After Joseph Pume had left, Coughing Man wheezed again and said to the rest of the gang, “There goes a very foolish man. Just out of prison, cough, cough, cough… and his first job is to find the cop who put him there. It will end badly. Just mark my word.” He put an affectionate arm round the barmaid’s shoulder and winked at her. There was another sudden attack of desperate coughing and tears streamed down his eyes as he squinted to avoid the harsh tobacco smoke. The others shook their heads, sucking on their Pilsner bottles like babies.
The barmaid untangled herself from Coughing Man and got up from the bed. She straightened her clothes and told the men that she was going to get them more drinks – on the house, which drew a loud cheer. She stepped through into the bar area and carried on out onto the busy street. She walked quickly along the row of shops until she came to the end of the block. She looked around to see if she was being observed . She stepped into the red phone box, put some coins into the phone and dialled a private number which was answered immediately.
“Code word Kifagio.” she said. The other party replied curtly, “ Sema unavyotaka.” This was their agreed format and the barmaid quickly reported that the hunter was on his way to find his prey. The other party replied, “Excellent! I will inform the seniors. Good work Corporal Ruby.”
The barmaid replaced the receiver. She pushed open the door and was just getting out of the phone box when a thought came to her. She picked up the phone once more and dialled a new number. She asked for a short message to be passed on to the senior most commander (operations) at Police Headquarters. Her job was done. It was time to go home, get rid of her skimpy barmaid outfit and wash away the smells of the grimy, smoke filled dump that was home to Coughing Man and his band of merry men. She crossed over to the taxi rank and took a cab home.
Mrs Sagheeta Bindu opened her front door to find a smiling Babu standing there in his green work overalls and gumboots, clutching the daily papers. It was 08.30 in the morning.
“Come in, come in Babu gee!” She said, delighted as always to see her next door neighbour. They went into the kitchen where the coffee was already brewing. They sat at the small table and each opened their own newspaper and started to devour the news. The old friends sat like this, silently reading and drinking coffee for the next 40 minutes.
When Babu had complained to Mrs Bindu recently about his unexpected enforced leave and not knowing what to do with all this free time she had listened with concern. A few days later she thought she had come up with the answer. Her old house desperately needed decorating. In her words she now found it ‘sterile.’ The walls were bland and lifeless with hardly any features. She had some ideas but she was no good at decorating. Would Babu care to try? He had jumped at the chance. Painting was one of his hobbies. He was also an amateur plumber and electrician – competent enough to perform the easier house hold tasks. They had arranged to meet this morning and survey the whole place to see what could be done. After the papers.
The Kiambu Road was like one giant car-park except that the driver had to remain with the vehicle. This was how Joseph Pume felt. Traffic heading towards the city was at a standstill. In the last 20 minutes the taxi he was travelling in had barely moved 5 kilometres. It was going to be a long day. He cast his mind over his plans for the day. The prison fixer had assured him that Babu would be at home and not at work. Joesph Pume did not ask how he knew this. He would get to South ‘B’, take out the victim and then go home to his family. Best way to do it. Start afresh on a clean slate with all debts repaid.
Planning for this day had been surprisingly easy. Who would have guessed that one could arrange something like this, whilst still in prison? How fortunate was that? He was impressed by the inmates and their capacity to organise things on the outside from behind the walls of Kamiti. The fixers had arranged a gun, ammunition and payment for him to do something that he was already planning to do anyway. He smiled inwardly. This Babu character had made some pretty serious enemies, Nkt! The nkt! had come out loud and the taxi driver misunderstood him for he looked into the rear-view mirror and said “pole sana mboss hii jam leo ni noma. I will give you a discount on the fare.”
As it turned out it would be 10.00 am before the green and yellow taxi pulled up a few doors away from Babu’s house at Nairobi South’B’.
Down town at Police Hq the young phone operator who had taken delivery of Corporal Ruby’s message was still in a state of panic. She had never seen her boss so furious. The senior most commander (operations) was shaking with anger when he asked her to repeat what the anonymous caller had said. She had repeated it. “Tell him there is a hit planned for this morning on one of his officers, Babu is his name.”
The commander had snatched his phone and asked to be put through to the Party official. There had been no reply. He then tried calling Babu at his home. The phone rang and rang until it disconnected itself. The commander feared the worst. He called for a squad car and two armed officers to meet him downstairs. In 5 minutes they were tearing down Mombasa Road towards Babu’s residence.
They arrived at a quiet residential street scene with people going about their normal business. The commander went up to Babu’s door and knocked on it urgently. There was no reply. He called to an officer who used a special tool to gain entry into the house. The commander asked him to go back and wait in the car. Of Babu, there was no sign. There was no suggestion of a struggle having taken place and everything seemed normal in the tidy house. The commander sat in Babu’s reading chair and tried to gather his thoughts
The Party boss was in a celebratory mood. He had just received a delegation of business people who had pledged to give his party their support in the forthcoming elections. What made him even happier was the small but heavy kiondo which the leader of the delegation had placed on the table as a contribution to the National Children’s Hospital Fund, of which the Party boss was patron.
He drove carefully in the lunch-time traffic listening to some easy tunes on the radio. As he turned right towards Valley Road the music stopped abruptly. “ We are sorry to interrupt your music show but reports are coming in of a shooting incident in the South ‘B’ area. Police have confirmed that a senior officer is amongst two people killed at a shooting that took place shortly before noon. Motorists are advised to avoid the area as the situation is on going. More information as we get it. Keep it locked on City Radio FM.” The Dj then played the lovely John Legend track, all of me.
The Party Boss was ecstatic. He had made a promise to the Party elders and he had delivered. He stopped outside his wife’s hairdressers and tooted the horn. He was holding the door open when his wife skipped excitedly out of the shop taking the stairs two at a time. He had stashed the kiondo under her seat after counting out enough notes for a sumptuous lunch and they drove off to lunch at Cinnitas. He stopped by reception and while his beautiful wife went off to powder her nose he booked a room and made a quick phone call to Party HQ. He guided his wife through to the restaurant where they had a leisurely three course meal. After lunch they went on to relax in their private room.
The Party politburo security team which comprised eight security aparatchiks – one each from all seven provinces and the Nairobi area had convened an urgent meeting for that evening. The Party Boss was the last to arrive. There was a stony silence when he walked hurriedly into the conference room. His tie was askew and the top two buttons on his shirt were undone. They looked at him and then at the clock on the wall.
His deputy cleared his throat and said, “ You phoned us three hours ago to tell us this Babu situation was….. sorted.” The Boss looked puzzled and said “Was it wrong to inform you?” The deputy sneered, “It was not wrong to tell us. Perhaps you can explain this.” He picked up a remote control from the table and switched on the large flat screen television hanging on the wall.
They had tuned it to the news channel. The breaking news item of that day. The same video showing again and again. A shooting incident in the city where a senior police officer and a civilian had been shot dead. A reporter was now interviewing a local man in this particular footage. The man told the reporter that he lived right across the road from where it had all happened. He had been putting some stuff into the boot of his car when a taxi drew up on the street just outside the house. He had seen the passenger pay the taxi driver. The taxi had moved off and the man had walked up to the house. He had stood at the window looking into the house. He had pulled out a gun from his trouser waist band and fired four shots through the window. Everything had happened very fast. There was another car parked nearby. Two police officers had jumped out of this vehicle, pistols drawn. They shot and killed the gunman by the steps of the house.
The Party Boss studied the news report and looked at the politburo members and shrugged. He said, “ Oh dear. What a tragedy. Bad luck. But at least the killer did not get away. Hahahahah.”
His deputy scowled at him. There was an edge to his voice when he said, “Before laughing like that look again at the footage. And you better look closely. Do you see that man….there…that one standing there look…… standing right at the back. Do you see him?” They were focussing on man at the back of the crowd that had gathered. A tall man in green overalls, wearing a workman’s cap and standing next to an Asian lady. “Woi….Si that’s Detective Inspector Babu!” shouted the Party Boss. “Then who was the officer that died?” His deputy answered. “That was Assistant Commissioner James Misingi, the senior most commander(Operations) City Police Headquarters. Your stupid murderer killed the wrong man!”