of the dialogue. He held the same view on the Peugeot 504 as Mumo. He also had his own view on the Hummer, that it was not a car built for speed, and that contrast between the purposes of the two machines was working wonders to his otherwise relaxed self, which seemed silly, until you looked at where he was looking and saw what he was seeing, and understood why he was so attentive to the scene.
His fiery brown eyes were transfixed on the cream Peugeot 504, or more appropriately, on the man inside, waking from his trance. That’s where he was looking and what he was seeing. Why he was so attentive to the scene is because the man appeared to be preparing to leave. The time was 2.30 pm.
Abdi didn’t know whether he was hungry, paranoid, or just bored but at least he knew that he wanted to go home, his wife would sure make him feel better. Presently, he switched on the engine, waited for a few seconds then reversed. He had been parked for an hour or so, near Corner House, down town Nairobi, where his office was located.
As he drove down Kimathi Street the DJ at QFM studios was playing “black sugar” by Ginja. It reminded him of his wife. He smiled. It would only take about 40 minutes to reach Mlolongo, along Mombasa Road.
“He drives a Peugeot 504, most likely you will find it packed along Kimathi Street near Corner house. If its before 1.00 pm the target will probably be in his office at Corner house. Given it’s a weekend, he is likely to go home early, so let him lead the way, and get him along Mombasa road. Make it look like a normal accident.”
That was the client yesterday evening, and the time now was 2.30 pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The occupants of the red Hummer were now fully roused to action. The big car eased along Kenyatta Avenue, the Cream Peugeot about 200 meters ahead. Both cars maintained the same gap even after joining Uhuru highway and the trailer and the trailed relaxed to an easy drive.
Just before Bellevue, Abdi stopped at the BP petrol station and asked the male attendant to fill the car up. He liked her so. A red Hummer pulled in and as he left he didn’t notice that the hummer didn’t fuel but just followed. He was obsessed with going home to his black sugar.
Ochieng inserted a hip hop CD to the car radio and soon they were listening to 50 Cent’s Wanksta rap song’ which contrary to what should be the soothing effect of music, only served to magnify the tenseness of the moment, as though it were an unwanted distraction. The cream Peugeot 504 ahead was accelerating.
Had the target noticed he was being trailed? Mumo wondered. But Abdi hadn’t he was just a husband rushing home. Ochieng fidgeted uncomfortably as the gap in the chase widened. Mwangi, ever practical, removed a revolver from the black bag next to him and proceeded to load it patiently, more like caressing a loved pet. The Peugeot flew past Cabanas, the Hummer hurtled behind.
From the rear view mirror of the 504 Abdi took a glimpse at the big red car. Hadn’t he seen it somewhere?
Mwangi finished loading his revolver, and his eyes glowed even more brightly. “Let’s get the job done,” he said to nobody in particular.
“Not yet,” Mumo restrained.
A minute or two later Mwangi lowered the window, leaned outside, gun in hand, and fired twice. The bullets shattered more than Abdi’s rear screen window; they also shattered his calm. He had for sometime been fearing that what was happening would happen.
The panicked man lost control of his car and just avoided driving smack into an Acacia tree by the road side. Precious time was lost getting back on the road and the Hummer gained ground. A third shot rent the air and it wasn’t clear whether it missed the flying Peugeot 504 or that it was out-sped. What’s clear is that the chase became something between a man fleeing for his life, a hit man trying to earn a day’s pay, a contest of speed between two cars ill matched for it, and the part crude fate came to play can’t be ignored.
The time was 2.50pm.
It was clear to the three men inside the hummer that if left to speed, the Hummer would compromise the operation. Something was also clear to Abdi, that if he took the turn at Mlolongo, his wife would be endangered. So he roared past the town, and sealed his fate.
Traffic slowed him a bit, the Hummer closed in, he remembered the shots. As they neared Athi River a truck slowed him down and the Hummer came closer, close enough to make him overtake recklessly, and as he did, an oncoming fuel tanker honked furiously, and to avoid a head-on, he drove off the road, rght into the raging waters of Athi River.
Death took him home on swift wings.
©Joe Mambo 2011
This short story was submitted into the Storymoja Urban Narratives : Peugeot 504 Short story Contest. Please comment on the short story for the author’s benefit and then vote on the story. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being weak and 10 being excellent, please indicate where you rank this story. Points will be tallied on the 22nd of May, and the winner announced on the 23rd of May 2009.