(Continued from Love on the Rocks III)
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Mutwiri is hiding in a bush, smoking. He has collided with his father many times because of his drinking and smoking. He first tasted alcohol when he was in Std. four. He started smoking cigarettes a year later. By the time he dropped out of school, he was smoking bhang.
But he is a hard worker, and this is the reason he and his father have not fallen out completely. Whenever they have an order for ballast, he is always present to help, and usually has the second largest pile after his father. When they do not have an order, he usually goes out looking for manual work.
While he drinks more than he should, he doesn’t drink all his income like some of his village mates. Whenever he goes out to work, whether for his father or for other people, he spares half of his income for his wife and uses the rest to buy alcohol and bhang. He avoids bottled alcohol because it is expensive, preferring locally brewed and very illegal alcohol. There is a den in their village where he and his peers go to drink.
Mutwiri lives in a three-room wooden house that he built on a piece of land that he was given by his father. The old man is shrewd because the portion he gave him has no rocks: it was mined years ago. It was wasteland before Mutwiri got married. His wife Kageni has since reclaimed the piece of land and has planted maize, cassava, arrow roots, sweet potatoes and vegetables. Kageni has also reared chicken and rabbits. She sells eggs and rabbits, but occasionally slaughters a hen or a rabbit for their consumption. She also has two dairy goats but she doesn’t sell the goat milk. It is for their consumption. Mutwiri has heard her saying that she wants to buy more goats so that they start selling milk.
Mutwiri considers himself lucky to have found her. He appreciates what she does for him. Even on those days that he fails to get work, he is always assured that his family has food. Many of his friends beat up their wives and force them to give them money. But Mutwiri has never laid a hand on Kageni, not even when he is drunk or stoned. Instead of demanding money from her like his friends do, he religiously gives her half of his income.
Kageni is more educated than he is because she went all the way to form four. She opened a joint account for both of them, but to withdraw money from the account, both of them have to sign. According to her, the money is for their children’s school fees. Over the years, he has seen it work. All his three children are in private schools. At the beginning of every term, he accompanies Kageni to the bank and they withdraw money to pay school fees.
This has caused a lot of friction between him and his mother, because his mother feels that Mutwiri should pay school fees for his siblings. She influenced her husband and other children and they ganged up against Kageni. The only person who stood with her is Mutwiri and his sister Sophia.
Kageni used to cry every day. But she explained to Mutwiri that what her mother was proposing was not practical. They were not making that much money, and the only reason their children are able to go to good schools is because of diligent saving. If they took on his siblings, she told him, their savings would soon run out and all the children, his own and his siblings, would all be at risk of dropping out of school. Mutwiri told Sophia this, and Sophia told him that it made perfect sense. Sophia went and explained this to the rest of the family. They all thawed towards Kageni, except Mutwiri’s mother. She still doesn’t talk to Kageni.
Educating children is not the only reason Mutwiri’s mother hates Kageni. Before she married Mutwiri, Kageni was a waitress at a bar and also a prostitute based in Polepole market. She got most of her clients at the club. Mutwiri was one of her clients and he somehow convinced her to leave that life and live with him. At the time, he did it because she is a stunning beauty and he was drunk. She took up his offer and on that last day, instead of going to her single room in Polepole, they staggered to his house for drunken sex. He did not pay her for that night, neither did she leave in the morning. Or ever.
Such things cannot be hidden, and it did not take long for everyone in the village to figure out who she was. She was called names but she put on a brave face and stayed put. She did not visit anyone, but instead tended her farm. She stopped drinking and quit her old ways. As she developed her household, and as years passed, many people generally forgot about her origins. But her mother-in-law never forgot.
The church did not forget either. When she tried to integrate with other women in church, she found that she was not welcome. They did not expressly tell her that she was not welcome, but no one wanted to associate with her. They treated her as if she had a contagious disease. That hurt her deeply. At that time, she had lived with Mutwiri for two years and already had a child with him. She never tried to go back.
That is one of the reasons Mutwiri cares little about church and the Christian faith in general. His wife is one of the kindest people he knows, and he does not understand why she would be denied a chance to congregate with other Christians just because of her past.
On the other hand, his mother is a devout Christian. He would have expected her to be kind and generous to Kageni, irrespective of her past. But that is not the case. Kageni is the one who always bends backwards to accommodate her mother-in-law. From where he stands, Mutwiri sees his wife as a better Christian than his mother.
Of course there are nice Christians. His sister Sophia is one of them. But her righteousness seems to have counted for nothing. She is very bright, but she could not continue with her studies. She is a competent mason and carpenter, but no one wants to hire her. Even other members of the church had rather hire other people instead of one of their own. If God really exists, he seems to have forgotten all about one of his devout daughters.
And now, someone wants to kill her. Their father received an anonymous call telling them that an ex-girlfriend of Donald has hired Rasta to kill Sophia. The caller did not say who the ex-girlfriend is, but Mutwiri has a hunch that it is Rehab. She is the only one he can think of who is capable of doing something like that.
After receiving that call, Kibaara gathered his sons, led by Mutwiri and now they are strategically located around the compound. Only the youngest brother, six year-old Lloyd has been spared. They did not tell Sophia or their mother anything, because they did not want to worry them. The men are armed with bows and arrows. They know that Rasta will have a gun, but then again he will not know they are waiting for him. He will be dead before he even uses his weapon.
This is very personal for Mutwiri. Sophia is his closest friend at home. They grew up together because Sophia is only two years younger than he is. They played together, they ran to school together, and when he got married, Sophia was the first one to welcome and accept Kageni. Sophia is a Christian, and while she keeps on telling him to stop drinking and smoking, he has never felt judged by her.
So if someone is trying to mess with her, he or she will have to deal with him.
Marangu turns in bed and sighs. He has been trying to find sleep without success. He tiptoes out of the bedroom without waking his wife and goes back to his study. The clock on the wall informs him that it is half past midnight.
He had hoped he could convince Rasta to abandon the plan of killing Sophia. His failure is biting him and denying him sleep. He scratches his head thinking about an alternative plan. He doesn’t want his daughter to be involved in a murder.
The only plan that is coming to his mind is not a very appealing one. But the more he thinks about it, the more he is convinced that he has no other choice. He takes his phone, changes the call settings to private and dials Kibaara’s number. He has Kibaara’s number because he has acquired ballast from him on several occasions, as he was constructing his rental houses.
Marangu does not reveal his identity, and he does his best to alter his voice. He warns Kibaara that Rasta has been contracted to kill Sophia. He warns Kibaara to be vigilant, then he disconnects the call. He can only hope that they will take him seriously.
After disconnecting the call, he looks up and stares directly into the eye of a pistol. His daughter has a gun aimed at his head.
“Why are you messing up with my plans?” she asks him. Marangu is a licensed gun owner, but ever since he started suspecting that his daughter is not okay, he has always kept his gun locked away. So how did she manage to get a gun?
It is almost midnight when Rasta arrives at Kibaara’s home. The family is so impoverished that they do not even have a gate. Rehab gave him precise directions to the home. There are three houses scattered in the compound. The first one is the main house where the girl, her parents and her primary school siblings live. The second belongs to the girl’s eldest brother and his family. While the third one belongs to the girl’s brothers who are circumcised but not yet married.
The trick will be to enter the main house and kill everyone inside before the family members in the other houses mobilize. If they surround him, he will be forced to shoot his way to safety, and that is something he wants to avoid. He doesn’t like killing unless he is getting paid to do it. He would have preferred to kill Sophia alone, but he does not have the time to sort through faces.
He realizes something is wrong when he nears the house. The smell of bhang is heavy in the air, as if someone has been smoking a few minutes ago. If someone has been smoking, then he must have seen him coming. Should he retreat or should he go on with his mission?
His desire to bed Rehab carries the day. He throws caution to the wind and approaches the door. Just as he is about to touch it to test its strength, a sharp pain arises from the socket of his right elbow. He instinctively touches the spot and is surprised to find an arrow lodged there.
He lifts his gun and turns to face his attacker. But before he can shoot, arrows rain on him from all directions. He tries to duck but to no avail.
[End of the free part of the story. To find out what happened to Sophia, Donald and Rehab, follow the instructions below to purchase your copy of the novella.]
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay:https://pixabay.com/photos/sunset-beach-seaside-holiday-2828/
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The next story will start on Tuesday. See you then.