Babu and his party made the journey to the hotel in just under two hours. The hired minibus was spacious and comfortable. The evening traffic was light to moderate and they had only waited half an hour for the ferry crossing.
It was a cloudless night and the moon had not come up. The stars sparkled like beautiful gems laid on a piece of dark velvet. When the minibus joined the highway the powerful headlamps shone far into the darkness on the straight road ahead.
Babu was seated up front with the talkative driver from Vanga who gave a running commentary on the various villages and towns that they were driving by. In the middle seat, Rubina and commander Ruby were chatting away quite happily and beside them the revenue and insurance officials snored loudly.
Woolie had gone for the seat right at the very back next to Musa, mzee Alphonse Uchoyo’s adopted son. As their vehicle sped south in the gloomy darkness, Woolie sensed unease in the young man. The prospect of seeing his father, whom he believed long dead, was not such an easy one to countenance, Woolie thought.
Abdul Kadir himself was at hand to greet them in person when they arrived at the Azure Seas hotel. Woolie was impressed with the hotel staff’s moist warm flannel routine. He watched as his fellow travellers wiped their faces and hands. They were swiftly shown to their rooms where they put away their belongings. They relaxed, got changed and made their way to the restaurant in time for dinner.
Babu tracked Abdul Kadir down to his office. They sat and spoke at length. Babu needed to be sure that everything was in place. All the interested parties to this affair would be assembled in the main conference room the following morning right after breakfast.
Woolie retired to his room to read. A hectic work and social schedule constantly robbed him of reading time and he was glad for the opportunity. ‘The winter of our discontent’ lay by his bedside just pleading to be finished off tonight. Woolie was up for the challenge. Three doors down the corridor, a relaxed Gregory Uchoyo stood in his pyjamas trimming nasal hairs before settling down for the night.
The next morning was bright and sunny with hardly a cloud in the sky. Soon after breakfast the summoned guests began trickling into the large and airy conference room. All the windows had been thrown wide open and a pair of ceiling fans circled lazily overhead. The conference table had been pushed to the very front wall and the chairs had been arranged in the middle to face the front of the room. The guests felt as if they were in a small classroom.
When they were all seated Babu made the introductions. Commander Ruby had requested the Mombasa police HQ to make available two uniformed police constables who were now standing at the back of the room, on either side of the door.
Babu now cleared his throat and began. “ Ladies and gentlemen, I think most of you have an idea of why we are gathered here today. One or two of you may be wondering what all this it has to do with police, insurance and revenue officers. The reason is simple. There has been a very serious fraud committed here.” Babu looked around the room for emphasis. Gregory and Baridi did not look at him but stared hard at the black and white floor tiles.
Mr Babu continued. “Several people seated right here in this room have been living a lie. You may find it difficult to understand how this all took place. Perhaps you, Mr Abdul Kadir perhaps you could tell us how you came to meet Ms Baridi and Mr Gregory and could you tell us what transpired at that meeting?”
Abdul Kadir looked around the room and then said, “ Our first meeting was arranged via a third party. The Uchoyo’s had an odd request. They wanted to know whether their father, Alphonse Uchoyo had changed his will.” Baridi and Gregory shifted uncomfortably in their seats.
Abdul Kadir told the gathering that this was obviously confidential information. “There was no way that I could share any of this with anyone. However the Uchoyos were very persistent. They called my office, my home and my mobile phone constantly. They said all they wanted was for me just to confirm yes or no. Had their father recently changed his will. Baridi came over to my office late one evening and caught me in a moment of weakness. It was embarrassing to have her continually asking. She had gone down on her knees, right there in my office. I just wanted to get rid of her. I went to the safe and pulled out Mr Alphonse Uchoyo’s will. I opened it and showed her the contents. Gregory and Baridi were the main beneficiaries of the entire Uchoyo estate, which was very huge indeed.” There were loud mutterings in the room and Babu called for silence.
“ You broke a confidence, Abdul Kadir and by revealing this information you signed the old man’s death warrant. Did you realise that?” Babu was visibly angry. “Please go on Abdul Kadir.”
“I did, Mr Babu, I knew that I had done wrong. After thinking this over carefully for about a week I decided to report the matter to the police.” I was concerned for the businessman’s safety, you see. The police said there was nothing that they could do. No crime had been committed. They did tell me, however, that Mr Alphonse Uchoyo had been attacked the previous evening as he was entering the house. It appeared that an intruder had hit him over the head with the flat side of a panga. Uchoyo’s house-help told police that the random masked attacker had been chased off by their big guard dogs.” Uchoyo himself was very shaken. The blow to the head also affected his memory.” Abdul Kadir was staring at brother and sister who returned his steady gaze.
“ To save the mzee, some drastic action was needed.” Abdul Kadir was now enjoying telling his tale. “I had to get him out of harm’s way. I called Gregory Uchoyo with a proposition. Over a long dinner with Gregory and his lovely sister, I explained that there was a way to legally give them some control over their father’s wealth whilst he was still alive. Baridi Uchoyo said she was far more interested in their fathers massive insurance policy. That could only pay out once he was dead. I had drank far too much port. I looked into Baridi’s big eyes and said that too could be arranged.”
Babu shook his head sadly. The other assembled guests could not believe what they were hearing.
Abdul Kadir carried on. “ Gregory Uchoyo said to me – ‘Do this and we will pay you handsomely’.I explained to them that their father’s memory loss was a most fortuitous event. I would take him away with me and in a few weeks’ time there would be a terrible accident. The siblings would turn up to identify their father’s body from a birth mark on his leg, the clothes he wore and his wedding ring. There would be a private funeral , close family only. They would then be able to claim on the life insurance and in due course we would begin to process the estate matters.” There were bottles of cold water on the table and Abdul Kadir poured himself a glass which he drained it in one gulp.
“So Abdul Kadir” Babu said, looking up from some notes that he had been making. “At what point did you decide to help yourself to the spoils?”
“Once I had explained these plans to them they were happy to talk to me openly. Baridi told me why they thought their father was changing his will. They painted a picture of two sad children with a cruel heartless father. Uchoyo had love only for money. When the children were growing up they had their mother to look after them. Their father was always busy building his fortune. One day their ma asked papa Alphonse if they could all go on holiday together, as a family. They were surprised when their father agreed to take them to the Mara to watch the Great Wildebeest migration. Who could have foreseen the tragedy that awaited them?”
“Their father had got them a perfect vantage point from which to watch the natural spectacle. They were seated ready and waiting just by the edge of the river bank. The great herds of wildebeest came as predicted. A million hooves pounded the hard ground making a noise bigger than thunder. Suddenly, a few of the leading beasts took a wrong turn and headed directly to where the four Uchoyos were having their picnic. The family panicked. There was nowhere to run. They clung together hoping, praying that the animals would run around them. In the dust and noise they had moved closer to the edge. Mrs Uchoyo slipped…then the two children slipped. Papa Uchoyo reached for his wife and caught her hand. He heard his daughter’s piercing scream above the loud thumping of hooves. He turned round, letting go of his wife and grabbed both the children. He watched in horror as his wife toppled head first down the bank and into the brown Mara River. The crocodiles down below snapped their jaws as she tumbled towards them.”
One or two of the guests wiped a tear from their eyes. Abdul Kadir was also moved. He said “ The two children had lost their mother. Pa Uchoyo felt that he had let them down. They hardened their hearts towards him and he did the same. The children became emotionally isolated and only had each other for company. Their father did not have the inclination to give them the social skills they so needed. He sent them off to boarding schools and tried to use his money as a substitute for a mother. The brother and sister left for America as soon as they had finished high school.”
“Uchoyo continued to live his miserable Scrooge-like existence. One day, he tripped and fell down a flight of stairs, breaking his ankle. The gardening lady asked him if he would like her unemployed son to drive him around until his ankle had mended. And so began a uniquely unlikely relationship. Musa was a wonderful young man who had special learning difficulties. He did not read or write much but he drove like a professional. He was big and strong and could strip a car engine down, service it and put it together again. He taught Uchoyo how different machines worked. Uchoyo could not understand how such a talented and skilled young man could be unemployable. Even after his foot had healed Uchoyo kept Musa by his side. He was now like his right hand man. He got him to do stuff as he had proved to be very loyal. Musa spent every working day by Uchoyo’s side at his office. This was the child Uchoyo never had. He took Musa fishing, to the cinema and even to football matches. But tragedy was about to strike again.”
A waiter knocked lightly and entered with a trolley load of refreshments. Babu looked at his watch and said they could all take a ten minute break.
“Where was I?” Began Abdul Kadir. “Oh yes. Sister and brother decided to travel to Kenya. Everything was ok at first but they were deeply suspicious of this lad who was so close to their pa. Soon after, Musa’s mother was diagnosed with a vicious form of cancer. She was given just weeks to live. Pa Uchoyo went to see her. He could tell she was in great pain but she had declined the medication so that she would be lucid when he called on her. She asked him to look after her son. Uchoyo promised her that he would adopt him as his son. When his children learned of this, they went ballistic! They refused to accompany their pa to Musa’s mother’s funeral, when she finally died.”
“Uchoyo was angry and highly emotional. He did what he had always done when he was disrespected. He used his money. He probably did not mean it when he told them that he would change his will and leave everything to Musa.. The young Uchoyos had angrily cut short their holiday and left immediately for America.”
“Mr Babu, you asked me when I first thought of ripping off the ungrateful spoilt brats.” Their sulking behaviour towards their dad and Musa left me in no doubt that these selfish individuals could just as easily murder their dad if they thought that they could get away with it. I also realised that they did not know the true extent of their father’s wealth. I asked Uchoyo for a list of his assets – a legitimate enough request – and then I compared it to what they knew. I transferred these known unknowns to my name before Uchoyo was ‘found dead.’ I thought to myself: I am a man with needs too. These kids will not miss anything.” Woolie put out a hand to restrain Gregory Uchoyo who moved as though he wanted to stand up and thump Abdul Kadir.
“I brought Pa Uchoyo here because I knew he would be safe. His memory loss meant that it was easy for him to settle into a blue collar role. He is our general maintenance man and looks after every bit of equipment in this hotel.” Abdul Kadir was smiling at his cunning.
Babu was surprised, “So he lives……and works here? In this hotel?” Abdul Kadir nodded. Commander Ruby then asked how it was that Pa Uchoyo had ended up at the political meeting where the Kwale man had struck at a politician. It was explained that several of the hotel guests had indicated a desire to attend the rally. Pa Uchoyo had volunteered to drive them there in a hotel minibus.
Since their arrival the previous evening, the Insurance man and the guy from Revenues had been crunching some numbers. They had finally worked out a simple formula to determine how Abdul Kadir’s stolen assets, the known unknowns, and those unlawfully controlled by the young Uchoyos could be transferred back to their rightful owner in the shortest possible time.
There was a sudden cry from somewhere outside the building. The guests rushed to the open window in time to see a man falling head first from the top of a twenty-five foot high coconut tree.
He landed on the ground with a loud thud.
Woolie, Musa and the police constables were first at the scene. The first cop performed CPR on the man’s limp body. Moments later, Alphonse Uchoyo opened his eyes and looked up to see a circle of anxious faces looking down at him. He saw one that he recognised and shouted, “Musa! My son! Who are all these people in my hotel?” The old man had recovered his memory.
Things happened quite quickly after that. The police already had enough evidence to charge Abdul Kadir with theft. They would recommend a suspended sentence for the role he had played in protecting Pa Uchoyo from his murderous kids. The insurance fraud would definitely land the Uchoyo siblings before a judge. Uchoyo promised to get his children the best lawyer money could buy (oops!). Rubina felt that their difficult and traumatic upbringing might get them a regime of counselling rather than a custodial sentence. The transfer of all Pa Uchoyo’s assets would begin soon. He had already made Musa his principal heir.
Commander Ruby had a question for Abdul Kadir. “Who was the man that you buried?”
“A poor homeless drunk who often hang around near the brewery gates.” Said Abdul Kadir. “When we found his body the head and upper torso had been run over by several beer lorries. We gave him a decent send off.”
Woolie shook his head. “And to think that all this came about because a man in Kwale woke up with an itch to whack somebody, and the whole thing was captured on camera.”