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Effervescence

Episode 6 – Lights. Camera. Action.

Michael Wambua is too friendly for an Insurance Claims agent. He is soft-spoken and has that blithe voice that can make a grotesque scenario seem bearable. A grotesque scenario like a car registered in your name getting caught up in a web of police investigations, two weeks to a general election in which your husband is a major contender. He is also very open-minded, Michael. Having handled motor vehicle insurance claims for the past five years, he had come across dozens of such cases. Where men had bought cars and registered them in their names, then gifted them to their mistresses. Mistresses happen to be poor drivers so accidents involving these cars are quite frequent. These men could not risk their names getting mentioned in the claim settlements since it would expose their little dirty affairs. So, for a few thousand shillings, Michael would ensure the names of these men did not come up anywhere in the report.

The small amounts he receives from this little side – hustle keep him afloat. He has been able to buy himself a small piece of land in Ruai and is scheduled to lay the foundation of a small two – bedroomed house in a few weeks. He can also afford to pay for his Master’s degree in Actuarial Science at the University of Nairobi. He mostly works through referrals. These men introduce their fellow fraudulent businessmen and infidels to him. On some occasions, these referrals are women wanting the mess of their little paramours cleaned. He always declines without giving it a second thought. You cannot trust women, he says. But there is something about this woman in this particular Subaru Impreza case on his desk. She is the wife of some prominent politician and it is election period. She is desperate. She is gullible. And Michael is one greedy son of a bitch.

‘So, Ms. Baraza. Do we have a deal?’ he is sitted across her at the Flame Tree restaurant at Sarova Panafric Hotel.

‘I still think fifty thousand is quite on the higher side,’

‘Unfortunately, that is my final offer,’

Natasha takes a moment to think, before sighing in defeat. She pulls out her purse and takes out an envelope which she places on the table.

‘This better be worth it,’ she says and walks out, biting her lower lip in vanquishment.

She bangs the door of her white Jeep Wrangler and speeds off to Kahawa Sukari. Sam had been discharged from hospital earlier in the day. He could neither remember how the accident had happened nor how he had gotten to the hospital. All he remembers seeing is a bright flash of lights followed by screeching of tyres and a cacophony of cars honking, women screaming and sirens blaring. He was a little drunk and there was someone on the passenger seat. A girl. Lilian. Sam had made an attempt to make amends with Lilian by taking her out for a Sunday afternoon movie at Garden City Mall. They had had dinner and a few cocktails. They had then left and he was to drop her at her place in Ruiru, when the liquor had gotten the better of him and he had lost control of the car, smashing right into a sewage exhauster truck.

The sewage exhauster truck had broken at its lower joint, spilling its contents on the highway. This had caused a huge traffic snarl-up which had attracted the attention of the cops from the nearby Ruiru Police station. Lilian and Sam had been rushed to the Lifeline group of Hospitals Membley branch while the crashed Subaru was towed to Ruiru Police Station. The police had contacted ABC Insurance who had then picked up the matter with Natasha. Michael had been helpful enough to inform Natasha where Sam and Lilian had been admitted. She had rushed there as soon as she had left Michael’s office. The doctors had informed her that the two had suffered a few scratches and minor injuries and would be up and about in a day. Here they were.

‘How are you feeling?’ Natasha asks.

‘Just a little tired,’ Sam says, gobbling up the smoothie Natasha has brought him.

‘Sam. I am very disappointed in you,’ Natasha does not mince her words. ‘You have no idea the risk you have put me and my husband into,’ she continues, ‘I have had to pull so many strings to make this go away,’

Sam says nothing. He continues to sip his smoothie, his head bowed down, embarrassed.

‘Was she really worth it?’ Natasha won’t give it a rest. She is talking about Lilian.

No response.

‘So you have nothing to say for yourself?’

Sam stayed quiet. He knew he had screwed himself up. No apology or excuse would justify his behaviour. He had let Natasha down. He had broken their covenant. He stood up and walked towards her. There was only one way he knew that would calm her down and make her forget the whole shenanigan. He massaged her shoulders and neck, drawing a heavy breath out of her. She tried to resist and get up but he held her down firmly. He gave her little impulsive kisses on the back of her neck and loosened the Ankara headband around her hair. Again, she tried to hold out against him but he held her emphatically by the waist, turning her around to face him. He removed her coat followed by her shoes. She tried to mumble words of protest but Sam placed his index finger across her lips. He stared into her eyes. They were inviting him. They wanted him. He lifted her up and placed her on the leather couch.

From across the wall, cleverly placed at the heart of the wall clock, a small camera was recording.

***

Linking a surveillance camera to an IP address transfers the feed to any device connected to that particular IP address. Josephine could stream every activity taking place in Sam’s crib, from the comfort of her iPhone. This was easier than she had thought. Of course, she knew nothing about IP addresses and cameras. Her second cousin Muchiri did. Muchiri had a stall along Luthuli Avenue where he sold, serviced, installed and repaired all kinds of surveillance cameras. Josephine had shared with him the predicament she was in and how she was being blackmailed by Mwaura and the two gentlemen. At first, Muchiri was hesitant. But after Josephine had told him about the threat her mother faced, he had reluctantly agreed. ‘I’m only doing this for auntie,’ he had said.

He had produced a box full of small cameras, the size of a shirt button, and showed Josephine how to set them up. Installation was easy. They came with a stick – on at the back and all that was needed was to peel it off and stick it on the desired location. They came in all colours which made it easy to camouflage them against any background. Nobody would notice them unless they were actually looking for them. The Friday night he met Sam at Kiza, while Sam was comatose in his drunken stupor, Josephine had placed one in the living room, right inside the wall clock and another in the bedroom, just above the mirror. The following morning, while Sam had left to buy her a pack of sanitaries, she had configured the IP addresses sent to her by Muchiri. They had tested the cameras right there and then. The footage was so clear that if you zoomed enough, you could see the small crack on the kitchen wall.

Mwaura was piling pressure on her. He needed answers. He was getting impatient. He was threatening to tear her life apart. She finally had something that could liberate her. But she was not about to give it away just like that. She hated Mwaura for doing her dirty. He had taken advantage of her. He was holding her and her mother by the balls. It was time to gain back that control. With the evidence she had, she could strike a better deal elsewhere. She could make more money out of it. She could be the one holding the balls this time. She knocked on Natasha’s door and stepped inside.

‘Hello, Ms. Baraza,’

‘Please have a seat. Would you like something to drink?’

‘A glass of water is fine,’

‘So, you said you have something important to show me?’

‘Yes,’

‘Go right ahead, I do not have a lot of time,’ Natasha said, serving her a glass of warm water.

Josephine pulled out an iPad and placed it on the table.

‘Press ”Play” ‘

Natasha watched for a few seconds before turning it off and overturning the iPad. Her face turned blue. Her brow was filled with sweat. Her fingers started shaking as if she was playing the flute. She stood and paced around the room, before pouring herself half a glass of water and downing it in one gulp. She later calmed down and they had a candid conversation with Josephine. Josephine told her that she was part of Mwaura’s campaign team and that they had sent her to place the cameras in Sam’s house after someone had suspected that she (Natasha) and Sam were having an affair. She told Natasha that she had had a change of heart because she did not want to bring down her fellow woman, just so that Mwaura and his brother could win the election. She swore that nobody else had seen the videos except herself. She gave Natasha two demands.

She needed her mother transferred from Kinarini Primary School to a bigger and better school in Mombasa town. Secondly, she needed a sum of five hundred thousand shillings to be able to start a new life somewhere far, where Mwaura and his cronies could not find her. She needed this immediately. Failure to which, she would have no option but to hand over the footage to Mwaura and his team. She gave Natasha one day to think through it and give her a response, before walking away.

Natasha was left staring blankly at her computer. The email she had been typing earlier gawked back at her. ”LETTER OF DISMISSAL” the subject read. ”Dear Lilian, I am deeply saddened to inform you that your employment at Symbiotic PR Limited has come to an end. ” it continued. Before she could hit send, an urge to vomit engulfed her. She rushed to her office bathroom and emptied a bitter pungent liquid that choked her and made her cough uncontrollably. A bout of nausea hit her and her head started spinning. She sat down and buried her head in the palms of her hands. She felt better. Then it suddenly hit her. Her period was three weeks late! She might just be pregnant!

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END OF EPISODE 6

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Episode 7: 29th May, 2020

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