because you never forget that funny smell

Page 3 of 13

King’s treasure and the rogue zero

They arrived at the venue with moments to spare. It had been hurriedly arranged, almost at the last moment. Weeks ago Babu had offered Woolie a pair of tickets to a public presentation by the National Archaeology Unit. The event had been billed as “A show that will blow your mind.”

Woolie had wanted so much to take Rubina to this thing, whatever it turned out to be. This would be quite different. He felt unsure about asking her. He hardly saw her at all these days and when he called her on the phone she was always busy. It just rang and rang. She never returned his calls, which displeased him. He considered, with some irritation, how this new guy at the office opposite had just breezed in and had now managed to take Rubina to the cinema one weekend and then to play tennis, yes Tennis! On the following one. The new boy was clearly a mercenary! Would Rubina really be interested in going to some stuffy lecture about bones and stuff, he wondered. He waited almost two weeks, putting off asking her, like it was some ordeal.

When he finally asked her, just two days before the event, she said it was a lovely idea and she’d love to go. “Yay!” Woolie thought, totally delighted.

So here they were now at the National Museum. They run up the stairs and entered through the big doors to join the others in the beautiful Louis Leakey Auditorium. Once everyone was seated the Director, Professor Aden welcomed them all. She went on to introduce the Curator, Mr Shu Kabatt who drew up to the stage in his electric wheelchair. At his signal the lights were dimmed. The curtain went up and everyone looked at the huge cinema screen expectantly. The curator introduced the show in a deep, steady and sombre voice.

“laaadiees and geeeentle meeeen, it gives me great pleasure toniiiiight to welcome you all as you join us in our first showing of what is a truuuuuuly amazing story.”

The music playing in the background was an instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s Earth Song.

“As you all know, “ The curator continued, “The SafariGone Railway Coorporation won the contract to build and operate a South to North train service between Namanga and Juba in the Republic of South Sudan. Construction work in the Rift Valley was progressing steadily until about six months ago when the contractors reported that they had stumbled upon something quite unexpected.”

On the screen the audience now looked at what seemed like footage taken by the construction crews. The advance party had come to a halt before a dry and rocky plain upon which stood a hillock which was right in the path the proposed railway line. The engineers decided to tunnel through the hill. They had enough explosive to blow up the whole hill if it was necessary. They prepared their dynamite charges, cleared the area and blew open a big hole at the front of the hill. The loud explosion echoed across the plain sending flocks of huge birds flying in all directions. The dust soon settled and the contractors came back to survey the results.

The film footage showed clearly how the dynamite had smashed the large rocks at the front of the hill into small pieces. It soon became clear that the hillock was quite hollow inside. They had blasted open an entrance into a huge cavernous space. The ground sloped gently into the earth as the men ventured cautiously further into the cave. The men wore helmets with powerful torches attached which lit up the cold, damp space inside. The inside was huge, like a large cathedral. The audience were watching open mouthed when the leading men stumbled upon the first human remains. There were audible gasps as the camera panned the cave to reveal more human and animal remains, There were skeletons belonging to humans, goats and camels. Woolie glanced across to see Rubina completely engrossed in the unfolding drama.

Meanwhile back in the cave, the Chief Engineer suddenly blew his shrill emergency whistle and called out. “Stop! Stop where you are. We cannot carry on like this. You, turn off that camera. This is probably an ancient burial ground. We do not want to desecrate it. Don’t touch anything. Let us turn round, right now and walk back the way we came.” The men muttered to themselves but they did not argue. They turned around and walked out of the cave to the bright sunshine outside.

“And this is where we come in.” Said curator Kabatt, importantly. SafariGone were astute enough to realise the gravity of the situation. They reported the discovery immediately to the National Museums and we are able to secure the site. As you know we have executive authority over all areas of Natural, Scientific or Historical interest in the country and our powers can only be revoked by Executive order and Only in matters concerning National Security.”

The next piece of film on the screen looked more professionally done. As Kabatt continued to narrate the story the audience saw a team of archaeologists arrive and take control of the entire hill. They went into the cave again, photographing and documenting all their findings. They retrieved the remains of about 900 men, women and children inside the hill. There were also hundreds of farm animals – goats and sheep, chickens, pigs and cattle, It now looked as if the people had gone into the cave to seek shelter from some natural calamity. Radio Carbon dating put the remains at 1000 years old meaning that the tragic events leading to the deaths of an entire community took place in the year of Our Lord 1015.

The film continued to explain how further investigations by archaeologists showed that around AD 1015 there had been a series of huge earthquakes in this region. The land all around was flattened and some mountains had been swallowed back into the earth. The scientists bagged and tagged the stuff that they found amongst the human remains. One day they came to a depression in the ground. It looked almost like a shallow pit. In the darkness they struggled to see what was inside. The film crew then shone their powerful halogen lamps into the pit. The audience was silent as they beheld the breathtaking view. A deep pit nearly 10 metres wide by 10 metres long and 10 metres deep and full of gold bars. They had found the King’s treasure.

“Take me home, Woolie. I’m tired and hungry.” Rubina said. In the darkness of the auditorium, Woolie took a moment to process this. He had forgotten where he was. The story of the caves and everything had arrested his imagination.

“ Yes, yes of course.” He said. “Let’s go at once.”

They stood up and made their way carefully through the darkened auditorium. In the car Woolie asked, “what do you fancy for supper?”

“ Haha, can you make me something?” I don’t really fancy take away, Rubina said.

“You don’t mean cook right now, surely, Rubina. It’s so late.”

“ Late shmate Woolie, you’re not even working tomorrow you can stay up as long as you like. Unless you don’t want to cook for me.”

Woolie put his foot down hard on the accelerator and said “I’ll make you anything you like, Rubina. Just name it.”

“Anything? Anything at all?” Rubina was not sure if Woolie was being serious. He was driving quite fast now down the highway towards South B, where he lived.

Woolie said, Ok then I’ll make you a surprise dish.
The arrived soon after and by force of habit, Woolie went round the house, drawing curtains and checking that windows were locked. Rubina hung her coat on the hook by the door and came back into the living room.

“I want to help.” said Rubina, “What can I do?”

Woolie opened the glass cupboard and brought out two glasses. There was a bottle of Blue Nun in the fridge and he filled their glasses, rolled up his shirt-sleeves and washed his hands. He found a block of mild cheddar cheese which he asked Rubina to grate.

Woolie found a pan with a heavy base and placed it on the hob on medium heat to melt 80g of butter. He then took 80g of plain white flour and stirred it into the melted butter as Rubina watched. She fished out a whisk from the drawer and passed it to him and he added milk whisking the mixture quickly to produce a smooth thick pasta sauce. Rubina added salt and pepper when the heat was turned down.


“Now pass me the big pan in the fridge, please, Rubina.” In the pan was the Bolognese sauce which Woolie had made earlier like they did in the cookery shows. He brought a large glass pasta dish and started by placing a layer of Bolognese sauce at the bottom.

Pasta sheets

He placed dried pasta sheets to cover the sauce and then poured white sauce over the pasta sheets. He then put another layer of meat sauce and repeated the process another couple of times. He placed a final layer of pasta sheets on the top and covered that with white sauce. He then sprinkled a generous amonut of the cheese that Rubina had grated.

white sauce

all covered


With that done they placed it in the middle shelf of the oven at 180 degrees to cook for 25-30 minutes.

“ Now while we wait for your lovely lasagne, perhaps you can tell me why you don’t call me any more, Woolie.” Rubina was smiling as she said this. Woolie looked puzzled. He said, “I call you nearly every day. You never return my calls. I’ve been wondering about that.”

It was Rubina’s turn to look puzzled. She said, “I haven’t seen any missed calls from you, sir and It is you who doesn’t answer or return my calls.”

“Wait…” Woolie thought a moment and said, “ Do you have your phone nearby?” Rubina nodded. “Call me right now then”, continued Woolie. “I know we can get to the bottom of this.”

Rubina got her phone, looked up Woolie in her phone-book and pressed ‘call’. It indicated that it was dialling and shortly after there was a sound to suggest that the dialled number was ringing, Woolie’s own phone, meanwhile, lay quietly on the table quite oblivious to these proceedings.

Rubina asked Woolie to call her number, which he did and as before the phone made a ringing sound to say the dialled number was ringing but Rubina’s own phone remained silent.

Curiouser and curiouser, they both thought. How does this happen on a Friday evening in the month of May?

Shortly after, Woolie said, “ I must turn off the oven. Look up the number you have under my contact details and write it here. I’ll do the same.”

And just as they thought. They both had wrong contact numbers for each other. The digits were all correct except for one What made this mystery even more puzzling: It was the same editing. The last number had been altered to a zero

Woolie had growing suspicions. He refused to accept that it was just coincidence that his calls to Rubina had been sabotaged soon after the new guy had arrived in the office. How easy was it to edit someone’s contacts via an email application on the work computer, he wondered. They were always walking away from their desks and leaving everything logged on.

Woolie did not want to spoil the evening. They agreed to revisit the problem the next morning.
The lasagne was gorgeous. After they had had two helpings each Woolie brought ice-cream. They retired to the sofa where they settled to watch the late film.

Rubina had been right. They could stay up as late as they liked.

The end

A loyal friend to the end – final part

A poacher comes forward

Inspector Makrahanish drove them the few hundred metres to Peter Malo’s house. As they approached the entrance, he said, “I just got word from the station. We rounded up the usual suspects this morning. The petty muggers and crooks, that sort of thing. My officers have been interviewing them all morning. It is doubtful that this attack was carried out by a simple criminal. The attack was so savage and yet nothing at all was stolen. Why did they cut her up like that? Torture, perhaps?”

The commander shook her head. “We have to assume that the perpetrators are sick individuals and that Rubina just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. There was no sexual motive to the attack. They must be sick sadists; only that can explain the horrific injuries.” She said.

As they pulled up at the front court-yard by the house a lady opened the front door and came to meet them. She introduce herself as Margaret Kromati, farm manager. They explained why they had come. She ushered them inside and showed them into a comfortable lounge. As they were seated, a servant was sent to bring tea. Ms Kromati pulled forward a straight-backed chair placing it where she could face all of them and sat down. She spoke calmly and said, “I have heard the talk in the farm. A woman was attacked in the road by robbers in the night. They say it is Rubina. I called the hospital but they won’t talk to anyone about it. They wont let us go and see her.”

Inspector Makrahanish asked when Ms Kromati had last seen Rubina. “Oh, I saw her yesterday morning as she was leaving for town.” She told them. “When she is using matatu she has to leave quite early, but I am always up and about dealing with farm matters, you see.” The commander said, “Ms Kromati, are there times when Rubina does not use public transport? How does she get to town? She doesn’t drive.”

“Her father normally drives her.” Came the reply. “He went away on Wednesday, you see. He drives her to the courts down town and picks her up later in the afternoon.” He’s gone away on business. That’s why Rubina was using public means.” Kromati shook her head slowly. Commander Ruby pressed, “ But where is this that Mr Malo has gone, Ms Kromati? We have tried calling him but his number is unavailable. When do you expect him back?”

Ms Kromati sighed. “ He is mteja because he doesn’t take his phone with him. I can’t reach him, nobody can. Not until he gets back from his safari.” There was a note of despair in her voice and Babu followed it up. “ You say he leaves his phone, How do you know this?”

Ms Kromati stood up and walked over to a large painting hanging on the far wall of the room. It was a larger than usual copy. Babu noted the unmistakable features of Jomo Kenyatta in his black leather jacket on the night that the colonial powers arrested him and many others and declared a state of emergency in the country. Kromati took down the painting to reveal a large safe built into the wall. She fished out a small key from somewhere and unlocked the safe. She now brought out a passport, national ID card, a driving licence and two mobile phones. She placed these on the table for them to examine.

Ms Kromati said, “I am not just the farm manager. I look after the domestic arrangements here too. This gives me access to every part of the house. I open this safe almost every day to pay the casual workers. I am constantly in and out of Mr Malo’s room looking for an invoice here or a receipt there that he has forgotten to bring to the office.” Babu looked puzzled and asked, “So why does he leave all his stuff here when he goes away? I don’t get it.” Ms Kromati laughed a short laugh. “ You’re asking the wrong person. I asked him so many times, I lost count. He always said “That’s my business.” So I gave up asking. It really isn’t my business what a grown man does in his spare time.”

It was Inspector Makrahanish who now said: “Tell us a little about the business trips, madam how often does Malo go away?” The reply surprised them all. Ms Kromati said, “Peter Malo goes away on business every three months. He leaves the farm on a Wednesday and returns on a Wednesday some four weeks later. He always stays away for four weeks. Always. In the eight years that I have worked here He has never failed to make this trip. He locks away his car in the garage and uses a rental vehicle for the trip. Also he does not take any luggage from the house with him.”

Brown all through

It was getting late and the shadows outside were growing longer. They were slowly making their way back to the car. The commander and Ms Kromati walked slowly at the rear. In the courtyard some children had gathered and stood looking at the police vehicle. Now they watched the visitors with interest. A small boy in the group held a little brown puppy in his arms.

“Hello,” said Babu “ What a beautiful puppy. What’s his name?” The little boy smiled. He told Babu that his puppy was a girl. “Her name is Jinja. But you knooow…….. her mummy is gone.” The boy was suddenly sad. He looked at Babu and said “ Mister police can you find her mummy?” “Sure I can.” said Babu. Tell me her mummy’s name.”

Ms Kromati came along to where Babu and the boy stood. She said the kids had told her that the big dog, Cadbury was nowhere to be found. “That dog never leaves Rubina’s side when she is here. In fact she walks with Rubina to the bus stop in the mornings and in the evenings she runs back there to wait for her to arrive. Nobody knows how the dog figures out the time to go to the bus stop. Really weird.”

Commander Ruby asked, “Did you say the name is Cadbury?” Kromaty said“ Yes Hahahaha.The kids said they called her that because she was brown all through, like chocolate.”

The commander was serious now. “This is the name that poor Rubina has been trying to tell us.”
Babu said, “Of course. They must have been together when she was attacked. Where is the dog now, I wonder.” Makrahanish called the station with instructions. They were to check for and investigate all sightings of a brown dog in the neighbourhood.

They went back to the hospital and met Woolie who told them that there was some improvement in the patient but she still slept heavily. The nurse said that all the vital signs were good. In her opinion it was very likely that Rubina would shake off the sedatives and wake the following morning. The Doctor looked in and confirmed everything the nurse had said.. Inspector Makrahanish took his leave. Babu and the Commander brought Woolie up to speed with what they had learnt at the farm. Commander Ruby elected to stay the night in case their patient woke.

Woolie and Babu made their way to the hotel. Woolie said to Babu “ It seems to me that whoever it was that stole the dog, they are the ones responsible for the attack on Rubina. Find the dog and we’ll have the attackers.”

When Babu finally got to his room the tiredness had got to him. He undressed and collapsed onto the bed. He turned off the light and lay still. Sleep eluded him as it often did when a case presented seemingly impossible complications. The case before them was crazy: A random absentee father who abandons all that he owns. To go where?

Babu thought back to how he had so wanted to reconcile father and daughter. How he had managed to get Rubina to lead the defence team on a high-profile case. He had contacted Peter Malo and urged him to invite his daughter to stay with him for the duration of the case. He remembered now how Malo sounded the genuinely proud father. He would drive his daughter to court every morning, he had said. Rubina had accepted her dad’s offer graciously. She had told Babu that Malo had simply called her out of the blue. She need not stay in some random hotel when her dad had more than ample accommodation at the farm, Meddling old fool that I am, thought Babu. Where was Peter Malo. Did his absence have anything to do with the attack, or was it just coincidence. It was obvious that he was up to something. Fake Ids? Impersonations? A double life? Espionage? These were fantastic ideas. Rabbit holes. Babu reminded himself of the need to stick to the facts.

What were the facts: A young lady viciously assaulted. No obvious motive. Nothing taken. Hundreds of cuts, lacerations all over the body. Then there was the issue of the strange crime scene. Complete lack of physical evidence. No footprints, No tyre tracks and no reports of suspicious vehicles in the vicinity. How had the attackers arrived there and how did they leave? There was something one of the radio news readers had said in a report on the attack. “These vicious thugs were not human…” And what was it that Woolie had said before we parted? With that thought Babu finally dropped off.

Every Sunday morning Chadli Hosein walked through the forest checking his traps and bee-hives. Sometimes he got lucky and found small antelope or dik dik caught in the snares. He took only what he needed and shared any surplus with his neighbours. Hunting was once a noble and respected occupation. A source of fresh meat for the pot. The poachers who wiped out Rhino and Elephant for horns and ivory had driven good hunters underground.

Chadli was now quite close to the place where that poor girl had been attacked. It happened under that big tree. He looked down towards the river. Down there the vegetation was very thick. Perhaps he could place a trap down there. He slipped carefully down the embankment. He was now completely invisible from the road above. He walked along the river for a while. He was looking for a suitable place to set a trap. He came to a bend in the river.

If he had not been looking carefully he would never have seen the cave. The vegetation had grown so high and then it had fallen over almost completely blocking the entrance. “What an amazing hideout.” He thought. It was unlikely that anyone else knew of this place. He pushed the bushes to one side and moved into the mouth of the cave. A hundred thousand flies suddenly lifted off from their feeding ground. Chadli jumped back, terrified. The buzzing sound as they flew off was deafening. There was also a horrible smell. He quickly recovered his composure and strained to look at what the flies had been feeding on. He could barely believe his eyes. Lying there spread on the cave floor was the largest leopard he had ever seen. Beside it, clinging to the leopard’s neck, even in death was the carcass of a fine dog. Even in the faint light he could see that the dog’s fur was a smooth brown colour, like chocolate.

An hour later Chadli Hosein walked into the Sobea Police Station. He said to the officer at the desk “Who’s in charge here? I think I know what happened to that poor girl on Friday.”

The end

A loyal friend to the end part ii

A troubling question

Babu put a few things in a small over night bag, locked up and joined Commander Ruby and Woolie by the car in the drive-way. They set off immediately with the skilled police driver picking the quickest way to get to the Nakuru highway. Babu was seated at the back with the commander. They would break into conversation for a while before settling back into long periods of silence. Woolie had realised that the police driver seated beside him was a quiet man who much preferred to concentrate on the road ahead than engage in small talk.

The police BMW X5 made light work of the smooth highway, effortlessly chewing up the kilometres. Woolie considered for a moment the irony of the situation. Barely six hours before he had been looking forward to enjoying the breathtaking views of the escarpment and the Great Rift Valley on the way to see Rubina. Now, he stared at the road ahead in silence, totally oblivious to the natural beauty around them. He wondered what awaited them ahead.

love you when you’re right,
love you when you’re wrong,
love you when you’re weak,
love you when you’re strong,

They were met at the hospital by a young nurse who showed them into a waiting room. He left and reappeared several moments later with a young woman who introduced herself as the house officer. She was the doctor who was looking after Rubina. She explained to them that Rubina had regained consciousness briefly. She had appeared to be quite agitated. She was trying to ask the nurse something but the words would not come out. She had suffered some injuries to her throat and was unable to produce any sound. The effort had proved too much and she had slipped back into unconsciousness.

“We have performed a full body scan and we are quite satisfied that there are no serious internal injuries.” continued the doctor. She looked at the commander and said, “If you like, we can now go in and see the patient.”

Nothing had prepared them for for what they saw when they entered the room. Their friend and colleague was wrapped tightly from head to foot in white bandages. Only her eyes were visible through a small slit. She was attached to tubes and wires that were keeping her going. Woolie was to recall later how he had almost fled the room in terror. Retired detective Babu and Commander Ruby both quite familiar with serious injuries, accidents and violent death were also quite shocked.

The nurse told them that all the vital signs were good and they should treat this time as though Rubina was just resting. He said that she had woken again and had tried to ask for someone whose name he did not quite catch.

“Was she asking for Woolie?”, asked the commander. “Or perhaps Babu?”

“Sorry, I don’t know, said the nurse, shaking his head slowly.” But it was not Woolie. It may have been Babu, but I thought it sounded more like Baby, Does she perhaps have a young baby?

“Certainly not!” was Woolie’s sharp reply. “ Where do you get such ideas from? She’s not even married, yet.”

The house officer looked up at Woolie and nodded in understanding.

The nurse said that one of them could sit with Rubina in case she woke but the rest would have to go. Woolie elected to stay so Babu and the commander went out into the bright sunshine. They were met at the entrance by the OCS, Inspector Makrahanish. As the commander made the introductions Makrahanish could not conceal his pure delight at coming face to face with the great retired Detective Inspector. “Honoured to meet you sir.” he said, shaking Babu’s hand.

“My officers are working round the clock to find the perpetrators of this heinous crime. Rest assured that we will catch them in the next few days.”

“Commander Ruby has told me that she is very confident that this will be so.” replied Babu, graciously. “May we see the crime scene?”

They drove the short distance to the scene of the attack in Makrahanish’s car. Babu and Ruby listened intently as the OCS explained how Rubina had been found by a man walking home from the pub.

“He is a well-known local guy and is not a suspect right now as his story checks out.” Makrahanish said, looking at his notebook. The matatu people say the lady alighted at her usual stop by the old church at 8.30 pm. The guy found her lying face down in that thicket there. It was just after 1.30 am. It rained heavily through the night, you see and that is why all this grass around here looks flattened down. Unfortunately we have no footprints and any blood there may have been has been washed away. I understand your colleague lost a lot of blood.”

“One thing bothers me, Babu.” Commander Ruby was gazing out into the distance. She turned to look at Babu. “I have to ask, where is Rubina’s father? Where is Peter Malo, dammit!”

“Let us go down to the farm now.” said Babu. “ Let’s see if we can’t find some answers there.”

To be continued

A loyal friend to the end part i

Bad news breaking

Lyrics: Loving you(M. Riperton R. Rudolph)

No one else can make me feel
The colors that you bring
Stay with me while we grow old
And we will live each day in springtime

There were times when Babu could be exceptionally irritating, Woolie thought, helplessly, and it was at times such as these. They were in Woolie’s small silver Nissan, crawling along Friday evening traffic, heading for the Haraka-Haraka Luxury Coach booking offices down town. Babu had suddenly remembered that he had an urgent package to send to his wife who lived on a small farm in the west country. He needed to get the parcel onto the overnight coach, which was scheduled to leave in thirty minutes. He cursed and swore, urging Woolie to drive faster, change lanes and undertake the matatus.

They arrived at the office with just moments to spare. The man at the counter smiled as he recognised Babu and processed his parcel double quick, assuring them that it would be with Mrs Babu by 8.00am the following morning. Babu tipped him generously and they drove back to South B. It was Babu’s turn to buy the beers.

The bar was becoming livelier by the minute as thirsty punters streamed in, their long faces betraying the pains of the past week. Babu and Woolie were seated on tall stools at the bar. Babu took a long sip from a most satisfactory pint of Guiness, smacking his lips in delight. Woolie had decided to sample the new lager that some genius at the brewery had named ‘Mteja’. He invited Babu to take a sip. The old man put the glass gingerly to his lips and took a slow, long draught of the new drink. He held it in his mouth for a moment before forcing it down his throat, his face wrinkled up in an expression of deep agony. He looked at Woolie and said, “Mteja by name, mteja by nature. That stuff is disgusting.” He reached for his Guiness and gulped it down in one go.

“So, Woolie, have you heard from Rubina?” Babu asked after a short pause. Woolie shook his head, as an alarm bell started ringing in his ear. Babu was doing his fishing thing.

“Wow”, Babu continued. She’s been gone over four weeks, now. Don’t say you don’t miss her.” He had a funny smile playing on his lips. Woolie felt the heat rise in his face. He said, “Please Babu – no talk of Rubina tonight, please. I’d prefer not to discuss her with you, at all. Just imagine what she’d think if she knew we talk about her. Me and you, that is. It’s not on. She’s near enough your adopted daughter. I cannot have this convo with you!”

“Pah! Don’t pretend you don’t miss her. I know I do.”, Babu said. “She is going to be in Nakuru for the next nine weeks or so. That sodding case she’s on is difficult and it’s going to take ages. How come you don’t even talk of going up there some weekend to see her? Surprise her.”

“Surprise her?”, Woolie asked. Babu looked at Woolie and shook his head slowly. He said “Stop being such a pussy cat. Go on. You can drive up there first thing tomorrow morning. Look, it’s Saturday, see? Spend the day with her. She’d like that.”

Babu was on a roll. He said to Woolie “ Kwanza ebu ask Cleveland there to bring us some spicy chicken wings when he comes over. I’m going outside to fire my ka- pipe. When I return I’ll show you what to do about Rubina. Faint heart never won fair lady, au siyo?”

The evening wore on without serious surprises or undue excitement for Woolie. The good people in the pub had been fed and watered. Their formerly long tired faces now shone with euphoria and optimism. A result of good beer, fried chicken wings and very loud music.

That evening there was a new girl singing at the karaoke. The punters swore that her voice was identical to the mating call of the evening nightingale and had captured the hearts of most of the single men in the house when she sang “Loving you is easy ’cause you’re beautiful….” She had sung for two hours straight and then had mysteriously disappeared, just before the clock struck midnight.

Lovin’ you I see your soul come shinin’ through
And every time that we oooooh
I’m more in love with you
La la la la la la la… do do do do do

By the time the taxi dropped Babu and Woolie off at Babu’s bungalow it had been agreed that the two of them would be driving to Nakuru first thing in the morning; Woolie to spend the day with Rubina and Babu ostensibly to visit an old pal from Njoro who was looking for a sleeping partner to invest in some new technology enterprise. Woolie had a strange, elated feeling as he thought about the journey they would be making in just a few hours. It would be nice to see Rubina after all this time. He had already said good night to Babu who was standing at the verandah smoking his pipe. He found a duvet and some cushions and made his bed on the sofa. He undressed jumped onto the sofa and fell asleep almost immediately, aided no doubt by the evening’s drinks and some very happy thoughts for the following day.

Woolie woke with a start. He felt like it had just been minutes ago that he had fallen asleep. It took him a few moments to gather his thoughts. He remembered now why he was sleeping in a strange sofa. The knocking at the door was getting louder, more insistent. He put on his shirt and trousers and went to the front door. Across the hall-way and down the corridor Babu’s deep snoring seemed to vibrate the walls of the small bungalow. The time on the wall clock was 06:30. He opened the door and was nearly felled to the ground by a very agitated Commander Ruby Mwekundu of Regional Crime who stormed in, heading straight for Babu’s sitting room.

“Where is Babu?” She demanded. “Why is his phone mteja?” Before Woolie could answer, Babu walked through into the sitting room looking all smart and tidy. He smiled at Ruby and said “This is a pleasant surprise, Commander.” He turned to Woolie, “Fetch us some tea, Woolie, There’s a good chap. The Commander has some urgent news for us.”

Ruby had a face like they had not seen before. She was angry, that was clear, but she was frightened too. She held her hands together to keep them steady and looked at Babu and said “ It is, I regret very bad news. I received this information just over half an hour ago, Babu and I have been trying to contact you on your phone. Rubina was attacked at around eight o’clock, yesterday evening on her way home from work. The attack took place less than 8oo metres from her Pa’s house in Sobea. The report says she was found lying unconscious having suffered terrible injuries and it is believed that the attackers (police believe there was more than one attacker due to the sheer number of injuries) had left her for dead.”

Babu had gone completely still and the commander continued, “Rubina is now at the general hospital in Sobea where she is in a critical but stable condition. She lost a lot of blood in the attack and the perpetrators cut her many times with knives on her arms, legs and back. They are keeping her under observation and have sedated her for the time being.”

The shock in Babu’s face was painful to watch. The commander shook her head and said, “I don’t think there is any doubt that it is Rubina. The police at the scene recovered some documents strewn around the area where the attack took place. They were able to identify her quite quickly and the OCS, a kind gentleman by the name of Makrahanish, placed a call to my office which was transferred to me. I have a car with a driver outside ready to take you to Sobea right away.”

The commander was looking at Woolie when she said “The hospital are giving her the best possible care and Makrahanish has assured me that they already have a huge man hunt under way. The monsters who have done this will not get very far.”

To be continued

The cost of Privacy and Betrayal

It was just over a month ago that The Daily Mirror newspaper in the UK published what it referred to as an apology to “all its victims of phone hacking”, saying that voice mails on certain people’s phones were unlawfully accessed “some years ago”.

Image from the Guardian

Image from The Guardian

The open apology continued: “It was unlawful and should never have happened and fell far below the standards our readers expect and deserve.
“We are taking this opportunity to give every victim a sincere apology for what happened.”
This was the first time that a newspaper that was not part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International had admitted to the phone hacking of voice mails, thus acknowledging what the Counsel representing claimants against Mirror newspapers had asserted: The hacking that took place at Mirror Newspapers was done on an Industrial scale; far bigger than anything that took place at the News of The World, which was closed down following hacking scandals.

There is clearly the sense of a desperate need to bring this sorry state of affairs to a swift conclusion. The Mirror Group has put aside a huge compensation fund to settle with the claimants. The media council and government continue to look into measures that can be taken to ensure that this sort of scandal does not happen again.

That is all very well. They think they have taken care of it with their multi-million pound compensation fund and their contrite words of apology. Idiots! The foolish press journalists, reporters and owners do not realise that sweet words and pound notes cannot undo the damage and the hurt that their illegal hacking of private messages caused to so many individuals.

The newspaper reports of these crimes continue to refer to the victims as ‘mostly celebrities’, almost as if this would be a justification for the gross invasion of privacy that took place.

We have now heard from the ‘celebrities’ themselves. It makes one think. Personal statements read out in court by the claimants shed light on the anguish and heartbreak that was caused by this shameless activity by the newspapers.

We have read statements from a former coach of the England team, a former footballer who has battled for years with alcohol abuse, we have heard from stars in the world of TV and Cinema. Each of their stories follows a similar pattern. They would read stuff in the newspaper which they had only shared with someone close. Stuff that they, and we, would consider private, which perhaps they had spoken about at a vulnerable moment in their lives. The effect too was the same. We would all have reacted in the same way wondering whom it was amongst the people that we cared about that was selling our private information to the papers. Suspicions, mistrust and breakdowns were inevitable.

So, how well do we as individuals guard information that we receive by virtue of our ‘privileged positions?’ Can you keep a secret? If a friend told you something interesting, something that you thought other readers would love, would you be tempted to share, sell or publish their story? Please don’t, my friend. That would be a betrayal. Just like that of those idiot reporters.

Stay well.

A state of emergency

10th Jan 2015

Dear Jaki,

Fred Msumari always told me that one should have a special someone to contact in the event of an emergency. I found some letters and also your email address amongst his things and I have nobody else to turn to.

My name is Binti Pepo. We are not personally acquainted and I am very sorry to be the bearer of bad news. We travelled to Kerugoyes with Fred Msumari late last year to perform during the independence day celebrations at the invitation of the King Mwanalog II

See them fighting for Power

but they know not the Hour

On the evening of the 31st December 2014 the Royal procession was making its way back to the palace after the King’s successful Ndarabara ceremony high up in the mountains. Fred had been invited to go and watch the event. Just as they were crossing the Iron bridge, they were ambushed by masked insurgents bearing the dreaded Black Flag.

The Imperial guards were outnumbered by the attackers who were heavily armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers. At the end of the shoot out it was immediately clear that the King was dead. Imperial guardsmen lay on the ground, dead or dying . The rest of the royal party surrendered and were quickly rounded up and taken to a prison camp deep in the forest. Fred Msumari was amongst those captured. Nothing is known about their fate to date and all we can hope is that no news is good news.

deadly insurgents

A State of Emergency was declared throughout the land on the 1st of January 2015. The leader of the uprising announced an end to the monarchy. He declared himself the interim president even as insurgents stormed the Royal Palace, smashing it up and looting everything in an orgy of destruction. We were all carted off to the City Women’s prison where we are held to this day.

Dear Jaki, please circulate this email and let others know of our situation. Ask our government to intervene and demand for our immediate release. You are our only hope. Do not ignore my plea for help.

Yours in hope

Binti Pepo


12th Jan 2015

Dear Binti Pepo,

Oh dear, what a mess! Who are these idiots destroying peoples’ lives? We are getting some news coming through of the dreadful things that are happening. We stand in solidarity with the struggling people of Kerugoyes.

I am so sorry to hear about your situation. You are living a nightmare. The stuff that you hear and read about but never expect to have to live through. Thank you for getting in touch with me. Have you heard anything of Fred yet?

I have done as you asked and sent emails to everyone and anyone who has a chance of helping. I spoke to an official at the Foreign affairs Office this morning. They are very sympathetic but see many obstacles ahead; our fair Republic, as you know, has not recognised this new government in Kerugoyes. In fact we strongly condemned the unconstitutional manner in which they came to power and our High Commissioner was recalled for consultations last week.

We are holding meetings with activists and other people who know more about these things in order to publicise your plight and launch a campaign demanding the immediate and unconditional release of yourself, Fred and the other prisoners. I will keep you updated on that. Please let me know the minute you hear anything about Fred.

I pray that you may be strong and keep the faith


Christmas cheer and small talk

Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!


I am writing this on December 29th 2014 and I think that if I hear that greeting one more time I will do someone an injury. But no,seriously, what is it about the end of the year that makes it the season for small talk? I wish people would just stop being so……fake! 🙁

Check it out : There are people whom we never talk to all through the year. I am not talking about total strangers, so stop shaking your head. I mean work colleagues, people from my local, my street, my estate, my neighbourhood. I also mean estranged family members – people who barely acknowledge one another for eleven months of the year. Suddenly come Christmas week and hey they are all smiles and politeness, with good wishes for the season, asking if you are all ready for Christmas….and then, after the event asking if you had a good one. Everybody being kind to one another. How nice. Ptuh! If I wasn’t made of sterner stuff I would ask for a bucket!

Don’t get me wrong now. I am not a Scrooge and I love Christmas like everyone else (perhaps not always for the right reasons). I find the religious celebrations and the coming together of family and friends most enjoyable. Christmas comes but once a year but who says we can’t we spread this politeness and kindness across the whole of the year?

And the other thing that got me itching today. What is it about people and small talk? I am always amazed at how people behave when they meet others for the first time. We seem to have an unwritten protocol that states: make everything and everybody awkward.

Humour me for just a moment here. You meet someone for the first time at a big house party and the busy host/ess is not nearby to do the formal introductions. How do you break the ice? For kids in a playground in all their innocence nothing could be easier. They just ask “What is your name?” Could you simply ask someone for their name? I’d love to see you try. What about those funny types that like to ask directly what one does for a living. It tickles me no end.

So the small-talk continues. You ask the stranger, “Did you have to come far?” or even “What did you think of…( insert some inane subject that will not offend on the grounds of religious, cultural, gender or ethnic sensibilities) And on it goes. We have become a mobile nation as peoples from every corner of this great republic live, work and more recently party together. So we speak about the weather and the shortage of green peas, the traffic and the cost of petrol and leaving small children with suspect nannies. Bleh You wonder why people are constantly consulting their watches and smart phones?

I don’t know if, like me, you are unbelievably hopeless at remembering people’s names. How do you honestly tell someone with whom you are having a conversation and has already referred to you by name that you can’t remember their name. Most awkward. It happens. A third party, a friend of yours, say, suddenly comes over, and wait for the introductions. Put yourself in their shoes. Have they forgotten me because I am a random, inconsequential person.

I learned a trick this Christmas, how to get out of that one unscathed. All you do is say to the person, “So sorry, I forgot your name..” Making sure to use healthy gestures and body language, eg. pointing to your head like you’re a bit eccentric (screw loose). The person will say “Mariah” with all the dignity that she can muster. Now you, in your most charming voice say, “I knooow that silly, what’s your suuuurrrrnaaame!” Try it, really… it works!

The closing year has been one of achievement and tragedy. The best nature of man was shown as each day health workers from around the world joined their colleagues in Sierra Leone and Liberia to treat and care for victims of Ebola. The evil that we are capable of carrying out is also playing itself everyday as al shabab, islamic state, boko haram, and other misguided religious bigots wage a bogus war at home and abroad.

As we give thanks for the blessings of 2014. I wish you a very happy, safe and excellent new year. Enjoy the song again. 🙂

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!


* * *

Jacqueline Salama
Accident & Emergency Department
City Medical Centre

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. 😀


Slumming it in Kerugoyes

Fred Musumari
Royal Palace

Jacqueline Salawi
Accident & Emergency Department
City Medical Centre

18th November 2014

Dearest Jaki,

It is with a joyful and rapidly beating heart that I pen these few lines to you. I trust and pray that you are in good health. I hope that all is well back there in the peoples’ garage, as you occupy yourself in the noble undertaking of repairing the sick and panel-beating the wounded back into shape. 🙂

At this point I must send a quiet word of sympathy. Surely there was serious damage done to your finger-nails and to the keyboard on your lappy; you wrote some really hard-hitting words. I will not play the fool. I totally deserved all those horrible things that you said. I spoke to a pal later that day and they said that you did not mean to send that email. Ha! They don’t know you like I do. And today is not a day to reopen old wounds. 🙂

If you have received this you are probably wondering why I have suddenly gone all analogue and sent you a letter by post. Has Fred lost the plot, you wonder – is Fred doing that thing of wooing me with letters in blue envelopes with SWALK written on the sticky flaps? No, my dear. The reason is far more mundane. We are slumming it in Kerugoyes – a small mountain kingdom bordering South Africa.

When Binti did that charity gig at the Herbivore, (I was disappointed when you did not show) apparently she made a huge impression. We were back in her dressing room afterwards when a young lady came in and said that the King of Kerugoyes, a chap in his late twenties would very much love for Binti to visit their beautiful Kingdom and to perform during their independence day celebrations. That was a fortnight ago. We’ve been here ever since.

Binti is treated like royalty here and she doesn’t want to leave. The royal palace is vast and has every comfort that one would desire. Binti has several staff at her beck and call. I was banished from the VIP quarters at the palace when I failed to stop the King’s pet cheetahs from eating Binti’s white rabbit – she normally has it on her lap when she’s posing for pictures. So now I chill out with the palace staff, downstairs kicking my heels and wondering when this novelty will wear off so that we can finally head off to South Africa!

There is no internet in Kerugoyes. The young king believes that social media is the tool of the devil and a source of so much misery. Ha!

Let me end by wishing you a very happy week. If our royal holiday should end before this letter arrives I will try and whatsapp you from Johannesburg.

Fondest best wishes


Ps you prolly guessed – things between me and Binti are dodgy right now, hence my sleeping in the staff quarters. I blame the King. 🙁

* * * * *

Fred Musumari
The Royal Palace

08th December 2014

Dear Fred,


Kwenda wewe! Ati you guys are where now? Hahahahahahaha. Where on earth is Kerugoyes? I’ve never heard of it before. I hope you’re not just making stuff up!

Everything goes well down here at the peoples’ garage, as you call it. We treat patients from all walks of life who come in with all manner of complaints. Our part, the trauma unit is most busy with road accident victims but we also get a fair share of violent attack victims – robbery, domestic that sort of thing.

I am glad that you acknowledge that your actions might have caused serious damage to my keyboard. I had to vent all that pent up stuff. Who said that I did not mean to post that email? It was good that you wrote back though, despite the slow mail service. Your Kerugoyes adventure has put a big smile on my face. Fred, it doesn’t sound like you are having much fun out there in the mountains. Does it get very cold at night? Shall I get my sister to knit you a woolly hat?

You say this king was besotted with Binti at Herbivore and now she has pushed you to the kerb? (I could not come to your gig that evening as I was on a night-shift). It doesn’t make any sense. You and Binti – you were made for each other. I feel for you, Fred, really I do. Why don’t you cut your losses and come back home? You can do so much here with all your talents.

I know that was a difficult question. Do have a lovely week, wherever you are and write to me whenever you can. It’s good to hear from you.

Best wishes



ps woi…. the poor rabbit! The boy-king has pet cheetahs? Nkt!

Binti’s hotel room


Dear Jaki,

I got your email address from the hospital receptionist this morning. Please do not be angry. All my attempts to get in touch with you so far have proved fruitless. You’ve changed your cell-phone number and all my emails to your old address have gone unanswered. I am grateful that fate had lined up the stars so that our paths would cross today.

We are in Nairobi just for a few days. Binti is taking a short break from her world tour. She says amepata a bit of exhaustion. I think she’s getting her anxiety attacks again. We’ll be leaving for Johannesburg on Sunday evening to continue with the tour.

Seeing you this morning at the emergency room was a most wonderful surprise. I have carried a buzz of excitement in me all day! How can I convey to you how great it felt to experience again a renewed hope in the future?

You must tell me right now – how you have been – when did you qualify? How long have you been working at the Emergency Department? Are you in a relationship?

I know we did not leave things in the best of ways. Everything happened in a whirlwind and I was so confused. Why did you cut me off so abruptly? I would very much like to re establish contact with you again. There will be a charity performance at the Herbivore Club on sato night before we leave for Jo’burg. Filanga free to drop in and say hello. You will be most welcome!

Very best wishes


ps don’t be a stranger

* * * * * * * * * *

Waiting for the diva


Hey Fred,

I hope that you are good. Thanks for your email. It was indeed a surprise for me too, to see you today. I was on my way to the trauma unit when you walked through the doors wheeling that old chair. The patient you were pushing wore very dark glasses and I assumed it was an elderly relative.

I am sorry if I appeared rude and hasty this morning. I had just received a call that we were expecting a large number of casualties from a road traffic accident. As it turned out there were fewer seriously injured people than we thought. We cleaned most of them up, stitched up the rest and sent them on their way. 😀

Soooo….Kumbe that was your Binti Pepo – world famous soul diva? Has she lost weight or something? We are none of us getting any younger. She was looking well and truly lost. I hope she is feeling much better now. You looked quite stressed yourself, carrying all her coats, bags, blankets and things.

I am quite happy to keep in touch with you, Fred, but I would much prefer that we leave everything from the past right there – in the past!

“We did not leave things in the best of ways”. Fred, are you serious? Is that the best way you could have worded that? Need I remind you how we ended…no, how You ended things between us. I promised I would reply to your email without getting angry – but it is just not possible. Not when I remember how your precious Binti Pepo dumped you once before. The unceremonious way in which she left you for that con guy who promised to promote her in Germany and Austria ha! You came to me in tears telling me that she did not need you now that she had hit the big time. Big time my foot!

Fred when you said that you and me, that we could make a go of things – that we could be happy together – you said you’d stand by me and I would finish medical school and after that we would travel to all those lovely places that you know. When you said all those things did you still carry a torch for her? You are such and idiot.

You know, I saw you for just a moment today, less than a minute, I think. We said hello and I looked into your eyes. You have been with Binti now for over two years and I know that every day you keep telling yourself that this time it will be different. Your eyes, Fred, your eyes say that you don’t believe it.

I hope that you don’t mind when I say I will not shed a tear for you, Fred. Not after the way you went against my advice and signed up to work for Binti again, as her manager, after the Austro-German gig failed to materialise. She just snapped her bling fingers and you rushed off to her like the poodle that you are. Where is your spine man?

The other thing I can never forget is how you called me from Binti’s hotel room that evening. You said she was playing the cabaret. I think that she must have been standing right there next to you when you said to me “ This is not working. It is not you dear, it’s me.” Ha! You ended our relationship on the phone with that cow standing right next to you. You told me that you would be staying the night with her.

I saw much later how I should have seen it coming many weeks before. You had been spending far too much time with that witch. And everytime we spoke it was Binti this and Binti that. My Uni assignments were keeping me busy 24/7 and I trusted you with my life. You knew how much I wanted to complete my degree. When I needed your support the most, you had gone to the arms of another woman.

How did I feel when I got that phone call? I was so confused. I actually thought that it was noble of you to give me time to get my things together and find another flat. I thought you were the perfect gentleman when you said I could keep all of the deposit – use it for my new place – in the crucial stage of my degree course, Fred. Damn you!

I promised myself that I would not get angry. I am seething right now. You should not have opened these old wounds. How dare you talk of hope for a bright future. I am moving on, Fred. I read the social media pages too, from time to time. Lots of rumours about your Binti. I know it is mostly celebrity gossip. Your next leg of the tour takes you to China, no? That is one place she could really make it Big. What will happen to you then, Fred?

Of course I will maintain email communications with you Fred but our lives must remain like parallel lines never to meet again. You see unlike your Binti Pepo, I would never make the mistake of taking you back again, ever. 😀

Be good. Strive to be happy.


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