(Continued from The Photographer I)
Jimi is seated in his car, brooding, when his phone rings. It is Jackie calling. He stares at the phone for a few minutes deciding whether he should pick. But he knows he really doesn’t have a choice. He has avoided her for two days now, but he knows he cannot avoid her forever. After all, he lives in her house, drives a car she bought and even draws a monthly salary from her.
“Hello baby, where are you? I have missed you these two days.”
She sounds pleasant, but he knows her well enough now to know that there is an accusation underneath the sunny tone.
“I have been up and down doing photoshoots.”
“Come to the house. I need to see you.”
“I still haven’t finished…”
“I am not requesting, Jimi. I am telling you to come to the house. I am waiting, and you know very well that my patience is very thin.”
She hangs up before he can say anything else. Jimi sighs deeply and starts the car. He wonders how he can get himself out of this mess. This woman controls him like a robot. And maybe that is what he is: a sex toy.
Jimi curses the day he met her. He remembers that day very well. He was attending an event hosted by a small NGO as the event’s photographer. The NGO was raising funds for their projects, so they hosted a dinner. But they did not have money to hire an elite photographer, so reached out to Jimi through a referral.
By then Jimi had been doing photography work for one year-nine months as an employee and three months as a freelancer, but he was still struggling to make ends meet. He had graduated top of his university class with a first-class honors Bachelor of Science degree in Soil Science. The university gave him a scholarship to pursue a masters degree in the same filed, which again he completed top of his class.
Since then, however, he has not managed to secure employment in that sector, even though he has sent out numerous applications. His alma mater had promised him a teaching position after he graduated with the Master’s degree, but that did not materialize. What followed was a period of hardship. Jimi’s family is dirt poor, so he could not fall back to them when his dreams started crumbling.
He did menial jobs in the city, while living in the slums, but even finding rent for his house in the slums was a challenge. Eventually, he got a gig at a photography shop in Westlands as a cleaner. This at least gave him regular income, little as it was, and he did not have to wake up every day wondering whether he would get something to eat that day.
While working at the photography shop, he acquainted himself with the cameras and other equipment, with the help of one of the photographers called Karen. She taught him everything he had to know about photography. When he got the hang of it, Karen mentioned to her boss that he was very skilled at the craft. He was officially promoted to be Karen’s assistant, and after shadowing her for three months, he was hired as a photographer in his own right.
Karen switched to videography, and they became a complete team within the company, and they would often be sent together to cover functions. Before long, romance started to brew between them and it wasn’t long before they started dating. What Jimi did not know was that Karen was sleeping with their boss. When the boss found out about their relationship, he found a flimsy excuse to fire Jimi.
It was back to the trenches for Jimi, but this time he had a skill. He used the little savings he had managed to make to buy a camera, and that is how he became a freelance photographer. The camera wasn’t as sophisticated as the ones his former employer had, and that means the kind of gigs he got were not paying as much as his employer used to get. And getting those gigs was not easy. He was better off than he had been before he joined the photography firm, but he was still broke.
It was in this state that Jackie found him. After the official fundraising event, she approached him as people took refreshments and started a conversation. He told her about his education and how he ended up as a photographer. She seemed to sympathize with him. She told him to accompany him after the event because she could help him. He was excited. He knew she was wealthy because she had come to the event in a brand-new SUV, and she even had a driver and a personal assistant. She seemed to be someone important. In addition, she had donated half a million shillings at the event without batting an eye.
After the event she asked him to follow her, and he sat with her on the backseat of the car. They rode in silence. Jimi thought they would be going to her office, but it turned out that they were going to her house. It turned out that she lives in a palatial residence in the outskirts of the city. His initial thought wasn’t wrong, because it also turned out that she had an office in her house. The driver dropped them off at the entrance of the house before proceeding to park the car in the garage.
Jackie’s personal assistant led them to the first floor of the house where the office was situated. Everything about the house, including the office space, screamed luxury. From the furniture to the paintings hanging on the walls, everything looked expensive. Jackie led Jimi to a conference table within the office, and asked her assistant to bring them refreshments. Jimi asked for white coffee, and when it was served, it came with a couple of pancakes. Jackie was served green tea without any accompaniment. After the assistant served the refreshments, Jackie sent her on an errand away from the house.
Jackie interrogated Jimi in detail about his education and about his photography work. When they were done talking, she informed him that she would be retaining him as her personal photographer. But there was a catch. He would also have to agree to be her lover. If he agreed, he would be getting a monthly salary of a hundred thousand shillings, and she would buy him a car. He would live with her in the mansion, but he would be free to move as he pleased. In fact, she would open a studio for him so that he would grow his photography business, provided he was available whenever she needed him.
The offer was very tempting for Jimi. Jackie may have been an older woman, but she had taken proper care of her body. She was beautiful so making love to her would not be a big deal. Plus, he needed the money. He was at the point where he was facing a return to the slums, which he had left after being promoted to a photographer by his former employer. His income from photography was not enough to sustain him at his Regen residence. Finally, the deal seemed like a proper way to get his revenge on his ex, Karen.
He agreed to the deal.
At first it seemed like a very good deal. Jackie invited him to live with her at the mansion. She did not invite him to the master bedroom, because she insisted on her privacy, but instead she gave him his own bedroom. It suited him just fine, because he also wanted his privacy. But in those first weeks Jackie spent more nights in his room than in the master bedroom. The sex was fantastic, and she showered with lots of affection. She is an intelligent woman and engaged him on various subjects and they would often talk for hours before hopping into bed.
She bought him new clothes and shoes. She got him a Toyota Vitz just as she had promised. And she paid him for all the photos he took of her, which he was then supposed to upload on social media. She gave him a brand-new laptop and created an office for him within the house for him. He loved his new life, and he even started entertaining the idea of getting married to her just to make the situation permanent.
But the passion soon died down, and Jackie started coming to his room less frequently. Jimi realized that she was seeing other men, including her driver, and started worrying that his position in the house was under threat. But she did not kick him out. She still visited his room occasionally for carnal pleasure. Because he is her official photographer, he tags along whenever she has a function. His job is to capture her moments and post them on social media. Sometime she even asks him to tag along when she is going to the gym or when she is meeting her friends.
Trouble started when he started having an affair with Jackie’s assistant, Winnie. Winnie is actually the one who started flirting first, and it all began like a joke. But one day, while Jackie was away at a salon, Winnie came to Jimi’s office and hugged him from behind. Then she made him stand up and kissed him on the lips. They sneaked to her room, also in Jackie’s house, and enjoyed an hour of fleshly release while escaping the notice of other household employees.
The affair went on for about three months, and what began as a physical expression of lust began to crystallize into a full-blown romance. Perhaps that is why they began to become careless, and Jackie found about the affair. She was furious. She called them to her office and lashed out at both of them. Winnie was fired on the spot. Jimi was retained, but it was clear that something changed. The affection that Jackie was previously showering on him disappeared. He was kicked out his room and was transferred to the servant quarters, while the driver, Francis, took his position in the house from the servant quarters.
But in an interesting turn of events, the cold attitude disappeared after a week, and she started inviting him to the master bedroom almost every night. She even started calling her endearing names like ‘honey pie’ ‘darling’ and ‘babe’.
Even as she banished him to the servant quarters, Jackie made it clear that he would be still be expected to be available for sex if she needed him. She exercised that that ‘right’ frequently, but what surprised Jimi was that she also told him that he was free to sleep with other girls if he so wished. But she made it clear that he was not allowed to fall in love. She told him that there would be consequences if he fell in love with another woman, or if she discovered he had another sugar mummy. In other words, she told him, she owned him because she had pulled him from the trenches; but he had permission to sex outside, provided it was with no strings attached. He doesn’t understand her at all.
Jimi has created an image of a player around campus, but the truth is he doesn’t sleep around. He flirts, teases girls and charms his way around, but he doesn’t actually try to take any girl to bed. He doesn’t allow himself to get emotionally entangled for two reasons. The first is that deep down he is still hurting from Karen’s betrayal. The second is Jackie’s threat. He knows it is not an idle threat. He hasn’t heard from Winnie since the day she was sent packing, but he always feels that Jackie did something nasty to her beyond sacking her.
And that is what is worrying him about Edith. Maybe Jackie has killed her.
Jimi is informed by Jackie’s current assistant, Lisa, that she is in her bedroom. He cannot help but notice the sneer on her face, but he ignores her and heads towards the master bedroom. He finds Jackie on the bed, naked.
“Why have you been avoiding me?” she asks pointedly after he closes the door.
“I have not…”
“Of course, you have my love. I have called you for the last two days and you have been giving me excuses. Or have you been looking for that college girlfriend of yours?”
A wave of electric shock cuts across Jimi’s chest and stomach. That statement is confirmation that Jackie has something to do with Edith’s disappearance. He is curious to know if she is alright, but he cannot admit that he knows her. That will only put her life in danger-assuming she is still alive-and put his own life in danger.
“Well? Have you lost your voice or something?” Jackie taunts him.
It is then that Jimi notices the gun that is resting on the bedside table.
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