(Continued from A Game of Traitors III)
Rhoda’s emotions are still raw after her outburst. She starts sobbing again. She feels wicked. Almost as wicked as Kioko and his wife. Mutua has spent two months in remand just because she played along with the Kiokos’ narrative.
During those two months, she often stayed up at night crying. Her pregnancy is now showing, and the hormones are not helping matters. The only bright spot has been that Kioko no longer defiles her. Whether it is because of the ongoing court case, or because of her bulging belly, or both, she has no way of knowing.
But she has been thinking a lot about Mutua these two months. He was ever so kind to her since she was taken in by the Kiokos. He was always ready to assist her with her studies. Although he was often overworked, he hardly complained. He worked diligently in Kioko’s farm, worked hard in his studies and was an active member of the youth group in their church. He had ambition. He wanted to become a doctor. A missionary doctor, working in a far-flung area. He is passionate about serving the people in the semi-arid areas of Kenya.
“Where will you get money to survive? Where will you even get money for medicine to give them?” Rhoda asked him one day.
“I am sure I can convince at least one county government in a semi-arid area to hire me and post me in a remote area. Garissa, Mandera, Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana, Samburu, Wajir, Baringo, Makueni, Kitui…there are many counties with remote, semi-arid parts that I can minister to as a missionary doctor,”
“I don’t think the governments in the predominantly Muslim counties will be too happy with your missionary activities,”
“Governments are run by politicians. You think politicians care about religion?” he answered with a confident smile.
“You are right. And on the same breath politicians do not care about the people. They will loot money meant for medicines and your salary and you will find yourself starving while watching your patients die of starvation and disease,” Rhoda pressed.
“Oh well. You are right. Maybe I will find a loaded NGO and partner with them to start a mission hospital in the wilderness. I always wonder why these big Nairobi churches with celebrity pastors don’t do initiatives like that. You know, instead of buying expensive houses and vehicles for their pastors, why don’t they build hospitals in remote areas to serve the poor? You know, the way the Catholic and mainstream protestant mzungu missionaries did when they came. These days our churches would rather sponsor a bunch of overfed people to hit-and-run a drought-stricken area for a week taking selfies to persuade their egos that they are spreading the gospel, instead of committing resources long term to improve the lives of the people in that area,”
Rhoda had been impressed. She had never thought of it that way, but it made perfect sense. People should not die of hunger while churches in the same country are competing to show off wealth. It sounds sinful.
Mutua had enriched her view of life. Until she met him, all she wanted was to finish school, to go to the city and get married to a rich man. Just like her mother. But now she has ambitions of her own that are not tied to marriage. She has decided that she wants to be a businesswoman. She watched an interview done by Keroche CEO Tabitha Karanja and she decided that she too wants to head her own company one day. A company that she will build from scratch. She doesn’t know yet what it will be but she thinks that she will start with a catering service. She has been teaching herself to cook different dishes in Mrs. Kioko’s kitchen.
She was neglecting her books and getting obsessed with cooking when Mutua convinced her that even as a businesswoman she would need education. How would she study her competition? How would she understand market trends? How would she manage cash flow? It made sense. She started working hard on her books, assisted by Mutua, and her grades have improved.
And how has she repaid him? She has falsely accused him of defiling her, and because of that he has spent two months in remand. His ambitions are now in jeopardy because he faces a lengthy jail term while the real rapist continues to go about his business, probably defiling other girls. That is why she has broken down twice by simply looking at Mutua’s face.
“I am so sorry Mutua. You have always been kind to me. But I have been wicked, just like the Kiokos. I should have been more courageous and stood up to them. But I was selfish and thought about my interests only. Please find it in your heart to forgive me,” she says, breaking into tears once more.
Mutua looks at her sadly, tears rolling down his cheeks. He does not say a word.
“Rhoda calm down. I need to ask you a few questions,” the magistrate says. “Are you sure that it was Kioko and not Mutua who defiled you?”
“Yes your honor. The DNA of my unborn child can prove it,” Rhoda says and goes ahead to narrate the events of the night that Mutua was arrested. The magistrate, Truphena, scribbles furiously.
Finally, when Rhoda is done talking, she reads her ruling.
“I find that the prosecution has not proved the case against the accused person beyond reasonable doubt. That even without the accused person putting a defense, serious doubts arise over his guilt. Two of the prosecution’s witnesses have pointed to the innocence of the accused person, while allegations have been made over probable misconduct in the process leading to the arrest of the accused person. The evidence placed before me by the prosecution cannot therefore by itself be used to convict the accused person. I therefore find that the accused person has no case to answer and should be released from custody with immediate effect. The court will take a break now and other matters will proceed at 2.30pm.”
The clerk bangs the table as the magistrate rises and everyone stands. Truphena leaves through the door behind her chair while police officers open the doors of the courtroom which have remained closed at this time.
As the crowd leaves the courtroom, officers from the Machakos office of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations move swiftly and arrest Kioko, his wife Hellen, Prosecutor Andrew and Corporal Mutinda. Someone tipped them and they had been patiently waiting outside.
The magistrate, Truphena, calls Mutua and Rhoda to her office. They are ushered in by her clerk, Moses.
“I want you two to have lunch with me today,” Truphena says when they are settled in her office. Rhoda involuntarily glances at Mutua.
“Is everything okay?” Truphena asks her.
Mutua looks as though he is in a trance.
“I am not sure whether Mutua would want to be around me after all that I have done to him,”
“It is okay. I carry no grudges,” Mutua says, snapping out of his trance, if only for a moment.
Truphena instructs her clerk to tell her driver to bring her car around. They leave together, Mutua, Rhoda, Truphena’s clerk and driver and Truphena herself. They have lunch at a small hotel just outside Machakos town. They sit in a private dining room in the hotel. The owner of the hotel designed the private dining room with the Judge and Magistrates of the Machakos Law Courts in mind. There is even private access to the room. Here they can have lunch without the risk of running into the litigants appearing before them.
Truphena tells them to order anything. Rhoda asks for rice and chicken. Mutua is still saying very little so Truphena’s clerk orders ugali and fish for him. After ordering Truphena’s clerk and driver move to another table to give them privacy.
Truphena prods them and gets their stories from them. Rhoda tells her about her childhood, her mother, her late grandparents and her life with the Kiokos. Mutua still says very little, but Truphena is still able to piece bits and pieces together from the little he says and also from Rhoda’s narrative.
“Listen, guys. You know it is unlikely the Kiokos will continue supporting you in view of the circumstances. I want you to come and stay with me. I will support your education, both of you. I that okay?”
Rhoda tears up but manages to nod vigorously. Mutua nods slightly, and tears are also welling in his eyes.
After lunch, the driver takes them back to court. The magistrate and her clerk alight. He then drives Rhoda and Mutua to the magistrate’s home in Syokimau. Unknown to them, a journalist has been tailing them and taking photographs.
Kioko, Hellen, Prosecutor Andrew, and Corporal Mutinda are arraigned before the Hon. Wycliffe Oyodi, Senior Principal Magistrate at the Machakos Law Courts. They are charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and giving/receiving bribes. Kioko has a separate charge of defilement.
For a few days, newspapers are splashed with the story of Mutua, Rhoda, Truphena and the Kiokos. Journalists do a fine job digging backgrounds and giving analyses. They do not even hide the identities of Rhoda and Mutua, although both are still technically minors. Truphena’s decision to take in both of them in is given acres of pages in newspapers and is the main reason her profile is the subject of newspaper articles.
A story about Rhoda’s mother Felista appears in two newspapers on one of those days. When Felista sees it, she is paralyzed by fear. What will her husband say when he learns she has a child she has never acknowledged? Will she finally be dumped in a humiliating way? What will she do if he kicks her out? If Stephen has read the story, he does not show it. He does not mention it at all.
But his former wife Nadia calls. Felista hesitates then picks the call.
“Felista, when I found out that you were sleeping with my husband, I naturally felt betrayed. I had taken you in and treated you like my small sister. I even took you to school. Then you backstabbed me. But I forgave you. But what you did to your daughter is despicable. How can you deny your own child and then leave her out in the cold world to be abused? You are the ultimate traitor.”
She hangs up without waiting for a response. Those words find their mark and Felista goes to the toilet and weeps. She knows she does not have the courage to face Stephen with the truth or even ask for permission-yes, she needs his permission to travel-to go and see her. That realization makes her weep some more. But at least according to the newspapers Rhoda is well taken care of now, she consoles herself.
Truphena enrolls Rhoda and Mutua in different boarding schools. She hires a counselor who goes to see Mutua weekly over his traumatizing experience. One day, as she is leaving Mutua’s new school, she is accosted by a journalist.
“Madam, do think what you are doing is right?”
“How can helping destitute kids be wrong?”
“You presided over their case,”
“Yes. And I found the boy not guilty. As a human being, I am concerned about the future of these young people. I am doing what I can to help,”
“Why these particular ones? Many destitute young people appear in your court,”
“I give a monthly contribution to an NGO that supports children like these. You should try that too. I took personal charge of these two because I wanted to. There is no law that says I can’t,”
“Rhoda’s defilement case is going on…”
“Yes, under a different magistrate. I have nothing to do with the case. All the magistrates at Machakos Law Courts are competent and incorruptible. I have no influence over the way they decide their matters, and that includes Hon. Oyodi. He will get to the bottom of the matter and serve justice. I have worked with him long enough to know that without a doubt.”
With that, she hops into her car. Her driver looks at her through the rearview mirror and smiles. What the newspaper people may not know is that this woman took him from the streets, took him to a rehabilitation centre, then took him to driving school and gave him a job. Now he is a responsible family man, thanks to this extraordinary woman.
I have a couple of notices.
First, the novella will be out this coming Tuesday. As we did last month, it will only cost you my cup of coffee-a hundred bob.
Second, I am aware that last Friday’s story was littered with grammatical errors, and I wish to profusely apologize. While the occasional error here and there is unavoidable when you edit your own work, the shoddy editing of last week’s piece was simply pathetic.
I had a tight one and a half week, from Monday last week to Wednesday this week. I was on the road every day, attending court in Embu, Nyeri, Machakos, Kiambu, Kikuyu, and Meru. I usually prepare the first draft of the Friday story on Tuesday, to give me time on Wednesday and Thursday to edit and improve the storyline. Last week that did not happen. I wrote that piece on Thursday night, already tired from Embu. I could have edited it on Friday morning, but I had a court appearance in Nyeri that morning. So I made the error of publishing it raw, instead of sitting on it until Saturday. I profusely apologize to you, my dear readers.
My assistant is reporting in September and she will help with the editing and other administrative tasks. That will help in improving the quality of these pieces.
Thank you for remaining loyal, I am grateful. See you all on Tuesday.-Edward