Chief Magistrate Meshack Kanja surveys his courtroom. He can feel the weight of the moment. Today he has a rather light caseload. Eighteen cases. Eight mentions, five pleas, two bail hearings, two main hearings and one bail ruling.
Ordinarily, he would be done in about two hours, assuming the prosecutor and the lawyers will not drag out the two hearings. He is known for his impatience, and he often rejects witnesses who come to repeat things that do not even help the case one way or the other. He has frequently reprimanded the prosecution for bringing witnesses who simply come to say they are related to the victims, even though they did not witness the crime.
But those are routine matters, and today is not a routine day. The mentions, pleas and the hearings are all routine issues. That single bail ruling that he is set to deliver today is the problem. It is the reason why his courtroom is so full today.
He can see Belinda seated at the back, watching. She looks so innocent and cute in a naïve way. She is dressed in a simple dress and flat shoes and could pass for a college student and a staunch member of the Christian Union. But she is not naïve, neither is she a Christian or a college student for that matter. In fact, she is a partner in a very shady law firm and has very shady ways of getting what her clients want, or do not want.
She is in his courtroom today because her law firm partner, another crook called Alex Ouma is in the dock, and he is the subject of the bail ruling. But she is not in court as a lawyer. That explains why she is not formally dressed. Some minion in her law firm argued the bail application formally before him in court. Belinda argued it under him, in his bedroom with her clothes off and a stash of cash nearby. She is here to make sure he keeps his end of the bargain.
He will do that. He will release the guy on bail. That decision was made even before the bail application was argued. It was made on the night Alex was arrested, when Belinda appeared in his (Meshack’s) apartment.
Immediately he took the cash and took off her clothes, Meshack knew how he would rule. What he had not anticipated was the attention the matter would receive. He did not watch the news that night, largely because Belinda was keeping him busy, so he did not see the high profile arrest. So he was surprised when the Director of Public Prosecutions came in-person to represent the State.
The DPP does not step into magistrates’ courts or even the High Court. He only deals with appeals in the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and only in the cases with the highest publicity and the highest chance of success. If he thinks a case cannot be won, he leaves his underlings to prosecute them and bear the loss.
The DPP is not going to take it kindly if, sorry when he loses a bail application to some associate in a middle table law firm that nobody has ever heard of, and before a magistrate no less. There will be backlash, even from the top, perhaps even the presidency. Fortunately, that associate Belinda sent to represent Alex did an impressive job, so this ruling is actually well grounded in law, even though it was motivated by the money and body of the accused person’s partner.
The DPP is sitting pompously at the Bar, confident that his man will stay in remand. He looks at his watch, an expensive Rolex that he bought in Paris. He is a busy man with important things to do, including addressing the press outside the courtroom on the detention of Alex Ouma by the court, pending the hearing and determination of the case. Alex is accused of attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and bribery. The cops he was arrested with were charged at the Murang’a Law Courts, but the powers that be wanted Alex in Nairobi for their convenience. Belinda did not fight, because Nairobi suits her just fine as well. Nairobi is home ground, her turf, and she is familiar with the terrain of the law courts. Finding someone to bribe in Nairobi is not as difficult as it would have been in a strange place like Murang’a.
Belinda herself would have been charged because the story was that she paid other people to poison their food with the same drug that was to be administered to that woman Judith and therefore make the stomach aches look like an epidemic. But there was no proof of those allegations, so she was never arrested.
“Criminal case number 450, Republic versus Onesmus Mitemi,” the clerk calls out. The DPP frowns and looks at his watch again. This is the first case on the cause list. On the cause list, the mentions begin, then pleas, then bail hearings, then main hearings. Bail rulings are not usually listed on the cause list. The magistrate could decide to deliver the ruling after dealing with all the cases. The DPP is not about to allow that to happen. He springs to his feet.
“Your Honor if I may, there is a bail ruling coming up today. I would appreciate it if you would deliver it first so that I can attend to other matters of the State,” he says with an attitude, as though the State needs him and only him to hold together.
“Very well Mr. Mutoro,”
The clerk reads out Alex’s case, and he is brought by the cops, handcuffs still in his hands. He has a defiant look on his face. The magistrate reads the ruling, but it is the ending that stuns the DPP.
“…having considered the rival submissions of the DPP, Mr. Mutoro and the counsel for the accused person, Ms. Farida, and with a view to the foregoing, I hereby order that the accused be released on a cash bail of three million shillings.”
Ms. Farida smiles. She has drawn blood against the DPP himself, under the full glare of the cameras. The magistrate gives her a tiny smile. This ruling will certainly help her career. Unless it is discovered that he, magistrate Meshack, took money to rule in this matter, in which case everything will go south. But that will not happen, so Ms. Farida may as well savor her victory.
The DPP cannot believe it. He stays in his seat for a minute, stunned. Then he glares at Meshack and leaves in a huff.
Belinda drives Alex to his house, where he takes a shower and eats the food that she has prepared. Then he makes love to her and falls asleep. When he wakes up, she is not in bed. He rises from the bed and finds a pair of shorts and a T-shirt to wear. He finds her sitting on the couch, just where Judith had been sitting that night. She is wearing one of his T-shirts just like Judith had.
“We have unfinished business,” he says, startling her.
“Oh, you are awake,” she says, pausing the movie she had been watching. “Can I make you a cup of coffee?”
Belinda is a surprising woman, and perhaps that is why he is so drawn to her. Sometimes she plays the sweet traditional wife. Other times she is an angry feminist. It was all very confusing for him at first. Sometimes he would offer to cook, and she would scream at him, accusing him of underestimating her wifely skills. Other times he would ask her what she intended to cook, and she would scream at him, calling him a chauvinist who thinks women belong to the kitchen. These days he has learned to flow with the tide.
“That would be awesome,” he says carefully. She goes off to the kitchen without exploding.
“What business were you talking about?” she asks when she comes back with two mugs of steaming coffee.
“I think you should stay away from her. She will only cause us more trouble. You are already being charged with trying to kill her and if you do anything silly you will surely end up in jail. We can find money elsewhere. Besides, even if you kill her now, we can’t get her money. Didn’t she say she transferred her wealth to a trust? In any case, even if she has the wealth in her name, we cannot get it. Not with a criminal case against you,”
Alex smiles smugly.
“She was bluffing. The wealth is still in her name. My contacts verified that for me while I was in the cells. But I am not going after her just for the money. This is war. She started a war, and I will fight it until I win. But I have a plan that will both exact revenge against her and also get her wealth,”
“So what is the plan?”
“First, hire a professional hitman to take out that lawyer Julius and the pastor. We will have perfect alibis on the day they are taken out, so we cannot be implicated. Besides, we can ask the guy to make both deaths look natural,”
“Is that possible? Our little plan with the poison backfired badly,”
“We will get a professional to do it this time. At the right price, these guys can do wonders,”
“Okay, so we take out the lawyer and the pastor. How do we get the money?”
“There is an NGO that that woman Judith donates to every month. It ostensibly gives shelter, food, and education to street children. Some have apparently even gotten scholarships abroad. But it is operated by a sleazy white-collar crook. He runs a child trafficking ring and the NGO is just a cover. Most of these children, especially the girls, are sold to brothels abroad. He even rapes some of the children himself, both girls and boys. He has never been caught because the children are all street children, so nobody looks for them. So the guy walks around like a saint, wining and dining with the high and mighty. But I have a dossier on him.”
“So how does he come in?”
“We will draft a will leaving half of Judith’s property to his NGO, and the other half to the child. Then we will appoint the same guy as the girl’s guardian and the trustee of her inheritance until she reaches 21. Then our hitman will take out Judith,”
“And because you have a dossier on the guy, we will have access to that wealth”
“Exactly. The guy is a crook, so I will give him a deal to share the property. We will have to allow him a small share. I am sure he will accept it. But if he refuses, then I will bring up the dossier to make him comply.”
Julius is in the supermarket, buying a few things that his wife told him to. At the expansive parking lot of the mall, no one sees a man slide under Julius’ jeep. By the time Julius comes back, the man is long gone. Julius throws the shopping onto the backseat then gets behind the wheel.
He pulls out of the mall and navigates his way to Mombasa Road, on his way to his home in Syokimau. Traffic his light, so he steps on the gas and the SUV responds accordingly, hitting 140km/hr within no time. Just after Panari hotel, a lorry has stalled in the middle of the road, so Julius steps on the brakes so that he can change lanes.
The SUV does not respond.
He tries again, with no response. His brakes have failed. He tries to change lanes anyway, but the jeep spins out of control and smashes into a bus that is on the outer lane. He dies on the spot.
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