(Continued from Vanuatu II)
The drive from Ruiru is uneventful. Vanuatu dozes off, while Mildred and Lawi Musyoka listen to music. They get to Timau after nightfall, and at Vanuatu’s request, they head straight to Kaberia Mission Hospital, where they find Clarise with their uncle Fredrick. Clarise is in a good mood and is laughing at something Fredrick has said. But when she sees Vanuatu, the tears flow again. The sisters hug tightly while crying.
When the girls finally calm down, Vanuatu introduces the Musyokas to her sister and uncle. Fredrick greets then enthusiastically. Perhaps too enthusiastically.
“Thank you for bringing our daughter. How long do you plan on staying?”
“Until after the burial. Vanuatu has asked me to help her with the burial preparations,” Pastor Musyoka replies, eyeing Fredrick suspiciously. The man looks unnerved by their presence, which is why Lawi has lied that Vanuatu asked him to preside over the burial. He needs to find out what this man is all about.
“That will not be necessary. I am here. My brother and I were very close, and after his death these girls are now my daughters. I will handle whatever needs to be handled, and since Festus was a member of our church here, our pastor can handle the church end of things,” Fredrick says defiantly, as though daring Pastor Musyoka to challenge his authority. Mildred looks nervously at her husband, but Lawi is smiling broadly.
“That is okay. I am glad. Your pastor is Benjamin Masinde, isn’t?”
“Yes he is,” Fredrick replies, relieved on the one hand that the pastor has backed down, but still suspicious of the direction the conversation is taking. Masinde is a fool, but this man looks intelligent. He doesn’t like the idea of the two men of the cloth meeting and possibly discussing him. Especially because Masinde’s wife is a militant Christian and is no fool. On several occasions she has stopped just short of humiliating of him. He has since warned Masinde to put her in her place. “Do you know him?”
“We were in Bible School together. I did not know that this is where they posted him. Could you kindly give me his number? My wife and I would love to visit him before we go back,”
Mildred gives her husband a look that suggests that the lies are becoming too many for a man of God. But Lawi pretends not to notice.
“Unfortunately I lost my phone with all the contacts in it.”
“That is okay. Perhaps then you can give us directions to his home so that tomorrow we can pay him an impromptu visit.”
“This morning he told us during the elders’ meeting that he is going with his family to Nakuru to visit his wife’s maternal grandmother. Monday is his off day, you know,”
“Oh what a pity. Pass my regards to him and his wife Lydia when they come back,” Lawi replies, still smiling. He does not mention the fact that as the Regional Overseer he is in charge of all the Evangelical Deliverance Churches in the Mount Kenya region. He is actually Pastor Masinde’s immediate boss, so he not only has his number, he knows exactly where he lives.
“You must be tired Pastor. I think we should go so that I can show you and your wife where to rest,” Vanuatu says.
“Your house is still an active crime scene. You can all come to my house. Kanyua and I will be more than pleased to host you,” Fredrick offers.
Vanuatu glances at the pastor and his wife and realizes they are not comfortable with that idea.
“Oh that is okay uncle. We don’t want to bother you. We will stay at the guest wing in our home. Janet has told me that the police said we can use it, and she has already prepared it for us,”
Fredrick does not press the issue, although he would have liked to have the pastor somewhere he can control to prevent him from poisoning the girls’ minds. He will have to make plans tomorrow to make sure these intruders go back to whatever place they came from as soon as possible.
Vanuatu bids her sister goodnight, and promises to see her first thing in the morning.
“Why did you lie to my uncle, Pastor? I did not ask you to help with the burial. If I had done that my uncle and the members of church would have been very offended. I am sure my uncle is already offended with me as it is,”
They are driving towards Vanuatu’s home.
“I am sorry about that, Vanuatu. But I am convinced that your uncle is up to something. How much do you trust him?”
“Completely. He was my father’s only sibling and they have always been in very good terms. Why do you say that?”
Pastor Lawi Musyoka does not respond immediately.
“I could be wrong,” he says finally. “But I think your uncle is uncomfortable with our presence here. I noticed it the moment we arrived here, before we even spoke to each other. I also noticed how quickly he asked when I would be leaving,”
“Try to understand him pastor. He doesn’t know you. Maybe he was just trying to be protective. He doesn’t want us to be taken advantage of. Our parents’ sudden death has left him with this huge responsibility over us, and he probably doesn’t know how to go about it,”
“Maybe,” Pastor Musyoka says without conviction.
“We need to pray for these kids,” Lawi tells his wife when they finally retire to their bedroom. “Maybe I am being oversensitive but there is something about this Fredrick guy that doesn’t feel right,”
“You are not being oversensitive sweetheart. I also felt the same,” Mildred replies.
They hold hands and pray for about half an hour, keeping their voices low so as not to be heard by Vanuatu in the other room. After praying, they collapse on the bed and fall asleep in each other’s arms. It has been a long day, and they are both very tired.
“Pastor, I would love it if you and mama kanisa accompanied me to the mortuary to view my parents’ bodies,” Vanuatu tells Lawi in the morning.
Lawi and Mildred throw quick glances at each other.
“If it is not too much of a bother, that is,” Vanuatu adds quickly.
“No, of course it is not. We will be more than happy to go with you,” Lawi replies.
After breakfast they hop into Lawi’s car and head towards the hospital.
“I think you should personally take charge of affairs here, Vanuatu,” Lawi says.
“In what sense?”
“Like you should oversee the burial of your parents, then take charge of their business as you go through the succession process. Do not leave all that to your uncle. You are your father’s first born and you are an adult. You should take charge of everything, including ensuring that your sister starts schooling soon.”
Vanuatu is silent for a while. She has been hoping that her uncle will help with everything. She doesn’t know where to start with the burial preparations, neither does she feel ready to step into her parent’s shoes just yet. She doesn’t see a problem with having their uncle cover for her and Clarise until they learn the ropes of business.
“Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I will need help and I can’t think of a better person to help than my uncle,”
There is an awkward silence in the car. Mercifully, the hospital comes into view. Under the direction of a guard, Lawi parks the car on the parking lot adjacent to the mortuary. As they walk towards the small office that houses the administrators of the hospital’s mortuary and funeral services, they see a familiar figure coming out of the building.
“Uncle, what are you doing here?” Vanuatu asks Fredrick.
“Oh, I just wanted to ensure that everything is set for tomorrow,”
“Tomorrow? What is going on tomorrow?”
“We are holding the funeral and burial tomorrow. Did I not tell you?”
Lawi, Mildred and Vanuatu exchange glances.
“No, you didn’t uncle…”
“My bad. I think I discussed it with Clarise and imagined you were there as well. Please forgive me my daughter,”
“But what’s the rush uncle?”
“Why do we need to keep incurring mortuary fees?”
“Clarise is still in hospital,”
“She was discharged this morning. I have already discussed this with her,”
“Okay uncle, as you wish,” Vanuatu says. They all watch as Fredrick rushes towards the hospital’s main administration block. Vanuatu can feel butterflies in her stomach. Maybe Pastor Musyoka is right and she needs to take control of affairs.
“It is going to be okay, my dear,” Mildred says, holding her hand.
“You can count on our support, Vanuatu,” Lawi says. “Call us any time if you need anything. I am also going to speak to Pastor Masinde and have him look after both you and Clarise. Also, one of my sons is a lawyer. Here, have his card. You might need his help,”
Vanuatu cannot help but wonder whether all their show of concern was a ploy to get their son business. Is that why they have been insisting that she takes charge of the ranch? So that she can give their son business? She takes the card out of politeness but has no intention of using it. She will not allow some pastor with personal interests to drive a wedge between her and members of her family. She regrets asking them to bring her here. Uncle Fredrick would have been better company.
After leaving the hospital, Lawi and Mildred drive to Pastor Masinde’s house. Contrary to what Fredrick had said, they find the pastor at home. His wife Lydia is at work. She is the manager of the Timau branch of one of the Saccos in the area. She joins them about half an hour later.
“You shouldn’t have bothered yourself, Lydia,” Pastor Lawi says. “We were in the area and decided to pass by,”
“You are important guest to us. I had to come and make you lunch personally. I cannot trust my husband with such a critical duty,” Lydia replies, and they all burst out laughing.
“I want you to watch over the daughters of your late congregant Festus…the one who was murdered recently. I do not trust their uncle,” Lawi says casually as they start eating.
“May I ask why?” Pastor Masinde asks.
“I have a feeling that he is up to something,”
“Fredrick is a good man and a church elder…”
“Please Ben, we both know that Fred is a crook,” Lydia cuts in.
“Why is that?” Lawi asks, suddenly intrigued.
“First of all, he has an ongoing affair with that woman Karimi…”
“And you guys have not stripped him of eldership?”
“Those are rumors, Lawi. Sweetheart you cannot judge a man on the basis of malicious rumors,” Masinde replies.
“Then why did he buy land for her?” Lydia asks her husband defiantly.
“He bought land for her?” Mildred asks.
“She bought land from him using the name of her company, Asali Guest House. But a friend of mine who works for the Guest House’s bankers in Nyeri told me that the Guest House has only one Director and Shareholder: Fredrick. You can always get the records of the company from the company’s registry to conform that. What that means is that Fredrick bought a piece of land from himself for the benefit of this woman. And by the way, there are rumors that the guest house is nothing more than a brothel. I keep telling my husband that that man is not fit to serve in church, but I guess he has a soft spot for him and so chooses not to embarrass him by holding him accountable,” Mrs. Masinde explains as Lawi and Mildred listen in stunned silence.
After the meal, Lawi and Mildred take their leave. Once he is sure they have gone, and that his wife has gone back to work, Masinde calls Fredrick.
“Hi Fred, a quick one. My boss, a pastor called Lawi Musyoka has just been here. He is asking about you. He got nothing from us, but if I were you, I would be careful. He is the type who can humiliate you publicly in the name of calling out sin,” he says.
Lydia would have a heart attack if she knew that he, her husband, deliberately chooses to look the other way because of Fredrick’s financial muscle. This crook Fredrick and his girlfriend Karimi literally finance the church, which is the reason he and Lydia live a relatively comfortable life. Lydia earns peanuts at the Sacco.
He cannot afford to antagonize them, especially now that Festus is dead. Of course he would have preferred to have rich but clean congregants like the late Festus, but life is what it is. And man must feed his family.
“Thank you Ben,” Fredrick replies. “That boss of yours is becoming a nuisance. I will have to take care of him. I had hoped he could leave me alone and stay alive, but I have to do what needs to be done.”
Masinde’s heart freezes. He did not think that things would take this direction. Looking the other way as a man cheats on his wife and runs a brothel is one thing. Murder is another thing altogether.
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