THE COLOUR OF SUCCESS (A Short Story)


Inspired by a true story

Part 1

“Anything else?” I asked Lucy as she was giving me the brief for the day. The tone of my question clearly indicated that I was only fishing for a ‘No, sir! That’s all’ response.

Lucy shrivelled a little and then nervously said, “We got mail, sir. An invitation for you to speak at the Mashujaa Gala.”

“Well, just deal with it as usual,” I said to Lucy, losing my patience. She knew pretty well that I never acquiesced to any speaking engagements or media interviews. I had been a private person for over two decades and that was not about to change.  I had issued strict instructions for Lucy to always decline any invitation for an interview or a ball that happened to land in my office. I had hundreds of managers who could capably represent the company on the media at the drop of a hat, but I drew the line when it came to journalists seeking to probe my private life.

“The invite is signed by the President himself,” She added.

“So?” I shot an angry look at her. I hated repeating myself, especially to my employees. If Lucy had not been the closest thing to a family that I had had in the past 10 years, I just might have fired her on the spot.

“They’re honouring you with the Order of the Burning Spear Award. They only give it to one Kenyan every year, it’s very prestigious…”

“I know what the OBSA is! And my answer is still no! Now, will you please get out of my office and get me Doctor Taabu on the phone? Thank you!” I hissed as I dismissed her frantically with my arms. She skedaddled out of the room, visibly quaking to the bone. I had a way of putting the fear of God in my employees and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Moments later, Lucy’s visibly shaken voice came through the intercom, “I have Doctor Taabu for you on line one.”

“Hello there Doctor Taabu,” I said into the receiver, my voice calmer and several decibels lower. Other than God, whom I had just recently started to believe in, the only other person that I was submissive to was Dr. Taabu. She, too, held my life in her hands.

“Hello Victor,” She answered. Dr. Taabu was also the only person that called me by my first name.

“I had another episode Doctor,” I paused. “Last night.” As I said this, I could hear a sigh escape through her lips. A sigh laden with disappointment and worry. Disappointment that the trial drugs she had moved heaven and earth to acquire for me from Russia did not work. And worry that my life could be over any time from now.

“Did you take the anticoagulants this morning?” She asked, referring to the blood thinners that always left me woozy and wishing that I were already dead.

“Yes, I am managing.”

In a tone that only my kindergarten teachers had used on me before, Dr. Taabu said, “I know you’ve been stubborn on this, but it’s time you accepted some help around the house. I will send two nurses to look after you in your home tonight. They will inform me as soon as anything goes south. Please treat them well.”

“Okay,” was all I could say. In as much as I abhorred the idea of being fussed over by strangers in my house, I didn’t have much strength or latitude to put up a fight with Dr. Taabu now.

“In the meantime, I am still assembling the team of Doctors for your case. The remaining two specialists are jetting in from South Africa and Switzerland today. We will admit you tomorrow night as planned,” she said.

“That’s assuming I last that long.”

“You still have at least months to go Victor. And after tomorrow night, you just might get a new lease on life!”

“That’s reassuring. Lucy will call you in regard to the nurses.”

“Okay Victor, have a healthy day ahead!”

“You too Doctor.”

No sooner had I placed back the receiver than I felt a sharp pang of pain searing through the left part of my body. My arm, as though it had just become a creature on its own, flailed wildly on the office table. Half of my face dropped, wanting to fall away from the rest of me too. My heart clenched into a fist of steel and it too was threatening to tear itself out of my body.

Instinctively, with my right hand trembling, I managed to press the button on the intercom. My mouth, however, failed me and I could not utter a word.

I recall Lucy rushing into the office. I saw her face ashen as she stared at her boss who now looked like a creature from Pluto. She then bolted out of the room and a few seconds later, came in with two secretaries. Though I couldn’t move a muscle, I was still conscious when the three ladies lifted me out of my wheelchair and laid me flat on the carpet floor. Lucy then unbuttoned my suit and one of the secretaries brought a desk fan closer to my chest. Lying there on the ground, I made a mental note to give a directive that all my employees undertake first aid training once I recovered.

As paramedics rushed me up the stairs to the helipad, my life cascaded before my eyes. Flashes of blurred sepia-toned images. A silent film of my 47 years on earth. Silent but with colour. A silent horror movie. As the whirring of the medevac chopper faded and the heartbeat of the world grew stronger, my anguish stared at me like an incensed owl sent to take my life.

Part 2

When I came to, it took a minute or two for my eyes to regain their full vision. The stark white walls and the menacing fluorescent light staring down at me from the ceiling made me wonder why I was not in my own bed. I tried getting up, but my body hurt so much that I couldn’t move a muscle. There was an annoying beep just above my head, from a machine I couldn’t turn to see.

Looking around me, my wheelchair had been folded and placed in a corner to my right. Just above it was a board filled with cards whose words I couldn’t make out. There were flowers and balloons on a shelf next to the door. On the door was a conspicuous logo with the words ‘VVIP Ward’ written just below it. The logo read, ‘Joseph Parkins Teaching Hospital’.

Flashes of me having a stroke, or a Transient Ischemic Attack as Dr. Taabu called it, downloaded in my mind in bits. I remembered Lucy rushing into my office in a panic, and men carrying me up to the helicopter. How long had I been asleep? I wondered.

I made an effort to speak, and that’s when I noticed that I had a tube inside my mouth. I tried swallowing saliva but the tube, which was all the way down past my throat, chocked me and I started coughing raucously. As if on cue, the beeping machine behind me went batshit crazy and beeped more incessantly.

A moment later, the door flew open and three white people, one in a white coat and two in blue overalls, swung into the room. One of them held me down strongly while the man in the white coat yanked the tube out of my insides. I sputtered severally as I took deep gulps of air to satiate my lungs.

“Calm down Mr. Wambua. Relax, just take it easy,” one of the ladies in blue, whom I had by now figured was a nurse, said to me. Her companion was busy fiddling with the beeping machine, but she managed to silence it after a while.

“We don’t want you to exert yourself, sir. Just breath,” The man in a white coat said.

“Who are you, people? Where am I?” Despite my effort to bark the questions at them as I was so used to, I was so weak that I could barely whisper.

“Mr. Wambua,” started the man in white, who was now starting to annoy me with his patronising tone. “My name is Doctor Mathew Rodriguez. These two are my assistants. You are in Joseph Parkins Teaching Hospital in Texas, USA. You were brought here three weeks ago, and you have been in a coma ever since.”

He paused dramatically as if to let the point about me being in a coma for three weeks sink in. He looked at me, but I was too feeble to even nod at him. He continued speaking but I could not hear him. The entire room was now wobbling like laundry in a washing machine.

I do not remember passing out again, but I remember waking up 3 days later. This time, Dr. Taabu was the one who came rushing into my room, with Lucy in tow. I tried speaking up, and I was glad that this time round there was no icky tube sticking down my throat.

“Anything to get a break from work and a free trip to America!” I joked. Dr. Taabu laughed but Lucy looked surprised, maybe because it was the first time that she had heard me crack a joke.

“Hello there Victor! I knew you were a fighter!” Said Dr. Taabu, smiling from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat.

“It’s all there in my name!” I replied.

Then with a more formal tone, I said, “Hello Lucy!”

“I am fine, sir!” She answered. “I’m really glad that you are well now.”

The two told me that my backbone infection had flared up once more and they couldn’t stabilise me in Nairobi. They needed authorisation from a family member to transfer me to America. Since I had no known next of kin, Lucy had acted assumed my powers of attorney and had agreed to the transfer together. They had flown me to Texas, to a hospital that Dr. Taabu acknowledged as world’s number one neurosurgical center. Here, Lucy had signed more forms authorising extensive and radical surgery on me.

“Thank you, Lucy. You did the right thing,” I said, smiling genuinely at her. She smiled back, albeit sheepishly. I suppose it was the first time too for me to thank her.

I asked Dr. Taabu to excuse us and after she left, I asked Lucy for an update on how my company was faring.

“Emmanuel took over as the acting CEO. Our shares have taken a ten percent hit since the press announced that you had been flown out for treatment, but we’re still the most valuable company in Africa,” She said.

“Emmanuel is a competent fellow,” I said. “Inform the board that I will be confirming him as the official CEO.”

The shock on Lucy’s face was not hard to read. “You won’t be coming back, sir?”

“No, my dear Lucy. I am already a dead man who can’t even walk!”

“But Doctor Taabu said…”

“Forget what Doctor Taabu said!” I cut her short. “I don’t have much time to live, I know it.”

“But Sir, the surgery…”

“Anything else?”

She knew that topic was over. “Everybody in Kenya wishes you a quick recovery. Get well messages are published every day in the newspapers. Now that you are awake, the President wants to send the Deputy President to visit you in hospital.”

“No, I don’t want politicians soiling my recovery. You are all the company that I can bear right now. And Doctor Taabu. No visitors please,” I protested.

“Okay, sir!”

“Now, if that’s all, please send Dr. Taabu in.”

As she walked towards the door, I called out to her. “Lucy?”

“Yes,” she turned towards me.

“There was an invite for me to speak at the Mashujaa Gala.”

“You asked me to cancel it, sir.”

“Have you?”

“Not yet.”

“Tell the President I’ll be honoured to be the guest of honour at the event.”

Lucy lit up like a Christmas tree. “Yes, sir!” She said as she walked out of the room.

 

Part 3

I muttered a short prayer after Lucy had left the room, asking the Lord to give me strength for what I was planning to do during the Mashujaa Gala. Even as I lay there praying to a God that I had been introduced to in my formative years and had abandoned in my late teens, I wondered whether I was calling to the right deity to keep my soul when I entered the next world.

I envisioned my plan working out as intended, and perhaps ascending to heaven in a few months. What if I finally reach the pearly gates and discovered that, in my last days on Earth since my spinal cord got an infection and I started suffering the MTI strokes, I had started praying again to the wrong chap? What if it turns out that it is the guys who prayed on Fridays that actually communicate to the right heavenly father? What if it is the ones that pray to livestock that will get eternal life, and the rest of us will face eternal damnation? Or maybe the true religion was the one practiced by my forefathers, the one that colonialists told us was barbaric and annihilated it? For a moment, I considered asking Lucy to book for my appointments with at least a Sherman, priest, prophetess, healer, vicar and witch from every religion ever documented, and then convert to each of the faiths just so I could maximise my chances of getting into heaven. Lucy would have done it. She would have gotten me appointments with about 500 patrons of faith—she’s that good. But then I quickly realised how fruitless a frolic that would be!

What if, by a long shot, the being I was praying to turned out to be the real deal and I actually got into heaven? My family, before they all drowned in River Sabaki over two decades ago, were all devout worshippers. They must surely be in heaven; a place I was trying very hard to convince myself that it exists. If so, will I reunite with them? They must by now know the whole truth. I know Katuku, my younger sister, will forgive me if she hasn’t already. Ever sweet and loving, Katuku was always my favourite. Will my parents forgive me? Mum, maybe, but Dad might actually kill me a second time. What about Grandpa and Uncle Peter? How have they dealt with the realisation that I was responsible for their death?

Speaking of forgiveness, what about the dozens, possibly hundreds, of employees who died in my factories and went to heaven? I know the big guy might give them no option but to forgive me, but will they be happy to share their eternal peace with me? I should have invested part of my supernormal profits into safety measures.

Will, I still need my wheelchair, or do paralysed legs regain their strength in heaven? Will I finally be able to have sex?

What age will I be when I get there? Because even though I’m just 50, my paralysis has taken its toll and I look 80. Or will they give me the dashing body I had in my early 20s before I became evil?

My mind was a bee-hive, and I was just about to go mad when Dr. Taabu walked into the ward with two doctors in tow.

“I know what you’re about to ask me,” I said to her before she could speak. “The answer is no. I am not going to have your spinal reconstruction surgery.”

Part 4

I only realised the full impact of what I had said to her when her faced crumpled like a piece of waste paper and her jaw almost dropped to the floor. “Mr. Wambua, please… please hear us out first,” she said. She rarely called me by my surname.

“With all due respect, I am not going to have the surgery!” I responded. As though the resolve filled me with energy, I managed to sit up on my bed and even raise my voice.

“Gentlemen,” Dr. Taabu turned to the equally shocked doctors that had accompanied her. “Will you please give us the room?”

“Yes ma’am,” one of them, whom I recognised as Dr. Rodriguez from before, mumbled before they shuffled out of the room.

“This surgery has only been done thrice before, but with exemplary results. It is the only shot you have!” She said to me when we were alone.

“You think I haven’t put that into consideration?” I retorted.

“What are you afraid of? What? Or are you suddenly doubting me?”

“I know you have assembled the best neurosurgeons in the world for my case, and I have complete faith in you and your team’s abilities. I am just telling you to cancel the surgery. I will sign a document stating that I’m foregoing the procedure against medical advice if you want.”

“You are not in your right frame of mind at the moment,” she said. “You’ve just woken up from a comma and you’re still delirious. Maybe you need some more time to consider this.”

“Are you saying that I’m insane? That I’m in some sort unhinged? Because I can assure you that I’m not! Or do you want me to get Hassan involved?” Hassan was a lawyer who had dedicated his entire life to my service, just like Lucy and Dr. Taabu.  I planned on setting them free.

“Look, Victor, this surgery will not only save your life. They have assured me that after the reconstruction and therapy, you will be walking again in less than a year!”

“I haven’t been able to walk in nearly 30 years. Do you think I miss it? I have decided I don’t need the surgery!”

“You will die in a few weeks without this surgery, you know that Victor! You know that! Why do you want to kill yourself? Why?” She implored. Her voice was a quiver—a guitar string about to snap into two.

We went back and forth for another five minutes or so. I stood my ground and won, like I always did. I instructed her to organise and supervise my medical evacuation back to Nairobi that night. “If the next stroke will certainly kill me as you claim, I’d rather die in my motherland!” I said just before I dismissed her. She left the room with her head bowed like a lone sheep caught in a stormy night. Her eyes were the banks of a river that could no longer hold its waters in.

Part 4

Despite leaving a staff of nurses to look after me, Dr. Taabu still dropped by the house every day. Granted, she was not happy with my decision to forego what would have been a ground-breaking spinal cord surgery, but she still did not want to lose her patient number one. She watched me like a hawk and each time I as much as tried to bring up the topic of death, she gave a look that could have boiled water. “Remember, the day you will stop taking your pills is the day your blood will clot inside your brain and you will certainly die.” She repeated this minatory warning each time she came to see me.

The President had announced that I was the year’s recipient of OBSA and the media was frothing with excitement. As usual, Lucy informed every media house that I did not intend to sit for an interview before I delivered my keynote speech at the Mashujaa Gala. This, however, did not stop the newspapers and the TVs from running adverts for my speech, which was to be not only televised but also streamed live across social media. Billionaire Victor Wambua Presents ‘The Colour of Success’, the adverts said, employing the working title I had asked Lucy to supply them. Good, I needed all the publicity I could get for that day.

I held the longest meetings with my lawyer, Hassan. Often, he’d pull up at my house with a battery of associates, and we’d lock ourselves in my home boardroom for hours on end. I was insistent that he takes my company public by Mashujaa Day, but he was adamant such a feat could not be concluded in just a few weeks. The Nairobi Securities Exchange has too much rigmarole, he said.

Although Hassan had a hard time wrapping his head around the idea that I was willing to flash my entire company down the drain, he finally came around. In fact, he found me a buyer from China who, after intense deliberations, had committed to purchase my company’s assets at a tenth their book value from Lucy once I kicked the bucker and its stock tumbles. He would rename the company, of course, but I insisted that he commits to keeping the headquarters in Nairobi in order to protect jobs.

I also instructed Hassan to set up an enormous fund for the hospital I had been admitted to in Texas. The fund would be managed by Dr. Taabu, who was to lead the finest doctors in the world in search for lasting solutions for paraplegia and spinal cord injury victims.

Part 5

I was going onto the podium after the Deputy President, who was at present embarrassing himself by attempting jokes so dry that they could have started a fire at the gala. I had been positioned just next to the President and the First Lady. Lucy sat in the second row just behind me and next to the President’s Aide de Camp.

My temples were throbbing, and I was unsure whether the pain was because I had deliberately skipped on taking my blood thinners that morning or whether it was trepidation for my next line of action.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, let’s give way to Kenya’s pride, this year’s recipient of the OBSA, Mr. Victor Wambua!” the President’s number two announced. Ushers came to my aide, but Lucy harshly told them that I was well capable of wheeling myself onto the stage.

When I rolled onto the stage, two more attendants attempted to adjust the teleprompter to my height but I waved them away. I wouldn’t be using it. Lucy had gone through the trouble of preparing a speech and submitting it to the organizers after I had expressly told her not to do so, but I was determined to speak extemporaneously. What I had to say needed to come straight from the heart. Unfiltered.

With cameras and a bright beam of light trained on me, I began, of course, by recognising the VIPs present in the function. About 500 dignitaries were hunched over linen-dressed dinner tables with eyes pierced at me, but I choose to keep my gaze on only one person—Lucy. As our eyes locked, I was certain she could see well past my bloodshot eyes and menacing façade into my tortured soul.

“The Colour of Success…” I began, but I was cut short by a lady from the crowd who yelled, “I love you, Victor!”

I faked a chuckle and responded, “I love you too, young lady! But I’m not sure you’ll still love me after tonight!” The audience thought I was joking and burst into laughter.

“Red. Crimson red.” I paused here, not for dramatic effect, but because the throbbing in my temples was getting more intense. If I didn’t hurry, I thought to myself, I wouldn’t have time to finish my speech. I needed to get to the meat of my story as soon as possible.

“My success, and my company’s success by extension is as foul as a chicken is a fowl!”

The crowd, strangely, applauded. My head was getting heavier. I needed to hurry.

“I am here to correct the story of my success. I am here to give you the truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” I swallowed. Painfully. No applause this time, just Lucy’s face forming questions.

“I wasn’t accidentally walking by the bank that day. Constable Mambo Tende… I… I shot her. She was the officer who died at the bank robbery that day,” I said matter-of-factly, as though I was just stating the weather. I could hear soft gasps from all around the room. Lucy was getting up from her chair.

“My family… That wasn’t an accident. It was tragic, yes, but it wasn’t an accident. What nobody ever tells you is that I received 25 million shillings from the government as compensation after the ‘stray’ bullet hit me.” I put air quotes over the word stray. “What you don’t know is that after my family’s death, I collected their insurance policies worth over 30 million shillings. That is the money that was used to start my company.”

The master of ceremony, with Lucy hot in his pursuit, ran across the stage and made an attempt to dislodge the mic from my hand. The President, however, stopped them when he said, “Let him continue. I am curious to see where this leads.”

Part 6

When the letter declaring my admission to Utawala University arrived at our homestead, I was beside myself with joy. I was the only boy from my school, and the entire village I suppose, to join a university on a government-sponsored programme that year. Finally, the freedom I had been craving for all those years had arrived. Nairobi was far from my village, and I couldn’t wait to get matriculated so I could unshackle myself from my parents’ chains.

The first year at the university was a breeze. On top of paying for my Computer Science degree, the government also ensured that it gave me some pocket money to live by. Everything went on smoothly, until my second year when my new roommate, Juma, introduced me to booze and girls.

Clubbing became a norm and I spent all my student loan within the first three weeks of the semester. But the partying didn’t stop because Juma was happy to shoulder the financial consequences of our hedonistic lifestyle. He often hosted houses parties in our house that were so epic that they could put Gatsby to shame. He rarely attended classes and always dressed like a millionaire.

“Juma, where do you get all this money?” I asked him one morning after we had spent a fortune at a swanky nightclub the previous night.

“I work for it,” he answered disinterestedly.

“You work for it?” I asked in disbelief. “When do you ever work? You just sleep in every day and you don’t even go to your classes. Every night you’re either out partying or bringing girls here for house parties. When do you ever work?”

“I work every day.” He said. I was beginning to get infuriated by his attitude.

“Well, what work do you do?” I asked.

“I deliver packages,” he said. “Every evening I’m delivering packages. Why all the questions all of a sudden?”

Cocaine is what Juma delivered every night. Turns out that whenever we went out to a nightclub, he was out meeting his clients. Working. He offered to teach me the trade, on condition that I got a driving license.

“I don’t use it myself. I just get packages and I’m instructed where to deliver them. I get paid handsomely upon every successful delivery. And frankly, I could your help in the business. I’ll pay you 40,000 for every trip you make,” he had said.

I thought about Juma’s offer long and hard. For five minutes. “40,000 a night you say?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll enroll in a driving school tomorrow.”

My first assignment came on the day I got my driving license. Juma gave me 3,000 shillings and instructed me to take a bus to Mombasa. Once in Mombasa, I was to trace my way to a particular petrol station where I would see a blue Datsun parked. I had never been to Mombasa before, but I managed to locate the petrol station with no trouble.

At the station, I walked up to the attendant and asked him for the keys to the Datsun as Juma had instructed me. Then I drove back to Nairobi. I was a rookie driver, and the journey back to the capital was a baptism by fire. I parked the car at the designated petrol station and gave its keys to the attendant. Then I took a bus back to school.

“You did well,” Juma said as soon as he saw me. He then counted out 40,000 shillings from his pocket and handed it to me. Never before had I held that much money in my hands.

“You will be doing this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” he said without asking about my availability. Goodbye school.

“What’s in the car, if I may ask?” I quizzed.

“Drugs.” He said. “You will bring them from Mombasa and I will sell them in Nairobi.”

The partnership worked very well, and I made more money than I could ever reasonably spend. I sent huge sums of money back home to my parents. They later found that I had been kicked out of school, and I lied to them that I made money selling software to big corporations. They bought my lie hook, line and sinker.

One day, a police officer knocked on our door.

“Open up!” She shouted. “Juma! Victor! Open up! It’s the police!”

There was nowhere to run to. “If she was coming to arrest or kill us, she wouldn’t have come alone,” Juma reasoned.

“Hello boys,” the lady said after we had opened the door. “My name is Constable Mambo. Mambo Tele.” It sounded like a made up name, but I later found out that it was her real name.

“I’m Juma and this is Victor, my…”

“I know who you boys are!” She cut him short. “I’ve been sent by General to kill you.”

I was mortified. “Kill us? You want to kill us? Who is General?”

“General is our boss,” Juma said to me. Then he turned to the police lady. “Okay, have a sit and tell me what you want.”

The police constable had an interesting idea. Instead of killing us, she would kill General instead. The death of General would mean that we would now be our own masters, ruling almost the entire cocaine distribution network in Nairobi. In return, we would owe her 5 million shillings which we were to pay her at regular intervals for the rest of the year. She’d kill us, she said, if we ever defaulted in our payment.

General died the following day. Not by Mambo Tele’s gun, however, but by the Flying Squad. It was on the news, with the Minister of Security terming his death as ‘a victory for Kenya in its war against narcotics.’ Over the next few weeks, many more drug lords were executed by the police. We had to ditch the business of distributing drugs.

“You owe me 5 million shillings!” Mambo said when she visited our house one evening.

“But you’re not the one who killed General!” Juma protested.

“The 5 million was for sparing your lives, not for killing General!” She barked, her gun pointed at us. “Or you want me to finish the job now? Eeh!”

“Where do you expect us to get 5 million yet we’re not in business anymore?” Juma added, defiantly.

“Leave that to me. I will show you how.” She said. Then opened a backpack she was carrying and took out two pistols.

“Here!” She said as she threw the guns on the sofa. “These are yours now.”

“You want us to shoot people?” I asked. “We don’t even know how to use guns!”

“No. Those are just for scaring people, you don’t even need to know how to use them,” she said.

“Then what are they for?” I retorted.

“I want you to rob a bank!” She answered.

The plan was simple. There was a huge consignment of cash from a church’s fundraiser that was expected to be banked at Communion City Bank the following Monday. Mambo Tele had been positioned to guard the bank that morning. We were to mask ourselves with balaclavas at the parking lot and walk into the bank brandishing our weapons at exactly 10 am when the consignment car was supposed to pull up. We would then round up the bank’s customers at a corner and threaten to shoot them if the crew entering the bank did not hand over the cash they were carrying to us. We would then escape through a rear entrance where we would meet Mambo, and she would direct us to a waiting getaway vehicle.

No sooner had we entered the bank than we heard sirens approaching from a distance. This could only mean one thing—that someone had called the police even before we started robbing the place. We rounded up the customers but even before we threatened to shoot them, two men walked in with a bag full of cash and said that all its contents would be ours if we just spared theirs and everyone’s life. It was too easy to be real. Nevertheless, Juma and I grabbed the bag and dashed towards the rare entrance where, as planned, Mambo was waiting for us. With her were two guys whom she directed to pick the bag of cash.

“I cannot let you two live,” she said.

“What are you saying? We’ve just paid you your money!” Juma protested.

“I know. That’s at least 20 million in that bag. But you hear those sirens? The police would be here any second, and if any of you were to get caught, it might lead back to me. That’s a risk I can’t take.”

With that, she pointed her rifle at Juma’s head and shot. His face, which was just a second ago still trying to make sense of the situation, exploded into smithereens. Blood spewed out like water from those hoses at the car wash. I had to think fast.

Even though I had never fired a gun before, I had read a lot about them the night Mambo brought us the pistols. As I reflexively pointed the gun at Mambo, I felt my chest sear as a bullet tore through my body. I turned to run. I was having trouble breathing, so I instinctively took off my balaclava and tossed it into a drain. Pa! Pa! Pa! Mambo’s subsequent bullets missed me as I disengaged my pistol’s safety while running towards the street.

Anger at Mambo’s betrayal made me pallid. I knew I was a goner, but I decided that if I were to die, I’d rather take that Judas along with me. I turned, our eyes locked, and I fired. My first ever shot made me a murderer. I don’t know where the bullet caught her, but I remember her tumbling backwards into the rubbish bin. I wasn’t prepared for the pistol’s recoil, however. The weapon threw my arms back and flew out of my hands. I didn’t bother to collect it.

The police were already firing when I came onto the street. I was hit smack in the middle of my back, and everything went pitch black.

I woke up on a hospital bed, surrounded by two uniformed police officers and a doctor. I immediately recognised one of the officers as one of the men to whom Mambo handed the cash to the bank.

“Where I’m I?” I asked, alarmed.

“Mr. Wambua, there was a bank robbery at Communion City Bank in Nairobi five days ago,” said the other police officer that I didn’t recognise. “One of our officers was shot and killed by the robbers, but she managed to kill one of the thieves who we are yet to identify. The rest of the robbers got away with the cash.”

“Got away, heh!” I said, training my eyes on the officer I was sure was in Mambo’s plan.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Wambua, you were caught in the crossfire and were accidentally shot twice by the police. The police are taking care of your medical costs and we’ll ensure that you are adequately compensated.”

“The wound on your chest,” The doctor in a white lab coat said, “is healing well. However, I am afraid that the bullet that caught you on your back has left you paralysed, probably for life.”

“I see,” was all I could say.

“There’s more.” Said the officer who was taking the lead. “Three days ago, after your family had left the hospital to visit you, their car lost control and plunged into River Sabaki. They all died. Your mother, your father, your sister and your uncle were in the car.”

“Get out!” I shouted at the officers, tears now streaming down my cheeks and soaking the pillow beneath my head. “Get out!”

The next day, after I had spent the night sobbing, the rogue police officer, who had not uttered a word during my post-coma briefing, came into my room.

“Do you know why I haven’t killed you yet?” He asked me.

“To hell with you!” I retorted.

“Concocting evidence so you would seem like a victim and not lead the detectives back to Mambo and eventually it was harder than just killing you, but I had to make sure that you live again so you could suffer! You took what mattered the most to me in this life. Mambo was more than just my partner. I took your family. Now you’re paralysed, and everybody that you love is dead. Even with the money that the government is going to pay you, you will never be happy in your life. Never! That’s more satisfying to me than seeing you dead.”

Part 7

“Arrest that man!” I heard the President shout as I wound up my speech.

I felt the vein in my temple rapture, and my head became too heavy for my body to carry as blood filled inside my brain. Losing my balance, I toppled backwards on my wheelchair and my body embraced the stage’s marble floor with a thud.

Pitch black.

 

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Lukorito Jones

Lukorito Jones is a columnist and correspondent with Kenya's leading newspaper, Daily Nation. He also dabbles in fiction works at times, hoping to be the next Stephen King. Sometimes he takes time out from writing to perfect his deer-dancing and goat-screaming skills.

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