(Continued from The Photographer III)
Edith wakes up early, as usual. She heads to the shower and takes time to scrub away the accumulated dirt in her body. She brushes her teeth and then dresses then takes a novel and starts reading. Yesterday one of the men bought her basic things for survival, which suggests that she might be held here for an extended period.
The man brought her a toothbrush, lotion, toothpaste, a towel and several clothes. He also brought her several novels. Having stayed for several days without taking a shower or brushing her teeth, this morning she feels fresh. The novels will also help her to take her mind away from the boredom that has been engulfing her. She was almost going mad.
A knock on the door alerts her that breakfast is ready. The first day one of the men knocked and then alerted her that her food was at the door. She found the plate on the floor, just outside the door. After that, he just knocks and goes. She is therefore surprised, when she opens the door, to see the man who brought her clothes and other items standing outside with her food in his hands.
“I would like to have a word with you,” he says.
“Okay,” Edith replies, not knowing what else to say. Her mind is already going on an overdrive. Why would her kidnapper want to talk to her? What would he possibly want from her?
Mike has been troubled for a while now. He has worked for Jackie for eight years, and he has seen it all. He knows how this particular story will end, and he wants no part of it. This is his first outing as part of Chris’ team, and he already wants out. He has to find a way to escape from Jackie. But before he exits, he has to find a way to help Edith and if possible, her boyfriend.
Mike started his career as a bouncer in nightclubs. He had just completed form four and did not have money to go to college. He had hoped that he could pursue a career in professional rugby, but that too did not materialize. None of the professional rugby clubs took him, even though he had been a star player in his school’s team.
Mike’s “break” came when he was given a gig at a high-end club in Kilimani. He expected this gig to be an easy assignment, as he did not expect fights to break out amongst the moneyed. Patrons here are usually the upper middle class, people with reputations to protect. But as Mike found out, while fights are rare, they are deadly when occur.
On Mike’s first night at this particular club, a popular flamboyant businessman picked up a fight with one of the women in the club. Mike cannot remember exactly what happened, but he heard raised voices, and then the man grabbed the woman by the hair and pulled her by the hair. Mike swiftly intervened and tried to pull the man away. When the man resisted, he held the man in a chokehold, and the man released the woman. It all happened in a flash, in such a way that even the man’s guards didn’t understand what happened.
When they did, they drew their guns and aimed them at Mike. But Mike held his ground standing in front of the lady and dared them to shoot. He told them that as long as he was a security officer at the club, violence would not be tolerated. The businessman stared at him with eyes full of hatred and promised him that he would pay for his actions. But he called off his men and they left the club without anyone getting shot.
Unfortunately, the owner of the club was not impressed and he openly berated Mike. It turned out that the businessman was a regular high-spending customer, and the owner of the club did not want to lose him over a woman who was in the club for only the second time. The club owner openly berated Mike and dismissed him from work.
But that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The woman, whose name turned out to be Jackie, saw his plight and decided to protect him. She told him not to worry, she would hire him. The following day they met at her office and she hired him as her driver. The guy he was taking over from, who had been shifted to one of the woman’s companies as a delivery van driver, warned him that she would demand sex from him, but Mike decided that that would not be a big deal. The woman was good-looking, and she was offering him more money than he could ever hope to make as a bouncer. He could even sense some jealousy in his predecessor’s tone.
It took only two days for Jackie to start making sexual advances, and Mike did not resist. Passionate romance ensured. But there was one unexpected development. Jackie became obsessively controlling and wanted to have a say in every aspect of Mike’s life. Mike found this to be suffocating. In particular, he was disturbed when she told him to leave his wife.
Just before they slept together for the first time, Mike had told her that he was a married man and even though he was willing to satisfy her (Jackie’s needs) he would always use protection to protect his wife and the mother of his young son. Jackie teasingly asked him why he was cheating on her if he cared for her so much. Mike did not mince his words. He told her that in his mind, cheating to put food on the table was a better option than remaining morally upright and watching his family starve to death. She laughed and promised to help him take care of his family if he took good care of her.
But it only took a month for her to start demanding that he leaves his wife. She promised him that she would take care of them even after the separation but Mike wanted to hear none of that. It was bad enough that he was cheating on his wife Eunice. Leaving her would be the ultimate betrayal, and he didn’t want to do that because he loved her.
She never brought up the subject again, but three weeks later, Eunice and their son, Malcom, were attacked by thugs and brutally murdered. Jackie acted all sympathetic and even helped with the funeral arrangements, but deep down Mike knew that she had been behind the attack. Two weeks after the burial, Mike resigned from his job, but Jackie made it clear that he was going nowhere. Now he was no longer an employee but a slave.
They continued making love, but Mike found no joy in it. He was also saddled with guilt. The way he saw it, he was the one who had caused his family’s mutilation. If he hadn’t gotten involved with Jackie, and if he hadn’t opened his mouth and told her about them, they would still be alive. Jackie must have noticed that things in bed were not the same, and she sent him to the driving pool where he became a delivery van driver. He switched places with his predecessor Reuben, who went back to being Jackie’s driver.
Somehow Mike and Reuben became friends. He realized that Reuben had been genuine in his advice earlier because he himself was relieved when he was dumped by Jackie and made a delivery driver. It was Reuben who told him about Jimi, and how the photographer had saved him by becoming Jackie’s main lover. Reuben and Mike would meet now and then for drinks after work. By this time, Mike knew about Chris, Jackie’s head of security.
In addition to being the leader of all the guards who protect Jackie’s homes and businesses, Mike came to know that Chris had a more secret unit of killers. This is the gang that eliminates Jackie’s rivals, whether in business or romance. If she feels threatened, she sends Chris and his men to eliminate the threat. It was this unit that butchered Mike’s family like goats. To his horror, three weeks ago he was transferred from the driving to the security team, and Chris sent him directly to the secret gang.
This is his first assignment and it is making him sick in the stomach. He knows that this girl is Jimi’s girlfriend, and Jackie wants to eliminate her more or less the same way she eliminated his wife and son. Mike doesn’t want to be part of that, and that is why he is determined to help her.
“Can I have breakfast and then we talk?” she asks him.
“No. We must talk right now. We might not get this opportunity again.”
Edith doesn’t know what he means by that. What opportunity is he talking about? She wants to ask but no words come out of her mouth, so she just stares at him blankly. She is already suspecting that he has a sinister motive, and that is scaring her. Maybe he wants to rape her, and he is just pretending so that he can gain access to her room. But why would he pretend? He has power over her, and so he can just force his way to the room without asking for her permission. Something is not adding up.
“Let’s walk to the balcony. You can take your breakfast as we talk.”
It is not really a balcony, but outside the front door of the trailer house, there is a space that was constructed almost as an afterthought. Two metal pillars are supporting iron sheets, and the space that is thus created has a low stone wall. There are two benches there. Mike carries a stool and sets Edith’s breakfast on it.
“Okay, here is the deal. My colleague and I are supposed to kill you, but I don’t want you to die. He has gone to the shopping center and that is why I thought I should speak to you. My colleague is a cold-blooded killer, and I am surprised that he hasn’t tried to harm you so far. If he found us having this conversation, he would kill both of us.”
“But why would anyone want to kill me? I haven’t done anything to him.”
“It is about your boyfriend Jimi.”
“He is not my boyfriend. We are just friends.”
“Jackie doesn’t know that. Or at least she thinks you are a threat to her because Jimi loves you. One way or the other she wants you dead, but I want to help you. I will not have blood on my hands.”
“Who is Jackie?”
“I am,” a new voice says. Jackie emerges from the door with a pistol in her hand. “I swear to you Mike that you will pay for this betrayal. By the time Chris is done with you, you will be begging for death. But death will not come because Chris will start all over again, making you cry like a baby over and over again.
But as for you little girl, I have no problem with you so your death will be quick and painless.”
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