She remained rooted to the spot long after they were gone. Shuddering with fear, she held her waist with one hand and her cheek with the other, occasionally pinching herself, hoping to wake up from this nightmare. The cologne of the man who had, not long ago, threatened to shatter her world by killing her brother or cutting Masai open to retrieve his kidney, lingered in the air that was heavy with tension, and it sickened her. She began pacing the room as she tried figuring who these people were and how they knew Masai. When she failed to come up with something meaningful, she turned to Google. In the search bar, she typed, ‘The most dangerous men in Kenya.’ Google search brought forward names of people she knew nothing about and so she narrowed her search to ‘Wanted Human Organs traffickers in Kenya,’ but that too brought names and faces of people she did not recognize. She stepped back from the laptop, thinking, and then walked back to it and typed, ‘Wanted Drug Lords In Kenya,’ and to her horror, the face, and name of the man she was looking for popped up.
Abdi Hassan. That was his name. In all his photos that were available online, he was dressed in suits and the same cynical smile he had all that time he was in her house. She clicked on one of the photos and to it was an attached story about Abdi Hassan being on the radar of the Anti-Narcotics Unit. She also learned, from the story, that he was one of the richest and lethal drug barons in the country, claimed to have killed and maimed many who posed a threat to his line of business. Shaken, Amara clicked the back button and one other link caught her eye. It was a story published by a popular Investigative Journalist who rarely got his facts wrong. The story was titled, ‘No one wants to donate a kidney to save the life of the most dangerous drug baron in Kenya, Abdi Hassan.’ She clicked the link to read the story and in one of the paragraphs, the writer wrote, “According to my sources, even those who are close to Mr. Abdi are reluctant to donate a kidney to save his son’s life because Mr. Abdi is known for rewarding acts of kindness with a bullet, especially when the act is used against him, as is usually the case. Given that Mr. Abdi is mostly hiding and running from the government, which wants him dead, his son will probably die, unless he gets this kidney through some backdoor means, something he will probably do.’
Amara felt a little tremor underneath her feet. It was as if the ground was moving and she was unable to stand still or maintain her balance, so she lowered herself to the floor and sat on her folded legs. She glared at the laptop again and the face of the smiling Abdi sent a dash of fear over her body. Like a possessed person, she stood and rushed to her bedroom, grabbed her suitcase and stuffed clothes in it. She did not bother to neatly fold the clothes and pack them nicely in her suitcase like she usually did. When the bag was full, she zipped it, shuffled to the living room, grabbed her laptop, handbag and car keys and stormed out of the house, locking the door and spiralling down the stairs. As she struggled to put her suitcase in the rear seat of the car, one of the security men on night shift patrolling the parking area approached and asked her if everything was okay. She hadn’t heard him coming so she was startled to hear his croaky voice, which sounded just like that of Abdi, gasped and touched her chest as she turned around to look at him. Because the moon was out, she was able to see that he was a middle-aged man, heavily clothed. He had a scuff around his neck and a beanie on his head, which made him look more of a bad than a good guy.
“You scared me,” she said.
“I am sorry, I didn’t mean to.”
She got in the car. Her fingers were shaking as she turned the ignition key and her whole body shivered. She imagined her brother being abducted and killed, and his lifeless body thrown in a forest for hyenas to devour, all because of her. She should have listened to her father when he told her that Masai was no good for her. She shouldn’t have let love blind her into thinking that life would turn out great just because she was in love. She lowered her head onto the steering wheel and fought back tears. Some things, surely, were bigger than love. The security man, whom she had forgotten about, knocked on the window to ask, again, if she was okay and she threw him a quick glance before starting the car and reversing from the parking lot.
The roads, at that hour of the night, were mostly deserted. She drove with the window rolled down, the wind whipping through her face and freshly done dreads, keeping her awake. Driving at this time of the hour felt like that day she stole her father’s car and drove to Masai’s place. She had felt free, having finally resolved to start living life for herself and not for her parents. This memory made her smile for the first time since the incident in her house but it was a smile of sadness because then, unlike now, she never had to fear for her life or those of her loved ones.
She arrived at Ola village at the break of dawn. The morning sunlight danced between the tree branches and the green grass stretched and yawned. The shopkeepers of Ola village mostly dressed in heavy sweaters, dragged open the wide doors of their shops as the few customers with paper bags stood outside, waiting. She rolled up the window because she did not want anyone to recognize and stop her. When she drove into her father’s compound, a wave of relief swept through her. She felt like she had just woken up from a nightmare and was happy that it was just that, a nightmare. She brought the car to a halt and stared outside the window to see her father’s tiled grave and, for the first time, wished they hadn’t tiled it. It looked so prominent with the bright tiles and the cross on its head, a sign that she would never enjoy the illusion that her father was still alive.
The front door to the house opened and her brother, Alexis, in his school uniform, came running towards the car. She stepped out of the car and scooped him from the ground. As she planted a million kisses on his neck, he giggled and kicked his tiny feet in the air, enjoying every moment of it. He wrapped his tiny hands around her neck and whispered in her ear, “Is this your car?”
“Yes, do you want to drive it?”
“You will drive it when you become a big boy.”
“I am a big boy,” he said, flexing his muscle.
“Now that you have come, I do not want to go to school. Can you tell mum to let me stay at home with you?”
“You know mum doesn’t like it when you skip school, Alexis.”
“Haha, I will talk to her.”
She looked up to see her mother standing at the door in her nightdress. She was half smiling half grinning. Amara walked towards her, put Alexis down and hugged her. It felt good being in her mother’s arms and almost wished they could remain like that for the rest of the day.
“I am so glad you are both okay, mama.”
Her mother pulled away from the hug to look her in the eyes.
“Of course we are okay, why wouldn’t we be?”
“No reason, I was just saying.”
“My dear, is everything okay? I didn’t even know you were coming.”
“Should I write a letter before coming home? Besides, whom did you tell when you were coming to the city the last time?”
“If you say so.” She shrugged and turned to Alexis. “Finish your breakfast so that you leave now or you will be late for school.”
“Mama, if you don’t mind, can he stay at home today? Or are they doing their exams?”
“Their exams are two weeks away, but he still needs to go. I am not paying all that school fees so he can stay at home and eat my food.”
“But only for today. If he refuses to go to school tomorrow, you will be the one to take him there by force.”
For the better part of the day, Amara did not want Alexis out of her sight. Good thing was that Alexis was so happy to see her that he hovered around her, asking questions and telling stories about his deskmate, Catherine, who always brought him sweets in class. Amara wanted to ask him if he liked her but on second thought, she decided not to because she was not ready to go wherever that conversation with Alexis, who knew more than boys his age, would lead. In the afternoon, he took Alexis to her room and read him a book about a good giant that rescued children from other bad giants and she loved the look of thrill in his eyes when she described how the giant would swoop in in a time of need to help a child in distress. It wasn’t long before he fell asleep on her bed and she sat next to the sleepy him, stroking his short hair. He was so young and innocent that she did not understand why anyone would want to hurt him. She was so lost in her thoughts that she did not hear her door creak open and her mother walk in.
“You two had missed each other, yes?” her mother said, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“I am his only sister and him my only brother, you know.”
A brief moment of silence passed between them before her mother spoke again.
“Amara, I did not believe you when you said everything is okay.”
“Because the last time I saw you, you told me you would come home as soon as you suspected something wrong was about to happen.”
Amara wanted to tell her mother everything. To tell her how she came home from work to find three men in her house, one of them, a drug lord, flaunting a gun in her face and telling her how he was going to kill her brother or Masai or, possibly, both. But the man’s warning was clear and she had no reason to doubt that he would make good his threats if she told anyone about her little encounter with him and his boys. So she cast her mother an innocent look and smiled.
“Everything is okay, mama, don’t worry.”
“I have known you all your life, Amara. As your mother, you should know that I can tell when you are lying.”
“I know, but I am not lying.”
She did not believe her mother was convinced but she was glad she did not push it. They spent the rest of the day cooking, gossiping and talking about her father. At night, Amara tucked Alexis in bed and stood over him, watching him mildly snore and entertaining the thought of sleeping on his room’s floor so she can watch over him the whole night. But she did not want to make her mother any more suspicious so she went to her room. As she lay in bed, fully clothed, she heard imaginary voices of her father, talking loudly like he always did every time he came home after a night out. She also relived the day he had an argument with her mother because of her, the day he had warned her seriously about Masai. She missed him. He would never let anyone threaten his daughter or son. She slipped under the covers and no sooner had she closed her eyes than her phone binged with a message. It was a new number. She opened it and her heart raced as she read through it. “Enjoy the family reunion, Amara. But remember I am still waiting for you to do as I asked so we can all get past this. I am a gentleman, so I won’t rush you, but please, don’t take my patience for granted because the day it will wear out is the day your brother will cease breathing. Goodnight.”
She placed the phone down on the bed and tiptoed to the window, slightly drawing the curtain to stare outside. She felt she was being watched, although she did not understand how. Still panicky, she almost screamed when her phone rang. It rang out and the caller called again. She quietly walked back to her bed and held her chest in relief when she saw it was Hassan calling. She hadn’t spoken to him for a while so she wondered why he was calling. She answered and raised the phone to her ear.
“Amara, we need to talk,” he said.
“Hassan, what is it?”
“I think you and Masai might be in danger.”
“In danger? What do you mean?”
“Look, it’s a long story, one which we can’t talk over the phone about but if you can meet me tomorrow, I will tell you what you need to know.”
“You are freaking me out, do you know that someone already tried to kill me, and has threatened to kill my brother and Masai?”
There was silence from Hassan.
“Hassan? Are you still there?”
“Oh, my God, he has already gotten to you, hasn’t he?”
“How do you know all this? What’s your involvement in this?” she was falling short of shouting now.
“Do you know the name of the man who’s trying to kill you?”
“I googled him, his name is Abdi Hassan. Wait, he has the same name as you, do you know him?”
“He is my uncle, Amara, I am the one who introduced Masai to him.”