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True Nairobi

TRUE NAIROBI

A Dissociate Novel

By

Sandra Nekh

[+ +]

Dedication

To Lilly and Kenzia, I love you.

[* *]

Prologue

Dream 1

A crowd was singing in a circle, more like chanting. They were leaning forward and back with every octal growling chant.

“Nalia…”

Micah’s voice, “Oh, Nalia…”

“You left me Nalia…”

“Micah no…” a hand is slapped over her mouth.

“Silence young child!”

Nalia walked outside the circle trying to catch a glimpse of what stood at the center. There wore dark robes, a dark robbed congregation. They stopped swaying front to back and start swaying side to side. They exhibit a sick harmony to the vibrating humming they produced.

Nalia moved closer leaning slightly in a congregant to view within the circle. Every one she leaned on shoved her off without even turning to see the face of the unwelcomed disturbance. She could hear a leading voice that came from the center of the crowd, screeching inaudible words above the thunderous humming. She started spinning as they swayed more vigorously.

“I will find you child!” A voice rent the air, louder, more pronounced.

The room now full of tangible screams. They slapped their cheeks, the smacking sounds making Nalia shiver.

A few turned and faced Nalia, they were faceless like vengeful ghosts. She gasped. The faceless dragged her by her curly hair that for some reason was wet. She kicked and screamed, realizing that her head was raw, like she had just undone some heavy locks.

Nalia clutched at one of the robbed,

“Help! Please help!” the robed turned. She jumped back. He was bloody eyed, with eyes set on her. She could not stop screaming. Eternal darkness engulfed them and everything around them.

Nalia could hear the chants but could see nothing. Suddenly there was a face hoovering over her, slightly illuminated in a thin light. It shook slightly as the flesh from its cheeks, forehead and other parts of it fell in bits and pieces on Nalia’s lap, then the bits and pieces started to burn. Nalia kicked her feet hard as she could but to no avail. She was stuck.

One by one a small bit fell, a piece a little larger than the rest. It fell as a beast descended upon her. Nalia turned to crawl away but the beast was gaining fast. Her tears turning acidic leaving blisters down her face.

“I will find you child!”

“Micah!” Nalia finally recognized the voice.

The beast’s gigantic paws fell on her middle back, slamming her on the floor. Her face was scrapped by the uneven ground; she lay there until the hard ground started to turn into rotting flesh. It smelt worse than death, and it was all over her. She wanted to puke but it came all dry heaves. Her ribs hurt as she heaved over and over again. It sounded horrible, like she is about to hack her insides out.

Nalia shrieked as her scorched face begun to bleed. She suddenly could not breathe!

Her last breath exploded in a controlled cry,

“Kyura!”

Pitch black took over for a few seconds. Then there was a flash. Nalia was still at the center of the circle. The chanting shadows that swayed and stomped so close around her went on as she sobbed for mercy.

Kyura stood above her, “I will find you.” he assured her, his voice deceptive. She almost believed him when his hands suddenly fell on her neck. He started to squeeze. She closed her eyes, trying to escape the terror that was unfolding around her.

She gasped for air as she tried to breathe, if only she could catch one breath. She opened her eyes to let them plead for her.

Kyura please…

She opened her eyes only to see Mica before her. His angry face, his hands pale from lack of blood as he squeezed harder, blood rushing out of them. The chants became so loud she could feel them in her blood stream, flowing in her veins,

“I will find you!”

Nalia slapped and wiggled. She fought for freedom but to no avail. She closed her eyes in one final breath. The Devil came to her behind her closed eyelids. He held a knife to her throat. The knife was silver and freshly sharpened, its desecrated existence reflected in the pit that was his eyes as he whispered,

“I have found you.” the knife ran across her throat.

Dream 2

“Nalia…” Micah’s voice was soft. She opened her eyes, “Nalia you wretched whore!”

Thunder roared as his back hand slapped across her face. She fell past a bed and into a sea of blinking nothingness. Nalia then fell on into a thorny forest. It ripped her night gown. Nalia ran fast, bare foot away from a presence she felt but could not see. It raged towards her, bending whole trees in its pursuit.

“The damned, pray to your God!”

[_I don’t believe in a god! _]Nalia can’t help but think.

Nalia’s feet bled leaving a trail of her scent and prints in scarlet that led to her. She jumped and skidded over fallen trunks and broken branches. She winced when the branches and leaves cut through her skin.

Trees suddenly came uprooted, crashing down over her. She slipped under one and curved herself below it for whatever protection it would provide.

“Wretch! Scoundrel! Rat! Vermin!” The voice came closer and closer, the ground shook. The Sun vanished over the horizon. It was all too quick, as though the sun was on cue. She should have guessed that it was a dream.

Silence, dead silence took over.

She curled smaller under wet leaves, shaking. Freezing and scared, she waited. Nalia chose to part her teeth to lessen the chatter. Dead silence still. Nothing.

“Little rat there you are!” the presence growled as it pulled the tree from over Nalia. She trembled in panic.

What to do … what to do…

Dream 3

On the way home Nalia and her driver passed by a road accident. A man lay on the tarmac dead. He was all twisted up; leg over arm, head bent over chest his mangled body lay in a pool of blood. Shocking still, the man lay between a mini-truck with a smashed in windscreen and police car still flashing its lights. The latter’s occupants stood and ran all-over. Strangely there were over twenty of them. They stood and ran all over. It was very strange. They all suddenly froze. They directed traffic at the same moment. They stopped oncoming traffic and direct Nalia to drive through.

Nalia looked at the body as they drove past it, “Too graphic, so very graphic!” her words seem oddly like someone else’s. She peered into the rear view mirror, looking for the right angle, when she found it, she looked at the now fading red and blue lights.

“So graphic!”

Nalia walks into her house. Her radio is on and pretty loud.

“Tiny humble place for such a volume.” there it was again, her voice sounding like someone else’s.

Who talks like that?

The voice in the radio belonged to a crime Channel. It describes a crime scene that sound oddly like her house. She steps closer to the radio as the voice narrated,

“At first it looked like a robbery gone bad but I soon ruled that out.”

Nalia shivered. She locked the front door.

“There were bodies everywhere: male and female alike, some bloody some all cleaned up. The most startling thing is how they were slain in the room…”

Nalia turned around. There were seven dead in her little living room, all on the sofas sat as though she had hosted a party in absentia. Blood stained the walls, floor and couches. Nalia should have been scared. She was not. She just stood there looking at the bodies her face indifferent.

“I will not fear.” Nalia whispered. She heads to the kitchen to fix something to eat. She felt like a bran sandwich. She jumped over a body as she walks into the kitchen.

“I will not fear.”

Dream 4

It had been one month, two weeks, and six days since Nalia last heard his voice. Two days longer since our skin touched. Now they touch. Nalia lay her weight on him. The space between them thinned to none existence as they glide into each other.

An inch is too close…

His warmth tickled her. Nalia avoided the look in his eyes as her heart testifies to the truth that the god before her was hers. Testify her lust for her god.

Just one sin… no… An inch is too close… His body is too warm… A shrine to the worship of himself this one is.

Nalia turned to flee from him as she should have. Two strides of running and she was in the air. A solid arm about her waist. It pulled forcefully sweeping her off her feet.

Having travelled the distance between us in what was an hour of any and all dirty thoughts I could live through…There were no rules now… Please don’t make any!

The arm tightened holding their profiles as one. Nalia leaned back her head slowly turning towards him. She kissed him on the neck. He held her firmer turning her sharply in the little space in his arms. Raw power held their faces inches from each other. Nalia’s mind played out the kiss; she is all receiving, hot and ready. His eyes darkened; thinning into an intense glare. Nalia’s breath hitched.

Nalia did not realize it but she had shut her eyes.

“I want you, all of you.” she whispered. He smiles realizing that she probably thought it but her brain jumbled with lust said it out loud.

Nalia parted her lips. She was ready. He should have laid one on her, but he pulled away. She opened her eyes feeling the withdrawal. Nalia searched his dark eyes now glassy.

“What?” she asked him. All the while she thought and saw Kyura.

“I already have you. What more?” Mica spoke low staring her down.

***

The past was proving resilient. Nalia could not shake it. A new name a new life could not change anything. She was still the scared little girl from Nanyuki.

Nina Mazrui.

The new name had a kick to it. She had practiced it over and over in the mirror. She ensured she never got it wrong. She was perfect never slipped. When asked,

“What’s your name?”

She would answer,

“Nina,” pause, smile then tilt her head. “Nina Mazrui.” she never got it wrong.

***

Faces are just a mask. Nina mastered the art of masks. She played the confident girl, beautiful and in charge of her own. Truth was she was scared, always scared. Seven years later and the past crept at her in the ghastly hours of the night. She could not shake the feeling that her past was coming back as soon as she turned the page to the next part of her tale. She felt like she turned the page only to turn the book upside down, to turn back to the old page and do it over and over again.

What’s in a name? Ava, then Nalia now Nina. What’s in the names she picked? Is it the name she is given that seems to pull her down the gutter like filth every time round?

Nina felt cursed. Her dreams manifestation of her curse. She was tired of sitting up drenched in sweat gasping for air. She needed a new constant.

[* *]

Chapter One

“Nairobi stinks. It smells of trash and urine and vice. Vices that are human perpetuated. Vices that can only lead us to eternal flame.

Wrecked Nairobi reeks of lies, murder, theft and corruption. I speak lightly. The truth is in plain sight but hidden in false promises and bleach white smiles. Can you smell it…? Vile as a demon. Can you smell the filth we are conditioned to live in? Can you feel your dying soul? You die each day but you are too high to care. High on the crap they feed you. The worst part is that you were born immaculate. Yet you drink and partake as you vote for this filth over and over again.

Nairobi is rotting and you filth sit here with smiles on your faces yet you pour the kerosene, light the match and dance about the bonfire. Yeah, you scream. We are celebrating life… Yeah! You scream like the Father never gave you a brain. You deserve to burn with the dying city.

I will bring the revolution. I will bury this past that is our new normal and fight for a new revolution! Hail to freedom! Hail life! Hail mama Africa. Nairobi… I will heal your broken wing.”

Nandi sat in a little dark room with his face partially hidden behind a dark hoodie. Before him sat an old PC, the best the man could get on scrounged up shillings and a scary history. He ran a sound recording software on the PC, he watched his recording session on an old school monitor that lit up part of his hooded face. Beads of sweat slipped down the sides of his face and down his nose. The room was hot. It was not a room per se, more of a broom closet than a room. It lacked a window, air barely circulated in it. It was a box. A box custom made to fit his height but not wide enough for him to live in. On the floor behind Nandi was a made up cot where the king of words lay his weary head after a long day. It was dirty and messy. He would have wished for more but every messiah had a price to pay. His was virtually homeless.

Nandi’s words were dying to come out. He needed to speak. He needed the words out of his mouth so that he could breathe. Nandi had conviction in his words. He had a special zeal in his voice. All the makings of a large following. Nandi was old school. He had a Facebook account where he posted his videos and audio recordings. Had a following of over 4 Million. In a country of forty million souls a percentage of the soul bounty. He had them hooked. Had them willing to listen. It was only a matter of time before change was activated.

“Why young Nairobi should you die in vain while we breathe this air we claim is ours. I will stand and not let my city fall. You want a vigilante… I give you me!” Nandi found himself suddenly yelling.

“I give you the one thing you are scared of! I give you a voice. Unhindered. Un-calibrated. I will speak…” He starts to sound delusional getting too emotional.

“I am the ghost of your past. I reckon you thought I was gone… But I am back! Confess and I will not take it, feed you your guts for dinner. You and your sinner guests. Confess and you will have your penance or I will feed you the shame of spraying little children with tear gas! Confess for the unjust deaths. Confess for your illegitimate children… The money that is stained in blood and lays in your pockets! You evil wretch! You bloody witch! Confess!”

Nandi removed his hood and stepped closer to the microphone. He breathed into the microphone then he spoke somewhat calmer.

“You reek of underhanded deals. I will give you your penance you de-virginized harlot. Confess vile Nairobi… Confess!!!”

Seven years later Nandi was the epitome of madness. His madness had few strokes of genius he went after the government, the church, the lost flock… Really anyone with a beating heart. To anyone else Nandi had lost it, but to the keen ear, the intellectual, the little boy and girl with truth in their hearts, the honest, the brave, those who needed a nudge in the right direction, Nandi was a hero. He was not scared of the repercussions of actually speaking out his mind. He was nobody. He was anonymous, came on the grid like he had materialized from thin air a phantom of a sick past. Nandi was the perfect man to be the voice of the people. He had nothing to lose. He was the right kind of vigilante.

[* *]

Chapter Two

Music blared in a club in the CBD of Nairobi. This club sat in the side of a posh four-star hotel, The Monaco. It was old. Had marked the Nairobi skyline through the 90’s till Nairobi got better and wiser in construction and realization of a new, smart business hub, characterized in concrete jungles of immaculate sky creepers. Monaco was old but golden.

The club never bothered the high-end guests who slept there, it was built with sound proof walls to the side of the hotel. Soon as the main door opened, pandemonium, when it was shut, it was just another door that led to an unknown place there yonder.

A young bartender stood on the outside of the bar. Behind her the club rallied on, laughs and smiles, at times laughter. Sweaty bodies ground on each other. Shame and lust stunk to the high heavens. Shy smiles hid behind large hands, shy smiles snaked through slender fingers. It was a night of revel.

The bartender held a rug already to wipe, somehow unwilling to let a few drops of spilt drink lay unattended on the hardwood counter top. A man worked the counter on the other side, he was slender and tall, dressed in all black. His shirt had a tag that read Monaco. He looked over holding a finger up to the bartender telling her to wait as he gave a client her drink, even winked at her. The client dropped her all business façade and smiled back taking her drink and pushing through the building crowd.

“Carlo, am off for the night.” Nina yelled, her voice heavily swallowed by the loud music at the club.

“You going home?” he asked her,

“No, am gon’ dance the night away.” She said swinging her hips from left to right in a manner to drive any one up the walls. Her little waist, paired with curvy hips and a fairly generous derriere. A girl to marvel at for sure.

“Do your thing mama.” He said as he poured a drink for a waiting customer. He smiled at her, she smiled back and headed to the dance floor.

***

Lance was standing at the balcony of the VIP that over looked the dance floor, he was obsessed with this one girl, the way that she moved was what drove him insane. She was the most beautiful girl that he had seen and he would swear on it, but they say that the beautiful ones are not yet born. Who is to say that he would meet a gorgeous angel that night, or the other… or seven years from that day.

Every night at around midnight the dancing beauty took the floor, and he was there to watch her every time. He saw her and a smile developed on his face,

“Beautiful.” He whispered, his ebony hands gripping the railing before him. Her skin contrasted his almost like heaven and hell, she was fair skinned, a beautiful body and that long dark curly mane, this child of the world was going to be the death of him.

“What was that?” Dave one of the members of his crew who was standing beside him asked him, Lance simply pointed at the girl,

“I see her every time we come here, since last week, she takes the floor at midnight, I think I love her man!”

“She is just a girl; I think she works here. Let her be, we can get you the goddesses of the world if you want a goddess. She is a mere busgirl.”

“She is the one, I have decided, get her up here, now.” Lance ordered. Dave looked at him as though he was mad. Dave did not understand the fascination. He took a moment to watch the girl. He watched her dance, as she moved her hips to the rhythm, he was utterly mesmerized. A group of girls joined her on the flour, blocking her a little. Dave found himself craning his neck to get a better view. One of the new girls hugged the girl and they danced on together in sync like they had practiced before. Dave finally felt it. Seduction in the air was enough to make him feel hot.

“I get it, lemme see what I can do.” Dave said as he walked away. Lance ignored him, his eyes on his prey.

Lance studied her face. It was gentle; no makeup on, a breath of fresh air. He could not help but stare at the rare beauty that stood before him, he felt as though she and he were the only ones in the club, and he liked the feeling.

***

“Nina, you have an admirer.” Tanya whispered in her ear. She stopped dancing, and turned to her friend who nodded at her,

“Where?” she asked, Tanya pointed up at the balcony. Nina looked up, she saw Lance Mclean, the musician and chuckled,

“Him! He is a male whore, I may be nocturnal but one thing I know, that‘s not my type of man.”

“Let’s go over, free drinks… come on!” Tanya begged. “Please, please…”

“I actually work here, Tanya no.” she said as she begun to walk away from the dance floor a little irritated.

“I will do anything. I will clean the house forever if I have to.” Nina turned and on her face there was a devilish grin, and Tanya knew that Nina owned her forever.

Tanya turned to Dave who was standing beside them. She smiled at him, in a manner to suggest, take-me-now! Dave ran his tongue on the inside of his lower teeth to the left, victory was his. Alone, he may have not been able to get Lance’s girl to the VIP. But with her friend it was like taking candy from a child. She knew the type. He had played them like a grand piano. [
**]

Chapter Three

Nina sat at on the back entrance stair case. Her butt did not agree well with the metallic steps; she could feel how hard the stair she sat on was. It was uncomfortable, playing a major role of keeping her awake. The neon lights above her shone enough to make her head spin. VVIP, the signage read. It was a normal night so no use for the entrance, she knew that it would play safe haven until she was able to call her taxi man Jackie to take her home.

Nina wondered. She knew that she had not had too much to drink, but somehow, her tolerance had dropped considerably since the previous day. She thought she may have been tired, or too emotional. Either way, tolerance did not drop eighty percent overnight. Something was off.

Her head was spinning and she felt as though she was going to pass out. She had her head in her hands and was breathing heavy and doing everything in her power to stop herself from puking her guts out. Lance walked up to her and sat next to her, she had not heard him come through the door she had left ajar when she came out. At a distance, the sounds of music and human euphoria carried muffled to them.

“That bad huh?” he said to her, she looked at him,

“It’s your fault.” She said in a whisper. “I feel like crap,”

“You will be fine, come.” He pulled her up to stand without her volition. It was too chilly outside, she had no coat and he had no coat to give her.

“I need…” Nina started then she took two deep breaths.

“Am gon’…” she started to say but could not finish,

Lance knew exactly what she was going to say, he quickly pulled her down to the bottom step and led her to the wall beside the steps. She crouched and begun to retch. Lance held the strands of her hair that fell in the line of fire, ensuring they stay clear. It was nothing new for the star. In his job he had had to take care of many girls, or rather groupies who threw themselves at him for fame. That was the first time that he actually wanted to take care of a girl.

Lance rested his hand on her back, the second she was done actually vomiting. Just water and booze. She had not eaten, may have been the reason why she got alcohol poisoning. Lance rode the dry heaves with Nina from their point of contact. He crouched next to her and waited for her to finish. He noticed that she had tears running down her face, he felt sorry and wished that he had regulated their drinking, but it was too late. What was done was done.

When she was done, he gave her a hankie. She looked at him and smiled a little then took the hankie and wiped her mouth and running nose. She wiped her tears with her hands hoping that he had not seen them. She put her free arm on his shoulder and he helped her up.

“You okay?” he asked her.

She nodded. Lance could not believe how beautiful Nina was, even at her worst she still managed to mesmerize him, he was glad that he was there for her when she needed him, maybe she would be able to change her perception of him, if she saw how much he cared for her.

“Can we go back in,” Lance asked her, she nodded. He ushered her to the stairs, she started to walk, a fine stagger that was. She lost balance a few times her heels working hard at complicating everything, he made sure she hit the concrete or the metal steps.

“It’s okay, I got you.” Lance assured, she said nothing, she had other concerns, she was trying her best to keep her eyes open as she walked the narrow steps that led back to the inside of the club, she could see almost nothing and could barely walk in a straight line, she knew that she was about to pass out and he knew that too.

When they got back to their booth, Dave and Tanya were gone, Lance helped Nina into the booth.

“You okay… I think your friend left with my friend.” Lance told her. She mumbled something and passed out head on the table. Lance pushed her hair back, stole a glance of her face, she was out, just even breathing coming his way. He let her rest, unable to let her hair drape over her face as it had before. He smiled. Her lips slightly parted, she slept like a baby, no care in the world, and it fascinated and worried him.

[_What if someone else had found her outside? What if she was partying with a different lot? What if she was all alone? _]Lance asked himself, his ‘what ifs’ only informing him that he got the Nina-Bug bad!

Lance took out his phone to text Dave but got carried away looking at Nina asleep. He was so engrossed in looking at her that when a waitress came over and spoke to him, he did not hear a word she said.

“Sir, SIR!” the waitress called out. Lance looked up at her as though she had just appeared.

[_Don’t be mad at me! _]

“Am sorry sir, um, Mr. Dave left with the girl, he said he will call you later.” She reported.

Lance found himself studying her, he was fond of the little details, her stance for instance was interesting; she had her knees slightly folded visible from her little outfit, which he guessed was work related, she looked like a working girl. Her hands were placed innocently over her chest, she spoke in a soft tone, and her face showed uncertainty… or was that fear, he thought. He supposed that she was new at the job, at most she must have worked for a week, he thought. He had found his girl, the girl who would make sure that all runs smoothly for him.

“Thank you,” he said, he then read the name tag on her blouse right over her left breast pocket, “Alice, can I have a room, the penthouse please. Charge it to this.” He slid her a credit card on the table top.

“And… discretion will be appreciated.” He added remembering that Nina actually worked there.

“Yes sir.” The waitress said as she picked the card with shaky hands and walked away. Lance smiled. He could not help imagine the stories that she would have to tell her friend about the great and fabulous Lance McLean.

Lance put his phone back in his pocket forgetting all together to call his friend. He drank from a water bottle that was on the table. He had waited a few minutes when Alice came back and told him that the room was ready. He said thank you and followed her carrying Nina in his arms. There was another door, one that led past the bathrooms in the VIP area out of the club. Alice used a key to unlock it and they fell into a quiet hallway soon as the door shut. Alice led, Lance followed, and Nina slept.

The hallway led to a set of stairs that went up ten floors. It would have been a problem, if Nina weighed about average but she was nothing over the norm. He was sure that he would be able to carry her all the way to the tenth floor.

They reached the tenth floor and Lance noticed no elevator leading to the floor. Alice stopped before the first of two doors. The other door was small, opposed to the one she faced. He figured that the door led to a small office or a storage unit, from the structure of the walls, Lance was sure that the penthouse occupied most of the tenth floor. A little pride crept on his face.

Alice opened the door and welcomed them in, that was the first time she spoke since the club. She put the key on the table near the door and walked out, wishing them a good night.

Lance looked around the room, if felt like an apartment; he swept the room with one gaze, he could see the massive living room area, a kitchen area, a closed door at a corner which he guessed led to a bathroom, there were stairs at another corner that led to an upper room which he guessed led to the bedroom. The decor was simple, warm, had a Sub-Saharan feel to it. He loved it.

Lance walked up the stairs, with Nina in his arms, to the master bedroom. He placed her on the bed gently and pulled the covers from the other side of the bed over her body. He watched her sleep for a moment then walked away to a nearby seat. He was tired, it had been a long day and Dave ditching him was not what was supposed to happen, he had plans to work sometime in the night.

He rubbed his eyes and yawned, he was really sleepy. He looked at the girl sleeping in the bed, she had not moved an inch and he was wondering whether she was okay, she was a light weight. She had taken a little alcohol and it completely destroyed her, he was wondering at what point she got high, because he did not notice the exact moment when she reached her peak. She had suddenly walked out staggering, when Lance followed her out was when he knew that she was not doing okay.

He walked up to her to check if she was breathing, she was, he breathed a sigh of relief. He pulled off the covers, he needed to know more about her. Asking was not an option. He checked her jeans pockets, he pulled out a thousand shillings note, a few hundreds and a few coins crumpled up. He put back the girl’s money gently so as not to wake her.

No wonder she had no bag, he thought, ID…

He reached into the back pockets, foregoing the one she lay on and reached in, pulling out an ID. It looked pretty new. The plastic kind.

Nina Hamisi Mazrui … born 1992… he turned the ID to see the back, from the coast… he read quietly, explains a lot.

Lance slipped the ID card back into her back pocket, he knew enough. He’d forgo the other pockets all together. He pulled the covers over her and stood up. He gave her a one over and then walked out to the balcony. He was sure to shut the balcony door behind him. Lance took his phone out of his pocket, he dialed in a number, he waited on the dial tone.

“Good evening officer Leani.” A voice came over, smooth female.

“Hey Anita, patch me up to the chief.” Lance said, a slight smile developing on his face,

“Sure thing Leani. Have a good night.” Anita said as a long beep took over, Lance pulled the phone from his ear, pulling away from the phone, he gave it a brief look of disdain but put it back to his ear just as soon as the chief’s voice carried,

“EeeiiiLeani, do you have anything for me?” Chief of Police Swan Kipovu spoke into the receiver, he sounded too enthusiastic for the middle of the night.

“No sir am still trying to get acquainted with the locals.” Lance said, he had not noticed but his back had straightened out, as though he was at attention. The kind of fear Swan put into his officers was real, he commanded respect.

“Do you think that you will be able to get information by the end of the week?” the Chief’s question startling Lance, it was too soon, he had just gotten familiar with his new status. From getting his super star status going to activating a star worthy social life, he had little time to work on the case.

“Am not sure. I will tell you more by the end of the week.” He resolved to avoidance, despite wanting to beg, in the most undignified manner for more time.

“Okay, stay safe out there, and stay clean, okay son…” the chief let out a cough, unwarranted, it was his signal that whatever came next was important. Lance stood more straight, “You need this… you are young, that’s the reason we put you on this case. And a legacy. Your father would be proud of you. It will do your career good if you solve this, and of course the President’s resources put into this case will not have gone to waste!” he barked, his mood changing faster than a cursed oceans tide. That was the thing with Swan, may have been the reason why they all feared him, he was so mercurial, his mood would change within seconds. There was no getting the man. He was reasonable though which helped with his unpredictable mood.

“Okay boss. Yes, boss I will handle it.” Lance said, suddenly unable control his jabbering words.

Lance hang up and took a deep breath then relaxed his back into a slight slouch. He looked out at the sky overlooking the city.

The President’s resources… the words echoed in his head. Yap I am screwed!

He took another deep breath said a silent prayer and went inside. He lay in the couch in the room. Before he knew it, he was fast asleep. His prayer, that no one ever find out that he was a cop, hell hath no fury than an angry mob.

***

Nina woke up first, she woke up confused, she had a spitting headache and she was feeling really sick, her whole body was on fire and it felt like the room was a hundred degrees or over. She coughed twice, waking Lance up.

She tried to sit up but the room was spinning. Her body felt numb and frail. She pushed herself upward and forced herself to sit up, she found that she was breathing heavy and shaking. Nina kind of knew exactly what it was. She knew the feeling all too well. It had been a while but she knew exactly what she felt. Nina knew that she had been drugged the previous night. It reminded her so much of a past that she had effectively put behind her.

Lance ran over to where she was sensing that something was wrong,

“Hey,” he said softly as he sat next to her, taking her in. She looked unwell.

“I need a doctor… please…” she said, as she struggled to remain seated upright. Lance supported her, where his hand touched her bare skin, he felt the burn. He put his hand on her forehead, she ran a fever.

Tears rolled down her face, she did not react to them, because she was fighting other struggles.

Not knowing what to do he took the landline on the bedside table and called the front desk. Lance asked for discretion when the ambulance got there. The hotel agreed to his request and promised to bring the paramedics up through the service lift. He found out that there actually was a lift that led to his floor. He wondered where that was, he saw no service lift serving their floor. He wondered why they used the stairs.

***

“It’s okay. Just breathe.” He told her, dialing for the third time that night.

“999 can I help you?” the operator’s voice came on the receiver,

“Uh, my girlfriend is unwell, we went drinking and she had a bad reaction something, we are at The Monaco hotel, at the penthouse.”

“Okay, what is your name sir?”

“Lance.”

“Lance we have a bus in the area, we will get to you in two minutes.”

“Thank you.”

Lance sat with Nina until the paramedics got there, he held her as she cried counting seconds until the paramedics got there.

When they got to their room, room service let them in. They also put security on the floor to avoid any paparazzi or over nosy guests staying at the hotel.

“Hello?” one of the paramedics called out,

“Up the steps on your left.” Lance shouted from upstairs. The paramedics rushed up the stairs,

“Are you Lance,” asked the first paramedic, he had not looked at his face yet, they both wondered why the secrecy, but when he looked up at Lance, he realized that it was ‘The Lance McLean’, the artist. One thought ran through the first paramedic’s mind; boy was his daughter going to flip when she found out that he treated Lance’s girlfriend.

The second paramedic set his bag on the ground and asked Lance to help her sit up with her legs over the edge of the bed. Lance helped her, her tears had stopped flowing. She was silent, a few shakes here and there.

“What happened,” the first paramedic with a tag written Kerr asked.

“We went out, and she drunk some vodka and juice, mango juice. And then she got sick, and today she woke up really sick, so I called you up.” He said, “And she has a fever.”

“What’s your name?”

Kerr asked Nina.

“Nina.” She exhaled.

The other paramedic asked Lance what had happened after she woke up, he narrated every second till they got there paying attention to the details. His training as a police man took over. Kerr put a blood pressure strip on her arm. They did some more basic tests on her and came up with the conclusion that she had been drugged.

Lance was shocked. He was with her the whole night and he sure as hell did not drug her, he was wondering who between Tanya and Dave was responsible for the drugging. He was pissed. They requested him to call Tanya and Dave and ask them what drug was put into Nalia’s drink.

Lance took out his phone and dialed Dave’s number. He did not pick up the first time, but he picked up the second time round.

“Hey,”

“Hey.” He sounded sleepy like he had just woken up. Lance did not know how to ask his friend if he had drugged his love interest. He had thought about how to ask and he decided to rip the bandage off.

“Did you slip Nina pill last night?”

“What?!” he exclaimed, “no man, I had a few pills… but… oh shit, I showed them to Tanya.”

“Is she there?” Lance asked, he was kind of relieved that Dave did not slip her a pill or two, but it was worse that Nina’s own friend was the one who drugged her.

“Yeah, lemme ask her,”

“Hey, Tanya… Tanya…” Lance could hear him talking to Tanya. He listened while looking over to Nana. She looked scared and flushed, he hoped that she was going to be okay, he wondered what the tabloids would read if the news got out, the worst was what the Chief would say when he found out about everything. “She gave her a pink pill and a white pill with some yellow… or pink, am thinking Bruand, E, or Asprain.”

“Okay, later.” Lance did not bother to thank her,

“He says Bru, Asprain and/or E, but he is not sure,” Lance told the paramedics.

“It’s okay, if she vomited last night….”

Oh that she did, Lance thought remembering her vicious heaves.

“Most of it may be out of her system, but we still have to take her to hospital, she is also dehydrated, but she will be fine.” Kerr said, Lance breathe a sigh of relief.

Lance went with Nina in the ambulance. He could not walk away. Not yet. He had just found his first break. Nina’s friend. All he needed to do was get close to Nina and Tanya. He had a feeling that Tanya knew more about the drug rings in Nairobi. It was shameful, but he wanted to use Nina to get what he wanted. But there was also the fact that the girl was a bombshell, there was no getting past that. His dilemma was real. Actually court the girl, or use her and elevate his career.

Chapter Four

“Tanya you drugged me!” Nina said, “You drugged me and left me alone… I would never do that to you. Never.”

“Am sorry, am so sorry.” Tanya said as she followed Nina all-round the house as she picked up stuff.

“Sorry will not cut it T, you hurt me,” she stopped walking around and turned to her friend, “You left me all alone, I was scared and you were not there for me, a stranger was.” She said as tears rolled down her face. She walked into her room and lay on the bed facing the wall.

Tanya walked into the room quietly. She knew that Nina was really mad, she just needed to find the right words to say to her, to make things better. She came into the room and got into the bed with Nalia, she spooned her then whispered.

“Am sorry.” Tanya said, Nina just kept sobbing silently.

***

Nina’s week was turning out worse and worse each day. It was as though the cosmos had shifted and nothing ran in her favour any more. She could not work Sunday night due to her incident the previous night, she lost a night of tips and her boss, Mr. Monaco himself was not pleased to be running a night short one girl. He told her that she was done Monday night. It took Carlo a while to convince him that she was unwell. He gave her one last chance and if she messed up, he swore that her beautiful face, sexy body and prior to Saturday night impeccable service would not keep her there. He had no time to chase after her. She had a job to do and that was all that mattered.

There were also the rumours about a certain girl, a regular ratchet type who sneaked into the VIP passed out and had to be rushed to hospital from the Monaco penthouse. It was only a matter of time before they realized that it was her and that the penthouse was rented by Lance that night. Quitting was looking like the better option as the days rolled by. They rolled by rough, scarring her ego in their wake.

The other problem was Lance, he never came to the club again, and he never bothered to find her after leaving her at the hospital. She was beginning to think that she was simply to be a cheap lay and he would have moved on to the next one like she was yesterday’s business. As far as she knew, she did not put out, she woke up fully clothed, and the way he cared for her that night, she thought that she meant more to him. There was also the fact that he paid her hospital bill before disappearing. And the cost of Private hospitals in Nairobi was not a joke!

Nina felt rejected to say the least. She wanted the earth to swallow her whole. She felt like she was getting her due punishment for walking away from a certain boy seven years before. Nina had grown to like Lance in the singular night she spent with him. She actually enjoyed his company before she got high. He was a good conversationalist never thought to fill every silence with awkward mindless talk and when he spoke, he was really funny. She found herself laughing a lot.

Nina thought to herself that maybe he was not half as bad as she though he was. In person he seemed so different from what she saw on TV and heard on radio. It was hard to believe that he had been famous for a few months.

All in all, Nina knew that if her week got any worse, she was going to lose a job, and maybe even have to find a sponsor. No need to play hard to ever get because she was not going to make it on her own without an education and family to support her.

By Friday, Nina was spent. Lance had not shown and she was done waiting. After her shift, she made it her business to ensure that she drowned all her sorrows in a nice bottle of Cognac. Mica loved the stuff. He always filled his private collection with Cognac she stole a few bottles over the years and developed a taste for the stuff. She went for Cognac when she was celebrating. The best way of celebrating is washing money down the drain. Do not get so shocked, only truth here.

So Nina spent all her weeks tips on a chilled bottle of Remy Martin. A matured drink for a grown girl. She drank most of it and when she could not take it anymore, she called Jackie to take her home. He asked for a few minutes which turned into an hour.

Behind the booth that Nina sat in was a group of three. Arie; a lean but tall Indian with a pretty boy face. He wore a simple dress shirt and dark jeans. He was all cool with his sleek dark black hair, barely noticing the ladies gawking at their table. Next to him was Kita. He at times went by Kit. He was a pretty boy with swagger. He was about Arie’s height. He was more the ladies’ man. Dressed in all black and with a lip ring, he indulged the ladies with a wink here and there. He also had a thing with his lip ring, twisted it over and over again when he had his eyes on a mark, making them think vile evil thoughts of those lips, that ring and revered places. The third was a silent brute, borderline catatonic. He just sat there. His eyes darting all over but never moved so much. Only to sip his drink and maybe to adjust his pants when a fine young one walked by. He went by the name Sir. He may have been a looker, but he sat in the shadows, ladies feared him. His size was intimidating, his dullness a turn off. There was no getting on with that one. Most ladies opted to move on.

When their drinks were done, they called a taxi and left almost immediately. No lingering to catch flies in their traps. They had better things to go.

Nina heard the shuffle behind her as the group left. She was too out of it to care. Her table was suddenly full. The filling club meant she would have to share tables. She did not mind the company but she was done when some of the group started creeping on her Remy.

Not cool!

[* *]

Chapter Five

Nina sat in the taxi, she was glad that she had a friend in Jack, too bad he was gay, Nina always said that all the nice men were either taken or gay, and it was true.

“Jackie baby, am wasted! Take me home baby!” she said as she crawled to the window of the taxi, she looked out at the passing buildings marveling at their beauty. Her eyes fell on the night sky. She could fool anyone that she was happy, Jack could see a little sadness in her though.

“Did he come?” Jack asked her, she shook her head no, he could see tears in her eyes and the look in her face showed that she wanted to start crying. He guessed that she must have been very high.

“I almost died because of this son of a gun… baby he did not come see me, am I not beautiful enough?” she asked as she leaned back on the seat, she was completely slouched to the point Jackie had to strain to see her on the rear view mirror, he turned and looked at her through space between the front of the car and the back, he chuckled in disbelief, if there was a girl who knew that she was beautiful, it had to be Nalia(Nina), she was the queen of her world and she loved it. It was her perfect world and she enjoyed it.

“Baby, you are the most beautiful girl I know, my empress!” he praised.

“Have you been listening to that Jamaican reggae? Horrible stuff! Urg!” she scoffed making him laugh.

“See, you are not so high,” he smiled and paused for a moment, “I need to take you somewhere, do you really want to go home?”

“No…” Nina said in a drawl.

“Okay. Lay back, relax.” He said as he turned to see if any car was coming off the main road, he pulled out of the club’s drive way. As he drove he adjusted the rear view mirror and looked at Nina through the mirror, she looked sad and he knew what would make her happy.

“Hey, have you heard about Asprain?” he asked her,

“Aspirin?” she sounded confused, [_of course I’ve heard about Aspirin. _]

“Open quote Asprain close quote. Asprain. You know of?”

“Oh, Asprain. That’s the stuff that almost killed me.” She said sluggishly. Nina then sat up and moved closer to the space between them, “why?” she asked curiously.

“Have you heard the songs?” he asked her, she looked clueless. “One… one time sickly, two crazy daze, three amnesia, four high, five ecstasy, six trashy horny, seven heaven, eight death by kisses, nine can’t go back, ten ultimate high.”

“Is that thing for real?”

“Wanna try?” he asked her, she parted her lips as though to say something, but nothing came out. She smiled and nodded her head with a devilish grin across her face. He smiled as he took a turn towards the New-Huru Park whose hills overlooked the city.

“So how many do we take?” Nina asked him, they had both sat on the back seat of the taxi, they were looking at a zip lock plastic bag full of little pink pills. It was bulging; Jack guessed that it held at least five thousand pills in it. Nina just stared,

“Am already high so…”

“It doesn’t matter, alcohol does not affect it”, he replied a little too quickly, she looked at him in awe.

“You sure,”

“Yeah.” He truly had no idea,

“Where did you get so much,” Nina asked, the stuff must have been expensive and he knew that Jack could not afford that much drugs.

“Found it in the taxi at the end of my shift, yester night.”

“And you took it?! What if the owner comes back to get it?”

“We will be well high by then.” He said as he unzipped the bag, Nina looked skeptic about trying the drug. Taking someone else’s drugs was not a very bright idea, but she did it anyway.

“I think four or five?” he suggested,

“Which is it, am too high for logistics? I can’t remember what implications five or four had,”

“Baby, four is high, and five is ecstasy,” she looked at him as he looked at her waiting for an answer. She twisted her mouth to one side, “Mmm…”, and then twisted it to the other side, “Mmm, ecstasy it is.” Jack smiled, he reached into the bag and pulled out a handful of pills, he put five in one of Nalia’s hands and five in the other, he then threw the surplus back into the bag.

“So how do we do it, just swallow all five at a go, or dissolve them, or what?” she asked,

“I guess swallow them all at ago.” He reached for a bottle of mineral water that was on the co-driver’s seat through the window of the barricade. All the while, Nina looked at the pills with the devil in her mind and the angel in her heart fighting over who was right. The devil won, as soon as the water was within reach and open, she threw the handful of pills into her mouth and ushered Jack to give her the water bottle. He gave it to her and she swallowed the pills with a large gulp of water. Jack took her other handful of pills and threw the pills into his mouth. He took the bottle out of her hand, took a big gulp and swallowed hard, the sound of his swallow taking over the taxi. They looked at each other and laughed hysterically.

[* *]

Chapter Six

Lance sat in his boss’s office, he was sure to pass through the back entrance so that no one from the street could see him and recognize him. He waited for the chief of police to walk in. He felt bad for being a snitch, but it was his job, they had to somehow get the drugs off the street and if it meant him being the bad guy, so be it.

The chief walked in, with a file in hand, he had a strange look on his face. His eyes looked blank as though he was in shock, his lips were parted as though he wanted to say something but was without a voice, and his forehead was divided by a ridge between his massive eyebrows.

His wrinkles were more pronounced that day; his face dripped blues, the fat shiny scar on the side his face was more pronounced than ever as the sweat all over his face made his face shine. Lance swallowed hard; he knew that a long unreserved lecture was coming his way.

The chief sat in his great chair, Lance was about to un-lid his yap to produce the words ‘I’m sorry’, but restricted himself. Lance reminded himself that he had no idea why he had been summoned. Also why the Chief looked like he had been dipped a bowl of hot sticky honey.

“Three bodies, bus load of students who had ‘Asprain’ and a girl called Nina.” He looked at Lance in the face and waited on an answer. Lance had nothing to tell him, ‘a girl called Nina, really! He thought, wait what! Who the hell told him about Nina? Lance was about to ask who snitched when the chief spoke, his voice thundered again in the controlled government office space. “What do you have to tell me son.” He shouted.

“With all due respect, Nina, who told you about Nina?” Lance asked. He could not believe that they involved Nina, she was just a girl that he had met and had liked for real, it had nothing to do with the job. They had nothing to do with the job.

“You have been spending a lot of money on this girl, you realize that we sent you in so that you could talk to the locals and get them to give you more information about the pushers in the area, we did not send you in for a spinoff of Copeo and Ruliet, you are a legacy officer, and she… act like you know what you are doing son. You are doing this on the tax payer’s shilling for God’s sake! What can you even tell me about the case?”

Again with the legacy crap!

Lance bit his lower lip and looked to the side; he was stopping himself from saying something that he would regret. Lance was pissed though; he wanted nothing else but to punch the daylight out of Chief Swan.

“Nina is just a girl, part of the job, I don’t know, but she had nothing to do with the fact that this group is a tight group, getting them to tell me anything is so hard. I am doing my best, and no more talk about Nina, please.” Lance blurted out.

“Fine, but you go out there and do what you have to do to get us what we need. Do not forget why you are there.”

“Sure boss, can I leave?” Lance asked, he was at his limit, Chief nodded and Lance walked out banging the door after him.

***

“Who snitched to the chief about Nina?!” Lance asked his partner Craig. Craig just shook his head from side to side.

“Who is Nina?” Don asked. Lance turned and looked at him, then back at Craig, he gazed at them like they were foreign, not just earthly but astronomically foreign. They must have been joking, Lance thought.

“Are you kidding me,” Lance asked them,

“No, really, who is Nina.” Don asked,

“Am not going to talk about it, call me if you get any news.” Lance walked out in protest and left the building through the back exit.

Lance was confused, he knew that the only way the Chief would have known about Nina was if someone close to him had told. He thought that it was either Craig or Don, but if none of them owned up to knowing about her, then that meant that the Chief had someone else undercover keeping an eye on him, he wondered whom. What idiot handler thought that it was a good idea to spill the beans about Nina?

Lance sat in his car and took out his cell phone, it read 1.00 o’clock. He smiled, they were beasts of the night. He looked lower, sixteen missed calls, he dialed his unlock code and saw they were all from Nina, he wondered what was wrong. It slipped his mind that he had not seen her since Sunday morning at the Hospital. He was so busy wondering what do with the case that was proving a hard nut to crack he forgot that his intention had been to court her. He dialed the number, she did not pick.

He texted Dave, asking if Nina was at the Monaco.

Would Dave tell the chief about Nina… No. Lance questioned and answered himself. It would mean that the Chief found out that Dave showed his drugs to a civilian and got someone else drugged. That would be trouble.

His reply came almost immediately. There was no sign of her, that she left as soon as her shift was done, that she looked pretty wasted while leaving.

Crap! She was drinking on the job; don’t they have a rule against that?! He swore in his head.

“Come on Nina, pick up,” he said in a low growl dialing her number again, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel as though he was stuck in traffic. Nothing.

“This is not the night to play hide and seek.” He whispered as he ran his hand in frustration over his head, his eyes shifting to the open road ahead of him. He sat there looking at the road, silence his companion, worry came in, then resolve. He looked at the clock on his phone again, foregoing his watch in the hope that he saw her missed call, 1.42am. He sighed in defeat.

It was late and the city had fallen asleep. Well the moral, legit, all so holy part of the city. The night owls were risen from their day in day out routine to relive in faux youthfulness and activate their dreams with nightly vices. He needed to see Nina realizing that he felt he had to know that she was safe. Nairobi was becoming one of those places; every single morning the people woke to such news that there was a theft, a beating, a murder the news never getting better. He was not going to let that happen to Nina. For some reason beyond his manly urges, or so he hoped, he cared for her.

Lance thought of what to do about Nina, his job, trying to find the balance of being a cop and also a flashy up-and-coming artist. He had a lot to think about, he had to somehow get some information for the chief lest he was called out prematurely. Lance also needed to get to an inner circle of drug pushers, he did not even know a single member of the circle. For some reason that night it dawned on him that Nina was the answer to all their problems. She was right in the middle of everything, he felt guilty for wanting to use her but there was no other way to do it. She was all he could come up with. He had two choices, use her or lose her, and he was not about to lose her. She was the one.

An idea popped into his head, Anita. She was at the station; she was tech savvy enough to trace Nina’s phone. He dialed Anita’s number hopeful that she would help him.

***

Nina was hysterical like a child on laughing gas. Her cheeks flushed, the experience a total 180 from her initial experience with the drug. She raised her hand, to the roof of the taxi, she flexed her back and waist as though she was stretching, but all she was actually doing was dancing to the rhythm in her head. Cloud nine was not it, she was on another level all together. Nina could not feel her body she felt as though she was having an out of body experience, she looked up to her hand. Her fingers looked colourful, shades of yellow, pink and purple covered her hand, she knew it was strange but in some way she did not mind, and she just laughed.

She looked forward to Nairobi. She had never seen it so bright, so brilliant in colour and life. She gawked a bit before smiling broadly. Her left eye ticked over and over again. She remembered Tanya telling her never to scratch it, to let the ticking go on so she let it be. The ticking and the music in her head synchronized into a fine symphony. The city lights danced to the music in her head. She shut her eyes. Her body was not hers alone. There was something more living within her. Something that understood that every breath was a gift to be treasured. That every night should be as alive as that moment. Nina felt like she had touched the heavens. Was that what the Smiths kept jabbering about, heavenly bliss? Because she sure as heaven and hell could feel the bliss.

Nina sat back resting slouched on the back seat of the car forcing her eyes open. She almost forgot that Jack was there with her. Jack next to her, seated slightly skewed, he watched her as she watched him. She turned facing him a little. He looked serious, like he was studying her, the side of his lip twitched, she turned her head slightly sideways, acknowledging the twitch and that he had an idea that was creeping into his head slowly. A stupid, evil, damn, idiotic idea, good for nothing idea that was worse than them taking the drugs. She liked what she saw and burst out laughing. He started laughing too.

“I love you so much I could kiss you! …Urggg!” he shouted at her,

“Hey Jack,”

“Daniels…” she laughed. Then they both suddenly stopped laughing. She could see something in him that she had never seen before, she looked at his lips they somehow were drawing her in. He licked his lips and she swallowed hard.

He must have seen the same thing in her because before he knew it, he was over her side of the car, grabbing at her face and planting a moist selection of kisses on her lips. He placed a hand firmly on the nape of her neck holding her in position as he devoured her, his hand slipped upward to the back of her head as he steadied himself with his other, soon enough the other joined in the menace, and all Nina could do was fall into the kiss. This kiss was long, soul gripping, different and soft; all factors entailed to melt her insides. It was about a minute before he pulled away for air. She grabbed the opportunity to breathe as well, and they went on and on.

They were so engrossed in each other they did not see the headlights coming up behind the taxi.

***

Lance drove fast up the hill, he could see a taxi and he was hoping that she was in the car, he could see two shadows inside that misty car, the was no doubt that the two people in the car were making out. Lance was trying his best to control his breathing; he was pissed to bits.

What the fuck was this girl thinking? He asked himself as he jumped out of the car with the key still in the ignition. As he got closer, he could see Nina’s figure on the left side of the car he was heading towards the right side to get the guy who was making out with his girl, then he changed his mind and walked to the other side of the car to get his girl.

He tugged the door; he was not surprised that the door was not locked. He pulled it open with more effort than needed. The door creaked at its hinges complaining about the rude interruption.

There right before his eyes he saw Nina; his girl, heavily engrossed in kissing another man. The man was small built, but either way male. None of them noticed him, he seethed with rage. One of the man’s hands had slipped under her shirt at her back, a sliver of her skin could be seen, he ran dull circles on her skin like he was building up to more. Not uttering a word, Lance bent over and slipped his hand round her waist. When he had a good grip about her, he pulled her out of the car while still she was still kissing the man. She registered shock then fear and when she realized it was Lance, anger.

Lance stood Nina up, making her lean on the side of the car by the door that was still ajar. She looked visibly intoxicated; he raised her chin up to look her right in the eyes.

“You son of a….” she stared but he cut her short,

“What did you take?” he asked her firmly noticing the size of her pupils; they were huge.

Nina was enraged. She barely heard him. Her high giving her confidence enough to handle Lance.

“You did not come; you get me hooked on you,” she jabbed him in the chest. “And then you leave me hanging! I’m I like your weekend girl? Huh?” she asked while looking at him, her eyes were now watery

Whoa… okay so maybe I deserved that.

He was disrupted by a totally wasted Jack slow crawling out of the taxi,

“Am sorry Lance… am so sorry… gah…. I’mmmmm so … high!” he barely said then burst out laughing.

He knows me… he knows who I am, Lance thought.

Lance wanted to slap his yap shut, he just stared at him and pointed the inside of the car without saying a word to him, the shamed Jackie crawled back in reverse, it looked like a scene from a horror film the way he crawled backwards, like an evil minion heeding to his master’s command. Even though he was a pitiful sight, Lance swore that if Nina did not need him to take care of her, he would have beat the living within him for getting Nina that high.

“Nina, what did you take?” he asked her again, waited impatiently for an answer. He would have asked the fool in the car, but he would rather deal with Nina. Their conversation he preferred because it would not turn to violence.

“Pills, happy pills,” She said with a smile on her face, she tilted her head and looked right into his eyes and said three last words, “Am passing out.”

“What pills you did take Nina, how many? Nina! Nina!” he called out to her hoping that she would hear him and not pass out but it was too late, she was out cold. He caught her in an embrace.

“Damn Nina. What the hell!” he held her in the embrace not knowing whether she was OD-ing or was just passed out. Nina took long breaths. Lance could not deal with another hospital run. He hoped she was okay. He felt she was okay.

Lance thought fast, the man in the taxi; he kicked the door of the car, waking Jack up. Jack pulled up on his elbows. Lance peeked at him. The fact that he woke up was good news for Nina, she would also wake in due time. He felt a trivial sense of hope. The man in the taxi in Lance’s opinion looked more tolerant, like he had taken the drug before. He hoped and prayed that it was not Asprain, though all signs pointed to it.

“What did you give her?” Lance asked him sternly, he shook his head as though he was trying to wake up from a dream,

“What the @#%* did you give her!” he shouted at him,

“Okay chill, man… language! ‘Asprain’, six pills. I’m sorry.” Jack said falling to one side as he used one of his hands to rub his head. He was suffering from a bad head ache, it felt as though his head was being split in two. In agony his light chocolate tone had turned red.

“Stay in the car. Do not leave!” Lance ordered Jack, and kicked the door shut.

He lifted Nina and carried her to his car, he put her in the co-driver’s seat, shut the door and walked over to the other side.

Lance sat in his driver’s seat, weighing heavy on Nina’s decision to get high, few days after a night in hospital for the same. He wondered whether it was on her own accord or her friend made her. He was beginning to feel like she had a terrible choice in friends.

He looked over at her and took in a deep breath, it was more of a ‘What-Do-I-do-now’ breath rather than a sigh of relief. He leaned over and pushed the backrest back to get her more comfortable, she turned to her side and slept facing him, he held his head in his right hand anchored on the window frame in deep thought, his other hand rested on his lap, he closed his eyes and began to wonder. What was so captivating about Nina that was driving him crazy, he pondered whether he was ever going to be with her for real, whether they would survive everything that was coming their way? He questioned her reaction when she inevitably finds out that he was a cop. He took in another deep long breath that snapped him out of it. He turned on the AC to get the car warm and walked out.

Lance walked to a reasonable distance from both the cars then took out the phone and called his office.

“Good morning Leani,” the phone was answered almost immediately; Anita’s voice came though the receiver.

“Morning, patch me to the chief,”

“He left, he is at home Leani,”

“It’s okay, this is important.” He said.

“Your funeral, will do sir,” she cooed, he wanted to smile, but his night was not the best of nights to say the least.

It took a while but finally the chief came to the line, he sounded angry,

“I had a long day Leani, I hope that this is good,” his voice thundered in Lance’s ear.

“You need to know this, I found out more about the drug, ‘Asprain’, the number of pills taken determine the effects experienced, I don’t know exact details but I am sure that taking one pill gets one sick, taking six pills gets one very high to the point of hysteria and irrational thinking.” Lance reported thinking back to Nina making out with the man in the taxi.

“Are you sure about this?” the Chief sounded a little more awake then, less angry.

“Positive.”

“Good, I will call you at a decent hour with any information from the main office, and remember that your career in the force depends on this investigation, do not screw this up!”

“Yes boss.” He said just to shut his boss up.

“Uh… and that girl, Nina, you get rid of her yet?” he asked, Lance did not reply, he knew that the Chief was right but there was no way that he was walking away from Nina, there was nothing that drove him more crazy than Nina, she was what he needed to get him bubbling under, she drove him crazy. Plus, she was the reason he was making headway on the case.

“Lance, you did get rid of her? Didn’t you, this girl will be your downfall.”

“Okay boss.”

“Good, realize that.” He hung up. Lance almost threw his phone off the minor cliff before him, he was angry that his boss felt the need to tell him what to do. He knew that getting close to Nina was the only way that he would get any information that they would use to crack the case, before Nina, he had nothing to show or tell about the drug that was slowly tearing the city apart. It seemed that every time they got close enough something happened to push them even further away from solving the case, and that was when the guys in the office decided to send him in.

Lance was a pretty boy who had fallen into the wrong career, a matter of family lineage really. He was never put in the front row thus stayed under the radar and was perfect for an undercover engagement. He also needed it because his career was going down the toilet, the new drug was his Hail Mary and he was going to make the best of it, and that included the cars, the money, the girls and most of all Nina.

Lance was squeezing his phone without really thinking about it, realizing that, he then threw it in his pocket, took a breath of the cold morning air. He reflected, a little nostalgia never did anyone wrong.

It was cold and he was a freezing a bit but he was too ticked off to go into the car, he needed to cool off. He thought about his next step, somehow get Nina to spill about her friends, they seemed to know more about the drug situation within the region than they put out, and the man in the car was the first on the list. He pulled the collar of his coat over his head to protect his ears from the chilly morning cold, he crossed his arms at his chest and stared at the city, the view from the New-Huru Park was beautiful, peaceful. He wondered what underlay the peaceful view.

Drugs, blood and murder, he told himself.

[* *]

Chapter Seven

Chief walked into the station among the first people. He was a busy man; last to leave and first to arrive.

The Chief was stressed out, it had been one of those weeks, with the guys slacking in their key investigation. Over twenty youth aged between twelve years and seventeen within the counties of Nairobi and Kiambu have been found in possession of the magic pill Asprain. It had been new to the market, introduced a few months before and slowly replacing the menace that was Bru, a splice of a few hard core drugs.

Before the formation of DTF; Drug Task Force, the Chief was beginning to feel useless. He knew they needed new blood, a change of guard would do the department good. They needed someone who understood the situation in the now. His team was good at critical stuff that could be solved with experience. Decades on the job and he and his men had developed a system that had worked, until time worked against them. They grew older and he made Chief, avoided a transfer and was now in charge of Nairobi. It was a job he could easily handle, but just as the beautiful ones were not yet born, the smart ones were coming by the truck load. With the high birthrate and mainstream and social media defining the generations after the Millennials, there was a lot that their electronic culture had taught them that he and his team had no idea of.

That was the reason why he brought in the trio, Leani, Craig and Don. They were young, still had the pledge fresh on their lips. Leani almost failed the finals at the Police Academy, but he was a legacy, his blood stank of blue. He was one of them. They had to accommodate him.

Initially, Leani proved a nuisance, could not shut his mouth long enough to listen to an order, milked his daddy’s position as an Admiral in KDF like it was the bloody breakfast goat. Lived like he owned it. Chief Swan felt that he was going to be trouble before he became an asset. From his high school days, he had learned that the best way to deal with a rebel was give him responsibility; like the suspended kid becoming the dining hall prefect. He had a plan. That involved playing Leani like a bloody fiddle, and it worked like a charm.

Step one was funding. His old partner Kipsang was right for the job, he oozed of eloquence and confidence, courtesy of a high-end education. They wrote up a proposal for the president. He needed everything discreet, going through the Police Commissioner’s office would spark something rotten in the force and the media would definitely get whiff of their plans. It was wrong but he went straight at the head of the dragon, President Wamie; Faiza Ali Wamie.

It was easy, Swan remembered it like it was yesterday. He and Kipsang walked into State House on a Monday morning, the word emergency security meeting discharging out of their mouths forceful as a typhoon. The fresh in power, coast born western married, young president let them in without much riot. She was female, second female president in all of Africa, youngest at that, she stood short but vicious, thirty-four years and just over 5’5 inches tall. She had a lot to prove to patriarchal Kenya. Swan held that to his advantage, he genuinely felt that approving his task force was one way to get her stepping in the right direction only three months after being sworn president. They had a signature faster than you could say the first stanza of the Kenyan National Anthem.

Step two was activation; took them three months to get everything in check, and for the funding to arrive. They set up Lance Mclean Opiyo as an alias, taking advantage of the stereotype that rocked Kenyan social habits. Craig and Don ran the OP from the station and they all reported directly to him.

Step three was set Lance up with a handler. Someone to ensure that he does not go too much off the reservation. This was Leani after all, he could be a hot head. He needed a grounding factor. Introduce Dave, as far as Leani knew, he was part of his posse. He reported back to the Chief soonest he could on everything concerning code name Lance Mclean Opiyo. It was all set. The world was introduced to the singing sensation that was Lance McLean Opiyo, a Luo-pean so endowed in his art, he lived in a phantom world. No one would suspect that Lance was police. Their plan was full proof.

After eight months his undercover cop Leani had finally given him something to tell the president. Pressure for results was high. Swan was glad that DTF was finally paying off. He felt positive about the direction of the investigation.

He walked into his office with a brief case in one hand and a half empty coffee cup on the other hand, he gave the door a hard kick shutting it. A rattle held the air as the wooden frame holding the door shook in protest of the ill treatment.

He walked to his desk and sat heavily on his throne, he looked down to his left at the rest of the station, the glass wall before him separating him from the space above the main sitting area, perks of being the boss. The open office policy instituted the previous year let him have his eyes on most of the officers’ desks below him. Most of them were yet to arrive, but he could see the eyes of the few in the vicinity looking up at him, they were all hoping for good news, they hoped that there was a way that the drug problem would be solved fast, save the station the shame of the bad press that they were getting since the first ever mention of the drug.

“This kid has to crack this case,” the Chief whispered, “or we all kiss our pensions goodbye.” He said as he looked at his few worker bees from his penthouse office.

***

Nina woke up, she was hazy but fine generally. She had a normal hung over as long as she was concerned, she woke up thirsty for gallons of water. Nina found she was laying on a car seat, a warm leather jacket had been placed on her, it smelt of Lance, she wondered how she ended up in his car, the last thing she remembered was ranting to Jackie about how Lance had abandoned her, how she was not beautiful enough. She felt stupid, she was sure that she was the most beautiful thing to ever walk the planet, to its ends! You are as beautiful as you believe you are; Tia had once told her. She picked the words and made them her own.

Wearing this new cloak, Tanya was not working for her. She missed the girl who took care of her, even when the demons came hunting. Tanya was reckless, too care free. Too in tune with freedom, she forgot the history they shared. She forgot that they were blood sisters and life was more than a game of having fun, they had a history to protect; keep their past hidden.

“Jesus Nina, you need to get a grip,” she told herself, she suddenly realized that she had fallen for Lance, his tall dark looks, his physique, his attitude, everything about him was driving her crazy and she could not get herself to understand why she was so drawn to him. She hoped that it was a little more than infatuation. She hoped that it was love and that they were actually meant to be. She thought of Kyura, Lance was a little bit like Kyura, the back of his eyes lined with mystery, he had secrets. Maybe that was what intrigued her about him. She saw more than the sweet tongued bad boy gracing the covers of magazines and their TV screens.

***

Lance walked up the hill slowly holding three paper cups. He had left Nina in the car and he was hoping that she was still asleep, he brought her coffee, something to wake her up. The night he met her, he found out enough about her person to leave a mark. For one, she liked her coffee. He had it; black, strong, no sugar just the way that she liked it. She was a tough girl, he could never understand how she managed to drink her coffee that way, but somehow she did, he would never, his coffee had to have milk and a lot of sugar, he had a pretty needy sugar tooth.

He had another cup of coffee, this one was for Nina’s friend. It was the least he could do after the way he treated him the previous night. Lance had been out rightly mean to the guy, he felt sorry, it was not his fault that the girl he got high was the one girl who Lance would die for at a heartbeat. He felt sorry for the guy remembering how mad he was and how Nina’s presence there was what saved the kid’s life, he burst in a little naughty laugh, he could not believe that he almost beat him up for kissing Nina, yet they had not defined the relationship, hell they had not met since the night Tanya almost killer her. He laughed as he broke into a little run as he conquered the last bit of the climb after seeing the top of his car appearing into sight.

Lance walked up to his car and put the coffees on top of the car, he opened his door quietly, took a cup a time, hers and Nina’s placing them into the cup provision on his car’s center console. He then stood up back out of the car and blew a gust of air into his hands to warm them up.

“Hey,” he heard Nina’s voice, low as though she had a cold. Lance looked back into the car.

“Hey,” he said to her. He noticed she had just woken up, he could tell from her eyes that were still puffy, and a bit red, he hoped from the sleeping.

“How are you feeling? You partied hard last night.” He sat in the car forgetting the third coffee cup on the car roof.

She forced a smile,

“Hang over.” She went quiet, for a while, she did not know what to tell him, the previous night was a blur, she could only recollect moments of the last twelve hours, and she was hoping that he would not change his mind about her, she needed him to still like her, she needed her hero to always come in and save her, she needed Lance to be there for her forever.

“Am sorry, about last night.” She said in a whisper, he looked at her, they looked through the front of the car at the city, he parted his lips and drew in a deep breath, and turned his head back to her, he realized that this was the moment to trap her with him forever, this was the time to hit her with a head line. It was now or never.

“Nina, I like you, a lot… I care about you like I have never anyone else in my life, funny we just met.” he said, he was not sure if he had gone too far, the look on her face did not inspire confidence in his words. He needed to win her over, now or never, he reminded himself. He needed to get rid of the dishrag in the taxi first.

“I need you to be mine and only mine,” he said hoping that she would not think of him a diva,

“Why would you say that?”

Oh snap, Lance thought. “It’s because last night you were making out with the guy in the taxi.” he said bluntly.

Nina sat up, her eyes widening, “You mean Jackie; he is gay!”

There was a long pause.

[_ Then what the @#%*was he doing kissing you!!!! _]

“If I kissed him am sorry, I was really high.” She said, the look on her face was honest, she meant what she was saying. At that point Lance was convinced, however much he wanted to believe that he was with her because of the job, he actually like her a lot,

He wanted to smile, but he was still angry at her,

“One thing.” He started, “I need you to watch it with the drugs. I can’t…”

“I don’t have a drug problem.” She defended,

“Think about it…” he walked out of the car letting her stew with her next step.

Lance picked the coffee cup from the top of the car. He walked with powerful strides towards the taxi. He could see through the back window that Jackie was sitting up right.

[_ Good, the son of a @#$%* is awake! _] He swore.

He opened the door roughly and sat in startling him. He caved to Lance’s scare tactics and held up his hands avoiding a strike. Lance handed him the paper cup.

“Coffee?” he asked, his voice deceptively mellow.

“Th… thanks?!” Jacks voice came unsure, he questioned his stance, and he was too nice. He took the cup from Lance though. Took a sip enjoying it go down. The taxi smelt of stale breath. Lance figured that the man was a mouth breather. He stretched his door wider to let some fresh air in.

“Three things; who are you, why do you have Asprain and what made you think you could give Nina that crap?!”

[* *]

*Chapter Eight *

Jackie sat in the taxi. He watched Lance’s car drive off, he was sober enough to remember to write down the number plate; KGB 980 in a text on his phone, and saved it as a draft. It was a white Range Rover with full on tinted windows. Lance had money that was for sure. Something was strange about the whole meet. Something screamed [_beast! _]

His phone chimed.

Hey are we meeting tonight? Sapphire.

He replied immediately.

Yeah. Got my money? J

The reply cam almost instantly.

[_Yeah. See you 8pm. @ Savage. Red scarf. _]

He smiled as he put his phone back in the pocket. He looked over to the front of the car, the view of Nairobi waking to its hustle and bustle making a slight shimmer come to his eyes. He smiled again briefly. New day with a lot to offer. He pulled some gum from his pocket, threw a pellet into his mouth and moved through the space over the center console to the driver’s seat, and started the car. Without giving the car time to warm up, he reversed and drove off.

***

Sapphire sat in her living room, she was looking at her phone, and she did a transaction. Moved money from her bank account to her phone service provider account. After the transaction was done she reached over for her tablet placed on a stool beside her. She adjusted her calendar and shared it with her roommates Arya and Kita. She then put it back on the table.

Sapphire had grown. She looked the same; still white, still a bombshell, still rich as ever, but with a different soul all together. After the shooting in Sabvia, Sapphire had grown a soul. Her dreams took a turn and instead of conquering the world with public relations, she opted for investigative journalism. She decided to conquer Nairobi, start small and maybe one CNN and Aljazeera would not be so far off. She enrolled at a local media university in south B and got a house in South C area off Mombasa road.

Her parents who were against the idea had to let her have her way when she threatened to run. They had a condition though, she was not to live alone, so they let her stay with roommates. So came Arya and Kita. Highly recommended by her friends. They were both students at University Nairobi Roman I; UNI. Arya was an Indian medicine student at UNI, he was going to be a legacy doctor. He could not remember a member of his family who did not work the medical profession. Kita was a Bio-Chem major at UNI. Being a JAB student; government sponsored student, he found himself doing Bio-Chem and never found grace enough to change his major to mechanical engineering seeing that he loved machines.

Sapphire flipped her shoulder length sharp bob to a side, slid the remnants of that side behind her ear, and grabbed her phone again. The screen shone on her face. She smiled as a notification pinged on her phone.

***

Nina walked into her room, thoughts running through her mind. She knew that she was a hot mess and she did not understand why Lance liked her so much, she was the worst really, but one way or another Lance always made his way to her. On one hand, she was glad that he was there but on the other, she was ashamed of who she was, she was back on the drug business. Just like that, she was back to needing the drugs. Seven years off the stuff and within a week she was getting high in the back of taxis and making out with gay men. Nina had not seen how far gone she was until T pointed it out to her. Tanya, off all people, Tanya, miss I’m-going-to-stick-unknown-pills-into-your-drink had noticed that Nina was spiraling. The one person that she trusted the most and had all but thrashed her with a steel blade, in the heart, through her back! She still hurt.

She sat on the nearest seat as though she was about to pass out, maybe she was, she felt like she was. She sighed. She put her head in her hands and closed her eyes, she needed something to change. She needed to change.

Her fall was not going to be pretty considering how much anxiety she had. There was no Smiths to fall back on, no Kyura to hold her hand through, she did not trust T after the stunt she pulled at the Monaco. Jackie… what could she say, how trust worthy would he be if he got her high and made out with her despite being very gay. No hand out from former governor, now president Faiza Ali. She thought back to the check that her mother still received as part of Nina’s witness protection deal. Her life was sad. All that was left after she carefully evaluated everyone in her life was Lance. He was the change she needed. He was her ticket out.

Lance was a defining factor, not only was he going to help her implement the change she needed, he was also the reason she wanted to change so badly. He was too good for her she felt. Maybe trying to be half the girl that he deserved was what she needed to get her life in order.

Nina sat before the house computer she shared with Tanya and turned it on. Her face glowed in the light of her laptop screen. She typed Lance Mclean on the google search provision. Images, she selected. She smiled as she scrolled through his online photos.

Chapter Nine

Chief Swan sat at his desk, his phone chimed him to it. It was his daughter’s voice set as the message ring tone. He let her sing a moment then grabbed it, his fat fingers circling most of the distance of the phone he adjusted his fingers so as to see the screen. Typed his pin in, then checked his notifications. It was a photo from a friend, he clicked on it and came face to face with the most hideous illustration of himself as of yet.

Chief Swan may have not been a looker at that moment but in his hey days, he rocked a mean afro and ladies came to him like he was bait on a fly catcher, oh and he came for them! Hard! Time and the job did not have him on the right path aesthetically, but he guessed that his wife, Mrs. Kipovu did not mind.

There he sat looking at his face, a hard, angst depicting face; must have been from earlier that week when he did an interview for Multi-Media Institute Student Sapphire Makena on what the police were doing about the drug situation in Nairobi. He looked unlike himself in entirety! As if his face in that state was not a favourable sight enough, his talking head was placed on the body of a white winged swan. The caption read, ‘The Swan chief and his delusions… Lookie here!’ he cringed his face in distaste.

Disdain. Freedom of press and expression was proving a hard pill to swallow right then.

His phone rang.

Lance. I hope you have good news for me. He thought as he received it.

“Yes. Chief, are you in the office?” he asked, where else would I be?

“The land line is off.” Lance’s voice came cold.

The chief looked at his land line. The receiver was out of its landing. He placed it back,

“Your point son… I have a lot of work on my plate.”

“I have more information…” Lance waited for the Chief to react to the news, but when instant gratification did not come, he went on, “I met a young man Jackie. He had over five kilos of Asprain. I confiscated it. He says that some students from UNI left it there. The way they spoke, they knew who made the stuff. They apparently were too high to remember the bag. He just took it and kept it.”

“Oh!” The chief exclaimed sitting up, his growing boy pot belly touching the edge of the table,

“And…”

“He gave me some names, Arie and Kit. The third boy never spoke and the other two did not speak to him the whole time. Arie is Indian. Kit, black. Both sounded local.”

“Good job son! Finally, we catch a break on this!” he sighed audibly,

“Carlos is undercover with the Kivuma cartel. He has been working that angle for some time, he was called in this morning for a raid on some warehouse. They have withheld much of the information so let’s wait and see what’s happening with the Cartel.”

“Yes chief.” Lance hang up before the chief had a chance to ask him about Nina.

[* *]

Chapter Ten

Sapphire sat in her car. A jet black Golf. She kept her hands splayed on her lap, she rubbed them up and down over and over again. She was too nervous. But rightly so. That was a big one. Her first real interview. The first one as an investigative journalist. The man said that he had information on Asprain, she would be the first to know. She was more than simply ecstatic.

She took in two deep breaths letting them out slowly. She needed to feel as professional as possible. She was a respectable young journalist with a mainstream paper after all. She jumped out of the car, locked it and walked to the club, the music from the club a distant chuckle that became louder by the minute as she walked from the lot.

***

Tanya was in the changing room, she could hear the music from next door hammering through the cracks and crevices, her beating heart playing catchup with thumping beats. The little changing room by the cloaks room housing more than twenty girls providing needed solace. The club was empty though, it being a week day and all. It was also still early. Some minutes to eight. Tanya looked at herself in the mirror. She had bags under her eyes, a dullness in them a consequence of a lifestyle of drugs, booze and lack of sleep. Her body wasting away she was much thinner that she was seven years ago. The mandated uniform two sizes less her actual size, she was lucky that that lumps and bumps were not in her area of reference. The little crop top and high waist pencil skirt looked like bad costume work on a low budget porn film, but it paid the bills. The six inch heels on the other hand were just rude on the account of the club owner. She had never gotten used to the ache of her feet at the end of the night.

She moved closer to the full size mirror before her, looked closer into her eyes. She wanted to say that that moment was a moment of resolution. That somehow, she would make the decision to leave the pill inside her bra be. That maybe, just maybe she would take a step forward, but the reality of her life was that she was a weak being. And if history has taught us anything, is that humanity is bound to repetitive failure. She pulled out the pill from the inner lining of her bra and popped it into her mouth discreetly, the girls beside her none the wiser. Each had their own way of coping with the job.

***

“Hey,” Sapphire said as she slid on the seat opposite Jack.

It was a corner table, well selected for discretion. Dark, a little musky. Jack looked up. It was her eyes that caught him. He looked into them, feeling the magnificence of coloured eyes. Her actual eye colour distorted by the black light in the club, he could not tell their exact colour but they shone bright.

Damn her name suits her! Jackie thought. The Alpha male in him jumping out… did he act Beta or Omega before? Well this was a completely different man.

“Hey… Sapphire.” You are white?!

“Am good, can we get right to it?” she asked, extending her hand for a belated hand shake.

She was a little more serious than Jack actually wished for,

“Okay…” he reached for her hand. Soft!!!

“So what was the intel?”

“Cash rules everything around me.” Jackie quoted a popular Hip hop track that played on mainstream media.

“Okay.” She did not flinch, she just reached into her arm and pulled out a duffle bag. She did not know how to make a payoff, she had thought to make it as easy and low key as possible… lunch duffle bag it was. He took it and placed it beside him not bothering to check it.

“Three guys walk into my taxi, filthy rich just oozing of money.” So maybe that was tad bit over exaggerated.

“Age?” she was careful not to put words in his mouth, he could tell.

“Young, I think campus kids. This one guy looks foreign, Indian, maybe Arab, the other two were black. One was silent… shadows over his eyes. I can’t even tell you how he looked like…” he stretched away.

Sapphires eyes wide in curiosity, her pupils; large working overtime to help her see in the dim club, her eyes shone in anticipation.

“They walk out right somewhere in down town right… I look back and they have left this zip lock bag full of Asprain!”

“No?!” she swore, losing her professionalism for a moment and sounding like a chinwag fanatic, his mouth twitched in an almost smile,

“Truth… check this out,” he showed her a picture on his phone. He never knew that her eyes could grow any wider, reaching for the phone as though touching it would make it more believable.

“Names?” she asked withdrawing her hand,

“I can’t…” he had started when her withdrawing hand swept over his drink drenching her front,

“Urg!” she screamed jumping up, he stood up with her, he handed her a paper towel that came with his drink that miraculously failed to attend the drench party.

“Am so sorry,” Sapphire said before he had a chance to apologize, grabbing the towel she started to walk away, she turned back grabbing her bag,

“Be right back.” She said then walked away.

He just nodded wonder registered on his face. Best interview ever!

***

Tanya stood by the bar. She was waiting on a few drinks for a table of cooperate donkeys. The loud kind that hit a bar just after work to ogle at people’s women while theirs sat lonely splayed in perfume and wearing underwear that is worn and too tight waiting for them to come home and stroke their egos stretching their lesser bustards over smells of fresh perfume and hush beer smell.

The numbers had not gotten any better. Still the club thundered on half empty. Tanya had hoped for more people, more tips thus more money to spend. She waited patiently. Resting her head on her hands at the counter.

A bright flash filled the club followed closely by an intense sound that rang hard in the air, screams rent the club but it was all muted to Tanya, and the other unlucky souls at Savage.

Tanya fell to the ground the ringing in her ears proving murder in the first. She rolled into a ball, shock registered in her face her hand grabbing her face. Her eyes stung, the smog in the room a new experience all together.

She felt the ground jolt, or was it all in her head. She felt a man, heavy in his step walk towards her. She looked up, curiosity and fear playing tug. Riddled with smoke she saw a dark figure. It came up to her towering over her in majestic size. She saw a face hidden behind a neoprene ski mask, a pair of huge ski googles finishing the look, a tech-ed out version of the Dread Doctors.

Tanya saw pitchy before she had time to index that it was the barrel of an M6 Carbine pointed at her face.

***

Sapphire heard the noises, she could see the smoke through the cavities on the door.

[_Stun grenades! More than one! Oh my God! _]

She heard she shots, in the hundreds. She heard the screams disappearing in the multiple. Flashes of Sabvia ran through her mind. She snapped out of it fast. The main door lock had no key in it, she looked to the roof for an escape patch… nothing. She was trapped.

With nowhere else to go she got into one of the loo stalls, shut the door behind her and the toilet lid, she climbed on the shut lid and crouched hugging her knees to her chest she waited.

Silence… more silence. A few more shots. Then pin drop silence. It was over five minutes until the door to the bathroom was opened banging heavily on the wall behind it.

Sapphire almost fell over. She reached for the wall beside her to hold herself from falling over, the other went to her mouth. She muffled it shut.

“Oh my God… oh my God…” a male voice yelled amidst heavy breathing.

Panic, Sapphire thought.

Sapphire heard the sound of shuffling and things being placed on the cast iron sink. She held her breath listening to the man breathe hard.

“@#%*!” his voice carried in the enclosed space making Sapphire jump, one of her feet sliding off the sit, making her yelp.

***

Craig turned at the door he heard the sound from, a little yelp. He was sure he heard something, someone. The yelp up surged hope and fear within him. There was someone in the bathroom, he was so preoccupied he forgot to check. Three stalls, the furthest from the door the most likely, he turned to walk towards that door.

The main bathroom door swung open before he reached that projected stall door.

Chapter Eleven

Craig thought fast, he walked back to the sinks. His accomplice saw him, worse off, from his build and walk, it was Sir. He had a thing against Craig. Sir’s perception skills were on point, because he and Craig would never be on the same team in a game of police and robbers.

Craig turned back to the mirror, as though he had just finished checking the stalls. He began to put on his effects. He did not bother saying anything to the man. Anything he would say would be an excuse, a disregard of orders given, something that would shine a negative light on him. He opted for silence. He grabbed his gun and watched Sir’s reflection in the mirror.

Sir took two large steps covering the distance of the first two stalls. He turned within the minute toward the middle door. He growled raising his M6 carbine and let it rip, spraying bullets on the three doors.

Craig did not move an inch. He froze for a moment before finding strength to act.

Craig opened the door slowly, sure as heaven and hell there was a girl in there.

Caucasian?! God I hope she is local! Craig thought, if she was not, the press was going to spin something awful when it all came to light!

She hid her face from him. Her dominant leg which he guessed was the disloyal one that made her yelp was on the ground. The other was part shield, part support. Her left hand held her side, the elbow in contact with the filthy stall wall.

He moved forward and she heard all his gear shuffle as he took a knee before her pushing his automatic rifle behind him.

“Don’t kill me,” she said, her voice rugged with emotion, her right coming up to motion him to stop, her head turned to the side, “I have not seen your face yet.” She pleaded.

Too many movies my dear! Craig thought. He ignored her plea, his hand reached for her left. He gently pulled it off her wound, he faced resistance at first but his firm pull ensured him victorious.

Blood dripped off her hand and her side bled a river down the side of the bowl to the floor. Even if he managed to get her out, she would probably lead them to her with the bleeding… or die from the bleeding. Either way he had to try, if only to feed his conscious. Remind himself that within him there lay a beating heart. He stood up and pulled a bandage pack out of his lower cargo pants pocket. Thankful for the tip, given to him once by Chief Swan as a must during covert operations.

He pulled it out, ripped the bandage cover off with his teeth. He went ahead and pulled her left leg to the ground forcing her to sit up, her eyes were wide then.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, “I need to bandage that and help you out of here.” He said softly. Craig never in a million years thought of himself as soft, but he channeled that like a bloody Prince.

She took a deep calming breath, finally content that maybe he was not going to kill her.

“You are not going to kill me,” It was part question part affirmation, part I don’t know, all in all incomplete. It slipped out of her lips before she had time to think. Her face relaxed for lesser part of a second, and the worry came back when he said nothing.

“No, but that may. Let me try and help you.” He said pointing at her wound. She nodded shakily. Her nose pink her eyes puffy, tears stains addition to the mar.

He worked fast, thinking tactical; he pulled her top up slightly and placed the bandage on the bleeder, pulled the top back down and her hand over the wound as it was. All in under thirty seconds. In his hurry, he forgot to be gentle.

“Mh…” her reaction was subtle, but the way she grabbed his hand with her right, he realized his mistake.

“Sorry.” He said, grabbing her, his hand laying on her waist on the uninjured side.

He grabbed her bag, ripped it open, he grabbed her wallet, and car keys. The rest he rendered as feminine junk. He noted that there was no pass port. He opened her wallet, there in plain sight lay her Kenyan Identity card, immaculate almost like it had never been used, like it was right from the government printers.

Kenyan! Now I did not see that coming…

He put her wallet in his back pocket. She was about to complain when he purified her speech to nothing, literally with one look. One cold I’m-going-to-kill-you-if-you-don’t-shut-up look.

_Thank God for high school theatre. _

He put the bag back on the ground but reached back for it remembering seeing a scarf in there. He reached in and grabbed it wrapping it around her waist. Guessing his intent, she moved her hand long enough for him to tie it, and again, he forgot he was dealing with a civilian female. He held his apology predicting that before he led her to safety, he was going to rough her up a few times. All the while, she watched him in silence.

“I need you to be quiet. They are in the VVIP; we have about five minutes. Let’s get you to safety.” His voice came low and rough. She could sense the urgency in his voice. She just nodded.

Craig dragged Sapphire out of the bathroom. Her legs feeling weaker by the minute. He let her stand at the bathroom door as he swept the room, no one… he went for her. Tunnel vision; the door.

Sapphire’s point of view was blurry, needless to say, she was barely holding on to the stranger who had come to her aid. They had maneuvered through half the club, the other proving harder. They dodged bodies, chairs and tables. She tried to steal a glance at the table she was on. Her compass misguided, she gave up. Then he suddenly stopped.

In a quick maneuver, he had her in his arms, turned 180 degrees maybe moved a couple of steps and then he let go of her. She slid down his side to his leg positioned in a way she landed safely on the ground. It felt like a wicked move in tango, he led like a veteran, and she followed like a sub. It was both sad and beautiful to watch. If only they were on a dance floor and not sacrificial ground. She held on to the calf of his leg tightly when she heard a male voice take the air. She shut her eyes tightly.

“What the hell are you doing here?” the voice all but yelled, anger and shock a key concern of Craig’s.

Craig bent over, he let a tatty sound out of his throat, it rough, loud and horrible, like he was about to unleash dinner on her. She waited but nothing came. Again the same sound rent the air, that time she looked up, his eyes on hers, then he stood up and ran the back of his hand across his forehead, rubbing of nervous sweat rather than a sickly sheen.

“Am sorry boss… it’s just… that… Urg.” He bent over again. Grabbing his stomach.

“Put your mask on… There could be a survivor, then come up.” The man ordered and then walked away. Sapphire felt relief wash over her as he stepped away.

She sagged lower, she wanted to sleep for just a moment when suddenly he was down next to her, he grabbed her by the shoulders shook her firmly,

“Wake up… here.”

He put the car keys in her hand, the ignition key out and ready. He pulled her wallet from his back pocket and slipped it into hers.

“There is the door,” He said, raising his chin at it, “RUN!”

Her eyes widening when she realized that he planned to leave her, “Don’t look back, just run.” It was an order, he lifted her up and pushed her towards the door. She used that force to push herself forward. All she did was do exactly what he told her to, Run! Tunnel vision her home.

[* *]

Chapter Twelve

“Oh-my-gosh!” Nina cried out when the news came up, her hands making an unconscious trip to her face, they hooded her mouth, her eyes did not leave the screen.

One thing about Kenyans, they will find time to watch the news. Whether we are at a club, a hotel wherever, the news is very important it just has to be watched. That was how Nina found out about the shooting, and that her best friend, her guardian, her companion was probably dead.

“Breaking news, there has been a shoot-up at Salvage, a bar and grill located on Mombasa road. Dozens confirmed dead…” Nancy Riori reported, her brow furrowed as she went on with the devastating piece.

All Nina saw thereafter was red, she grabbed the counter her legs giving in.

***

Sapphire could tell her old Victorian design lamp shades from the main gate. The security lights on the pillars of Sapphire’s gate guided her home. Too bad she drove right through one of the pillars of her gate. Her car smashed, her face and the air bag had a story to tell but truth be told she was wide awake now. She picked the wrong turret light to guide her though, because now she had to walk round the car to get into the gate.

She struggled and made it half way round the car, her limbs felt like jelly. The pressure that she had been applying to her side a difficult task to achieve, she gave up letting her hands slide down to her sides. The alertness she experienced not seconds before faded fast. She was going down.

The ground moved, Sapphire could swear the ground moved, a few times. She moved forward. Her eyes were shut as she pushed her gate open, it flew open. She was glad that the guys had not locked it yet. She never even had her keys on her, from within the gate she heard the rumble of her engine and realized that she had not turned the car off. It was not happening though; she was not going back. She leaned on the frame of the door opening to her left, she saw the inviting ground reaching up at her. She held out her hands to grab the ground as it came up to her but never reached it someone grabbed her hands. Sapphire looked up, her gaze falling on Kita. She blacked out.

***

Nina ran out to the back of the club, her hands were shaking, her legs were shaking even worse. She could not explain how she was standing. She dialed Tanya’s number again. It rang for what felt like forever but no one picked. The automated message urged her to leave a message and for the eighth time she hang up.

Neon lights above her head shone VVIP, indicating that the door served as secured entrance for elite guests on special nights. The neon to Nina just served as a siren, she was too amped and the colours were not helping. The pounding of her head grew worse as she struggled to dial Tanya’s number again.

Nancy Riori’s voice rang in her ears.

Dozens confirmed dead… Dozens confirmed dead… Dozens confirmed dead!

Nina lean on the wall by the door, trying to catch her breath.

“Nina!” Lance called out as he burst through the doorway,

“She is… not… Pick…” Nina could not speak as the tears came down, she stood up, reaching for him, “Tanya, she is dead!”

“Am so sorry.” Lance.

Lance wrapped his hands about her. Held her as she cried. He heard it all on his police scanner, rigged to feed into a device in his ear. His first thought had been to ensure that Nina was at Monaco and not Savage. His stomach almost flipped when he walked in the bar and she was nowhere to be seen. Then Carlo, the bartender told him that she was out back trying to call Tanya. Lance had never been so relieved.

They stood there for a while, her in his arms until she stopped crying. They just stood there with every ounce of Lance alert. He had a bad feeling about that whole night. A few things did not sit well with him, thus his reason for carrying his scanner that night. So when the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, he knew that something was about to happen.

He saw it all from the corner of his eye. His peripheral vision the reason he was able to save their lives that night. He saw the reflection of the neon lights on the barrel of a gun through a car window up the street. He turned his head, his brain working overtime to master the details, Black SUV, blacked out windows, plate number; blacked out. Gunshots rent the air, hitting the building wall at the corner. A streak of bullets followed as Lance pulled Nina back into the building seconds from having their insides blown out. He pulled the door shut and slid her to the ground, held her close as he listened to the shots hit the metallic door that shielded them from instant death.

[* *]

Chapter Thirteen

“Kit, who was…. Oh no…” Arya ran to his roommate to half drag Sapphire’s limp body into the house. A trail of blood marked their path.

“The table, now!” Arya ordered holding the main door open for Kita and Sapphire to clear it. Sir swept his hand over the coffee table, the TV and decoder remotes fell to the ground.

Sir stood up and stared as Kita placed Sapphire on the coffee table, her legs over the edge. He had just arrived not seven minutes before. His reason for going back to Sapphire’s was to cover his bases. He needed an alibi in case anything happened placing him at Savage. He would not in his wildest dreams have guessed that Sapphire was going to be at Savage. Seeing her shot, laying bleeding on the table was assurance enough that she was at Savage. He had one man in mind for helping her out. The new guy, Clive.

Must have been him, he was acting weird in the bathroom… I… I shot her!

Sir blinked severally coming to terms with his realization.

“Sir, there’s a first aid kit in her bathroom! Kit, get the vodka!” Arya shouted. Sir ran up the stairs, his large frame shockingly fast. Kita maintained by Sapphire’s side, his face pale with worry, “Go, I got her!” Arya insisted making Kita leave.

Arya eyed Sapphires bloody scarf over the wound, a strong knot holding it down. He opened the knot with great difficulty. Someone else must have done it, he guessed. Since knowing Sapphire, he noted that she made the worst knots ever, even her shoe lace knots fell open within a few hours. There was no way that she made the knot, and in her condition. Someone must have helped her.

When the knot was clear, Arya pulled the scarf from under her, he then ripped her top off from the middle bottom up to her chest letting the two loose pieces’ rest on either side of her. He was careful not to agitate the bleeding wound.

He studied the dressing placed over the wound. His brow furrowed as he wondered where she had been. He was glad though that someone thought to cover the wound. He lifted it slowly making her wince, she stirred then tried to sit up just as Kita came back with the vodka.

“Saph… lay still… just a little longer.” Arya said as he placed his arm briefly on the side of her face, leaving a print of his palm in blood, marking her.

“Give her the vodka.”

“But she doesn’t….” Sapphire never drunk hard liquor. A little wine went a long way with her. She was into healthy living. Lived like a monk.

Arya grabbed the bottle and opened it, then he drenched his hands in the stuff and poured almost half the bottle on Sapphire’s wound. He then handed it back to Kita ignoring a squirming Sapphire. Arya held Sapphire down the best he could.

“Kit, you’re wasting time!” Arya had to come clean, he needed Kita to help. Too bad Kita’s brain had taken a long stroll.

Sir returned with the first aid Kit. He opened it and placed it on the floor next to Arya. He pulled out pain killers, grabbed two and went about Arya to where Kita was, he pushed Kita aside and grabbed the bottle of vodka. He held Sapphire’s head and placed the pills in her mouth. He washed them down with the liquor. She chocked and gagged, but somehow most of the bottle went down to her gut.

Sapphire felt fuzzy. More or less like she was in a vacuum. Everything about her sounded strange. She could hear voices but they somehow made no sense. It all sounded like gibberish.

She tried to speak but words failed her. She could feel her mouth animate, but her brain could not catch up. Somehow exactly what she wanted to say disappeared before she could say it, like someone was erasing her thoughts before she uttered them.

She looked up, there was the ceiling and Sir hoovered over her. He came blurry from time to time, all together disappearing like he was never there in the first place. She could feel a dull ach in her side that kept being probed making it a little less dull but she could not place exactly where. Sapphire tried to sit up, her brain clouded, she tried to pull her legs to assist her sit up but they felt vice gripped. Someone was holding them down. Within no time, Sir got lower, one of his arms snaking over her cervical bones and holding her against the table by her shoulder. The other held her head down at her forehead. The dull ache in her side became more pronounced as she felt something poke into it over and over again. She could feel her chest tighten. Suddenly all she could now hear was breathing, she could not decide whether it was actually her or Sir breathing so irrationally. The pain a little more pronounced. She was more aware of her suffering. Her brain started to work out words that she was supposed to be saying. Between trying to breathe and dealing with the ever growing pain in her side, she was done trying to speak.

Something’s off… why do I feel this way? Something… God! Help me! Please…. Something is wrong! A jolt of pain ran through her more pronounced than what she felt before, she shook trying to use her arms to set herself free but then she noted for the first time that Sir had them restrained over her head like he was an eight-limbed freak.

[_How are you doing this… let me go! Please! _]

Then she felt her hand get free. She tried to move them but she was too tired. Something came over her lips and into her mouth between her teeth. She could taste wood. Fine wood, clean.

A splint!

She bit down as pain washed over her whole body somehow managing to more than just irritate even the tiniest nerve in the furthest part of her body from her waist. Sapphire felt the splint in her mouth break as she passed out.

***

Three souls three emotions; uncertainty, anger and Guilt. Swan’s office felt like a scene from a bad soap opera.

Most of the station was empty. DTF was making nights their main time of operation. The reason behind the decision was that the night staff was smaller, manageable since DTF was still a covert task force. It was easier to keep their secrets hidden.

Craig sat straight backed in a singular chair placed in front of Swan’s desk. Lance sat on a chair by the side wall. The expanse of the office before him. The chief had clear dominance as he towered over Craig in his standing position on the other side of the desk.

“What happened out there?” Swan thundered, glaring angrily.

To Craig and Lance, it felt like for some reason, they were going down for anything these days!

“I thought you said…” Swan raised a finger at Lance jabbing it in the air as he spoke. “Leani, did I hear this correctly? Correct me if I’m wrong. I know you said that you were raiding a warehouse. Did my ears deceive me or did you say warehouse?” Swan asked, his face intensifying.

Lance did not answer. His answer would only add wood to boil the hotpot that Craig was bubbling in. Craig sure as death itself had said ‘warehouse’. He had not mentioned Savage or the fact that they were going for a kill assignment. All Craig had told them was that he was following a lead with the Kivuma Cartel. His alias Clive had an in with their first job in years. His cartel partners had said that they were raiding a warehouse in Industrial area. He hated to admit it but they had deceived him.

Lance was glad that he was not the cause of the Chief’s anxiety. There was something about watching the Chief rain hell on someone else. It was borderline edutainment. In this manner, you know what not to do, and you get to watch the Chief implode. Watching from the sidelines was definitely easy. Lance had moved his seat to avoid being in the Chief’s line of sight. Something about his facial scar and anger said horrible nightmares in Lance’s head. He was not getting involved. He waited his rain down, glad that the only thing that would raise the Chief’s blood pressure some more was the fact that he was with Nina when he was shot at.

“Yes,” Craig somehow found voice enough for a reply.

“You said warehouse.”

“Yes.”

“Then why, please tell me,” the chief spoke softly, deceivingly mellowed out, “do I have twenty-two bodies awaiting autopsies at KNH-Capital?”

“Chief…” Craig started to talk but he was cut off. Apparently the question was a rhetorical. Even Lance would not have guessed that one. Lance’s eyes widened anxiously.

“You do not go out on raids unless you know all the facts!” Swan yelled banging his palm on the desk making Craig and Lance jump a little. Craig could feel his heart racing. He knew just how bad he had screwed up. Hopefully Sapphire’s survival was good news enough to pacify the steaming giant.

“A girl survived.”

“You mean there is a witness to your mistake,” Swan said sitting heavily on his seat, a slight creak was heard. Craig narrowed his eyes at Swan, Lance moved forward a little anxious to hear the next bit of the conversation. It was like they had forgotten that he was in the room all together.

[_What exactly do you mean? _]Craig wanted to ask.

“Did she see your face?” Swan asked.

“Yes.”

“How did she survive?”

“I helped her.” Lance almost burst out in acclamation. If there was a fourth party watching with him, he would have called it, he had sensed it from a mile away.

The girl is a looker. [_See, me and you brother… no difference. _]The only reason Craig would risk his hide was for a beautiful woman. Lance was going to milk that cow for eternity.

“So, there is a witness out there who can trace you back to Savage?” Swan asked, not because he needed to but because he was realizing that it was a blessing and a curse. The blessing; a survivor meant that Craig was thinking straight, not engrossed in the bloodlust. The curse; a witness would take down DTF with just the mention of the taskforce name to the media.

The yes-man echoed on.

“Find her, make sure she is safe. More importantly, make sure she keeps her mouth shut. We do not need any more attention.” Swan was over it. There was not need to yell any more, spilt milk situation. “Leani, did you get a look at the people who shot at you and Nina?”

“You were shot at?!” It was the first time Craig was hearing of it. He sat skewed facing Lance.

“Yeah, some guys in a black SUV, looked new, modern. Can’t tell the make… Cadillac Escalade or a Chevrolet Tahoe may have been a Hummer!”

“All black? Blacked out windows, and the plate number hidden?” Craig asked, Lance’s look asked the question he needed answers for.

Craig looked down. He was ashamed to admit it. He should have stayed with the group to ensure that they did no more damage that night but he was out of sorts, and even if he stayed, he was the newbie. There was no way that they would listen to him. He also needed time away from them, center himself before coming clean to Chief Swan. After Sapphire left, real nausea came in as soon as his adrenaline dropped. He stood facing the room full of dead bodies and everything inside him turned to chaos. The room spun, air got too thin and the temp rose significantly to the high hundreds. Craig ran back to Sapphire’s booth, finding the real deal harder to expunge. Five minutes later he sat in Sapphire’s blood dry heaving. His only consolation the fact that it was just her blood on the floor. He had gotten her out.

Craig needed some alone time. Soon as he was able to get away, he disappeared. That was two days ago.

“It’s the Kivuma cartel.” Craig looked sideways to Lance, “Am so sorry, I should have…”

“It’s okay. Am okay. Nina too.” Lance assured his partner. Last thing he needed was Craig unfocused. He was the best of them all. Cool headed, easy and a damn good cop. Guilt would take down such a man in a heartbeat. Leani was not going to let that happen.

“Get out of here you,” he pointed at Craig, who looked significantly tired. “Go home, get some sleep. We will work on this tomorrow. Give Anita all the information you have on that girl before you leave.”

“Yes sir.”

Say yes one more time and I’ll… Lance swore quietly then remembered that they were in the Chief’s office.

“Oh and Craig, the clothes from the raid?” Swan asked,

“I brought them. I’ll give them to Anita for processing.” Craig spoke in a whole sentence, finally.

Swan nodded firmly rubbing his temples with his fore fingers. The young police men left Chief Swan in a terrible state.

_This job will be the death of me. _

***

“God! You couldn’t bring these stuff immediately you were done! Smells like death,” Anita cringed as she pulled apart Craig’s costume from the raid.

“Sorry. Lemme help you.” Craig offered but Lance stopped him, pulling him roughly into a nearby seat. Lance noticed that he did not fight him going willingly.

“You should go home, Bata-maji akifind out bado uko hapa! It’s our heads!” If Swan finds out you are still here! It’s out heads, Lance said walking over to Anita. “Let me do it.”

“Did you check her name on the criminal database?” Lance asked, Craig rolled his eyes, the girl he met would never be on a criminal database.

“Yeah, I got nothing. It’s like she is a ghost. Are you sure she is white? And her ID read Makena?”

“Yes! As white as snow, blond even!”

“I ask cuz, Makena is a Kikuyu name!” Anita said, pulling out her phone, “Am going to google that… oh, Makena, female hormone hydroxyprogesterone.” She read slowly to ensure she read right, “Hoof! Mouthful. Used to avoid premature child birth… also…” she skimmed through the main search page, “A beach in, okay that doesn’t matter… oh, a girl name for abundance, Hawaiian origin! You sure she’s white, because you may have been a little koo-koo with all that pressure…” she said a goofy look on her face.

“Apparently not only Kikuyu!” Craig said leaning back in his seat, his head hurt something awful. He needed some sleep. But first, he needed to find the girl.

“On a serious note, she is nowhere, I sent an email to the National Registration Bureau, it’s late now but I may get a reply in the morning. So that leaves her prints. Hope you got them on this.” Anita said her eyes darting for a second in the pile of gear on the working table in the lab. She grabbed a black light torch and went for lights. Lance laid out the clothes out on the table. He nodded at Anita who turned off the light.

“Check the right leg calf, and the jacket, she held on to me for some time,”

Anita used the black light on the clothes scanning from toe to head. Human fluids shine a luminescent glow in black light. It was all over his clothes. Anita and Lance finally understood why Craig was not himself. If the black light showed blood, and not vomit and saliva, the person bleeding must have bled a lot. They guessed that it was the girl that they were looking for. As they clocked the shoulder, Anita saw a hand print.

“There.” She grabbed a scanner off a nearby table and scanned the print.

Lance went for the lights, turning them on.

It took five minutes for Anita to trace back Sapphire Makena’s prints to a redacted file on a shootout in Sabvia, a gated community in Karen seven years before. Most of the file was blacked out. They had little to work with but it was clear that she was part of the Sabvia shootout.

Lance breathed deeper. Sabvia was the last case his father, Leani Sr. worked before he died. There was something about that particular case that sent shivers down his back. It sucked that he could not place his anxiety. Everyone speculated, the force had a name for the Sabvia shootout; The Black Hole. Going down it was like giving up on sanity. Anyone who dared found themselves out of their jobs somehow. Either mental, early retirement or by death.

They shared a comfortable silence, each contemplating how to deal with the information they had.

“Let’s give it to Chief. I’m sure there someone…” Anita began getting up.

“I don’t know, something about this stinks!” Lance said, leaning on the countertop behind him.

“It’s been two days…” Craig suddenly spoke. Anita and Lance who now stood on either side of him gave him all their attention. “She kept quiet. She never spoke to the police or the media, anyone for two days.”

They sat in silence again. Two thoughts ran through their minds; one was that she was hiding and did not want to be associated with the shootout; protecting herself. The other was that she succumbed to her injuries.

“Give it to Swan. We need to know what happened in Sabvia.” Craig stood up, “I’ll call Don, we will work on finding Makena, you guys find out what’s been sanitized off that file. May be crucial to our investigation or not, either way we need to know.”

“Oh my god, I got it!” Anita suddenly looked excited, “Wamiez!” she yelled.

“Wamiez, the president or her husband?” Lance asked,

“The president! Faiza Ali Wamie was the governor of Ngong County when the Sabvia shoot out took place! She’s what’s redacted!”

“But Karen is in Nairobi County, she would not have privileges there…” Lance thought aloud.

“Unless she got involved when she was not supposed to. It’s a valid reason for redaction…okay maybe not the only reason, but it makes sense.”

“Okay then, take all this to the Chief, see it he can get the President to come clean and give us all the redacted information. I need to go.” Craig stood up. He zipped his leather jacket and hugged Anita goodnight. He nodded at Lance and began to walk towards the door. “Night guys.”

***

Whilst Lance and Anita were supposed to work the redacted file angle together, truth was that Lance was too busy with Nina to be bothered. What happened was Lance moved on to catering to Nina and his undercover assignments and Anita all alone had to pick up the slack on the redacted file.

Anita had a meeting with the President who filled in the missing details and she passed them over to Craig. Lance never looked at the new file. He never heard a word of Sabvia and maybe it was for the better. He would never look at Nina the same, maybe even jeopardize his relationship with Nina all together. The guilt of using her would haunt him forever. It was best he never finds out.

Anita and Craig chose to sit on the new information, until further notice.

[* *]

Chapter Fourteen

“What is this?” Don asked, “Why are we watching her?”

“This girl… I just have a feeling.” Inconclusive as Craig’s answer was, Don did pester. He went back to fiddling with his phone.

Don and Craig were in a mostly empty room. Only two seats and a computer mounted on a tiny table. A snipper riffle sat parked on the floor by an empty chair. Craig was standing in front of the table by the window with a Sony A7R II camera in his hands pointed out the window. It was the best tech at the moment availed to them by the President’s funding. That particular camera perfect for shooting in low-light conditions. The camera came in handy seeing as it was evening, the sun slowly setting.

Don had his feet pitched and crossed at the ankles on the window seal. The chair he sat in rested on the ground with only its back legs, the other hanging in the air. He swung forth and backwards slightly distracting Craig from time to time. He fed his social media beast as Craig did all the work.

“She was the only survivor wa Savage.” She is the only survivor of Savage, Craig said unsolicited, Don just nodded. He had taught himself to not to get involved with matters that did not concern him. Case in point his non-involvement with the whole Leani-Nina debacle. He thought too soon because time would prove him a terrible student of life.

“She kept quiet… there is more to the girl than meets the eye.” He whispered.

Craig watched a young man come through the balcony door. He was tall, dark skin; everything about him said cyber funk! His camera went irrational!

Boyfriend?

For lack of a better word, Craig watched ‘the boy’ as he carried a tray toward Sapphire. On it were what he perceived as a glass with water and medication. He zoomed to see the label his eyes widening as though to make it easier, no label.

[_Odd.      _]

He looked a little more keenly than he was before as the man crouched before her. Craig lip read, he could barely see the man’s face, his angle was all wrong. But hers though…

‘You okay?’Craig guessed…or maybe… it’s time for your un-named, un-titled, un-registered drug! Okay, so maybe he was over reacting. It was none of his business what she was taking. It had nothing to do with him, but he somehow found a way to make it his business.

‘Yeah, just a bit tired.’ She said. Her lips barely moving, he would not have caught it, [_Thank God for President Wamiez donation! _]His tech was top of the line. Too bad they had not thought to bug the place.

So for the better part of ten minutes, Craig guessed what the man said, and watched Sapphire agonize over answering him. Then he watched her take the curious drug. He zoomed even closer to the pills that then lay in her hand, two pills; curiously white with a little yellow spot in the middle. He paused…

Was that?!

She threw the pills in her mouth barely throwing them a glance. He handed her the water, she drank. He affirmed that she trusted him.

“Don, he just gave her Bru!”

“What?” Don stood up quick, the sound of his boots hitting the ground and the chair’s legs touching the ground sound in an echo in the room. He put his phone away. “And she took it?!”

“Yap… she did,” he moved aside, handing the camera to Don.

“I thought production seized a few months ago.”

“Unless…” Craig started, but waited for Don to make the connection,

“They know the supplier!”

***

Sapphire felt strange, dazed which she had come to learn was part of her medication routine. She thought she could take it, but it was beginning to feel like the drug made her slow, queasy. Out of sorts.

That day new in addition to the peculiarity of her medical routine. She felt something different, like she was being watched. She could feel eyes on her. She looked at the houses opposite her line; there was no one on any of the balconies. The street was also pretty much empty, she blamed the cold weather, it was a chilly evening, but still she felt like she was being watched. A shudder ran through her.

[_Enough! _]She thought deciding that she was not sitting there anymore.

Sapphire struggled to get up, she bent forward at her waist, grabbing the balcony railing. She pulled herself up, all the while holding a breath. She wondered how the movies made bullet wounds so manageable, there was nothing manageable about how she felt. She did not feel like a hero. Someone worth being remembered. Worse off she felt violated. Her male roommates had to care for her; feed her, bath her and cloth her. Maybe having male roommates was not a good idea after all. She also felt dishonest, well more than usual. The news reported that all who were at the club died yet there she was living, still breathing. She felt shamed. A coward.

_But he told me I needed to be quiet. _

She had not told a soul about that night, not Arya, not Kita… not even their strange mute friend. Not her parents, not her girlfriends. The latter she was convinced she had to forego. Because none of them came to see her, or called when she disappeared off the grid with no explanations. It had been over three days and none of her six girlfriends had called. She was all alone. She lived in waiting, waiting for permission to speak.

Sapphire made her way into her bedroom, the railing offering needed support. She disappeared through the cream coloured door.

***

One foot in front of the other… how hard can it be? Had become Craig’s motto. It was more literal that night. He had watched the lights in the house go dark and was bitten by a stupid bug. He was going to go to her.

Don had laughed out loud and told him that it was stupid, reckless and that he was beginning to think like Leani but he would not have it. Craig found himself standing on the good pillar of Sapphire’s gate sizing his potent walk on her perimeter wall. Then there was the wall he was going to eventually scale to get up to the balcony and then break into her room. All in the hope that she does not cry wolf, raising alarm of an intruder, how hard could it be.

Six minutes later, Craig hang on the balcony railing, his jump from the perimeter wall lacking head start enough to propel him right for the balcony rail. He was a tad bit unsuccessful in getting in the balcony. He could feel his fingers slipping.

Craig could feel the hair at his nape stand as gravity called at him. He could feel the ground joining in the chorus. He looked down, the ground taunting him, moving closer then further, then closer then further again. It was a cruel game to play on a desperate man. He looked up at his hands. He could almost hear Don ripping his sides to shreds laughing at him.

Hope! Not gonna happen! He assured himself. Pulling himself up, Hercules would have been jealous.

Craig pulled out a little flash light, held it between his lips. He looked at the lock and he smiled. A knob lock, easy! He pulled his wallet out.

Craig walked in stealthily, shutting the door quietly behind him. He took time to ensure that she was asleep. He could hear her soft even breaths but he needed to confirm. He walked up to the bed, let the light hit her pillow, where the glow would not wake her up, when he had ensured she was dead asleep, he took a moment to scan the room. The bedroom door to the rest of the house was open. The room was spacious, though her bed was a queen size. She had inbuilt wardrobes on the wall by the door. He tip-toed to the door and closed it gently, holding the handle, he calibrated the release to ensure it made no sound. He then locked it using the key in the key hole. He walked round the bed, to the point nearest the balcony door. He sat lightly on the bed and took a moment to watch her sleep.

“Sapphire.” He called out to her from her passed out state,

“Sapphire!” he called a little harshly, she stirred, her face cringing, but never woke up.

“They knocked you out good huh?” he said, looking about her bed. There on the bedside table sat a lamp, a table clock that read 12.45am, and a tray. He pointed his light at the tray, revealing two Bru pills and a little glass of water. He took the pills and put them in his pocket. He put his light on the tray facing the wall so that the light reflected on the wall diffusing to the rest of the room, a dim soft light. Enough for him to see her, and her him.

“Sapphire!” He spoke out loud, forgetting that he was on a very covert mission.

“Mhhh.” She moaned.

Sapphire opened her eyes suddenly, like she was waking from a vivid dream. Her eyes looked dead, lost. There was nothing in them. They shone in the dim light. It was both scary and exhilarating. Then they focused on him, she stared at him a moment, like he was a phantom of sorts. Then she blinked twice, then shock exhibited on her face those eyes widening. He capped her mouth before she screamed.

“Don’t scream,” he whispered. A few pulses later she nodded.

“Are you okay?” He asked, she struggled to sit up nodding, he helped her.

“You smell of Liquor.” She said point blank, though wincing from the pain in her side. She moved a pillow behind her to support her new position.

“Long stakeout. Needed to calm my nerves.” He said, noticing she avoided answering him all together.

“Stakeout, watching me?” she asked her head tilting, as she tried to see his face in the dim lighting within the room. Her arm reached for the lamp, he grabbed it before it reached its intended destination.

“No. Please.” He ignored her question.

“I need to see you well, before I thank you for…”

“It’s okay.”

Silence.

“Are you police?”

He nodded.

“What were you doing with those men?” emotion lined her voice as she asked him the question, he looked away feeling the drill come in hard. Thank God the lights were off. He did not answer. He grabbed her hands in his, he did not know what to tell her. At that moment, all he wanted to do was tell her the truth, but could she handle it?

“I will tell you everything.” He started, her face moved closer to his face, she believed him, “There is a Charity event, organized by the office of the president, October 25th. Be there.”

“Fourteen days.”

“Eleven. You lost three days.”

“Oh.”

“That reminds me, who do you live with?” He asked her,

“Why…”

“Just answer me.”

“Two friends, Arya and Kita.” She said, he could smell the inquisition coming, he avoided it all together.

“Okay, 25th.” He said, letting go of her arms. She pulled them closer, feeling the loss.

“Are you okay?”

“I will be.”

Chapter Fifteen

“I got you a manger.”

“You do realize that I don’t actually need one?!” Lance said, a smirk on his face, his attitude real, he was becoming the ideal celebrity.

“Well you know that, they don’t.” Dave said pointing a finger at the crowd before the stage that Lance was going to grace. He winced, the thought scarier than Dave could ever know.

There was a time when Lance had thought of himself a rock star, but his father thwarted the idea like a poor man’s fantasy with the princess of Great Britain. Nothing to do with wishes and horses. It was a simple, well enunciated, ‘No!’

When he was finally ready to dedicate his life to the service of humanity, he was dragged back into a dream he had forgone years before. He pulled out his lyric book from back in the day, got a government vocal trainer on loan from the Kenya Police Choir, and the rest was history.

“Okay… Let’s do this!” Lance propelled himself forward, jumping up and down twice before running onto the stage,

“Nairobi, are you ready?!” Lance yelled into the microphone mounted on the stage, an arm raised, he felt the crowd roar. He shut his eyes a moment. Felt the strength of the crowd course through his veins. He took a deep breath then began to sing like there was no tomorrow.

***

“You will never understand the true meaning if grace if you never know the facts. Fact, our children are dying…” Nandi stood in the city center. At a junction of two historical streets in Nairobi. One marked a fallen hero, his rugged locks representation of bliss in rebellion. The other marked a legacy of leadership, flawed and perfect all the while through many eras maintaining control and order. Behind him where his back rested, the cold wall a taste of the fiscal chills of hard coins and dirty notes. He could feel the cold tile wall pressing hard on his back as if to remind him of how cold the world of business was. In front of him stood a former car pack that used to be a supermarket franchise that burnt down now a construction site for a new addition to the ever growing Nairobi skyline. He wondered if people even thought about the old Down town supermarket as they pass by the thin path way provided for pedestrians between the protective crude fence and an old world mailbox at the corner next to the intersection. As they scurried past, did they think of the lost souls, did they will them free? Nandi said a silent prayer for the lost souls.

Nandi wore an earphone in one ear, the other left clear, he needed an ear to the ground. To listen to human noise, to fuel his word, build his conviction. He wore dark jean pants and a dark hoodie that had most of his features hidden.

Below Nandi on the other side of the wall facing The Stanley, was a mother and child. His attention was grabbed by the feeling of eyes on him. He looked down over the corner edge to his side to see a large brown pair of eyes staring up at him. The owner of the eyes moved forward, turned and faced him, as though ready to handle him in his own tuff. The possessor was small, far too small to be standing in the streets of Nairobi alone now that her mother played the drowsy beggar on the ground next to her; frame wide and floppy but significantly lessened by her sitting position on the dirty ground. She wore dull clothes that may have been bright and vibrant in colour once old, worn and pale now. With her body language alone, she begged for coins and scrapes not a word leaving her mouth.

“Dying of a fault in the stars. The fact that they were born here, in the now. In this era of lost souls and diving societies. Dying of a lack of proper care, dying with lack of knowledge because we claim that the system will solve it. We forge curriculums meant to do the parenting for us while we seat behind false facades of smiles and faux starkness while we know we are soft as mush all round.”

Nandi can’t believe that all the while he spoke, his eyes still were glued on the child. She looked up at him like he was someone she knew, someone close. Someone to tell her dozing mother that she was wasting her childhood, that she needed a job, that handouts would never be the answer. Like he was a guardian angel of sorts sent to save her.

“How old are you child?” Nandi asked forgetting that he was recording for his followers. The girl remained quiet. Nandi shook his head.

“Too young is what you are. Too young to know only this existence. Too young to know nothing more than hunger, pain and suffering. Too young!” Nandi lamented.

A coin was dropped on the ground before the mother’s folded body. She jolted into alertness moving from fully asleep to fully alert in a split second. She grabbed the coin, a twenty-shilling coin and exchanged it with a shilling. She then fell right back asleep.

“Liars they come in all shapes and sizes.” Nandi said, shaking his head. He felt his pants being tugged at the knee. He looked to where he felt the tugging and again there the girl was taking all his attention away from True Nairobi. But what true Nairobi did he wish to talk of yet there, in front of him sat the truest most absurd revelation of exactly what he needed to say.

She maintained her eyes on him, drilling into his soul and tugging at his heart strings, she raised her little free hand at him. Her face somber, she wanted something from him.

Nandi could not breathe.

“I have nothing, I have nothing to share,” he whispered. She lowered her hand as though understanding him. His face twisted in disgust. “I look at this lost soul and wonder if she is better off away from here.” Nandi’s eyes fall on the construction site before him. The child’s eyes follow him. They seem to share a Kin-like bond like no other, somehow the child willing to understand that he had nothing for her.

They are interrupted by a shuffle. An old white woman was squatting next to the woman, she shook the mother lightly by her shoulder waking her up. The woman woke like she was sleeping beauty, taking her time with it. Nandi read concern on the old woman’s face. Soon as the mother was awake, she gave her a branded takeaway coffee cup and a croissant.

Nandi smiled, remembering a friend from Nanyuki.

“Mandazi ya France inaitwaaje?” What do you call a dumpling from France? The friend asked the lot of them seated about a small drinking den in the outskirts of Nanyuki town. Before them sat half empty bottles of Tusker. A few uncorked ones stood in the middle of the table. Their faces were illuminated by a small wick lamp in the center of the table next to the new beer. They looked merry and relaxed.

“Nini?” What? Another asked.

“Croissant! Wee ukienda majuu maFrance hivi, usiitishe mandazi kaa fala kutoka Nanyuki, itisha croissant!” If you go to France, don’t ask for a dumpling, like a stupid man from Nanyuki, ask for a croissant! The man said, his accent changing to a Eurocentric one as he said ‘croissant’. The group burst out laughing repeating croissant in the Eurocentric accent.

Nandi laughed with them. The likelihood of them going to France was very unlikely but Lupita Nyong’o taught all Kenyans that dreams were valid. Nandi wanted to tell them that a mandazi and a croissant were two different things all together in terms of ingredients and process of preparation but ignorance was bliss. They laughed on moving on to the next thing and he never thought it relevant to correct the ideology. Truth was he liked the interpretation, it was proof of ignorance. Showed the ease and bliss of ignorance. It also proved that beyond his job with the Avakian family, he could still feel free enough to laugh with his cave-men-like peers, over a local brew over stupid things. He proved to himself that he was human.

Nandi watched the old lady whisper sweetness to the mother making her smile. When she was silent, the mother spoke.

“Money please,”

The old lady looked like she had her panties in a bunch, but she reached into her African woven Kiondoo and pulled out a thousand-shilling note and handed it to the mother who grinned at the blessing. A deus ex machina the silver haired woman had been.

“Thank you, thank you! My child will have something to eat.” The mother ranted, grabbing the woman’s hands in hers and shaking them both vigorously. A few tears fell down her face. A crowd beginning to stare, the old woman felt uneasy. She started to stand when her eyes fell on the child. She graced the side of her face with her kind hand, a smile on her face.

The woman realized that the girl was holding on to someone. She looked up to see Nandi peering over the edge of the wall at them. He scared her, she almost fell backwards in shock. Her face changed all together. She got up quickly and shuffled away down the street not bothering to look back.

Nandi scoffed.

Kuja, wachanga kushikashika watu!” Come, stop touching people all the time! The mother yelled at the child grabbing her roughly. The child had no fight in her, she went willingly. Nandi felt the loss. He looked away but listened.

He heard the mother lay her hands on her daughter. The slap sounded mature. Like one you would give an adult and not a child.

Sitakuambia tena.” I will not tell you again. It was finite. She was done with the warning and the beating.

Nandi was seething. His hands folded to fists. He wanted nothing more than to bash the mother’s face in with a few punches but it was not his place. He listened to the whimpering of the child woven seamlessly with a string of colourful abuse thrown at the child in an effort to calm her. Nandi then heard a new kind of shuffle.

They are leaving!

The mother passed first reaching the intersection before the tearing child had her emotions in check enough to follow her mother.

The mother had crossed the first street already when she yelled back to the daughter to hurry up. The girl was caught looking to her strange new friend. Eyes wide and teary. She was somehow calmer. She ran to her mother. Nandi almost died when he watched a car come right at the child who ran without looking right to oncoming traffic. Luckily the driver had fast reflexes, he brought the car to a sudden halt expressing a little road rage at the uncaring mother.

Woooooiiiiiiiiiiii! Watakakuniuia mtoto, utanipa mwingine?” the mother yelled dramatically grabbing the child by her shoulder roughly. Her language and accent completely changed from contemporary Swahili with slivers of sheng to a clean coastal Swahili down to the attitude. Nandi stared, his anger expressed on his face as he watched the enigma that weaved through the traffic and disappeared behind a building.

“We lack grace in our stumble towards freedom. We keep slipping and falling and that may be the reason that we will never find true liberation.” Nandi said adjusting his hoodie. His speech made no sense even to him, but he was done. He had nothing more to say. He pulled out his phone and ended his recording session.

Nandi sighed as he disappeared into a crowd in the busy streets of Nairobi.

Chapter Sixteen

Lance was no liar, on a normal day but he was getting seriously good at it. He had a special lie sheet given to him by his boss. That included his residence, his phone number and his friends. It sucked but he was getting really good at it.

Lance was beginning to enjoy luxury, he realized that he had a taste for the good life and he belonged. He suddenly wished that his rich uncle Kobe, better known as Mzee Kobe was his father, he would love to stay at the ocean side home he owned. He swore to take Nina there some time, let her have a taste of the really good life.

On a fine Friday morning, Nina stood on ‘Lance’s’ balcony in his robe looking at a view of uptown Nairobi. The residence was a condo, in luxurious Lavington area. He had a brilliant birds eye view of higher living nothing like the view she knew too well; old Government housing, dirt and staleness. Nina took a deep breath. She smiled at the thought that her boyfriend owned the apartment, she looked down at the pool that sat a cool twelve floors below her.

Her belly full, her body spent from adult activities that had them preoccupied most of the previous night, Nina had a new glow and muteness to her state. She was as close to heaven as could get.

Lance walked to the balcony, slid the slider door open. He walked up behind her. She heard him coming, felt him before he even touched her. She felt the butterflies in her stomach dance in anticipation. He slid his hands under her arms, wrapped them about her middle, his palm resting on her stomach. His other hand tightening the hold as he grabbed his own wrist. She blushed something awful. He kissed the side of her neck.

“Morning love.” Lance whispered at her skin. He could feel her goosebumps on his lips, he smiled loving that he had that effect on her.

“Morning.”

“You woke up early.” Lance said, his hand holding his wrist moving to the side of her face, he ran it over her soft skin lightly. Nina felt that Lance had motives that morning. His demeanor utterly sensual, he wanted to have his way with her and he was doing pretty well at convincing her to join in the fun.

“Couldn’t sleep much.” She turned into him, she paused a little, savoring their intimate positioning.

“So what do we do today, I don’t have work.”

“What does my girl feel like doing?” Lance asked, “The sky is the limit.”

She laughed a little, she really had no idea what she wanted to do. She could not decide. However, she knew exactly what he wanted to do, their new position very enlightening.

***

Lance and Nina were La-Nina to Nairobi and the rest of the world. It was all over; #Coupleoftheyear, #Goals, #Bliss #WOW, #LOL #Future. Any #-tag that said, happy, love, dreams come true, unapologetic love, that was La-Nina.

The differences between Lance and Leani were visible even to the blind. They were two completely different personalities embodied in one. Like a dual personality that needed no trigger. Leani/Lance could switch places like a flipped coin in the air, just like that.

Nina was blind. She was too spent to think straight, too worked to understand difference between reality and fiction. She saw one man, Lance. She never saw the shift. The clouds in her eyes thickening over time. The more she stayed with him, the more the fell deeply tangled in his web of lies, and half-truths.

Nina had failed to understand that any man would find their way back to her, she was that special. Here she thought that she was the one who was lucky to have him.

Lance was this unique persona with a darkness to him that she found invigorating. There is something about a bad boy. A tough guy, with a handsome face, messy hairdo and a week or more stubble on his face testament of rebellion. She loved his dark skin that was royally flawless. She loved his le… sorry, height. He was mystery defined, and all hers.

Lance was an illusion of the perfect man. He took care of her, never pestered letting her breathe. His groupies never lingered more than what was appropriate and he always found his way back to her. Lance remembered the day the tabloids said that he was taken and the girl of the hour was a sultry barmaid who simply went by the name Nina. It was a glorious day, never to be forgotten. Then there was the day that his heart skipped a significant beat, almost had him in the ER, he thought he was going to have a heart attack when he told her that he loved her. It was right after they had escaped the Monaco shooting. She cried and said she loved him too. Their timing was terrible, but nothing about La-Nina was typical.

That Friday at midday. La-Nina lay in bed, the beddings in disarray after a job well done on Lance’s part, Nina looked over at a napping Lance. She wondered.

As satisfied as she felt, two other men crossed her mind. She did not mean to but it was a game of comparison.

The man before her was the best sex she had ever had. She had one other point of reference, Bobo and that was clearly a burst. She never slept with Kyura despite what everyone thought. She wondered if she ever did, would it feel as good. Would the tingling inside her refuse and would she feel as she did at that exact moment?

Nina rolled off the bed. She needed alone time.

[_Kyura… _]

Nina stood in the bathroom, she had locked the door behind her, giving herself a little privacy in case Lance woke. She looked up at herself in the mirror over the sink. She was blissfully glowing despite how much she tried to lie to herself that Lance was not enough. He was seemingly it, what she had been waiting for. But then Kyura… she wanted to say that she waited seven years to date because she was waiting for the one, but deep within she knew that she was waiting on Kyura.

With Kyura it was more social than sex. He was never in a hurry to share in sex. Their love transcended teenage hormones and lust. The love they shared was young love; raw. Innocent. It meant everything to just sit and look at each other. To talk of everything and nothing at the same time. It felt so good when he touched her and held her. Their world was simple, the world about them holding too much complexity.

Nina looked at herself in the mirror, her hair was all over the place, and she had Lance to thank for that. The tangles would give her a serious headache when coming off. She dreaded the moment. She noted with a sigh that the curls that defined her signature look were gone. Blow-dried out after she started to date Lance. Every time one of his stylists touched her hair, the first thing they thought was get rid of the curls. Make her modern. Said she looked better with her hair straightened out, they at times tracked it with weave for length. They wanted her more to look like the sophisticated modern sort with long straight dark hair. They never understood how bad her scalp hurt after they were done with her… oh and the back combing for bulk. That was the largest pain of the all. Most notable difference she would never get over was when they dyed her hair black. It made her look different. Her skin contrasting majorly with her hair making her look lighter than she actually was. She hated it but Lance seemed to like it so she kept it.

Kyura… you would not like me this way…

She ran a hand over at her hair, it sprang back up and she winced at the thought of straightening it out, it was going to hurt!

Kyura, Nina thought, “I miss you.”

***

Lance stood outside the bathroom door. He placed his ear on the door listening keenly to hear what was happening on the other side of the door. He stood barefoot in his designer boxer shorts, perks of the job. He stood a little bent so as to lay his ear squarely on the wooden door. He heard nothing. No water running, nothing! It was as though Nina was not in the bathroom all together.

Lance ran his eyes over the room looking to see if Nina took her phone with her into the bathroom. He saw it lying next to her bag on a little table by the balcony door. He ran over to it quiet as a mouse.

They say never ever check your better half’s phone, Lance missed the memo. He went through it like it was the Bible at Bible class and the passing a Bible based test was The gateway to heaven. The phone was borderline sanitized. No pass codes, there were a few photos of her and Tanya, even fewer of other girls from the club. No men. There were six numbers saved in the phonebook. He noted that she had not deleted Tanya’s number yet, her caller ID simply reading T.

Lance sighed, placing the phone back.

If Nina knew anything about the drugs being sold at the Monaco, then she was good at keeping it hidden. Her only connection to the drugs was seemingly Jackie and his passing proved she was cut off from her main source. Lance needed to cut her loose, or dig deeper. He could not decide.

He rushed back to the door placing his ear to it as he had before.

“I miss you.” Lance heard Nina say. He concluded that she still mourned her best friend. He ran back to the bed and pretended to be asleep just as the bathroom door opened

***

Ten days later, all Nina had gotten is an over protective boyfriend and a twitching habit. It was sad. But inevitable. Sabvia was fresh in her mind, and she was back in the wagon. She popped pain meds like there was a price at the end of the day. She had a constant head ache that was proving as resilient as a fungal infection! She crossed the eight pills per day max a few days before the Charity Gala and she was only getting worse. Jackie may have supplied the heavy stuff before, but Nina was as inventive as they came. When your supplier dies and you have no new sources to scratch an itch, you get creative.

Nina was on some serious over the counter pain meds, elevated from regular retail pain meds. The stuff she took was taken by stage four cancer patients in bedrest waiting to die. It was astonishing that she was she was functional after a hit. A good makeup job and she was good to go. She smiled held her head high and went on with life like nothing was wrong. Nina was digging her pit deep and sure enough, getting out was going to be a difficult feat to achieve.

Lance looked none the wiser, his friends too. Even Dave and Mwete were clueless about Nina’s new habits. She spoke less and smiled more. It was easy having her around. None of Lance’s posse hated her. She was also the perfect muse. Lance’s song writing was on schedule and he was working on his first album, everyone was happy.

Lance played them like marionettes. He needed answers and Nina was not talking, so when she popped her pills or excused herself for bathroom sessions and came buck flushed with her pupils’ dilated, he looked the other way. At a certain level of high, Lance came to find that Nina got chatty. She answered all his questions never missing a beat. He used her good. She kept his bed warm and filled any gaps he had about the case the rest of the time.

She even gave them information on Mr. Monaco himself. They nabbed him on some minor solicitation charges. He cut a deal to keep the Monaco running but supply the police all information they needed for the rest of eternity. Business was good.

Lance also knew that Craig had a secret weapon that may prove his undercover useless, it was only a matter of time before the Chief call him back in if he got no results. He knew that if he played his cards right, he would crack the Nairobi drug problem case open. Earn his name on the wall of honour.

[* *]

Chapter Seventeen

The President’s Gala was a welcome distraction. 25th October. The date had finally arrived.

Lance had a few words to describe it; smile, drink good wine and donate government money to the Government. He smiled at the thought. He could get used to it. The whole undercover thing was becoming his, he loved it!

The venue was the old McMillan Public library, accessible. Lance had thought, President Wamie wished to make herself a woman of the people, only time would tell if it was actually working. Invitation was unrestricted, with a week’s notice for vetting. The threshold attained a week before the actual gala. The invitations were sent out, plus one, of course.

Lance slipped out of the car first, he felt weird riding passenger. A few paparazzi who stood on either side of the red carpet, showered him in clicks and flashes. He stood by the door of his Range Rover. Its immaculacy coming nowhere near Nina as she stepped out of the car. She was dressed in lace and sequins; the nudity of the lace complemented by the sequins. The dress was a demanding nude and shine. She was both devil and angel; enough temptation to be the devil’s advocate and seraphim enough to be heavenly.

Two things Lance would never forget about Nina that night. There was the dress with a slit that ran up high on her thigh letting out the monster of all temptations, her sexy toned leg, the other joining in when the slit opened up to ensure torment of the first kind; owner of the rib. Then there was the face, glazed in perfection, her beauty untampered by the makeup expertly lain. She was the same girl, beautiful, only the most miniscule of fractions more flawless. She did not need the makeup. It was a waste of tax payers’ money. Needless to say if she wasn’t there with him that night, he would be liable for a restraining order that was written.

As soon as Nina hit the ground, the paparazzi riled in in admiration, their cameras proof of the delirium.

***

Sapphire stood on the side of the massive library high ceilings and large window panels. The shelves reduced, a few left lining one side of the hall. She passed by them, all the great names in history that defined the philosophy of the present, both Kenyan and international authors. There were books that paid homage to the greats in history; from Halliday to Ngugi wa Thiongo, from Plato to Okot p’Bitek, from Shakespeare to Chinua Achebe to mention a few. She liked the selection. She guessed someone was paid loads of shillings to make the selection of books on the display that night.

Sapphire thought the decision to have the gala in a library was symbolic, catering to the value of education. Whether she knew it or not, President Wamie raised awareness on the existence of a functioning Post-Modern library within the city limits. It was nice of her.

Sapphire watched more than she participated… well apart from the drinking, she really liked her drink. She sipped as she watched the crowd; bleached rail like perfect teeth and plastic smiles. Immaculate fitting Italian style suits and designer gowns defined the evening. Crème de la crème. She was hanging with Kenyan royalty.

This is the true face of Nairobi. This is what it’s all about, she thought. These are the owners of this city. She sipped her drink. High end. Bubbled all the way from her mouth to gut. She smiled.

[_Champagne… Wow! _]She took another sip, the first inefficient at quenching her thirst.

“You should take it slow, being shot just over a week ago… and on meds.” A voice rang next to her, she almost chocked on her drink.

She turned to meet Craig, staring down at her.

“Speaking of meds, do you know where my pills went the night you broke into my house?”

“So the house is yours, you carry strays?”

“They are my friends.”

He looked away a moment. It took everything within him no to bubble everything at her at that instant. Distraction… the idea popped in his head like a bloody phoenix.

“Dance with me.” He said grabbing her drink. She was not letting go easy, he practically yanked it out of her hand, placed it on the hands of a waiter who was passing by them.

“Finesse, a true gentleman.” She mocked. He just smiled, pulling her to the dance floor area where other pairs were exercising their right to practicing culture. Sapphire looked around. It felt like she was back at her prom, trying to live out teenage fantasies, she thought again, so maybe her ten-year reunion… or much later in her life. She smiled, giving in to the thought. Craig caught it before she turned taciturn again.

“What are we doing?” She asked coldly.

“Dancing.” Craig said as he pulled her close, his right hand holding her left, he grabbed her right and placed it on his shoulder, then placed his hand on her lower back. Somewhere precious, the small of her back. Her breath hitched, she remembered Nathan. She had not told him about the club. She was waiting for permission.

“Tell me.” She begged in the subtlest way, he swayed her to the left the right as the danced to the rhythm of the music playing softly within the hall. Giving everyone a chance at communication in indoor voices. “Why?”

Craig swayed again, she took it as defiance though he was trying to find the right words.

“Are you still taking the drugs?” he asked her.

“No, I stopped that night.”

Craig almost let out a hallelujah.

“Good…”

“You know.” She said, remembering that he stole the pills.

What? He wanted to ask, but did not. She may have been part of the supplying rink.

“Kita came clean, he told me that he had been giving me Bru.”

“And?” Craig almost stopped dancing, Kita you sly dog!

“I stopped. I have seen firsthand what drugs can do to someone. It’s not pretty.” She said, a shadow briefly evanescent in her eyes. He wanted to know more. His hand moved higher as he pulled her closer, she winced.

“Sorry,”

“It hurts sometimes.”

There was silence. Just the music speaking, lying to them that it was all okay, the only voice of reason the truth hiding behind stationary tongues. They just danced forgetting their sorrows.

***

Sir stood at a corner. His eyes were on a very unlikely pair. They were on the dance floor, swaying to the rhythm of the song, unaware of the dark eyes that stalked them, unaware that the world was revolving around them.

Sir took out his phone and took a picture. The angle all wrong. He waited for the couple to turn… it was less than a minute later, they turned, and he captured the best proof for their boss that Craig was disloyal and that he was the leak. He was the snitch. And the girl, he remembered her from Savage. She was there, he had watched the footage from the CCTV cameras. He watched the way he helped her escape. He needed proof and he finally had it.

***

“I’m from DTF.” Craig started. Sapphire stopped, her face coming up to look him in the eye,

So the taskforce was actually formed! She had heard the rumours, everyone had heard rumours, but they had never been confirmed, until that moment, she had herself wrapped up in DTF, literally!

“I was undercover; they were after a whistle blower who was meeting up with a journalist.”

Oh my God! Me!

“I had no idea what was to happen that night. By the time I got into the club, half the people were already… I did not know what to do. I froze.”

Sapphire could hear the hopelessness in his voice. She tried to think what she would have done if ever she was in Craig’s position. She may have frozen too. For the better she suspected. He had no blood on his hands.

“I ran your prints.” He said after a breather, “I know about Sabvia.”

She stopped dancing all together. She looked up at him, he stood a whole head above her even with the heels, he looked down at her, silence between them fed by the truth, and none of them knew what to tell the other. As soon as she pulled herself together and walked away from the dance floor, through the crowd, to where the shelved with books were. He followed her closely.

Sapphire stood after the last shelve, in the corner made by the shelf and the wall. She needed a smaller space, somewhere she could have time to compose herself again. Craig hovered over her taking away the little consolation she craved.

Sapphire was breathing a little faster than before. He just had to bring up Sabvia. She stopped abruptly. Her back resting on a shelf behind her. She clasped her hands together, bit her thumbs a moment in frustration then took a deep calming breath. He was standing in front of her not realizing just how small he made her feel. How unsettling his proximity to her was. He waited for her to speak.

“There was this girl… Nalia.”

“I read the file, I know everything.”

She took a moment. Studied him, read him. Should I trust him?

“I do my best to stay clear of things that do not concern me. The drugs I was given by Kita. I don’t know…” she felt she had to state her case, he knew something that he was not telling her. She had to find time to look into her roommates. She felt cornered.

“I know.”

“Then what do you want with me?” She sounded desperate, her voice a notch higher than usual. She hated how she sounded. It was completely out of her character.

“I need to know about your room mates.”

She took a moment. She did not see that coming. They were innocent. Just a couple of geeks who saved her life. She had nothing bad to say about them. The worst they had ever done was finish her breakfast Wita-crunk cereal and not replace the box, okay and maybe Kita drugging her intentionally, but in his defense, she felt nothing during her recovery. It was all a blur.

“Kita and Aryan. They are students at UNi, Pre-med. Second… no third years. No wait, I think Kita is in Bio-Chem… I don’t remember. I got them off a Whazzup chat site for students within Nairobi County. I was advised to take them by my friend Kere. I have their papers in the house. I can give them to you later.”

“Why not female roommates?”

She chuckled a little, “Too much drama. Look at what I put them through these last two weeks!”

“Not your fault.”

“I should not have gone there. Jack said…”

Craig stood up straight, he cut her off. “You were the journalist!” she looked at him confused, she thought that he knew, and he thought that she was just at the wrong place in the wrong time. Oh he was connecting the dots in a serious way.

***

“Nalia?!” Sapphire’s voice carried in an unrefined way. She was almost embarrassed, but the shock could not let her, Nina turned, just as shocked to see to see Sapphire.

“Sapphire!” Nina started, when Sapphire hugged her tightly. It was a new side to the girl Nina had never experienced. She was beginning to feel like she was in an ultimate universe.

“It’s Nina now, they changed my names.” Nina whispered, Sapphire’s smile disappeared,

“Wait… who?”

Nina felt a sudden chill, her choice of attire feeling a little too drafty for the night. The high ceilings and the air condition were not helping. She looked around uncomfortably for Lance and her eyes landed on Sapphires companion. He stood at least 6’1 inches, chocolate skin toned and gorgeous, reminding her so much of Lance, they could be kindred spirits, brooding souls. She smiled at him, he nodded at her, no smile there.

“Nad… Nina! I didn’t know you were back here?” Sapphire eyed her dress, she would have been a little jealous a few years back, she eyed her now sleek jet black hair, and she could tell that it was a weave or wig and not the Nina’s actual hair. There was no taming that mane, she remembered clearly the girl who restructured their lives seven years ago.

“Yeah… um… I need to go.” She evaded the question. Nina turned to run off, her eyes searching for Lance. She spotted him talking to an older hugger man across the room from where she stood by the shelves.

“Nina!” Sapphire yelled.

Nina froze, she knew what she needed from Sapphire, and she needed to gain enough courage to ask. The bile in her throat rise higher. She turned, her brow expressing her fear,

“Kyura?” she asked.

“Oh Nina… he is fine.” Sapphire said, concern marred her facial features.

Nina nodded, trying to keep her tears at bay. She turned around and disappeared into the crowd.

“Who was that?” Craig asked, pretending that he had not heard all of the extremely awkward conversation, and that he had not snapped a picture of Nina as they spoke. He connected the dots when he saw her staring at Lance who was across the room.

Lance’s Nina. He just needed visual confirmation, reason he took her picture.

He had a few questions of his own; [_who was Kyura and who is he to Nina/Nalia and Sapphire? How was he involved in Asprain and Bru production and distribution? What was the relation between Nina/Nalia and Sapphire? Nalia and Nina, what’s the story there? _]Craig guessed though that the Sabvia incident had ties to the current drug situation in Nairobi.

Craig failed to mention to Sapphire that he knew who Nina was or rather he knew about Nina, and that he also presumed that she was core in the Sabvia incident. Sapphire was slowly becoming a puzzle that he needed to solve. The labyrinth was getting thicker by the minute.

“Excuse me. I need to make a call.” She said, stepping away even before he had a chance to agree to it.

***

“I have news boss, I found out the leak and I have the bitch in my sights…. I also have the narc who took down Mica… Yes, boss. Mhhhh. Yes, I will sir.”

The words came clear as crystal. Rookie police woman Diana Makoyi heard them loud and clear. She walked right up to Chief Swan.

“Sir, we need to talk.”      

***

Nina stood by the bar. It was her first ever public appearance since the shoot up and nerves were all she knew. Plus, meeting Sapphire had not made things easier. Her head kept going back to Kyura. His voice, his body… his touch! She found herself running a finger over and over again on the rim of her flute. The chill sweat on the flute providing lubrication for her ever mobile finger. She was too worked up to hear the soft hum produced by the crystal.

Nina was beginning to feel like she had been cursed. She sipped from her crystal, the Bubbly going down divinely. The chilly drink sat well in her nervous stomach, a few more of those and she was sure to handle the night. She took a deep calming breath through her mouth, it was complemented by the traces of chilled champagne still in her mouth, she smiled a little.

Someone bumped into her side startling her to the point of jumping forward. She hit a waiter who stumbled forward almost dropping her tray. Lance appeared behind her,

“Bae, you okay?”

She turned to face him, nodding.

“Let’s step outside.” Lance said, a little concern in his voice. He laid his crystal on the bar and held the fold of her arm. This was the hand that played with the rim of the glass. A few drops of water dripped to the floor off her fingers. “I think you need some air.” Lance whispered more or less to himself.

Nina did not notice that she was rather too agreeable to everything that he said, in simple nods. But he noticed. She was too quiet. Something was on her mind. He needed to find out what. He let her pass and followed her closely as they waded through the crowd towards the door leading them out of the library main space, dubbed Simba Ballroom for the night.

Nina walked slow, tunnel vision the door that would lead to her freedom. She wanted to breathe clean air. Lance was right, like he had been since the day she met him. She needed air that did not feel like over hundred people trying to impress her with their unique scents and smells. She realized that the air was too charged, the room felt like it was getting smaller by the minute, and she was beginning to feel like the door was moving further and further away. Then again… the last time that she went out, she got shot at!

A tray was dropped a few steps from where she was, all its contents lay splayed on the ground. All Nina had heard the metallic tray hit the ground. The sound not nearly close to the sound of a gunshot but all in all representing the same thing for her, pain… death… uncertainty. She turned, charged to run. Her intentions met Lance’s towering figure. Lance offered a hard mass that effectively stopped her.

Nina bit into his coat to stifle a scream. The crystal in her hand broke; part of the glass shredding her arm, the other joining the other unfortunate glass beads on the ground.

Chapter Eighteen

Lance/Leani was always fast. Since the day he learned to walk. His father had a sister, Nyaliech; they named her so in the hope that they had invented a feminine version of the name Oliech, common from his paternal home Siaya.

Nyaliech had a son, Onyango who had been born a little over four hours after Leani. Since Leani had won the first race, despite being conceived a week after Onyango, there was the unwritten truth that the boys would forever be in competition and Leani Kori Oloo always won. There was the walking, the talking, the running, the schooling, the dancing, name it; Leani always won. He even spoke faster and more eloquently and to make matters even worse for Onyango, he was a linguist versed in five languages. English, Kiswahili, Luo, Kalenjin and Kikuyu. Though his Kikuyu was a bit rusty. Learning Kikuyu was merely a consequence of schooling in Kiambu County.

That night, Lance was quick to decide exactly what do, but before that the night played out in his head in slow motion. Within a split second, he knew more that he had before.

[_We walked in, I went to speak to the Chief and she went to the bathrooms to powder her nose. She was talking to a Caucasian woman… briefly. The conversation was too short to be comfortable, transitory. I should look into that… Then she went to the bar, drunk three flutes of champagne, then the waiter almost dropping the tray, that scared her… that was when I walked up to her. _]

It all leads back to the Caucasian woman, who was she?

Lance grabbed Nina’s hand, holding it out to stop her from squeezing it shut, his other arm wrapped round her shoulder, he dragged her toward their initial exit planned door. She shook, he wondered.

Nina looked a little tipsy already. In her eyes, he read fear. It was not blinding terror, but either way she was rattled.

He knew that she was affected by the shooting, but he did not think that it was that bad. He came to terms with the new normal, a new trend, the girl was needy. Like really needy, completely out of character from the girl he knew before the shooting. He also learnt that when she never got her way, she went quiet. Case and point that night.

“Sir, may I hel…” a hotel worker in uniform started to ask Lance.

“Private room please.” Lance spoke out of step, his voice a cold growl. He should have waited. He had sounded too rude, like a self-indulged celebrity, the one thing he loathed the most. His eyes darted briefly to the top of Nina’s head, then to her bleeding hand. The man took a hint.

“There is a private bathroom right this way…” he went on. As he led them away from concerned and judgmental eyes that peered through the open doors leading into the ‘ballroom’, he kept rumbling like a mad man, talking of everything from the architecture of the building to his uniform. Needless to say, it was annoying.

[_A talker, just my luck! _]Lance wanted to punch him.

“First aid kit.” Lance said as soon as the man stopped talking and opened a door at the end of the hallway. He ushered them in, a moment after turning on the lights. He walked away as soon as Lance and Nina walked into the room. It was small but cozy, a toilet bowl, and a sink. Very small, but clean. The space was tighter than Lance and Nina had expected. He leaned by the wall opposite the sink, she stood by the sink. Her right injured hand he held under the running tap. Till most of the blood was washed off. They watched the drain as the bloody water trickled in it.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Lance asked as they sat there waiting for the man with the rattling mouth to come back with a first aid kit. He looked her in the eye, as he waited for an answer. She was quiet, too quiet. It was bugging him.

PTSD was not uncommon with police men. If he knew, he would not torture her with hours of dude-movies where guns shot and bombs went off every other minute. If he knew he would not have thought that her racing heart beat and need to hold crawl into his side as they watched the movie was a consequence of the films and not honest to God genuine fear. Had he known, he would have gotten her the help she needed before she erupted in public. Worse, in front of his team, Chief Swan and President Wamie herself.

“Why?!” he repeated the force unintentional, but he still came unrestricted. He felt unhinged, like he was missing something vital, and she was hiding it from him. She took a moment to answer, his gaze falling on her injured arm, rinsed but not attended to. His hand the only thing holding her palm open. He could tell, involuntarily or voluntarily, her palm was fighting to close up, but he needed to remove the shards of glass.

Where the hell is talking Tom?! Lance wanted to scream his brains out but he maintained a semblance of calm.

“I didn’t think… I don’t know… I…” Nina stammered,

The door burst open, Nina looked away, her defensive walls coming up fast. Lance grabbed the kit. Extending his free hand over the other to get the kit, he then pointed at the door with the index finger holding the kit at the man. Just as his foot passed the threshold, Lance extended his foot and kicked the door shut after him.

Silence.

“I could have…” Lance started,

“Could have what?” her voice came cold, there was more to the story than he knew, “Protected me from everyday sounds that remind me of that day? From my own demons. The demons in my head. My dreams, my past!”

“I would have been there for you.”

She looked at him, her eyes tightening like she was contemplating the words,

“I would have been there for you.” He repeated, a tear slipped down the side of her face.

Maybe he was right, maybe she should have told him, but she had hidden it from him because of a past that she wished he never find out. He would never understand.

Either way it was not working. They were not working. She shut her eyes trying to absorb the realization. He seized the opportunity to attend to her hand. The crystal broke well, not much damage. He poured the disinfectant over the cuts.

She opened her eyes fast, the sting bringing her back. She started to withdraw her hand but found that he had repositioned himself anticipating her reaction. His back was now towards her, he operated beyond her reach and eye line.

She cursed as he poured the stingy liquid again, grabbing a handful of his coat.

***

“Chief, I don’t think she can handle it anymore.” Lance confessed.

“Do you have anything else to tell me?”

“No… not yet sir.”

“She remains primary. It’s a good thing that you did not listen to me. I think she is the key. You may have been right son.” The Chief said, his voice low, but the ecstasy in his tone telling Lance that there was no way to get Nina out of the investigation. She was stuck.

“Do what you can, make this work. Remember, the president is counting on you. Me too. You can do the video if it will make her relax. Go to Mombasa, get a fancy hotel room, and make her feel special.” Chief said, wiggling his middle while laughing a little. It was a sight Lance could swear he never EVER wanted to see again.

“Whatever works.” He simply said, it felt incomplete. Borderline amiable, both question and statement. A twitch touched the side of his lips.

***

Sapphire stood by the bar, he had watched Lance McLean, half-drag half-carry Nina out of the room after her panic attack. She had waited for over thirty minutes for him to bring Nina back so that she could steal a few precious minutes with her but he came back without her. She watched him walk right up to the Police Chief Swan and was contemplating walking up to him and asking him what was up, but her phone rang.

“Kyura!” she looked away answering the phone. Sapphire was now leaning on the bar edge, a minor thought crossed her mind. The fact that they had put up a bar in the library for the gala was interesting. They should put one at MMIN that would get people in the library for sure, she almost laughed.

“Yes, it’s her…. She came in with Lance… the one and only… Yes, mostly I think.”

She pulled out a pen and pad from her clutch.

“No… I think she cut her hand with her champagne flute, still clumsy. But she is too jittery I feel though. Something’s up.”

She wrote something down and put the pen and pad back in her bag.

“Okay. Later.” She hung up and turned around back to where Lance had stood with the chief. No Lance, but yes Chief. He was laughing away with Charlene Ngina, the Minister for Trade and Culture.

Okay… she turned to walk away and bumped into Craig who she could swear walked into her on purpose, he was nowhere on her peripheral view.

“Going somewhere.”

“Unless you wanna wipe my bottom…” she tweaked an eyebrow, “Shall we…”

“Gladly!” he joked, she punched him in the gut, and he barely flinched, his lack of reaction making her feel pathetic to say the least.

Weakest hand ever! Craig almost gloated but held his tongue. She must know.

“I know you were not…” he said. She looked away a little exasperated. “May I ask you something?”

“If you must.” She said coldly, he could feel it was all an act, but he played along.

“Where are you from originally?”

She turned back to him, her elbow pitched on the bar.

“OC.”

“No way… Orange County like the show?” Craig asked, his face animating like a candy filled happy child, Sapphire almost burst out laughing.

“No, Oklahoma City.”

“Oh, what comes from there?”

“Google smart ass!”

With that Sapphire walked away. A few steps off, she walked back. She came really close, took his phone from his pants pocket. Her fingers slid through the fabric gracefully, he barely felt them. She could have been a pickpocket in another life. She held it out to him for the security lock. He unlocked it for her and she keyed in her digits and dialed herself. She hung up as soon as she heard the dial tone.

Craig stared at Sapphire’s face. He never ever in his life thought that he would be in a position to date a white girl. Not until now. She was beautiful, in a classical way. Blond bombshell with blue orbs for eyes, a nice straight elegant nose, with tiny nostrils. Her lips were that one thing that mesmerized him the most about her. They had a pale pink hue to them, even that night, he could tell she had only a gloss on.

Craig liked her choice of attire for the evening. Simple, like she never spent time thinking about it. She wore a black dress. It was not an elaborate gown sewed by skillful slender fingers in some sweat shop in South Asia. It was a simple black dress, with black embroidery all over the fabric; definitely Africa designed. The dress must have been locally made. She wore black heels carried a black clutch purse, her jewelry silver, simple.

While Craig ogled, Sapphire found open doors she should not have. She caught a glimpse of his wall paper…

Was that…

“Thank you.” He said snatching the phone away.

She smiled her eyes twinkling.

“Me… I come from Oklahoma City.” She walked away backwards, then turned, her hair effective the perfect retreat. He had her. He could not help but smile.

[* *]

Chapter Nineteen

Nina had never flown before, but she was cool as a cucumber through the forty-minute flight to the coast and the helicopter ride to Ukunda. She was sure that the helicopter they used was military but she did not read much into it. She was numb. Lance had become a liability and she was beginning to feel like she was being owned, like she needed a handler to tell her what to do. She did not like it one bit.

Nina had a history with men trying to tell her what to do. They wanted to rule her, control every move she made. It was only a matter of time until Lance was added to the list.

First, it had been Mica. She did not mind initially, because that was all she knew. Then came his number three, Bobo. Tia had helped her run, but she was stupid enough to get an expatriate family involved putting a school in danger. The Smith family also did a little controlling, forcing her into the decision of going to live with her parents. And Martin Nuu forcing her new life and name, Nina down her throat. In the long run somehow things worked out… She went home with her mother. She had a family. People she actually shared blood with. It was terrible, and she wished she was still in Sabvia, worse there were nights when she wished she was still in Nanyuki, safe behind the walls of Mica’s mansion.

Everything had moved from bad to worse till Tia came and found her after she woke up from her coma and found her footing thanks to a doctor Allen Dipandi in Nanyuki. As usual Tia whisked her away. Nina did not need to think of the resolve to run away. She made the decision off the top of her head. The thing was beyond her family’s lack of connection with her, she was bored stiff. Her mother lived in a little village in Kilifi. She understood no one and no one understood her. She felt like the shunned kid in school. It was only a matter of time before she flipped her marbles.

Within three months Nalia was off the grid again. The only place she felt safe was next to Tia…

But she is dead now. What next…Kyura?

“What are you thinking of.” Lance’s voice broke the quiet through her headsets. The whole ride was scored by the helicopter engine, seemingly relaxing she found.

“You know, Tia’s death, the men who shot at us with choppas, it feels very…” she kept quiet.

“Choppas?”

“The big gun thingy, like in the videogames.”

“Uh, the automated assault rifles.” He said nodding his head, “What about them?”

“It feels… I don’t know.” What she wanted to say was she felt that it had nothing to do with her, like it was all angled at him, like knowing Lance somehow put a target on her back.

The pilot broke their conversation announcing that they had arrived. Nina lost her train of thought all together, she looked out the window. A helipad! On a private residence! A beautiful mansion lay overlooking the ocean behind it. Adobe tiles represented the history of the residence. It was old and golden, she loved it.

Less than a hundred feet from the beach!

“Wow.” She said in a whisper.

“I know right.” Lance said as they marveled at the view as the helicopter landed.

As the helicopter landed, two men came into view. A man in a black uniform and an older African man dressed in white stood on the path that led off the helipad. The man in uniform seemed irrelevant, like he was an enforcer, a servant. The older man on the other hand exuded elegance, class, wisdom and obviously wealth. His loose fitting clothes and African sandals radiated ease. Retired, Nina concluded. The man in white had a sleek silver mane that shone in the sun, and a matching beard. She smiled.

The man in uniform came up to the helicopter as soon as it touched the ground. The shaky landing leaving Nina breathless, or was it the view… or the thoughts in her head. He opened the door from outside as the engine died down.

“Welcome to Hazara.” He said, his voice deep, powerful. Reminding Nina, a lot of Nandi. He offered her his hand, “Please.” He simply said and she took it. He guided her out of the helicopter.

“My master would love to meet you.” He said as he offered a hand to Lance who ignored it and jumped to the ground. The man moved aside, his hand though ushering them towards his master who stood at his initial position a big smile on his face revealing a beautiful set of white choppers. His teeth contrasting gravely with his dark skin, apart from his feet which Nina noticed were a lot lighter than the rest of his body.

Too much sun!

“Welcome,” he said, his joy humming in his tone, his voice was less powerful, warm, like an awesome great uncle’s. “My dear,” he took Nina’s hand, she was then nervous,

“Welcome to Hazara. My name is Mzee Kobe.” He said, no one laughed. Nina held her impending laugh.

“Nina.” She simply said, almost tempted to curtsy. He let go of her hand, took Lance’s in a firm handshake.

“Son! You have grown bigger since last I saw you.”

Son?

“My uncle, mother’s side. Kobe Lang’at.” Lance felt he had to share, she nodded as they exchanged pleasantries. Then the mean machine behind them fired up. Nina jumped,

“Don’t worry my dear, you are safe here.” Mzee Kobe said. He reached for her hand, and they walked down to the house, Nina did her best not to trip. She was coming to terms with a lot. One of the main clearance was that Lance’s family had money, serious money.

***

“Hey Craig, did Anita give you the new file, I’ve been so held up I haven’t had time…” Lance started but was cut shot,

“Leani, we have a problem.” Craig’s voice came through the phone too serious.

“What, what’s wrong.”

“Anita was right. The president was at Sabvia. She made the decision for a kill order on the assailants. It was not her call but she did it anyway. That was the reason why the file was redacted.”

“It makes sense,” Lance thought aloud. He watched his uncle and Nina talk through the open double doors leading to where they sat on an outdoor living space. His forehead crinkled,

[_Is she crying? _]Lance forced himself to concentrate on the phone call with Craig. He focused on what Craig had told him, they knew that already. What was he not saying?

“You are taking your sweet time,”

“Leani, your father executed the order. We think that it had something to do with his death.”

Silence took over the air waves.

“Are you sure?”

“Sixty percent,”

“That’s like saying you are guessing,”

“No, when you consider the assailants, the percentage fills up, well mostly.”

“Stop stalling, just tell me!”

“Avakian. Mica Avakian was in the school. The news went on that he was dead but truth was that he was in the school. He and a team of three went to Sabvia to get a girl. Nalia was her name. She was rescued and was sent to live with her actual family in the coast. We connected the dots. We think Nalia is Nina.”

“Are you positive?”

“Does she have a birthmark on her leg, a large dark mark?”

Lance thought back to that day they spent the day in bed in his Lavington apartment, sure as hell, there was a black birthmark on her leg. He placed a chaste kiss on it once while she slept choosing to never ask her about it in case she was cautious about it.

“Yes.”

“Nalia is Nina. She is the Avakian princess.”

Lance stared at his girl through the doors. A slight breeze blowing loose sheer curtains through the ajar double door over dramatizing the moment. With a clear starry night, the moon full sitting majestically in the sky, the moment was surreal. Felt like a scene straight out of an independent European film.

***

“What’s wrong my dear.” Kobe’s voice was low, not demanding. He had an easiness to him, even his words came soft. He was never in a hurry. He reminded her of her family. He shared the same ease they had but not their inhumane quality. Kobe was heart all the way. He was a good man. He waited patiently as Nina wiped her nose with the back of her hand. Sniffling a little.

“I don’t know.” She said honestly. She had no idea.

“I want to trust him…” she started, she looked over to the ocean. The current hitting the cliffs at a distance roaring like a storm, “I don’t know how to talk to him some times. He has this shadow…” she stopped when she had the shuffle of foot steps behind them.

The old man turned to see Lance walking up to them. He turned and gave Nina a sly smile,

“You know my dear, my wife used to love this view too, it brought tears in her eyes just as it does you.” He said, loud enough for Lance to hear.

“Uncle why do you bore her with tales of the past.” Lance asked sitting next to Nina, putting an arm about her shoulders. She almost bolted. Looked at his uncle for approval. He nodded, she relaxed.

“Sophie was beautiful. I remember when we moved here. We were just over twenty. Just out of secondary school. Ready for life. Ready for love.” He looked nostalgic. Nina reached for her glass of juice and took a sip, then cozied back into Lance’s hands.

“Son, did you know that the chief’s son wanted her and she picked me, I was sly as a fox then, stole her right from under his nose. You know they had even started paying dowry!” Nina and Lance laughed. “Big mess we left there!”

“We ran here. Started from the bottom. We worked for all this.” He went quiet. “Thirty-three years together,”

“Sorry.” Nina heard herself say.

“It’s a lifetime my dear. She lived a wonderful life. Died at fifty-three. In my arms. We were happy.”

Nina’s eyes welled up.

“She loved this view.” They all went quiet. No one asked how she died. No one read much into it. They sat and enjoyed the silence until Mzee Kobe spoke up.

“Keep this one. I love her.” he simply said. She smiled willing to give them a second chance.

***

“Lights, camera, action!”

Music blared over speakers set up on the set. Which had been rigged in a meeting hall at Hotel Casablanca, down Ukunda drive. Lance had insisted that they bring their bags with them, she did not mind having her stuff near so he had booked a room, until they were done with the shoot. He was wasting money and Nina was beginning to worry.

Nina knew only two reasons men spent money aimlessly; to get a woman or to distract a woman. He already had her, she wondered what he was distracting her from.

The room was pale, a shade of off white. The bright lights set up to illuminate the set were almost blinding Nina but she braved through. Though her nervousness stood out like a sore thumb.

She walked as she was told to. Instructions were vague but simple; walk across the room, act impatient, wait for Lance, he will come to you.

Nina was done with the walking, she waited for Lance, impatiently. There was little acting required there, she needed him to represent and Kelly was taking his sweet time queuing him in.

Kelly Yani was a South African film director. He had done a few short films, one worth mentioning, [_Kunta 9. _]It was a story about a little lion that was kept as a pet by a rich narcissist in Pretoria. It was sad, heart wrenching, the stuff that wins awards. His importation was overkill, Nina had thought, but she had learned to keep her mouth shut when it came to Lance’s career.

“Walk?!” she had distinctly asked, and Kelly affirmed it like it was the easiest thing she could do.

“Yes that’s it.”

Nina looked flawless with a few layers of non-essential makeup paralyzing her face. She did not feel like herself in the least. She barely recognized the girl she saw in the mirror after a makeup artist slash hair and costume was done with her. Her curly mane had been tamed into cascading locks that fell to the small of her back, the extensions expertly put, and there was no difference between her hair and them. Her lips blood red. Her lashes were too long and unrealistic. Nina hated the lashes most, they were like an umbrella that stood straight hooding her vision a notch, especially when she looked down. They sat heavy with mascara too generously put, like the artist had an ulterior motive. The makeup artist also got her eyebrows all wrong, they looked nothing like how her real pair was shaped.

All in all, Nina felt that she looked like a working girl, on the red light district. She looked plastic, like she was trying too hard to achieve beauty. She had hoped that the script involved wiping it all off, that would be grand, she thought. Nina tried to forego the concerns about her look and looked toward a successful shoot.

In the present, and over reliving her concerns with makeup and costume, Nina walked. Her withdrawn nature commanding in a major manner in her body language and mannerism. Nina though that Kelly would mind, but he seemed to love it,

“Yes… yessssss!” he said over and over again. At the corner of her eye, she noticed a camera drone fly by, it was commanded to follow her. She could see it move toward her, then past her, then in front of her, it then swept over her just half an inch shy of the top of her head.

Cutting it close huh?! Nina thought as her heart borderline stopped in fear of being hit by the drone.

“Cut!” Kelly yelled, the music stopped, silence took over,

“I love it! You my dear are a beauty!” he went on to say, Nina smiled, stealing a glance at Lance, “He’s going to come in now, don’t worry,” a few people on set laughed, Nina wondered why.

“He is a beast of a man, I love the contrast, and it will really come out well on camera. I need you my dear to follow his lead.”

Nina looked confused, she knew not what he was telling her, she raised an eyebrow at Kelly, he turned to sit.

“Uh, what do I do?” she asked, her voice a little low, she was afraid of him for some reason. Kelly was as vague as they came.

“Follow. Follow his lead.” Mwete yelled from the sidelines. His arms crossed over his chest, he looked visibly impatient with her. Nina decided to go with her gut. She nodded, her worries carried away when she looked over at Lance. Lance looked just about ready for war, he looked good in all black. He was pumped and ready to go. His energy levels were so high, Nina wondered if he was a little buzzed. The pill she took that morning was fading fast and it was only ten in the morning.

Lance winked at her. She smiled back. She looked back in time to catch the clapper board go, and Kelly yelling action!

Nina just stood there a moment. For a moment she had no idea what to do with herself. She fidgeted, the music did not come on, and the set was quiet, too quiet. She swallowed hard, the lump in her throat going down with utter difficulty. She pulled on her dress, it felt too short suddenly. The damn dress defiantly pulled back, from the corner of her eye she could see Kelly’s grin; he was waiting for something.

She ran her fingers down the long locks that spill over either shoulder, falling down her chest to her waist. She pushed them back and tucked then nervously behind her ears.

So that’s how they do it! Nina thought never being able to actually do it before.

Then she started playing with her fingers a moment before realizing how juvenile she must have looked and dropping them all together. Then she just stood there awkwardly waiting.

Lance smiled, she was tugging at his heart strings.

Nina felt the hairs at the back of her neck stand up the instant her siren rang, a blare of gunshots rent the air. They blared over the speakers that were not ten minutes before amplifying Lance’s romancing sweetness like they were Romeo and Juliet. Her whole body froze then jerked with every round of shots.

Lance had frozen, he could not move an inch of his body towards her. Then her face fell into her arms, she slid down to the ground and sobbed into her hands. There was quiet again. Nina’s sobs ran like the wind through the room, Kelly smiled broadly. Lance finally got the strength to move forward.

Lance ran forward, horror reigning within him as he glanced angrily at Mwete. Dave and Mwete were the only people who he had told about her episode at the president’s gala. They were the only people who knew the real reason why Nina freaked out at the gala, that she had PTSD after they were shot at outside Monaco. Someone spilled. Someone thought it would be funny, TV gold or whatever to use actual gunshot sounds in the music video. Someone made the decision to torment her with the one thing she feared most. It had to be Dave or Mwete.

Lance skidded to the ground next to Nina.

“Nin…” he started, not knowing exactly what to tell her. As he wrapped his hand about her shoulders. She pushed his off.

“Don’t you fucking touch me!” she yelled, her voice shaking from fear and anger. “You… son of a BITCH!” she gritted through her teeth. Her hands adjusted across her middle like she was in physical pain,

“I’m sorry.” He whispered in her ear, while shifting and kneeling before her. Lance was then hyper aware of everything, he caught the grin in Kelly’s face, the look on Mwete’s face, fear; like he knew what Kelly was planning. He could read the pain and uncertainty of everyone on set. Lance could see that only two people knew about what was happening; Mwete and Kelly. He was also aware that the boom above them was recording everything, every slightest sound they made. She cried some more, tear stains marring her seemingly flawless face, the mascara dripping horribly down with her tears.

Don’t they have water resistant thingy…? Lance thought unable to remember the word ‘mascara’. He realized that everything about the shoot was deliberate, calculated to ensure success in making Nina the perfect damsel. A seemingly beautiful girl now torn and broken. A little skin for sensuality, because, let’s be honest sex sells. A horrible makeup job to ensure her descent documented to the minuscule of details.

Gai, aki nitaua mtu! God, I swear will kill someone! Lance swore.

“I didn’t know. I swear!”

“Fuck you!” she came unhinged, Lance had never heard her swear before. She had sworn three times so far, and it was caught on Camera.

One last bang for good measure. Nina quaked hard as though she had been electrocuted, then there was silence again. Even Nina’s sobs were muted a moment. As the devil passed, Lance realized that he had just lost her forever.

“I’m so sorry.” He said, his voice came different. He finally empathized, he finally felt her pain. Remembering that she was part of the Sabvia incident, hell she was the center of it all. They had broken her. She let out a strange guttural cry, then let her head fall on his chest, she let him hold her, hiding her face from the onlookers and the camera’s ready to record everything.

“I’m so sorry.”

“CUT!”

“Brilliant!”

“WOW!”
They think she is acting! Lance realized as he rubbed circles round Nina’s back. She was slowly easing into softer crying, quiet, calm. Her calm seized when there was a thunder of claps coming their way, her body tensed in his arms, she was not ready.

“The emotion! Gay the passion! Can you see my goosebumps?”

“God!”

Nina could hear them rejoice at her torture. She could feel the thin sweat all over, a chill going through her. She could smell Lance, his scent unmissable, strong just like his betrayal. He shielded her face form them, but still he played a vital role in the betrayal. She was done crying.

Nina pushed out of his arms forcefully, he almost toppled.

“Asshole!” she yelled at him as she stood up and ran off falling into a largely empty hotel lobby. She rushed past some curious onlookers, they looked concerned, a few tourists, a few locals or not, she didn’t care, all she wanted to do was run fast and further from Lance and his mean friends.

The elevator ride up to Nina’s floor was reflective. Lance’s face plagued her, it was the look on Lance’s face that played mean tricks on her. She could have sworn that he looked hurt as she was, she could have sworn that he did not know, but how could he not know when he was the one who had told her to trust him, she bared her soul to him and he used her secrets to stab her in the side, angling the blade adeptly to ensure her complete destruction.

Maybe he didn’t know… he could not play me like that… Like a fiddle. Walk her nude by her hair in front of the whole world… Would he?

Her ‘performance’ was stellar. The stuff of Emmys and Oscars. They had won.

The elevator reached her floor, she ran out faster than when she had gone in a few hours before at 6am. She got into the room and locked the door behind her then started packing her bag. She took out her phone and dialed Sapphire’s number. She was glad that she went ahead and productively sought her out. Sapphire still loved social media. It was easy to trace her number online. Nina placed the phone between her ear and shoulder, multitasked as she listened to the dial tone, waiting for Sapphire to pick.

Please pick up… please pick up! Nina was aware that it was the first time that she was reaching out to Sapphire, it was strange but she put the thought aside. There was no one else.

She never. Nina threw the phone into her bag.

There was a knock on the door. Scared that it would be Lance, she ignored it. A small note slipped underneath the door. She watched it hit the side of her leg and heard the footsteps walk away from the door hastily. She picked up the note. Opened the door and walked out, opening the note as she walked. At some level she hoped that it was Lance handling things, apologizing for his gross error but when she started reading she froze.

NINA.

HE IS AN ASKARI. THE BRU AND ASPRAIN THING.

SAPPHIRE.

That was it. Sapphire had just dropped the ball. Nina slipped into the nearest stairwell and disappeared.

Chapter Twenty

“Mwete please!” Lance yelled. “Do not even try to justify this. You can’t toy with a human being like that!”

“I’m sorry, but that was gold right there, you will be thanking me when you win best video at the MAMAs. VMAs may even pick it up!”

Lance looked at him as though he had grown a third head. Mwete stood upright, his head tilted sideways in confidence, he was proud of himself, a smirk plastered in his face. Lance was realizing that reasoning with him was pointless.

“Beside the point.” Exasperation in his voice, Lance looked aside, everyone looked pleased with what had just happened, he felt bad and they were all happy. She had trusted him and his ignorance had failed her.

“Fix this.” Lance yelled, jabbing a finger in the air to emphasize his words. “Fix it!” he recurred running out.

***

“Nina?” Lance yelled as he opened the hotel room door. The room was quiet; he had half expected her to be lying in bed crying her heart out. She was nowhere.

“Nina?” his voice came low when he slowly came to terms to the fact that she was not in the room. He checked the bathroom and underneath the bed like it mattered. She was gone.

He swore tearing out of The room like a storm.

***

Nina felt as though a manacle had been placed on her neck. She could not breathe. She was too worked up. Two things weighed heavily on her mind; experience the whole thing sober or numb the pain. It was not a hard choice; she chose the latter. It was not hard to find a dealer in Mombasa. Before she knew it she was popping Asprain like it was no one’s business.

Nina rode the bus back to Nairobi, and not the first class kind with a VIP and a VVIP area. The regular mwananchi (Citizen) kind with a rattle and an engine that made too much noise. The bus was too chilly curtesy of a few broken windows and musky from poor hygiene.

Needless to say, the ride back to Nairobi was not as luxurious as when she came to the coast under the care of Lance three days before. There was no two-hour flight plan. No army helicopter and private helipad. It was no first-class affair. There was no hostess waiting on her, no man to hold her and make her feel safe.

Nina’s body felt like a bloody enema. She was spent from crying, worn from the drugs that were slowly dipping. She sat extremely slouched her body leaning dangerously over the handle bar toward the isle. She had the two seats to herself. Her eyes wandered about the limited space in the bus, the isle, the floor, the roof then they fell on a child, about six years old peeping at her over the seat, her mother seemingly asleep next her. Nina tried to smile but it came scary, like a rude smirk, she gave up just as the child ducked fast recoiling into her mother. Nina looked away, she must have looked terrible. She tried to wipe her face with a shirt that lay on her lap acting as a hankie for her tears and mucus. Her gaze fell on the cascading lands before her, before she knew it she was passed out.

***

Lance walked into the station, fume visible. He was seeing red as he stormed into the Chief’s office.

The order had to have come from above, Mwete could not have done it alone, he swore. In long furious strides Lance walked through the isle in the open space office, tunnel vision the Chief’s office. He took the steps two or three at a time, till he was at the door. Curious police men in and out of uniform staring at him from their diminished position.

The Chief who was on phone wound up the call prematurely.

“Who’s my handler?” He asked jumping at the gun, there was no need to beat around the bush,

“Leani, if this is how you act when you don’t know who your handler is, what if you knew?” the Chief asked him, his voice even, too calm. He knew everything.

“Mwete… I can’t stand him,” Lance began, his voice a notch lower, he looked at his Chief in the eye as he said the following words, “I fired him!”

“You what?!” The chief glared at him, burning Sulphur like a hell furnace, “he is lent to us from the president’s personal security team!” the Chief was now seated up, pocking his right index finger at his desk with every syllable.

I thought he was from the Kenya police Choir? Lance was confused.

“He…”

“I know what he did. I know what happened in Mombasa.” The Chief said, cooling from his earlier state.

“He had no right.” Lance said, the Chief paused a second before answering him, he thought about the whole situation again. Looking at it from Lance’s point of view.

“She is vital to this investigation. It’s as though all her friends were involved in this thing.” Lance said his voice rigged with frustration.

“Did you find her?” Chief asked, Lance shook his head. “We will find her using facial recognition and get Don to put a tracker on her so that you don’t lose her again.”

“Let me do it.” He requested, but there was no way that the Chief was letting that happen,

“Did she not walk out on you?” he asked Lance sarcastically, Lance shut it. There was no use arguing. He was not getting it his way. “Tonight. It will be done tonight.”

Lance glanced at the Rolex on his arm, it was Ten thirty-three in the night. About twelve hours since he had seen Nina. Where was she?

Chapter Twenty-One

Nina walked into her house. She had a lot to do. She never really got done with packing Tia’s things. She felt no need to call her Tanya any more. Whatever name she used never mattered any more. Her best friend was dead. Her family was not what she needed and the man she thought she loved had ripped her heart out. All was not well. The cosmos was showing her that she was not the center of it. She was learning that the hard way.

She reached for the socket to turn on the light and it never came on, her tokens must have been exhausted. Nina sighed squinting trying to see her way in the dark room, she had some candles in the kitchen, and she just needed to get to them. She could make out the shapes of boxes all over, she knew that she was messy with the packing but she never thought that she was that messy, something felt wrong.

Nina inched forward, waving her hands ahead so as not to run into something. She could swear things felt a bit more jumbled that when she left them earlier that week.

She felt something touch her foot, she tried to wiggle her foot around it but got caught in the mess. She tripped and fell over it. A sharp pain went through her as her knees collided with the floor and her right elbow. She did not scream though, held a breath and let it out slowly. Giving up all together, she sat on the floor and reached for her phone, feeling around her bag, she got it out and turned it on for the first time since Ukunda.

As it came on she used the little light it provided to scan through the room, her jaw fell open as she studied the mess around her. Someone had definitely been in there, ransacking her house. She stood up on shaky legs as her gaze fell on the back wall of the living room, in a bloody red, the words ‘snitches die’ were smeared on her wall, her phone locked up, the screen going off. She was left in the eerie cold room extremely aware of the cold fear that was creeping within her, she ran out, hitting herself on some stuff as she ran.

With a shaky grip she scanned her phone as she ran out of her building; 25 missed calls, 18 of them from Lance the rest from Sapphire. Six messages she never bothered to look at. She dialed Lance’s number.

“Come on… come on… please pick up.” She whispered as she walked into the dark empty street.

***

Most Nairobi Central station was dead and dark. An uncomfortable silence owned the station’s dark corners and thin hallways. Even the cells were quiet, the few detained in there dead asleep.

In the main sitting area where most of the police officers’ desks were, under the watchful eyes of Chief’s pent-office, the lights were on.

Five people were at the station that night; Chief Swan, Lance, Craig, Dave and Anita. Anita worked on a computer on one of the desks, the rest hoovered over her, their faces serious, brows knit. They watched quietly.

Anita was becoming their regular Brainiest, she handled all things computer when the rest of them did not know what to do. Their Chief tech guy, Muzi was out of work for a family emergency so Anita helped out where she could. She was a little slow, but better than the rest of them.

“Her phone is on,” Anita suddenly shouted, turning her computer screen towards the four who were hanging around waiting for her to track Nina’s phone.

“If we find the cell towers…” she started but her voice faded as her concentration on the screen intensified. “She is walking towards town, Upper Hill Road…” she said a huge smile taking over her face.

The Chief and his team watched a grid map of the greater Nairobi area come up, a small red dot on the southwest corner of the screen that represented Nina. Anita realigned the map and zoomed into the area round the dot. The dot moved at a slow pace.

“Can we get a satellite visual?” Craig asked, Lance leaned closer to the screen as though he could somehow see her.

“No, we are not there yet … okay we are there, but I don’t know how to do it!” she admitted wishing Muzi was there. he would know what to do. “but OMG, she is making a call!”

Lance phone vibrated in his pocket, he got it out, straightening up when he read the caller ID, Nina. They all turned around realizing that she was calling them.

“Don’t!” Craig warned him. There was a bit of a scuffle when Dave snatched the phone from Lance’s hand.

“Cool it you two!” Swan said concentrating on the dot. Then they saw a blue dot coming up from the general area of Nairobi Central Lance could not take it, he took a few steps back, and lean on the desk behind him.

Don!

***

Nina had reached the intersection on Uhuru Highway and crossed at the zebra crossing her phone in hand, she was almost running, looking around her over and over again to ensure that no one was following her. She walked down to Parliament Road and turned into it. She hit the curb with her foot almost tumbling to a fall. She stopped calling Lance’s cell number, and scrolled for his home number. She dialed that instead.

It rang and rang. No answer.

“Jesus Lance!”

She dialed again.

***

Anita was good, as needed rather, she put up Don’s body camera feed on a raised monitor in the police station. They could see everything that was going on, his steady movement recorded as he began to walk up Wabera street, he countered her move, ensuring that he was coming up to meet with her with every move she made. Don was efficient. Lance was worried, one way or another he was getting the tracker in her. His desk phone began to ring. He went to answer but was stopped, twice she called. He did not answer; it went to voice mail.

Don turned at City Hall way, he was fast. Before they could register, he was on Parliament Road. They could see Nina at a distance. Walking on the other side of the road. Her phone in hand. The feed was not clear enough but Lance was sure it was her buy her walk and the little black dress and heels she had won at the shoot. It was definitely Nina.

“Damn!” Lance swore. Everyone else watched the feed on the monitor, stealing glances at the grid map and their actual positions from each other.

She did not hang up and voice mail took to record her message.

“Lance!” her voice hitched a moment, she looked directly at them, she was looking right at Don, he seemed like a threat, Lance had hope, he thought that she would run… but she never. Nina just wrapped her hands about herself tighter.

“Ten meters away.” Anita’s voice said.

“Something’s wrong, I…” a sniffle, “I’m sorry but I need your help, someone…” there was a pause as a pair of head lights shone on her as the car went about the roundabout at City Hall/Parliament Road junction. Her gaze fell on them again, her steps hastening, and she took little fast steps in her unrealistically high shoes. How she was still on them amazed Lance. She looked away. Lance felt his chest tighten, he took shallow quick breaths his nose flaring

“I’m pregnant.” She was quiet. “I think am pregnant. I’m not sure…” Lance could not breath all together, he reached for the phone and was pushed roughly off it by Dave.

“Don; one meter.” Anita reported.

Lance looked up at the screen, her image disappeared. They watched Don walk past her. Lance wanted to breathe a sigh of relief but this was Don, he was going to get her one way or another. They watched the pavement before Don as he walked on with steady strides.

The line went dead, Nina hung up.

Within a split second, Don had crossed the road, he was coming up to her fast from behind, it was scary how fast. He must have been in stealth mode because she did not hear it coming. His attach was swift, she stood no chance.

Before Lance could take a breath, all they saw was darkness because Don stood too close. Then they heard the scuffle, her muffled voice and moans. He must have had his hand over her mouth to ensure that she does not scream out for help. They were literally thirty feet from Parliament, in view of our founding father, someone should have seen something.

It sounded like a recording running in fast forward. They heard a few punches and slaps. Then silence then a deep breath, then time stopped. They watched Nina slide to the ground, Don walked away, leaving her there, the camera went dead.

“No!” Lance yelled spiraling as he kicking the edge of his table, the monitor and everything on the table flew in the air then came tumbling down to the ground. The crash of the items on the ground making Anita jump up, she crawled behind Craig.

Swan walked away his eyes forward he went for the steps to his office. His steps weighing heavy on the floor below him.

“This is wrong!” Lance yelled at the Chief, who ignored him all together. She was collateral and they all knew it, yet no one admitted it out as Lance had. He slumped into the nearest seat. Craig, Dave and Anita watched in silence as the blue dot went away leaving a stagnant red dot.

***

Two things Nina did not see coming that night, finding out that there was a hit on her and second that she would be caught that night, she had thought that running to Monaco and calling on Lance was the right move, but clearly she was wrong. He had better things to do. She should have stayed home, waited for Lance to look for her. She was and idiot to say the least.

Her attacker had come from behind, she was scared of the man across the street with the silent steps she forgot her six, she completely forgot that he may have followed her from her house. He was taller than her, bigger and much stronger. He smelt of a strong cologne; an extremely masculine scent, she would never forget it as it slipped into all her pores invading her every molecule. He jabbed her with something in her side, it was thick and went deep and painful, the shock made her freeze. He too, she felt him freeze a moment, then he let go of her, her knees buckled and she fell to the ground. He walked away leaving her on the ground shaking uncontrollably scared of her fate. He did not kill her he just left her there. A couple of head lights hit her again, but moved away fast, she could hear the engine rave(rev) higher like they had accelerated away. She lay there her eyes shut, waiting for the pain in her side to settle, waiting to catch her breath. Waiting to time to move again.

“Oh-My-God… the baby!” she whispered harshly as she crawled smaller into herself.

Nina did not know how long she lay there; the shaking had finally stopped. The hard ground below her that offered her consolation had made her skin raw. Her welcome was over, she needed to get up. The chill the ground offered was not something to marvel at. She wanted to get up, she wanted to get up and run. Run to the nearest police station, that would be Nairobi Central, tell them that she had been attacked, that someone was stalking her and that they may have caught up to her but she could not. She wanted to reach for her phone that lay on the ground a few feet from her and call Sapphire, or Carlo… hell she could even call Mr. Monaco, but she could not move a muscle.

She slept at some point. She did not hear the car come up, she did not hear the steps come up.

“Nalia,” Nina heard a female voice call out her old name. It was smooth, soft. Softness that she had only heard quite recently.

“Nalia,” the voice came again, closer. She struggled to open her eyes. They refused to comply, defiantly staying shut.

“Sapphire?”

“Don’t worry, we got you,” she simply said, her hands coming about her shoulders Nina sat up, leaning into Sapphire. Sapphire held her a moment and then passed her on her other side to stronger arms. She cozied into the arms that felt very familiar to her. She leaned into a familiar chest, as a scent she knew too well washed over her. She turned into his chest and took a deep sniff through her nose, letting the scent in. She grabbed his shirt,

“Kyura.” She whispered.

Chapter Twenty-Two

“Sir? She is moving!” the Chief he’d just reached the top stair leading to his office when Anita spoke, he turned looking at her in shock. She stood over the monitor, bent over looking right into the screen.

“What!” he ran back down,

The lady and men in the office had never seen their boss run a day in his life, they noted the way his pot belly jumped and wobbled as he ran,

“She is moving and fast, she is in a car!” Anita said, as she sat back in the chair. A few clicks of the mouse and keyboard, she had the stats on the tracker on the big screen. They watched the movement, City Hall Way, then into Uhuru Highway, the movement went about the roundabout she crossed at earlier, then made a U-turn at the roundabout and went up Uhuru highway to the Uhuru Highway/Kenyatta Avenue roundabout next to the Hatches, Matched Dispatches. Births, marriages and Deaths; pretty effective analogy.

***

Nina listened to the voices around her as they spoke.

“We have to try.” Male voice, unidentified.

“Will it work?” Female voice, Sapphire. “Let me call Craig,”

“You mean the other police man who shot up Savage?!” the male voice again, he is too angry… please don’t let him touch me!

“He did not pull his trigger!” [_Catching feelings. _]There was a long pause, then Sapphire simply said, “Okay.”

Nina lay on something slightly soft, but still not enough, she felt ungrateful, after the rough ground she had just been gracing. It was a thin mattress she guessed, she could still feel the floor of the vehicle; a van she fathomed. She was unsettled, her stomach aching more than she could admit, her words failing her. It was more than just nerves.

Nina felt delirious, she opened her eyes, her vision failing her; all she saw was a blur, and the dark condition of the car was not helping in her delirium. There was a tablet that shone into the wall of the van diffusing its light into nearly nothing. Once in a short while the van lit up with light from street lamps through the front. She was sure they were going round in circles. Her hand reached out blindly to grab onto something, someone grabbed it. Something hard between their skins, she wondered what. She squeezed her grabber’s hand tightly as a wave of nausea hit her. Whatever they put in her was working. It was going to kill her she felt, she swirled. Nina shook her head from side to side trying to wad the nausea away.

“I don’t know, would you rather wait for them to come back for her, I’m sure they know something’s up.”

“Are you sure?”

Kyura!

There was silence, someone must have nodded. They grabbed her other hand, this grip was weaker, smaller hand, must have been Sapphire. She felt like she was wearing gloves. Then she felt something touch her stomach, on her side where the man had attached her. It felt metallic; cold. About five-inch diameter, the chill went through her. She shivered, the stronger hand that grabbed hers squeezed, Kyura.

“These things just need a good dose of DC; we can beat this model.” The male voice assured them. There was a silence that held too much uncertainty. Nina was scared. She wondered what they were about to do to her.

Nina felt it. For a few seconds, she felt the electricity go through her. She felt it go for her ticker with malicious intent. She was out before she could experience the entirety of the feeling.

***

“She is gone; the tracker is dead!”

“What do you mean the tracker is dead?” Swan yelled at Anita. She looked visibly scared, the favour that she was doing for them backfiring in her face, she was not ready to feel the backlash of her failure, it was not her fault that she could not do it, she was merely front office, nothing more.

“It’s dead sir, someone shorted it out, she is being helped… and they know their stuff. You need to call Muzi.” Anita squirmed as she said the tech guy’s name, she was out of her league she had to admit.

“What the…” Craig started as he looked close to the screen that still had a grid map that showed her position, her phone indicated that she was still going round and round at the roundabout, six times he counted.

They are stalling.

“CCTV! Now!” Craig yelled at Anita. She was too slow. By the time she sat in the seat and got to the CCTV data base, it was too late. Nina’s phone was dead; no cell tower picking up her signal, the cameras at the junction and the four other major roads pointing different directions Nina could have been on were all on real time and the footage the minutes before erased.

“What just happened?” Anita asked as she stared at the screen like she had just witnessed a miracle happen before her eyes. The strange kind of miracle, like necromancy; something strange in deceptive African religion.

Lance was now standing. Watching the whole fiasco like the third party, he did not raise a finger to help. His forehead still creased.

He had just realized that Nina had more friends, he thought that he knew everyone in her life but he was clearly wrong. There was more to her story than she had let on. She had lied about something… hell a lot to things and she was lost to him. There was no finding her if she had friends who could disable a million Kenyan shillings tracking device within six minutes. And the CCTV cameras… then it hit him.

“Anita, footage from when Don placed the tracker! Now” he said, forehead still furrowed, he needed to see it, see it with his own eyes.

Anita hustled and just as Lance had suspected, the footage was still there. She let it play on the big screen.

Lance watched as Don crossed the road in large silent hops, quick; too quick for Nina to notice. She was so engrossed in her confession on the phone she could have never seen it coming.

Don grabbed her in a chokehold, she wiggled, her mouth agape as she tried to breath. Then she froze, stepped to her right and elbowed him in the ribs, she managed to move forward a step but he grabbed at the long locks she had on because of the shoot, she fell back onto Don. He grabbed her mouth and whispered something in her ear. He held her by one arm on her mouth, he was bent backward a little, her feet barely hit the ground as she struggled wiggling her legs, her arms trying to pry his hand from her face. That was when Lance realized that he had her nose too. She could not breath, as her struggle died down a notch, he pulled out a large syringe with his free hand, and jabbed it into her side.

In anger, Lance bit down, his jaw working. He watched her freeze, Don too, like it was somehow cathartic.

Son of a gun!

Lance’s fisted his arms on his side. Took a step toward the screen. Time had somehow frozen. The stems of the clock waiting for him to do something, he swallowed the lump in his throat. Then he watched Don let Nina go, she slid to the ground and he walked away. Without a seconds thought to check if she was okay. Lance felt his nostrils flare. He wanted to let out his anger on Don’s face but that had to wait. He wanted to know who had his girl.

“Anita, fast-forward.” He leaned over a desk before him, his eyes squarely on the screen, “Who picked you up Nina?” his rhetoric signaling Craig on how far the rabbit hole he was.

All that could be heard was Chief’s heavy breathing and Anita’s fingers hitting the keys like they were running a marathon. Then the images fast forward then a break, then nothing. The street went back to another cold night like nothing had happened that night.

“Go back slowly.” Lance ordered. Anita complied. She let the footage rewind frame by frame then play out from when Don walked away. Frame by frame they keenly watched, wide eyed they waited, the wait proving potent as their eyes somehow grew larger with every passing frame.

Then the last frame was a partial; a hand grabbing Nina’s phone off the ground. Then three seconds of static, then the footage goes on with the empty street. Anita instinctively returns the footage to the hand and phone.

Caucasian!

Craig took a step back. He blinked a few waiting for his brain to catch up with his eyes. He needed to make a call. Sapphire was part of Nina’s crew. He should have connected the dots a while ago but he was too infatuated with her to make the connection. He knew that they knew each other from high school, but he never knew that they were close, that close. Worse, they knew enough to make Nina disappear. They definitely knew enough to ensure that she stay lost to them.

Lance stared at the screen like he wanted to unleash a bunch of bullets that way. His boss too had a look on his face, it said something close to, ‘FIX THIS @#$% RIGHT NOW!’

***

Nina jolted awake, oh she was awake now! Riled up to be exact. She felt like someone had just injected her with a dose of Adrenaline…no… She felt like a Volkswagen on jet fuel! Nina’s heart was racing; a thousand beats a second. She felt ready to run twenty kilometers let alone one. She was overeating of course, but she did not mind, she grabbed at every breath like it was a life line. They all gave her space as she tried to catch her breath. The singular polarity of voltage was so not her thing. Her chest hurt, she could not get over how her heart first felt when the current was unleashed on her, and the shaking. She shook all over.

“Just breathe.”

Kyura!

She turned at him, scuffled into his arms. He just held her, the past coming so close to the reality he now faced. He was back, he was there with her. He never left. He waited for her. She shut her eyes and soon enough drifted off to sleep in the arms of the man she would forever love.

***

Lance ordered Anita to delete the CCTV records of Nina’s attack. They needed to be in control of everything that would happen from that moment onwards. Don had appreciated it, but Lance ordered so to protect Nina and the station. He could not careless about Don.

Six hours had passed, they had nothing. No Nina, nothing on whoever had her. Lance was a brooding mess, staring blankly into thin space. Anita had fallen asleep at the desk she was working in. Craig was on phone the last hour calling a mysterious someone. The Chief had left the station saying that he would return later in the day, but he assured them that he would be available on phone if they needed him and Don… well Don was outside the station.

The Sun was out, its rays taunting their failure. It was a beautiful morning, and someone had to enjoy it. Don sat at the waiting area outside to the side of the station building. He tentatively ran a finger on the side of his face. It was sore as should be, Lance had a glorious left hook… yet Don was simply following orders. Well maybe not entirely. No one told him to jab the tracker in her stomach, but yet again no one was there to see how hard Nina fought. She was a tiny girl but strong as hell. He pulled his hand in and took a puff of his cigarette, half gone, wasted as he reminisced the night he just had. The waft offering him little consolation.

Don had expected a welcome party when he walked into the station, not bloody fight club. He had expected validation of a job well done, all he got was a punch from Lance, sad eyes from Anita, and the cold hard truth from Craig,

“She is pregnant.” His tone said it all. Don finally understood why everyone was on edge. The chief watched it all go down from his office, he motioned for Don to leave the station.

[_Why do I have to leave! _]He remembered thinking but left anyway. He sat in the cold until the sun’s first rays hit him. He took a deep breath. Lighting his last cigarette.

Fucking A!

Don watched a pretty girl walk up to the station entrance. She looked confused, she just stood there at the door staring at the empty reception desk. She just stood there, all plus size, 5’5 inches of deranged temptation. She was lost in need of guidance and he was very willing to offer it. He thanked God for Officer Herbert’s tardiness. The man was never early.

The girl looked luscious, like low hanging fruit ready for the picking. Exhibiting ripeness in all forms and manner. Her lips were a bright cherry; juicy. He was ready to pinch, but one thing though, it was necessary he find out her age before gathering hope enough for his low rider. He motioned her to come over as soon as her eyes met him. She came over diligently. Bone was all Don could feel. He took a harsh inhale.

***

Lance sat at his desk, his seat was pushed back slightly. All the makings of his insides scrambled into nothing. He could not even think straight. He had lost his only lead who had managed to somehow destroy tech worth millions in six minutes! And the one that had him hunched over in despair, she was pregnant!

A text came into his phone,

*I know tonight was tough, but you need to keep appearances. Muzi already had you booked for a radio interview at Capital North. Call me when you can. *

Dave.

Akh!” he swore.

***

“Sir we have a problem.” Anita said after popping her head into Chief Swan’s office. She walked in tentatively, followed by Lance, Craig and then Don.

Two days later and things were not looking up for them at all. Somehow they had only managed to taint the station’s reputation. Anita plugged the tab in her hands into the chief’s computer.

“You all have to see this.” Anita said. She turned the chief’s monitor when it was all set up for them all to see.

The video was frozen for a few seconds. In the frozen frame they saw Nandi, his face caught at an awkward angle, he looked like a goof rather than the Nairobi whistle blower. Don, impatient scoffed turning to leave. Anita raised her hand to tell him to be patient. The video started to play.

“You saw what they did to a child of ours Nairobi. You are breathing the same filthy air as this child yet you too do not care. You laugh and tag each other send this [_ghasia _]around like you get a cent from publicizing this. You marvel at this new media… Confront behind electronic screens while you laugh at what they have reduced our child to. This Nairobi Central will not go unpunished. You attack our little girl and leave her for dead because you think you have the right.”

Nandi moved his phone camera to include a monitor screen, playing on the screen was an aerial recording of Don attacking Nina. Don and the Chief’s jaws dropped simultaneously. Lance’s face was hard. He was done thinking about it. Craig winced. Nandi’s hand moved until his camera caught only the footage, it was angled though. He must have been using a back camera, unable to see what he was doing thus the terrible frame. The CCTV footage looked edited. Some bits of it looping over and over again, the most graphic of bits. Anita looked disgusted. The video ended with Nina laying on the ground crying.

“Baby… Don’t cry,” Nandi spoke over the recording, his voice sounding like a father consoling his child. “We will fight for your justice!” they watched the as Nandi scrolled back and replayed the CCTV footage again.

The phone camera zoomed into the security footage. Nandi continued to talk.

“Look at what they do in the cover of night. Look! Nairobi, technology is the vice today. They use technology against us. Monsters… see the syringe.” Nandi froze the CCTV footage where Don injected Nina with the syringe, he pointed at the syringe with his free index finger.

Don was starting to breathing heavy like he was about to hyperventilate. His eyes stared in horror as he watched his actions edited to show how terrible a human he was. Lance was too solid to be real. He looked at the screen intensely like he could somehow bore rays of radiation into the screen and end it all.

“See how they track us now. We are tagged like animals. Look!” they saw the frame of the camera phone shake visibly; they all knew that Nandi was shaking as he spoke. He spoke breathing heavily. His breathing recorded for his viewer. He continued to play the attack on loop as he spoke.

“You will not control us with your technology! You will not track us! You will not erase proof of your misdeeds to hide your sin. You have big brother… We have eyes that see all. We are the masses. We stand for each other. We all fight you!” The frame went dark all over. The four in Swan’s office continued looking at the screen as though they were waiting on Easter eggs. There was nothing more. It was over. Truth was that no one wanted to be the first to move, or say anything. The tension on the room had to go somewhere.

***

Nandi sat in his little room, before his desk. His phone the only modern tech in the room sat on the cramped up desk amongst old candy and food wrappers.

It had been thirty minutes since he had uploaded the video on his Facebook page. The post had 1.2 Million views already. 55000 comments. He did not smile or react in any manner. It was not a matter of jubilation. All he wanted was the word to get out.

He let the tape playing on loop continue. He looked closer at the girl. Something about her so familiar. He studied her face over and over again. His face coming closer to the screen every second till it came to him.

“Nalia!” Nandi whispered as he sat back in his office chair. He grabbed a can of beer from the side of his messy desk and took a huge gulp.

“Found you baby girl…”

***

“Damn this vigilante crap!” Swan swore as he rubbed his bold spot. “They are making us look like the bad guys.”

“I thought you erased the footage?” Don asked Anita. She looked scared all together.

“I did.” Anita said, she looked like she was about to cry. Don sound like he was blaming her for the leak.

“They must have eyes on us too. Look at the angles. That’s a different camera all together.” Lance said, finally using his word hole for more than just cursing Don. He replayed the video. The others noted the variation of angles.

“In the late 90s, early 2000s CCTV technology became privatized in Kenya. See, this camera is placed high… I think the church, its borderline areal. Its high…The bell maybe…” Lance concluded in an ambivalent tone.

“We have to do something.” Swan spoke, he was yelling without even knowing, “We cannot chase after these drug dealers and deal with angry mobs. This video has to come down!”

Craig took out his phone. Dialed Muzi who picked within the first ring. He sounded excited, like his day was the opposite of theirs.

“Are you watching this video… Is that Don! The video is all over the internet! Social media is eating it up! Who’s the chic?” Muzi talked fast not giving Craig a chance to say the reason why he called.

Craig refused to answer him, he would have to figure it out on his own. It would come out sooner or later. Someone would make the connection sooner or later. It did not take Muzi more than ten seconds to figure out who the girl was.

“Wait… Is that the girl from…? Is that Leani’s girl from the shoot?”

“Yah, can you do anything about it?” Craig sound desperate. “That video got everyone riled up at the station.” At that moment, Craig dared to look down at the rest of the station. Most of the police in that moment looked up at the in the Chief’s Office. Everyone knew.

“Lemme see what I can do from here. It may be difficult; my internet connection has been shit.”

“Can you come in?” Craig asked, trying his luck. He listened through the shuffle on the other side, then Muzi answered that he could not. His answer sounding final. There was no convincing him.

“I need about a week and I’m all yours.”

“My fear is that the city will be burning before you come back.” Craig confessed. Don, Lance, Swan and Anita just watched him feeling the same sort of despair that was circulating heavily in the room.

“I can get rid of the one online, easy. The problem is people have already downloaded the video and shared it on private devices. We have the tech but it’s not approved. Remember the big brother argument, we lost. We have limited access.”

“What is if we ban the circulation of the video? Like the ones with the girls being beat up…. Savva SACCO was it…” Craig asked, trying to proactively find a solution to their conundrum. Anonymity proved that they could operate undercover without any questions asked. Don’s face being the face of a Million views online was not good. Lance’s face was the one supposed to be making rounds online, and in a different light all together. Muzi had to find them a solution, and soon.

“Circulation was burned but still the videos circulated among friends. There was not much that was done…but…” Muzi started but went silent suddenly. Craig raised an eyebrow as he waited. He knew that Muzi had an idea brewing.

“Craig, I just thought of something. See the internet is like this big bowl of information. Unsecured despite the lie that it is. Everyone who has a smart gadget; watch, phone, tablet or computer that links back to the internet can essentially be tracked. We can custom a bug that will go after that particular video. We can erase it online and culture the bug such that it can lay in waiting as soon as the owners of the devises unlock or switch them on, the bug can go after the video on private devices. We will use the URL of the video to track it. No biggie.”

Craig looked disturbed, “Muzi, that’s the scariest thing I have ever heard you say! Will it work?”

“Watch and learn youngling.” Muzi said pride laced in his tone. He hung up soon after. Craig let him get on with it. He told his team and boss the plan they had. All they had to do now was wait and see if Muzi’s idea would work.

Chapter Twenty-Three       

“Good morning Nairobi! Welcome to the show and we have a special guest gracing out airwaves this fine morning!”

God could you be any more enthusiastic this fine Sunday morning! Lance wanted to punch Ladiga, the morning host who was umped higher than a bull on steroids. No, he pictured one of those cocks in western Kenya high on God knows what ready for a cock fight, he laughed, his high taking over.

Lance still had the Asprain, and he took his research more literally than Chief Swan had intended. He adjusted his shades higher on his nose, they were necessary. Effective in hiding his dilated pupils and bloodshot eyes. Also, for a studio, Capital North was bright! It was all in Lance’s head.

“Yeah Ladiga!!!” Why did I say that!

Lance took a sip of his coffee in a takeaway cup, tasting the whiskey spike strong and clear. He smiled a cocky one at her. She blushed something fierce.

“I am here with god-of-a-man Lance Mclean, and ladies… you wish you were here! This will be one for the books, but before we get started with this fine man…”

Oh she got the McLean bug BAD! He almost yelled. This is going to be interesting.

***

Nina slept most of the morning. She had no idea where she was. The detox prime concern of everyone around her. The elements waged war on her for being too insensitive in realizing that her body was a temple. Everything in her screamed murder in the first, she wanted to kill Lance. Just like every other drug addict in the world she blamed someone else for her vice. But to be fair, the day she met Lance, was the day everything began to spiral. She had some blame to place on herself, but Lance had a major role in destroying the life she had built for herself. History was repeating itself. History was a harsh reality that one way or another, everyone finds a way to walk the most wretched of paths again. All to hope for is that the Good Lord forgive once more. Four more days! The fourth feeling like a decade away.

Kyura sat on a chair beside the bed. Watched her like a hawk. They were older, clearly none the wiser, he was still pinning over her and she was still a train wreck. He had grown though. He walked away from Sabvia. Realizing that a gated community was not what he wanted for himself. The safety of walls and a community were not what he craved for, he needed more. He needed options, a choice.

Kyura was alone, enough to focus on building himself. Kyura owned a house in Sabvia passed down from his father to him. His inheritance. He renovated the house over two years and when it was ready rented it out to a new family that wished to live in the plain borderline sterile surreal environment that was Sabvia. He rented a smaller apartment in Westlands area for himself. It was a steal really; cozy enough for a bachelor and big enough for two when he finally got the guts to talk to Nalia again. He got a job at a local garage owned by one of the residents of Sabvia and lay in waiting. Four years later he still lived in the apartment and now owned and managed the garage. He had a staff of four; four loyal to the grave men who heeded to his every word like gospel. His men were the ones that helped him save Nina from Lance and his goons.

All the while Kyura stayed close to his Nalia, like a shadow behind the corner; like a ninja after prey, he was there and not there. He was the ghost that haunted her, the past that she never really resolved. He wanted so bad to rekindle what they had, but did not know how.

He watched her a few nights a week, she looked happy. The job suited her. It let her be free like she craved. There were nights though that he saw her sadness. He hoped that he was the cause for it. He hoped that she lay awake thinking of him, that she still loved him. But, he was never worried about her, she was strong. She never took the drugs that circulated the Monaco. Her friend though he worried about. She was too free, too much freedom was not good.

Until the call from Sapphire, Kyura had thought her strong, her deception evident as she lay in his bed, sweaty and sick from withdrawal. He adjusted his head sets, listened closely to the radio as Lance’s voice came again over the airwaves.

So far, he had bragged about a lifestyle that he never really lived, he talked about a helicopter ride to Ukunda for the shoot and his Uncle Mzee Kobe who hosted them and bubbled some more about jewelry and cars and the good life. Kyura almost gagged.

“It’s been great!”

“Speaking of the shoot,” Ladiga started, there was an uncomfortable silence in the air, “Some say that it was very uncomfortable on set, Nina was-not herself.”

“Is there a question somewhere coming?”

Kyura could hear the slur in his voice, contrasted greatly to Ladiga’s perky sound,

“So what happened on set?” A little toned down, she was getting exasperated.

“You know my girl Ninz she is beauty and brains… and talent! She was in character and shhhhiiiii…”

“OKAY!” Ladiga caught the expletive before it was complete, “Let’s take a quick break with the headlines and we will be back shortly. I’m your girl Ladiga for Capital North hanging out with Lance Mclean. Stay tuned.”

Ninz?!

“Kyura?” Kyura barely heard Nina calling his name, he moved over to the bed dropping the head sets on the bedside table.

“Nalia.” Kyura stuck to the original, hoping that she was okay with it. It was difficult calling her Nina.

*****

Nina was done. The past had caught up with her. The strain was real. Her body was older slower at getting rid of the drugs. She had no fancy institution supporting her recovery. No shrink to share with her deepest fears to heal faster. She had only Kyura. So much she wanted to ask. So much she needed to know. But every time she tried to speak the words got stuck at her throat. She could feel the nausea rise and she was beginning to feel like a one word Neanderthal because she could only form singular words for some reason.

Second time she had gagged her guts out within the hour. The jet came out messy. She ended up making a mess in the bathroom.

Kyura did his best to make Nina’s recovery easy but it was hard. He could not believe that the Smiths, including Keith did this for them more than once without complaining. Kyura had her in the tub, for a warm bath for her to try and get her temp up now that she was freezing. He worked at cleaning up her mess. Glad that it was mostly just water and stomach juices. He cleaned the toilet bowl and the area surrounding the bowl not the slightest disgust on his face.

Nina watched Kyura from her sitting position in the tub. She sat in the tub leaning on the edge watching him. Nina saw a different man. Not the boy trying to find his place in the world. He had grown into a fine man. Strong, powerful. He looked like he had purpose. A sense of direction, that Nina lacked all together. Nina could not believe that she had gotten all that from his cleaning of a toilet bowl. The drugs must still be working her really good she thought. She choked back a sob pulling Kyura’s attention. She looked away as he walked up to her.

“Hey don’t cry.” Kyura said, “Why are you crying?” Kyura had to ask, so as to know how to approach the consolation. She hid her naked self beneath the bubbles in the tub. Using her hand to pull as many of them as possible towards her chest.

Nina sniffled.

“I’m not crying,” she lied, “It’s just that you look different.”

He laughed looking away a moment on the laugh then back at her like he did when they were younger. She wanted to smile, recognizing a little bit of young Kyura in the man before her.

“Of course I have. It’s been seven years!”

“Touché.”

“You have also changed.” Kyura said as he ran his hands over her now straight hair. It was hard for him to admit but he loved the mane more. The mane represented a rebellion that they shared when they were younger. Her hair was also darker; pitch black… Not the brown that he was used to.

“It’s just a weave. They did it for a shoot.” Nina said giggling nervously her eyes flinty on the bubbles.

“Can I get some scissors? Take it out?” Kyura asked, then he realized that he had given her a choice. He did not want to give her the option of a choice. He hated the weave, it needed to go. There were things that represented Nalia. Her hair, the wild mane that she never bothered to tame. Her skin, a nice even midway between dark and caramel. Her laugh, he would die to hear her laugh again. Lance had managed to change two of those about her, in less than a year of knowing her, she was wearing synthetic hair despite having perfect hair, in his eyes. She also never laughed. But to be fair, she was detoxing. She had giggled though.

Must be that Kyura placate… Kyura wanted to scream from the rooftops.

“I’m taking it out.” He said finitely. It was not a compromise. She looked up at him and nodded. He gave a firm confirmatory nod and left to get scissors.

Kyura came back within a minute holding a pair of scissors. Nina span her hand on the edge of the tub like she had before and leaned her head on her hand. She gave Kyura full access. Kyura knelt by the tub and began working on removing the weave. Kyura made quick work of removing the weave dropping the pieces on the floor when he was done. It was messy. He may have cut her hair a few times but he got it out either way. He had bought her tubes of shampoo and conditioner. He helped her wash and condition her hair. They then comb it out with their fingers since Kyura, shocker, did not own a comb.

Nina felt the intimacy of the whole affair an unnerving ten. She was shaking like a leaf. Not because she was cold. The bath was still warm, but because she was coming to terms. The truth was she had never slept with Kyura. Even when the whole of Sabvia thought he had her ten ways all week to Sunday. She was still the girl he wanted to wait for. All her life she had had sex with two men; Bobo and Lance. She gave in to Lance in the hope that he was the one. Lance had become the true definition of a pipe dream. That moment with Kyura, in his bathroom represented all that she hoped for. She let him take charge, let him mold the version of her that he loved. The best thing about it was that she liked his version of her more. She felt so at home, easy. Like they finally had permission to actually live their lives, without the Smiths overseeing and Mica lurking in the past but close enough to actually harm.

Nina wanted a long life with Kyura. They had wasted seven years of their lives and it was time to declare what she needed from him. She needed, not wanted but needed to be married to him. To live long and die in his arms. If she had it her way, they would die together, so that she or he would never have to feel the pain of losing the other. It dawned on her that she wanted to die old and happy with Kyura by her side. Maybe a few grandkids.

“All done?” Nina asked when the soft tugging seized.

“Yap. Much better.” Kyura said kissing the top of her wet hair. She smiled shyly.

He sat by the tub. The pile of weave a discarded heap on his side. He never paid it any mind. He knew that the temperature of the water in the tub may have considerably dropped but he needed a few answers. He bet she had questions of her own that needed answers.

“What happened after the shootout?”

Nina suddenly looked really sad, the past was the ice queen, always managing to dampen her mood.

“Nathan’s parents came for me. They came with a friend of theirs Martin. They told me that he had found my family. And that Governor Ali… The president had organized for me to go into witness protection. My family was anonymous enough so they made a deal and I went to them. The government catered (for)my education and resettlement.” She had spoken slowly. He realized that she never liked talking about it.

She went quiet. He guessed that it was terrible. He let her tell him at her own terms. She appreciated Kyura’s ability to gauge her. He still got her.

“It was terrible. My mother… She… My father died,” her beginning was all over the place, she could not get her brain to organize the thoughts before the words came tumbling out. “My father died a year or less after I was taken. So it was just my mother. My mother is Bajuni. Her family relocated from Somalia down to Kenya. My father was Swahili. My mother does not speak English.” Kyura’s brow knit in shock. How could the Smiths let her go to a family that does not speak a language she understood? And he knew his Nalia was not a linguist. “She lived someplace on your way to Kwale town. Not quite in the hills. But all the same the middle of nowhere. She is remarried. Has a husband and children. Four children. Two girls and two boys. I have brothers and sisters.”

She sniffled, her nose beginning to run.

Kyura stood up to help her out of the tub but she placed her hands on his shoulders pulling him down his shoulders wet, he sat back down. Her eyes retreated back into the tub. She played with the bubbles as she spoke, taking her attention away from her swaying emotions.

“They never spoke to me. I was like the alien baby brought home to be ridiculed. My mother too. She loved the government check though. That pleased her. Not me. She would yell at me and the worst thing was when the others laughed. I knew she had said something bad but how would I know for sure. I picked a few words here and there but I would never learn their true meaning if no one bothered to talk even the slightest English for me to form a translation base as they spoke. I was so miserable. Three months! I was with them for three months and I was being prepped for a marriage to some man in Ukunda. He came to speak to me himself to know if it was true. A village girl who could speak English is a catch you know, who knew.” She chuckled.

He did not encourage the joke by laughing. His eyes tightened with anger.

“Then one day Tia showed up. We ran like we always did. She was sleeping with this man who had government connections. He got us some affordable government housing in Upper Hill and we stayed there as we sourced for work. That was how we started working as waitresses then bartenders. It’s like everyone in this damn city is educated! Could not get a civil job without a high school certificate. We relied on this.” She swung her hand to usher her face and body, “We worked the same job until we realized it worked better if we work different jobs. Different off days, conditions… Pay… You know.”

Truth was that he did not know. How would he know? They lived completely different lives. How would she think that he knew? They sat in silence as Kyura digested all she had told him. Nina wondered if maybe she had rumbled a lot, said too much. She had tried to leave out the gory details.

“What about you. What happened?” Nina asked him, it was time to shift focus of the whole conversation.

“My dad died. Just after the shooting.” Kyura said. Kyura had always been a man of little words, but even for him, that was a cruel way to break the news.

What?! Nina wished her weave was not out, she would at least have something to yank out. You lost your dad and me! At the same time?!

“Oh my gosh! Am so sorry.” She had tears in her eyes.

“It’s okay. It’s a while ago.”

Kyura’s jaw worked, Nina could tell there was more to the story. The anger he was exhibiting was too much for a simple death.

“After an autopsy, they found out that he was poisoned. The investigation led back to the Avakians. They poisoned him. That was what made him deteriorate so fast. Keith, Nathan’s uncle took me in. He knew my mother. He took me in without as much as a second thought.”

Kyura’s lip twitched like he wanted to smile, Nina smiled.

“He went back stateside about two years ago. He left me the cabin and the Wrangler. His savings too.” Nina felt the need to touch him, she pushed a hand to the side of his face over his ear. “I also own a garage. It belonged to some family in Sabvia. After the shootout most families left. So they let me pay for it slowly. Just signed the ownership papers last week.”

“That’s awesome.” Nina said. Her words not quite sounding in her tone. The elephant in the room came to the fore.

“Seems like you have done great without me.” Nina confessed.

Kyura grabbed the sides of her face. Like he was angry at her. His nose flared.

“No, it’s you that made me push so hard. I never would have would have worked so hard if you weren’t in the back of my mind constantly reminding me that I had something to fight for. You are the reason I stand here today. I fought for us. Not me. Us.” He struggled to look into her eyes, until she gave him access, she looked into his eyes, let him speak his mind directly at her.

“Nina believe me when I say, this would be nothing without you.” He swung his hand like she had before making her laugh.

“Haha! Funny!” She retorted. He pecked her cheek.

“What happened with Prince?” Nina had to ask.

“I don’t know. He never showed. Never called. Not as much as a text. We are in the clear.” Kyura said, hoping that Nina would be happy with their earned freedom. They had paid their penance as far as Kyura knew. Nina though had a solemn look on her face refusing to accept that they were in the clear.

“Kyura, he is coming. We are not on the clear it’s only a matter of time.” She said. Kyura hugged her. They sat there. A new sadness washing over them both.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Sapphire stood in the kitchen, the pot on the fire simmering, sweet aroma of the stew filling the air. She put the cooking stick across the rim of the pot. She leaned back on the wall behind her. Her kitchen was small, compared to the rest of the house. The walls were a warm cream, inviting. A slight discolouration along the path over the cooking area she always meant to paint over but somehow did not come to actually doing it.

She pulled her phone from the back pocket of her jean pants. She dialed Kyura’s number. Three dial tones and he then he picked.

“Hey.” Kyura sounded low. His somberness washing over her, worry setting in.

“That bad huh?”

There was a moment of silence, she heard a shuffle like he was walking then the tap of a door shutting. She guessed that he left the room, Nina was next to him, and he needed to guard her from any words that would derail her.

“I just…” a few breaths, “I thought she was better.” He confessed regret poignant in his tone.

“She was, I think. Before Lance… Leani… whatever his name is!”

“He sought her out.” cold and equivocal, Sapphire was lost. “How did you know about him?”

“I saw his picture on Craig’s phone.” She started, her voice laced with some pride, “and Craig has a Facebook account. I even have his home address, nothing close to Lavington I assure you!” she smirked.

“Could you send me that stuff?”

“Okay…” Sapphire said, a bubble from the pot jumping and hitting her hand, she squealed.

“You okay? What’s going on?” Kyura asked worried.

“It’s… it’s nothing, just my cooking hating on me!” she placed the phone between her shoulder and head, reaching for a cloth. She wiped the burned area of her hand.

“You cook?” she could hear the amusement in his voice.

“Don’t!” she warned him, “BTW I’m not the girl you knew.”

Silence.

“I like 2.0 better.”

“Jee, thanks Kyura. Gotta go. Update me later?”

“Sure, bye.”

***

Sir stood in the dining area lined against the wall they were almost blended. The service window through to the kitchen next to him. He listened to the whole conversation. He connected the dots.

He pulled out his phone and sent a text.

Lance McLean is a beast. Name; Leani.

He put his phone back in his pocket and walked lightly to the living room and sat in his seat.

Sapphire walked into the living room moments later, a glass of chilly OJ in her hands. She pulled a coaster from the dining table and placed in front of Sir,

“Thought you were thirsty.” She simply said, he gave her a twitch of a smile. She smiled back realizing that it was the best he could offer; his eyes fell back on the television screen before him. She walked away silently.

***

Lance sat in his Range Rover; work issued. He stared down at his Rolex; work issued. His bling, his phone, the houses in the city that he lived in, both Leani’s and Lance’s; work issued, his EVERYTHING; Work issued! He slammed his right hand palm angrily on the steering wheel. He then gripped it with both hands, muffling a roar as he tightened his lips shut. He noticed that his fingers struggling with the grip, piling up to his regrets that day. He wished he never took the Asprain.

The interview was a disaster; his phone rang nonstop since the morning show. It had been live. There was no editing with just under a minute time difference between recording and airing. He hoped that Nina heard his coded message to her. He hoped that she cared enough to reach out. Ninz. He never called her Ninz. That was it, his special code to tell her to come him, House Nine Block Z, his apartment building. Lance had asked her to come to him.

Lance had never done drugs before. He suffered a good case though from a bad reaction at the dentists once but that was it. He was a saint. He would have easily made his way there trying to rebel against his father in his formative years, but never came close to the stuff. He believed that his brain would thank him for not one day.

Lance and drugs did not mix well. There was no subtle blend in the matter resulting in creative genius. His was a natural disaster to say the least. His head hurt, like aneurism hurt! His eyes burned, light felt like God’s wrath and his limbs felt weak. He was sweating like a pig and nothing had passed his mouth for hours. He could not wait for the drugs to pass out his system. He took to a withdrawal away from company. He could not take it anymore. The judgement, the prying eyes. He remembered Ladiga from the morning and bile rose up his throat. He had been mean, she needed an official apology from Leani. Not self-obsessed Lance MC-TERRIBLE.

Second time he sat in waiting in his car. First was when he waited for Nina at his apartment building. six hours later, he drove off realizing that she was not coming.

He drove to Thika town, to his family’s house in semi-suburbs of Ngoigwa. Kirua the caretaker had let him in through the main gate and gone away to attend to his work as he always did. All he had to do was walk into the house and the struggle was real. Lance sat in his car contemplating how to get out of the car.

***

Lance turned on the TV. He needed to watch the news, find out what was happening. It was one ten. He was sure that he had missed the most important bits of the news but he would not mind something that would ground him. Any news other than his major fuck-ry at Capital One. He should have known that with his luck he would only end up in the center of the storm.

“A fan made video made from actual photos off the set of Lance’s shoot for song ‘Corner’ came out this morning. It had clocked a million views by mid-day, such success when rumours have been circulating that the girl attacked and tagged in Nairobi is actually the artist’s girlfriend Nina Mazrui. Spokesperson and right hand man of the musician Mr. Mwete says that it’s just a coincidence. The black and white CCTV tapes which were coincidentally scrubbed off the internet were compared to HD footage from the video by online whistleblower who simply goes by the name Nandi and from his analytical description of Nina Mazrui and the girl from the CCTV tapes…”

Lance swayed, he could not believe that social media was now mainstream media.

[_These people have no souls. Wata gain nini for anikaring Nina like this? _]What will they gain for hanging Nina bare like this? He wondered.

He sat heavily on the seat before the TV. A cloud of dust raised off the couch making him cough, his fits making him miss a vital part of the announcement. The part where the news anchor said that Nairobi Central found the girl in the CCTV Video and they were working with the Lance and Nina to come to the bottom of the whole story.

Lance came out of it just as the female news anchor and her male associate wound the news with kind words wishing them a wonderful week.

[* *]

Chapter Twenty-Five

Kyura sat in the dark. He waited, he had sat there for hours, and he was beginning to feel like a man on a fool’s errand when he heard the lock turn.

Finally!

After his detox in his home Lance was back in the city, in his own apartment. He needed a sense of normalcy. He needed to feel like the old him once more. Kyura by the help of Sapphire had found Lance’s actual house and was sitting in waiting. He needed to get Lance of Nina’s back for good.

Lance walked in. He removed his jacket and hung it up behind the door before turning on the light. He locked the door behind him then reached for the light. The bulb came alive illuminating the humble living space, and in it a waiting Kyura. His chair is arrogantly repositioned from the dining table a few feet away now slanting on the wall opposite the door. One leg pitched on the bar toward the bottom of the seat, the other hanging, swinging from time to time.

Lance instinctively reached for his gun at his waist when Kyura spoke coldly, “Uh-uh, leave it…” He points the floor and Leani does as told. He unfastens the straps about his waist and gently slides his firearm to the floor, “Come,” he ushered a finger on a chair placed opposite his. “Sit.”

Lance noticed Kyura’s other hand on his lap, wielding a small caliber gun, he nodded, his lip twitching to the side for a second. He walked over.

“Kyura,” Lance lay it out there, waiting for a response but Kyura kept quiet, until he was seated. Lance placed his whole right lower arm the dining table, his index anxiously ticking on the wood.

“Leani,” Kyura mimicked his uncertainty tone to the letter. Lance’s ticking finger seized, he took a deep breath accepting the corner.

“Leani Kori Oloo. A legacy cop, who knew?” Kyura pushed off the wall, the seat’s front legs hit the ground, the sound breaking the sudden silence. He was a good foot closer to Lance’s face now. Looking right into his eyes. Kyura could tell, he had him in his fingers. His tells were not subtle. He wondered how Lance was able to fool Nina all the while they were together.

[_Unless, she was never sober when they were together! _]Kyura intensified his glare.

Lance considered the odds of fighting him, they were not in his favour; even if he somehow managed to put in a few good jabs it would not matter. The man had a gun to him, they would be lucky if ever. He looked big, not a steroid junkie yet but close, like he worked manual. He wondered how a foreigner worked manual in Kenya.

“What do you want?”

“Nina.” Kyura simply said. Lance’s eyes opened wider.

[_I thought you have her?! _]Lance wanted to ask, but he changed his mind all together on the question. He shut it.

“Leave her out of your investigation.” Kyura said, laying his demands for Lance.

“She is center.”

“She knows nothing. All you managed to do was get her back on a habit she broke years ago,” Kyura sounded sad, the words reached Lance’s core.

“I need more,”

Kyura looked away a moment, his twelve and three unmanned. Lance wanted to jab, cross, hook uppercut Kyura’s haughty face so bad, but they were making headway. He was not going to jeopardize that. It took all in him to stay still. Then Kyura raised his hands in surrender. He placed the gun on the dining table. Lance thought he saw a revolver, before he could place the gun, Kyura pushed it away, it slid over till it went over the edge, falling on the floor near the kitchen door.

“Let’s talk like men. No threats, no fists.” He said, Lance nodded. “I need to get her away from the life.” He did not need to elaborate anything. Lance understood him loud and clear. “You need her to do your work for you, I need her safe,” Kyura continued.

Lance almost smacked him upside his head.

“If you love her, the way think you do, you will let me take care of her.” Kyura said. It was clear to the both of them that Kyura thought himself the better option.

Lance could feel the pull of the choices before him;

[_Let her go. Let Nina go. Let all the money from the president’s kitty go to waste. Let Kyura have her. The other; insist on keeping Nina, go to war with this one… and she knows nothing about the case. _]

“Who knows?”

“Craig. He knows.” Kyura answered him almost immediately. Lance was once again caught in a bewilderment. Kyura knows Craig?!

“You know Craig.”

“Let’s say we have a mutual friend.” Kyura said getting up, Lance stayed put. He was done fighting. He needed two questions answered though,

“How is she?” Kyura just gave him a look that said it all, Lance heaved going for the second question,

“The baby?” Lance asked, his voice cracking a little. Kyura shook his head. Lance’s face set, he moved towards the table, placing his head in his arms, his elbows pitched on the table.

Kyura could see his jaw working. He wanted to feel sorry for him, but he had someone in worse shape in his house. He slipped out, Lance barely noticed the door being unlocked as Kyura slid out. That was the last he saw of him.

Lance walked into the kitchen, he took a kitchen towel and went for Kyura’s gun,

“Idiot,” he muttered as he bent over collecting the gun. Something felt strange. He looked closely at the gun, a laugh escaped his lips. He grabbed the nearest seat laughing at himself until he was left breathless. As the hysteria settled, he threw Kyura’s gun on the table.

[_Bonoko! _]A fake gun.

“You have guts my friend. Threaten a police officer with a Bonoko.” Lance could not help but start laughing again. Then he suddenly stopped. He looked at the wooden gun on the table. He ran to his bedroom.

Lance ravaged through the drawers going through his stuff and junk discarded in some of his draws. He was looking for his ex’s makeup kit that was conveniently left plot for a visit when she felt ready. He needed to do something very important with it.

When he finally found it, he jabbed the air with his free hand excited about his prospective find. He grabbed tape from his little study table in the corner of his bedroom before leaving the room. He went for the gun. Lance carefully dusted the gun with loose powder from the kit, he then blew over it gently and then used the tape to transfer Kyura’s prints off the gun onto the tape. He raised the inch-wide tape to the light above him hoping to find Kyura’s prints on the tape… there was nothing. He did it over again on both sides of the gun with no success until he came to terms with the fact that Kyura who was not wearing gloves when he was holding it had taped over his fingers to avoid getting his prints on the gun.

Smart. Lance had to admit. Kyura was surprising him more and more each second. He was the worst kind of adversary. The kind that was sleek, clever and quiet.

After Sabvia, Kyura learnt a few things about life he hoped his peers from Sabvia learnt. He learnt that he needed to be a ghost, there but not really there. Visible but not heard. Heard but not seen. He learnt how to watch his back, ensure that no one had leverage on him, ever. Kyura was a ghost. He never joined social media, never had a questionable online history. His work was his all. All misdeeds done under the cover of night well-orchestrated to ensure his anonymity.

Lance knew getting back at Kyura was going to be hard. He opted to deal with it all another day. He needed his bed more than he needed to find about the man that Nina chose over him.

***

Kyura walked into the house, it was late, about two in the morning. He dropped his car keys in a bowl on a table by the door, his joining another set. After the keys came all the coins in his pocket, a habit he had developed over the years.

He walked into the living room, he sensed Sapphire before he saw her. She had a nice scent, mostly vanilla. It was a nice scent to have. She lay on the couch, a light blanket he kept in the living room wrapped about her, she slept soundly. He walked past her to the bedroom, the bed was empty. He was about to freak out when he turned to see Nina standing in the dark by the window. The city a cool distance away, the night lights illuminating Nairobi’s nightly glow and all its glory.

He turned to walk towards her, leaving the lights off. Kyura was sure that she heard him come in, but she did not move a muscle. Her gaze stagnated on the impression before her.

Nina contemplated what to say to him. A lot to say, how was the conundrum.

“Nalia,” Kyura started, he was standing too close for comfort. Nina wanted to run, suddenly unable to deal with the talk that was coming her way.

“Mmmhhh.”

“I’m sorry.”

Why are you sorry, I am the one who should be sorry!

There was a strange silence, then she turned to face him, her face hidden in the dark, he could barely see her face with the city haloing her head. He concentrated on her face, his pupils flaring tying to see her face. His features pulling in frustration.

“Why?”

“I should have… I could have…” he stopped, [_what?! _]He asked himself. He had no answer.

“You could have what?”

Same girl I knew, Kyura thought. She always found a way to tug at his heart strings.

“I should have been with you.”

“I make my own choices. It was my choice to make and I made the wrong choice. I should have never let him into my life.” She said. Nina hugged him tightly. He held her like he never would again, it had been a long while. [
**]

Chapter Twenty-Six

Sapphire’s phone rang. It was early. Too early. She was not done sleeping. Her body ached, the seat that seemed so friendly the previous night had worked wonders on her. She had slept too stiff and was now paying the price. She sat up. A little light had inched into the room. She could feel the day starting up with the human and human enabled noises sipping into the house at a distance. She pulled her phone out and answered the call just before the line went dead. Kita.

“Kit, it’s too early.”

“Where are you?”

“At a friend’s,” she was alert now, she sat straighter, “What’s wrong.”

“Can you come to the house?”

“Yeah… what’s going on?” she asked as she pulled her jacket off the couch’s backrest and stood up. Kita never answered. She heard some movement on the other side which made her worry even more. She hastened her steps as she walked towards the bedroom. The bedroom door was ajar, her eyes falling on Kyura and Nina, dead asleep tangled in each other. She smiled, tapped the door frame twice and walked away.

“Come quick okay,” Kita said then hang up, she slid her jacket on and put her phone in her jacket pocket. Sapphire passed by the kitchen and placed a wrinkled banker’s check from her jean back pocket on the fridge door adjusting a fridge magnet to hold it. An ‘N’;

[_N for Nalia… Nina? _]She shook her head.

With payment done, she picked her keys from the bowl by the door and left sure to shut the door quietly so as not to wake the lovers.

***

The sun was out; bright and brilliant. That Saturday morning had everyone lazy, Sapphire’s housing estate felt like a ghost town, save for a lady jogging up the street toward Sapphire.

Sapphire highly engrossed in her thoughts almost came close to hitting the gate pillar again. She was beginning to feel like a terrible driver, maybe she should redo her driving test. She parked where she braked, open the car door and ran out almost bumping into the running lady. Sapphire apologized while giving a curious look to the lady who simply smiled and went on with her run.

Something about… Sapphires brain jumbled away as she walked up to her gate key in hand. As she opened the door she realized that she had never seen the lady before, maybe she moved down the street, or was visiting a friend, she did not read much into it. She keyed the lock and let herself in.

It felt eerie, every hair on the back of her head had risen as she walked to the front door. The door set at a forty-five-degree angle was half-open. Both the metallic security door and the main hard wood door. She tentatively stepped in.

“Kita?” she called softly realizing that it was a mistake a little too late.

***

Lance’s sagacity was questionable at best that Saturday, he should not have been on a raid. Craig could tell, he was sweaty and drained. His gear only added burden. Craig swore as he caught a whiff of his breath, the concentrated smell of stale liquor.

He leaned over grabbing the top edge of his vest and pulling him forward roughly. Craig then looked him in the eye, raising alarm to the seriousness of the situation. The rest of the group watched quietly.

“I will only say this once. You will be alert and handle this with the utmost professionalism. We will walk away from this and wash our hands of this case. You will join a ten step program and we shall all move on like nothing ever happened. Are we clear?”

Lance took a moment considering the words and then nodded.

“You got this?”

“Yes.” Lance said.

Craig’s eyes got tighter, a warning that Lance recognized all too well; failure was not an option.

Minutes later, Craig stood on the inside of a gate two houses down from the one opposite Sapphire’s. Their stake house. He stood by the gate right before the foot door. Three special Ops KDF-C behind him, three other on the other side of the gate, leading them was Lance. Don was in the master upstairs running surveillance.

“Steady, Sapphire just got home.” Don’s growl of a voice carried through Craig’s radio.

“Diana just passed her,” Don reported, Craig could hear hesitation in his voice, like he was hiding something, “She just went in.”

“Out with it Don, what is it?” Craig whispered harshly,

“I think she made Diana.”

Craig’s lip twitched in an almost smile.

That’s my girl!

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

Craig wriggled his shoulders in a bid to fit the combat gear better, his gaze was stuck on Lance. He nodded at Lance who gave him a tight node. Something caught Craig’s attention in his peripheral. He looked up at the neighbor balcony to see a kid, not more than ten, with a camera phone in his hands recording them,

“The hell? There’s a kid with a bloody camera phone!”

***

Sapphire walked into tension like she never felt before. Kita and Arya kneeling in the living middle, the coffee table that usually stood there shoved to the side, sat in pieces by a busted TV, she swore beneath her breath,

Damn flat screen cost A LOT!

Sir stood over the boys, he had a silver colour Beretta92 pistol pointed at them. He was cool as ever, never flinching, not in a hurry to move. She was frozen by the door.

“Lock the doors behind you.” Sir spoke. He actually spoke words that she could hear. She bit the inner side of her cheek.

The order was simple and clear. She took to it and shut the metallic security door outside. She heard the automated lock system take over. Then the wooden main door, turned and left her keys in the key hole. She then stood by the door waiting.

“Come right in sweet heart. It’s time we have a chat.” Sir spoke,

[_His voice… _]It was deep and steady. He sounded nothing like Sapphire had imagined. She imagined his voice scruffy, edgy, and maybe even dim from lack of use. She never imagined the power of his deep vocals, his projection sending chills through her. She never expected clarity, worse a hint of a good education behind the hulking ever sulking silent man. He had played them good.

“Sit. Please.” He pointed at the couch near the door. She moved slowly into the couch.

“Now where were we, where are the drugs. If one pill goes for Five hundred shillings, do the math… eight would go for?” he looked at Kita then Arya.

Sapphire who was clueless about the whole affair was slowly filling in the dots.

Sir’s gaze fell on Sapphire, when the whimpering boys said nothing,

“Do the math sweetheart,”

“Four thousand.” Sapphire answered, summoning all the courage within her.

“Now,” his eyes moved to the boys, “What about a whole bag of the stuff, say…” he waved the gun a little, his head swaying with the motion of the gun, “A big bag… about,” he looked at Sapphire as he said the amount, “About 2 KG?” he asked, his face genuinely inquisitive.

Sapphire tried hard to maintain a poker face of taciturn confidence, but the eyes that bored into her made her blink, after holding out for about ten seconds. She saw the beginnings of a grin starting from the side of his face. She swallowed hard.

“I can read you like a book, sweet heart,” he said walking up to Sapphire, she maintained her stare ahead, where Arya and Kita knelt. Arya who was kneeling nearest to her stole glances at her. He looked scared. His nose pink, a bruise already forming about his right eye, she guessed that the inquisition had started hours before her arrival. Arya’s eyes pleading forgiveness, she held his eyes, somehow drawing strength from the scared boy.

Sapphire felt Sir’s presence beside her, her peripheral vision started to cloud as tears began to fill her eyes,

“Sapphire, you know something. Where are my drugs?” Sir asked, still cool.

Sapphire stared right ahead,

“Thousands!” He suddenly yelled in her ear, she flinched to the left, her legs slightly raised she crawled smaller covering her face with her hands. “Where the fuck are they?!”

He stood up straight and hitting the armrest with his boot, making the whole seat move to Sapphire’s left. She curved tighter. He took a few steps back in frustration. Hands on his head, he turned and walked away towards the dining table.

Sapphire seized the opportunity, still hunched over, with trembling fingers she reached into her jean left pocket where her phone was and speed dialed Craig. There was no dial tone, the phone was picked immediately. She put it back in her pocket.

***

Don held Craig’s phone in his hands, he raised it to his ear and listened to the silence. He had answered because the caller ID read Sapphire, but there was nothing. He raised the volume higher and waited. Nothing.

He looked out the window to the parking lot, where Craig and the others stood, he saw Craig try to wave off the neighbour’s balcony with his free hand. He whispered harsh words at the kid, nothing too threatening, of course. Don turned away, waiting to hear something from Sapphire’s end, he barely noticed Diana walking into the room,

“I think the girl made me, Sapphire, I think sh…” she started to rumble as she wiped the streaks of sweat sliding down her face from her braided hair.

“Shhh!” Don shushed her, raising his hand a little, motioning her to stop speaking, he put the phone on speaker,

“What is it? Is that Craig’s phone?” she whispered,

“Sapphire just called.” He said in a whisper, then they heard a sniffle. His eyes grew wider.

***

Sir took a few calming breaths then walked back towards his three hostages, he bent over a little and grabbed Arya by the neck placed the gun in his mouth. He then kicked Kita to the side the commotion raising Sapphire up to sit upright in the chair,

“I will ask one more time, think about your answer before you give it to me,” he pushed the gun barrel deeper into Arya’s mouth, “For this one’s sake.”

Sapphire lean closer to them, her hands raised to plead for Arya’s life.

“I don’t know.” She said, it was the truth, she did not know where the drugs were, before she finished her interview with Jack, the club was shot up. Jack’s body still lay at the City Mortuary holding the secrets she was to find out that night.

“What do you know?” he moved the gun a little, Arya made a deep throaty sound that scared Sapphire even more. Kita still lay on the ground his eyes on Sapphire.

“All I know I was told by this guy, Jack. He died at Savage.” Sapphire swore, his eyes told her to go on, “He said there were three guys, they left a bag in his taxi… a … a zip lock with Asprain.” She stopped to take a breath, her heart racing in her chest, then she said the words as she remembered Jack saying, “This one guy foreign, Indian, maybe Arab, the other two were black. One was silent…” she stopped when comprehension came to her as she uttered the words,

“Oh-My-God?!” She swore, “Oh-God… it’s you, the three of you!” she yelled in disbelief. Sir looked away at Kita, realizing that he was too quiet. He noticed Kita staring at something, on Sapphire’s waistline, his gaze fell lower to her waist, and he saw the phone hanging half out of her pocket, diagonally to its side.

Sir’s face crumpled with disdain, the gun went off Arya’s body fell lifeless to the ground. Sapphire was not a screamer, but she let out a gut gushing scream as Sir took deliberate steps towards her. He grabbed her at the waist roughly, pulled the phone out of her pocket and hang up, he then threw it heavily against the wall, it hit hard and fell to the ground, screen all busted up.

***

Don and Diana heard the shot, a fraction of a second before Craig, Lance and the rest of the crew.

“GO!” Don shouted, as the line went dead.

He watched the team move, Craig opened the front door, and then walked out, followed closely by Lance then the rest, and they made their way across the street. Long deliberate strides defined their advance, they mimicked each other in the way they moved; part of their training. They went through the walk in door at Sapphire’s gate with no hesitation in their steps, they were men on a mission.

Craig’s propulsive desire was to ensure Sapphire’s safety. Lance’s was to ensure the success of the mission. Lance could feel the weight of his gun, his gas mask feeling like a muzzle, he could barely breathe. The ringing in his ear of Don giving them directions too much to handle. He pulled out his ear piece.

Lance struggled forward following Craig’s lead. Craig motioned for the other four to go to the back of the house, secure the servant’s quarters and the back area of the house. He and Lance led the rest of the team, they began the procedure of getting through the front door.

Lance laid down a portable welding kit. One of his men reached for the laser gun, and began cutting the metal rods off.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

“Oh you… you…” he said, pointing an accusatory index at her.

She shuddered at his proximity. With an angry growl, he grabbed her by her hair. She grabbed onto his hands to help ease the pressure on her scalp. Part of her grasp falling on the gun, the cold metal taunting her burning body.

Then they heard a sharp sound from the door, he stopped a moment, listened keenly, the three still breathing in the room found themselves staring at the door, Sapphire hopeful that it was Craig, that he had heard her, she let out an arrogant laugh, bad idea. Sir smacked the side of her face with the gun. She felt the blow, somewhere beneath her temple, she was falling to the side. Her eyes blurry as she started to pass out.

She felt Sir’s huge body jerk forward, she anticipated the fall, her going down then him coming after, but he was steady after. She saw hands over his face, it was Kita, trying to be brave and failing. Sir grabbed Sapphire by her jacket collar and threw her at the wall behind her. The kitchen window frame hitting her squarely in the ribs. She gasped at the impact falling to the ground.

Kita and Sir wrestled for a while, nothing like the Full Contact Contender fights, there was no honour in it, blood was going to be spilt and it was not going to be Sir’s. There was no equality in the fight, Kita looked like a child, hanging onto Sir’s head as he swayed from side to side. Sir was working hard on wriggling the pest off and it was working. Kita’s grip was looser by every swing.

Sapphire lay in the ground trying to get her bearing, the ringing in her head severely intensified by the score of cutting metal filled the air. She tried to get up, but as soon as she let go of the ground, her balance off, she fell back down, her knees hitting the ground hard. She decided crawling was her better option. Then she heard banging on the back door. She looked ahead, the world swaying like she was high on Bru. Through the glass door, she saw two men in full combat gear. The words police floated before her eyes, one beckoned at her, and pointed at the lock on the inside. He was hoping to get her out without Sir noticing, but Sir noticed. He raised his pistol at her, Kita realizing Sir’s intention let go of his head and reached for his stretching arm, pulled it back. Sir missed his mark by inches.

Sapphire stopped at her tracks, as three bullets hit the floor just before her fingers. She diverted her direction all together. She crawled about the dining table towards the half bath at the corner of the dining room. She looked back to see Sir raise an arm over his head and grab Kita by the neck then fling him over his head. The sound of metal unravelling stopped. Sapphire heard the sound of Kita’s back hitting the hard wood table. He let out a raw cry, and slid to the ground helplessly. She went in, still on her fours and let herself into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. She moved to a free corner by the toilet bowl and sat in it, she anchored an arm on the shut toilet seat and waited.

Second time she was seeking refuge in a bathroom. First time, she got shot. Second time’s the charm. She waited, listening to the suddenly silent house.

She heard wood and glass break, the footsteps of heavy boots hitting her wood finish floor hard. She felt a shiver go through her. Then shots rent the air. Multiple, memories of Savage went through her, she shook her head, trying to dislodge them. Then memories of Sabvia. She hid her face behind her hands, pulling her knees up to her chest. Less than a minute later everything went erringly quiet. Then she heard the steps. Coming toward the bathroom she was in. she braced herself.

The bathroom door fell open, hitting the wall adjacent to it. Sapphire flinched. She listened to the boots and the ground, steady deliberate steps towards her, she shut her eyes tighter. Anticipated harsh treatment only to feel a gentle arm rest on her shoulder. She would never forget that touch, Craig.

She looked up, he unfastened his mask and helmet and placed them on the toilet seat.

“It’s me. Craig.” He said, softly.

She looked up at him, more intricately like she was making sure. She saw red through one eye, must have burst a capillary or something. She appreciated her good one eye and its confirmation. She ran the span of her lower let arm over her face, to rid of a weirdly tingly sensation she felt all over her face. He grabbed that arm’s upper and her right and pulled her out of the corner into his arms, he embraced her she did not move. He just held her and waited.

He could feel it, the tightness of her muscles. The tension she was resonating enough to spring a coil a mile away. He figured she could feel nothing, attributed it to shock, fear, pain and or the adrenaline coursing through her veins. He figured a lot could attribute to her reaction but he patiently waited until it happened.

A deep breath, then a shudder, a quivering lower lip then the water works. It was as though she had walked through a wormhole and could suddenly feel everything. The shock wore off and the pain and emotion came thorough on queue. She collapsed into him and let it all out.

It took about four minutes until she was in control of herself, he finally spoke again.

“We really have to stop meeting this way,”

She tried to chuckle but it came out all wrong, the pain in her ribs not letting the little amusement within her soar. She cried some more.

Lance stood by the door. Watched them for well over fifteen minutes. Nostalgia was becoming him. He sniffled. His eyes finding a way to the mirror on the wall above the sink. His reflection strange to him. His week-old stubble the new normal since going undercover had gotten old for him. When it was too big he went in for a trim over a shave. He wanted something new. He needed something new. He needed his old self. Clean shaven and in charge of his own life. He resolved for change as he walked away.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

One hour sixteen minutes. Sapphire was not counting, though that was the amount of time it took Craig to get cleared to leave the scene. She sat in his car. Adamant that she was not going to hospital in the same ambulance as Kita. She swore she would rather die, quoting right lines off the Kenyan constitution.

Sapphire’s parents had made her memorize her rights as a Kenyan Citizen in her formative years after they realized that she was born in Kenya, thus Kenyan by birth. She did not share the same nationality as them anymore on account that she came too early, before her parents had enough time to travel back stateside for her birth in the land of freedom. They had a plan after that, ensure that Sapphire be representation of German efficiency in all that she did, strength and power define her and most of all be her own person. They ensured that their daughter was aware enough of all she needed to be so that her life ran smoothly. It was their fault she was born third world and not first world after all.

That morning, they would have been proud of her prowess in reciting those rights like they were written on the back of her hand. They however would not be proud of her when they found out the exact reason she used them. A few broken ribs, a fine shiner to call her own, an injured eye; an aching body all together courtesy of a running with The Hulk and she used her rights to deny herself treatment and the reason behind it being a boy, who was not Nathan Smith. Nathan the Ivy League graduate prospect, the son of a world renowned doctor, whose family were devoted Christians and worshipped together with hers in the same church. She had fallen off the rails that was for sure.

Sapphire looked at her neighbours, the ladies whispered in harsh tones pointing fingers at her. The women wide eyed, still in their night clothes, a bit dramatic she thought since the sun had been out a few hours already. She turned away, towards the driver’s side of the car parked towards a wall. She shut her eyes a moment. Taking time to hurt in peace.

A loud bang woke her up, her eyes wide she sat up to fast, the banging in her head seizing her, she placed her hands on the side of her head to stabilize it, as she placed her head on the head rest behind her and lowered her hands slowly.

Gah, finesse man! You will kill me at this rate!

“Sorry, it’s…” she waved her hand slowly for him to lower his voice on account of her throbbing head, “It’s just me.” Craig whispered.

“I’m fine. I just need to rest.” She said looking at him,

He doubted her, his face read like day and night. You can always be sure of day and night, her mother always told her.

“I’m fine.”

He lowered the sun visor on her side of the car, let her assess the damage herself. Damage beyond the pains she felt all over. She looked at the image before her. She looked like a battered spouse, and not in the sexy-kinky way but the awful-am-going-to-kill-you kind of way. She finally understood the look on Craig’s face.

“Okay, so I actually feel like I got ran over by a train!” she confessed wriggling in the seat to try and stretch out her aching back enough and not move her ribs so that they don’t hurt even more. He watched her helpless, it was both sad and cute, he could not help but smile. He peeked at the ambulance that was driving away through his rear view mirror.

“The meds not kicked in yet?”

“Nah, I may need the good stuff, now that I healed on Bru not a month ago.” She started to laugh but stopped, Craig winced restricting himself from laughing too, sticking plainly to empathy. “He said I need to go get those from a hospital or clinic.” She finished in a strained voice, like she had pulled a nerve.

Craig leaned over and lowered the seat a notch, for her. She relaxed into the new position, breathing much easier.

Silence took over. It would have been awkward, but somehow it was not. It was a comforting silence. They both understood what was next. They both understood what they wanted from each other.

“Thank you.” She said softly.

“No biggie.” Craig said starting the car. “Seat belt, please.”

She moved her left hand a micro inch and placed it back on the seat where it was before,

“You know what… I don’t think I can turn that way.”

***

Kyura opened the main door letting Craig and Sapphire in. she looked worse than he had imagined, as thought she had been cud chewed on by an ambitious cow.

“Bedroom is that way!” Kyura said as Nina grabbed Sapphire’s other hand and helped guide her to the bedroom. She was half asleep, they basically drugged her in. They walked slowly until they disappeared into the room. Kyura locked the door. Pulled out his phone and looked at his recent calls, Nathan’s was at the top of the list.

He needs to know. Kyura convinced himself. Not my place to tell him, he told himself thinking of how Sapphire helped him get Nina to safety.

While the devil and an angel played advocate in Kyura’s head, Nina and Craig tried to make Sapphire as comfortable as can be.

Craig was worried. She had denied heavy medication and was working with over the counter painkillers. They had to see a doctor who confirmed that three ribs to the left of her back were broken but he assured them that they would heal over time. Her bruised face also looked worse than it actually was. He offered to write a prescription for some morphine but she denied the prescription opting for over the counter meds. Craig was about to complain when she gave him her final answer, a stern gaze, one that determined the end of the discussion. Her next words were Kyura’s name and his address, he had no choice in the matter too. He worked out that she was scared of something.

He wondered what, then he turned his head and looked at the girl next to him slipping out Sapphire’s other shoe as he took out the one from the foot in his hands.

[_She is why! Nina is the reason why Sapphire is so cautious. _]

His hands moved slowly, slower than Nina’s. Nina took the shoe from him without much effort.

“She will be fine.” She whispered and walked out of the room, leaving Craig sitting at the bottom edge of the bed next to Sapphire’s legs watching her sleep. She understood why Leani had it bad for the girl. She was a calm spirit, spoke little but when she did say much, in all the right words.

The sun set in a beautiful sunset visible through Kyura’s bedroom window. No one noticed it. No one felt the last warmth of the setting sun. Sapphire out cold from exhaustion and Craig sleeping at her feet. That whole afternoon Craig had spent in hospital running around to ensure that Sapphire, got checked out for any major injuries, he was bushed to say the least. He had intended to take a quick nap which ended up being full on slumber at the bottom of the bed his back lined to the foot side of the bed. Craig’s nostalgia guiding his dreams.

***

“How’s she doing?” Lance asked.

“Pretty banged up.” Craig answered.

“Where is she staying? Chief says it will be a while until she can get back into the house,”

Craig thought the best way to tell him that they were at Kyura’s and Nina was there and that she looked better than she had in all the while they knew her.

“We are at Kyura’s.”

Silence.

“Do we trust him?” Lance asked his vocals a little tight,

“He is a safe bet. Nina looks fine.”

“But, do we trust him?”

“Yes.” Craig said.

They shared a moment. One only brothers would know. Kyura was an unknown entity. Understanding him would take some time, but Lance had learnt to come to terms with the fact the Nina was gone to him. Contention was key for his broken heart. She was never coming back.

“Okay.” Lance said with a sigh, “He can keep the girls.”

Craig hang up. He was standing at the window in Kyura’s bedroom. She was still asleep. Breathing lightly in the background. He had expected tossing and turning. Nightmares, anything that would indicate she was human. That the events of the day were a significant scar I her life. Nothing, she slept like a baby. He was beginning to learn that Sapphire took care of Sapphire. She lived life a step at a time took what came to her as it was and learnt to live with the consequences of her choices and actions.

Strong… beautiful… independent, well mostly… what’s missing here. What am I missing?

He walked out to the living room.

Kyura sat in the edge of the only couch in there, Nina asleep on the rest of the couch, blanket over her body, her head resting on his lap. She looked beautiful, certainly striking. She could see what they all saw in her. But unlike Sapphire, she spelt glass; fragility he could never handle. She was not his kind of woman. She liked what God had put in her path. He watched Kyura sip from the beer bottle in his hand, resting it momentarily on the hand of the couch then sipping again. The sweat beads off the bottle sipping on the couch fabric. No coasters for the beast in his man cave.

“Bottom of the fridge.” Kyura said guessing that he needed one.

Craig went for it. He grabbed him another, placed it on the coffee table before him. Craig slid to the ground against the wall opposed to the couch’s position. He popped the cap open with his keys and drunk half of it in one gulp.

He looked around the room. The apartment was small, cozy, and bright like a girl designed it. Minimalistic furnished like a man did it. Nothing more than a painting of a laughing older Asian man near the door with a strange cup in his hands. His gaze shifted to the coffee table, dark hard wood, the couch a dark navy, lighting borderline dim. He looked back at the painting then to Kyura whose eyes never left him the whole while. He noticed a similarity, the jaw line and the nose… oh and the eyes, maybe. Kyura’s were a little tight. Especially when he did that face… like the one he was giving him at that exact moment, something that read tell-me-all-your-secrets-NOW! He was quick to note that he had never seen him laugh, or smile. As though reading his mind, he smiled, something cocky, then laughed a little and gulped the rest of the beer down.

Craig laughed too nervously. It somehow increased the temp in the room slightly. The tension began to dissipate.

Kyura placed his bottle on the table, he reached over and used his other hand to uncap the bottle on the edge of the table. The sound made as he hit the cap free making Nina stir. She fell right back to sleep. He placed a protective hand on her shoulder.

“My father.” Kyura said as he sipped on his beer, “My mother was Kikuyu.” He said, waited for a reaction. Craig never flinched. His elbows in a slight pitch on his knees. His bottle in one hand, he kept pushing it to the other and back over and over again.

Kyura fitted his chin over Craig, who looked up, to a painting of a woman, beautiful. She was full figured and a prize, deep dimples in her luscious cheek. She was the true definition of a fine African ‘mama’. Craig nodded as his eyes settled back to Kyura.

“Japanese rice wine! My father’s kryptonite.” Kyura said, Craig figured he was talking about the cup in his father’s hand.

[_Well someone’s chatty! _]

“This is the part where you tell me something about yourself. Let’s start with a name.” Kyura said, amusement in his voice.

“Craig Lutsili. Tiriki.”

“It’s a pleasure. I like you more than your buddy.”

“You and me both at this moment.” They both laughed raising their bottles at each other in a toast, then they both drunk.

“One thing though, you realize she has a boyfriend.” Kyura dropped the bomb like it was no big deal. Craig swallowed hard, the sip proving impossible to go down safely. He almost choked, his question answered.

So that’s what’s wrong with the girl!

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Crazy Nandi had a police scanner. He sat in his little hole in the wall to(huh?!) his ear pressed hard to the scanner despite the voice carrying loud in the little room. He listened hard, his face contorted. He looked a little more than just crazy. He looked like a man dissociated from society, a man lost in his own mind.

Nandi sat on the cold hard floor. He was so engrossed in his scanner he failed to see something take precedence at that moment. His web cam went on. It was a new installation. A first generation webcam attached to the top of the monitor. The camera turned. Scanning over the room. It went back when Nandi’s head bobbled attracting attention to itself. The camera was focused on the top of his head. It tilted downward and locked on his face. Nandi did not see the little red light indicating that someone was watching him.

***

“Oh my God, that is Nandi!” Nina said. She was shocked though. He looked different. Okay, just to lay things out in the bare, he looked disheveled but still it was the same man that she knew and loved. He had saved her life more times than she could count. He practically raised her. Nina could not believe that he was squatting at a local mall storage room. She could not believe that he had not been caught yet.

But then again, Nandi was trained to protect himself and everyone around him. He could handle himself. It sucked though that he lived as he did. She could not stand it.

“He is a social critic,” Kyura said, failing to find a better term for whistleblower. They watched Craig’s friend Muzi work on Kyura’s office computer for less than ten minutes and he had a location on Nandi. He hacked his system and bugged him.

“I will go get him.” Kyura said grabbing his jacket.

“Are you sure, he seems a little unstable.” Muzi said angling his head while watching Nandi.

“He’s just unsettled. Am sure it will pass.” Nina said, she turned to Kyura, “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome love,” Kyura kissed her temple, he then whispered in her ear, “You owe me now, I ask one thing…”

“What?” She whispered back.

“Marry me.” Kyura looked down at her face. She looked up at his. Her lips twitched like she wanted to smile but he was too serious. Did he really mean it? She turned her head a little trying to read him her eyes still on his. She smiled a little.

“Yes.” she whispered back. Kyura smiled while nodding. All he wanted to do was jump in the air, fist pump and scream to the world that Nina was taken, but business came first; Get her Nandi and then they could celebrate. The uncertainties of bringing Nandi into his fold were worrying, but he knew one thing for sure. He was going to lay it down and dirty that night. She had just risen the freak!

***

Nandi was shocked. There before him stood the illusive Kyura. It must have shocked him but for some reason, he had never been face to face with Kyura, ever. One look at Kyura and Nandi understood why Nalia, now Nina was so into him.

“I like your work.” Kyura said. His fingers tapped on Nandi’s disorganized table. He tapped the top of the monitor twice then rubbed his dusty fingers together. He stood leaning lightly on the edge of the table. He crossed his hands over his chest.

“We need change.” Nandi said.

Kyura looked about them. The tight space too little to hold them both comfortably. Kyura understood tough living, but he would not sit for it. Nandi was the man who saved Nina’s life. His life had to mean something to Kyura, if only for the sake of Nina.

“I can’t let you live like this… plus she needs you. Prince…” Kyura stalled, not knowing how to ask for help. He knew that he was over his head. He needed help.

“The Avakian Prince will never stop coming after you. A reckoning has to be made… blood for blood.”

Kyura smiled. The king of words. Even murder in the first sounded like a well written piece. They internalized Nandi’s words over silence and strained swallows,

“I have a garage. It has a caretaker’s residence in the back. A studio. It’s spacious. And you will have running water and electricity. It’s yours if you want it.” Kyura watched Nandi measure his words.

“What’s the catch?” Kyura would have loved to say that there was no catch and it was all from the kindness of his heart but the truth was that there was a catch. No need to hide it in a thousand-page contract.

“I need a caretaker. An enforcer. If you accept, you will have humble wages and a place to rest your head. In exchange, you will watch over Nina in my absence. You will be my eyes and ears. You can never leave.” Kyura stated his terms. The stakes a little too high for Nandi. He would own him just as Mica did. Was it worth it? He had nothing. His assets frozen as Mica’s were on condition that Nalia was key to all their finances.

Nalia is key!

“Yes.” Nandi said.

“I will take care of you. Just do your job right.” Kyura said as he held out his hand for a gentlemen’s agreement. They shook hands.

“Now, what do you need from here?” Kyura asked looking about him for something that Nandi may need to carry.

“Nothing.”

Ah, Tabula rasa; a clean slate. Good choice. Kyura gave him a firm node. Kyura got it, Nandi was a man who understood that a tough choice is as easy as realizing the past needs to remain in the past. Kyura knew that they would work well together.

“Okay, let’s go.” Kyura said walking out. Nandi followed closely behind him. For a few seconds, old Nandi raised to the surface like a burning phoenix. For a second there in his demeanor was that cold confidence that he used to run all things Avakian. For a moment, he was not a shell of a man but a man in charge. War to those that opposed him.

[* *]

Chapter Thirty

Nina and Kyura stood outside the station. She looked nervous. She had said she wanted to get closure, end things with Lance officially. Let him go. She was finally ready.

She walked into the station alone. Kyura had opted to wait outside the station. His rugged exotic looks making everyone around stare. He was beginning to feel like he had something on him. He braved through it.

“Yes.” An officer asked, he obviously heard her walk up to the reception desk but was not bothered to look up a second, his tag read ‘Nyazai. H’.

“Good afternoon,” she asked, when no reply came she went straight to the matter at hand, “May I speak to officer Leani. Leani Kori Opiyo.”

Nyazai looked up finally. Eyed her with tight eyes and connected the dots.

Heeeee! Yoko Ono herself! He thought as he leaned back in his seat heavily.

“One moment.”

He reached for his phone, dialed a redial or saved number, or connected a call, it all felt too fast to be a real phone call. Then asked her to wait where she was. She turned and faced the outer door. She could see Kyura through the ajar doors. He was looking right at her. He smiled at her giving her a nod. She smiled at him shy, adjusting her curly mane.

“Nina.”

When she thought she was ready, she felt she had the strength. But that moment, standing there, hearing him call her name was surreal. The thought of talking to Lance was feeling like a bad idea all together. She felt like she had just been soaked in freezing water suddenly, her mood changing all together. It was not anger she felt but uncertainty. Could it have worked? If he was just Leani, if he was just any other man who liked her enough to approach her, to court her.

[_Would it have worked? _]She turned to face him taking a calming breath.

“Nina, I…” he stopped, took a step closer, she pulled back a step.

“I came to… to get closure.” She simply said. In her face, he saw hurt. She could not hide her true feelings from him, she did not blame him for all they had put each other through, but she was not going to easily forget his contribution to her disgrace.

He wanted to start talking but she raised an arm, he respectfully kept quiet,

“I’m sorry I lost our baby.”

He could not take it anymore, the guilt in him was scouring his insides forcing him to speak out take some blame from her.

“Nina, no. I should have never placed you in that position.”

She nodded. He did not think that it was in agreement with what he had said, it looked like she was coming to terms with the end of ‘La-Nina’.

Silence enveloped them, for a second it was just the two of them at the station. The radio behind the reception jabbering on was in a distant whisper, Herbert’s keen ear and eye nothing more than space, the human traffic in the station non-existent. They stood there like that. He reached for her hand on her side, held it between them a moment. His fingers drawing lazy circles on her skin. Goosebumps reign her whole hand.

Kyura who was watching them through the doors looked away.

“Good bye.” Nina whispered and pulled away before he said anything else to her. Lance was left standing there, emptiness washing over him.

Nina wiped a tear that slipped out of her left eye. It was not a sad tear but rather, a euphoric one that symbolized a new beginning for her. She felt a weight shift off her she never thought would ever shift. She took in a deep breath as she passed the main door, tunnel vision on Kyura. The prospective breath was supposed to be clean, refreshing; cathartic but it turned out to hold a bitter past, memories of a cold horrible night. She relived the invasion of a foreign scent. A strong masculine invasion. The cologne played the monster in a nightmare. The silent but deadly monster in the shadows that the dreamer never saw coming but lurked predatorily in the shadows, pouncing at the opportune moment just before the dreamer awoke, if they ever do. It invaded her just as it had that night. She could feel him all over her, she could smell him, and she remembered his words. The words he whispered in her ear to ensure she never forgot.

Don’t worry sweet heart it will only hurt a second! It never stopped hurting, it will never stop hurting! She grabbed her stomach, where he injected her, vision blurry, she stumbled to the side like she was intoxicated. She began to fade as her feet refused to move all together. Nina reached out with her free hand anticipating the ground but instead Kyura stood before her. He grabbed her hand. She took in a rugged breath, this one more fulfilling.

[_I need to be stronger. I need to not need him every time. I need to get strong. _]She resolved.

Kyura peered into her eyes, trying for an answer. He watched her catch her breath, her eyes clearing, she looked up at him and nodded.

“I’m fine. Let’s go.”

Kyura slung an arm over her shoulder and they walked away. Nina left her old self outside Nairobi Central that day. She was starting over; a blank slate. She meant it this time round.

[* *]

Chapter Thirty-One

Three dark SUVs parked at Kyura’s garage. All black tinted, to the windshield. One, the first that rolled in had a busted tail light. No one moved. No one breathed. All of Kyura’s men stopped their work and stared curiously at the cars before them. Three of the men had their hands shielding their eyes from the sun that was riding low and hot that Thursday evening. The last man held a large wrench in his hand ready for a fight.

“Boss!” One of the men called out to Kyura who came from his office closely followed by Nina.

“We have trouble.” He informed raising his chin at the cars. Nina knew exactly what kind of trouble had rolled in. They stood like that for a cool five minutes before the doors of the middle SUV opened. A lady stepped out. Tall striking in a little black dress. Her skin smooth as a baby’s bottom ebony dark.

Gracha.

Nina swallowed hard. Kyura unconsciously pushed Nina partially behind him protectively. She followed without complaining. He held her hand tightly and she gripped his in anticipation. Prince stepped out after Gracha. He was sharp in a dark suit. He looked freakishly a lot like Mica. Nalia took a shuddered breath.

“Hello.” Prince called out like he never saw everyone standing before him.

“Ah, my sister Ava… or Nalia. Or is it Nina now? Kyura and crew.” Prince stopped talking as he looked over their shoulders, “Uh, where is the other… You have another stray, tall, dark. Handsome? A little darkness in his eyes. Used to be my uncle’s puppy?”

Nandi come into view. He was hiding behind a wall, coming to terms with Prince’ presence there.

“Ah finally. The band of strays comes together.”

“Prince. It’s been a while. Why are you…?” Kyura started, but he was interrupted. Prince was going to control every aspect of that day if it killed him.

“A busted tail light.” Prince said walking quickly to the car with the broken light. He pointed at it with his right hand index, two men jumped out of that car, walked around it to stand near Prince. They were draped in designer, just like their boss. “I brought you business my friend. Range Rover Evoque produced July 2011. Got this spare?”

His men looked glad, like they shared an internal joke, including Gracha they all looked very pleased with their boss. Kyura could have sworn that Prince ruined the car himself so as to taunt him, Nina and Nandi with this new game. It was annoying. His hand holding Nina’s was shaking. Shaking hers slightly with his. She was also too tense.

“I’m sorry. I know …” Kyura paused a moment trying to get the right words. You would think that seven years was enough time to come up with a speech worthy of Prince’s forgiveness, it was not.

“You know what? What?” Prince asked arrogance taking over.

“I know you are mad; I should have called you sooner.” Kyura said, his eyes on Prince, waiting for his reaction to his words. He could take them as gospel and accept the apology or go Machete on them all. He was that unstable.

Prince walked up to him, he stood right in front of Kyura and just looked at him. They stood the exact same height. They had opposing body types though. Prince was softer, lacking in muscle. A lifestyle of junk food had him shy of obese. He fell comfortably an average overweight. Kyura on the other hand worked manual was heavy in muscle, bulky without the need for steroids. After he had had a fill of their stare down, Prince then looked past Kyura to Nina and spoke, his words for Nina as much as for Kyura.

“Soon is a week or two, a month tops. Seven years is a whole other ballgame my friend.” He whispered for Kyura and Nina. Prince then walked up to one of Kyura’s men. His overall tag read Jacob.

“The sacrificial lamb. Come. Check my broken light,” Prince said to Jacob, his tone completely different. Mercurial could not describe Prince, he was another sore all together, the worst kind.

Jacob looked to Kyura for permission. Kyura shook his head. The man stayed put.

“Check the light now.” Prince ordered. One of his men pulled a gun off his holster. Raised it and pointed it at Jacob who looked at Kyura for guidance. Kyura nodded. Jacob moved to check the light.

“Finally some service!”

As Jacob worked, everyone else stood in silence. Finally, Jacob stopped fiddling with the broken light.

“We may have the light you need. I need to go get it.”

Prince smiled, it looked genuine enough to be believable. He gave him a nod. Jacob left. Somehow Prince guessed that he would not do anything stupid. Considering his boss and friends were all at the mercy of Prince.

Jacob came back a good five minutes later holding a tool box and the new light. He worked in silence. Only the sound of his tools working swayed like wind about them all until Prince finally spoke.

“What do you need to know?”

“Why are you here?” Kyura went straight to the point, “It’s been seven years.”

“Since…” Prince left it hanging for Kyura to finish.

“Since I spoke to you.”

“No! It’s been seven years since you killed my uncle.”

There is was, the reckoning that they were waiting for. It was coming to pass and they were not ready. Nina was not strong enough. Not yet. She had only just decided to build herself inside out. She was not ready to deal with Prince.

“I’m sorry.” Nina blurted without much thought.

“No you are not!” Prince yelled. “Be honest you are glad he is dead are you not! You are free to go with whatever Bobo you want right now!”

It was a low blow. Everyone in that garage who knew her story knew this, Kyura winced at the words. It was bad enough that he had insulted Nina making her just meat for any man, worse, he had named him a Bobo, the man who took advantage of her over and over again right under their noses and they were simply too busy to notice. Nina shook her head, tears coming in her eyes.

“No, I loved him and you know this.”

Nina took a step forward Kyura grabbed her forcefully setting her back where she was standing.

“Kyura let her be. For once will you all let this girl fight her own battles?” Kyura’s face twisted. He was getting angry. He let Nina go.

“Prince. You know I loved him like a father.” Nina’s voice shook, all she wanted to do was sit in a corner and cry, but he was right. She had to fight her battles herself, for once.

“No, he was your father and you let him down! You let him down.”

Nina took a step forward. Her forehead crinkled, she was scared to tell him the truth that she had just realized he did not know. They may have been lucky the last seven years because Prince thought her his sister. His uncle’s only child. That may have been their saving grace, what if he knew that he shared no blood with the girl who had caused his family so much trouble? What then?

“You don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“I was not his biologically. I was his property, just like every other girl in that club. I was to be hired away just like those girls. I was trash, just like them.”

Prince shook his head. He suddenly looked unsettled. His cool disheveled a little. He looked to Nandi. Nandi nodded. He finally found words. He had stayed in the shadows so long the light was proving too hard a venture.

“It’s true. She was taken younger that the others. He felt sorry for her. Got attached to her. He was lonely. He raised her as his own. She was no different than the others.” Nandi spoke. The words bit through Kyura’s insides.

Nina who had inched close till she stood before Prince placed her hands on the sides of his face. She forced him to look into his eyes. He could see the pain that she felt when she realized that truth.

“I did not know this. He was the only father I knew. I loved him like a father. And you like brother. You have to know this.”

Prince nodded severally with great difficulty. The child within him standing out he looked younger, more real than he had ever to Nina, like deep within he still had a soul, its purchase to the devil still pending.

“What do you want from us? We have nothing more to give you.” Nina whispered, Kyura and the rest heard her clearly though.

Prince looked emotional. He was still grieving. He looked broken. His brows knit, eyes glossy he spoke his price.

“I need you to sign it all to me. Your stake of Avakian House. I need you to give it all to me. Assets are frozen the hotel is dying, if it does, you know well that everything else dies.” There was a silent warning in his tone. “Ali set it up such that only you can get the assets unfrozen. Until you come back, we are done. I can tell that you do not want to come back. Please sister, sign it all to me.”

Nina froze. Her hands fell from his face. Prince grabbed them both by the wrists. He shook uncontrollably making her shake with him.

“I need this. You owe me this much.”

Kyura stepped forward but was stopped when the barrel of a gun was placed on his temple. Nina looked over, she saw the gun and shook her head at him, telling him to stand down.

Prince nodded at Gracha who pulled a case out of the middle car.

“I need you to sign the papers. Now!”

Epilogue

Nanyuki a few shy of 150kilometers from Nairobi; 125meters from the Equator, sits Avakian House; Nanyuki.

Saiph a hulking Armenian man sat in a grand desk. His big bald head and menacing face held a familiarity to anyone with a television. He looked like every other typical villain, but held no such typical nature to him. He had stayed low, under the radar, stayed clean for years, but they went ahead and pushed his buttons. He had to break his promise to his brother; she had to pay. One way or another.

Saiph held a list in his hand. Hand written scruff; simpleton. Names graced the old paper.

Six names; Nina Mazrui, Sapphire Makena, Kyura (Only), Leani Kori Oloo, Craig Lutsili and Chief of Police Swan Kipovu. He read and reread the names over and over again, his soul darkening further with every read.

Three things stood out in the mostly wood, old gold finish office. His grand desk, a fine crystal jar holding a richly brown liquor and a stunning lady; 6’2 dawning donning an impressive pair of heels. She stood diligently by the door. The rest of her clad in Armani, a male suit, custom made to suit her; all the right curves popped in all the right ways. A hint of cleavage to taunt the weak, her hair twist braided, fell stylishly to the left side of her slightly tilted head; there was an idol of defiant elegance. She wore reading glasses, making her look too geek for her role in this tale.

Saiph whispered to himself, downing gulps of his brown tonic.

“Seven years… my brother’s death should have been the end of this… but,” his Armenian heritage substantial in his pronunciation “NO!” he suddenly yelled,

“They come after my livelihood, my business!” Saiph said, his voice evening out into a cool indoor voice. The power in his voice should make the lady flinch but she never moved a muscle. She just looked at him talk, her eyes tightened into smaller slits. She listened to her boss.

“They come after my money, these Sabvia bred scoundrels! Prince tells me that they refuse to sign over back to us. That little brat was given everything she wanted. She lived like an Avakian bloodline and she forgets that once she was a princess, now she is just another tainted blood trying to find a home here.” Saiph breathed heavy. He took another huge gulp of his drink and then he refilled his glass. Common high society courtesies like filling the glass a limited fraction waved away.

“Mso,”

The stunner by the door took a step forward, her hands on her side awkwardly. Her jaw working, she tilted her head the other way as she listened. A smirk forming on her face.

“Get my things ready. We leave for Nairobi this evening.” Saiph said gulping down the rest of the drink in one go.

“Yes sir.” Mso said, her voice as striking as her looks, the right amount of edge, she was borderline a divinity. She walked out letting the grand mahogany door tap lightly as it shut.

Saiph half-filled his glass like an aristocrat, mannerisms that he held not two minutes before completely forgotten. He now savored the whiff of the strong brand of whiskey in a breath through his nose and out his mouth like his dead brother Mica did.

“Big scary brother is coming to town!”

The End

[* *]

Note from the Author

This is technically my second book ever written. I write in quick succession with its predecessor Nalia’s Resolve. I had a great time writing this story I hope you enjoyed it. I look forward to your reviews on both. I am humbled and grateful that you find time to read these stories. Thank you.

Special thanks to my First Reader Shiro Njuguna and my Editor Dan Kamau. I also want to thank my family for letting me write. I will forever be obliged.

Below is a special preview of the third book in the Dissociate series. I give you enjoy!

Yours truly

Sandra Nekh.

 

Books in this series

  • Nalia’s Resolve
  • True Nairobi
  • Last Chapter

[* *]

Last Chapter

A Dissociate Novel

By

Sandra Nekh

[* *]

Prologue

“Are you sure…”

“Of cause I am.”

“You know there is no going back.”

“I know.”

“I am not one of those girls who you will leave and come back to…”

“Nina, am in. All of me. Let’s do this.”

Kyura and Nina stood outside social hall at the Nairobi Law Courts. She was dressed in a little white dress. It had a strip of black at the bottom an inch from the seam. Maybe it represented the darkness of their past. Maybe the darkness that still lingered over their lives. Her hair still fiercely curled dirty brown, longer than ever. It sat to the middle of her back. The top impressively up to Kyura’ nose. She had heels though. Kyura wore a white dress shirt with a bow tie and suit pants. The hot weather making it impossible to wear his coat. It was the time she had seen him in one, he looked divine in black and white. His hair the usual mess, but Nina could see that he tried, she saw hints of product in there.

“Baby, you look like Afro-Asian James Bond.” She joked, “Me like-y!” she wiggled her brows at him.

Nina looked beautiful. Just balm on her lips. She was the simplest bride he had ever met. He nodded though that her eyebrows were neater, tweezed to perfection, framing her eyes perfectly. He smiled.

“Well, you look like Lupita and that friend of theirs had a surrogate kid with Halle Berry.”

Nina burst out laughing.

“Is that even a thing?” she asked amidst laughs,

“No, I just randomly picked words that came in my head and… Gah, you are beautiful. You look like as angel.” He concluded, done making references he did not understand. He likes the Halle Berry part through. Always thought she was hot.

Nina turned his watched so that she could see the time, 11.45.

“Where are they, I thought the bride is the one meant to be late.”

Kyura laughed, “Can imagine what they are doing, five minutes and we pick that janitor to be our witness.” His eyes fall on a man walking away in overalls written Kadija Cleaning Crew. Nina smiled, but frowned second later,

“Five minutes!” She warned.

Chapter One

“Congrats on the nuptials.”

“Thanks glad you and Craig were there.”

“When are you going for the honeymoon stroke baby making moon!” Sapphire said laughing playfully pushing him. He swayed a little to indulge her the impact not near as much as he needed to sway.

“I don’t know. Nina doesn’t want one. She wants to stay, says she okay without one.”

They stood outside Kyura’s and Nina’s garage. A few bursts of colour here and there and the place looked like a different garage all together. Zevdi Garage was a Post-Modern Tech-forward garage with most of their clientele young money and old wanna-be’s. They worked usual checkups and maintenance, assembly of shipped in cars but most of their money came from customizing cars for those inclined towards speed and luxury. Business was great.

It was Sunday morning, they reconciled books, did inventory and worked emergencies Sunday then spent the afternoon out with friends. Kyura and Sapphire stood at the parking area opposite the main floor of the garage. They watched Nina. She was at the right corner of the garage where there was a rigged sand-bag for the guys to let off steam before and after shift. When Nina suggested it about five months ago, Kyura thought it was a good idea, he had no idea that Nina wanted the bag all to herself. Kyura was sure that she was the only one who used it.

They watched Nina hanging upside down on the bag, her legs crossed at the ankles her thighs and the joint at her ankles holding her up. She was in yoga pants and a hoodie. She was doing sit-ups dropping in a few punches when she completely came up. They were counting until they got carried away watching. Every time she dropped her hoodie covered her face but dropped as she rose up. It was a sight to behold. Kyura was a little hot and bothered to say the least.

They watched Nina do another sit up. Sapphire winced. Shrugging her shoulders.

“Take it from a woman, she wants one. Just doesn’t know how to have one.”

“I know. She is worked up about Prince coming back. She said no. Balls for miles this one.” Kyura confessed, Sapphire smiled.

Why did she say no? She has everything she needs right here, Sapphire thought.

“She has really changed hasn’t she?”

“I know. At times I feel like she is a different person all together.” Kyura confessed. “I still love her. I just feel like she needs to chill. A honeymoon may actually be the best thing for us.”

They watched Nina do two more sit-ups. The legs that were crossed at the ankles slipped a little, she slid about an inch but tightened her grip about the sand bag and went on. Sapphire found that she had gripped Kyura’s bicep in fear that Nina would fall. When Nina didn’t she let go of Kyura. She still looked scared though.

“Dude are you okay with this?”

“I’m not so sure.” Kyura answered. He was being honest. He worried but then again, how was he going to deny her the one thing she really had passion for these days.

“She is like Xena warrior princess on steroids!” Sapphire said her voice a little too high pitched.

“She scares me sometimes!” Kyura admitted.

“I think you should get her down before all the blood rushes to her head.”

“You may be right,” Kyura said as he ran towards Nina and her new best friend, the sand bag. Sapphire shook her head as she opened her car door.

“Say bye to Xena.” She yelled at him, Kyura nodded.

Kyura walked up to Nina slowly. She was done with her rep. Apart from the tension in her thighs to hold her up, she looked lux, her eyes closed, and her hands were dangling towards the floor. Sweat that made it over her hoodie dripped off her face to the floor.

He studied her. Her hair held in a tight bun at the top of her head, she was breathing heavy with her heart still racing from the work out. He sat crossed legged before her. His face next to hers. His lips across from her nose.

“Hey baby.” He said. She smiled before she opened her eyes,

“Mmmh.”

“That’s all I get for letting you do the most dangerous sit-ups on earth?”

“I’m breathless… One sec.” Nina strained to say the words.

“Maybe, Kyura taunted as he stretched his neck and landed an upside down kiss on her lips, he could fill her smile as he kissed her. “If you actually get off the bag and sit like a normal person you will regain composure.”

She laughed as she opened her eyes. “Okay.” she said as she placed her hands on his shoulders and summersaulted off the bag over to the floor behind him. She lost balance and fell flat on her butt.

“Ouch!”

Kyura laughed, he had sensed that she would hurt herself. He turned to see her rub her bum.

“I could have told you that was going to happen.”

“Don’t be mean. Help me up.” Nina ordered playfully. Kyura laughed as he got up and pulled her up. She swayed a little. He did not mention it. She was worked up and it felt like more than just Prince. There was more to it than he knew.

***

Nandi sat before a computer. Eight years later and he was the guy with the base, literally.

He was seated before and impressive setup, curtesy of Kyura. He got Nandi two computers and six top of the shelf monitors. The computers were assembled with larger caches, faster buses, Nano-transistor dimensions, and fast clock speeds. A mammoth size improvement from his old system.

Nandi wondered why Kyura had investing so much in Nandi’s little but very popular hobby. He chose to never ask questions, but he suspected that Kyura had an end game. He needed to know what. He could just ask, but it would be rude to, especially since the boy had taken care of him in ways only Mica did. Kyura gave him a job, a place to stay, fed him and even gave him as office. That was where he sat at that particular moment, monitoring Kenya on his six monitors. He almost had God’s eye. He was a near sixth in the whole of Kenya, which was not so shabby for an independent. A satellite of his own would take him off the charts, but he was not asking, Kyura had done enough for him as it were.

A caption on one of the screens caught his attention. Breaking news, he quickly blew up the screen to fit all six screens, like HD on steroids.

“Former Minister for Trade and Culture Charlene Ngina’s son is dead. Henry Thuo passed away this morning to what family and friends are describing as an unexpected death… more on that story as details are revealed to us, Family and friends will be convened at her home in Muthaga to pay their respects… Nandi zoned out.

Vague as the bulleting was, Nandi had a gut feeling to read more into death. Nandi went through the boy’s social media and scored a big one. Not only was Henry a little bit of a party boy, he was a gamer and belonged to several international gaming communities online under the pseudonym Onrie Thuo, he was also a die-hard fan of console games. From his Facebook and Instagram alone, Nandi found that Onrie, was seated high on the gamers’ throne and his high horse had only made him more of a prude. He advertised a flashy life in photo and video documentation. The one that caught Nandi’s eye was when he saw photos of Onrie’s brand new gaming console, Play ZenEx Vivo 2.

Play ZenEx Vivo was a cooperation that made console for gamers, they distributed unorthodox games with the consoles that were banned in some states worldwide because of their vile themes and psychological effect on the players. Play ZenEx Vivo consoles somehow made their way into the Kenyan Black market and anyone with good coin could purchase a console. Play ZenEx Vivo 2 was limited produced. Only one hundred consoles were produced and sixty-six were called delivered back to the manufacturers a tech company in South Korea for undisclosed reasons. The others lay in people’s gaming and living rooms perverting the minds of players and Onrie’s was one of those.

Nandi went through every fragment of information that he could on Henry Thuo and his superego Onrie Thuo. He came across short video. It started pitch black, but Nandi could hear voices in the back, Onrie’s came first. He recognized it from his life-ist videos on social media.

“Fucking A I got you!” Onrie voice came through, his yelled. Nandi could hear gun shots scoring the chat. He shook his head, he never liked gunshots reminded his too much of Sabvia.

“Dude I can’t see your face…” A second voice came on the video.

“Sorry, my sweater was on the console,” Onrie said, Nandi heard movement then the black disappeared, he saw the boy, Henry Thuo. He was young, too young in the video that was unedited, un-thought out for perfection. He looked too vulnerable there behind the console camera. “Can you see me now fucker?” the screen went dead marking the end of the video.

“Vile mouth youngling!” Nandi said as he sat back. His eyes scanned all corners of the frame like he still saw something. He then looked down at the keyboard before him. A spark came in his eye. He smiled broadly grabbing the mouse.

Seventeen minutes three seconds later Nandi was in the corner of the office banging his head on the wall. He had seen too much.

Chapter Two

Nina stood on an isle in a small supermarket. The broken cement on the floor a concern she ignored all together. Nina was on a mission. She had gone through all the big ones and had not found the exact musk that she was looking for. Now she went to little supermarkets that were more like shops than markets. The one she stood in was little, homey. Like a family business passed down generation to generation. It smelt old, had shelves that were soft wood but dark coloured, testament of time. The shelves were not well stocked; business must have been terrible. She wanted to feel sorry for them, tell them that life got better but she herself was testament that was not always the case. The supermarket was located in Kinoo a small town on the outskirts of Nairobi City, Six stops after Westlands on Waiyaki way.

She picked up bottle by bottle sniffing its sprayer deeply. She smiled when she found those that had a sample bottle. Made her work easier.

Nina could not say that she had a strong sense of smell, but the scent that she was looking for was very strong. There was no mistaking it. She would know it with one whiff.

It was unhealthy what she did, but there was a certain kind of closure she was looking for. She needed is to move on. There was one time when Nina thought that she had found the sent. She got weak in the knees and not the good kind. It was as though her limbs had stop functioning all together. Her whole body stalled. She could not breathe. Right there in the supermarket she started to have a panic attack. Then she smelled it again and realized it was the wrong scent nearly went mad coming to terms with the realization, that was three weeks ago. She was more prepared now, she had told herself in a mantra that she was going to be in control. That she was going to come above it. The sent would not take her down second time round.

Nina walked out of the market, stopped by the cashiers for some gum on her way out. Menthol Dips; the best kind of gum, get the smell of perfume out of her nose. She was glad that her sinuses were not acting up that day.

Nina stood outside the supermarket. She stood tall which was actually 5’8 with the help of her cropped boots. Her slim fitting jeans and leather jacket made her stand out. She took a deep breath. Her nose acting to the Menthol Dips, went right up to her brain and she loved the feeling. Nina looked to the side of the shop. There stood Nandi leaning against the wall. He looked at her.

“Did you find what you are looking for?”

She shook her head.

“Then we will look tomorrow. May I ask why?”

Nina’s tightened her lips a second, her eyebrows coming together like she wanted to cry. Her reaction to her question dissipating within the minute. She relaxed her face taking control of her emotions.

“I… It’s nothing.”

“You can trust me.”

“I know.”

They shared a silence. Both having secrets but unwilling to share them.

“You are afraid that I will tell him.” Nandi confessed what was inside Nina’s mind. Hit the nail right in the head.

“Yes.”

“I cannot promise.” he came clean, she was right not to trust him not to tell Kyura what she tells him about their little trips all over Nairobi and its outskirts.

“I know.” She smiled at him. “Let’s go. Don’t worry Nandi. I am fine. We should go. Your fans are waiting for a new video. Watched the news the other day, everyone is wondering where you are.” Nina changed the topic before Nandi read into her rumbling.

“Which station…”

“The one with Nancy Riori? That’s big news. She is among the greats! If she is talking about you… You need to get on the air waves.”

Nandi started walking quietly. She expected more, at least acknowledgement that he understood what she was telling him. Nina followed him when he refused to answer her, she could tell that she was not the only one hiding something.

“You can trust me.”

“I know.” He said. His hands went into his pockets as he continued to walk.

“I can’t do it. I have tried. Something about Prince showing up has me going crazy.”

“You and me both.” Nina agreed, running a little to be at per with him, she has to work harder at marching his large steps with her tiny ones. “What is it? Tell me.”

“Saiph.”

Nina stopped walking a moment. Her breath hitched. She ran up to catch up with Nandi.

“You think he will come?”

“No. I think he is already here.” Nandi said. His eyes flinty on the ground before him as he walked. Then he started counting.

“One thousand. Nine hundred and ninety-nine. Nine hundred and ninety-eight…”

Nina could not believe it. This was not the man he knew. She did not want to say it out loud but truth of the matter was that the man before him was weak. Loose in the head. She needed the old Nandi. The protector. The man who called the shots not a whimpering man on the verge of a psychotic break.

She followed him. Silence replaced their eerie conversation. Nina wanted to stop him, tell him that they needed to board a matatu or take a taxi back to Westlands but he was so deep in his counting he did not hear her call his name.

“I guess we are walking then.” She muttered.

***

Kyura watched Nina walk in. The automated lock locked them in soon as she shut the door after clearing the doorway. He liked the look she had going; tough girl routine she was playing too well lately. His eyes fell on her boots, they were dusty. She leaned beside the door to get them off and placed them in the company of Kyura’s work boots by the door. Nina saw him seated there in the living room watching her but she said nothing. She had a different kind of hello planned.

Nina walked over to her husband. She still could not believe it. Kyura was hers. She belonged to him. She would have her forever. She did not need to wait forever, literally.

Nina stood before him between the couch and the coffee table. She moved and placed herself over him, her legs on either side of his. Kyura looked up at her face trying to catch something, her mood. She was becoming unpredictable. He needed a few seconds to gauge where her head was. It was tricky especially because they were newlyweds. No one said it was going to be easy. She looked expressionless, not too cold though, a little withdrawn. Nina then knelt over him, straddling his lap. She placed her hands on the sides of his face. She looked down into his eyes.

Kyura looked up into his wife’s eyes. There was a shadow behind them. Safe to say she was not in a good mood. He let her have his way with him. She pulled his face closer. His hands came on her legs. He slid the slowly till her back. Still while they kissed, he pulled his hands to her front and helped her take off her jacket. Just when Kyura thought he was getting lucky that night, Nina pulled away. She snuggled closer. Her face in the crook of his neck. She sat like that taking him in. He smelt fresh, like he had his taken a shower. She smiled into his skin. He smelt her perfume laced with the smell of dust. He wondered where she had been all day.

Kyura wrapped his hands about his girl. He could feel the tension in her shoulders. It eased slowly as they sat there breathing each other in. It was a moment more intimate than sex. It was the start something different.

Nina knew she was acting needy. It would take a moment… Or two before she come clean about what was really on her mind. She was finally ready.

“Nandi is having problems.” She whispered into his neck.

Kyura spoke for the first time since she walked in.

“What problems?”

“He is not settled. He thinks Saiph is here.”

They shared a silence like no other. The kind that takes over when you realize that something bad and unavoidable was coming your way. Like watching a train wreck coming your way.

“What do you think?”

“I know he is here. It’s been too quiet. Something is about to… I don’t know… I don’t trust the quiet.”

Kyura’s phone vibrated making Nina jump.

“It’s just my phone,” he assured her. She moved away for him to get it out and settled back in his arms as he picked the phone with his free hand.

Nina could hear Sapphire’s voice muffled and distant like she was in some kind of hole.

“Kyura, are you with Nina?”

Well hello to you too. Kyura was wondering what happened to simple ‘hellos’, second time that evening he had not been greeted.

“Turn on the TV. You won’t believe what’s happening!”

Kyura put his phone down by his thigh and reached forward grabbing the remote. The TV was a new installation. Nina’s idea. It was a nice idea. Kyura loved watching movies with Nina, loved how she was emotionally invested in the shows, it was cute and also disturbing.

Nina got off him. Sat to his right. They waited as the TV initiated. He put a local 24-7 news station.

The screen beeped with Breaking News alerts.

“The First Gentleman is dead. Reports just came in President Faiza Ali’s husband Stephen Wamie has passed away. He passed away while being rushed to hospital after being in a car crash. The accident that happened on Statehouse road involved the First Gentleman’s detail. Among those are his driver and bodyguard…”

“Oh my God!” Nina gasped. Kyura wrapped his right arm about her shoulders. She wrapped her hands round his waist leaning into his side.

“Again, the First Gentleman, Stephen Wamie died this evening after a grisly accident involving his detail. Nairobi Central police station has taken up investigation on the… It is not confirmed that this was a terrorist attack,” the news anchor stopped talking a moment. Her eyebrows lifted as she stared ahead like she was in shock. The camera shifted to her partner. He took over the reporting.

“News just in, New Roma terrorist group Al Sheda have claimed responsibility for the attach…”

“Saiph!” Nina whispered harshly. Kyura turned to face her muting the television.

“Are you sure?” Kyura asked and Nina nodded.

“This is big Nina,” Kyura said, he picked up the phone and went on talking to Sapphire who was still on the line.

“Nina thinks its Saiph.” He said into the receiver. His eyes fell on Nina, she was still watching the screen, eyes wide; fear and shock he read.

“Is she sure because Al…”

“She’s sure.” There was silence in the other end of the line.

“Let me call you back.” Sapphire said and the line went dead.

[*To be continued…. *]


True Nairobi

The story picks up years after the supposed death of child trafficker and Drug Lord Mica Avakian. Nalia is all grown up and goes by Nina now. Times have changed. The security she knew taken away. Her foster family gone, her real family too complex to deal with she has moved into Nairobi City to find a life with party girl and friend Tia. She finds herself intertwined in the racy life of Nairobi drug mules bartending at a local club because of her limited educational background. She also finds that the Avakian shadow still looms, she can never run too far from her troubled past. Nandi knew a life at the side of Mica Avakian, now he has to forge a new path; a pretentious path that is the cleansing of the city of Nairobi.

  • ISBN: 9781370499991
  • Author: Sandra Nekh
  • Published: 2017-09-28 11:20:17
  • Words: 66060
True Nairobi True Nairobi