(Continued from Nouveau Riche III)
There is commotion all over the hotel. People are screaming and running in every direction. A few volunteers come forward to assist Edith. The police and an ambulance from Shava Hospital arrive soon afterwards, and she is rushed to hospital. The police ask George, the editor, to accompany them to the station and record a statement. His statement, just like the statements of the other witnesses, does not reveal much. It simply says that he saw a motorcycle with one pillion passenger, then heard the gunshots and went down for cover.
Sam, Rick, Kyle and Hellen are still going through the nitty-gritties of the campaign rally when Hellen receives a phone call. She steps out to receive it. It is a friend who was at the restaurant telling her about Edith’s shooting. Hellen does not notice a motorcycle enter the compound or the pillion passenger pull out his gun.
When Rick sees the motorcycle through the window, his instincts tell him that something is not right, so he decides to step out and find out what the rider and his passenger want. As Dave the pillion passenger pulls the trigger of the gun, Rick dives and knocks Hellen down. Dave’s two bullets shatter a window and land harmlessly on a book case. Other volunteers around the office start screaming, and someone lets off the alarm. That scares the two assailants. Dave hops onto the motorcycle and they speed away.
“Edith has been shot!” a dazed Hellen yells as she stands up, assisted by Rick. That is when they all notice that almost all the phones at the campaign headquarters are ringing.
“What?” Kyle asks.
“The phone call that I received…I was being informed that Edith has been shot at a restaurant in town.”
“Do you know where she was taken?” Sam asks.
The candidate hops into his car and speeds towards the hospital followed by several volunteers in two other cars.
“Since you were Leonard’s girlfriend for many years,” Kyle asks his sister on their way to the hospital. “Do you think he is capable of something like this?”
“Honestly bro, I feel like I have never known that man at all. I think our whole relationship was a lie.”
At Shava Hospital, everyone is in a state of panic. The “Deputy Governor” has been shot. Although the election is still months away, many of the supporters of Sam and Edith call them “Governor” and “Deputy Governor” respectively.
Sam, Rick, Kyle and Hellen are pacing up and down at the casualty area of the hospital waiting for word from the doctors. Rick and Kyle are keeping a protective eye on Hellen. They would have preferred to take her to Dorothy’s house, where security is tighter, but she refuses to be baby sat.
“I was not the target. I just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” she insists. “Why would anybody want to kill me? I am nobody. They probably wanted to kill Sam. It is he we should be worried about. He is our candidate after all.”
What she is saying makes sense to them, but they are also aware that someone could have been out to get her because of the lesbianism allegations leveled against her by the Shava Mirror. But they cannot bring that up because it is still a very touchy subject for her. So they content themselves with watching the surroundings for any suspicious activity.
A youthful doctor emerges from the emergency room to give them an update. She asks whether Edith’s family is present. Sam identifies himself and informs her that he has already called Edith’s husband to inform her of the tragic development.
“One of the bullets grazed Edith’s shoulders and did not do much harm,” the doctor says. “I am not worried about that one. It is the other one that is worrying the entire medical team here. It hit her on the neck. We are actually surprised that she is alive. We have intervened to stop the bleeding, but the bullet will need to be removed. It will require delicate surgery to remove it. Any mistake might cause her to be paralyzed, or to lose her voice or to die. Unfortunately I don’t think we have the capacity to conduct such a sensitive surgery. I think she needs to be taken to a hospital with more sophisticated facilities.”
On hearing that, Rick immediately calls his mother and updates her on the developments. Dorothy immediately authorizes the transfer of Edith from Shava hospital to the very sophisticated Beeline Hospital.
“I can’t guarantee that our doctors will be able to save her life, because only God can do that,” Dorothy tells her son. “But we will give her the very best treatment, and leave the rest to her maker.”
An ambulance is quickly prepared and Edith is transferred to Messa, where a team of surgeons is waiting at Beeline Hospital. Edith’s husband, Henry, has just arrived and he joins her in the ambulance.
Sam and his campaign volunteers follow in three cars.
After recording his statement at the police station, George takes a circuitous route that ultimately leads him to Leonard’s emergency exit gate. A guard opens the gate and waves him on. He parks his car in the basement and goes up two flights of stairs to the first floor where a meeting is going on.
Unlike Sam who is setting up a secretariat on the homestretch of the campaign, Leonard’s secretariat was established immediately he signaled his intention to join the gubernatorial race. Funded by Bernard, the secretariat has some of the most experienced politicos. These are men and women who have worked on political campaigns for many years, and are not afraid to employ dirty tricks to get ahead.
“Well done George,” Leonard tells the editor when he gets into the small private boardroom. All the other people in the room start clapping. Leonard’s secretariat occupies a whole floor at Junta House in Shava, but since his house was commissioned, his senior political advisors and campaign strategists meet in this boardroom to strategize.
George, the chief editor of the Shava Mirror, is a member of this team, as is Delilah, the chief editor of Shava County News. Both newspapers are owned by a wealthy businessman who is based in Nairobi but who has vast interests in Shava and the neighboring counties. He is a friend of Bernard, and he did not require a lot persuasion to support Leonard. Except for his monetary contribution, he is not personally involved in the campaign. But he has given broad authority to the management of his newspapers to “support Bernard’s candidate in every way possible.”
To maintain a façade of being fair and independent, the two newspaper editors always enter Leonard’s premises through the emergency exit gate, which opens to a deserted road that is rarely used by pedestrians or motorists.
“How did you manage to get Edith to agree to come to the venue so quickly?” asks Bob, Leonard’s running mate. Bob is a hardnosed political operative. He is a former Shava Municipal Council Mayor, a position he got when he was very young. Since then, he has been in and out of the County Assembly for the last twenty years. He lost his seat in the last election but through political maneuvering he managed to get himself elected as the Speaker of the County Assembly. Leonard does not like him, but he was persuaded that he is the right man for the job.
Bob is no match for Edith in terms of political popularity, but he is more ruthless in terms of underhand maneuvering. The shooting of Edith was his idea, and it was backed up by Leonard’s campaign manager and many of the campaign strategists.
“Sam is beatable,” Bob argued. “But with Edith as his running mate, even rigging the election will be difficult. But if something unfortunate happens to her, Sam will suddenly become very vulnerable.”
A plan was quickly approved that would see George invite Edith to a meeting in a public place. Even though Bob is acting surprised that Edith agreed to meet George, he knew that it would happen.
“She will come, Georgie,” he had assured the newspaperman. “She is a politician like me, and will do anything to get the media on her side.”
After George sits down, Leonard calls the meeting to order. He feels rich and important, and thinks he is in charge of the campaign. But everyone knows that Bernard is the real power behind the throne, and Bob is the real force on the ground.
“So now that Edith is taken care of, what should we do next?” Leonard asks.
“Opinion polls,” Bob says confidently.
“I don’t think that is a good idea,” Leonard says nervously. “We all know that Sam is very popular. Confirming that through an opinion poll will only work against us.”
“That is the whole idea, Leonard. We know that Sam is popular. But we can make people doubt that. We make it appear as if this race is tight by manipulating the opinion poll. Then after Edith dies, we will start pulling ahead in the polls. So in a nutshell, we do a poll right now that will see us tying with Sam in popularity. Sam might even be leading marginally. We do another survey next month that will show us leading slightly. That will be after Edith’s death…”
“You sound so sure that she will die,” Fridah, the campaign manager says.
“Oh she will die,” George answers on behalf of Bob. “She took a bullet in the neck and it severed the jugular vein. She cannot survive that, even if she has superpowers.”
“…any way as I was saying, next month, after Edith is dead and buried, we will hold another poll that will show that we are leading by a small margin. Then after Leonard’s wedding to Susan, we will conduct another poll that will show that we are leading by a large margin. That will help us in two ways. First, the poll results will sway the undecided voters to our side. People like being on the winning side. Second, even if we ultimately have to rig the election, few will doubt the victory. The opinion polls will have prepared them psychologically for our victory.”
“Who will conduct the polls?” Fridah asks.
“The University of Shava. Leonard will ask Bernard to talk to the VC…”
“Can’t I talk to him myself?”
“You are the candidate, Leonard. You are not supposed to come near any of this. In fact, right after this meeting, you should hold a press conference at the campaign office and condemn in the strongest terms the shooting of Edith. You and I should at all times appear to be above the political fray.”
Susan is sitting in her office but since morning no work is getting done. She has been thinking about her current predicament. She has been thinking about resigning since last night. But resign and go where? She is bright and knows that holding all factors constant, she can find another job easily. But she also knows that one major factor is not constant: her father. Her father is very connected and will block every attempt she makes to get another job.
She is realizing that going against her father’s wishes is far much more difficult than she has ever imagined. Her father called her yesterday and lectured her about her behavior at the commissioning of Leonard’s house. Why would she embarrass the in-coming Governor like that? Knowing from experience that it is usually pointless to argue with her father, she apologized. But he wasn’t done; he not only wanted her to get back together with Leonard, he wanted her to marry him.
That led to a bitter argument between the two of them, and harsh words were exchanged. Bernard accused his daughter of being stubborn, selfish and rebellious; she accused him of being sexist, chauvinistic and of using her as a political tool. The quarrel ended abruptly when Bernard called his daughter a prostitute. That stung Susan to the core.
Today, after spending hours in her office feeling sorry for herself, she is now formulating a plan. She has no intention of being Leonard’s lifetime partner, neither does she appreciate being used as a political tool.
She will get her revenge. She will hit both Leonard and her father hard. Her father has spent substantial resources in Leonard’s race, and the only reason he is doing that is because he expects to dip his fingers into the county coffers when Leonard becomes Governor. But what if Leonard dies before the election? PDP will need to find another candidate, probably Bob, and that will make Sam sail through with little opposition.
That way, Leonard will pay with his life; Bernard will pay by losing his money and she, Susan, will be spared the agony of having to marry Leonard. Paying a waiter to poison Leonard’s meal cannot be that difficult.
She takes her phone and dials her father’s number. In her sweetest voice, she apologizes for last night’s altercation, and promises to continue “being the good girl she has always been”. Next she calls Leonard and apologizes, then asks if she could meet him for dinner in Shava. An excited Leonard quickly accepts the apology and the request for dinner.
Susan rises and walks out of the office to her car. She needs to be in Shava early enough to find a waiter who will be willing to murder Leonard at a fee.
[End of the free part of the story. To read the whole story and find out what became of Sam, Rick, Hellen, Kyle, Edith, Susan and Leonard, follow the instructions below to purchase your copy of the novella for only Kshs. 100]
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