(Continued from The Rider II)
Alfred smiles as he starts his silver Toyota Premio. This is going to be a very profitable trip. Kate (she hates being called Catherine) has called him and instructed him to pick a young man at Kiangage and take him to hospital, then pick her at her home and take her to that hospital. The boy has apparently been beaten to a pulp. Kate pays him generously whenever she sends him anywhere. Normally, she sends him on errands that she is unable to run personally. Like taking shopping to her mother in Kaharati. Alfred originally thought that she was throwing money at him because she liked him romantically.
Alfred is the ultimate casanova in Murang’a. He is good looking and he knows it. His muscles are well toned, testament to his daily workouts at the gym. He takes personal grooming seriously. He is always smartly dressed. His beard receives special attention every morning, being washed and treated with coconut oil and exotic hair sprays, so that it is always gleaming black. His car is always clean, and he maintains a sweet smelling air freshener in it. Unsurprisingly, some of his female clients want services other than being driven around. He usually accepts because he has come to discover that women are more generous if they are emotionally attached. As a matter of fact, he was gifted this car by a married female politician on whose campaign he was working. But that game requires caution because there is nothing more dangerous than a jealous woman. He prefers older, married women not only because they are wealthier, but also because they are usually looking for casual flings. It is difficult to be possessive when you are cheating on your spouse and have a high flying job or business to mind. That is how Alfred is able to sleep with multiple women without getting caught.
Younger women usually come with expectations. They expect him to spend money on them. They also expect him to marry them, or at least to commit to long term exclusive relationships. That is baggage that Alfred has no time for. He wants to play the field and make money while he is still young. Now is not the time to get bogged down by marriage and children. And he has discovered that there are enough beautiful, wealthy, middle-aged women who are tired of their equally middle-aged husbands (who are busy chasing college girls anyway) and need the services of a twenty three year old stud. Long live the empowerment of women. And long live mid-life crisis.
While Alfred doesn’t like the idea of marriage, he was willing to make an exception for Kate. In case she just wanted a fling, he planned go a step further and give her the full package, physical and emotional, until she saw him as her marital savior. Getting married to a beautiful and rich young woman would be a dream come true. His path to success in life. The problem was that Kate was suffering the malady of young women: she wasn’t coming out clearly to tell him that she wanted him, like the older women do. So Alfred took the initiative and started flirting with her.
At first she took it well, often laughing at his witty remarks, and that made him bolder. Then one day things went south. He was in her office picking a package that she wanted him to take to a lawyer in Thika. As usual, he started flirting, complementing her dressing amongst other things. On impulse, he decided to move things up a bit, so as she went to refill her glass of water from the dispenser, seconds after dismissing him, he grabbed her and tried to kiss her. Nothing could have prepared him for what happened next. She descended upon him with kung fu blows until he was forced to plead and beg for mercy.
She cancelled the job she had just given him and didn’t give him any other job for three months. One day, during a season that jobs were becoming difficult to get, and when his married girlfriends were whining about the economy, he swallowed his pride and went to her office. He pleaded with her to forgive him and to start giving him jobs again. She had stared at him for almost a full minute then given him a box of pesticides to take to her farm in Mugoiri. Now she gives him jobs regularly, and still pays generously, but she no longer entertains any conversation with him. She treats him coldly and professionally. That doesn’t stop him from fantasizing about her every now and then though.
Today’s trip will not even take him far. Kiangage is a village not far from Murang’a town. He pulls out of the taxi rank near the main matatu stage and heads towards Astrol Mahesh Petrol Station, intending to drive out of the CBD and join Kangema Road at the junction near MUWASCO offices. He decides at the very last minute to turn at the Astrol roundabout. He goes back towards the heart of town, takes a left turn towards Equity Bank and the new Maguna’s supermarket then drives onwards towards the law courts.
At the roundabout near the court, he drives straight on towards the University. He turns on the radio and turns up the volume. Reggae music blares from the system as he drives straight ahead, past the University, past St. Mary’s Primary School and the Catholic Church and joins Kangema Road at the junction near Tighties Hotel. He is proud of the new speakers that he has installed in the car. From the junction where he joins Kangema Road, Kiangage is about a ten minute drive on your way to Kangema.
Less than a minute later, he is stopped by the police. There is nothing unusual about it except that he has never been stopped before. He goes past this road block every other day and the officers always look more interested in matatus, lorries and pick-up trucks. Alfred is not worried though. His car is in good condition, his license and insurance are up to date and he wasn’t speeding.
“Kijana, unaenda wapi haraka hivi?” the cop who has flagged him down asks.
Alfred knows he was doing a modest 50km/hr but he decides not to belabor the point. There is no need to waste time arguing with a cop and probably get arrested and therefore miss out on this job. The worst that can happen is that he might have to part with a hundred shillings, a small fraction of the Kshs. 5000 that Kate will probably pay him. She has never paid him less than that.
“Kuna mgonjwa hapa mbele nataka kuchukua nipeleke hospitali,”
“Wewe ni ambulance?”
“Hapana officer. Ni kusaidia tu,”
“Mgonjwa ako wapi?”
“Hapa mbele Kiangage,”
Alfred pulls away, pleased that he has not been forced to part with money. After a few more minutes of driving along Kangema Road, Alfred exits the road and joins a dirt road. He drives for about three minutes before he sees a small crowd gathered around a tree. He stops the car about a meter away from the tree. The boy is lying still under a tree. He is covered in blood. There wasn’t much of a fight, Alfred muses. It is obvious that the boy was clobbered and left for dead. It is doubtful whether he will recover. An ambulance would have been a better idea than a taxi, but then again if they had opted for an ambulance he wouldn’t have earned the money that he will earn from this trip.
Alfred opens the side door and two men, presumably the brother and father of the beaten up boy help him to the back seat and sit with him. As Alfred drives away, he can see a woman weeping. The boy’s mother perhaps.
Alfred wasn’t told where he should take the boy. Is it the County Referral Hospital, aka General Hospital, or is it the private Family Health Hospital formerly known as Kimkan Hospital? He is about to call Kate when he sees the cops. He quickly puts the phone down. Too late. He is flagged down again by the same cop who had stopped him earlier. This time the cop opens the front passenger door and slides in.
“Pindua gari. Nataka unipeleke Kangema,”
“Afande si nipeleke mgonjwa hospitali halafu nikupeleke?”
The cop draws a pistol.
Alfred is no hero. Okay, he fashions himself as a bedroom hero, but when it comes to guns and other weapons, he prefers cowardice. He turns the vehicle around and speeds towards Kangema.
Just before they get to Weithaga, the cop orders him to stop behind a police vehicle that is parked on the side of the road. The cop orders the old man and his son to carry their injured kin to the police car. Then he orders Alfred to disappear. Alfred has a bad feeling about this. He checks the registration number of the police Land Cruiser. He doesn’t know why he checks, he just does it. To his surprise, the police cruiser does not have a number plate. That makes him even more nervous. When the cop sees Alfred hesitating, he shoots in the air then points the gun at him. Alfred turns the car and speeds away in the direction he has come from. He only calls Kate when he is sure that the Land Cruiser is not following him.
“Maingi is doing all this for property?” Horace asks. They are back in the house, taking tea while waiting for the taxi driver. When they discovered that the motorcycle was missing and the car’s tires were flat, Kate called a taxi driver called Alfred and told him to take Horace’s brother to hospital. Horace has given his father the taxi driver’s phone number.
Kate has convinced Horace that leaving on foot, which is what he wanted to do, is a bad idea. Maingi has probably laid a trap for him, which is why he took the trouble to flatten the tires of her car. The taxi will come for them after taking the brother to hospital.
“Greed turns men into monsters. Greed for money and power, although money often brings power. What Maingi really wants is to wrestle the property from me, but he also wants to sleep with me. So add jealousy to his list of motivations.”
“Didn’t Maingi inherit anything?”
“He did. When their father died six years ago, the property was divided into five equal parts, and they all got a share: their mother, my husband, Maingi and their two sisters. My husband inherited this plot where he built a home, ten acres of farmland in Mugoiri and two buildings in Mukuyu. One is an office block, the other has residential apartments. When my husband died, his mother and siblings wanted to take back his property claiming that since I didn’t have his child, I was an outsider and so did not deserve to inherit his wealth. But I am a lawyer and…”
“You are a lawyer?” Horace interrupts.
“Yes, although I don’t practice. These days I just manage the businesses my husband inherited . We have the two buildings in Mukuyu, the farm and the building I have bought in town. It is my late husband who took me to law school. I had always dreamed of being a lawyer, but I got a B- at Kahuhia and if you remember, that was not even enough to qualify for any course at the university during our year. My parents couldn’t afford to take me to a private university, or a college, so I got a job as an M-PESA attendant in Nairobi. That is where Chris-my husband-found me. He came as a customer, started flirting like all men do and took my number. He was cute so I gave him my number without hesitating. Before I knew it, he asked me to be his girlfriend. He married me the following year. I got married at 19,” she says and laughs. “When Chris discovered that my dream was to be a lawyer, he told me that we could postpone having children until I finished my education. So he enrolled me as a self-sponsored student at UoN. We were very young, so children were not a priority at that point. He was just 23 himself. He had scored an A at Murang’a High School but instead of going to University he opted to join the military as a cadet.”
“He really loved you,”
“He did. I really miss him,”
“Is that the only photo you have together?” Horace asks, pointing to the photo on the wall.
Kate laughs softly.
“No, of course not. His death really traumatized me, and a counsellor advised me to remove his photos from the walls. She said it would help with the healing process. I guess I am okay now. I returned that one two months ago, to see if I can stare at his face without breaking down.”
“So your law degree helped you fight your husband’s family,”
“Yes. I knew that a wife has a right to inherit her husband’s property, especially where there is a valid will. So I hired one of my classmates from law school. She did a fine job and I won the case.”
Horace’s phone rings again. He frowns and picks the call.
“Is everything alright? Is your brother okay,” Kate asks, sensing that he has just received bad news.
“I guess my brother is alright. He has already been taken to hospital. That was my mother. She says that my house is on fire,”
“Oh Lord no. I am so sorry. Have they managed to control the fire?”
“No. By the time mother saw it and called neighbors, it was too late. My house is wooden and mother says the flames were so fierce that they assume the house had been doused in petrol.”
“Did they see the arsonist?”
“My mother says she saw two young men running away from the house. But she was alone at home because my father and brother had taken my other brother to hospital. There was no one to mount a chase.”
“I am so sorry for dragging you into my mess, Horace. I want you to stay away from me so that Maingi doesn’t hurt you any further. I will give you Maingi’s phone number. Call him and tell him you don’t want anything to do with me and ask him to forgive you. I am sure he will leave you alone. Do not worry, I will give you money to buy another bike and build another house. I will also pay your brother’s hospital bill. I will fight this fool until I crush him, but I don’t want you to get hurt in the process.”
“I may not be a karateka like you Kate, neither do I have the money you have, but I am not abandoning you. You looked for me because you wanted a friend. I will stay by your side. I will fight with you, for you. Besides, Maingi has done the worst he could to me. There is nothing left to touch.”
Kate looks at him and smiles sadly. He is naïve to think that burning a house and stealing a motorcycle is the worst Maingi can do. It is obvious that Horace has romantic feelings for her. Since she kissed him, he has been looking at her differently: like a love-stricken teenager. Men generally do stupid things when they are in love, usually to impress the one they love. Does Horace know what he is getting himself into?
“Maingi is dangerous. He could kill you, Horace.”
“I know. But I will stay by your side all the same.”
Impulsively, Kate hugs him protectively. His ego and false sense of bravado will not allow him to back down. So it falls upon her to protect him. Just then, his phone rings again. Seconds later, Kate’s phone rings as well.
“Hello lover boy,” Maingi’s unmistakable voice says when Horace picks the call. “I just wanted to let you know that I have your father and two brothers. My people are holding them somewhere safe. If you want to see them alive again, tell your girlfriend to do what she needs to do. She knows my demands. Tell her to find me at Excellent Hotel, Sagana in two hours’ time. I have the transfer documents ready, I just need her to sign them and give me the original titles. And tell her to wear red lingerie because we will have a little celebration after she transfers my father’s properties to me. If either of you calls the police, your people will be cremated there will be no evidence to link their disappearance to me. Then I will find another way to get my revenge. But it doesn’t have to get to that, lover boy. I really have no quarrel with you. Let’s see if your girlfriend loves you or she is just using you.”
Horace waits impatiently for Kate to finish her own phone conversation.
“It is Alfred, the taxi guy,” she explains when she is done. “Your father and brothers have been kidnapped by cops.”
“Maingi has them,”
“He wants you to transfer all your properties to him and sleep with him as well before he can release them.”
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