wetwool

because you never forget that funny smell

Category: occupation (page 1 of 3)

What happened to the King’s gold

I have never felt comfortable writing a post on birthdays, whether past, present or future. Perhaps it is the random streak of shyness within me that made me ask: What merit can there possibly be in one shouting out that they are another year older?

Now all this was before I read the numbers game which is a beautifully engaging post celebrating life and a making a play on the number that is one’s age. Notice how every birthday one is obliged to pick a new number: 20, 25, 30, 45, 50, 55. And yet they are the self same individuals. No wonder someone important once said that age is just a number. What does it feel like to be 39? or 89?

I did not have to wait too long for my next birthday treat. I came across a post which can be called Just do it. I got my teeth into this excellent high velocity, energetic post as it cruised along at about mach 5. The theme here: goals and achievements. There is no time like the present for one to push the boundaries and realise their true potential. Tomorrow might be too late

I allowed these ideas to percolate in my mind as I searched high and low for my final birthday offering which suddenly appeared one day in the shape of Father Time.
It was a wonderful evaluation of the changes that had taken place in the past year. Time was the theme as the title suggests. What had changed as the hands of time had made their revolutions around the clock- face? A coming of age type of story.

After reading these 3 pieces I had clearly experienced an instant radical change of perception.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I woke on Tuesday morning with a start. My breath came in quick, short gasps. It was as though I had been running for a bus in my last dream. I glanced over at the alarm clock by the bedside. It read 05:33, a whole twelve minutes before my alarm was due to go off. My body shook in silent laughter in the darkness as I recalled an old saying: why keep a dog and then bark yourself?

I got up from the bed and opened a window. The air in my bedroom was stale, reminding me of boiled cabbage, rotten eggs and bad drains. Perhaps I should have given that cold mutura at the pub a miss last night, I thought gravely. I moved about the room with a dangerous, lithe spring in my step. Today was my birthday.

I quickly shaved, showered and moisturised, and twenty minutes later I was locking the front door. I stopped by the early morning kiosk to pick up a paper, a bag of peanuts, some tissues and a bottle of water. I ran recklessly across the street to catch a mat bound for the city.

I arrived at the office to discover that the others were all there. My general plan was to not say anything. I did not expect them to remember what day it was and I was not going to tell them. Why should I tell them it’s my birthday? They’d probably think I’m desperate for cards, prezzies and stuff. I would pretend it was just a normal day.

Babu was looking over some papers at the receptionist’s desk. He glanced up at me when I entered and grunted a greeting. The photocopier man, standing nearby handed me a box of toner to take to the cupboard and promptly disappeared. As I walked along the corridor to my office I noticed Commander Ruby accepting and signing for a package from a delivery man. She saw me and casually placed a newspaper over the package on the desk. She came to the door, said hello and pressed an empty coffee cup into my hand, asking if I was going to the kitchen. I said hi, declined the coffee cup and went into my office. I shut the door in despair, disappointed that not one of my work mates had even though for a moment about the significance of this great day.

The day wore on. It was busy as normal. There were clients to see, emails to reply to and phone calls to return. Before I knew it it was 5.45 and time to disappear. Rubina was just getting back from the courts. She asked me to wait, saying she had a present for me. She had managed to obtain a wonderful film for my birthday. It had been delivered today. Her plan was that we should go back to my place and watch it. She also presented me with a beautiful birthday card and a lovely brand new copy of Okot P’Biteks, Song of Lawino.

I was ecstatic. Rubina had come through. I wondered what to do about my other forgetful colleagues but when I stepped outside the building, I discovered they had all gone home.

Rubina had gone to fetch her car from that dark and damp place, that is the basement of the building. She pulled up beside me and I jumped into the passenger seat. We went by her place where she offered me a coffee while she picked up some overnight things. We left almost immediately with Rubina negotiating the city roads with considerable skill. It was quite dark now. A few moments later we had arrived at my flat in South B. As we got out of the car we were giggling with excitement. We had managed to outfox the rest of the work colleagues and now we could spend some quality time watching a good film all by ourselves.

Had I been a more conscientious fellow in my day to day domestic affairs I would have had the light bulb in the porch area, inside the front door, replaced months ago. Perhaps then I would have noticed that something odd was going on. As it happened this area at the front was in total darkness just like the rest of the house.

I opened the door to the sitting room. What happened next was the last thing that I would have expected that evening.

“Surpriiiiise !! Came the loud shout of about twenty or thirty voices all at once as they switched on the lights. They had all been lying in wait, in the darkness. Somebody turned on the music nice and loud and Babu came up and hugged me as he gave me a present. Someone else put a drink in my hand and slapped me cheerfully on the back. I looked at Rubina. Her face was like a blank sheet of paper. It was impossible to say whether she had been in on the joke or not. I said to her, “Looks like we’ll have to watch the movie next time. What film did you get, by the way?”

She smiled and took out a package from her coat pocket. It was the very same one that I had seen Commander Ruby signing for in the office earlier that day.

“Happy birthday Woolie.” said Rubina and the Commander in unison as I ripped away at the wrapping paper. I finally got to the DVD. It bore the bold initials of the National Archaeological Unit. The title of the film was “What happened to the King’s gold?”

Lost in space

Fred Msumari
The Royal Palace
Kingdom of Kerugoyes

December 2014

Dear Jaki,

Greetings to you from the ancient kingdom of Kerugoyes

I hope that you are in fine health. It was such a wonderful treat the other morning when your letter arrived. Thank you so much. There was bemusement and much wonder in the domestic quarters as the palace staff watched me read and re read your letter before folding it neatly and locking it away in the safe with our other valuables. I did not realise how expensive postage had become, your envelope was covered in stamps! The kids here collect stamps, bless them.

How have things been in our Fair Republic? I hope they are not keeping you too busy in that peoples’ garage. The description you gave about your typical day filled me with horror and distaste. You know Jaki how much I hate talk of blood. I even refuse to look at a mutura, knowing what it’s chief ingredient is. I fainted that time when I took you to donate blood for those poor leaking petrol explosion victims, remember?

Now, si I told you about Binti Pepo doing her bit during the independence celebrations? Well, the King enjoyed that performance so much, now there is talk of starting a kind of music academy right here, for the young Kerugoyenese. The King wants the young boys and girls to sing like his so-called nightingale, Binti Pepo. His Majesty says that he will only start an academy if Binti is the Director. They have been holding long talks, late into the night, just the King and Binti. Some nights they ask me along to give my opinion and we have also been joined by the Cabinet Secretary for Music & Entertainment. I realise now Kerugoyenese are very big on culture and that sort of stuff.

I tell you all this,Jaki because it seems that we will be here for a little longer than was envisaged. The South Africa leg of Binti’s World Tour is also in question because all the talk in the country right now is about the forthcoming Ndarabara event. I have been told that we will be travelling right up to the great mountain, Kidevu, where the King will perform the ancient Ndarabara rites which are traditionally important for the fertility, health and prosperity of this kingdom. Once these are done, His Majesty will consult the oracle, Abacha, to learn what the coming year holds in store for Kerugoye.

Binti and myself will be the first foreigners ever to witness a Ndarabara at close quarters. I am excited and a little bit nervous, if the truth be told. I will let you know how it all goes once we are safely back from the mountains.

I think I may have written too much! 😀

Have a really good week!

Fred.

* * *

Jacqueline Salama
Accident & Emergency Department
City Medical Centre
Nairobi

December 2014

Dear Fred,

Your own letter arrived just this morning, thank you. I hope that you are still enjoying the mountain air in that remote kingdom. I’m very well thanks. Just keeping myself busy at the department.

We had 2 new doctors that started this Monday, a young man and a young woman. They are both very charming and everyone is doing their best to make them feel welcome.

So just today I had a chance to work with the female doctor. We’d just had lunch and we were looking at some paper-work when they rushed in this patient on a trolley. He was a young man in his late twenties and in a state of complete anguish. It was incredible! The poor sod had only managed to get his wotsit stuck in a soft drink bottle. My colleague was stunned. You see the portion of the wotsit that was inside the bottle had swelled up to a grotesque size and shape – it looked like a python, to be honest. In the end we gave him a couple of steroid injections to reduce the swelling and gently eased him out of his glass prison. He was then sedated and taken to a ward for observation. Fred, Isn’t it just amazing what young men on their own can get up to? Hahahaha

The weather in our fair republic continues to get warmer and some nights it is simply impossible to sleep unless one throws off all the covers. I don’t really leave my windows open at night as I’m not sure it is entirely safe. I would hate to wake in the night to find a stranger rummaging through my things!

The new doctors will be dropping in shortly. We’re going out tonight to try out this new Indian restaurant down the road. I’d better go and do something with my hair.

You haven’t said much about Binti – How is she?

Fred, keep writing those letters. They always put a smile on my face and as funny as it sounds when I read what you are up to I don’t feel so lost in space. Do be careful on that Ndararara wotsit up there on the hills. 😀

Jaki

The killer stalks his prey

After Joseph Pume had left, Coughing Man wheezed again and said to the rest of the gang, “There goes a very foolish man. Just out of prison, cough, cough, cough… and his first job is to find the cop who put him there. It will end badly. Just mark my word.” He put an affectionate arm round the barmaid’s shoulder and winked at her. There was another sudden attack of desperate coughing and tears streamed down his eyes as he squinted to avoid the harsh tobacco smoke. The others shook their heads, sucking on their Pilsner bottles like babies. Continue reading

The unlikely host

There are few things that I fear more than driving myself to Nairobi. When I first learned to drive I was living in a foreign country where they all drove on the wrong side of the road. The cars there were funny left-hand drives and that was what I became accustomed to. My sojourn in the foreign land soon ended however and I returned home to find that traffic rules were rarely obeyed and in any case matatu drivers were a law unto themselves. Driving into town became a nerve racking ordeal and to this day I avoid it as much as possible.

My Babu’s office had scheduled an early morning meeting for me last Thursday with one of their lawyers about an ongoing land tussle. The plan was to meet at their offices near the 20th Century down town. Parking anywhere in the CBD is always a nightmare and so I decided to take an early bus into town from my digs about forty miles away on the Nakuru highway. It was just before dawn and still quite dark when I boarded the warm bus. My fellow passengers seemed to be city worker types – all in suits and ties. Many were fast asleep, some with earphones plugged in. To my surprise and delight there were no bags of vegetables or live chickens on board and the trip into town was smooth and pleasant.

The lawyer was waiting for me at the entrance to the large building. She was in her mid-thirties, smartly dressed with a confident manner. We shook hands and she told me that her name was Rubina as she ushered me towards the big lifts. I was delighted to note that she already knew my name and had pronounced it perfectly. She asked whether I had encountered any difficulty in finding them and I replied that her directions on the phone had been first-class. The lift door opened at the 7th floor and we crossed over to her office.

Rubina ordered tea for me and coffee for herself. She was friendly and easy going and we chatted about this and that for a bit. She was expecting visitors at home later that afternoon. Her nephew and niece were visiting from Mombasa all on their own for the first time. They were sensible kids and Rubina had promised to bake them a nice cake.

We settled down to discuss the legal issues at hand and it soon became apparent that Rubina would need to take a look at the actual site that was in dispute. I had brought photographs and plans but Rubina would need to see it first hand before deciding whether to engage the services of a surveyor. I knew that she was right. She said we could go down there right away and I was quite happy to do that. I warned her that the area was at the bottom of a valley where it was always very swampy. She would need some strong wellingtons. Rubina did not see any problem with that. We would stop by her place, pick up her wellies and head off to my shamba. I now realised why Babu had recommended her.

A valet quickly brought up Rubina’s car from the car- park deep in the bowels of the building. She negotiated the city streets with a relaxed ease and soon we were heading up the Valley Road. At the top of the road Rubina turned to join the Ngong Road and after a few minutes we turned off into a quiet lane which brought us to the entrance to her apartment. She eased the car into a parking space and we went together to her apartment on the first floor.

She led the way into the well furnished flat and threw her keys on the table. She offered me a beer got herself one before turning on the pc in the corner of the room. She was looking for some important email when there was a knock at the door. She went to answer it and stood at the door talking to someone for about five minutes.

When she came back I knew there was something wrong. She explained that her neighbour’s boy from the block just across had come to tell her that his mum was unwell. Rubina told me she would quickly pop over to see her and then come back so that we could be on our way to my shamba. I suggested that perhaps I could leave and meet some other time but she would not hear of it. She promised to be back in twenty minutes. She asked me to feel at home and help myself to more beer.

After about half an hour I was getting slightly anxious. She had said 20 minutes. Where was she?. I started wandering about the flat and getting more impatient. Perhaps she had taken the poor mama to hospital. She would be back soon, I figured and poured myself some more beer. I switched on the telly and after fiddling with the remote control chanced upon a Mexican soap. I watched that for a few minutes before switching it off in dismay. I was pacing my beers now – half an hour to each beer. Nice and slow.

Another hour went by and I feared the worst. Should I call Rubina on her cell-phone? I did not want her to think I was unduly worried but she really should have got back by now. And why had she not called me? Here I was all alone a stranger in a strange house. What if someone – friend, lover should come and find me here slowly drinking the afternoon away?

I walked into the kitchen realising that I was a bit hungry. I spotted a couple of chapos in the fridge which I placed on a plate ready to warm in the microwave. Wait. Chapo now and I could say good bye to beer. Ha! The hunger would have to wait. I smiled at my own intelligence and took a long sip of the amber nectar.

On the counter top lay a recipe for the cake that Rubina was going to bake for the children. She had printed it straight off her lappy. I looked at the ingredients list again and performed a quick inspection of the contents of her store. I was in luck – I had everything that I needed to make a beautiful sponge cake.

I don’t know whether it was the beer or just my carefree attitude. I rolled up my sleeves and found an apron hanging on a hook behind the kitchen door. I gathered all the ingredients together and checked the cupboards for baking trays. Hidden in there was a dark green bottle of London Dry.
I blessed Rubina and all the planets and stars and got to work.

The first thing that I did was to mix a little oil with 180ml of cold water and 3 medium eggs.

eggs, oil, water

I then added the cake mix, a little at a time, whisking the whole lot together for about 3 minutes to give a smooth and creamy mixture. I stopped to open the bottle of gin and poured myself a generous glug. It was getting near to the time when the visitors were expected. I needed to move fast and nothing helped to focus the mind like a good gin.

Next I greased the two cake tins with margarine using a piece of grease-proof paper. The instructions say grease the tins evenly and completely – I was in a hurry and the consequences of not reading that bit properly would only become apparent later.

Grease the tins

I poured the cake mixture into the 2 tins dividing it out as evenly as possible. The tins were then placed in the middle of a preheated oven at 160 degrees. I baked them for 25 minutes until they were well risen. Once baked I removed them and turned them out of the tins. The importance of even greasing now showed itself. One of the cakes had stuck to the bottom of the tin and I had to be very careful when reconstructing it.

turning out

I spread some butter icing on the first cake and strawberry jam on the other. I placed one on top of the other to join them together. Finally I dusted the top with fine icing sugar for a frosted finish

spreading

Nearly

the sponge cake

I was still admiring my handiwork when the kids knocked at the door. I had been expecting them so I knew what to do. I got rid of the gin and beer bottles and invited them in, explaining that I was the cook. I told them that their aunt had been held up at work but she had wanted to make sure that somebody would be here to meet them when they arrived. Come and see the cake that aunty wanted us to have when she got back. That broke the ice. Soon they were telling me about their journey and how they had seen elephants, giraffe and baboons on the way.

It was nearly six pm now and I was getting anxious again. Kids are remarkable in so many ways. In a few moments they had forgotten that they were in a strange house. The young boy switched on the telly to his favourite channel. Moments later we were all 3 of us sitting there watching TV quite happily when a completely stressed out Rubina walked in. The kids jumped into her outstretched arms and she was genuinely pleased and relieved to see them.

The young girl told her aunt that cook here had baked a nice cake and could we have some now that she was home. Rubina looked at me and smiled. We had tea with lots of cake. Rubina then told the children that we would all get into aunties car to take cook back to his home.

murder on record: part two

sailing

the missing guest

Once the police had concluded their formal interviews they retired again in private conference in the dining room.

Woolie said..” I have finished going through the notes and err…now why is there no reference to the chap whom the nurse referred to as Maramba’s nephew…..did any of you get to interview him?”
Babu and the commander both shook their heads. None of the house guests, it seemed, had mentioned Maramba’s nephew during their interviews. Mary, the house nurse was called back to see if she could clear this up.

Commander Ruby said to her, “Mary, you told us earlier that when you were unable to get a response from Mr Maramba you had sought assistance from the guests who were having breakfast nearby. You said one of these guests was Maramba’s nephew. Are you absolutely sure about that?”

Mary nodded, looking somewhat surprised at the question. The commander went on, “So what has happened to this nephew, where is he?”

Mary seemed puzzled. She said “Have you not interviewed him yet? He must be here in the house somewhere, surely. Nobody has left this house since the body was discovered this morning.

It was important to get to the bottom of this and the guests were all summoned back to the dining room. Monica was adamant that none of the guests who had been there the previous day were any relation of hers or Maramba’s for that matter. Rita the journalist said that there was a man who had been at breakfast but was not here now. She remembered talking to him briefly on Sunday just after lunch. He had told her that he was a senior executive in an energy company in Jinja – a company in which Maramba was a big investor. Another guest said that he had spoken to a man who said he was from Dar es Salaam and was in partnership with Maramba in the shipping business. It was the same man who had been at breakfast but was now missing. A final guest revealed to the police commander that a man fitting the same description had introduced himself as a professor of Mathematics from Cape Town.

The Commander ordered her officers to carry out a thorough search of the big house. Others were dispatched to search the out buildings and any other areas that the mystery man could be hiding. The staff were interviewed again. The farm manager now declared that one of his tractors, a John Deere, was missing. It had been parked in the garage that morning and he had seen it when he arrived for work just before 7.00am. The police then discovered from the security guard that just after 8.25 am he had opened the gate allowing a tractor to leave the farm. It had joined the main road turning left and heading for “Baraka farm”, he had thought. The farm manager confirmed that Baraka farm formed part of the estate’s land about 2 kilometres down the road.

The police commander got into a car with the farm manager and some officers and raced off towards Baraka farm. Less than a kilometre down the road the farm manager asked the driver to slow down. They came upon was a gap in the hedge. They stopped the car and got out. There were huge tyre tracks on the soft verge leading into the field. They followed the tracks and found the tractor parked inside the field right against the hedge and completely hidden away from the road. The police discovered more tyre tracks. It was apparent that a smaller car had once been hidden here too. This must have been the suspect’s get away vehicle.

Unita?

The following week the police would once again descend on Maramba Manor. They were hundreds of officers, uniformed and plain clothes. It was Wednesday the day of the burial. Thousands of people had turned up to pay their respects. Babu, of course was there. So too was Ruby as the police commander for the County. She spent most of the time fielding questions from reporters who wanted to know how the murder investigation was moving. Babu would tell Woolie later that Ruby had the makings of a politician. She had handled herself well saying that “investigations had progressed well”, to one reporter and to another that they were at a “critical stage”. Before telling the last one that it was now “anticipated that an arrest was imminent.”

Babu himself had not expected such a huge turn out. Mr Maramba was not a politician but he had done much for his local community and his strong business ties ensured him a good send off. Babu was not surprised to see the smart executive limousines that drew up in motorcade with fluttering flags and bodyguards in tow. The huge police presence so early on had suggested there would be some VIPs in attendance. In fact the team captains from 1978 to the present had all come to pay their respects. As Babu said later to Woolie “It was as if Savimbi himself was back in town”

The Paper plot

Woolie was back in the study. He felt that the answers to his questions must lie in the documents that Maramba kept here. The police believed that they had a suspect and they were fairly confident that they would soon have him in custody. For Woolie it was not that simple. Who was this man? The phantom described by various witnesses as a shipper, an academic and an industrialist? Woolie needed to find any information that linked Maramba with the said suspect and which could therefore suggest a motive for this crime. He noticed a huge folder at the bottom of the cabinet that looked promising. He would not be able to take any documents out of the study and so he sat in Maramba’s chair and opened the folder.

The folder contained files all labeled Daily Eye which was the name of Maramba’s newspaper. Documents showed that when he took it over circulation was falling and advertising revenues had taken a hit. He had overhauled the paper getting rid of dead wood and modernising their publication processes. Maramba had invested in spanking new premises spending huge sums on new equipment too. Staff moral had gone up and readership numbers were now challenging the older dailies. Woolie read that the paper’s success had made it a prime target for a takeover. There was plenty of money about, banks had cash and could lend it for anything one wanted to do. Maramba had rejected any buy offers saying the Daily Eye was not for sale. He called his paper – macho ya simba (Lion’s eyes).

Woolie picked up a file labeled close surveillance. It contained printed A4 pages of cctv images taken in various locations which Woolie did not immediately recognise. There were hundreds of images, all printed out. At the back of the file an instructions leaflet on how to install the Chinese Tzinqui micro cam. Woolie looked at the photo prints again. Aha! It seemed that the paranoid Maramba had installed cctv in his home. The images in the prints were from the kitchen, the dining room, the main lounge and various other rooms in this big house. There were also stills from the farm yard and the garage. Maramba had secretly installed the cameras and only he knew of their existence!

* * * *

end of part two

The djin at Chalbi

We can play around with a story that a young friend told at a recent reunion party. My version is kidogo twisted but pay attention because we will ask questions at the end.

Three travellers sat idly in the sun by the dusty roadside in the middle of the day. The matatu in which they were travelling has just died nearby. The engine had siezed, the tyres were busted and a viscous black fluid oozed from under the mat’s belly flowing onto the dusty road.

Our friends were in the middle of the Chalbi desert, one of the hottest and most fearsome places in Kenya. Earlier on their mat had been making good progress and the travellers expected to be in Turkana by early evening. The miraa chewing driver was the only one awake when the old Nissan suddenly let out a loud, desperate scream which cut short our passengers’ dreams.

Thick black smoke poured out from under the bonnet. Orange flames were now licking at the windscreen. The cool, expert driver brought the vehicle to a halt, commanded everyone to jump out and pulled out his small extinghuisher to tackle the flames. Next moment the passengers and touts were struggling to put out the flames that had caught the driver’s jacket.

Whilst all this was happening a military helicopter was landing nearby whipping up a mini tornado of sand and dust that choked our travellers. They asked if there were any casualties. There were none. The helicopter could not accommodate everyone. The helicopter captain agreed to take the mat driver and his 2 accomplices and 18 passengers to seek help at the nearest town or settlement. The soldiers gave the 3 stranded passengers a large bottle of water and a small tin of Golden Virginia rolling tobacco and a small revolver with several rounds. The helicopter then took off in the same cloud of dust, sand and awe and within minutes had disappeared from site or sound.

Now that had been some three long hours ago. Our travellers were all unacquainted with one another. Now they chatted away to pass the time and they wondered aloud how long it would take for help to arrive. What if the driver and his boys had just abandoned them. It became clear that their position was quite a mess.

As they talked it was also readily apparent that all three hailed from different parts of Kenya. Each man realised how little he knew about the others’ communities except what stereotypes were passed on and yet they all lived in the same country. In talking each man reflected upon how they all had the same aspirations, expectations and fears.

They shared the water but none was a smoker so the first man said smoking was disgusting and ungodly and they should throw away the tobacco. The second man said they should keep it incase they could use it to trade for food or water.

The third man agreed and asked to see the tin. As he rubbed the dust off to read the list of ingredients on the side of the tin an amazing thing happened. The lid flew off and a tiny djinni jumped out of the tin. The djinni made the customary thank you for releasing me speech and promptly granted one wish to each of the three men who by now were the best of mates.

The men gratefully accepted the djinni’s offer and the first man made his wish. He had only ended up here because someone had promised him some precious stones. He said that he would like to be back at his home town where he owned a small bar-cum-nyama choma joint. He wanted to sit at the counter and watch the drinkers spend and spend. His wish was granted and he was instantly whisked away.

The second man asked to be allowed to go back to his home. He missed his wife and children dearly and he wanted to be with them and to provide for them a comfortable life. The djinni granted the wish and the man was on his way.

The third man thought long and hard before making his request. The djinni was getting impatient. finally the man said “All I want is for you to bring those two friends of mine back here…..”

murder on record: part one

sailing

The Manor house was situated at the top of the hill. It had taken Woolie just over twenty-five minutes to walk up from the gate where the yellow-and black Nissan matatu had dropped him off. The long, asphalt drive-way was lined with tall match-wood trees on either side. Beyond the trees were open fields. Woolie observed black-and-white dairy cattle grazing in the deep grass. There was also a small flock of sheep feeding happily in the sun on this Monday morning in late march.

There was nobody in sight as Woolie made his way to the open front door. Just inside the door-way stood his friend the retired detective Inspector. He was in quiet conversation with a young woman police officer. They turned to look at him when he got to the top of the stairs. The retired cop did that irritating thing and looked pointedly at his watch.

“It’s a long way from the main road”, Woolie said. “Perhaps I should have taken a taxi.”

“Well you are here now so we are ready to begin.” said the former detective. “I would like you to meet Commander Ruby Mwekundu here. She heads the County Crime Squad and is in charge of this investigation.” Woolie put out his hand as the detective said “This is my associate Mr Woolie Kondoo.”

“So they have brought in the big guns, eh?” Woolie asked, noting that commander Ruby had a firm handshake.

“Mr Maramba was a powerful business man with important friends in high places. There is a lot of pressure from upstairs for us to solve this matter quickly.” said the commander.

Woolie smiled and said, “ I thought you police treated every murder investigation as a priority irrespective of the victim’s social standing.”

The commander gave him a withering look and turned to ask the former cop “Babu, what is it exactly that Mr Mbuzi here does for your outfit?”

The retired detective seemed to be enjoying the tension. He said “Mr Kondoo is a behavioural psychiatrist. He has invaluable knowledge on the criminal mind.”

The commander nodded impatiently and led the way into the house where the murder victim’s body still lay. They walked into the room which resembled some macabre abattoir. The late Mr Maramba was lying face up on the bed. His throat had been slit wide open and the voice-box had been plucked out. There was dark blood on the bed, on other furniture and all over the floor. The police forensic team had finished taking their prints, samples and photos.

After another quick look around the room Ruby led them out again along a wide corridor and into a large dining room. This room was bright and sunny with ceiling to floor windows looking out to the formal gardens at the south face of the house. They sat at the table where the commander gave them a summary of the events that had taken place at the Maramba Manor.

Mr Maramba had hosted a weekend party. It was common knowledge that Maramba enjoyed entertaining and liked a good party. There was good food and wine. He liked to hire in the catering and music for the Saturday bash. Most guests stayed on for a formal Sunday lunch. Maramba Manor would hold seven or eight such weekend parties throughout the year. Guests were usually business and social contacts and a few political big wigs. There was often a journalist or two hoping to snatch exclusive interviews.

Maramba had placed great significance on this particular weekend because his eldest child and heir would be formally introduced to the distinguished guests having just returned home from a long sojourn in the Netherlands. There had been about a dozen guests who stayed on for the Sunday dinner. Just after 6.00 pm on Sunday evening a jovial Maramba had gone into his study to complete some urgent paper-work for one of the guests to take with him the following morning. At 8.00 am this morning the home-nurse had gone to fetch Maramba for his morning physiotherapy. She got no reply to her knock at the door which appeared to be locked from the inside. Maramba’s nephew and some of the other guests were having breakfast in the dining roon nearby and the nurse went to ask for their help to get the study door open. They had broken down the door and gone through the connecting door into the bedroom where they found the deceased. The nurse is adamant that the door was locked from the inside. Another of the guests found the key on the floor where it had been knocked out of the door when they broke it down.

Commander Ruby now sat back, took a deep breath and looked at the two men seated opposite her. “Babu, the windows in the study and bedroom are barred. There is no way that anybody could have entered or left the room other than through the door nkt.”

Babu said, “I think we are ready to interview the guests now – then we can let them go home.” He asked a police Constable to ask the guests in one at a time. Please ask the young Maramba to come in first.

The young Maramba was called Monica and she was still in a state of shock and disbelief. she answered the questions that were put to her using simple sentences, offering mainly one-word answers. Her father was kind and just and as far as she knew, he did not have any enemies. Monica did not have any idea who would do such a thing or how the killer had entered and left the locked study. The other guests were interviewed and their responses followed a similar fashion expressing shock, horror and disbelief at the crime.

The house nurse described Maramba as a good employer and patient. She had come to live in the home just after he was diagnosed with diabetes and gout. He took his physiotherapy very seriously and had managed to bring his weight and blood pressure almost as low as someone half his age. She knew many of the guests by sight but did not know any of them well. The other members of the household were happy and loyal. She could not think of anyone who would have committed this heinous act

Next to be interviewed was the journalist. She gave her name as Rita. She had arrived on the Saturday night and had been at the party until the small hours. This was her third time at the Marambas. She knew Maramba quite well and had also known his late wife. Rita revealed that Maramba was a shrewd business man with a somewhat ruthless streak. When he had taken over the small newspaper where she worked he had walked in and fired the editor on the spot. The editor, a chain-smoking alcoholic started talking about going to the employment tribunals and such like but Maramba cut him short and said to him “Go to the tribunal if you like. I will sue you for taking company money under false pretenses. You claim to have been an editor here for six years. It is patently clear that this newspaper could not possibly have had an editor, what with the shoddy writing lousy spelling, and the shallow news reporting over the years…… and yet you have happily taken a pay-cheque every month.”

So the angry editor had walked away…

* * * *

end of part one

This one is about nine lives and putting a stop to domestic violence

My friend, the retired Detective Inspector, called me late on Friday afternoon. I was making an easy day of it working from home in my PJs. Two days before, I had left a message with his office asking if he would be kind enough to grant me an interview. I am doing some research on an unsolved murder that took place over thirty years ago and I was hoping that the D.I could arrange it so that I could see the official notes taken at the time.

‘Meet me at the community centre in an hour,’ he said after I had briefed him.’We can talk about it then. Also there is something I would like you to see.’

Knowing the DI’s views on punctuality I put away my work, shaved, showered and dressed in record time. There was no time to do the magic thing with the hair. I did however use a drop of her majesty’s hair oil, mainly for the good smell.

Just as I was ready to leave a dull pain and low grumble in my gut sent me back to the loo. Now this was becoming a bit of a routine. It seemed that there was a problem with my body’s number 2 functions. I had noticed over the past 3 months or so that I would sit on the throne, empty the bowels making certain that all was done. I would then shower,getting nice and fresh. But then, just as I got to the front door I would have the urge to go back to the loo dropping a whole bucket full once again. It was getting quite annoying and worrying. I would bring it up next time I saw the Doctor.

I jumped into the next mat and arrived at the community centre with about ten minutes to spare. Inside, I spotted the DI standing at the front of the hall. He appeared to be in deep conversation with a uniformed female police officer. They both turned round to look as the door closed gently behind me.

‘ Aha, there you are, Woolie,’ said the DI. ‘Come straight through. We are just about to begin.’ I followed them into an inner office inside which several people were getting ready. I learned that they were recording a short radio mini – play and the actors were all local people.

The lady holding the huge furry microphone came into the centre of the group and when all was ready the director said ‘Action!’ The amateur players took their cue.

Their setting was a typical evening street scene where two friends have unexpectedly bumped into one another.

Bubba: Hey Plaxton, how are you me old friend, long time no see

Plaxton: Oh, is it you, Bubba. I am fine, my good friend. How’s the family?

Bubba: Oh forget that for a minute, will you. Come here…

Thwack!! Bubba lands a big fat slap on his mates back. Plaxton stumbles and nearly falls.

Bubba: Hey…listen, let’s have a quick drink for old times bwana. Mtego’s is just round the corner. It’s so great to see you.

Plaxton: I really can’t my dear friend. I need to hurry home. We are having guests for dinner and I promised Armonia I would home on time.

Bubba: That is all woman’s work. Let your wife get things ready. We’re having a drink.

They have stopped at the door to the bar. Plaxton is reluctant to enter but Bubba pushes him in. Soon their table’s surface is all but covered in bottles of frothy beer. Bubba is downing them at the rate of three bottles to Plaxton’s one.

Bubba: You are the Man in your house, Plaxton. If you get home and find that your woman hasn’t got things ready, give her a few slaps, like I do. That will teach her for next time.

Bubba wipes the froth off his lips with the back of his hand.

Plaxton: We don’t have that sort of a marriage. I treat Armonia with respect. I treat her as an equal and we share in all the household tasks. I must go.

Bubba gets up and pushes his friend off his stool, knocking him to the ground.

Bubba: Then go away you girlie-man go and help your wife chop the onions. It is no wonder our country is going to the dogs.

The security men quickly escort Bubba outside to the warm evening air with kicks and slaps.

Police woman: Domestic violence is a crime and the police now treat it very seriously. Call a stop to domestic violence now.

The end.

I learned that the mini play would be aired every day for a fortnight after the early evening news.

After the DI had said his farewells we left the centre and headed back into town. We stopped at the place called the city jungle. It was my first time in the new club. At the bar we ordered a couple of beers taking in the atmosphere. I excused myself and headed off to answer a swift call of nature.

As I returned to the bar I spotted someone speaking to the DI and my heart sank. They were taking our drinks over to a table and it appeared that my private chat with the DI would have to be postponed. I recognised the newcomer as I approached the table. Joseph Francis was our local bank manager. A popular figure. He was one of the characters in our community.

‘I needed this.’ Said the manager, draining his glass in one long draught. ‘I have had the most challenging of days.’

‘Tell us what happened,’ Said the DI. We’re dying to know.’
‘Perhaps you mustn’t mention dying so readily.’ Was the distressed manger’s reply. ‘When I woke this morning I did not have a clue that at some point today I would be involved in the loss of life.’

‘More drinks, Woolie. Fetch more drinks please. Joseph here has something important to tell us.’ I took the cash that the DI thrust towards me and headed for the bar.

It did not take long for Joseph to get into his story.

He had woken early that Friday and then quickly remembered that it was his day off. It was a favourite time in their work calendar, the long weekend. It meant that he was not due back in the office until Wednesday morning. So an easy, soft day lay ahead.

He would start with a leisurely breakfast, read the papers, deal with personal emails and then perhaps visit a few of his favourite blogs. Depending on his mood, he might spare a few moments for the hideously named “social media”. After all that it would surely be time to slip into the shed outside and get onto the one thing which gave him the utmost pleasure. He was currently working on a short stool, a project which was more a labour of love. He would dedicate 3 or 4 hours to this. Francis may have been a banker but carpentry was his true calling. In his spare time he turned out lovely bits of furniture which he proudly presented to his wife and her friends. He had fitted his shed with various carpentry tools and not a soul knew about this place.

His wife at this moment would just be getting ready for work. Once she had left, Francis would be free as a bird. He half listened to the noisy drivel from the radio djs on the morning drive time show as he waited to hear his wife saying good bye.

He was more than a little surprised, he told us, when his good lady, Alexis walked back into their bedroom smiling sweetly and wearing nothing but her wedding ring. She hopped back into bed pulling the covers over her smooth body. There must be an explanation, Francis thought. Perhaps she was unwell. Alexis did not look unwell. They spent some great quality time together and after that she explained to Francis that she had taken the day off from her job at the wholesale chemists to spend time with him. How lovely, Francis thought.

Ms Alexis had the whole day planned out. A quick visit to pick up some special prescriptions at Village market, followed by a drive to Ngong Road to see a client and then a quick lunch for two. After that on to Nakumatt to pick up a host of household items. The errands would take all day, thought Francis and he could think of no way to get out of it.

As they went to the car Alexis noticed that her pussy was resting in the shade under their car. Alexis advised Francis to tap on the horn to frighten the cat away. You must always do that to avoid an accident, Alexis told him.

The day had gone cheerfully well to Francis’ surprise and delight. They had enjoyed themselves and completed Alexis’ to do list with plenty of time to spare. She was very happy and gratefully told Francis that he was free to do as he wanted now. He slipped straight out to the shed to start work on his stool. As Francis worked away at it occurred to him that he would need another tin of wood-glue. The hardware store would be closing soon and he would need to drive there without delay.

He had jumped into the car and set off. There was a sudden and very loud and deadly shrieking howl from underneath the car. Francis had stopped immediately. He looked under the car to find a dead cat. The front and back wheels had crushed it spreading brain and intestinal matter on the pavement. Francis had panicked. He looked around him astonished that nobody had come to check the source of the loud racket of a few minutes ago. Once he was certain that he was not being observed Francis scraped the black cat’s remains from the pavement and went to the back garden where he interred them in a shallow grave.

Now what to do about Alexis? She adored that cat and Francis had neglected to tap on the horn. What a mess. Perhaps he could buy her a new cat – but she would realise straight away that this was not the same cat. There was only one way. He would have to tell her the truth. Francis counted to ten and marched into the house. Alexis was in the kitchen making some tea. She took out a bottle of milk from the fridge. There was a saucer on the floor and she filled this with milk. Francis had started to say that he had something to tell her. But Alexis did not hear as she was calling out saying: Here pussy, pussy come and have some milk, pussy pussy.

The cat glided smoothly through the door that led from the living room into the kitchen where they stood. Francis let out a cry saying to Alexis that he urgently needed a drink.

Strong desire to be free

We arrived just as they were leaving. They were in a small group of about twenty standing there by the edge of the lake. The ladies wore black and the men were in dark suits. Most of the group wore dark glasses. They walked back to where they had parked their cars and then very slowly they drove away.

I recognised the big car that was the last to leave. It belonged to my friend the former police detective. My companion who was also gazing at the line of departing vehicles said, “That was an ash scattering service. I have been to one here before. Someone says a short prayer then they get the ashes of the deceased and scatter them onto the lake, then they all go home.”

“Wonder who it was that was cremated. I doubt they were African”, observed my pal.

Was he right? I had to find out. On monday I called upon my good friend the ex-detective. He showed me an orbituary and funeral announcement from the Daily Nation of the previous week. It was for Caroline Buxton, If I wanted the background I would have to buy lunch, he said. That is what I did and here is what I learned:

Caroline was born in Nakuru to Thomas Simon Buxton and Anna Waithira in 1956. Buxton worked in the Colonial administration at the time and Caroline’s mother was a Senior nurse at the Provincial General Hospital.

In 1977, Caroline then a qualified nurse, married Timothy Mokasa the son of a powerful Provincial Commissioner. Timothy had recently joined a law firm in Nairobi and with his good family connections he was expected to do well. Timothy was not a good lawyer and the firm was eventually forced to let him go. Caroline stood by her husband when he changed course and decided to set up in business. He used his connections again to secure GOK supply contracts.

During the early years of their marriage, Caroline continued to develop her career and was able to establish herself as a major expert in the training of junior nurses throughout the country. She was in contact with officials from the health and education ministries and all the big government hospitals and she published several training manuals that were used in these institutions. Her continued success was a source of anger and jealousy for her husband, who had not found much fortune in business.

It was just after the birth of their son that Caroline realised that her husband was becoming jealous and had started drinking heavily. Neighbours told stories of his physical and mental abuse of Caroline. At this time Caroline was the principal of a nursing school and had a busy writing schedule. Her successes had now opened to her doors to high society.

In spite of his jealousy and pride, Mokasa was able to convince his wife to use her connections to advance himself. Against advice from family and close friends Caroline used her influence to secure her husband a position in the health ministry as a financial advisor. In a letter to a friend her elderly father wrote…”It is no longer qualifications or what you know but who you know that determines things in this new Kenya. I have very little confidence in the future…”

Around this time a new director of Nursing Services arrived at the ministry. The high-flying doctor was popular with medical staff and ministry officials and it was rumoured that he was destined for big things in government. It was the nature of his position that he consulted with Caroline on a daily basis and they frequently travelled together on official engagements. The young doctor was now pursuaded by political contacts to stand for parliament in a by-election. It was hoped that upon election he would secure the health assistant ministry.

It was time for Timothy Mokasa to strike: without warning he sued the young director. He had hoped to stop the doctor’s political career in its tracks and get some money in the process. He cited the close working relationship between the young doctor and his wife as merely a cover for an outrageous adulterous affair. The case was over in 3 weeks. Mokasa the lousy lawyer lost the suit and the young doctor emerged with his cotton clean image intact. The vengeful Mokasa now vowed that he would never grant his wife a divorce.

Unfortunately for Caroline, Mokasa had used every dirty trick in trying to put his case forward. Now her reputation was in tatters. The intense media interest and declining health forced her to retire from public life. In 1985, Caroline left her husband. She managed to subsist on her earnings as an author, but Mokasa claimed these as his own. He argued successfully in court that, as her husband, Caroline’s earnings were his in law. All her book earnings were surrendered to Mokasa. Caroline got her own back by using the law to her advantage. She ran up bills in her husband’s name and when creditors came for payment she told them that they could sue her husband.

Caroline refused to go back home to her parents prefering to live in Nairobi. Her son studied medicine at the uni going on to become a succesful surgeon. Caroline was never divorced from her husband. The long years of stress took their toll and Caroline was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

As her illness progressed she wrote to a friend of her “strong desire to be free…. I have been locked in a cage of unhappiness for much too long. When my time comes to go please do not put me in a box in the ground. I don’t think my spirit could take it.”

Scandal at Lanet

INJUSTICE

Ayere’s younger brothers ( they were all my cousins, ofcourse sons of my mother’s brother) were the last in the family to join the Armed forces. They went for training together before they were eventually stationed at Gilgil. The older of the brothers was a real firebrand. He drank and fought like only soldiers in peacetime can and he loved to chase the skirts.

The younger brother was more of the quiet type; he liked to talk things through he was the one people came to when they wanted advice. His career was moving steadily in the right direction and it was agreed that he was destined for great things. In his spare time he wrote poetry and read classic authors. He did not socialise much with the others but he was well liked.

In one of those incredible moments the older soldier man came to a decision. He figured that he had played the field for several years now and that it was time to settle down and raise a family. It came as no surprise to Ayere and the family when their brother married Saaida, the daughter of a local tycoon.

Saaida was beautiful, bright and charming and Ayere’s brother was well and truly under her spell. Her father had made his money in the destructive industry of deforestation. It is told that in his heyday Mr Matumbo’s lorries ferrying charcoal out of Musitu forest near Naivasha would stretch like a military convoy as far as the eye could see. He was personally responsible for the disappearance of this forest, which was a major catchment area feeding fresh water to the lake.

The happy couple soon moved into married quarters and begun wedded bliss. The new husband found his feet and became a serious and responsible character. He got on well in his job and was promoted several times by military superiors. It is when things are going well like this that you hear a knock on the door and open it to find some kind of nasty inconvenience.

Some time back a certain Master Sergeant Samuel Doe had overthrown the civilian government in Liberia. When his turn came the rebels came for him and shot him in the street “kama mbwa”, as our own benign dictator Mr Daniel liked to remind us. In due course the UN wheels slowly swung into motion ordering a peace keeping force to be sent to the Liberian killing fields to disarm the rebels and restore order.

Ayere’s older brother was amongst the initial 250 troops that were sent in advance. On arrival they immediately got to work and their unit received praise from many quarters for their even handed professionalism. A story reached us of how a group of villagers kidnapped by the rebel militia had been rescued by “blue helmets” who braved minefields and heavy machine gunfire in the thick rain forest to get the villagers to safety. Ayere’s brother was in command of that operation.

Back in Nairobi things were not too great for Saaida. Whilst she knew that being married to a soldier meant long periods apart, the news from Liberia was distressing. Rumours were coming in that our boys were ill equipped and did not have the capacity to defend themselves against the rebel forces. There was also news of unpaid allowances and poor moral. Saaida went to visit her young brother in law now based at Lanet. He reassured her and told her that the rumours were without foundation. He was able to calm her down and by the time she left she was actually in good spirits. Two days later she received a letter from her husband which laid her fears to rest.

In a short time whenever Saaida was feeling blue she would go to Lanet. Initially she told her young brother-in-law that she was visiting friends in Nakuru and had thought to check on him on the way and he, ever the gentleman was always happy to see her. She told a close friend, ” Eddo is just a friend, he listens to me and I feel comfortable talking to him…” Her friend had been questioning the wisdom of these weekend trips to Lanet. “these things had a habit of ending in tears”, she observed. “well just remember that you are married to Patrick….. and Eddo is his brother”

The visits continued. It was strange that whenever she could not see Eddo she was like a broken person suffering pains of withdrawal from a powerful drug. It happened once that she “dropped in” at Lanet and he was away. She was informed that he had been sent to Kahawa on official business. For Saaida, blinded by tears the drive back to Nairobi was a struggle.

One evening during the rains in april Saaida called in to see Eddo. They went out for a meal and came back quite late. Back at the house they relaxed over coffee before Eddo suggested that what with the late hour and the bad weather and roads perhaps she should stay the night.There was a spare room which would be quite adequate. It was agreed, the room prepared and they bade each other goodnight Much later Saaida gathered her guts, left her bed and went into Eddo’s room. She slid under the covers beside him. Eddo leapt out of the bed as one stung by a scorpion.

“Saaida! What is the meaning of this? why are you doing this.” She poured out her feelings and told him that he was the one for her. Eddo said it was impossible.It was not going to happen. She was the wife of his brother and that was how it was going to be. With that, he grabbed his clothes and left the room. Moments later She heard the front door bang shut.

Saaida had to move fast. Like her dad Matumbo she was an expert at damage limitation She dressed and went out. Dawn was just breaking as she pulled her car into the gates of the military police station.

“I wish to report an assault by one of your soldiers” she told the sleepy desk sergeant.

Weeks later, Eddo was put before a court martial and despite his strong denials of any wrong doing he was booted out of the army. Despite his good character and glowing references from his superiors a promising career ended in a dishonourable discharge.

Meanwhile in Lobo west of Monrovia, a UN Landrover carrying peace keepers was returning from a mission in the forest when a mine exploded beneath it. The vehicle was lifted several metres into the air. All the occupants were killed in ensuing fireball that engulfed their vehicle. Patrick who commanded the mission would never get to hear of the scandal at Lanet.

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