On Monday there was a small article in the right hand column of page 3 in the Daily News that said “Police now believe that a faulty gas bottle was the cause of an explosion and fire that destroyed a house in Ruiru on Saturday night. One man was killed in the tragedy…”
It was 9.am when young Idris tapped softly at the bedroom door and walked into the dark room carrying the large breakfast tray. The stale smell of cheap Moroccan hashish hung in the air. He went to the bay window and slowly pulled back the heavy curtains. His master, eyes tightly shut, groaned and flung his legs about on the bed as bright sunlight poured into the room.
“Why do you come here so early, you rascal! I told you before never to wake me before nine o’clock!” Idris said nothing. His master’s complaining voice was always harsh and grating in the morning. Idris went to the medicine cabinet and got out some supplies. There was a large syringe on the breakfast tray which he filled with a dark brown liquid from the medicine box.
“Prepare for your injection, master.” Idris said quietly. The master grunted and complained, muttering foul oaths but he sat up on the bed and held out his left arm.
“Right arm, master. We did the left one yesterday.
“Oh for goodness sake”, the master whined. He turned to give Idris his right arm. The young boy wiped his masters arm with an alcohol swab. He took the syringe pushing the plunger to expel any air bubbles.
“No! No dont, no don’t!” The cowering master shouted, looking terrified at the sight of the needle. Idris patiently held his fat arm and in one smooth move plunged the needle deep into the shoulder.
Idris poured the master’s coffee and set the tray on his bed. On the large platter his master had three fried eggs, two large sausages, grilled sheep kidneys, seared heart of a baboon and a portion of roast potatoes.
Idris always waited for his master to finish eating, which rarely took longer than five minutes. As he cleared the things away he said “You have two visitors waiting to see you this morning, master. Will you see them here, or in your office downstairs?” The master gave a loud belch and snorted “Silly boy, do I look like I want to leave this room. You will send them here in thirty minutes!”
Joseph looked at his watch. It was 9.am He had just emerged from the Supermarket Produce Manager’s (buying) office. In his hand, he finally had the elusive deposit cheque and the supply contract. All that remained now was the meeting with his bank manager. As he waited for a City bound matatu he bought a newspaper which he folded neatly and put away in his old briefcase together with his supply contract and farm mortgage agreement.
Joseph now considered how his fortunes had changed from good to bad to desperate and back to good again in just a few months. It had all started during the drought two years ago. The land was parched and his poor widowed mother had come to him one morning and said “ My son, the drought gets worse and there is nothing with which to feed our cow. She has given us no milk for weeks. I want you to take her to market tomorrow and sell her, that we may get some money to buy food.”
Joseph had duly gone to the hot, dusty market at the centre of the town but there were so many people selling their cows and goats that day and very few buyers. The afternoon wore on and just as the traders were getting ready to leave an old lady came by to look at Joseph’s Friesian cow. “I like her and I have a stream at the bottom of my farm. I can grow lush napier grass on the valley and she will have enough to eat. I have no money to offer you but these beautiful strawberry plants. Will you take them?” she asked. Joseph had fallen in love with the plants. The lady had brought some fruit with her which Joseph had tried. It was the best fruit that he had ever tasted. He gave the woman the cow and rushed home to show his mother his sixty strawberry plants.
His mother had wailed in despair. She was certain that they would die of hunger. Meanwhile Joseph planted the strawberries. He had discovered that the lady who had sold him the plants did not live too far away. He went to see her often. One day he asked if he could draw water from her stream. She was happy to let him draw as much as he wanted and he ferried it home in several big oil drums on her donkey cart.
His plants had done well. Joseph’s piece of land was fertile and his strawberries tasted even better than the ones that he had tried at market all those months ago. He took a chance and brought a sample to the supermarket in the nearby town. They had not seen anything quite like it. They loved his fruit and asked him to supply them.
He started to earn money. His mother was impressed. He researched strawberry-culture and improved his husbandry. Using his newly acquired propagation skills he increased the number of plants three-fold. The plot looked like a scene from an Israeli advert; row upon row of green healthy strawberry plants heavy with bright red fruit.
Dark clouds were gathering in the horizon. Joseph was out and about delivering produce. The landlord had called at the farm on rent day. He stood outside staring at the crop. He was surprised when Joseph’s ma emerged from the house and paid the rent in full. She proudly explained that her son was doing very well in his new enterprise. The landlord simply nodded and left. It was three or four days later that Itumbi, the landlords agent, came by and served Joseph with a one month’s notice to quit. The landlord was taking possession of his land!
The next few days were frantic as Joseph tried to ask the landlord to reconsider. He knew it was futile. He was also looking around for alternative farms to rent. He was good friends with the Produce Manager (buying) at the supermarket now and when he explained the misfortune that had befallen him the manager had said he would try to help. Meanwhile the landlord was now making daily visits to the farm to inspect the soon-to-be-his strawberry plants. Joseph’s mother tried to reason with him but he dismissed her, asking her to fetch him some strawberries to eat.
Joseph had been weeding at the strawberry field all day. He stopped for lunch and tried to reassure his ma that they would find a way. Late in the afternoon his phone trembled in his pocket. The produce manager (buying) had found him a farm. It was huge nearly twenty times the size of his current plot with a guaranteed water supply. The manager told him to move quickly as such farms were in high demand. He had asked the manager where he was supposed to get the funds to buy a farm. To which the manager has replied “Who dares wins. My regional manager says we can give you a supply contract for five years. That should interest any lender.” Joseph had replied,”What about the security? I have no equity.” The produce manager liked Joseph and wanted him to succeed. He said. “Just go and see the vendor. We’ll see about the finance.”
And so it had come to pass. The bank were happy to lend 80% of the purchase price as long as the supermarket agreed to pay the 20% deposit against Joseph’s invoices.
The matatu was loading passengers now and in half-an-hours time they would be in the city. Joseph got himself a window seat. He retrieved his newspaper from the briefcase which he then stowed away in the overhead luggage compartment.
Idris entered the drawing room and said to the waiting Armenian visitor, “Mr El-Fisi will see you now. Do come this way.” He led the way up the stairs to his master’s room and knocked at the door.
“Oh no, who is it now? “ said the master in his coarse complaining voice.
“Mister Kaka Magaryan, sir.” said Idris. He stepped back out of the room and closed the door.
When Idris had gone Magaryan whipped out a brown paper bag and placed it on the table. El-Fisi filled their pipes with the Armenian hash. They lit up and smoked in silence for a while.
“I have the detonators.” said Magaryan, drawing deeply on his pipe “These are the type you set off with a simple mobile phone call.”
El-Fisi smiled at him through the dope haze. “They will not know what hit them.”Together they laughed at their diabolical joke.
There was a tap on the door. Idris came in again. “ Mister Koho is here, master, he said addressing El-fisi. “Then send him in, you miserable mole. He is the man we have been waiting for.” He winked at Magaryan who grinned back at him.
Koho came into sight, walking meekly into the room. He knelt by El-fisi who declared: “This is a very noble thing that you do for the movement, Mr Koho. Your family name will be honoured highly for generations and I swear that you shall not want for anything in this life or the next. Here take this as a down payment.” He opened a drawer and brought out a wad of notes which he tossed across the table. Ali Koho nodded and licked his lips as he counted the money. There was five-hundred thousand shillings in total. El-Fisi then poured a glass of cheap whisky into which he dropped a couple of ice cubes. He gave it to Koho who swallowed it in one go before leaving the room.
El-fisi made a quick phone-call. “ Nyoka, it’s me. The rat has take the bait. Now listen. Magaryan is on his way to see you. He will bring you a package which you must put in a briefcase. You will take this case to the reception desk at the Weesdon Hotel. Koho’s son is on duty today. He will take it up to the auditorium. Got that? Good. Oh and one more thing. Koho must not get the chance to relate today’s events. Feel free to help yourself to whatever he has on him.” Nyoka laughed greedily and said it would be done.
Magaryan had finished putting together the device. He wrapped it all up in a blanket and dropped it into a rucksack. They smoked some more hash with El-fisi before he left to go and see Nyoka.
Commander Ruby Mwekundu opened the door to the conference room and went up to the commissioner. “It looks like it’s on sir!” She said urgently. The commissioner looked up from his newspaper, giving her his full attention.
Ruby explained how they had received intelligence that the terrorists had a new bomb-maker, an Armenian mercenary. He had slipped into the country, travelling to a house that counter terrorist operatives had been keeping under surveillance. “We cannot simply arrest the bomb-maker and question him, sir,” said Ruby. “The terrorist network operates on a need to know basis. It is unlikely that the bomb-maker will know what the target is or when they will attack it. Now the good news,” she continued. “Our patience has paid off. We have obtained a recording of a conversation between the bomb-maker and the man whom we believe is the mastermind behind several attacks in the city. They are planning to hit this evening.”
El-Fisi cursed loudly at the shrill ringing of the phone. It took him a while to gather his drugged wits together and answer it. It was Nyoka. He had Magaryan’s package. He had looked everywhere for a decent briefcase but none of the shops in this miserable town sold anything of that nature.
“Have you seen Koho?” El-Fisi asked. “Yup we went to a bar and he started flashing his money about.” said Nyoka. I followed him to the toilet and drowned him in the bog.” Nyoka could not resist laughing at the thought. “So about this briefcase, what do you suggest, boss?”
“Use your flipping head, Nyoka,” El-Fisi fumed.”Must I think of every single thing? Steal a briefcase if you must, you idiot and let me know as soon as the goods are in the hotel. Don’t call me again with stupid excuses. Got that?” He flung the phone to the floor and re-filled his hash pipe.
Joseph’s matatu was coming into the outskirts of the city. He had read the paper from cover to cover as he always did. Arsenal were such a let down. He had dozed for a while but woke up when the matatu stopped at Kahawa Sukari to drop off several passengers. One of them was a man carrying a large rucksack and black briefcase. As the matatu pulled away and gathered speed, he dozed off again.
They had arrived in the city. Joseph stretched as reached up to retrieve his briefcase from the overhead luggage rack. It was gone!
At one O’clock the anti terrorist command centre was buzzing. The police knew the target location, It was the opening of the International Young Parliamentarians Association which Kenya was hosting this year. Anti terrorist police had visual observation of the bomber and they knew how he planned to carry out the atrocity.
“Do you want me to request the jamming of all mobile phone signals until we have this animal in a cage?” Asked the commissioner. “That will not be necessary sir”, was commander Ruby’s reply. She explained that one of her men had already taken Koho junior’s place at the desk and he was ready to receive the briefcase from the unsuspecting Nyoka.
The opening ceremony was going to be televised live. The dignitaries had started arriving when Nyoka placed a call to El-fisi. “Everything is in place sir. The man took the briefcase straight into the auditorium.”
“Very good Nyoka, you have done well. I will personally detonate the device using a special code on my mobile number, whilst watching it live. Mwuahahahahahaha.
It was almost time for the opening ceremony the police had thrown a tight cordon around the venue and several of the side streets had been sealed off. Down at the Anti terror police command centre everyone watched the events on television. Suddenly the phone rang. An officer picked it up and listened for a moment, thanked the caller and replaced the receiver. He turned to the commander. “That was the Bomb-Squad. They say they have thoroughly examined the suitcase that we retrieved from the reception desk at the hotel. It does not contain an explosive device.” You could have heard a pin drop in the crowded control room.
It was five minutes to go, before the opening ceremony. Commander Ruby asked the communications officer to give her a patch to the officer who had received Nyoka’s briefcase. He explained that he had done exactly as instructed. An intelligence officer had taken it away to be handed over to the Bomb Squad. The officer’s name..Ishmael or Iqbal… I don’t remember.
The opening ceremony of the 10th International Young Parliamentarians Association Conference was underway. The Speaker of the National Assembly as host was making an opening presentation before inviting previous hosts to greet the young delegates.
El-Fisi sat on the bed in his dirty nightclothes smelling of stale hashish and cheap booze. He sent a text message to all his contacts calling upon the mighty forces of holy war to stand up and crush their infidel enemies and enslave their wives and children. Finally he called upon them to tune into any local TV station that was televising the opening ceremony at Weesdon Hotel, Nairobi.
Magaryan had given El-Fisi the number that when dialled would detonate his briefcase bomb. He entered the digits carefully and confirmed them again from the slip of paper. He looked up at the TV once more. The speaker was giving one of his boring jokes unaware that at the bottom of the lectern was a black briefcase that would send him to the afterlife. It was when El-Fisi pressed ‘Call’ that he noticed for the first time the black briefcase sitting on top of a 13kg cooking gas bottle in his bedroom.
The opening ceremony was coming to a close. The team at the control centre had watched the entire event which had passed of without any problems. Just then a phone rang and the caller asked to speak to Commander Ruby. She took the handset, “Hello Commander Ruby Mwekundu speaking. Who is this? He did not give his name right away but said, “I am with military intelligence. You may not have heard yet but there was an explosion at an isolated farm house out in Ruiru about an hour ago. Can I ask you to get your people to liaise with the police and confirm that it was in fact a tragic gas explosion. The sole occupant of the property, One Khata El-Fisi was killed instantly. Good bye”
“Why do you want me to to this?”, asked the Commander. The caller hesitated for a moment and then said, “Because I may also have mixed up the briefcase that I had with the one that was sent on to the Bomb squad people.”
Joseph went into the central police station and asked to speak to Mr Idris. As he waited at the desk he watched as a big man in handcuffs had his fingerprints taken. “Will you stop struggling Mr Magaryan,” said the custody officer. “You’ll find that things work much better for you here if you cooperate.” The side door opened and an officer came and placed a black briefcase on the desk.
“Mr Joseph Oliech, please check that this is your briefcase, make sure that everything is ok, then sign here, sir and you are free to go…..”