(Continued from The Deep State)
Stella stays still for a second, hoping that whoever is knocking the door will give up and go away. But the knocking continues. She is panicky, but hopes that her voice will remain steady.
“Who is it?” she asks.
“Open the door Stella, its Gerald,” a frightened voice whispers, just loudly enough for her to hear. Gerald is about the only person Stella considers a friend at the police station. Most of her colleagues think she is uptight because she insists on following the laid down procedures. For instance, she refuses to take bribes at road blocks and always arrests offenders.
Her situation is worse because she hardly socializes. She doesn’t take alcohol so she does not fraternize with her colleagues in bars. And to make it worse, she is an introvert, and so prefers to keep to herself. Being a Christian, most of her colleagues assume that she is the way she is because she is proud and “holier than thou”.
But Gerald doesn’t care. He comes and teases her and talks to her even when she says little. Over time she has learnt to trust him. He is not even a Christian. He drinks himself silly when he is off duty, he takes bribes and chases after every girl in sight. But he respects her, and she appreciates that. He doesn’t flirt with her. Theirs is a solid, platonic friendship.
Gerald is the only one who knows where she lives. Police officers no longer live in police lines. Stella has rented a one bedroom house not far from Chuka Girls High School. She is single with no children, so she lives alone. Her parents are in Makueni. She has a boyfriend, a young man called Joseph who is a court clerk at the Chuka Law Courts. She met him while working, but what really got them talking is discovering that they fellowship together at the Full Gospel Church in Chuka.
She opens the door and Gerald almost runs inside.
“What is going on, G?”
“They are coming for you, Stella. We need to go, right now,”
“Who is “they”?”
“Who else? The big bosses,”
“Even if I leave, where will I go? Let them arrest me. How bad can jail be?”
She is trying to be cynical, but her heart is pounding. By now she has figured out that that tanker was meant to cause the accident at that precise moment. That is why she was ordered not to mess with it.
“Very funny. Look, Stella. You are my friend, and I care for you. I don’t know what you did, but whatever it is, you have upset the big shots big time. They have been huddled in the County Commander’s office all day discussing you. They have made up their minds that you should be eliminated so that you don’t squeal on them. They are not interested in arresting you; they want you dead,”
“How do you know this?”
“Nancy told me,”
Nancy is the County Police Commander’s secretary and mistress. She is a trained police officer, but she hardly wears her uniform. Instead, she reports to work in tightly fitting outfits, just long enough to be considered decent. That is how her boss and lover likes it.
But Nancy is also sleeping with Gerald. Unlike the Police Commander who is overweight and very domineering, Corporal Gerald is fit, good looking, and very charming. Gerald has probably been promised her the sky, the moon and the entire solar system, and she believes that he loves her.
But love is not a word that exists in Gerald’s vocabulary. He likes chasing beautiful women, but he particularly likes the thrill of seducing the women of the bosses. A beautiful woman like Nancy naturally draws him like a moth, but if she is sleeping with a senior administrator, police or otherwise, she becomes even more attractive to him.
Everyone at the station knows that former Governor Muthee’s child by his mistress, the boy that he loves more than the grown children his wife bore him, is not really his. It is Gerald’s. Governor Muthee shared his mistress with Gerald for the entire period he was Governor. But when he lost the election to Mutwiri, Gerald lost interest in the woman.
Stella has told Gerald several times that this hobby will get him killed. But he usually he laughs and says he is careful. By being careful he means that he never sleeps with married women. Just the mistresses. He believes that as long as he doesn’t touch the big men’s wives, he will be fine. Although, he adds these days, the new County Commissioner’s wife looks ‘too delicious’ to be left alone.
“We need to go, Stella. Stop being stubborn,”
“Go where? You haven’t answered that question,”
“My sister’s home in Cheera. You should be safe there for a while,”
“Let me at least pack a few clothes,”
In spite of her reluctance, Stella knows she needs to hurry. She is no fool. She knows that Gerald is right. It is not a coincidence that she was ordered to let a tanker pass then it kills over forty people. She packs quickly and lightly.
“I am ready,” she says, emerging from her bedroom.
“Take this,” Gerald says, giving her a leather riding suit.
“What is this?”
“We are going down there using a motorcycle. This suit will protect you from the cold, and together with the helmet, hide your identity.”
“Who would recognize me in the dark?” she asks.
But she obeys. A few minutes later, they are on the road.
Gatwiri, Gerald’s sister, lives with her husband on a five acre farm. She is a retired nurse, and her husband is a retired teacher. Although Gerald is her brother, she treats him more like her son. He was born when she was already an adult. She is the first born while he is the last born. In between them there are six more children, but they are all closer to Gatwiri’s age that Gerald’s. Gerald was a surprise baby.
Her little brother has explained to her and her husband that her friend is in danger. In the past, they have heard a lot about Stella from Gerald. Stella sort of fascinates Gerald and since his sister and brother in law are Christians, he keeps on telling them they should meet his friend who refuses to take bribes “even when threatened by the bosses”.
They have always wanted to meet her, but Stella has been reluctant to go. She would be going as who? She is not Gerald’s girlfriend. Besides, her boyfriend Joseph would not understand.
Gatwiri and her husband John receive her warmly.
“I don’t want to put you in danger…” she starts to say when they sit for a cup of tea.
“We know what we are getting into, Stella. Gerald has always told us about your steadfast faith even in your work place. We feel that by helping you we are serving God.”
“Thank you,” she says quietly.
Her phone rings. It is her boyfriend Joseph.
“I have to answer this,” she excuses herself.
Deputy President Jamal watches breaking news from the comfort of his house. At 52, he is a relatively young man. Especially when compared to the 74 year old President.
Jamal and the President are not really friends. They come from very different worlds. The President is a career politician. He was a student leader at UoN, where he was studying political science. He ended his career in student politics as the Secretary General of SONU. That degree in political science is as far as his formal education went. He became a councilor at Kakamega Municipal Council aged 26, then became a mayor, then served a long spell as an MP. He thereafter became a Governor, Senator, Deputy President and finally, President.
Jamal comes from the corporate world. His father is a wealthy businessman so he largely schooled abroad. He did his undergraduate studies at Yale, went to law school at Harvard, worked at a mega law firm in New York for a few years then quit law for business and did a masters in Finance at Princeton. He worked at leading investment firms in Wall Street until his father called him home. He thought the old man wanted him to join the family business, but the old man had other ideas. He got him a job at one of the leading insurance companies as the Chief Finance Officer. A few years later, when the old man was satisfied that he had understood the local market, the CEO of the company was made to retire and Jamal took his place. His father owns substantial shares in the company, and his proxy is the Board Chairman. So in a way, Jamal was still working in the family business.
Jamal was introduced to the Council of Ten when he became CEO. The Council consists of chief executive officers of some the leading companies in the country. The Council is backed by the Round Table, which is a group of very wealthy oligarchs. Jamal’s father is very influential in the Round Table.
The existence of both the Council and the Round Table are not publicly acknowledged. All their meetings are very secret.
The Round Table is a powerful group. For many years it controlled the politics of the country. They always decided who became President. Their criteria was simple: choose someone they can control, someone moderate, someone appealing to the masses but without fanatical support, someone who would be willing to pay the price of their support. Over the years it has worked, and their companies posted billions in profits.
The Council is the Round Table’s executive wing. Or rather, they are the errand boys. They carry out the instructions of their old men. They bribe politicians and senior government officials, bully and intimidate those who do not do what they want and if necessary, authorize the killing of those who prove to be difficult. While the members of the Round Table never make public appearances, members of the Council are celebrity CEOs-it is their organization that is secret. All the members of the Council are blue blooded: the old men in the Round Table only allow their sons to handle their affairs.
All the practices of the Round Table, and by extension the Council, are questionable. Taxes understated, questionable contracts awarded by government agencies, intimidation and assassination of competitors. Because they controlled the politicians including the President, everything was fine. Then they made a mistake. That mistake’s name was Jemimah Makau.
They supported the woman, even though she was a little known Governor of Machakos. They propped her up, oiled her campaign, and marketed her until she became a formidable presidential candidate. Then what did she do? She turned populist. KRA demanded billions of shillings in tax arrears from their businesses. The Competition Authority finally found its teeth. The DCI, the EACC and the DPP all started harassing their people. Makau declared war on corruption and cut all links with the Council. Of course she was not aware of the existence of the Round Table.
The Round Table toyed with the idea of a military coup but shot it down as too risky. Military dictators are difficult to control. Assassinating her would place her deputy, Deputy President Wesonga in charge. As far as they could tell, he was cut from the same cloth as Jemimah. Killing both of them would be a very bad idea. People would get suspicious, and they would risk getting exposed.
That is when a decision was made: they needed to start grooming their own for politics. Jamal’s father used his influence in the group to get Jamal chosen. And so Jamal was plucked from Wall Street. In the next election, the oligarchs found a challenger for Makau. But it was not even close. She won by a landslide against their candidate. But all was not lost because Jamal had also managed to clinch the Mombasa Senatorial seat.
In the last election Mrs. Makau was retiring and her deputy Wesonga was running. But the Round Table figured that it would be useless to challenge Wesonga. Mrs. Makau had endorsed him, and Mrs. Makau was adored by the masses. They toyed with the idea of assassinating Mrs. Makau, but realized that that would make Wesonga wildly popular if he played his cards right. Besides, they did not think that Jamal was ready to be a presidential candidate. Yet. With Makau’s support, Wesonga would humiliate Jamal and they would face another five years in the cold. So they pulled strings and got Jamal to be Wesonga’s running mate. Sleek marketing had made Jamal appear to be the voice of the coast in the five years he had been Senator.
Now, having been the Deputy President for four years, Jamal feels ready to challenge Wesonga. His colleagues in the Council and their sponsors in the Round Table agree. Jamal orchestrated this accident, and he knows the old men and the rest of the Council will be proud of him. The Mount Kenya problem has been taken care of, and the President is finally very vulnerable, one year to the election.
Joseph is watching TV in his house when someone knocks loudly. He is puzzled. He rarely gets guests at night. He opens the door but before he can say anything two large men force their way inside.
“Where is your girlfriend?” they demand.
His instincts tell him that something is seriously wrong.
“I don’t know,”
One of the men gives him a hard slap.
“Don’t try to play smart. I will not ask again, where is she?”
“In her house,” he replies meekly. They descend upon him with slaps and kicks.
“We have been there and she is not there. I swear if you are hiding her I will cut up both of you piece by piece,”
They ransack the house, overturning furniture and throwing things around. When they do not find her, they come back to Joseph, guns drawn.
“Call her. And put her on speaker. Let her tell you where she is,”
Joseph pulls out his phone and dials Stella’s number.
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