(Continued From For Better For Worse III)
Julius is hiding behind a bush opposite Eliab’s house. This was a rather simple job, given the amount of money at stake. Still, his heart is not at peace. He knows that what he has done will result in the death of people, and that is gnawing at his soul.
He doesn’t think he had a choice. Ephraim is a brutal man, and had he refused to take up the job, he probably would have been killed. Ephraim is insecure and very volatile. Julius has tried his best to avoid him, not least because he snatched his girlfriend.
But Ephraim is also paying him a million shillings for this job, and Julius is determined to use the money to try and win back his girlfriend Grace. He knows that a million is not enough to compete with Ephraim, who is the source of that money in the first place, but he is convinced that he has an advantage that Ephraim doesn’t when it comes to Grace: love.
Julius is convinced that Grace loves him. That is the only reason she would have agreed to date a lowly mechanic like him. Shava is teeming with white collar types who could have fit properly in Grace’s class. But she did not choose any of them. She chose him. That must have some significance. Perhaps if he sets up his own garage she will be convinced that he has a focus in life and will come back to him. After all, by now she must have realised that Ephraim is not going to marry her. The man is incapable of committing to a single woman.
Julius has been waiting for close to thirty minutes when a black Toyota Fielder finally leaves Eliab’s compound. It is the vehicle whose brakes he has tampered with. Ephraim had instructed him to mess up with the brakes of the vehicle that the brothers would be using to travel to Messa that afternoon.
The first huddle that Julius foresaw was getting under a car parked right in front of the house. But that challenge did not materialise. When he sneaked into Eliab’s compound, he realised that the driveway leads to a garage behind the house. The driveway is lined with a shrub hedge all the way to the wooden garage. That provided the perfect cover for him as he was able to crawl all the way to the cars without being detected.
The job itself was simple. All he needed to do was to mess up the ducts carrying brake fluid, and the brakes of the car would be useless. But therein lay another challenge. He had no idea how long the brothers would stay in there. If the fluid poured out before they left, they would realise that the brakes of the car are faulty and would simply cross over to Phineas’s house to pick his car. The brothers and their father are neighbours. Julius came up with a simple solution. He perforated a small hole in the ducts and set them near the moving parts of the wheels in such a way that when the vehicle started moving, friction would enlarge the holes. That way, the brakes of the vehicle would suddenly fail when it is at high speed.
As he watches the fielder join the highway and speed away, Julius’ heart is filled with heaviness. But he tries to push away the dark thoughts by focusing his thoughts on Grace and the one million shillings he is due to collect from Ephraim. He leaves his hideout and walks away, taking the opposite direction from the one Jacob and his sons took. He knows that there is a market centre about a kilometer away from where he is. He walks there at a leisurely pace, walks to a tiny cafe, takes tea then boards a motorcycle and instructs the rider to take him to Shava’s town centre.
On the way, he passes the scene of the accident. He cannot see the vehicle but he knows it has crashed because of the mammoth of onlookers and the presence of traffic police officers. His job is done, now it is time to collect the pay cheque.
Julius does not want to be seen heading to Ephraim’s office, so he asks the rider to drop him near a restaurant. He pays the rider then moves as though he is entering the restaurant, but then darts into an alley. He walks brusquely powered on by the expectation of money, although guilt is still gnawing at his soul. Ephraim’s hotel is outside town. That is the place where the rest of his family used to live.
When he set up the hotel however, Jacob and his sons sold he land and bought land at the location where they currently live. Ephraim bought the land and constructed serviced apartments as part of the hotel. It is a ridiculous idea because nobody in Shava is wealthy enough to afford the apartments. Ephraim lives in one of them, but he does not entertain guests there, except his lovers. Everyone else meets him at the main hotel, where he has an office.
That is where Julius goes. A guard lets him pass without a fuss. He knows him well. Ephraim’s secretary is a beautiful girl that Julius knows without a doubt that Ephraim has slept with. Julius often wonders what draws Grace to this man. Is it the money? But isn’t she the same Grace who ignored all the white-collar bachelors in Shava and dated him, a mechanic. Okay, Ephraim has more money than all those bachelors combined, but still.
“You are back already,” the secretary asks Julius.
“Yes I am. Is he in?”
“Yes he is.”
“Can I see him?”
“Just a moment. You may have a seat.”
Julius sits on the comfortable cushion and watches as the girl lifts the phone off its cradle and punches the numbers. She is a beautiful girl. What do men like Ephraim want? Why can he settle down with one of these fine ladies that he sleeps with and leave the rest alone? Why can’t he leave Grace alone?
But then, he reasons with himself, the ladies are not forced to be with him. Grace was not forced to be with him. They take themselves to him willingly. Julius sighs deeply. Maybe he is the problem. Why can’t he fall in love with a simple girl from his village and settle down? Why did he have to fall in love with Grace?
“Sir Ephraim is ready to see you,” the young lady, whose name badge reads Jerusha, tells him. Ephraim insists on being called ‘Sir’ like the English knights.
“Thank you Jerusha,” he replies kindly and heads towards the door.
Ephraim’s office, just like everything relating to him, is awe-inspiring. It is large and luxuriously furnished. His mahogany desk stands tall at the very edge of the room, meaning you have to walk the entire length of the room under his penetrating gaze. Julius only needs to glance at him once to know that all is not well. Ephraim does not know how to mask his emotions, and right now he is bubbling with anger.
“I have done what you asked me sir. Now it is your turn to honor your end of the bargain.”
“When you look at me you see a very dumb cow, isn’t?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I don’t care about some stupid accident. I wanted those men dead. But all the three of them are still alive.”
The venom in his tone shocks Julius. It is difficult to imagine that this man is talking about his father and brothers.
“With all due respect sir, there is no way I could have guaranteed death. I am not God. Besides, your instructions were clear: what you needed me to do was to mess up the brakes of the vehicle to cause and accident. And that I did. So kindly, give me what is due to me.”
“Shut up! You are not getting anything. That money will be used to pay someone more competent to finish them off.”
Julius can feel anger rising within him. Without the money, he will have risked the lives of innocent men for nothing. Without Grace in the package, even the whole idea of killing others to save his own skin does not make sense. What is there to live for?
“Please sir, it would not be good for us to quarrel over what is rightfully mine. Kindly give me my money and I will leave.”
“Get out of my office,” Ephraim growls.
Julius is unable to control his temper any longer. He grabs Ephraim by the collar and pulls him out of his chair. Ephraim is a small man, about 5’5 in height and with a lean figure. Julius, on the other hand, is a well-built young man. He is 6’4 with a well-muscled body. Julius knows that Ephraim possesses a gun, or guns, so when the smaller man tries to take his hand to his pocket, Julius grabs it and twists it, making him yelp in pain.
“Give me my money,” he growls.
Suddenly a side door opens and several gorilla-like men enter.
“Boss, are you okay?” one of the gorillas asks. Then they freeze when they notice Julius suffocating their boss. They pounce on him and peel him away from Ephraim. Then they descend on him with punches, slaps and kicks.
Ephraim straightens the collar of his shirt then grabs his coat.
“I am stepping out briefly. Get rid of him before I come back.”
[End of the free part of the story. To read the whole story and find out what became of Sam, Jane, Grace and Julius, follow the instructions below to purchase your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100]
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