wetwool

because you never forget that funny smell

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 4)

Add a bit of spice

On Monday last week a long stretch of the River Thames from Oxfordshire through Berkshire and down to the outskirts of London had 14 severe warnings( with the potential for loss of life) in place and over four hundred properties along the Thames were evacuated. There were fears that thousands more were at risk.

image from dailymail.co.uk

Continue reading

The picnic

Woolie thinks that it is a sign of our times that most people that we know – and you might also include yourself here – are time poor. Simply put there are just not enough hours in the day to accommodate all the competing preoccupations of our daily lives. This might explain why we do not take too readily to people who delight in telling random rambling stories with endless detours and diversions. We are a species on the run today – get to the point and do it quick…before we become extinct. Continue reading

A stormy night – part two – Blue’s view

You may recall I talked last week about our stormy Christmas night – do you remember the wind howling and bending the heads of the tall trees and the rain crashing into the windows so that it sounded like someone was chucking shovels of gravel against the glass? It was an awful night indeed and the only saving grace was the warm log fire.

As I sat there staring at the flames I recounted the events of a year ago when the ferry from Broadmoor went down in stormy weather taking 25 innocent souls to the bottom of the sea. My friend Blue had travelled down to Portsmouth to meet a special passenger crossing on the last ferry of the night. My memory of events that long ago is a little hazy so I’m thinking why don’t I step aside and let Blue fill in some of the backstory leading to this terrible tragedy. Using the wonderful magic of technology, I give you Mister Blue…….

“Please fasten your seat-belt sir, we’re about to take off.” The young stewardess said this smiling sweetly as she moved quickly up the aisle, checking other passengers. The plane jerked forward and was soon taxiing towards the start of the runway. I shut my eyes tight and said another silent prayer. Moments later we were hurtling down the runway going faster and faster at some ridiculous speed and just when it seemed we would never take off the aircraft nose lifted and the rest of the Boeing 777-300 followed it skywards. I saw the look of relief on my fellow passengers’ faces and realised I was not alone.

My name is Blue. I hate flying, sailing and any form of land transport that involves vehicles with fewer than three wheels. So here I was now on Sunday evening flying across the night skies to Kenya. I had no choice. I needed to get away from Britain, the cold weather, the dull environment, the mindless Christmas hustle and bustle, but most of all I needed to get away from Woolie.

I had just lost someone very special in a freak ferry accident. The craft had sank in a wild storm killing everyone on board. The girl with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life was among those dead. I felt sadness at first and then a sort of sterile emptyness. This was followed by anger. A wild rage. I wanted to know why this had happened to me.

Woolie had appeared in Portsmouth just as I was trying to take in the news. He stood by my side from there on and supported me. He tried to comfort me. Every time he said something I wanted to punch him in the mouth, to shut him up. Woolie was part of my woes. That night – as we watched the tv news, I told Woolie how I had met my girl. I told him how much she meant to me – that was my biggest mistake.

Woolie is not all bad and true he is my best friend. It is just that he is a bit old-fashioned and conventional in his ways. Sometimes I think he is just confused. In matters of the heart I am afraid to say that he hasn’t got a clue. This explains why he was quite shocked to learn that I had never met my future bride to be in person. He laughed when I said that we had not found the opportunity in the seven months or so that we had been ‘dating’.

Woolie suggested that there must be something odd about the girl. He said, suppose she is not really who she says she is. I told him that we had exchanged loads of pictures. She lived a large manor house which her pa, a retired prison officer had bought from the last children of an old aristocratic family. I had seen the girl’s parents, her sisters and other members of the huge Broadmoor manor household.

Woolie had then interrogated me about West-African style online scams to see if the girl was just out to steal from me. I was not about to show him all the sweet emails, music and other cuttings that she had sent to me. I think those exchanges were private, more so now that she was gone.

There was still a final insult and disrespect to come. My friend asked me, “By the way, what is the name of your mystery girl? I don’t recall you ever having mentioned her name.”

“Carla” I said, quickly. “Her name was Carla Topping.”

Woolie immediately googled and searched the social media sites. There was no mention anywhere of a Carla Topping from Broadmoor Island and from that Woolie decided that she was a fake. For some reason, my best friend was unable to help me grieve over my loss. He wanted to show me up as some old fool who had fallen for a con artist. Bloody bure kabisa. I could have killed him. Instead I asked him not to mention Carla or Broadmoor or the sinking ferry to me again. It was time for me now to accept and move on. That shut him up and he helped me to prepare for my trip to Kenya.

As the plane touched down at Jomo Kenyatta I felt the sense of excitement that every traveller must feel on their return home. I knew I had made the right decision to come here and I would stay for as long as it took to come to terms with my loss. I said another quiet prayer of thanks.

A stormy night part one

It was the night of the storm. The squally rain was beating against the windows with such ferocity that the curtains on the inside were blowing about. Flashes of lightning lit up the black sky momentarily and these were followed by rolling thunder in the distance. The wind blew against the house howling and screaming like a creature in agony. My heart was grateful for the warm log fire.

As I sat listening to the violent battle going on outside the tragic events of the previous winter came back to mind. Exactly one year ago I had travelled down to Portsmouth at the beginning of the month for an important training fortnight organised for the heads of department in our region. The company had an office block beside the old Railway Station where the seminars took place. Our sleeping accommodation was in a middle-of-the-road family run hotel close to the docks on the other side of town. The company had paid for bed and breakfast but nearly everybody went out for dinner.

On the third evening I was too tired to go out. I thought perhaps I would check out the hotel kitchen to see what they had to offer. I was just making my way across to the restaurant when to my enormous surprise I spotted a friend seated on a high stool at the bar. What a coincidence? He had not seen me. He was gulping his whiskey as he stared at his reflection in the bar mirror in front of him.

‘Vipi Blue!’ I said in greeting. He turned quickly on hearing his name.

‘Woolie? Wacha! What are you doing here?’ He asked. He grabbed my right hand in both of his. His eyes were red, and it was not due to the Jameson.

‘Could ask you the same, I guess. We are both far from home. It’s been ages bwana. When did you come down here?’

‘I’ve been here all day, mzee. I am in mourning.’ He signalled to the barman who asked me what I was drinking.

‘What are you talking about, Blue? Kwani who has died like?’ I asked him. I was getting a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Blue is a real friend – almost definitely my best friend. We are like one. We think alike and act alike and share so many things in common that some acquaintances have mistaken us for brothers. It does not help that we look so much alike. In the crazy world of insurance you learn very early to seek a mentor and role model. Blue appointed himself as my mentor many years ago and he taught me everything that I know. If there is any single aspect about the insurance industry that Blue does not know – it is not worth knowing. I have learned much and achieved wonderful success in the this industry thanks to my association with Blue.

My buddy was the most successful salesman in the south-east region in his day. A charismatic, skilled and extremely charming salesman he had earned himself a small fortune when decided to retire and try his hand at life coaching. He was doing very well at this too.

We decided to leave the bar area and find a quiet table where we could talk. The flat screen tv on the wall opposite was tuned to a 24-hour news channel. The volume had been turned down. Blue was watching the news intently now. There were pictures of a large ferry that had capsized in the high seas. The caption read ’20 passengers still missing.’

Blue took up the story. The ferry from Broadmoor Island had set off on its six hour crossing with 8 cars, 2 lorries and 25 passengers and crew just after midnight. A sudden violent storm had whipped up midway through the crossing and despite the crews’ efforts the ferry had gone down in the high seas. No survivors had been found so far.

Blue had come to Portsmouth to meet a passenger coming over from the island on this ferry which should have docked just after 06.00 am. News of the tragedy had spread in the dock area long before it was picked up by the news wires. He could not believe his ears. The ferry bearing his love and all his hopes for the future had gone down. It could not be possible. The news was simply unbearable.

I needed to know more. So I asked Blue: Who was this lady? How long had they been together? What was she doing at Broadmoor Island.

It was in a voice heavy with sorrow that Blue explained how he had met this beautiful young lady online. Blue of course was single. She told him that she was single too but was under the care and guardianship of her ‘benefactor’ She said that she would explain it all to him when they finally met. All she would say was that he was controlling and very jealous. They had spoken at length and made real plans for the future. Blue had found his soul mate. I asked what the ‘benefactor’ business was all about. Blue said that the way she explained it he was someone who had once helped and supported her in the past and was now holding it against her. Some kind of emotional blackmail. He did not want her to leave, ever! They all lived in a big manor house on the Island. The benefactor, his wife and kids, Blue’s lady friend and a host of domestic staff who worked and lived in the manor. Blue looked at me with a pained expression and said how in life we only got one shot at being truly happy. He felt inside himself that this was a chance of a lifetime.

It had been proposed between the two of them that the lady would steal away from the manor the very first moonless night so that she could make her way down to the harbour under the cover of darkness. She would have previously purchased a ticket for the ferry crossing. Blue would be waiting for her in Portsmouth harbour and upon her arrival they would make their way to London where they would lie low before setting off for Kenya to start a new life together. Blue told me with tearful eyes that they had been hatching these plans on emails and phone calls over the past seven months.

We talked through the night in my hotel room. Blue’s lady had called him just before 11:00pm on the previous night to say that she was just about to leave the manor house. It was all systems go. That was the last he had heard from her. On hearing the bad news he had tried calling her cell-phone. It went unanswered. He tried it again and again until eventually a message came through saying that the subscriber was not available. Blue knew better. The phone must be at the bottom of the sea, he figured. He deleted her number from his phone. I know how to retrieve deleted numbers and unseen by Blue I copied it onto my phone.

I cancelled my training sessions in the morning and went back to London with Blue. He was in a bad way. We stayed at his flat. He was slowly coming to terms with the grieving process. One morning I asked him what he was going to do. He replied that he was still going to to relocate to Kenya. It had been his plan for the past seven months. The reality of his loss had sank in now and he felt that it was the right thing to do.

Blue stopped watching the news on tv or reading newspapers He said that he wanted to move on. He felt that the secondary emotions that he experienced whenever the news was on were not helping him.

It was Sunday. Blue was flying home today. At the airport we checked him in early so that we could have plenty of time at the bar. We sat and ordered our drinks. As I made a swift visit to the gents, I stopped to look at a newspaper on the stand. There was a picture of the ill-fated ferry on the front page. I read the report. My heart was pounding inside my chest and I thought it would burst open. Sea rescue and police had reported that they had now recovered the remains of all the victims of the ferry tragedy. There had been a single female who was a member of the crew. All the other passengers aboard the ferry that night had been male. Everything screamed to me that Blue’s lady had missed the ferry. But how does one explain the fact that he had not heard from her? I was weighing all this in my mind when Blue walked into the gents.

‘Chief, they’ve put out the last call, I better split.’ He looked really excited. I was not going to spoil that.

‘Look Blue, wewe nenda salama we’ll chat when you touch down.’

I watched as my friend went through departures. He did not look back once. When he was safely out of sight I whipped out my phone and dialled a number, It rang three times before it was answered by a young lady whose voice Blue would almost certainly have recognised.

‘Hello?’

‘Oga, Is that ma broda Harry-O?’ I asked.

‘I think you have the wrong number.’ Came the response.

‘I guess I have. Sorry.’ I hung up, deleted the number and went to look for my car.

A stormy and violent end to 2013

It is Tuesday 24th December 2013 and as I write these few lines violent storms are sweeping across the British Isles with high winds and heavy rainfall battering the country. The Met Office has issued ‘severe amber warnings’ forecasting extreme weather conditions for all parts of the country. Transport disruptions and localised flooding are expected. People are being advised not to travel ‘unless it is absolutely necessary’. Hello….It is Christmas eve.

The theme of violence takes a deadlier turn closer to home. Events of the past week in South Sudan have plunged the country into dangerous chaos and uncertainty. There are now reports coming in of ‘ethnic’ killings between the Dinka and Nuer communities. The AU and UN watch as Africa’s newest country totters towards a full scale civil war.

It would seem that 2013 may be remembered for all the wrong reasons. With the post election violence of 2007/8 at the back of everyone’s mind we went to the polls in April. The results were contested in the courts and the decision when it came was a slap in the face to a huge section of the electorate. For the sake of ‘peace’ we were all urged to accept and move on. Peace at any price.

Violence continued to rear its ugly head. The Westgate tragedy revealed the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our diverse society. The stories of people risking their lives to save others in the face of what they imagined was a huge terrorist attack. Kenyans helped one another regardless of race, class or creed. The long queues of blood donors and other volunteers giving freely of themselves gave a sense of pride to many Kenyans. We said to the world…”this is how we do it here…”

The inadequate response by our security apparatus, the failure of all security agencies to understand the nature of the terrorist threats facing our country and chaotic manner in which ‘the siege was ended’ revealed a disturbing level of incompetence by those charged with managing the situation. I will not say much about the looting by the KDF and the facts now emerging that there were no more than four attackers who probably all got away. I think we have had enough.

Something positive for 2013? Well the world bade farewell to a great man. It has been said that we will not see someone like Madiba for a very long time. Perhaps never.

Florence Kiplagat and Wilson Kipsang won the Berlin Marathon women’s and men’s races with Wilson setting a new marathon world record. The men’s race had an incredible top five finishers from Kenya. Beat that!

image from Bleacher Report

On that note may I take the opportunity to wish you all a very happy and peaceful Christmas. May the new year bring your dreams and aspirations to fruition and may you keep your noble resolutions until February, at least.

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 jk pie

I have often heard that one of the worst things for a blogger is to break their blog schedule or routine. For new and seasoned bloggers alike the golden rule is to blog and blog often. It is this that keeps visitors coming back. I am told that nothing is more frustrating for the keen blogger than failing to make the deadline for their new post.

Many bloggers, I am told will spend long sleepless nights worrying about how their readers will visit their blog only to find that nothing new has been posted for a week. The more they worry, the more difficult it gets to write. This causes even more worry and feeds further anxiety. As days and weeks go by the worried bloggers, loners by definition, become unwell quite quickly. Enlightened doctors up and down the country have come to recognise certain symptoms. If a patient visits a doctor presenting with insomnia, temperature fluctuations, nervous twitches, poor appetite, weigh-loss, amnesia and sometimes substance abuse, the first thing doctors will ask these days even as they take your blood pressure is whether you have updated your blog.

I got to Woolie’s front door, clutching a small bag of groceries. It was a cold evening and the streets were full of people rushing home before the rains came again. I picked up some small pebbles and threw them at the first floor window above me. There was no response and so I tried again with a larger pebble. There was such a loud crack that I thought I had broken the window. Moments later my friend’s angry face appeared at the window shouting some very naughty words. He recognised me and tossed the front-door key down with a loud mscheeeeew.

The first-floor bed-sit looked much smaller than it had been the last time I was there. Perhaps it was all the clothes, bags and other rubbish lying about all over the room. His unmade bed was at the far corner of the room. An overfull ashtray lay in the middle of the bed. Against the far wall the tv was tuned to Al Jazeera with the volume turned down. It was stuck on the same image of the Westgate mall. With shoes, socks and underwear strewn all over the floor space it was quite difficult to move in the room. It pained me to see my friend living like this. He looked rough and unshaven and it may have been a while since he had washed. We cleared some clothes from the large sofa where I sat down carefully.

“I have to write something. My blog is crying out….” Woolie said.

“Look at all this madness…”. He was scratching his groin and staring at the telly which was showing different scenes of the Westgate now. Helicopters hovered above the mall as armoured personnel carriers appeared driving down deserted side-streets. Now we saw a group of terrified civilians being led out of the building by plain clothes policemen. Woolie reached for his pack of cigarettes and lit one. I could not help looking at his shaking hands. His gaunt features were frightening.

“Have you had something to eat?” I asked, looking around for evidence. I noticed several empty cheap whisky bottles under the table. There was also a litre bottle of mineral water containing an amber liquid which was by the door and next to it dried banana peel.

Woolie shook his head wistfully. He turned to me and said “No energy to cook or go shopping. I’ve had nothing all day except whiskey ha!”

“Well then you are in luck, Woolie my boy.” I said.

I explained that we would tidy up the room together and then while he got himself washed up shaved and dressed I would prepare something small for our supper. He thought it was a good plan so we switched of the telly, cranked up the music and got to work.

When Woolie went off to the bathroom taking away the big mineral water bottle I headed for their shared kitchen which was at the end of the corridor. The cold building had six bed-sitting rooms all occupied by “professional tenants.” There were 2 small well-equipped kitchens where they made their meals. The tenants were expected to clear up after using the kitchen. Some did and some did not.

I found that everything I needed was here and I was ready to go. I could not get the image of my suffering friend out of my mind. I would have to make him something that he could eat today and perhaps for 2 or 3 more days. I racked my soft brain for inspiration wondering idly if chefs suffered from cooking block. Eureka! I thought. I would make Woolie a jua kali chicken and mushroom pie

From my shopping bag I took out a small tray of diced chicken pieces. There was a small onion on a shelf marked Woolie which I took and finely chopped before frying it with some ginger and garlic in a wok using a couple of spoons of vegetable oil. I dropped the Kuku pieces into the wok now and fried them for several minutes, sprinkling a bit of Rosemary and Thyme and ground white pepper. I also added a pinch of salt to this and after a couple more minutes I added 100g of chopped mushrooms. I added my secret ingredient now and 300ml of chicken stock and brought it to the boil. I let this simmer for a bit before turning off the fire.

the filling


The next step was making the pastry from scratch. People often say this is difficult but I found it very easy. I sifted 400g of plain white flour into a bowl adding a pinch of salt. To the flour I added 80g each of butter and lard. Using clean hands I mixed the floor and fats together squeezing between the fingers until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs. I added 2 tablespoons of ice-cold water and brought the mixture together into a dough. I remembered not to knead the mixture. I rolled it into a small piece of cling film and placed it in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.

flour butter and lard

Let’s roll


As I waited for the pastry to cool I took a small 100g bag of frozen mixed vegetables – peas, carrots and sweetcorn and added them into the chicken and mushroom filling. This was useful because it helped to cool the filling even further. The pastry needs to be worked when very cold to avoid melting the butter and breaking everything down.

I got the pastry out of the fridge. It was nice and cold now and easy to roll out. I rolled it into the shape of a baking dish and placed it inside. I rolled out another piece of pastry to use as the top. I poured the filling into the pastry and then covered it. I had enough filling and pastry for 2 more pies because Woolie’s pie dish was quite small.

all filled

ready to go

I placed the pies in the middle shelf of a hot oven at 220 degress celsius (gas mark 7) for 30 minutes until the pastry was golden brown. The pies were now ready.

twende

Jua Kali pies

I went back to the room and found Woolie seated at his desk typing away at his laptop. He looked clean and smart and like a man without a care in this world

“What you typing?” I asked…..

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

Spending some time in the field

There are times when we feel that all this is getting too much. It seems that Woolie can only take so much of the hectic city rat-race. At times like these Woolie likes nothing better to take a short break and go back to the source. Woolie is seen here bonding with family in the country and recharging the batteries

sailing

So sorry it had to come to this (II)

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?”

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