(Continued from For Better For Worse II)
Eliab and Phineas are meeting at Eliab’s house. There is only one agenda of the meeting: how to help Sam. They have always considered Sam to be their brother. Ever since his tribulations began three years ago, Eliab and Phineas have tried to intervene but Sam has proved to be too headstrong. He does not want to bother his brothers, neither does he want to appear to be seeking compensation for what he did for them.
“It is not compensation bro,” Eliab told him once. “You helped us when we had nothing. You watched over us because we are your brothers. Now we want to watch over you because you are our brother.”
“Thank you bro. But that is not necessary. I can handle this,” Sam had replied.
Phineas and Eliab know that it is a matter of pride. So today they will have to find a way to rescue their brother without damaging his delicate ego. They have been in communication with Jane, but she could not join them today because it is important that Sam doesn’t know that he is being discussed behind his back.
Eliab and Phineas know that they cannot re-build Sam’s multi-million shilling hotel in Shava. They are doing well, but not that well. That hotel requires about half a billion shillings to rebuild, money that the two brothers know they cannot get even with financing from their bankers. But they feel they can afford the ten million shillings that is necessary to resuscitate the Messa restaurant. But to do that, they need to secure a loan, so as not to jeopardize the operations of their businesses. Withdrawing such an amount from their businesses would cause them serious liquidity issues.
The ten million is necessary to pay off suppliers, staff and other creditors, who, according to Jane, are threatening to auction their home. Finding a lender has not been easy. When it first became apparent that Sam was losing grip of his business, Phineas and Eliab agreed to separately borrow from their banker, Alitad Sacco. But their loan applications were rejected. This was surprising. The two brothers have always had good credit records, and had never been turned away before. That was the first time they realized that the fire that had razed down Sam’s establishment was not accidental: someone was out to get him. And that someone had gotten to their banker.
The rejection of their loan applications infuriated he brothers. They abandoned Alitad Sacco, a deposit taking Sacco that offers banking services, where they had been banking for years. The brothers were introduced to Alitad Sacco by their father Jacob, who was a founding member. Now the old man has also abandoned the Sacco, after learning that the institution had frustrated efforts to rescue Sam.
When Sam lost the High Court case, no bank wanted to be part of the rescue plan. Then he won at the Court of Appeal and he did not need help anymore; but his lawyer disappeared with the money soon afterwards. The brothers and their father wanted to sell part of their properties to raise money, but they could not get buyers. They have come to learn that Ephraim was the one who was the one frustrating their efforts behind their backs. A staff member at Alitad Sacco even told Phineas that their branch manager, who happens to be Ephraim’s girlfriend, had been bribed by Ephraim to deny them the loan. He took her on holiday to Switzerland and bought her the BMW to persuade her to reject the applications.
Help came from the most unlikely source. Eliab received a call yesterday from Jane’s lawyer Janis, who also happens to be the Chairperson of the Beeline Sacco. She informed him that the Sacco had reviewed its regulations to allow people who were not staff members of Beeline Hospital to be members. She added that the Board was willing to help. While the Sacco only offers loans to members who have been with the Sacco for at least six months, they could be given an exception under the Sacco’s regulations if they met three conditions: first, they would need to buy substantial shares in the Sacco; second, they would need to open business accounts with the Sacco, and carry out most of their business transactions from there; and finally, they would need to give the Sacco collateral, in addition to the usual three guarantors.
Janis offered to be a guarantor, putting her personal shares in the Sacco at risk. Eliab and Phineas did not waste time. Yesterday each of them bought shares worth half a million shillings in the Sacco, and also opened business accounts there. They transferred most of their money to the accounts at Beeline. They also convinced their father to do the same. The old man bought shares at Beeline and transferred his rental accounts to Beeline. He insisted that he would be the one to take the loan, because ‘Sam is my son and therefore he is my responsibility’. Phineas collected loan application forms at the Sacco yesterday and took to Jacob who filled them while his son waited.
The brothers are meeting today to fill their parts as guarantors as well as discuss the best way to make Sam accept the money.
The management of Alitad Sacco, Shava Branch, underestimated the influence of the two brothers in Shava and Messa. Through casual conversations with their customers, they managed to create mass discontent in the Sacco. But many of these members remained in the Sacco because they had nowhere to go. The two brothers went to large banks, but many of the people in Shava and Messa were hesitant to join banks. The only other stable Sacco in the region is Beeline Sacco, which is also a deposit taking Micro Finance Bank, but its membership has been restricted to the staff members of the giant hospital bearing the same name.
Grace, the branch manager of Alitad Sacco Shava branch, thought she had survived the threat. She has been looking for ways to pacify the members, although the locals have come to dislike her personally. The reason is obvious. She is rumored to be one of Ephraim’s girlfriends, and Ephraim is loathed by many in the region.
The rumor is true. By now she knows that Ephraim will never marry her. She also knows that he will never stop chasing other women. And she knows that Ephraim is incapable of loving anyone: he simply uses people to meet his selfish objectives. But she is unable to shake him from her life. Every morning after she spends a night with him she curses herself and promises herself that it would be the last time. But whenever he calls, she becomes weak.
Now she needs him. He is the one who convinced her to reject Phineas and Eliab’s loan applications. He promised to take her on holiday in Switzerland and buy her a new car. She readily agreed. He kept both promises: her passport now has a foreign stamp, and she drives a brand new BMW X1, a massive upgrade from her ageing Toyota Premio.
But now the world is collapsing around her ears. Since Beeline Sacco announced yesterday that it would be opening up membership to the general public, Alitad has been suffering a mass exodus. Grace has just learnt that the CEO of the Sacco, Mrs. Diana Lubeto, is coming from the headquarters in Nairobi to find out what is going on.
Diana is a very thorough an aggressive woman. She believes that women face more scrutiny than men, and therefore should make double effort to appear competent and ethical.
“If the patriarchal system finds us to be wanting, they will use that as an excuse to look down on our daughters and younger sisters. But we can take that as a challenge to raise the bar; to take the levels of competence to levels that mediocre men will find hard to breathe, leave alone compete. Then only the finest of the men will sit at the table with us. It may not happen in our time, but if we focus on that goal, future generations of women will grow up in a corporate environment where competence is placed above gender,” she has told female managers of the Sacco multiple times.
Grace knows that Diana will chew her alive if, or rather when she learns that she (Grace) denied long time members of the Sacco loans at the behest of a lover. Diana will berate her like a child. And when she discovers that Grace’s decision is the real reason people are leaving the Sacco in droves, Grace know that she will be fired on the spot. Which is why she needs to speak to Ephraim. She leaves her office and drives over to his office at the hotel. She breathlessly tells him her challenge she is facing.
“Resign, then come and work for me,” Ephraim tells her calmly.
“Here? In what capacity?”
“No, you will not be working for me directly. I will set up a business but you will be the face of it. Everyone will think it is yours.”
“What kind of business?”
“I really don’t care. You choose. The real job I want you to do for me is to seduce my cousin Sam and sleep with him.”
“Because I want to sleep with his wife and the only way I can do that is if she realizes that he is cheating. Your job is to make sure that she is upset with him.”
Grace feels insulted. Her boyfriend pimping her to another man? Ephraim notices her hesitation.
“Is that going to be a problem?”
“You know Ephraim, I am not kind of woman. I only sleep with you because I love you and…”
“Then get out of my office.”
Grace bites her tongue. Is she ready to face the humiliation Diana will make her go through? What is so wrong with sleeping with Sam? She knows the man well. He is fit and good looking. Maybe he will even be a better boyfriend than this fool.
“Okay. I will do it. But I cannot guarantee that I will succeed. From what I hear, he is a very principled man.”
Ephraim smiles. He walks around his desk and holds her in his arms.
“You are a very lovely young lady, Gracie. Not even the Pope can resist you.”
Eliab and Phineas have just finished taking lunch and are just about to take the loan application forms, which they have finished signing, to Janis’s law office so that she can sign as a guarantor. Suddenly their father bursts into the room. He is breathless and on the verge of tears.
“What is it, father?” Phineas asks.
“My building…the building we are using as collateral is on fire.”
Phineas and Eliab dash out of the house. Within seconds, they are in Eliab’s car speeding towards Shava’s CBD. Eliab is driving, his brother is at the front passenger seat and their father is at the back. Suddenly Eliab gasps.
“What is it?” Phineas asks.
“My brakes are not working. We are going to crash.”
Image by Jackson David from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/hands-hand-together-prayer-5216585/
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