When Jackline gets to the house, she throws her handbag on a one-seater sofa and then heaves herself on a couch. Her two sons, Liam and Kyle, run to the kitchen, screaming at the top of their lungs. She has just picked them from school, and they always come from school starving. Actually, they are always starving. Last week they had a rough time because Jackline did not have a reliable house help, so they did not find food in the afternoons they got home. But this week they are fortunate. The new house help, Mary, is very efficient. She does everything in the house exactly the way Jackline would have done it.
The sudden quiet in the kitchen tells Jackline that Mary has given the boys something to eat. The girl comes out of the kitchen a few minutes later with a cup of tea and three pancakes. She places them on a coffee table near Jackline.
“Welcome, Ma Liam,” she says with a pleasant smile.
“Thank you Mary. Is Ivanna asleep?”
“Yes she is; but I will go and check on her shortly. The boys might have woken her up.”
Jackline bites a pancake and closes her eyes in delight.”
“You made these yourself?”
“Yes I did, not too long ago actually. After I bathed Ivanna and she fell asleep, I thought I should make something for you and the boys. You know the way these boys are always hungry so I thought they would like it.”
“That was so thoughtful of you. I am very grateful.”
Jackline means it. Mary has been in the household for only a week, but she has been a blessing. Jackline tries her best to make her house helps feel appreciated, because she herself was a house help not too long ago, and she knows how nasty some bosses can be.
She has worked as a house help for close to seven years. Her last job was seven years ago. It is while she was working for that couple, Mr. & Mrs. Mwanzia, that she met Fred, who was their shamba boy. Jackline only had KCSE certificate, but Fred was a graduate. He had a sociology degree but the job market had frustrated him so much that he ended up tending cows in the Mwanzias’ farm. It is in those circumstances that their relationship began. Jackline would sneak to the wooden cottage that the Mwanzias had built for him, and it is in that small house that Liam was conceived. When Mrs. Mwanzia realised she was pregnant, she fired her.
Jackline was about to return to her village, but Fred told her not to. He explained that he wanted to be close to her and their unborn child. He used part of his salary to rent a small mabati house for them. Mr. Mwanzia, perhaps seeing how responsible Fred was, allowed him to live with Jackline in the cottage within his compound so that Fred could save on rent. He also convinced his wife to reinstate Jackline to her work as a house help, although she would now be staying at the cottage with Fred, not the main house.
Jackline and Fred’s big break in life came when Fred won a jackpot. Jackline did not even know he gambled, otherwise she would have discouraged him. But then one day, out of the blue, he broke the news to her when she took lunch to him. He had won 1.5 million shillings. At Jackline’s insistence, they gave two hundred thousand shillings to Jackline’s church, which Fred had joined since they started living together. A hundred and fifty thousand shillings was tithe; thirty thousand, thanksgiving offering; ten thousand, first fruit; and ten thousand as ordinary offering. Fred gave the money without grumbling, and the Lord rewarded them by multiplying the rest.
Fred set up a small supermarket using part of the money, and used the rest to set up a small salon for Jackline. These businesses have prospered in the last four years. The Supermarket is now the largest in their local town, and there are two others in neighboring towns. Fred imports some of his items, like the carpets he went to get in Cairo last week. Jackline’s salon is the most popular in the area, and she now has a staff of seven.
Jackline knows she is blessed, and that is why she could not complain even when she had no house help. But the Lord blessed her again two days after she fired the toxic assistant she had before Mary. Mary was referred to Jackline by Jackline’s friend, and so far she has proven to be the perfect fit.
As Fred walks out of JKIA, he is in deep thought. A van his waiting for him outside the airport, and he just barely greets the driver. He is he silently wondering what he got himself into. When he joined the fraternity, the friend who introduced him told him that it was an ordinary community of people who are committed to help each other grow financially. His friend, Boniface, had been his classmate in primary school and secondary school, but he did not make it to the university or even middle-level colleges. He became a boda boda rider. But then he won a matatu in a raffle competition organized by a local supermarket chain. Within three years, his matatu business had grown and he had two other matatus on the road. They were talking about his success when he told Fred about the fraternity.
“So you are telling me that you are illuminati?” Fred had asked.
“Of course not. It is just a brotherhood that helps its people. They don’t give you money, but they help you get money. Like when I joined, they gave me an agent. That agent told me when to buy the raffle and I won. After that my agent taught me how to manage my business so that I could succeed.”
“She did all that for nothing?”
“No. There is a small price to pay.”
“Who do I sacrifice?” Fred asked half-jokingly.
“No one. But to show your commitment, you will be required to have sex with your agent on the day of your initiation, and then every once in a while. Your wife will never know, so don’t worry about that. Your agent is the one who will be giving you tips for your business so that it doesn’t collapse. After that she will be collecting ten percent of your income every month and forwarding it to the Grand Master-that is the CEO of the fraternity-to sustain the headquarters.”
“Where are the headquarters?”
“I don’t know. My agent has never told me. But I really don’t care, as long as my business remains profitable. So, do you want to join or do you want your family to continue suffering in poverty?”
The conversation came at a time when Jackline was about to deliver Liam, and Fred had no idea where he would get diapers and other baby things. Giving birth would also mean that Jackline would have to stop working, so their already meagre income would become even more depressed. Reluctantly, he agreed to join the fraternity. He was initiated that same night, in a meeting with local fraternity officials. He did not recognize any of them. The officials performed various rituals on him and then told him to seal his membership with the “act of love”.
The agent he was assigned, agent 306, was a ninety year old granny. This last part of the ritual entailed having sex with her in the presence of the officials. She was smelling of stale sweat and tobacco, and he almost ran away. But there was no exit, so he stripped and joined her on the narrow bed. To his surprise, he found himself aroused physically, even though he was mentally disgusted. But that was not the only surprise. Immediately he poured his seed into her, Agent 306 transformed into a beautiful, young woman with the scent of fresh soap, right there in his arms. By that time the other officials had mysteriously disappeared. Agent 306 told him that his semen had “rejuvenated her” and given her “a new lease at life.”
That is when he realised that he was deep into the occult, but it was too late to back out. That same night Agent 306, now as a young woman, told him about the multi-bet. Fred remembers it very well. The multi-bet was a run of six games in the English FA cup contest. The scores that Agent 306 gave him were ridiculous:
Stoke City 4-0 Chelsea.
Derby County 5-0 Manchester City
Liverpool 0- 6 Barnsley.
Tottenham Hotspurs 0-8 Reading.
Arsenal 0-5 Blackpool
Manchester United 0-6 Sunderland.
You had to correctly guess the scores to win the jackpot, and Agent 306 insisted that that would be the final scores when the games were played that weekend. Fred remembers looking at the scores that Agent 306 gave him again, and again. Really, the scores should have been the other way round, because all the losing teams are Premier League giants, and all the others are minnows in the second tier league, the Championship. It was a ridiculous bet, one that went against common sense. But since he was not betting with his own money-Agent 306 had given him a thousand shillings to place the multi-bet-he placed the bet anyway.
That weekend the impossible happened and he kissed poverty goodbye. Everything has been fine for the last five years. His supermarkets and his wife’s salon have prospered. Agent 306 appears about once a month to check on him and make sexual demands. At first cheating on Jackline used to make Fred feel guilty, but he got used to it. When this week Agent 306 told him to go to Cairo and get carpets to sell, he didn’t think twice about it. He has made such trips on her advice many times before. He landed in Cairo on Monday night, and that first night, she came to his hotel room to demand her conjugal rights. Again, that was normal; whenever he made out of town or out of the country trips, Agent 306 would spend every night in his hotel room. This trip was no different.
But then last night she told him that the Egyptian Elders had a message for him from the Grand Master. She took him to the pyramids where a meeting was being held. About ten old men and women were gathered by the fireside, somewhere in the middle of the dessert, and in the shadow of a giant pyramid. Rituals were performed on Fred before he was allowed into the meeting. And when he was admitted, it was brief: the Grand Master wanted him to sacrifice his first born son Liam, the boy’s blood being his “show of gratitude” for all the success the fraternity had given him. When the elders noticed his reluctance, they ordered Agent 306 to ensure that he complied.
Fred is lost in thought as he is driven home by John, one of the drivers at the Supermarket. There is no way he can sacrifice Liam. Boniface lied to him that sex was the only sacrifice needed. It is only this morning that Fred remembered that Boniface’s wife died in a road accident last year. Boniface had been driving when he apparently lost control of the vehicle. Asenath, his wife, was the only who died; Boniface and his two sons only suffered minor injuries. Two years before that, there had been a fire at the school where his daughter Mitch studied. In a dormitory with 65 girls, who were all asleep when the fire broke out, it was only Mitch who perished. Fred did not think much about these deaths then, but now he is wondering whether his friend has been sacrificing his family to the Grand Master.
John stops the delivery van outside his boss gate. Fred steps out, thanks him and as John drives away, he enters his compound. He is welcomed by his sons who come to the gate when they hear the van stop outside. They knew he was coming today. Inside the house, he finds his wife with their daughter Ivanna. He pecks them both on the cheeks.
When he sits down, Jackline asks Mary to bring him a cup of tea. In their WhatsApp conversations, Jackline has already told him about their wonderful new house help called Mary. But when the girl brings the tea, Fred nearly chokes on his saliva. This girl has been serving his family in Kenya during the day, and demanding sex from him in Egypt at night. And she is here to ensure that he sacrifices his son Liam.
Mary is Agent 306.
Image by Clarence Alford from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/dance-dancer-woman-dancing-3882695/
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