(Continued from The Deep State III)
Jude knows that assassinating the President will not be that easy. The old man is very popular, and many people, including members of the Presidential Escort, adore him. But everyone has a price. Well, almost everyone.
The President wants to fly to Chuka so that he can be there quickly. He wants to spend the day with the families of the bereaved. Jude actually likes this President, just like the previous one. The last two Presidents have been exceptional people. It is difficult to find politicians who genuinely love the people. Jude has no doubt that Presidents Makau and Wesonga have that genuine love.
Sometimes he feels bad conspiring against the old man with Jamal. He doesn’t even like Jamal. The Deputy President is a very arrogant man who doesn’t waste any chance he gets to remind everyone that he is an Ivy League educated bundle of brilliance while everyone else is a slow-witted, semi-illiterate idiot. Jude has actually been a victim of the insults in the past.
But business is business. The DP pays well. For someone who has become wealthy through shady deals, the ten years of President Makau’s reign were tough for Jude. Money was hard to come by. These four years would have been worse, because Wesonga has continued the tight controls over the State coffers. Fortunately, Jude found a new career as the DP’s errands boy, and the DP seemingly has unlimited cash to burn.
But this assignment is going to be the toughest, and the riskiest. Assassinating the President is treason. There is no doubt about that. And the Penal Code has never been revised as far as the offence of treason is concerned. The punishment is still death. It is true that no death row in-mate has faced the gallows since the eighties, but it is also true that the last to be on the hangman’s noose had been convicted of treason after trying to overthrow the government in eighty two.
But if this plan succeeds, the DP will pay him generously. In addition, with the DP as President, money will start flowing again. Corruption will thrive again, and people like himself will be moneyed again.
By midnight, the plan is complete, and Jude drives over to the official residence of the Deputy President to submit the plans. The President will not be using a helicopter. Rather, he will use a small fixed wing plane that will be the first to use the runway at Chuka Airstrip. The same Airstrip that Prof. Kananu had been leading the two governors to launch. The President will have a brief session with the aviation students who were scheduled to begin classes next week, then he will go by road to Chuka Hospital, where a number of the victims are admitted. Then he will meet the families of the deceased.
Calls are already being made so that the families of the deceased can meet the President at Chuka Sports Arena, an indoor sports complex whose construction Governor Mutwiri oversaw two years ago.
The plan is simple. The plane will develop mechanical problems midway. And before the pilots can find a place to land it, it will crash and burst into flames. A furious Deputy President will emerge from State House, where he will have been meeting the Japanese, looking very presidential. He will scream at investigators to find out why the plane crashed, killing ‘our dear President’. But then he will be sworn in as President shortly afterwards, and the investigation will lose steam.
As Jude is briefing the Deputy President, there is a team of aeronautical engineers tampering with the President’s plane. They are not worried about being caught because they are the same people who will do the pre-flight inspection in the morning. To anybody who might stumble into the hangar, which is unlikely at this hour, they are simply doing their job.
Jamal actually likes the plan. People will suspect foul play, especially after the accident in Chuka, but nobody will have proof. This plan is way better than say, shooting the old man.
The President’s pilot is another of his beneficiaries. Jennifer took him up when he was ten years old. Peter Kibor was orphaned at that tender age in a very brutal way. His father was a violent drunkard and often beat up their mother. One night Kibor’s father was drunker and angrier than usual. He beat up his wife, Kibor’s mother, until she passed out. Kibor’s siblings, five year old Maryanne and two year old Leon were in a corner whimpering in fear. When the beating started, Kibor ran out and went to his grandfather’s house and begged him to save his mother.
But the old man said his son knew what he was doing. His wife, Kibor’s grandmother, wanted to go and stop her son but the old man forbid her. He said that their son was a grown up man and that they had no right to meddle if he had decided to ‘discipline’ his wife. The old woman ignored him and wanted to go anyway but he slapped her twice and that quickly settled the matter.
Kibor was horrified by his grandfather’s violence and he started to run away. Before he could go very far, their house burst into flames. Kibor ran even faster. Investigators later found out that Kibor’s father had purchased petrol that evening. He had planned to wipe out his entire family, but Kibor miraculously survived.
Jennifer found him loitering around the highway at 8pm, sucking his thumb. At the time, she was a nurse at the dispensary in the neighbourhood, and her husband was the Mayor of Kakamega. They were struggling financially, and she was trying hers best to undo the financial mess that her husband had gotten them into with his generous political donations.
Still, she took pity on the boy and took him home with her. He wasn’t talking, just sucking his thumb furiously. He did not even eat that evening and stayed awake most of the night. It is only the following day that Wesonga and Jennifer found who he was. Kibor was not even the suicidal arsonist’s biological son. His mother came with him when she married the violent man, whose name turned out to be Wepukhulu. Nobody knows who Kibor’s father is, and it is likely that his mother never knew. She had randomly slept with quite a number of drunks in her village back in Uasin Gishu before she married Wepukhulu, and Kibor’s father could have been any one of them.
Jennifer took him in and found a therapist for him. He turned out to be a bright boy. He passed KCPE and went to Maseno School where he scored a straight A. He decided to join the military as a cadet. He quickly became one of the finest Air Force pilots in the country. When Wesonga became President, he picked him to be his pilot.
Captain Kibor sits at the cockpit and smiles at his colleague, a younger pilot also plucked from the Air Force. In terms of rank, Kibor is a Colonel. But because he is a pilot he prefers the title ‘Captain’ like the pilots of commercial aircraft. This is a tiny plane that the younger man, a lieutenant, could have flown alone. But their passenger is Citizen Number One, and forty four year old Kibor is the President’s designated pilot.
Kibor has vast training and experience. He has flown massive fighter jets while training with the US Air Force. He has flown almost all the jets and helicopters that the Kenya Air Force owns. This little plane feels like child’s play, save for the fact that the main passenger is the Commander in Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces.
To him, the man seated behind is not just the President of the Republic or his ultimate boss in the military. He is also his father. When Jennifer took him in, Wesonga became his father and mentor. He stayed in their house until he left for the Air Force, and he is still welcome as a son even at State House. He had initially been amazed to see such harmony in a house. He never saw Wesonga hit Jennifer even once; sharp words were never exchanged-at least not in his presence. But slowly he came to adapt to this new normal-a life where there was plenty of love and harmony. Wesonga’s two children treated him like their blood brother.
Kibor checks the controls one last time. Everything is set. His passengers are all buckled up. He taxies the plane slowly. For some reason the President loves this little plane. But Kibor knows he will not be alone in the air. There will be other military planes covering him.
He has been in the air for less than a minute when he feels that something is wrong. He cannot tell what. He checks the controls again. Everything looks fine. But his gut feeling is telling him that something is terribly wrong. He makes a split second decision. He is turning back and going to the air base. He radios ahead and informs the ground controllers of his decision.
He knows the President will be upset and might refuse to switch planes, especially since there is nothing outwardly wrong with his beloved plane. Kibor is barely out of his cabin when he is met by furious military engineers. Why would he fly back if there is nothing wrong with the plane? Does he want to get them fired?
But Kibor holds his ground. He insists that he is not flying the President in that thing. Fortunately, the President comes to his aid.
“If the pilot says the plane is not safe, then give him another plane. I am late already,” he snaps.
“Okay sir. But we cannot get any of the other fixed-wing planes ready on time. You will have to fly with a chopper,” the chief engineer says.
“Fine by me.”
Thirty minutes later, Kibor is airborne again, this time in a giant military helicopter.
Trouble begins when they are almost in Chuka town. Kibor is actually preparing for the landing when alarms start ringing all over the cockpit. The helicopter starts swaying dangerously from side to side. Kibor struggles to control it as his co-pilot looks on anxiously.
“This thing is going to crash, Lieutenant. Save yourself. I will try and save the President,” Kibor finally says and rushes out of the cockpit.
“Everyone eject! We are going down,” Kibor says, then turns to the President. “We need to get out Mzee. This thing is going to crash. We have less than sixty seconds.”
He calls the President ‘mzee’ in private, but never addresses the Commander-in-chief in such affectionate terms in public. But when he is facing death, all he can see is his father, not the President.
“These planes are rigged to kill me, isn’t it son?”
“Yes dad. It looks that way. Two faulty planes is too much of a coincidence. But I will not let you die. Come on, let’s go.” There is urgency in his voice. The plane is flying at a dizzying speed, and will crash anytime now.
“I don’t think both of us will make it son. Save yourself, and comfort your mother. Tell her I loved her even in death. Tell her that these last fifty years of my life have been worthwhile because she has been by my side. Now leave!”
There are seven people in the plane with the President. Four bodyguards, two pilots and the President’s aide de camp. Four men and three women. None of them moves. They will all die because none of them is willing to jump out before the President. They are tough warriors, and they will die with their chief.
Police constable Willy Gitonga has been in love with Stella ever since they were at Kiganjo Police Training College. It is actually an obsession. Fortunately for him, they were posted to Chuka Police Station together. Unfortunately, he has been unsuccessful in getting her attention even though they work together. He even quit drinking and smoking and turned his life to the Lord, but she wouldn’t give him a chance.
She wouldn’t even allow him to be her best friend. That honor went to Gerald, the station drunk and womanizer. How she would choose Gerald over him baffles Willy. Slowly, his obsession turned into resentment. It doesn’t help matters that Stella is already a sergeant, while he, Willy, is still mark timing as a constable. Gerald, who is several years younger, is already a corporal.
Willy is delighted when he learns that he is one of those recruited on the secret mission to eliminate Stella. There is a cash reward, and on top of that he will get the satisfaction of seeing her die. If he can’t get her, nobody should.
While the others are scrambling looking for her at the station, Willy knows the easiest way to find her. He follows Gerald at a distance. As Gerald rides to Cheera with Stella as his passenger, Willy is following in an old taxi. It is one of the usual old taxis that ply the route, so there is no reason for Gerald to panic. When they turn into a compound, Willy alights just ahead. The five seater taxis carry nine people at a go. Even the driver shares his seat with a passenger. But Willy wanted to be alone so he paid for the nine passengers the driver would have carried.
He walks back quickly and enters through the wooden gate. He hopes that there are no dogs to ruin his plans.
The plan was to ambush them in the house when they gather for dinner. Willy doesn’t know whether Gerald and Stella are armed, so he has to be careful. But after waiting for a short period, an opportunity presents itself. Gerald and Stella are standing outside the house, talking. They are under a security light so he can see them clearly. And they are close enough to the place he is hiding for him to shoot without missing.
He lifts his gun, aims, and fires.
[End of the free part of the story. To read the whole story and find out what became of Stella, Gerald and the President, follow the instructions below to purchase your copy of the novella.]
Image Credits: Mike Cook from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/vehicle-transportation-system-war-3104459/
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