wetwool

because you never forget that funny smell

Category: “media” (page 2 of 3)

The phones

Today’s little story begins with something that many people do every morning. The commute to work. That special time in the morning when millions of men, women and children from all walks of life leave home for their offices, factories, banks, shops, schools, colleges and other places of occupation. The movement of a huge population across our city in the space of a very short time is a moving testament to human organisation. It would be an amazing spectacle to observe from a decent height; think of the famous annual wildebeest crossing of the Mara river all taking place before 08.00 am. Continue reading

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

for children and grandchildren

It was about 10:00 am on Sunday morning and as I waited at the crowded airport arrivals hall my Babu emerged from behind the sliding doors. I almost slipped and fell on the smooth polished floor as I ran forward to greet him and relieve him of his large battered suitcase. He beamed at me, happy that for once I had registered the correct date and time of his arrival and we walked out into the bright Nairobi sunshine. The Jacaranda trees were in bloom and birds were singing high up there in the shade. I got the sense that Babu was happy to be back home.

I guided the old man towards my even older fluorescent green Fiat Strada which I had parked with a small rock wedged carefully against the near-side front wheel in lieu of a functioning hand-brake. I placed his suitcase in the boot and as Babu put away his rain coat and fedora in the back I stealthily obtained the rock and hid it under my driver’s seat.

We drove out of the airport and quickly joined the Mombasa Road traffic as we headed for Babu’s ‘South C’ residence. I kept to the speed limit in the near-side lane allowing plenty of room for the comedians, clowns, matatu driver’s and other maniacs of our roads to perform their stunts. The short journey was uneventful unless you consider the two elderly pedestrians who narrowly escaped with their lives right before our eyes after running across the road in some mad kamikaze effort to get to the other side of the Msa bound carriageway near the Air-tel buildings. The speeding ambulance that was hurtling towards them had screeched to a halt just before impact and the two wazee totally oblivious had just hobbled along to the other side of the road.

We dropped of Babu’s things and after a quick freshen up we headed off to his club next to the Police Mounted section headquarters for an early Sunday lunch. Most people know that my Babu was a former detective in the Police force where he spent nearly forty years working with the homicide department in various postings around the country. He is not my Babu in the real sense of a grandpa. He went to school with my dad and when I came to the city to find work the detective took me under his wing. I lived with him and his gracious wife before I went off on my own and when he started a private investigations consultancy I was happy to join the firm and was soon employed in discreet surveillance.

We ordered lunch and then took our drinks and sat on the veranda facing the deserted tennis courts. I had long ago learned that Babu would not start on a story until he was ready. So as we sucked at our tall glasses of madafu water by straw I gave him the usual small-talk of what had been happening whilst he was away. A few moments later the waiters came round and brought us warm water to wash our hands.

The waiter had recommended the chef’s special and we were not disappointed. As we silently attacked the spicy beef stew and ugali with fresh sukuma wiki, peas, carrots and potatoes, I realised that I had not had a decent meal since Babu’s departure over a month ago. Surveillance work tends to involve long hours of sitting, waiting and watching and drinking lots of coffee. One often lacks the required motivation to cook decent food at the end of such a cramped day and sadly we are only kept alive by unhealthy take aways.

The beef was so fresh you actually sympathised with the cow and the vegetables must have come from a garden just outside the kitchen. The ugali had been prepared in a revolutionary method that is still under patent pending rules and so I cannot divulge the actual process here. All I will say is that it was formed in the shape of a dome and was very soft and tasty with a hint of classical seasoning.

Lunch was cleared away quickly to make room at the table for our proper drinks. Babu pulled out a brand new pipe from his jacket pocket and filled it with exaggerated care. He had some strange foreign tobacco which he took out of a small plastic pouch. The picture on the pouch was a black eagle on a red background. When he lit the pipe he coughed twice as the smoke punched him in the chest. He squinted his eyes when the smoke rose up now spreading across the small veranda. A few patrons looked in our direction with renewed interest. The pipe smoke and Babu’s strong aftershave together smelled of power and influence.

Babu liked to have a glass of good whiskey by his elbow when doing a debrief. We talked and drank until the sun hid behind the tall cypress trees at the perimeter of the compound. His trip to Europe had been a resounding success by all accounts. He had accomplished his objectives and now he explained it all to me.

Months before, Rubina, a young lawyer from the firm that Babu used for legal work had approached us with an unusual assignment. Her friend, Katarzyna, from Poland, now living in Nairobi was in great difficulty. Her grandmother had passed away. It had come as a surprise that the granny was a woman of quite substantial wealth. She had left a huge inheritance for Katarzyna and her 13 year old son Pawl. There was a small problem. The young boy could not travel to Poland as required by the terms of the will because he did not have a passport. His father had refused to sign the necessary documents required by the Polish authorities.

Pawl’s father was from Poland. He met and married Katarzyna in the port city of Gdansk where he was in the Polish Navy. Pawl’s dad travelled the world as a sailor and he had fallen in love with Mombasa. After leaving the navy he came back to Mombasa with Katarzyna and their baby son and opened a bar which catered for visiting navy and merchant sea men. It was in a seedy part of town where vice of all sorts was never far away. Pawl’s father developed a drink and drugs problem and beat his wife about. With the help of friends she left him and moved away to Nairobi where she found work and settled. Her divorce papers were handled by Rubina. A year later Pawl’s dad returned to his native Poland where he married again and had several children.

Babu explained how he had used his extensive police contacts overseas to get the errant father to do his duty by his son. He got him to sign the official documents and Pawl would soon have a passport. From Poland, Babu visited England where he was invited by an old police colleague to visit his cottage in rural Oxfordshire. He found that his friend lived alone and used ordinary kuni to keep the house warm. The retired copper was now a coach driver and spent his days driving holidaymakers all over the place. Babu had accompanied his friend on one such journey which had taken them on a sight-seeing day trip to France. They got back quite late and took the coach to the depot. The friend had his own little van to get them back home.

They had got into the friend’s van for the 20 mile drive back to the cottage at 11.45.pm The country roads were dark and deserted. They had to drive through the lonely Wytham woods. The car started to judder a little like some older diesel cars when they are about to break down. This was just as they were out in the middle of nowhere. Babu’s friend decided to call his grandson who lived nearby. He asked him to come out in his car and follow them back to the cottage – just to make sure they got home ok. The twenty-something year old grandson declined saying he was already in bed and could not come. Even his granddad’s offer to fill up his car for him would not persuade him to leave his bed. Babu told me how depressed he had felt. The boy had totally lengad his grandpa at his hour of need.

The two coppers having no other option had driven on with fading headlamps and thick fog setting in. The car crawled at a snail’s pace but they eventually got to the cottage. The tired men could hardly stand after their long day and they went straight to bed. Babu says that his friend was snoring in under five minutes.

At about 03.00am Babu heard the phone ring. His friend answered it at once and almost immediately he was cursing and swearing. Babu heard his friend moving about and getting dressed and switched on a light. He asked if everything was ok. His friend could not help himself. It was as if a red mist had descended over his face. He explained that the caller was none other than his grandson. He who would not come to our rescue earlier in the evening. Some mates had called round to his house where they had played cards for ages before he decided to drop them off home. He had run out of diesel in the middle Wytham woods. He wondered if his grand dad would mind bringing him a gallon of diesel.

Babu and his friend had put on their coats and driven off into the dark cold night to rescue the ungrateful grandson.

As Babu recounted this tale to me Whitney Houston’s version of The Greatest Love of All was playing in my mind. The first line about the children being the future and how we teach them well and let them lead the way, seemed so apt somehow. One of the finest bloggers in town has really managed to marry music and the story in such a way that sometimes when you really listen you can hear the story being told in someone else words. I hope to be able to do that too, someday.

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

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

protecting your sim as well as your simu

It seems like it is nearly 100 years now since the introduction of the first mobile phones for us ordinary folk. Back then Safaricom was still the leading player. I remember with great fondness and some mist in my eyes how I acquired a shiny new sim-card with a beautiful 0722 number whose memory I will always cherish.

It took me a little while back then to familiarise myself with the normal use of a cell-phone. Safaricom operated a sim-lock system. One needed a pin to unlock the sim each time the phone was switched on. Also when you inserted the sim into a different phone you needed to enter the sim-lock pin.

simu

This all seemed unusual and cumbersome to me, having become accustomed to the operations in other countries where the sim card was not locked. It was annoying and irritating to keep having to enter this pin and I cursed whoever had put such an unfriendly system in place.

As with most things in life it was just a matter of getting used to it and in a short period of time that which was originally an irritation simply became a matter of fact. Imagine then my surprise and delight when I saw a recent article in the paper that has got me singing the praises of the wise people who created this clever sim-lock to protect us from all manner of crooks and evil-doers.

The article relates how people are becoming victims of fraud when their sim cards falls into dirty criminal hands. I will not spoil the story for you but I am sure that you will be as relieved as I am that we have such a lock system in place if you are with any of the major phone companies. I understand that sadly Orange is the exception.

Read the shocking story here

The pickpocket is back

I walked into the new pub just before seven, nearly twenty minutes before our appointment. I was meeting my friend, the retired police inspector, whose views on time keeping sometimes bordered on the extreme. I ordered a cold pint and sat down at a table facing the bar. I drew a long sip of the smooth beer giving thanks for the miracle of water, barley, hops and a bit of carbon. I wondered aloud, “How on earth did they make it taste so good?”

I looked around the room now as more punters strolled in giggling like eager school children with faces all lit up in anticipation of the first pint. Seated at the table to my right a young lady was flicking the pages of a magazine. As I sipped my pint a young man came up to the table. He leaned forward and said to her, “ We ready?” She smiled at him and nodded. He placed his canvas bag at the foot of the table and sat down opposite her, reaching for his glass of coke. By now more punters were streaming in, both men and women finding seats for themselves. The more excited ones preferred to stand at the bar. This was quite a small pub.

The lady at the table next to me now got up and gracefully eased her way up to the bar. It was becoming quite busy here now as friends met with colleagues, bought each other rounds and caught up with the latest news. The music was getting louder making it necessary for the punters to shout to one another. There was the usual good natured shoving to get the barman’s attention.

More people poured into the pub. One of the newcomers turned out to be my friend. And he was five minutes late. He came over and quickly ordered a round. Our drinks soon arrived as we were exchanging pleasantries. My friend said that he had been unsure about parking and had opted to drive home to South B and take a taxi back here. I agreed that this made sense, especially if we were going to make a night of it.

We chatted for a while and I asked my friend if there was fresh information about the statements that he had promised. “ There are a couple of police and witness statements, nothing much. You must remember this was over 30 years ago.” He said. “Come by the office on Monday and see for yourself.” I nodded gratefully taking another sip of the fine beer.

There seemed to be some kind of commotion brewing at the bar area. The punters were all talking in an agitated sort of way. Someone uttered a loud shriek and said “Wooiii I have been robbed. My wallet is gone! Help. Someone call the police!”

One by one the punters at the bar patted themselves and on discovering their loss joined in calling for help. Someone suggested that the doormen should lock all the doors and conduct body searches. Another called to his friends go with him to see if the culprits were hiding, perhaps in the toilets.

I asked my friend what to make of the unfolding drama. “Stay calm and carry on drinking. The police will soon be here and they’ll get to the bottom of the matter, though I doubt they will find any wallets in these premises.” He signaled to the waiter for more drinks.

I guessed that his comment was to indicate that the perpetrator(s) would have left the pub long before the first victim noticed the crime. I tried to think whether I had noticed any suspicious activity before the ex-policeman arrived. As far as I could recall the bar area punters had been having a jolly of a time. They were all office-suite types and all seemed familiar to one another. There was no way that they could have been robbed by one of their own, surely.

As if reading my mind, my pal asked, “Did you notice anything unusual, seated here facing the bar?” I shook my head slowly and said, “Well the crowd at the bar were a bit loud but it was all good natured – the Man’Ure Aresn hole, Chelski type of banter, nothing serious, you know?”

The doormen opened the doors now to let in the officers of the law. The senior policeman strode to the bar, introduced himself and explained that his officers would make searches and then take statements. The searches did not yield anything, just as my friend had suspected. It was decided that the bar would have to close immediately. The police asked for a copy of the cctv recording for the evening. The bar man now told the shocked gathering that the system had been out of order for the past 3 weeks . The management were aware of this.

The statements done, we were free to leave. The police concluded that the pub had been hit by professional pickpockets. There were several teams operating in the area. This would be the focus of their investigations. In plain english, just forget your wallets and money, go home and be more careful next time.

We were back at south B at my pal’s local. He said, “Pickpockets often sit watching the bar area to see which pocket the marks put their money in.” It is fairly easy then to finger the pockets without the mark paying the slightest notice. Do you remember anyone sitting facing the bar area?”

I suddenly remembered the pretty lady with the young lad. As I described her to him I could see a tiny smile beginning at the inspector’s lips. In his eyes there was a far-away look. He asked, “Did you notice, think carefully now, did you see a hint of a limp as she walked?”

“Yes I did inspector, do you know this woman? Is she the thief?” I asked, getting all excited. The inspector made a call on his cell. He spoke quietly for several minutes and then hang up. He looked at his phone thoughtfully

“Hmmm. The wallets and purses – valuables and cash missing of course – were found dumped in a rubbish bin outside the pub about an hour ago.” He said looking at me intently. “A woman and young boy matching the description you have just given me were seen hopping onto a number 63 bus around the time the thefts were discovered. Now last weekend there was a similar incident at a pub nearly half a mile away. The wallets were dumped in an alley in this case and an old man and young girl were spotted jumping onto a bus.”

“So is this someone that you know, a criminal from your past?” I asked.

“I’m not sure, chap, it is just a suspicion that I have because of the disguises. I think we are done here. I will tell you all about it over a nice bottle of Kavosia.” He said, smiling.

So here we were just before midnight stepping into the inspector’s house. The place was in total darkness. He flicked a switch but no light came so he cursed the “dark forces” under his breath.

“There’s a box of candles in the kitchen. I’ll just find them then we can see what we are doing. Have you got a light?”

I offered him my blue cigarette lighter which he struck several times without luck. “Pengine the gas is over, try this one,” I said slipping him the red one. He flicked this one too but it would not spark, the flint was dead. He used the flint from the first lighter to spark the gas in the second one setting a flame to the candle and then there was light. Together we cursed the lousy cheap imported lighters from the far-east.

Using the reliable candlelight we located some glasses and the large bottle of brandy. We retired to the sitting room where the inspector fished out a couple of Havana cigars from a secret panel above the fireplace. With drinks served and blasts lit my host settled into his favourite armchair. He cleared his throat and said “I suspect that the incident tonight was the work of a former adversary of mine. A very talented and extremely prolific crook who ran rings around the entire police force in the early 2000s. She specialised in pickpocketing and confidence tricks but she ran high class scams targeting the so-called great and the good. She was never caught red-handed. I personally arrested her twice but on each occasion her case was thrown out due to insufficient evidence.”

“Wow, did she have well-connected friends, then?” I wondered.

“It was difficult to say”, he answered. “Remember that most of her targets were well heeled public and private individuals. She scammed jewellery, fine arts and plots of land. She lived the jet set life-style with the best of them.

“I was coming up for my retirement in 60 days when she pulled an audacious plan to scam the police commissioner himself. It was almost as if she was daring us to try and catch her. The commissioner allowed his standards to slip. He’d been officiating at a prize giving day in a City primary school. As the event came to a close the commissioner was approached by a young man of Indian descent who asked if he could help his mother sell some gold bars.”

“The greedy commissioner took the bait. He made contact with the lady, who revealed that she needed money urgently to pay for her poorly husband’s treatment. It was all straight forward. She showed him the chest full of gold bars – their life savings, she said – The woman named her price but our hard-working commissioner managed to haggle forcing her to accept half the asking price. The woman insisted on carrying out the exchange in a busy public place.”

The plan was that the gold would be placed behind the telephone box at the end of Wabera street and the commissioner was to leave the money in a briefcase at the bottom of a bench on the other side of the street.” I was amongst many detectives drafted in that afternoon to ensure that the operation went smoothly. We believed this was a sting operation to capture a well-known smuggler.

“As the commissioner watched, a dozen young women, all dressed in the full niqab approached the bench. They gathered around it for a moment and then disappeared down the road taking the briefcase with them, niqabs flowing in the wind. Looking back at the phone box he noticed that the courier had delivered the gold. He ran back and grabbed the box, throwing the lid off. It was as he had feared. 24 cans of Redds on a tray and a note saying “Have a good weekend Mr commissioner. Xxx”

“That evening the commissioner was quietly admitted to the Mental Health Institute at Gigiri having suffered a complete nervous breakdown. To this day nobody knows the sum of money that he lost. Most believed that it was a huge amount. They said that they would not be surprised if the woman finally retired. And you know what, that was the last anyone heard of her.”

I refilled our glasses and settled back on the settee. I asked the inspector, “You haven’t mentioned her name all this time, what was her name? Or did she go by so many aliases that you just couldn’t keep up?” He replied, “There is no doubt she switched between multiple identities as she scammed her way around the country but the name that we hold on record is Ms Amina Wambui Suleiman.

If Amina Suleiman is back in the city we can expect some excitement over the next few weeks and months

 

Respect for the departed

I may have heard of Britain’s first woman prime minister at the time of her election victory but the Thatcher that I knew of back then was the tough, no nonsense wife of Whispers, whose misadventures we read about every Sunday on Wahome Mutahi’s column.

Ofcourse in time we got to learn of this new strong British Prime minister who replaced a weak Labour government following the winter of discontent. We watched as Thatcher ordered the biggest naval operation of the day to retake the disputed Falkland Islands (Malvinas) after Argentinian forces had invaded them in April 1982. Following Britain’s famous victory Thatcher gained the highest ratings of any leader and went on to win a second term for her conservative party.

We came to learn how Thatcher closed down coal mines and ship yards, actions which cost many thousands of jobs and also how she used the police to break up the trades unions.

Margaret Thatcher was a force to reckon with even beyond the shores of the United Kingdom. She shared US president Reagan’s conviction that theirs was a calling to defend global capitalism in the face of the cold war communist threat. It was the Soviets infact who coined the name Iron Lady – which was later taken to mean the lady with steel bolls even in the UK.

Margaret Thatcher and Reagan argued against the imposition of international sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa making them no friends of the Frontline States at the time. Thatcher went even further describing the ANC as a terrorist organisation. It was clear that they were out of step with the rest of the world which witnessed the changing winds as the cold war was drawing to a close.

Thatcher reorganised the economy in Britain and went on to lead the conservatives to a third election victory in 1987 securing her place as the longest serving premier of the twentieth century. Her uncompromising politics and leadership style made her unpopular in her country and it was members of her own party that engineered the plot that toppled her from power.

Baroness T

Baroness Thatcher, as she later became died on April 8th 2013 following a stroke. She had stood down from active politics some 20 years earlier and had been quite unwell in recent years. There have been street parties and celebrations up and down the country following news of her death. I think that this is regrettable.

Thatcher loyalists – and there are just as many as her detractors – look upon these strange scenes of jubilation and say: “Thatcher won. They had to wait until she left so that they could party”

4th March 2013

It is election day today and voters up and down the country have joined in large numbers to queue patiently and await their opportunity to exercise their democratic right under the New Constitution of 2010.

One Nation

We are told that the presidential poll is too close as the age old Kenyatta – Odinga rivalry enters the final straight. Whatever happens tonight the Fourth of March becomes an important date in our national calendar. As Kenyans take part in this historic event they should take great pride in the fact that this democratic exercise is only possible because of their own desire to vote peacefully whilst exercising patience and tolerance.

To see the long queues in the hot sun is to understand the challenges of our young democracy. It is also to understand that it will not be Kofi Annan or Hillary Clinton or even our own Barack Obama that will come here to sort our country out if the violent genie of 2007/8 comes out of the bottle this year.

Only Kenyans working together and taking on these challenges can find lasting solutions. Many Kenya patriots living abroad and following developments on the social media will quite rightly feel a sense of loss at not having been able to take part in this most noble cause today.

God Bless Kenya

I always wanted to leave home. I never knew they were going to stop me from coming back. Maybe, if I knew, I never would have left. It is kind of painful to be away from everything that you’ve ever known. Nobody will know the pain of exile until you are in exile. No matter where you go, there are times when people show you kindness and love, and there are times when they make you know that you are with them but not of them. That’s when it hurts.
—Miriam Makeba

March 4th is also the birthday of the great Miriam Makeba – “Mama Afrika” who would have been 81 today.

Miriam

Savages!

Just the other day I was going through some previous posts i’m told most bloggers have gone away on holiday and came across this gem

When the charming author of this blog published it she may not have realised that she was opening a tiny window into her own reading preferences and by extension the preferences of the esteemed readers of her popular site too.

I think it is a fascinating revelation to see or hear what people whom one may consider as their peers are reading. It is also rewarding when they give you an insight into a particular book or writer.

sailing

I have just started reading Paradise by Abdulrazak Gurnah. With every turn of the page I want to curse the author and rip up the book into 1000 pieces. I laugh out loud, feel grossly offended, feel deep sadness and depression and then feel uplifted with each turn of the page.

Please read this book and tell me how you feel.

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