My friend was gone for about a quarter of an hour and now he returned with a new bottle and a jug of ice-water on a huge tray. My generous host had even warmed up a large piece of spicy mutura which he now cut up and set on a plate before me.
“ I hope you are ok with Mutura,” he said. “Being on my own here I only cook for one. Many evenings I eat out – but don’t tell my wife that otherwise she will insist on coming down from the farm to look after me,” He said, laughing.
He re-lit his pipe and said, “So – where had we got to……yes we had a typed note suggesting that the lady had been driven to take her own life by her husband. Someone desperately wanted us to think that this was the case.”
I listened intently chewing on the delicious mutura.
My friend was saying how Hallibut Nyalima had proved to be a dodgy character so early in the investigation. When the police in Abuja had gone up to his hotel room to deliver their sombre news he had been found in the arms of a Dr Esther Hadithi – also from the Government Science office. The Naija cop’s words were, “her attire suggested that she was going to be with our broda for breakfast.”
Back in Nairobi the investigating team wanted to interview Ms Mpensi at the earliest opportunity. She might, after all, be able to shed light on how Mrs Nyalima had come to be poisoned. Mpensi was cooperative from the start. It came as a shock to her that her colleague was dead. She was adamant that Steffi would never have commited suicide – and certainly not over a womanising loser like Hallibut. According to Mpensi she had been summoned to the Managing Director’s office just before two-thirty on that day and he had told her that Nyalima was poorly. The boss asked Mpensi to take her straight home to bed. There was nothing suspicious and It looked as though Nyalima had been taking some dictation when she was taken ill. The odd thing though, was there were two tea cups on the desk. They must have worked through lunch, Mpensi had thought.
Other workers in the firm were interviewed and it was a similar story. Steffi was a well-liked colleague who was good at her job. It was widely known that her husband, a senior government scientist liked to chase the skirts and he had put his wife wife through hell. They did wonder why she put up with him.
The police now interviewed Mr Kali, the company’s Managing Director. He was a stubborn man with a brusque manner. He gave the impression that all this was a waste of time. He suggested that Steffi’s demise was yet another worry to add to his stressful life. He would now have to engage a new PA. Further investigations revealed that several months earlier, Kali had accused the entire office staff of stealing company property. A memory stick with confidential company information had gone missing and the whole place had been turned upside down as they tried to find it.
With this new information the police had gone back to the Nyalima house. There, hidden behind the panels in the bathroom, they discovered Steffi Nyalima’s laptop. Why had she taken such measures to conceal it? Forensic officers were able to unearth some signifcant information. It was apparent that Nyalima had discovered that their company was involved in serious drug smuggling. There were emails detailing purchases and shipments of “white powder” from a company based in Karachi, Pakistan. Other emails revealing huge payemnts in US dollars to Swiss bank accounts and authorised by Kali came to light. There was a list of recipients of copies of these emails, names of well-known personalities.
“Woolie, I guess it is fair to say that my team were jubilant.” Said the retired cop, as he re-lit his pipe once again.
“Our investigation was going well and things were coming together. I went to see the MD the following day taking with me a young detective called Charlie Uwezo. Mr Kali was as arrogant as ever saying that we would regret this intrusion on his privacy, him a law-abiding citizen whose tax-shilingis paid our wages, and all that kind of scorn.”
“We put it to him that he had murdered Steffi Nyalima because she had stumbled upon his drug-importation network and needed to be silenced. We told him of our discovery of the emails. He did not deny it. Instead he asked us to wait whilst he called his lawyer. He spoke on the phone for several minutes and then with a smile, he told us that his lawyer would be with us shortly. He had the cheek to ask us if we would have some tea while we waited.”
The former detective poured us another drink and continued with his story. He told me how whilst they sat in the office Charlie had been fiddling with his mobile phone and now an amazing thing happened. The unmistakable sound of a phone ringing somewhere in the room. Kali was visibly shaken. The sound seemed to be coming from a drawer in his desk. Charlie told his boss that he had dialled Steffi’s mobile number. It was her phone ringing inside the MD’s desk!
Kali denied any knowledge of how the phone had ended up in his desk. For us it was simple: From Ms Mapensi’s statement, Nyalima’s phone was by her bed when she had left her. She remembered telling her to call her if she needed anything. An sms had been sent to Agnes from this same phone. How is it that it was now in Kali’s possession? Surely it was Kali who had entered the bedroom, perhaps through the large window, administered the poison to the drugged victim and then taken the phone with him, to send that SOS text message to Agnes later.
My friend the former detective was full of excitement when he took all this evidence to his boss in Vigil House. It was not often that a murder case in the City was wrapped up so quickly. His joy was short-lived however. He found his boss in a most foul mood. He was asked to explain who had given him the authority to go about harassing innocent and upright gentlemen like Mr Kali. He did not want to hear about the “evidence” which the gentleman’s laywer had already told him was entirely circumstantial.
“Woolie, you can imagine my dismay when he told me to drop the entire case. We could not proceed with it. When I asked why he said it was orders from above. I pressed him more, Woolie, this is a guy that I had known and looked up to for many years. He was our house prefect in high school. I thought he was a decent and upright cop so I wanted to know why. He told me something that cut me down like stima. He said to me that he was due for retirement in about 14 months or so – he had two sons in university and he had planned to spend his retirement tending his tea bushes in a small holding that he had acquired. If the guys upstairs said to him drop a case he dropped it. He wanted to be alive, to enjoy his retirement with his family.
My pal explained to me how devasted he was. He had to stand down his team and explain to them why it had ended in this way. As the team collected their stuff and went out Charlie Uwezo came up to my friend and gave him a slip of paper. “Call this number – he is ok, boss and he is expecting your call.”
“I called the number, Woolie, not quite sure what to expect. The phone was answered after two rings. The man who answered asked me to meet him at the coffee house located in the ground floor of Electricity House in twenty minutes. That was just two minutes away. I waited ten minutes and walked into the cafe. I ordered a cold Picana passion and waited. As the twenty minutes expired a chap came to my table and asked if the seat opposite was taken. I said no and he sat down. He picked up a menu which he begun to study intently. He was talking quietly and very quickly. He said I was not to ask him his name or occupation. All I needed to know was that he was on my side: Kali would not get away.
He told me that there was a red Nissan Primera parked outside. I was to finish my soda, pay and walk to the car and take the driver’s seat. The keys were in the ignition. I was to drive round the corner and stop by Kenya Cinema. He would walk and join me there.
“As we drove into the evening traffic my companion now decided to explain himself a little. He was from a secret military intelligence outfit called S2. Officially this unit did not exist. It was so secret that even senior people in the police were not aware of it. I studied his face when he was not looking. Where had I seen him before – or perhaps he reminded me of someone, I was not sure.
“He explained that they had been monitoring the activities of Kali’s company after receiving substantial information from one of his agents: Steffi Nyalima. She had sent them communications that suggested that Kali’s outfit would very shortly be taking delivery of 2,400kg of pure cocaine from Pakistan for onward transmission to Europe.
“The S2 agent told me that it was actually quite fortuitous that the corrupt system had shut down our murder case. Kali would now be bullish and confident knowing that his friends in high places were watching his back. The deal would go ahead. S2 were preparing a trap for him. They would catch him and his team red-handed as they moved their drugs to their warehouse which S2 had already established was in a side street off Lusaka road, Inda.
“Five weeks later on a friday the trap was set. The container bearing Kali’s cargo arrived at the inland cargo terminal by Embakasi. As arranged it was transported under police escort to the industrial area just after midnight where Kali and his henchmen were waiting to take delivery. They hurriedly opened the container and proceeded to offload 800 bags each of 3kg of their deadly cargo into the warehouse. Just as the last of the bags were being loaded onto the pallet a bright light was switched on and they were all asked to lie down. They were caught totally unawares and did not even bother to resist or try to flee.”
“S2 had got their men. They were taken to court on the monday. S2 had the import documents obtained from Steffi’s emails. There was also video-surveillance evidence taken over several months. From the Pakistani authorities they had obtained immigration documents detailing visits by Kali and others to Karachi on several occasions. Then there were the hard drugs seized in the raid – an open and shut case, or so you would think.”
“Woolie, you know yourself that I am not one for melodrama.That monday will go down in history as the day justice suffered one of its heaviest blows from the vultures of corruption. The wise old Judge sat at his bench on that day and told a hushed court-room that Kali and his men were the innocent victims of a police vendetta. The arresting officers were accused of wrongful arrest, intimidation and torture. The prosecution had alleged, the Judge said, that there were 800 bags of cocaine which they had documented. Why is it that when the defence visited the secure storage they found only 796 bags. This was typical of police incompetence. And on and on he went.
As you know S2 could not take part in the prosecutions without revealing their existence. It was left to us to carry the can. The judge recommended that I be disciplined and demoted for poor handling of the case and a waste of tax-payers money. The wise judge ordered that Kali and his men be released immediately.”
“As he stood at the stairs of the law-courts answering reporters’ questions Kali said he was grateful that he lived in a free and democratic country where a person was presumed innocent until proven guilty, yada yada – my friend I almost puked. He told reporters that he was now free to concentrate on building his business once again. He was also free now to travel to England to attend his daughters graduation.” He came up to me right then Woolie and said – you detective inspector, you are, you are…….. bloody bure kabisa.. hahahaha…”
“I went home that day and told my wife that I would be handing in my resignation the following morning.”
“If you do that, she said, then that low-life Kali and his type are the winners – also who knows if what your chief said to you was true. If you resign you are considered a liability – an adui. They know how they could make your demise look like an accident.”
“Ofcourse she was right. I was healthy and of sound mind but the people I was dealing with could act with impunity. I suddenly fell into one of those moods and found myself spending hours in dodgy pubs drinking warm beer until the small hours. I chatted up barmaids who told me to get lost and that I was old enough to be their pa and I sunk deeper into depression and self doubt. At first I stopped shaving and then the showers went too and I started smelling. I was losing it big time. One very dull Sunday I was sitting at my wife’s dressing table with my service revolver in my mouth. I was just about to pull the trigger when she walked in, Woolie.”
“Put that down, there is somebody to see you, in the sitting room” she said it, just like that. No drama, no panic. She now treated me like the baby that I had become. I went out to see who it was but they was gone. There was a hand-written note on the coffee table. K leaving on tuesday night for graduation. Expect some news thursday.
“You probably don’t know this, Woolie, but S2 operatives and operations are known to very few people in this country. All of them would deny that such an outfit even exists. For this reason they are able to infiltrate all sections of society digging for information relating to the well-being of the nation. My S2 contact gave me a copy of his unedited report that was sent to him by an agent in London.”
It said: Mr Kali and his friend arrived at London’s Heathrow airport aboard KQ 106 shortly after 0630 on Wednesday morning. There was hardly any delay at passport control and they proceeded to the baggage reclaim area chatting amiably. They waited close to the carousel as the bags came chugging along. Kali spotted his dark brown leather suitcase and pulled it off. His female companion’s bag was bright pink. Kali grabbed that too and they made their way to the exit.
They had just gone through the green “nothing to declare” channel when a customs official called them back. The officer was joined by a colleague and they proceeded to check the two suitcases. A television crew had joined in by this time. The pink suitcase was declared clear and the lady was escorted to a waiting area. The brown leather suitcase had many pockets and the officers carried out a meticulous search. Mr Kali was his bouyant self joking with the TV crew when at that very moment the customs chap pulled out first, one and then three other polythene bags containing a white powder. A total of 4 3kg bags of cocaine. Kali denied all knowledge of the cocaine.
“Basically S2 set Kali up using his own drugs. It was a simple matter to hold back a few bags when they arrested them just incase corrupt police had other tricks in mind. It was also easy to switch Kali’s suitcase with an identical one with fewer of his clothes and to insert the four bags of powder. A quick phone call to our agent in London ensured that the customs were aware of Kali even before he had left Kenya airspace. Must we always rely on foreign courts to hand out justice?
“ Anyway, to cut a long story short, Mr Kali was subsequently charged with importing cocaine into the country and was jailed for nine years. Our local papers did not give much prominence to the story. Selective self-censorship.
“I was back at work the following week and things were gradually getting back to normal. I was sitting at my desk doing the crossword when a fresh text message checked in. Coffee house downstairs 20 mins
” So I sauntered into the coffee house just before the 20 minutes expired. This time I had smile in my heart, Woolie and you know that feeling that I was on the verge of something big.
The S2 man……Ofcourse….I knew who he reminded me of .., it was Charlie…..Charlie Uwezo had taken some leave and I had not seen him for over a week.. S2 man looked so much like him…..and he was now asking me whether I’d be interested in working for them.
“I just said sawa, I would be delighted, Mr Uwezo, when can I start?”