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Wairiuko wa Nyambura

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This novel is a work of fiction, albeit based on true stories. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Email the author at wairiukoantony@gmail.com

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First Edition

To my mother, Nyambura Wairiuko, and two brothers who flank me on either side, Michael Mulwa and Kennedy Nzibo.


If the wages of sin is death, then Fwande needed his paycheque urgently. Fwande, a boisterous police officer notorious for adultery, stood out in the critical care unit in the national referral and teaching hospital. He was a womanizer, seven-footer, burly, middle-aged and dark man. He stopped boasting of his womanizing skills and shooting expertise. He no longer lamented the lisp. Instead, the sad and mad man nursed suicidal and homicidal thoughts.

He put his emotions aside and reasoned. I deserved it, after all, he thought. He regarded the equally guilty woman beside him. He wondered what she thought marital unfaithfulness and experiencing penis captivus meant. As they waited for the surgeon in vain, he revisited their fate.

Ngong Road, a major road in Nairobi and Kajiado counties, snakes its way from Upper Hill, past Dagoretti Sub-County, through Ngong Road Forest, via Karen, and ends at Ngong. Ngong is a suburb, located roughly 30 kilometres southwest of Nairobi, Kenya. The suburb nestles at the foot of the scenic Ngong Hills.

There is a nightclub at Dagoretti Corner, off Ngong Road. The nightclub, which is located halfway between Upper Hill and Karen, is fondly known as Holiday Tavern. Fwande, an Officer Commanding Station, and two, six-footers, lean and dark twenty-something-year-old constables were among the patrons present on the fateful day. The law enforcers, who were silently drinking their beers, wore civilian clothes but had retained their black leather boots. Regulars streamed steadily into the nightclub.

Fwande regarded the constables. “Guess what!” The constables stared blankly at him. “Hey!”

His tone jolted them and they agreed in unison. “Sir, yes, sir!”

He beckoned to a waitress. “One more round or I shoot at your escorts! I am a sharp-shooter.” He lamented his pronunciation of shoot, escorts, and sharp-shooter with a lisp. An expletive escaped his lips.

One of the constables groped for an appropriate word. “Is she a part-time...part-time...?”

She is a part-time what?”

She is a high-ranking government official doubling as a part-time waitress. But where are her armed escorts, sir?”

The waitress is a government official? Silly!” He again lamented the lisp.

The waitress was an insecure, five-footer, plump, and thirty-something-year-old woman. The old dressing table mirror she possessed before she breached her skin most likely did not remember her former self. Every now and then she regarded herself in a small mirror she carried with her. She beautified herself progressively with seeming urge to offset her aura of waning beauty.

She pulled at the hemline of her short-sleeved blouse and shimmied as she pulled down the pair of shorts she wore to hide her charcoal-black elbows and knees. The skin-lightening creams failed to hold sway over these damnable body parts. The parts were out of kilter with her over-breached skin tone.

Her closely cropped and dyed hair dripped viscous runnels onto her heart-shaped face. She wore a pair of dangly earrings and charm bracelets. As she served them, the constable stiffened to attention, clicked his boots, and saluted. The waitress gasped and hurriedly went to serve another table.

She has escorts? The constable sat down, his thoughts whirling like a potter's wheel. I hope the government official will fire one of her armed escorts and handpick me for—

Fwande fumed at him. “Are you mad?”

You said she has armed escorts, sir. It is typical of high-profile government officials, sir.”

“I meant her bottom.” The constable, who was openly confused, stared at the waitress’ open shoes. He added, hesitatingly, “Her buttocks.”

Fwande, who was distracted, missed the overtly ashamed face of the constable. There was a reveller at a table behind theirs. A manicured finger patted his close-cropped hair, and now and then ironed a crease on his Kaunda suit; his handsome face mulled over the information he was receiving from the other end while his lively eyes loitered coyly over the other revellers. The OCS listened in on the conversation.

“Come…Holiday Tavern…ask a waitress for Jugan.”

Somewhere in the nightclub, revellers drank a toast to the success of one of their own. Glasses clicked. Night closed in. He looked out the window, his eyes half-closed thoughtfully.

He saw the five-foot-tall feminine figure in the doorway. She appeared to be in her early twenties. A hip was thrust forward; her buttocks see-sawed as she entered the place. She did not see who she was looking for instantly, prompting her to dig out a flip phone from her handbag. Its bright light illuminated her pert face: olive complexion, Arctic-white teeth, and smoky milk-white bedroom eyes. She punched the keypad and placed the phone on her ear, the customary way.

Before the call came through, Jugan clicked. “Your husband is over here, dear.”

A toothpaste ad smile tugged the corners of her fully-blossomed mouth. “Aha!”

Jugan stood and planted a gentle kiss on her right cheek. His lips ethereally crashed on her tempting lustrous rose-petal lips. Fwande watched them enviously. He theatrically cleared his throat, prompting the woman to cast a brief sidelong glance at him. He was instantly infatuated with her. He imagined shagging her so hard she would immediately book an appointment with her doctor due to a dislocated hip or sciatica.

He engineered a plan.

As the lady left the place, he leaned forward and whispered to the stupid constable. “Find out where she stays.”

* * *

Jugan was in his usual hangout. He had ordered another beer when he noticed the two uniformed and impassive constables who were standing on his either side. One of them swung a pair of handcuffs while the other one cocked a gun.

Jugan arched his brows questioningly. “There must be some—”

“Shut up!” one of them cut him short. “Your gun has no permit.”

He half stood. “I—”

“Keep quiet! Bring your hands!”

They handcuffed him. The silent one shoved him forward. Impatient with his slow pace, one of them grabbed his trousers from behind and the suspect started tiptoeing; a big phantom wedge was pried between his heels and the ground. They bundled him into an unmarked police car and sped towards the hitherto little-know police station which they were attached to.

Fwande, who had been waiting for the constables impatiently behind his battered desk, stopped what he was doing. He wore a uniform with OCS insignia and chevron. He regarded them as they entered.

Fwande feigned curiosity. “What about him, my boys?”

“He is an illegal arm holder, sir.”

Jugan made animated guttural protests.

Good work, boys.” He entered Jugan in the Occurrence Book. He pointed to a battered carton box and bade the suspect put his personal effects, belt, and shoes into it. “Whisk him to the cell!”

The OCS touched the zip of his trousers thoughtfully. He recalled his early days in the police force when his colleagues but for one mocked him because of his sex abstinence. It was one colleague who understood his plight and pulled him aside one hot January afternoon. The colleague launched sex 101 and summed it up with a saying which he still remembered— a ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.

Now, many years later, he was old sweat in sex matters. He was interested in especially married women. He was cautious enough to go after women whose husbands he thought he could easily scare or intimidate. However, he often speculated what would happen to him if one day husbands with axes to grind joined up against him or one of them outwitted him. It would never happen, would it?

Jugan was alone in the cell. They had allowed him to retain his socks. Even in them, however, the floor got progressively colder as the night closed in. Sleeplessness momentarily befogged him. He watched the sky through the ventilation. A thin cloud scud ragged across the waxing gibbous moon. A mosaic of stitched-together galaxy of stars, which stretched endlessly along the pointillist milky way, twinkled.

The following morning Jugan woke to a loud metallic bang. Fwande stood in the doorway. Their eyes locked. Tires scrunched on the gravel driveway and he heard its door being shut—clunk.

Was this the moment he had been waiting for? He relocked the cell and hurried away to his desk. As he sat down, he glanced out the window at the taxicab and saw the occupants. He grinned and readied his vocal cords.

He was staring seriously but forcefully at a sheet of paper when she entered while crutching a pulse. She was clad in a black chain low cut cowl neck mini-dress which barely covered her knees. She had two big multi-hued bangles on either hand. She wore a pair of Mustang-black closed-toe flat shoes which had red bows. A silver sparkle key charm necklace rested snugly on the crest of her bosom.

She bit her underlip. “Good morning, sir?”

His brows were bunched together and eyes were glued to the sheet he was reading or, better yet, he pretended to be reading. “Good morning to you, lady. How can I help you?”

Her eyes suddenly got telltale big as a rictus of where-did-I-see-you ghosted across her face. “By the way, have we ever met before?”

He smiled and his eyes briefly left the sheet of paper to look at her. “It is a small world.”

Well, my husband is missing. I am afraid he may have been kidnapped.”

We get many such cases every day,” he lied. “If he is a victim of a kidnap-for-ransom scheme, we will wait for a ransom demand then throw the bait.” When she said nothing, he hinted, “Yesterday we arrested a man with an unlicensed gun.”

“Officer, please help me trace my husband.”

Can you describe him?”

He is six feet two, brown complexion, and has high cheek-bones. He wore a navy blue T-shirt, dirty jeans, and penny loafers on the last day I saw him. Holiday Tavern is his first port of call.”

Why, your description fits him!” He closely observed her, with an arched eyebrow, and gave her a fake rictus of and-who-are-you?

Beggar belief, she blushed scarlet, and sobbed, “Never ever. My husband owns no gun.”

“You are his wife? Stop lying. I know his wife. Ah, I can see you love him.” He paused to give a sarcastic laughter before dropping the bombshell. “You are merely one of his temptress mistresses.” He could see the impact of his words. Her face had the telltale tell-me-it-is-not-true sign. She did not have a cat in hell’s chance. “Do you have any certificate validating your marriage?”

“It —”

“Do you mean a dangerous criminal tricked you into sheltering him under the guise of a husband in a seemingly come-we-stay marriage? He will get a long imprisonment. You too; a sympathetic judge might imprison you for at least ten years for harbouring a dangerous criminal. In the judicial circles, it is referred to as crime by association.”


He flipped through the other sheets of papers on his desk and sighed irritably. “There is no lawyer directory here if that is what you are trying to ask for! Furthermore, I have a backlog of work which precludes further dialogue. Excuse me, please.” He ignored her and fumbled through the files on his desk in pretence.
She recoiled. That he had her attention and she was at his mercy pleased him. She would easily be like putty in his hands. When she went out the door, no doubt to reassess the situation, he scratched his head thoughtfully.
What if I have done it wrongly and encouraged her to stay away from here instead? He considered calling her back immediately but she had already boarded the taxicab which was pulling out.

She returned shortly thereafter. A huge black handbag dangled from her left shoulder. His eyes were glued to her handbag as she headed to his desk. He distrusted the huge handbags, which could comfortably accommodate a warhead, which ladies carried with them nowadays.

“I have brought him some food.” She passed over a package containing fast food. He requested her to do the customary food tasting and testing before he personally took it to him.

He returned and whispered in a low conspiratorial tone. “This is between us. Give me some money and I will have him released.”

She beamed and whispered back. “I have two thousand shillings.”

He scowled. “The amount is little for such a dangerous criminal.” He upped the bribe. “Make it five thousand.”

“It is too much.”

“It is not much as such. Two thousand is mine and three thousand is for the PPO.”

“Which people?”

“PPO is an acronym for the Provincial Police Officer.”

She dipped her hand into her handbag and fished her purse out. “Let me—”

Hey, stop! Not here. This office has a CCTV installation. Let us meet at the Citizen Bar and Restaurant tomorrow at six p.m.”


Sevo-Savanti served as a commissioner in and the spokesman for a department within a Kenyan law enforcement agency. He was a few inches shy of six feet, lean, sixty-year-old detective. His face was a mishmash of features: a big forehead, piercing deep-set and bloodshot eyes, thick and funnily far-flung eyebrows, and large serrated ears.

Seemingly, he had a double-chin if you looked at him from a distance. The double-chin retreated progressively like a mirage before disappearing indefinitely as you approached him. Cartoonists had a field day with the evanescent double-chin.

Forty years as a detective had given him a finesse which stood him in good stead—he was given a priority over the others. He held many leadership roles; most notably a commission of inquiry into the crimes against humanity committed during a disarmament operation. This ill-fated operation has come to be known as the Wagalla Massacre.

Few people knew about or remembered his role in the massacre. Those who knew and still served in the department were equally guilty. That is why the old guard, now in top leadership positions, controlled departmental appointments. They automatically appointed him as the commissioner when they bowed to popular pressure to set up the commission of inquiry. He was fronting for them.

The old guard preferred him because of his fake trustworthy impression and impassive face which could charm even the most rebelling person. For him days and nights were opposites. During the day, he was a strong-willed and objective civil servant. He barked orders. Nightly panic attacks reduced him to a weakling. He cried helplessly. He lay awake as the memories of the massacre haunted him, converging on his mind like a jump collage of beggar description photos. The sleeping pills he kept on his bedside table were useless.

Unlike his colleagues, he got along with the shadowy Detective Chief Inspector Ahmedinasir, his deputy commissioner in the inquiry. Both of them had their offices in the same building, Investigations House, but on different floors.

Ahmedinasir was an intelligent and ambitious, five-footer, lanky, forty-four-year-old man. He was a nosy old school investigator who stopped at nothing in his quest for solving crimes and pinning criminals down.

He had a nagging curiosity, something which grated on the suspects he questioned and broke their psychological barriers. The suspects quickly got fed up with him. Impatient to get his questioning sessions over and done with, they became lax and often uttered remarks which helped prosecutors in their trials.

The old guard were potential key suspects of the Wagalla Massacre. They had reason to feel uncomfortable with Ahmedinasir. They once contemplated transferring the man to another department or, better yet, force him into early retirement. But for it to be effective, two questions had to be answered. Was the man close to any figure of authority? If yes, who?

There were no answers. They could have gone ahead and implemented the idea nevertheless, they figured out. But what if, let’s say, a retired minister who drew straws behind-the-scenes noticed and, consequently, paid them a surprise visit? How would they handle such a scenario?

“Can we arrange?” Someone proposed. The complete statement should have been: “Can we arrange his death such that it appears he died of natural causes?” But the old guard had used the statement countless times over the years, thus, adopted a shortened version. It was simply “arrange” after they decided someone should be assassinated.

The rest of the old guard avoided Ahmedinasir because it was rumoured he was telepathic. Rumour had it he hypnotized suspects then made them confess on the record—or so the story goes.

A dramatic story is retold within judicial circles of a particular day he participated in court proceedings. A recorded confession, which he belatedly realized had been lost, cut the ground from under Ahmedinasir’s feet. The defendant’s lawyer had also instructed his client, a prime terror suspect, not to talk. Ahmedinasir tried to cross-examine the suspect, but it was objected on the grounds that he was “asking leading questions.” For Ahmedinasir, alas, the case appeared over and lost.

The unexpected happened. Ahmedinasir regarded the suspect helplessly, followed by actions which are hazy and episodic to those who witnessed the incident. Popular opinion has it that the suspect, who was renowned for refusing to confess even under torture, appeared to be entranced before he started confessing.

The old guard had agreed that Sevo-Savanti should be more of a liability than an asset to the commission of inquiry. His instructions were simple: to pretend to be charting the right course for the inquiry in general and Ahmedinasir in particular, but in reality mislead him.

Sevo-Savanti spent business hours in his office lazing about. The office contained only basic things: a desk and two chairs, filing cabinet, cellular phone and telephone directory, water dispenser, and wall-mounted mirror.

He lazed away the lonely morning hours of that fateful day while browsing idly through the telephone directory. He randomly selected and dialled a number. As the telephone started ringing, he heard it yet again. It was the tenth time.

Tamani, the tea girl, knocked on the door leading to his office. She opened it and walked in, ready to serve him tea. Her watch showed about eleven o’clock. She was concerned. Since ten o’clock he had kept on saying, “In five minutes’ time.”

Tamani was a shy-eyed and beautiful, four feet five three, slim, thirtyish woman. She was brown as berries. She had cuddly hips and bottom. An amateur futurologist could have sworn on a vision of sexy futurity. She was Ahmedinasir’s sister. He had secured her the job.

She stood in front of Sevo-Savanti, waiting for his order. He bade her serve him. Under his watch, she poured tea from a Thermos flask into a Kaolin cup.

His eyes ghosted across her face. He noticed her beauty there and then. This flower, he resolved, must be watered soonest. He knew she would turn down his sexual advances if he did it diplomatically. The only option was to force his way. Why, she was so graspingly near yet so convincingly far!

He forced his eyes to look elsewhere. The eyes dragged him back to her, like a hungry pit bull terrier seeing a bone. Ok eyes, you win, he submitted.

The call went through. “Hello.”

The receiver, Ahmedinasir, said something. Sevo-Savanti, who was inattentive, did not know immediately whose voice it was or what he said. He eyed the documents on his desk thoughtfully. He hit the documents with an elbow on the sly and scattered them on the floor.

Tamani paused. “Sorry.”

Sevo-Savanti grunted suggestively. “Huh?”

She first filled the cup then bent to help. Bending provided him with a good viewpoint. He eyed the cuddly hips which were in the shadow of his nose. Why, the hips met his gaze! She edged closer to collect documents which had fallen between his chair and desk. In doing so, she unknowingly gave him, a short-sighted man and who had astigmatism, even better vision.

He rubbed her bottom with his hand, slowly but thoroughly like a masseur. He lustfully arched his small of the back. She was confused. Fear slithered through her. For the first time in her six months long stint as a tea girl, she realized their genders. They were apples and oranges.

She eventually plucked up the courage to face him. “It is not good for your dignity.”

“Dignity, who cares?”

Ahmedinasir said something else on the phone. Sevo-Savanti did not care what it was, but he agreed absently. His reply was raspy. The phone call irritated him. His mind was elsewhere. An asthmatic-like breath grated his nostrils as he locked the door. A sexy moan filed his throat. He grabbed her. She resisted.

He tapped at the zip of her trousers. “Do you know the power of this thing?”

She cringed. “No, please stop.”

He gritted his teeth. “No one dares to say no to me!”

She whimpered and reluctantly gave up. He unbuttoned her red frill blouse and unhooked her front closure bra. He sucked her nipples. He unhooked her belt and removed her washed out denim trousers. His hairy hands dawdled along her thighs and grabbed her panties. The smooth static glide of cloth against her flesh as he lowered the panties aroused him. He groaned with pleasure.

He lowered his trousers and underwear, and penetrated her.

* * *

Ahmedinasir was reading another report on the Wagalla Massacre when the phone rang. It was a different version of the previous report, but he recognized the keywords. He reconciled the two reports and documented thus:

The Wagalla Massacre was a Kenya Government’s administrative disaster. It happened on Friday, February 10, 1984 in Wajir West, North Eastern Kenya. Law enforcement agencies shepherded especially Degodia clan members to the local airstrip allegedly to disarm them. Government record: 57 people died during the “disarmament”. Survivors of the massacre: possibly 5,000 locals died.

Government officials refused to cooperate with him except Sevo-Savanti. The commissioner had provided him with the two reports he had just read and summarized. He had prior knowledge of the information contained therein— he had read unofficial documentations—but received from Sevo-Savanti made the reports authoritative.

He took the call and heard Sevo-Savanti’s voice. He readied himself for news of another report. It started well. However, after the usual formalities, Sevo-Savanti started replying senselessly. He eventually kept quiet. It seemed there was someone else in his office.

Sevo-Savanti possibly withheld sensitive information after someone unexpectedly burst into his office, Ahmedinasir thought. He sighed tiredly. He had barely put the speaker-phone back on its cradle when he heard phone call background noise.

He listened attentively.

Sevo-Savanti finished with Tamani, stretched himself, and sighed appreciatively. He dressed, sat on his desk, and reached for cologne from a drawer. He suddenly saw the speaker-phone was not back on its cradle. Whoa. He stiffened.

The word was monosyllabic. “No!”

Sevo-Savanti jumped bail of the ‘No!’ “Everything is fine on my side.”

Ahmedinasir drawled. “You have raped my sister?”

His eyes were bloated. “Pardon me?”

He laughed sarcastically. “Wait for a PowerPoint presentation.”

The laughter grated on Sevo-Savanti. He knew he could not sidestep his guilt. His left hand clung onto the speaker-phone like a limpet. There was an eerie long static hiss on the line before Ahmedinasir rang off.

There were two people in the room: Tamani and the rapist. Sevo-Savanti heard something else moving in the room. It was invisible but he knew it was there, edging closer to him. He thought he recognized Ahmedinasir’s footsteps.

No, it was impossible. Sevo-Savanti had locked the door.

He remembered something scary. The old guard met once a month to discuss issues affecting them. During one of those meetings, the colleague who most disliked and avoided Ahmedinasir narrated something hitherto nonsense— bilocation.

The colleague had attended a day long security conference. He sat beside Ahmedinasir, another attendant. During the meeting, the colleague decided to use and rushed to the toilet. Lo and behold, he bumped into Ahmedinasir who was exiting the toilet! But he was certain he had left Ahmedinasir seated back in the conference room.

To confirm he was not hallucinating, he rushed back to the conference room and peeped. Ahmedinasir was there, but he sat inert with lifeless eyes. The colleague looked at the approaching figure again.

He could have shrugged aside the figure but this is where it got scarier. The approaching figure disappeared into thin air when it drew level with him. He peeped instinctively inside the conference room and saw an astral projection materialize in the room. A female attendant, who was busily scrolling down her mobile phone, had unknowingly blocked the way.

The astral projection elbowed her out of the way. The woman glanced at the astral absent-mindedly. The colleague watched the astral as it stood beside, sat on, and merged with Ahmedinasir’s physical body.

Sevo-Savanti and his other colleagues listened keenly to the story. No one believed the ghostly tableau. They could have believed it but for the last part of the story. The end of the story seemed like a rehash of a paranormal film—it was a loose thread, no?

Sevo-Savanti did not know if now there was an out of body experience or not. Ahmedinasir stood in front of him; he comforted his sister feelingly but she was inconsolable. Only the brother and sister understood the cultural stigma of pre-marital sex. She would be treated as a cultural outcast forever.

Tamani’s prospect of getting married was doomed. The day when she would have proudly stripped naked and let an elderly woman physically inspect her womanhood for virginity before they married her off, as it was the norm, became a pipe dream there and then.

She relived the rape.

The rape dragged on. She grimaced as her sciatic nerve took the rapist’s ton-like weight. His manhood pierced her groins like a pneumatic drill at full blast. Her blood smudged her thighs. The carpeted floor was daubed with another thick wodge of blood.

She saw a strangely familiar reflection in the wall-mounted mirror. The mirror reflected a face with a woebegone expression. The reflection was generally banged up and tired to the bone. She noticed the reflection was that of a woman. She blinked. The reflection blinked too. She realized it was her own reflection. The rape sapped her energy. She collapsed on the floor.

Her brother came to her aid. He dressed, lifted her, and carried her shoulder-high out the door. As he left the room, he looked at Sevo-Savanti momentarily. Their eyes locked. Tears clouded his eyes and blotted out the older man.

Ahmedinasir relived the horrors of the massacre he witnessed decades previously. Tough men used to scanty meals and harsh climate were sloughed off their earthly fortitude. They cried feelingly. They pleaded for mercy. It did not stop the hail of bullets.


Mrs Jugan, who was in the dressing room, started humming to herself. Her make-up kit was on the dressing table. She powdered her nose and stroked her eyelashes gently with mascara wad. Her lipstick got a glossy touch-up. She also titivated her layered hair.

Who says, she thought as she locked up and left the house, I cannot make the male pilot of a taxiing aeroplane veer away from the runway if I walked up to it?

It was almost six p.m. when the taxicab she flagged down along the way dropped her off at the meeting place. She looked around uneasily, uncertain of her next step. She wondered if Fwande was waiting for her inside the facility or otherwise and if it was wise to enter or wait for him outside.

Unbeknown to her, he was window-shopping nearby. He saw her, mentally stripped her naked, and fondled her. She spotted him. He walked up to her, thinking, what a beautiful catch!

His palm enveloped hers and shepherded her towards the facility. “You are a timekeeper!”

She was unconscious of how easily he broke the touch barrier. “Thank you.”

The female receptionist in the facility flashed a Nike logo-like smile. “Hi. How can I help you?”

The receptionist was in her thirties. She was wearing a big wig which was out of kilter with the shape of her head. Her face was earth brown. Her pencilled eyebrows hovered shamefully over artificial eyelashes.

Her bee-stung lips were shaded a dreadful and gutsy blood-red; she seemed like she was in the middle of a hideous blood-sucking ritual. Her blouse had a sweetheart neckline and partially revealed large succulent breasts. The big desk hid the rest of her body.

Fwande stepped forward. “Hi. We want a vacant room. We will also need some sparkling wine.”

The Nike swoosh on her face disappeared immediately he said ‘a vacant room’. There was something in the receptionist’s look. It was as if he was a pet accompanied by a pest. He tried to analyse the receptionist’s reaction. Perhaps she washed the bed sheets in the lodging in her quest for earning an extra shilling. Perhaps she thought his companion would somehow complicate the task. His companion braved the cold reception.

The receptionist made out a receipt. “It will cost you two thousand shillings only.”

He smilingly reached for his wallet. “Okay.”

She reached out for a set of mortise lock keys from a drawer and handed it over to him. “Room number twelve. It is on the first floor.”

They silently climbed the spiral staircase. He looked over his shoulder. The receptionist was still looking at them. Women! What is she thinking?

They reached the first floor wherein the rooms were numbered. “This is room number ten and number eleven is over there.” He eventually pointed at a door’s transom which was etched in gold. “Aha! There goes number twelve!”

There was a look of alarm on her face. “What is this, lodging?”

Yes. “No.”

She was like a smart college professor who is refusing to give credit to her student’s thesis because she is suspecting it is not his own effort. But the professor has used Turnitin and other plagiarism-detecting software and is now waiting for an unlikely confession concerning contract cheating. “What is it then?”

Love nest. “This is room service”, he lied. “The hotel management will give us personalized service.” He flinched. “There would be dire consequences if the PPO knew I am meeting a suspect’s family member to solicit a bribe.”


We can put it off if you so wish.” He put it boldly, albeit with fake courage. But he was just blowing smoke. He could not put it off just like that. He was almost there.

“No, it is all right.”

He unlocked the door. The room was well appointed. There were two wing chairs and a simple wooden table. There was also an adjoining room, for obvious reasons. They sat on the chairs which were fitted with high density cushions. There was a moment of silence as he phrased and rephrased his thoughts.

I can ably make the exhibit disappear and your husband will have a ‘no case to answer’ submission.”

That is kind of you.”

My superior might ask what he does for a living.”

He is a long distance driver, sometimes away for two weeks consecutively.”

Her reply was a mistake.

There was a rap on the door. A waitress brought a bottle of sparkling wine and two goblet glasses. The waitress opened the bottle and poured a small quantity into his glass. He held the goblet against the light. He confirmed the wine was both clear and lacked bits of cork. He twirled the goblet and sniffed the aroma which came from it. He sipped the wine and nodded at the waitress. The waitress put the bottle of wine on the table then left.

The wine tasting procedure mesmerized his companion. He filled her glass then his. He told her the four major types of wines—red, white, rose, and sparkling— and the dishes which blend together. She was fascinated.

He changed the thread of their conversation. “I believe in helping others. I owe my success to someone too.”

She nodded and eyed her glass of wine. “I do not drink wine, I am sorry to say.”

“Come on!”


He coaxed her into drinking. “Take a sip.”

Okay, for my husband’s sake. “But—”

“You can do it.”

She slurped her wine. “I—”

He took a sip. “Wine is sipped slowly, not slurped as if you are drinking hot porridge.”

She gave him a sheepish smile and adhered to his protocol. “Is it not?”

“It is.” He refilled their glasses. “Wine helps digest food.”

“Perhaps it does not, considering I ate light-years ago.”

He consulted his wristwatch. It was seven p.m. “It is also an appetizer. I will go and get our supper.”


But he was already out the door. She quickly drained her glass and refilled thrice. He brought fast food. They readied themselves for the meal.

He toadied to her. “Welcome, ma’am.”

She slurred. “Thank you, sir.”

They ate in silence. They sipped more wine.

He cleared his throat theatrically. “The PPO is unusually interested in the case.”

She moved uneasily. “You promised to help me. Remember?”

“I do remember.”

“Thank you.”

He tabled his feelings with a come-hither look. “Perhaps we should have a no strings attached relationship.”

Ugh!” She realized they were male and female. “Is it barter trade?” She was grateful he was helping her out. She owed him a favour but his suggestion for appreciation made her toes curl. She had not thought about it from that perspective. “I could have agreed but for my marriage.”

His silence bothered her. Did he hear her, no? She thoughtfully regarded the empty wine bottle. It must be the wine—my speech is slurred. She edged closer to him to voice her concerns close to his ear. He abruptly moved his head. She ended up unintentionally kissing his cheek. He thanked her for the kiss.

She could not talk him out of it. He was a negotiator in his own right and presided over recrimination cases where accusers became the accused. He listened to her tut-tuts of dissatisfaction with the suggestion. He launched a thought-provoking debate which seduced and flattered her.

“Nowadays men have secret lovers,” he sexed her up. “You are the secret lover of the man we arrested yesterday. One day I will show you his official wife and children; they live upcountry. You should avenge yourself.”


“What? You are burying your head in the sand. Wake up and smell the coffee.”
“I am married to him. We stay together.”

“Point of correction: you are his live-in mistress.”


“Have you ever met your so-called in-laws?”


He angled for making love with her. “You should even the score.”

“You want, in short, us to make love?”

Lovemaking is worthless. The keyword here is a mutual friendship. It is a win-win situation.”

“You appear to be a broke buyer who is hard bargaining over the price of an allegedly worthless item.”

He reminded her he held all the aces. He wanted a sex favour. Otherwise, she and her husband would be imprisoned without the possibility of parole.

He won her over.

They made love thrice. They were exhausted and lazed away the afterglow of sex. They slept it off. He woke to a piss-proud self the following day. She had pride of the morning. The legendary morning glory quenched their amatory hangovers.

They checked out at six a.m.

Any first-time Nairobi visitor who saw them most likely thought they were the regional mascots of the rat race. The unremorseful adulterers seemed like two night shift workers, casually walking home together from a company whose business operations go round-the-clock. Later on in the day, Jugan was released ceremoniously. No one pressed charges against him.


Wajir County is a semi-arid county, located approximately 500 kilometres northeast of Nairobi. Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir counties formed the then North Eastern Province. Wajir Town is the capital and main town in the county.

Wagalla Airstrip is located some fifteen kilometres west of Wajir Town. This airstrip played host to the Wagalla Massacre. The airstrip and the date February 10, 1984 evoke gory memories. The launch pad for the massacre was a routine administrative order which was delivered by recorded delivery a week earlier. A dutiful sub-chief followed the order which, ironically, also pulled him into a vortex of its goriness.

The manyatta: a hovel made from sticks, cow dung, and mud paste. The boma­: a roofless livestock enclosure, fortified with concentric rings of thorny shrubs. This is what the local sub-chief, Salim, saw when he negotiated a corner on the cattle-track. It was the last home to visit.

Salim walked with a bouncy mannerism. He was a six-footer, medium build, and dark brown government official. The forty-year-old man had a whiskered chin and a fine web of veins on his temples and hands. He was a hardy man like the rest of the county residents who, geographically, got the hard row to hoe. His tough as old boots characteristic belied a bleeding heart.

He drew level with the boma and paused. His eyes were trained on the emaciated zebu cattle inside. He pitied them. Fodder and some pints of saline water were light-years away. The door of the manyatta was open. It indicated the owner was nearby. He called out to the owner. There was no reply. He looked around the homestead. Seemingly, there was no one around.

He walked up to the manyatta and peeped inside. The interior was dark and dusty. Somewhere inside, a hen fluttered its wings; it filled the room with a thick cloud of dust. Every now and again the hen pecked at something while cackling. Salim was an impatient man. He assumed the visit ill-timed and hankered to leave. He had barely taken the first step when he heard it, turned, and gasped. The shocked man nearly collapsed like a myotonic goat.

There was a voice from inside the hut. “I am here.”

The lone man inside shooed out the hen. It trilled defiantly but complied. The dust settled and Salim saw him. The sub-chief thought the impassive eighty-year-old man, Mzee Hajji, had aged much since their last meeting.

Mzee Hajji looked world-weary. His cheekbones jutted out. He sat cross-legged on a cow hide. The man, who resembled a statue from Qin Dynasty, was encased in ash but for the sensory chads. His Maasai shuka—a skin-friendly and colourful fabric which is the trademark of the Maasai—­was drawn over his knees and tucked between scraggy and wrinkled thighs. He drank fermented milk from a calabash.

Salim acknowledged him. “Good evening, Mzee Hajji.”

The old man ignored the formality. “Something has brought you here, my dear son.”

“I have received news from Kenya.”

They were within the boundaries of Kenya. However, the place was marginalized and they, predominantly Muslims and ethnic Somalis, related to Somalia relatively more than Kenya.

Mzee Hajji recalled the so-called Shifta War. “What do the Kenyans want to do to us, the wretched citizens, yet again?”

They want us to attend a baraza on Friday, February 10. I do not know the venue.”

“What is the agenda?”

“Intertribal clashes and, perhaps, government aid.”

“Getting concerned about our welfare and dispensing largesse to us has never been the government’s pastime. Do you believe it?”

Salim babbled away. Even then Mzee Hajji’s impassive face bothered him. Salim’s eyes refused to be vetted by those of the older man. The hen sneaked back and started fluttering with renewed vigour. It pushed the blanket of ash and dust further out. Mzee Hajji ignored it. The hen was a baddie sometimes but the man and fowl were buddies.

Salim retreated two steps, coughed, and angled for leaving. “Let me go back home and see what my lovely wife has cooked for supper.”

There was no reply. Salim walked back to his manyatta, which was located some thirty kilometres away, while thinking about Mzee Hajji’s doubt. The sunset left curly and golden wisps of barren clouds. The night closed in on him and the lone trekker became a part of its umbra.

* * *

Two days before the Wagalla Massacre, a nondescript room in Wajir County was full of regional senior security officers. The officers, who were yapping, sat in huddles. Their tunics and chevrons determined in which group an officer was scowled at or welcomed.

Sevo-Savanti, then a powerful administrative leader, entered the room. His eyes roved. The officers scattered and kept quiet. He signed in the In Attendance Book and thought back why he had convened the security meeting.

For many decades, ethnic Somali clans, especially Degodia and Ajuran, have had countless fights over grazing land. Surprisingly, the two clans hold out an olive branch to each other to fight outsiders. Security analysts often quote a Bedouin saying: “I against my brother, my brothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and me against strangers.”

The government ordered him to come up with a solution. Intelligence reports stated the Degodia clan members had acquired illegal firearms; the reports recommended disarming them for peace to prevail. He was mandated to implement the recommendation.

He was wary of a possible Degodia-Ajuran alliance and a kindred-oriented uprising on strangers, the security officers, either during or after the disarmament. He did not underestimate the clans’ capability. He needed many security officers for a successful disarmament operation.

He briefed the senior security officers.

* * *

By Valentine’s Day 1984, the devil was yet to return to his lair. People all over the world celebrated Saint Valentine’s martyrdom but for Kenyan Somalis. The Somalis were still reeling from the systematic killings of their kith and kin.

Relatively few Degodia clan members attended the baraza willingly. As a result, the security agencies indiscriminately stopped any resident they chanced upon and asked the generic question, “What is your clan?” If the reply was, “I am a Degodia”, or not, the agencies put the unlucky resident in a lorry and sped off. Thousands of residents were taken to the pebbly and barbed wire-fenced Wagalla Airstrip.

At Wagalla Airstrip, the noun ‘strip’ in the compound word acquired an inhuman connotation—the residents were stripped naked at night. In the daytime, they lay on the hot runway where they quenched their thirst with urine begged from others. They were starved, tortured, and brutally killed.

Salim and his counterparts were among those who attended the baraza. The other sub-chiefs and their respective chiefs were directed to go to the airstrip to help identify those in possession of illegal arms. When the dutiful administrators reached there, there was a fine line between them and the civilians. Their services were no longer needed. They huddled and watched helplessly.

Salim saw two round-eyed village elders whose faces were superimposed on one other. Someone somewhere repeatedly begged, “I will take the easy way out—shoot me dead.” A tearful twenty-something-year-old man rose; he appeared dazed, like a witchdoctor in the moment of losing his magic power.

In a cauldron of uncontrollable anger and with outspread hands, the man headed for the nearest security officer. The alert officer shot him dead before the young man snatched his assault rifle. The man shot dead was still momentarily. The bullet emerged from the nape, carrying occipital, parietal, and temporal bone fragments with it. He fell on the ground. Brain and blood spilt from the multifragmentary fracture. Houseflies claimed him.

Sevo-Savanti came Salim’s way. “I believe you know all the people detained here inside out. I need a list of illegal arms holders.”

Salim pillowed his chin on his palm and stared at Sevo-Savanti. He had hitherto never seen or heard of most of the detainees. Therefore, his mercury level did not react to the senseless statement. It was a cardinal sin. Sevo-Savanti was mad at and shot him dead. Salim’s kith and kin cried feelingly.

The dum-dum bullets were unofficial and illegal. Sevo-Savanti adjusted his sunglasses and puffed on a cigarette. Among those detained was Mzee Hajji. He defied the order to remain lying down to avenge Salim’s death. But his wobbly old legs buckled under his weight. He cried for the first time in his adulthood. The tears hung precariously on his lower eyelids like two small marquise diamonds.

* * *

The adventurous and social phobic teenager was forgetful. To make up for his memory lapses, he indicated the way he came using twigs, especially at intersections. It was a creative way to find his way back to their far-flung manyatta.

In the afternoon of February 10, 1984, he reached an intersection wherein one of its two paths led directly to his family’s manyatta. He paused. The twig he had marked with was missing. He saw cloven hoof footprints and a big cat’s paw prints nearby. A big cat most seemingly preyed on either an antelope or a gazelle and the twig took a hit during the ensuing scuffle.

He had a backup: superstition. He stood in the middle of the intersection, spat saliva on his left palm, and whipped it with his right index finger. The splash hurtled towards one path like a heat-seeking air-to-surface missile. Faraway, he saw Wagalla Airstrip, a familiar landmark. He shifted the gazelle carcass he was carrying and hurried up. He was looking forward to a week off hunting expedition to recuperate in the manyatta.

His footsteps faltered a short distance from the airstrip. He watched unseen. He closed and opened his eyes, and stepped back. People were detained there. Gunshots rang out irregularly. The ground was splashed with blood like crimson confetti at a royal wedding ceremony.

A large group of hungry and angry men suddenly rose, broke a section of the fencing, and made a bolt for it. Desperate for self-preservation, some of them clambered whistling thorn trees. Gunshots rang out consistently. The escapees frantically clung onto the thorny branches but eventually broke the tail end resistance to fall. It was grotesque.

The teenager was Ahmedinasir: a slovenly villager.


Fwande was drinking beer in a dingy half-full nightclub, located in the Nairobi central business district, when an idea crossed his mind. He felt lonely. The two constables, his usual companions, were on night shift. It was a week since he rendezvoused with Mrs Jugan in the lodging.

He ordered another beer and lit a cigarette. His next action became a lifelong regret. He fished out his touchscreen phone, pulled out the stylus, swiped, scrolled his contacts list, and dialled a number.

There were the usual formalities. He angled for meeting with and making love to her yet again. His suggestion was granted. He paid his bill, exited the nightclub, and flagged down a taxicab. He boarded and, under the ambient interior car light, studied the driver.

The driver was a feral-faced, slim, and youthful man. He had a chipped molar. Hairy hands showed from a wrinkled promotional T-shirt which advertised a dubious beverage. His creased trousers screamed for ironing and portrayed him as a habitué of cheap second-hand clothing stores. His toes were crammed together like sardines in old sandals.

The driver, who felt uncomfortable with the scrutiny, switched off the interior car light. “Where to, boss?”

Fwande groped for the safety belt. “Jamhuri Estate. How much will it cost?”

The driver engaged gear. His eyes were trained on the roundabout ahead. “The fare is five hundred shillings.”

He consulted his watch. “I will pay twice as much if I get there within ten minutes.”

The driver braked hard and executed an illegal U-turn. Staccato honks blared out from other vehicles. There was little traffic on Haile Selassie Avenue. They run a red light at the Haile Selassie Highway/Uhuru Highway roundabout. The driver touched something under his seat. The cab hit its top speed and unceremoniously joined Ngong Road.

The driver angled for a pat on the back. “This car is responding well to my antics.” The passenger ignored him. The driver took no offence. This man, he concluded, was dying to get home to his wife.

Jamhuri Estate is a middle-class residential neighbourhood along Ngong Road. It is located seven kilometres west of Nairobi City. The Jugans lived there. The taxicab accessed the estate via Kibera Station Road, off Ngong Road.

Fwande directed the driver to the Jugans’ house. The driver cut the engine at the gate and lit the interior car light. He was timely. Fwande fulfilled his promise. The driver made some noises concerning his business card. It fell on stony ground. He trained his eyes on the passenger’s shirt pocket as if he had noticed a fat housefly resting there and intended to hit it. He slowly flexed his hand and put his business card inside.

The taxicab pulled away. Fwande knocked on the gate. The gateman, who was possibly dozing, accidentally kicked a metallic plate as he hurried up with jangling keys. The police officer chuckled. The two men came face to face. A red light went up. Who cared?

He entered, walked up to the bungalow, and knocked on the door. Slippered feet shuffled inside. A key blundered around the escutcheon before she entered it in the keyway. The deadbolt snapped open. There she was, dressed in a satin nightdress!

He entered the house. She leaned on the door and pushed the bolt home. She wended her way to the master bedroom through furniture and artefacts. He followed her swinging hips. The furnishings hinted of a taste befitting the gods: a king-sized bed, chest-of-drawers, bedside table on which lay a table lamp and cosmetic products, built-in closets, and needle felt carpet.

They undressed. She lay on the bed. One of her hands cupped her breast and fondled an erect nipple while the other hand grabbed and pulled him. She writhed on the bed like a hardened latter-day sinner during an exorcism.

He joined her horny fit. They ached for one another. The lovemaking was gentle at first, but it blazed up. They recycled each other’s breath and smeared sweat on one another. Their dangly bits were squelchy.

His phone rang loudly from the far end of the room. “I will switch it off!”

She was disappointed by the interruption. “Hurry up.”

He steeled himself. “Please stop this bedroom game.”

She searched his face. “Which game?”

He tugged in vain to free his manhood. Eek! Stuck inside! The phone rang continuously and grated on his ears. The dark underbelly of sex was cold comfort for those practicing abstinence. He realized a woman’s thighs are not always a barrel of laughs. He relaxed and ruminated over his dilemma.

“Even if the thug you are pursuing turns against you and you are somehow unarmed, never give up—you will always find a solution nearby,” he recalled his instructor saying while in the police academy, nearly two decades ago.

This was an unordinary thug. Moreover, which solution was nearby? He looked around the room. He saw a damnable jar of Vaseline jelly on the bedside table. His eyes trained on the chest of drawers. Was there a solution inside? Look, he psyched himself up. He and his lady-trailer painstakingly headed for the chest of drawers.

The night closed in.


Garissa Town is the main town of the then Garissa District, North Eastern Province. The district has been renamed Garissa County since. The town is located some 320 kilometres south of Wajir Town. After the disarmament operation, Sevo-Savanti and the rest considered Garissa a safe haven against any retaliation.

In the late afternoon of Wednesday, February 15, 1984, a convoy of dusty Land Rover Defender pickup trucks carrying the security officers left the airstrip for Garissa. The officers sat back and readied themselves for an uncomfortable six-hour long journey over dirt and gravel roads.

Sevo-Savanti drove the leading vehicle on automatic pilot. The speeding car met the sun-baked roads in a fast concentric blur. The manyattas were moderate within a radius of two kilometres of Wajir Town but progressively thinned out as they left the town behind.

The security officers in the vehicles struck airy conversations about the disarmament. They laughed. They shared cigarettes. They teased each other and second-guessed one another’s words. They made in-jokes with cryptic punch lines. War buddies. They had seen action on the frontline.

The convoy passed an old wooden hand-painted road sign which proclaimed, ‘WAJIR TOWN. THANK YOU, COME AGAIN’. One security officer ruminated over the ironic words. They passed a tired male teenager carrying something on his shoulders.

The Mandera—Wajir—Garissa Road connects Mandera, Wajir and Garissa counties. Along the road, they turned on the headlights. He reached a junction at Habaswein and, together with the other drivers, stopped. He eyed the half-empty fuel gauge then the junction.

Which was the shortest way to Garissa, driving along the Isiolo—Mandera Road via Mado Gashi and Benane towns or taking the Habaswein—Dadaab Road via Sabuli and Dadaab towns? He rummaged through the official documents in the glove compartment and frowned.

The cloud of dust made by the hitherto speeding convoy settled. His assistant alighted from the pickup truck immediately behind his, came to him, and raised his eyebrows questioningly.

Sevo-Savanti pointed at the junction. “We are running low on fuel and I have no road map to know the shortest road. We will camp here for the night and, tomorrow in the morning, ask the local residents if there is a shortcut.”

His assistant shouted orders. The drivers switched off the headlights and cut the engines. A flurry of activity followed as tents, sleeping bags, torches, canned food, and first aid kits were offloaded.

It was a cloudless night. A full moon rode high and solemnly kept a motherly eye on the campers below. Stars encircled the moon, the distantly flashers on, like many police chase cars closing in on a most wanted elusive mafia boss.

The last tent set up, the assistant randomly chose several security officers who would stand guard at night. Their instructions were clear; no group of people should pass through the camping zone, but any lone local resident found nosing about should be captured and the assistant informed as soon as possible.

An alert security officer heard bushes rattle nearby. He plonked himself down on the trump of a tree and waited. A male teenager carrying something noisily found his way in the thick undergrowth. The officer pounced on the teenager and pinned him down. The teenager stunk to high heaven. The officer vomited. The information went up the chain of command to Sevo-Savanti.

Sevo-Savanti, who was anticipating a counterattack, initially thought it was a decoy. He regarded the teenager suspiciously. “What are you carrying?”

The teenager tightened his grip on the carcass. “It is an antelope.”

He confirmed it was game. Another security officer recalled the convoy passing the teenager an hour previously. They dismantled the tents and loaded the camping equipment onto the vehicles. Without caring to know the teenager’s destination, Sevo-Savanti ordered the teenager into his vehicle and, after scaring him, demanded to know and be guided through the shortest route to Garissa.

The teenager plucked up the courage to address Sevo-Savanti. “Where are you coming from?”

The question caught Sevo-Savanti off-guard. “We are returning from Wajir wherein we offered government aid.”

“Aid, huh? What type of aid and—”

“Guide, what is your name?”

“I am Ahmedinasir.”

Ahmedinasir, if ever one day you want to join the police force, come to my office in Wajir Town. I will be ready to oblige you with help.”

Ahmedinasir, who started scheming a way of striking back immediately he boarded the vehicle, got another idea. He would do it in the fullness of time.


Fwande banged on the closed chest-of-drawers. “W-Where are the keys?”

Mrs Jugan sputtered. “T-They are in the sitting room.”

They went into the dark sitting room. She groped in the dark and pressed a rocker switch on. There was a sofa set, foot stools, tub chairs, home entertainment centre, corner cabinet, bookshelf, coffee tables and suchlike furniture.

“Exactly where are they?”

“Try the home entertainment centre.”

The wooden home entertainment centre, which had several drawers, contained a flat-screen digital television, high-fidelity stereo music system, an integrated DVD player, and remote controls. He looked for the keys beside the electronics in vain.

He opened the first glide-out drawer—nothing. He slammed it shut. The second drawer yielded only cockroaches which scampered for safety. He disengaged it from its drawer slide channel and dropped it on the floor. The third drawer, which had a faulty drawer track, got stuck.

He tried to hit a cockroach which was resting on a DVD player button. He missed it but accidentally hit the ‘Play’ button. Kenny Rodgers’ Soldier of Love started blaring from invisible full-range speakers:

I am only one of those who care/ Who care about the fate of love/ I know there’s many others just like me/ I know they two will have had enough/ Of these heart’s doing battle on the front line/ Love got heroes in these modern times/ What love needs is a defender/ Oh, I am a soldier of love...

A female neighbour warbled the song and twanged her guitar. He cursed her. He remembered the jar of Vaseline jelly in the bedroom. It is a good lubricant, he thought. They went back to the bedroom. He applied a centimetre-thick layer in their private parts.

Reverse gear is the strongest,” his preferred mechanic once told him. He pulled himself free in vain. “The lying incompetent mechanic!” he cursed. They hammered away at the problem for hours. At long last, he nodded triumphantly. “Do you have a grease gun?”

Her eyes bulged. “What is a grease gun for?”

“Forget about it.”

What now?”

“Shut up!”

Someone banged the front door. “Is there something wrong?”

Fwande fumed. “Keep quiet, stupid old man!”

“You are not Jugan—he is away. I am addressing Mrs Jugan. Madam, it is the watchman speaking. Is there something wrong? If yes, do not reply.”

The following moments were tense. The adulterers held their breaths. The bungalow had double hung windows and several of them were open. They heard the watchman’s whistle. Doors opened. There were eager voices outside. Hands rapped on the front door.

There was a loud bang and the door gave in. The watchman seemed like an aging general leading his last battle; he led the curious army straight to the bedroom. Eyes popped out of their sockets as they watched the invidious tableau.

Missiles of shame came hurtling in their direction. She closed her eyes. Transfixed, like a rabbit on the pike at midnight, he held their gaze. He saw disbelief flicker in the watchman’s eyes. Ooh, oops, eek, and gosh were uttered. “Call a taxi!” Someone shouted.

The business card which the taxicab driver threw into his pocket the previous night had slipped to the floor. The watchman saw and collected it. He fished out a mobile phone with a threadbare keypad and, laboriously, dialled the number.

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