“How much is the fare?” I ask the cab guy as he looks for parking outside Fortis Tower in Westlands.
“Its 860 sir,” He responds as he reverses into a parking slot between a Premio and a Hummer he has spotted.
“Can I pay using MPESA?” I ask him as I take out my iPhone.
“Ni sawa,” he responds.
“Alright,” I respond as I go through the whole my sim kit process.
“What’s your number?”
“0725345,” He says and reads the number to me one digit at a time.
“Umepata?” I ask him as soon as I am done sending the money.
“Yea. Thank you.” He responds and I alight.
I say hi to the guards at the front of the building and immediately touch my jacket pocket to check whether the box is still there. It is.
I text Calvin to tell him I am on the ground floor and he responds by telling me she is already there and they are having a time of their life. (Calvin is an associate and a friend I trust with everything about me including my life).
Coming right up; I respond to his text.
Several other revelers are awaiting the elevators and I press the 11th floor and wait with them.
There are two ladies, one has her arm intertwined with that of a gentleman I assume is the boyfriend but then I see they have matching rings; a sign to show he is the husband. I don’t know if he is the main shareholder or the largest shareholder of that fine ass. She is in a micro red dress and an anklet. Those ones are usually trouble. I remember Calvin once telling me. The ones with an anklet that is.
The pinging sound of the elevator wakes me up as the doors open to lead us to the rooftop establishment. I am in a jovial mood. This is the night. I keep repeating to myself to reassure myself I am not dreaming.
I am sweating and as the lift starts its way up, I check my palms to find them wet. They are shaking a bit and I put them in my pocket as I try to steady them and contain my nervousness. I wouldn’t want anyone to notice how unsure I am of what happens when the doors open to usher me into the topmost floor of this entertainment joint.
When the doors open, I let everyone else get out first and check out my looks for the hundredth time on the mirror on the elevator wall. I look okay. I reassure myself. I am wearing a sky blue suit, a white shirt, black bowtie, black belt, and black shoes. I didn’t wear my watch but opted for a black male bracelet she bought for me while on a business trip to Malindi.
Being a regular at this place, I say hi to the security guys manning the entrance and immediately spot Calvin who is laughing loudly with two ladies at a table placed at the far end of the club. The couches are white and I can see a bucket with some bottles of Moet at the table. Glasses placed there are half full and I can immediately tell they are having a great time.
Calvin is facing the door so he sees me first and stands to say hi.
“Vipi bro? Right on time huh?” he says as she comes in for a shoulder bump.
“Po asana bro. Yea right on time.” I respond.
Jackie recognizes my voice and turns to find me looking at her.
She grins from tooth to tooth revealing a smile I first noticed on my screen reading from a teleprompter. She looks dashing in a white dress that believes in hugging her body in ways I am not sure I ever will get the chance to. I plan to find out tonight.
“I thought you were traveling earlier this afternoon?” She asks excitedly as she stands to hug me.
“Hata salamu hakuna?” I respond cheekily as I bring her in for a hug. She responds fluidly and as soon as our bodies come into contact, I know this is a place I have waited to be for quite a while.
She encircles her hands around my neck as she hugs me and I encircle mine around her slim waist… I know this is the only honest moment I will ever get to pop up the question.
“Will you marry me, Jackie?” I whisper into her ears as time comes to a standstill just for a moment at least for me. My heartbeat increases as she ponders on the question still holding me… I then feel her tears starting to soak my shirt.
“What?” She asks faintly…
I let go of her waist and get down on one knee and repeat the question…
(By this time, Calvin and Chloe are just looking at us overwhelmed my emotion. Everyone present seems to notice what’s happening and all their eyes are on us waiting to see what will happen next… The DJ has since reduced the volume of the music so that we can hear each other as we make eternal promises. I am unsure of so many things but I know this is what I want for so many reasons.)
“Will you marry me, Jackie?” I repeat the question more deliberately this time…
She looks around the club, looks at Chloe and Calvin then stretches her left hand towards me as tears well up in her eyes…
“Yes, babie… I will marry you” she screams out loud.
I am out of words as I slip the golden ring on her finger. A tear threatens to blind my vision, she sees this and takes me up using my hands. She pulls me in as the crowd behind us claps in excitement and I feel at home.
I am home away from home, not in this beautiful establishment, but in her arms.
“Congratulations man,” Calvin says as he congratulates Jackie and me.
I am overwhelmed. As Chloe comes in for the congratulatory hug, I think back to the very few months I have known Jackie. They have been the best. She isn’t the most phenomenal woman I have ever met but she is the one that has seen through my bs, my crookedness but still wanted me after the realization.
I wake up to find her next to me. Her coal black hair covers some aspect of her face and without the makeup, she looks darker. A beautifully dark complexion that I prefer to the light one that radiates through the lighting, the teleprompter and the fast life in front of the cameras.
I kiss her forehead and get out of bed. Removing my phone from the bedside charging port, I switch it on and the first message that comes in is from Niq.
Niq: I should be landing in Nairobi from Juba around midday. Mind picking me up?
Before responding, I look back at Jackie and notice she is still sleeping.
Me: Good morning babie… I don’t think I will manage to because J is still here. However, I will send someone to pick you up and we can catch up later.
After a few seconds, she types back…
Niq: Okay. I will call you after landing.
I log into twitter to follow the previous day’s news highlights and after a few minutes, I press the home button, rise up from the bed and head to the living room. The place is speckles. The red and black leather couches stand out from everything else like morning wood.
I switch on the tv, place the phone on the mahogany coffee table and head to the kitchen.
The humming of the fridge is the only thing emanating from the black and red furnished kitchen. She has taste, one that’s fed by men who achieved greatness before the word was invented and a taste I want to get a piece of. I open the fridge, pour some milk into a glass and head back to the sitting room.
Picking up the phone, I head to the dining area, choosing a chair from where I can clearly see what’s happening in the series running on Netflix in as much as I know I won’t be following it for long. I turn on the phone and the first picture that decorates my screen is one of Michelle Ntalami.
The name sounds familiar but I can’t quite place the face. She looks refined and accomplished. She is wearing a black top, a goldish watch and a blue skirt with a zipper at the front. Her hair is curly and coal black.
Her faintly painted lips are slightly curved forming a partial smile.
Actually, it’s a dress, designed with the combination of blue and black. The zipper runs from just below her chin to space just mid – thigh. The short sleeved dress continues. This means there’s some space from where the zipper stops and the hem of her dress.
Michelle is beautiful. She is a perfect blend of brown and the softness that success brings along.
“…Dreams so big they sometimes make me blush…” That’s the caption to the picture.
She is intelligent and has a ring on her left middle finger.
I take too much time staring at the picture that I don’t notice Jackie walking towards me. She is in a tank top and booty shorts. Her morning glow is glorious. I only notice her presence when I feel her breath on my neck.
“She is pretty. Isn’t she?” She says.
That startles me and I try to sit up but the weight of her body on my shoulder stops me effortlessly.
“Yes, she is. Her name sounds familiar. Who is she?” I ask as I click on the link that leads to her profile.
Instead of responding, she picks the phone from my hands and starts walking towards the kitchen. Midway, she places it on the Tv stand and enters the kitchen.
“What do you want to have for breakfast?” She asks as I hear her opening cabinets to find something to prepare.
I want to respond and say ‘you’ but my other head prevails.
“The milk should be enough for me,” I answer back.
“I am bringing you some cereals to have with the milk.”
“You don’t have….”
“No. I will be there in a few.”
I try to concentrate on the show being aired on tv but I can’t quite figure what is going on, so I head to the bathroom to have a quick shower. The water pours down, it drips by my side, as my mind fades into dullness and everything is a foggy illusion. The sensation of the steamy water calms me; it takes my mind off things. All the things I honestly don’t care about. It’s the water. It’s the heat or the steam forming on the glass door. I can’t quite figure which one it is. My mind swirls, and it’s like I’m standing under an everlasting waterfall.
Ever so beautiful, but it can never last, I know that now. Dreams are beautiful but sooner or later reality eventually kicks in.
The door opens and Jackie steps in smiling…
“Do you mind if I join?” She asks in that hearty, sexily husky voice of hers.
“You have already joined,” I respond as I take off the pink towel wrapped around her body.
My phone rings as I am about to head out of the house. It is Niq calling. I gather she has already checked out of JKIA.
“Hello Niq, how was your flight?”
“It was alright. Are you still at J’s house?”
“I was just leaving. Why?”
“I need to see you. Your cab guy is already here and I am on my way to my house. Can we meet up there by 3:30?”
“What’s with the hurry?”
“I am supposed to fly to Dubai tomorrow. My flight is leaving at 4 am.”
“Okay. Let me see what I can do. I will text you.”
“Just come. Please don’t fail.”
She sounded jittery. Something was bothering her. I didn’t understand why she needed to fly to Dubai the following day but I knew those questions would be answered in a few hours.
Immediately she hangs up my phone rings.
“Hello Jake, whats up?”
“Have you talked to Niq?”
“I have just talked to her. Why?”
“Everyone is getting skittish. Has she touched down?”
“Yes. My cab guy has just picked her up from the airport. He will take her home and alert me when they get there.”
“Good. Keep your phone on.”
He hangs up.
I met Niq through Jake. We had been on an assignment in the Congo and Niq was working as the receptionist in the company that had contracted us to carry out security assessments of some engineers who were flying into the country to do feasibility study for a dam that was supposed to be constructed at the Kongo river just before the enormous snake emptied its red gold into the Atlantic.
Since Jake had flown into the country before me, they had received me at the airport with Niq. She was a beautiful, short and well – endowed Maasai girl. She spoke fluent French and from her accent, it was clear she had been speaking the language for a while.
We had hit it off immediately and in between work shifts, security assessments, report writing and endless flirting she had kissed me.
That didn’t come as a surprise because I always had that effect on members of the female gender. In between satin sheets, she had screamed out my name and before I could catch my breath, she was out of Congo. A transfer request she had submitted had been approved and that’s how she found herself in South Sudan setting up shop for the new company branch in the country.
Due to the civil war that had ravaged the country, a lot of potential in reconstruction had attracted the interest of the company directors leading to the quick processing of her papers to try and settle into the new offices. Besides, Juba was nearer home.
Few months into the job, trouble started. Money budgeted for setting up of the new operation center started disappearing. Based on the fact that the SS economy is based on bribing for things to go through, reports started reaching the head office in New York that monies set aside for this purpose weren’t reaching the intended recipients.
Niq never gave straightforward responses when queries were sent down through emails and endless phone calls.
That’s when intelligence about probable involvement of a local politician with her came to the fore. He made her feel untouchable. Back in Nairobi, she had bought several high-end apartments and was building the grandmother a house.
Niq was an orphan.
‘‘You need to get to the bottom of this issue, Ken. ASAP. We don’t need to send jackals from New York to take care of a problem you and Jake can handle. Keep us updated’’
That’s how the email read. Having been in security circles for quite some time, I knew this needed a radical conclusion soon. Jackals would bring unnecessary attention to the company and possible government involvement because the US embassy had to be appraised of why armed Americans were in the country illegally in the event shit went south.
I text Niq asking how far they are from the house as I ignite the car and reverse to head out of the gate. From the rearview mirror, I can see Jackie standing at the balcony looking down at me. She is wearing this smile that I first noticed when I was introduced to her sometime back. She looks pretty and sultry.
Niq texts saying she has just been dropped home.
‘I will be there in a few minutes’ I text back.
I drive off, in Jackie’s car, listening to Khaligraph and in 8 minutes I am signing the visitor’s log at Niq’s gate. The security guard calls upstairs to inform Niq about my arrival and after she gives the go-ahead, the bar is lifted and I drive slowly into the compound.
It is quiet and serene. There are few cars in the parking lot, Niq’s X4, a pink Toyota Vitz, and a golden brown BMW 320i. I park next to the X4, alight and head to the elevators.
There doesn’t seem to be a soul in the compound, but I know better. The elevator lobby is as deserted as every other place in the compound and I am surprised to find a guard inside the elevator. He politely asks for the floor number and I tell him I am going to the 6th floor. He presses the button and the short journey up starts.
On the sixth floor, a Chinese voice radiates from the intercom system presumably announcing we have arrived. The doors slowly slide apart and as I walk out, I feel the guard’s hand on my shoulder.
“Jake is outside the gate in case you need help,” he says when I look back at him. His face is expressionless. That’s when I notice the tattoo on the inner side of his arm. It’s one similar to one Jake has on the same spot only that his is on the right side. It’s like an identification badge.
They must have served as together at one point. I think to myself.
The doors close back before I can respond. I don’t bother trying to get back in because I know he will be gone by the time the elevator comes back up.
I ring the bell on Niq’s door and think about the gentleman on the elevator as I wait to be ushered in. I must have seen him somewhere. I don’t hear Niq coming to the door and neither do I hear the same being unlocked.
“Hey stranger,” her voice wakes me up from my reverie.
In front of me is a pretty woman who believes any end justifies the means. She is barefooted and the nail polish on her toes looks impeccable. Being light means her toes look prettier than toes should normally be.
I don’t have a toe fetish.
She is in grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt. On her right wrist is a silver Rolex which cost an arm and a leg from the glitter and the mere look of it.
“Will you just stand there or do you want to come in?” She asks, as she leaves the door open and walks back into the apartment. I don’t respond but follow her quietly, stepping my foot inside the thick carpet for the umpteenth time. It feels different every single time I am here.
Like every other middle-class apartment on a weekend, Wasafi is playing comfortably from the strategically placed Sony home theater system. I head to the couch and sit down. What is about to happen will change the course of our lives completely. I know that because this is the critical juncture that determines whether nations (in this case individuals) change the course of history or forever remain in the shackles of a vicious cycle of death, despair, and deprivation.
“Do you want some juice or some whiskey?” I hear her voice from the kitchen.
When I don’t respond, she emerges from the kitchen with a glass of whiskey and a one with orange juice. She hands me the whiskey glass and seats on the couch opposite me and snuggles her legs on the couch and looks at me as if waiting for me to say something.
“Here I am,” I say after she takes a sip of the expensive orange juice.
“We have a problem.” She says after the silence becomes too loud for both of us.
“What do you mean?” I ask her, at the same time placing the glass on the mahogany coffee table without taking a sip of the warm brownish liquid.
“I need to show you something.”
Without saying another word she rises up, goes to the bedroom and comes back with a leather briefcase. She places it on the coffee table and opens it. Inside, I see several documents in brown envelopes. She takes out the sheets of paper in one of the envelopes and hands them to me. They are title deeds to key government infrastructure in SS. One belongs to the newly refurbished SS airport, ministerial offices and key installations in the country.
She still has one more piece of paper on her hand which I signal her to hand the same to me. It belongs to the president’s residence in Nairobi.
She then slowly lifts the other envelopes in the briefcase only for me to realize that deep in the briefcase are bundles of cash in US dollars. In an estimate, there is a total of almost 20,000,000 Kenya shillings in 100 dollar bills.
I am shocked, not by the money but the documents.
“Where did you get all these documents?”
“The lead Opposition member of the SS of national assembly requested me to sneak them out of the country and into Nairobi. Someone is supposed to collect them from me later tonight before I leave for Dubai tomorrow.”
“What did you get yourself into Niq?” I ask her as I place the documents on the table and take a sip of the whiskey.
She doesn’t know what to say.
“Do you understand what the ramifications of your actions if someone realized what you have here?” I ask as I point to the documents placed on the table.
“How did you even manage to get out of SS and into JKIA with all this cash?” I ask as I move to where she is sitting.
“My contact here ensured that the luggage was not checked. I had been told arrangements had been made to ensure a safe departure from SS and safe landing here.” She responds and from her voice, I detect some shaking.
I hold her hands in mine and look into her eyes. They are unsure of so much. This is not the Niq I am used to. I know she has taken risks before but I can tell none has come close to this. Having been observing her since I first laid my eyes on her in Congo, she usually took calculated steps in whichever murk she got herself into.
This one terrified her.
“We will find a way out of this murk,” I reassure her.
“I am scared.” She responds after which I pull her in for a hug.
The next thing I know is my eyes seeing someone putting cuffs on her and leading her outside the apartment as she calls out my name. All this time, I am lying on my stomach on the rich, thick carpet, my hands cuffed behind my back feeling helpless as she screams all the time trying to fight the officers taking her away.
After she is out of the door, another officer walks in and from the way he has dorned his hat, it’s impossible to make out the face.
“My plans seem to have hit a snag. I was trusted with a job but I was unbale to deliver on such a simple task as recovering my employer’s money from a defenseless girl.” I keep thinking to myself.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself man.” The officer who just walked in tells me after squatting next to me. The voice is unmistakable.