Playing With Fire IV-By Edward Maroncha

(Continued from Playing with Fire III)

“If I may ask, why do you hate Alpha so much?” Louise asks, mostly to keep the conversation going. She is talking involuntarily because she is scared. “Why are you so intent on killing him?”

“Haven’t I been clear enough?” Humphrey snaps. It is so surprising to see him angry because he is generally a very jolly person. “Alpha is a threat to our community. Let me tell you a story. One of the things you will learn about my father, and which my brothers and I share, is that we really love this island and its people. Even my hothead sister shares that love. This is our ancestral home and these are our people. The island was inhabited by our ancestors centuries ago, and even though we are Chonyi by tribe, we developed our own way of life. If you stayed here long enough, you would notice that our culture is slightly different from the rest of the Chonyi. Our people developed some level of independence from the mainland.

Our forefathers interacted with the mainland, of course, because they would use the mainland markets to sell their fish, but they had their own economic, social and political structure which remains in place till today. A couple of centuries back, the Digo of Malindi attacked the island, wanting to take it over. My grandfather’s great-grandfather organized our people into a ragtag army that not only repulsed the attack, but also pursued the Digo all the way to the mainland.

My ancestor became the hero of the island, and the island made him the chief of the island. After his death his first born son took over and since then the chieftainship has remained in our family. After my father’s death I will take over, and after I die my son will take over and so forth.

Now, because of strong cultural ties, our community has not had any major social vices. Crimes were unheard of in Lima Island. We were a peaceful people, minding our own business, but ready to defend ourselves if attacked. When that crazy adventurer  Hayward came to the Island and floated the idea of investing in the island, my grandfather was skeptical at first. It was my father, who was then the crown prince so to speak, who convinced him that it would be worthwhile if we made these people channel some of their investments to the well-being of our people. We did not have even a single school on the island, and a lot of time was wasted rowing children across the ocean to attend school on the mainland. Few children made it to secondary school. It was the same with health care. Many people were dying on the ocean as they were being rowed to the mainland to get treatment. We had remained culturally pure, uncontaminated by Europeans and Arabs, but we were being left behind by the rest of the world. My father was convinced that letting Hayward invest on the island was a brilliant idea. My grandfather consulted the elders and it was agreed that Hayward could be allowed to invest on the island, but would be restricted to the beach. He was also instructed to build schools and a health centre on the island, and to employ locals. Other investors came later and were given the same conditions.

As a result, our community has recorded very high levels of literacy and economic prosperity in the last thirty years. Don’t let our huts fool you-it is our way of remaining in touch with our culture. But we live well on this island. Alpha is the only menace that we are now facing. Most of our children, wherever they are in the world, are very disciplined, thanks to a strict cultural upbringing. But then Alpha happened.

The man has been, for the last five or so years, recruiting our sons and daughters into his drug network, something other drug lords have not managed before. Now some of our children are becoming unruly, not just in the mainland and around the world, but even on the island itself.  Murders and rapes are now being reported on the island. They are still rare, but they are happening. We have heard rumors that Alpha wants to destabilize our community so that he can take over the island as his private property, which would of course make it the headquarters of his drug empire.

If we are out to destroy Alpha, it is because he wants to destroy us. We are only defending ourselves. So, are you going to help us or not?”

“You are putting me in a difficult position, Humphrey. Look, I am sympathetic to your cause and I would really want to help you to bring him in. But the way I see it, I will end up dead as soon as I get back to my house in Nairobi; maybe even before. If, as you have told me, Alpha is the one who killed your brother, then he knows I am here with another man, and that is reason enough for him to want to kill me.”

“As I told you, my brother was killed because he was putting his nose where he was not supposed to. Alpha had a recruitment thing going on at the airstrip today. We only got to know about it this morning but we managed to convince a few of our friends in the DCI to thwart it. But my brother was a hothead, just like our sister. He decided to go to the airport and confront them himself.”

“You had told me that you would be waiting for me in a black SUV. Why did you decide to send him instead?”

“I didn’t. He stole the car. When we realised that the car was not in the garage…”

“You have a garage here?”

Humphrey grins.

“Of course we do. But it is hidden in bushes.”

“Anyway, my father decided to follow Henry in his pickup. I would have come instead, but dad refused. First, it is common knowledge in our household that dad is the only one who can make that jalopy move…”

“That is true,” Louisa says, a smile breaking on her face as well.

“I see you experienced the love affair between my old man and his machine first hand. Anyway, the other reason is that I am next in line to the chieftainship. My father says that he wouldn’t allow me to go out there and confront armed criminals. Henry was already out there, and he wasn’t willing to commit another son to that battle; certainly not the heir apparent. That is why he came alone. The one advantage he has is that very few people know who he is, so even if Alpha saw him they wouldn’t recognize him. When he arrived at the airstrip, he heard the gunshot and saw two men running away from the SUV. He chased them along the beach in his old pickup and shot them before they got a chance to disappear. As he was returning to the SUV to check on Henry he saw you approaching it, and that is how you met. I was careful when I was planning this trip. Alpha doesn’t know you are here.”

Louisa ponders this for a minute. If Alpha doesn’t know she is here, then she is not in immediate danger. But doing what Humphrey is asking is risky, because Alpha is no fool. Sooner or later he will realize that she is a mole, and a bullet in her head will settle the matter. H e might even decide to torture her before he kills her. But if she doesn’t do as Humphrey says, then she might not leave this island alive. Humphrey might be smiling but she believes his threats.

“What exactly do you want me to do?”

“Either one of two things. You could kill the fool yourself, because that is the objective anyway. Killing Alpha cannot be too complicated. We can give you a drug to put in his food or beverage that will induce a heart attack and kill him instantly. This is what we prefer. But you could also give us information about his meetings and travel schedules, and we are talking about information narrowed down to minutes, so that we can kill him ourselves. The decision is yours.”

Louisa knows there isn’t a choice there. There is no way she is getting any information from Alpha. He doesn’t conduct any business at the Spring Valley house, and he certainly doesn’t discuss his illegal activities with her. And she knows that Humphrey knows that. So in essence he is asking-or telling-her to kill Alpha if she wants to live long enough to enjoy her love affair with Jared.

“Okay,” she mumbles, for lack of anything better to say.

“Excellent,” Humphrey says, approaching the door. “Let’s go and tell father. And when we get in there you address him as ‘Chief’, okay?”



The three men are perched on the tree. They are spying on the compound where the old man went with the girl. One of the men has his gun pointed at the door of the hut where the old man took the girl. Another has his gun aimed at the hut where the old man retreated after taking the girl to the first hut. The third man has his gun aimed at the door of the third hut-just in case. Their objective is clear, to kill the old man and his family as revenge for their two comrades. They are assuming that the girl is the old man’s daughter or mistress. After butchering everyone in this compound, they will also kill anyone they see in this village. These savages must pay for the deaths of their comrades.

The three men are highly skilled mercenaries, just like their two comrades who were killed by the old man. They are capable of staying perched on those trees for even forty eight hours, just watching and waiting. But as it turns out, they do not have to wait for long. The door of the hut where the girl was taken opens and the girl appears, followed by a young man. Without hesitation, the mercenary staking that house starts shooting.

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