"I was scared as all get go," said Mike as he curled up on the soft sofa in the Great Room, his latte coloured knees touching his nose as he seemed to be contemplating something on a tree through the open wall of French Windows facing him, a Jake's monkey perhaps studying him in return.
"There you go again with your arcane English phrases that make no sense to us poor country rubes, like Bob's your uncle, but you can't tell us who Bob is; or raining cats and dogs, for fuck's sake, where in hell did that come from; now you say, all get go, what in all that's holy does that mean?, " asked Francis who was for the first time allowed to sit up in a wheelchair with his leg elevated and join his confreres in the main part of the house.
Ten agonising days had passed since the devastating attack at Kipsigon. Lots had happened. And nothing had happened.
In the nothing column, the court case had moved at a constipated snail's pace in the case of Sergeant Langat. He remained seated in a cell in Mignanori. He still refused to make a plea. He was tantalisingly close to offering the prosecution a deal to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for providing evidence against others higher up the corruption food chain. But Mike Juma wanted more. He wanted the king pins. Langat's lawyers kept hinting they were above his pay grade. The Chief wasn't buying it. So currently there was a standoff while Okidi was getting impatient to move on his docket.
Finally, yesterday, he called the defence counsel and Chief Prosecutor and told them they had until Friday, three days, or be would call Langat to court and enter an automatic plea of Not Guilty and proceed to set a date for a Preliminary Hearing. The magistrate refused to hear any arguments to persuade him to vary his decision.
"Seventy-two hours, counsellors. Perhaps this will concentrate your efforts. This decision of mine will not be overruled by the Chief Magistrate, by the way. I have already discussed my reasoning with him and he concurs absolutely. Just do your job. Settle this or go to trial. It's easy." With that the aging Teso called his Bukusu aide to usher his guests out of his chambers, laden with their papers and books.
Also on the nothing column was one Abdulbakker al Husseini. A Yemeni man from Aden, he is 22 years old and the 9th of 11 children, but only the second and last son. He is a keen fighter recruited by a small local band associated with Al-Qaeda. This, Chief Juma discovered after the man was apprehended for shooting the boys at Kipsigon. It appears he now had become a mercenary gun for hire. He was known by several national police forces and wanted in association with several attacks in four or five countries.
Mike Juma's ace card in negotiations with this man was the fact that he could offer him a ticket out of a death sentence. Maybe, just maybe, if he had enough to say, even a plane ticket out of gaol.
This made Abdulbakker look up, exclaiming ”You're seriously telling me that, facing what you tell me is a charge of first degree murder and three charges of attempted murder, two charges of grievous bodily harm… Wait I wrote them all here, yes, involvement in an act of terror against the state, discharge of a firearm in a public place with intent to cause injury and death, and multiple charges of assault on a minor. You say with all of this, if I pled guilty but gave up everything I knew about the organisation which hired me, you put me on a plane out of here?"
Mike Juma replied in a flash, before he had time to rethink the thing. "Provided what you have to give us is sufficient to put very big people in very big trouble, then yes. You have my word on it. A plane out of here, no questions asked."
That conversation had been just before Abdulbakker had entered a formal Not Guilty plea at his first court appearance before District Magistrate Ken Opio at the Cheptais local courthouse, because the Kapso sub-district court house was getting a paint job and was closed that week. He was remanded in custody with no bail for 14 days. A request for bail would be entertained in 7 days in Chambers, if made in the appropriate fashion.
Mike and Kip understood that to mean a bribe in exchange for bail. At last, work to do.
On the plus side, the hospital was now empty of Fraternity residents. Senior nursing staff breathed sighs of relief, while more junior staff would miss the occasional high jinx which had broken up the routine which sometimes became monotonous.
Bryan was still mostly wheelchair bound, with 10 to 12 hours in traction daily. But he could also manage elbow crutches for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, a couple times a day.
Gabe was becoming a true computer nut, asking for more and more speed, far greater than the bandwidth available at this remote location. He was hacking deep using leads and ideas that Alex had left on his computer. Health wise the boy had begun working on using his wheelchair, too, but with both legs up high he had big navigation problems. He was coping though.
Which was more than could be said for Lucas. He was doing OK with his wheelchair. Better than Gabe in fact. He was learning the ropes of his task as anchor for the ops teams and discovered he had unknown talents in map reading and developing his own form of shorthand. He also could be firm with the team when he saw them take wrong routes during training exercises.
“Damn it, that Lucas boy is more of a leader than I took him for," said Kip to Zack after one exercise when four boys had been out in Kitale trying to shadow a police WPC who was undercover watching a drug dealer. Lucas had interrupted their movements six times during the nine hours the four had spent covering about ten kilometers of ground, city market, slum living areas, a large farm, and finally an evangelical praise service. He'd told them they'd gone the wrong way, used the wrong route, chosen poor cover, split up in a manner that they couldn't get together again in an emergency and basically called them out as idiots - dangerous idiots - dangerous to one another. What was staggering was that every single criticism had been spot on.
Kip called a meeting of the Ops team. "Lads, you know that this team is the heart of the entire undertaking we have in trying to put an end to these attacks and killings, and the corruption behind them. So this team must be as close to perfect when we go operational as we can be.”
Kip paused for a minute as he reflected on what he had told his Chiel and the DC the previous evening as he outlined his plans for this morning’s meeting. "I was scared to death at the very idea of putting lethal weapons into the hands of 12, 13 and 14 year old boys, let alone 10 and 11 year olds,” Kip had said, ”but then I remembered Josh and Philip, Oliver and Francis, Felix, and of course your Alex, Sir. These guys don't play around the one's we're up against. I am certainly NOT training the boys to go in guns blazing. God forbid. But they must be able to defend themselves and each other if it comes to it. I have neither the three or four years it would take nor the skill to train the boys in advanced Marshall sets or unarmed combat, beyond a very superficial introduction. So we have to revert to safe use of an appropriate handgun.
"Now that Wheels has joined the boys I immediately saw the advantage of putting him in Ops. Tomorrow I'm forming two Ops teams. Alpha and Omega. Alpha, under Mark will also include Abel and little Stevie. Omega will be Finch, Robbie and Wheels - an 11-year-old, a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old. And I intend making the 11 year old the leader because he simply has natural, inbuilt leadership ability. I want to see him use it.
“The other big change is that I'm making Lucas head of Ops. I think it will work better and, anyway, he has demonstrated his unique tactical brain."
The Chief and the DC did not present any objections to Kip’s proposed changes.
At the morning meeting with the boys the idea of two teams went down well. Then he discussed the leaders. Finch was much shaken with the idea of directing two far more senior boys, one even in High School for God's sake! He was just a fresher in Middle School, though there was talk of all sorts of schools changes in September for everyone. Whatever. He couldn’t believe that he the quiet, reserved Finch - the follower to Stevie's lead - becoming the lead!
"Stop dithering, you twat, just fess up, be a man, and do it. I know you can," suddenly said Stevie and punched Finch in the chest, hard, causing him to stagger back a bit. "Want another one?" Stevie was smiling as he lifted his small fist and started swinging. But Finch got in first, delivering a one two three four, left hook, right upper cut, left to the open right eye, and a powerful full body launch to the solar plexus. Stevie was on one knee. Blood was seeping from his cut right eyebrow.
"Fuck, it took my blood to get you to get into gear. Damn well say yes now you bastard or I'll get up and pound you into dust!"
Finch just looked at his best friend, hauled him to his full 4ft 7 inch height and said, ”For the sake of peace and sanity around here, if Wheels and Robbie can accept a younger mountain boy as team leader, I'll humbly accept the trust you're putting in me, Kip. Thanks. I am very shocked and very proud."
"And as to me handing over my leadership of all Ops to Lucas, Kip," said Mark, “I think it's both an obvious and, what's the word?... oh yes, an inspired choice. I am going to find leading my team quite enough of a challenge I'm sure. And the way Lucas kept finding ways each of us was not fully utilising our cover or the knowledge we had of our environment, or the way he corrected us when we left one of our team vulnerable or alone… well, all of these things showed me, and I believe indicated to most of us, that Lucas has a fantastic strategic and tactical brain. And that he cares deeply for each of us and our safety. I am very happy to have Lucas as Skipper of Ops."
"Yea, Skip Lucas sounds good," echoed Robbie.
"Hi Skip!" chanted Stevie and Finch
And so was born, much to his embarrassment, the new nickname to add to Wheels and Tizzy. Lucas vanished into history and Skip was born that day.
Later as Kip was giving a report to the chief, he recounted the boys’ gun training.
"I allowed each of the ops boys to fire each of three lightweight handguns over the past ten days… that includes Felix and David. I also added Matt because he is already well accustomed to shooting firearms with you, Sir, I know. I thought it would do no harm to have at least one of the Street Team defence-trained. Although it seemed redundant, as he won't actually be in the field, I had to include Lucas. It seemed absurd to exclude him once he was ambulatory.
"All the guns are light in weight, ranging from 25 ounces unloaded to 35 ounces. Or as we think today just about 700 to 1000 grams. They are between 6 and 7.5 inches long, or about 160 to 170 mm, or very short by any measure. I graded the boys on each gun, then let them choose between the two they shot best.
"Matt, Wheels, Finch, Robbie and Abel all chose the very newest, in fact prototype Beretta Px4 Storm F 9x21 caliber which gives them 13 rounds. Felix, David, Stevie, Lucas went for the larger number of rounds, 16+1 and slightly lighter weight of the FNH FNS 9 MM. The slight surprise was that anyone opted for the third choice. Mark did. He went for the 45, the heavier Kimber 45 ACP, slightly bigger, ten ounces or almost 300g heavier than the other guns, and providing only half the number of rounds before a reload. I asked him why. He simply said that he saw Alex fall so he had no compunction in deciding on a 45 if given the option. After all, of all the boys there, he and Felix were far and away the best marksmen. Matt got off more shots in a minute, but he and Felix got over 75 per cent on target. He was correct of course.
"The training had gone much better than I had expected. Nobody had blown off their toes, nor anyone else's. Certainly not every boy was a crack shot, but three were surprisingly good, and one blew my socks off. Metaphorically I'm glad to say. Matt was a steady, reliable shot who would be a good backup. Felix and Mark had the makings of excellent marksmen. They obviously had a firm grounding in how to range a target and how to anticipate a quarry's movements. The positive surprises were Stevie, Robbie and Finch, particularly the last. Each were getting above 66 per cent in the target at rapid fire by the end of the first week. Finch was adding great intuition in finding hiding places and guiding his fellow "play actors" to find supporting positions for one another. Like Lucas he's a tactician. I think putting him on the ground being guided by Lucas in Comms would produce a crack team. I may try it one day.
"But the real shocker with a gun was Lucas himself. It's as if he was born to it. I gave him the FNS 9 and he put his nose to it. He had just gotten into his chair. He had just one arm to work and one leg was raised on that traction thing. He asked Felix to take him out to the place where we'd set up lots of targets and sacks of sand. Felix took Lucas in hand and, between taking his own practice shots, prepared Lucas's FNS for automatic fire. By lunchtime the boy was getting over 50 per cent target centre circle hits. This was unreal.
"In the end Lucas insisted on having "his" gun to take to bed with him. He didn't need bullets or anything. He just needed the comfort of something at last in his miserable life that he had found and proved he was good at.
"That's where we stand Chief. The meeting in the morning should be interesting."
» » » » » « « « « «
Philip was the one who pulled Oliver out of his funk.
"So, your dad tried to have you killed, eh! Mine ran off with some skanky waitress from a cheap, greasy spoon coffee shop dive in Sirisia where the coffee tastes like dog piss and the queen cakes were made in Eldoret by slave dwarfs who spit in the mix to spite being held as slaves. At least that's what Big Henry says and he knows most things before the papers write about them later. Anyway my dad goes off with this whore and leaves Mam with AIDS. She don't know I know, but I know. She is dying from it. Slowly.
"So your dad didn't kill you though he tried. My dad killed his self, his bitch-shit second slut he called a wife, and his decent, loving wife who bore him nine lovely children whom he deserted. I say we gang up on the guy, make his life a living hell until there's no way out for him except suicide."
Oliver was fascinated by this country boy. Injured just like him, but with a fighting spirit, not just lying there.
"How would a couple of kids like us take on a task like..." started Oliver…
"Hold up there cowboy," interrupted Odede who had been with them since he'd been cleared as having no infections two days ago, “I thought I was now part of a band of brothers almost 20 strong. That's why I agreed to move from the lovely room in the hospital with all the toys and stuff to this house with much older boys."
"The Fraternity it's called Odi, and yes, it will help us fulfill this task. I was being impatient," said Philip. "Anyhow, I guess we're not going anywhere for a while."
"There you're way wrong, the three of you," said Clement as he walked into the basement or lower low-level bedroom the three shared with Robbie and Abel. With so many now living at Casa it wasn't a question of doubling up, but sharing for 4 or 5. So the twins roomed with Tizzy and Wheels, Stevie was with Dak, Finch and Frankie; Lucas remained with Gabe and Bry but was joined by Jesse and Dido. Upstairs only Felix and David and Francis had the comparative luxury of just three to a room.
"What do you mean, we're wrong? Do you plan on having us run a marathon, or is Daktari throwing us out, or what?" asked Oliver, jokingly.
Deep down, though his insecurity was real. Oliver felt rejected utterly by his father whom he'd adored and always defended when his mother had criticised him or spoken ill of him. To have had that total loyalty, even to the point of his mother's death, rewarded by such murderous betrayal was breaking his will to fight the injuries he'd sustained in fighting for his honour two weeks earlier. If he'd known or realised that night what he'd come to realise since, he would have offered his attackers his throat openly and gladly in the midst of the fray and would have smiled in satisfaction as his life's blood drained away. Happy to see this corrupted evil world behind him.
Now, though, David and Felix said fight back. For a while then, he will. Let's give right some light for a spell. See Hell later.
"Tomorrow the big bird's taking you three to a hospital in the South Rift somewhere with Daktari to meet a different mzungu daktari who's visiting Africa for the first time. We hope he may have experience in areas to assist you. I will accompany you. So will David, Felix and Frankie, whom I know you've cottoned onto, Odi. We leave after breakfast at 09.00. "
Tuesday, July 12th the Sun arose just as usual.
21 boys of the Cornfield Fraternity, five in wheelchairs, one using elbow crutches and one (Odi) being assisted by two boys sat together at exactly 7.00 for breakfast. They had waited for the volunteers going on mobile clinics and Dr. Tom and the three remaining Canuck students to finish and go. They waited for Sister Florence to prepare the trays for the seven rehab kids in the West Wing and four boys helped her take them up and chatted a while with the children who, after all, they knew well by now from sharing evenings together each day. Finally, they waited while the kitchen crew cleaned up and prepared their ugi, eggs, toast and sausages. Daktari joined them today, having not gone on clinics, and Clement was there, too, as was Sergeant Kip and another police officer, Peter Kamau, a Kikuyu and one of Kip's closest friends - both personally and professionally.
"Something big is going down as Kip has brought Kamau out today, we shouldn't both be away from this,” said Felix speaking to his closest friend ever, David.
"How do we handle this? I can't let Philip down today, of all days," replied David, thinking that how he'd first started this crazy journey into the Fraternity had been because Philip grabbed his hand as he passed his bed at Bringitar's crowded paediatric unit.
"I will get Jesse to go with Oliver. He spent lots of time with him before so it won't seem strange," Felix replied.
"It's all cleared. Oliver is happy with Jesse as his travel companion. If anything I think he's relieved. Maybe I intimidate him a bit. Am I an intimidating person, David? You would tell me if I came over that way wouldn't you, my best friend?" Felix looked genuinely sanguine - woebegone even.
"Look my dearest friend, you are who you are. I wouldn't change a scintilla of your character, warts and all. Yes you are strong willed. You know a lot and know you know it. Good on you. But you don't brag and you don't look down on those who know less or have less. You just keep going and get dirty and risk offending the upper classes you live with by working with the poorer classes they ignore. I liked you at first because you were different, then I liked you more because you don't think yourself different at all! It never enters your mind. To you - you're just one of us with a bigger house and better education. I finally…finally - I gotta get this out Felix - I just have to tell you - come hell or high water - well…I finally fell in love with you when I realised that the house, the cars, the helicopter, all of it meant nothing to you. I saw you run to drag Francis and Alex from that slaughtering pit. You didn't give it a second thought. I knew that moment that 12-years-old or 22 or 52 - I will always love you Felix Sikuku. Maybe not like a lifelong partner thing. We're far too young for that, but a deep, deep friendship, beyond normal friends for sure. And with lots of benefits, as my older brothers put it.”
"It's a good thing black boys can't blush, boyfriend," is all Felix said as he took David's head in his tw strong hands and kissed him deeply and long.
"Ahem… Sorry to disturb the sexy snogging session, but wheels are up in 5 minutes David. And incidentally, your love life is nobody's business but yours. Your fairly secret ‘secret’ is safe with me. OK?” ended Clement.
"God was that embarrassing or what?” asked David as he grabbed his backpack from the bed and checked himself in mirror.
"You look stunning, as usual, Stud, and I was and am totally not embarrassed to be caught in my own private bedroom kissing the most handsome boy on the mountain if not in all East Africa. So if next time it's blowing you it will be better still!" Felix avowed.
As he walked out the door, David was smiling and said, ”but remember, sometimes it is better to receive than to give. As you'll find out tonight, and maybe Francis will too!" And the door shut with a quiet click.
» » » » » « « « « «
"I'm pleased you're here today Felix, as I think either you or David should be in on our first real field operation,” said Kip Kipsang as he sat on a bench under a large Elgon Teak tree about 400m from the main house in the grounds of Casa de Medicos, and about 250m above what was called Gardeners House, but actually served as a residence of retirement for six senior nurses and a pharmacist, all now well over 70.
"I have a tip that our shooter has contacts who are going to attempt a two pronged attack to influence the judge. They will try to buy him. And they will possibly either just whisper in his granddaughter's ear or actually kidnap her."
"How old is she and which school does she go to?" asked Lucas, quickly assuming his leadership role.
"Her name is, wait for it, Virginia Ojakol. She attends St Jude's RC Primary in some remote, tiny place called Adumai in Teso. She's 12-years-old and is the oldest girl of four, second child. Nine children in all from one wife. Old magistrate Opio has his home shamba in a place several kilometers away in Akichelisit."
"Fuck and Damn," said Felix.
"And what was that obscene outburst for, other than to show that you can cuss better than anyone else. I don't appreciate this sort of thing Felix."
"Oh please, Sergeant Sir, Goddamn it you should know me better than that,” Felix was almost shouting, but not quite. "No Sir, I don't just go off on one for nothing, but I do know this area about which you are talking - please note my very precise use of Kiswahili grammar here. Adumai village, eh?! Very, very interesting, Sir. My father and I did a clinic there once. You know the place is right on the international border. This side, tax on, for example, things like soda drinks is 5 per cent. Across the border it's 17.5 per cent.
"Adumai is what I call an asterisk of a place. Blink and you'd miss it if a road went through it. But, of course, no road does because the track from Angurai into this hiccup of a place peters out at the village centre and a mere footpath then goes down to the river marking the international boundary. No crossing point there. No bridge or checkpoint or anything. In the dry season's worst period a child could wade across. During the rains the river in spate would carry a truck away.
"We did a clinic there one day. 350 or so people from all around, 150 fewer than usual - so it shows how few people live in this neighbourhood. Friends had warned us that on no account should we be in Adumai after dark. They said no more. These were people we trusted, like retired police and trades people. After lunch I went with a visiting school friend in search of a cold drink to chase down our ugali and sukuma that a kind villager had made us all. I never trust local water and had forgotten my flask at home. When I got to the market place, there was just one tiny shop, but behind it, in the trees was this huge storage shed, at least 75m long and about 20m wide. When I saw the tiny shop with its grill for a counter top so everything had to be passed to the customer through a tiny serving slot, I was ashamed my friend saw it. He said it reminded him of when he'd visited relatives who lived in some part of Los Angeles called, if I remember correctly, Compton.
"Anyhow, there was nobody in the shop serving, so I said we should try the big building behind. Why not? There was a small door in the side of a bigger sliding door so I opened it and we peered in.
"It was an unbelievable sight. Thousands upon thousands of stacks and stacks of coke, Fanta, Sprite, Pepsi, you name it. I said we needed to get out of that place quickly before we were seen. My friend didn't get it. I did. Mama Tweed's smuggling business. Even at 2 shilling a bottle, 50,000 cases comes out at 3 million shillings or $40,000 a week. Nice change if you can make it. Then if you can transport bulky stuff like soda...
"Wait Sergeant, I haven't finished yet. That was Adumai, the first village you mentioned. Now we have Akichelisit."
"Don't tell me you know this village too, Felix,” said Kip, ”is there anywhere in this district you do not know?”
Felix smiled, "You know I've been dogging dad for almost 7 years now, attending clinics, helping with talks, going to churches all over. About the only area I don't know very well is parts of Tongaren, by chance. But to get back to Akichelisit. Coincidence isn't it that there are only two GSU permanent bases in our area. One was where our lads were shot, Kipsigon. The other is where our judge has his home, Akichelisit."
"Oh no! I can't take on the GSU, head on,” said Kip with genuine concern in his voice.
"Sergeant, Sergeant, I am perfectly sure that Felix isn't suggesting any such thing. What I expect is that there is a small rogue element which we need to identify, just as you did in the civilian police before," said Lucas using a totally new air of confidence in his tone.
"We change nothing in what I had planned and what the Chief has approved and Officer Kamau is here today to help me introduce to you," continued the re-invigorated Sabaot sergeant. "Beginning Wednesday at 09.00 we are initiating a four-pronged operation involving every ambulant member of the Fraternity approved by Daktari Adam to leave the compound of Casa. I expect that this will preclude Oliver, Oli, Gabe, Lucas and Francis, but I do have a little something you can do from your chair, Bryan, at Bringitar market. But we'll cover that later. Francis, before you get hyperventilating or get a stroke from hypertension because I chose Bryan. I will talk to Adam. In fact I want to use you Wednesday if he says the all clear. I shall talk to you and Felix about this later.
"The Ops team. Alpha team I need to stroll into Adumai from Angurai on Wednesday. Stake out places to sleep in pairs. You'll probably be there two or three days. Get to know local kids, but in pairs, not all four at once, though by Thursday afternoon it should be OK to ‘accidentally’ meet one another. I have cover stories here for why you're each in Adumai and just ‘around’. They are very simple things. Nobody is going to be suspicious and raising flags about 12 and 10 year old kids in rags. I'm giving you very baggy clothes to hide your radios, recording devices and handguns. Remember, strictly defence only. This is not a retribution exercise, clear? Clear? CLEAR??"
"Perfectly clear, Sergeant Kipsang,” said Lucas.
"Yes, Sir!" said Mark.
"Omega team, you have a similar, but in some way slightly easier detail. Daktari Adam has changed his clinic schedule to bring his mobile to Akichelisit on Thursday. You guys gradually move into the general area on Wednesday. I am asking Felix to join you for the first few hours to point out landmarks because you don't have time to scout ahead and he knows the area and can act as your scout. During the clinic just play the kids in the crowd like we did in the role play we've done. Scout out the judge's place. Radio in to me what it will take for me to quietly secure its perimeter. Of course listen for cliques on the militia base. Kids know about these things,” he said. “Ask them, ‘does your dad belong to a special group?’
"You know more about how kids brag about stuff than I do. Just don't be too obvious. After all you will be new faces. In a real crisis, remember there's a bolt hole at that Sister's place a couple of kilometers away. Felix will show it you.
"The fourth prong of our attack is my own, or rather Chief Juma's, officers alongside the DC's Administration Police. On Thursday at 12.00 noon, when shops are busiest, over 40 officers will raid every bookshop, shoemaker, repair shop, every corner booth that Zak and David and you Dido listed as selling glue and will confiscate any amount over 100g per retailer and leave a charge of dealing in a substance likely to be abused by minors, so causing abuse of a minor.
"That will cause shock waves everywhere, but 20 other officers will ‘arrest’ every street kid at the same time and take them in for questioning. This is where you come in, Matt, Tizzy and Dak and Dido. Firstly, beginning tomorrow you'll go back to the streets, Tizzy and Dido, cause you're known there. In the afternoon Matt will join you. By dark, Dak will have come too. Gradually, telling the ones you trust most first, tell the boys only about the fact everyone is to be arrested. There will be no rough stuff and no questioning, just processing at Headquarters, a health check, and a meal and overnight accommodation. If anyone wants to volunteer information about pressure bring exerted on them, we'll guarantee to protect them as we have Tizzy and Dido, but we'll question nobody unless they volunteer.
"Lastly, the final prong depends on Daktari Adam's approval."
"Tell us," urged Felix, “and I'll see how much of my vestigial good book with the Old Man I'm willing to sacrifice in order to talk him round."
"With all your new found propinquity to make every speech you make redolent with the f-bomb, Felix, I'm surprised the good book which you once had full even exists anymore," said Gabe chuckling. "What happened to the oh-so-Good boy I first met fighting alongside me that day on the school yard 7 years ago?"
"Oh, that's obvious,” answered Felix in an instant. "I met Matt and Mark. They'd pervert Christ himself during his transfiguration!"
Everyone, even the butts of his joke, were in stitches. It took Kip a couple of minutes to return order to the clamour of boys and men.
After everyone had calmed, Kip resumed, "alright then Felix-the-Perverted, I will explain, but if Adam says ‘No’, I don't want a lot of fuss, understood? Because what I propose is a very chancy idea and Chief Mike was not hugely enamoured of the proposal until I talked him round. It would happen on Friday, if at all. The third and last day of this op.
"On that day I think that overnight Thursday Mama Tweed normally would trans-ship her soda, plus whatever else, using her animal and human mules to cross the river. Presumably the Askari on the other side are paid to be elsewhere for 2 hours or so. I have arranged with a police academy friend at the National Police Academy over there to organise a nighttime mountain motocross rally on Thursday night. Guess where??! Over 100 riders and their support teams are scheduled there, to begin at 20.00 Thursday and events on this full moon night through to 04.00.
"To put not too fine a point on it, Mama Tweed's smuggling that night is screwed."
"And the trucks will be bringing her new supplies Friday, while our boys are still scoping the village. Fantastic to see the chaos!" said Lucas, catching on in a flash.
"Then if Adam goes along, Francis will be wheeled along Moi Avenue by Felix on Friday lunchtime. He'll deliver a letter to Mama Tweed's simply saying, don't try buying Judge Opio or Motocross will become the most popular sport in North Teso. Then he'll go to the bookshop where Zak recorded the tape. He'll ask to buy glue. Of course he will be refused because there isn't any. So he'll play the tape and say, I wonder if this is why, and threaten to play the tape to others who were raided. Hopefully that will leave the bookseller scared of us.
"Finally, the two of you go to the main taxi stand and see if any of Charlie Kamau's taxis are there. If so, Francis should simply say, well, just say it on the day, eh Francis, I know you'll find the right words..."
"You can bet your ass I will, and shall, Felix,” and he turned to his friend with a broad smile now that he could speak a little with the aid of the temporary plastic prosthetic jaw they'd fitted three days earlier. The real reconstruction was scheduled for September. The drawings looked like an architectural blueprint. Jawbone from his hip, teeth were porcelain, skin from his thigh, bits of his mouth from a flap of his upper arm, then that area covered by thigh skin too. It was looking like a military operation as much as a surgical one. 11 hours Adam reckoned it would take the British maxillofacial plastic surgeon to do the deed, assisted by Adam and Tom with Arthur as his Sleep Happy Doctor as he had introduced himself!
He must stop daydreaming, Felix the Wise (Yea, well!!!) was pontificating again.
"We're going to do this. Dad will approve. It's the coup de grace of this whole little operation - the first, initial step in our take-down of the Money Mafia. It's public, it's in your face, and it's unafraid. It's perfect. I am going to add a little soupçon of a surprise to add a dash of extra polemic to our message on the day," added Felix
"Yes, well, just don't go crazy,” said Kip. "After the delivery to the cabbies, go up to the Mall coffee shop. By now I imagine you'll be the centre of a great deal of attention. You will have over a dozen plain clothes officers on you all day, plus the usual cover. Over the next 48 hours Francis, you will get acquainted with the Beretta Px4. You will both be defensively armed. Of course Matt will be nearby too."
"By this time, you're using them as bait, aren't you Sergeant? Just be honest with them, with me as Ops leader - you want them to be attacked so you can catch the attacker in the act. I know Felix. I am 100 per cent sure that if you’re straight with him the risk will mean nothing to him if you think it will bring you closer to catching the kingpins of the scum who killed Alex and Josh," urged Lucas. "Just ask them! Man up."
"Look Sergeant Kip, you don't need to,” Felix interjected. “I am no idiot. Francis and I will be rolling around a half-deserted downtown Bringitar with Francis in all these bandages and wound up like a mummy. Then we’ll be crashing in on places we don't belong, issuing threats - veiled or otherwise - then nonchalantly taking coffee in the most open-space coffee shop in all of Western province. You couldn't really be more obvious. We are the proverbial sitting ducks.
"Which is why I think it won't work. It is so obvious, that nobody but a blind idiot would fall for it. But we'll give it a shot, forgive the pun. But the danger times will be the least obvious times. Watch us when we're off guard please. I don't want to lose Francis now after his struggle back."
"Any questions anyone?” Kip said, choosing to ingnore Lucas’s and Felix’s comments. “It's Monday. We'll call Wednesday D day. So this is D minus 2. Train today by spending time learning your cover, all of you ops guys. Then firearms training after lunch. At 16.00 Kamau here will take those who are able on a 10 K run. After dinner you're free. D minus 1 starts at 6.00 with another 10 K run. After breakfast, we will go through a bunch of old, but clean clothing that Sister Florence has brought, which will be suitable for the op. You can sort and choose. No shoes of course for the Teso boys. After lunch it is firearms again. Then I test you on your cover. D day we leave after breakfast."
"You didn't mention David anywhere in your plan, Kip," said Matt
"I didn't. I also didn't mention Bryan or Jesse. Bryan for the obvious reason of his limited movement, but next time, Bry, I'm sure to get you more involved. Jesse because he is an Intel man and this is his space in our operation. However, in this case, I have found a position I need to fill which Jesse and David, as overall Coordinator fit ideally well together.
"Someone has to start spreading rumors about the street boys having left, about a magistrate being watched, about traders being arrested, about Mama Tweed being hoodwinked, about Charlie Kamau being called out. These rumours must all be started at once and spread quickly. Use Felix's contact with a TV network too. David and Jesse are new faces, unconnected to Adam or anyone, so that is best."
» » » » » « « « « «
South Rift Hospital was quite a new experience for all concerned. Except for Adam and for Peter, who had asked to accompany them at the last minute as he still felt a particular proprietorial feeling towards Philip in light of him having first being admitted to his ward.
First, the place was huge. Flying over it at first it seemed not much bigger than Children's Hospital, but then when one touched down the difference was immediately evident. Four floors in the main building. Three or at least two in others. And everything was crammed together, not laid out in broad parkland like at Children's.
"Where are the trees?" Was Jesse's first question. Not a request for the surgeons or the operating room or even the hospital entrance, but the absence of forest cover. At home trees or maize fields of sugar cane or tobacco or soya beans or some food product was everywhere. Here he saw concrete.
"We're not here to study the environment, Jess, but to see some brainy doctors, so let’s just wheel our friends inside and do the dirty, OK?" said David as he took Philip's wheelchair.
"Me, I can walk, Daktari,” said Odi.
"I know, little Odede, but hospital rules say that patients must be in a wheelchair. Sorry. No choice. Just enjoy the rest while you may," replied a smiling Peter Mooney crouching down to talk to the Luo lad he'd help bring from his nightmare situation with his father and grandad. As he rose to his feet Frankie took the small, child size wheelchair and started wheeling his charge after the others, the rearguard of a slow moving column led by Adam and Peter with the three wheelchairs following, Indian fashion and Steve just running up to take over as a caboos guard.
"How many beds, or patients in this place, Daktari?" asked Jesse. Obviously the place was getting to him.
"I'm not sure. It isn't as big as Kenyatta National Referral, which is listed as the largest hospital in sub-Saharan Africa at, I think, 4200 beds. So I would think here we have around 3000. Which would mean the place houses around 4500 to 5000 patients a day, including day patients but excluding out patients."
"Bloody hell!" said Frankie, ”that's more than live in our entire sub-division I think."
"Not quite, Frankie," said Adam with a smile, recognising the 10-year-old underestimated his area's people by good measure. "But it sure is more than our mobile clinics see in an average fortnight."
Adam looked around at the total appearance of disorganization which confronted him as he and his platoon came into the main entrance concourse of the recently built main building. People were milling about seemingly uncertain whether to follow a green corridor, a blue one, or a red, or a yellow, or opt for the purple coloured one. There were no clear markings above any of them. The booth marked 'Information' was unmanned and the glass was grimy and smeared with what looked like old, spilled coffee.
"Wait, Daktari, look there's a notice over there by the door on the far left, but it's very small. I'll go look at it if you all hang here a second," said David as he darted 15 meters across the large room, meandering through the crowd of people, many looking sick and confused.
He was back in three or four minutes, with a scrap of paper and a nub of pencil in his hand.
"Always carry something to write with and on, my gramps once told me, and I keep that rule. That tiny notice gives the colour code for the corridors. Pardon me, but why in God's name don't they put it in big letters above the corridors in question. It's madness. If we need general surgical we need the red corridor. If we need paediatrics we need the yellow one."
"Well done David. I like the colour code idea, just not how they've executed it here. It's given me an idea. For now though, we follow the yellow brick road!" Adam got the connotation. No one else, even Peter, did so! Such is life. ‘Judy Garland obviously wasn't big in East African film folklore,’ thought Adam.
The small wagon train of slightly timorous teen wannabes squeaked up the crowded aisle, past doors marked in Kiswahili and English with such off-putting signs as Primary Blood Store, Resuscitation Room, Sluice, Prayer Room, Scrub, Post-Op, No Admittance (That one naturally particularly piqued the boys interest and was the one they wanted to look into, and would have if the damn grownups hadn't been watching like hawks). Sisters and Daktari were going in and out of various doors marked with personal names, outside which were benches the boys noted were crammed with people waiting, with overlooks of others sitting on lessos on the ground, either with their backs to the wall if there was space, or where even every centimeter of wall space was filled - just sitting upright on the cool, painted concrete floor.
"Are each of these what, sixty or seventy people waiting to see just one Daktari, Daktari Adam?” posed David to the leader of their particular pack. "Surely they'll be here until tomorrow, some of them, if so!"
"I don't know, David, to be honest with you. I suspect though, that there's a team of surgeons in there and they're plotting who's going to see whom. Once the door opens they'll be calling three or four at once."
"That's a relief. I could see us having an uncomfortable night ahead."
"Oh, you need not worry about that in any case. Once we find our doctors, we don't wait outside like this at all."
"No, no, no. I'm a visiting professor myself with a fellowship and a leading paediatric surgical trauma consultant. We give each other what is called ‘Professional Courtesy’. Among the rules of this is that we don't keep one another waiting in lines. Once I find him, I will just wait until he's finished with the patient he's seeing at the moment, then I'll introduce myself and expect to be invited to bring each of you in, one by one. We should be back and airborne in less than 90 minutes."
"The people who've been queuing for hours will feel pretty sick about us just arriving from nowhere and walking right past them and zip, right in the door," suggested Jesse.
"To put it bluntly, there are times when I have to say, so what? Look at it rationally, Jesse,” Adam said as he stopped a minute to make what he thought was an important point. "Most of those waiting here are mamas. If they weren't here they'd be home tending the shamba, looking after the children and older family members, or maybe keeping a small shop. While she's here an older child or a sibling is covering for her. You and I are keeping an $8 million helicopter on the ground while we walk these corridors. I am not part of a team which normally sees 500 patients a day or in a hospital which performs on average 15 surgical interventions a day. I studied a total of 13 years after getting straight A’s at high school. You are risking your lives to take on the most powerful corruption cartel outside the capital city when you could just say, damn it it's not my business, I'll just play football. Now I reckon those all are sufficient reasons in spades for us to leave the poor women sitting on their lessos behind eating dust."
By the end of his diatribe, Adam was becoming, by his standards at least, quite animated. Even a few passers-by stopped to listen to him.
"Right on Daktari Adam,” said David immediately. And Steve at the back added a "whoop!!"
"I didn't quite understand the bits about shovels…wait, no… spades - nor the reference to eating soil, but I noticed that when you were getting really into it Steven started recording your talk on his phone, so I can watch it again later and see if I get it the second time around," said Jesse.
"You recorded my little pep talk, Steve?" asked Adam of his young, yet long-time aide, driver and friend, incredulously? "Why on God's green Earth would you do such an absurd thing?"
"Daktari, how long have we known one another,” questioned the Kisii-born, but Bukusu bred 19-year-old, laughingly, knowing he was about to answer the question himself. "Kevo brought me along one weekend to help him when the weather was really bad and I was 10, but already very strong from my lifting weights with my older brother. So I've known you nine years Daktari. You talk a lot. A very great deal, with respect, I would say. But with great excitement - how you say – ‘vitality’ I think is the word, in your speech. In those nine years, maybe I count on fingers only. So I record and send to Felix already before you stop me, he he!" And the teenager, a heavy built, very strongly muscled and bulked 110kg, 6ft 4ins rugby fly half in his sports endeavours, laughed from the tips of smallest toes to his eyelashes until the perspiration poured like taking a shower.
The Steven mirth machine proved contagious and for three or four minutes a scene out of Bedlam ensued on yellow corridor of South Rift Hospital that day as three wheelchair confined pre-teens, three equally young minders, it seemed, an older teen, a doctor from the look of his scrubs and an Askari in uniform were united in a state of near hysterical laughter at the apparent expense of a totally bemused, confused, but hardly amused figure of an older white lab-coated mzungu who was obviously a Daktari. The whole scene had the passers-by on the yellow corridor in thrall.
"You must be Professor Adam, about whom Professor Zorion Etxeberria has been regaling me with tales of interesting high jinx at university medical school," said a distinct, clear voice above the quieting babble of slowly calming boys and men as the laughter petered out and tissues vainly attempted to mop up sweated brows and teary eyes.
"Hello there, yes. You've met me in the midst of a madhouse. These people don't belong to me, of course. I think they got lost on the way from the Psychiatric Institute to the lockup facility at the District Lunatic Asylum."
Jesse was getting a name for himself as the wit of the crew and was quick to respond, not at all shy of having a new mzungu in the mix.
"Har-di-har-har! Most witty ‘Professor’, now is it, Adam? Ahem! Now, forgive us poor rube peasants for having called you a mere Daktari these past, well, I guess all my puny little life!"
He ran left to dodge a quick clip to his ear from a chuckling Adam as every one, except the incredulous newcomer smiled or laughed quietly. But, like his fraternity brother Bryan a few days earlier, Jesse learned that when dodging quickly in a confined space, it's best to plan one's escape route first.
Ker-crash, smash, the unmistakable sound of a large metal tray connecting with a hard surface, followed by shattering glass and, ”God damn it, what in hell were you doing you Satan child," Smack! Ouch! "I'll 'Ouch' you, you son of a bitch, that was over an hour's work sorting liquid doses of medicine for patients who cannot swallow well and cannot take theocrats. So Smack! Ouch! Just ..."
"That's quite enough of that sister," Adam and Peter interrupted the Kikuyu nurse almost at the same second as she was about to aim a third blow to Jesse's head. There was already blood trickling from his nose.
"You have no right to use corporal punishment against patients at any time, nurse. Where is your ID badge,” demanded Peter Mooney. Adam stopped a passing student nurse and in his authoritative voice, one he could put on when necessary, ordered her to fetch a cleaning woman to clear the mess and a matron to whom he could report the actions of this nurse.
As everyone waited, Peter cleaned up Jesse's nose and applied a tape to a small cut on the bridge. "You'll have a shiner in the morning. A fight with a 90 kg sister doesn't carry much in the way of bragging rights, though. Particularly as you didn't even get in as much as a slap!"
Even Jesse had to laugh over the wince caused by dabbing iodine on his small cut and a graze on his cheek.
"In all of this most monstrous and diabolical behaviour by this person being quite correctly restrained now by your security man, Professor, I missed introducing myself. I am the Professor's aide or assistant, Dr. Alessandro Miguel Echevarrya. Everyone just calls me Alex."
"Doctor, you will think us very, very peculiar people. You come upon me as the ten of us are in the midst of near hysterical laughter at my expense. I cannot explain it all to you. But we have a situation in my district just now which is very tense. I think what you saw was some release of that tension. Strange as it may sound your arrival may be providential. Why, because one of the pivotal points in our crisis out in Western was the shooting and killing of one of our group of 12-year-old boys who call themselves the Fraternity. Why you present a special turning point today, particularly for David as leader of all 20 boys, is that the boy who was shot dead was named Alex."
"Oh boy indeed."
Just then both the cleaning crew and a senior male nurse and someone Adam recognised as Dr. Augustine Oniangu, the hospital Head of Medical Care came on the scene. The place was becoming a veritable circus.
"Good morning Augustine. It's good to see you. And thank you, Matron for responding so quickly. I'll be quick as we're all busy people. My boy here, Jesse, moved quickly without seeing the Kikuyu sister coming along. She was walking along a busy corridor carting a full tray of liquid medicine doses, uncovered and unrestrained. Jesse, my boy, ran in to her. The obvious ensued.
"Instead of apologising to the boy, ensuring he had not been cut by his collision with a metal tray, or that any medicine has gotten into his eyes… no this supposed nurse begins a rant at the boy. She uses the foullest language, including insulting his mother if you please, and she beats him about the head three times before Dr. Peter Mooney and I could get there. Her strikes were so severe there was blood coming from his nose. You can see contusions and a laceration. I know corporal punishment is an accepted norm in every part of life for a boy child in Africa, but this was well beyond the acceptable bounds in my view. In fact, in my hospital corporal punishment of any kid is totally forbidden at any time."
It was the senior nurse who spoke.
"Daktari, we haven't met before, though I've seen you speak at my church once in Nairobi when I had a weekend off and you were visiting with your son, Felix if I remember." He received a smiling nod of assent from Adam. "I am Amos Mutui, which you will recognize as an Akamba name. We are a strongly disciplinarian people and I remember lots of beatings for seemingly trivial things, and even for things I hadn't even done, blast it!" He looked around and the boys were smiling and nodding saying, without actually needing to speak the words, ”we know just exactly how you felt!"
"But having said that, what you're saying happened on my shift here to this boy is totally and utterly unacceptable and unprofessional."
Steve unexpectedly spoke up at this point.
"If it helps I have most of the incident, once the tray fell to the ground, recorded on my mobile phone. I thought it was going to be funny but it proved not to be so I guess."
"Thanks, young man. I'll give you my email or if you have Bluetooth on your phone we can copy it across (he got the nod). Good, fine. Because, Daktari, both of you, and kids, and I know I speak for the hospital as a whole here, we don't accept this behaviour or any violence towards patients. We have a zero tolerance of striking children within these walls. This nurse may well lose her job here. I will inform you of the disciplinary committee's decision, Dr. Adam. In the meantime, sister, go home, you're on suspension on half pay until your hearing. You'll be informed by text and phone call. My friendly advice to you. Start looking for another job while you're waiting."
With than the Akamba matron and the very senior physician , deputy head of the entire hospital on the medical as opposed to the surgical side, left having not uttered a single, solitary syllable. The errant nurse slunk silently into the shadows of course.
"Now, at last, let us take your trio to see my boss. It's his first time in south of Sahara, as you know Professor…"
"Wait, wait, stop, stop. Please, Alex. Before we go any further, May we please cut out the Professor bit? Nobody calls me that here. It's Daktari, which means doctor. Is it alright?"
Then David piped up. "Pardon me, but did Daktari just say your name Is Alex? Daktari?"
"Yes. You’re David right? And Dr. Adam told me the terrible thing which happened to your friend Alex. I can never be him. But I can sit with you perhaps one day when next we meet and you can tell me about him. Or, wait (and he fished out a visiting card from his wallet), my email address is here. If you'd care to, write me about my namesake. I would like to know about him. We perhaps may pray together with him, eh? "The Basque surgeon squeezed the young leader's hand and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Leadership at a young age is tough, I know. At 13, I was made leader of my branch of Hari Betasuna, the Basque Nationalist Party. There were bombs going off. Assassinations, arrests, my house was razed by police wearing masks, a fire bomb was put through my door, even my locker at school was hot-wired one time. That was too much! It put all my school friends at risk!"
"So what did you do?" David asked.
"That was obvious. I quit."
"But did you believe in what you were doing, Daktari? In the cause of this Hari whatever?"
"Of course, but the risk to other people was so high - risk to me I could take, but to others, well..."
"Sorry, Daktari, but you and I and Jesse and Frankie, and even Philip and Oliver, and the rest of us, we say this: ‘I take the risk and those around me share the risk I take.’ When Alex was shot, Francis ran to cover his body and himself was shot four times. Felix ran to drag them aside and was shot twice. Mark was grazed by bullet running in to help before the shooter was taken down. I have absolutely no doubt every boy in my unit would lay his life for another. Without a second thought. We come from backgrounds where we have so very, very little. Here we've found a richness of meaning for our lives we never thought possible.
"Daktari, we'll die for it. We'll kill for it if we have to. But I hope we don't."
Even Adam was shocked by the depth and strength of feeling David had expressed in his brief riposte to what he saw as Alex's defeatist attitude to confronting violence.
» » » » » « « « « «
"Bring me up to speed Willi...on everything. I need to know the worst". This was DC Rashid Hussein's response and greeting as he welcomed the human rights campaigner to his lavish offices at Bringitar that lunchtime. "Knowing your penchant for taking lunch in the form of a beef pasty or some such equally disgustingly high fat, high salt and certainly poor quality product, bolted down in 30 seconds while riding astride a bodaboda, I have decided to eat luncheon at the office today so we may partake together," began the still mourning Gabra leader.
The most high ranking administration official ever to have emerged from his community, probably after the former Vice President and then Foreign Minister Bonaya Godana, one of the most senior office holders in any capacity to have emerged from the small Gabra tribal group, Rashid was still a humble man of the semi-desert at heart. He bore himself tall and straight, wearing his crisp District Commissioner's uniform well on his trim 36 year old frame. To be DC of the country's third most populous district outside the capital, while still being the youngest by five years, was a distinction of which he was amazingly proud. But with Alex gone...well, it was something he planned to raise with Willi.
"Here Willi, fresh warm Nile Perch. Vegetables, ugali of course as you're a Bukusu and without ugali I understand whatever else is on the table - from roast venison to broiled salmon - if there's no ugali then you won't have really eaten anything! Then there're beans from our own garden in Laikipia, fruits, fresh mango juice there or canned apple juice my wife likes - which she gets from her sister in South Africa. There's also chai afterwards over by my desk. My friend, if I may be so bold as to refer to you as one, forgive me for not offering alcohol, but as you know, while my wife is Christian and I agreed to allow Alex to choose once old enough, and he chose the Gospel of Christ. I am Moslem from birth. Consequently I am in a sort of fasting period until the two week anniversary of Alex's burial on Saturday and am more strictly adhering to my faith's dietary prohibition of intoxicating drinks.”
"First off, Rashid, I feel proud and honoured that a man who has born the cruel loss of his only son in the Stoic manner which you have would wish to have me as a friend and to claim me and openly refer to me publicly as such. Thank you." At that he went up to the Presidential Representative and grasped both his hands in both of his, until Rashid did the until recently unthinkable to the 'manly' Bukusu - and drew Willi into a loose hug.
"Before we get too girly and sentimental, put food on your plate and sit and then we'll talk, Willi, alright? And load up. We have lots to discuss and I've_cleared 2 hours of my schedule. I can always push more if I need to, also," continued Rashid.
Once the two were seated, and Rashid's ADC had been in with the noon signals from the Office of the President and the Secretary of Internal Security, Rashid offered some prayers over the food and they both began to enjoy a leisurely lunch.
"Let me begin with the boys, Rashid," Willi opened the conversation.
"No, no, Willi. Anything you say there will be redundant. I am briefed every evening very comprehensively. With Sergeant Kipsang's approval, Felix received clearance at his request to keep me informed on a regular basis on what Alex would have been involved in, were he still with us. It was Felix and Francis's idea I believe."
"Yes I can well credit that. Hmm. Then on to what Adam is up to down at South Rift. He and Peter Mooney, you remember the Head of Paediatrics here, took the two boys who were attacked here and survived, and the little boy injured similarly but in a family issue in Sirisia, to consult with visiting reconstructive surgeons from the Basque region of Spain. I was on the telephone with David, who travelled with Philip to keep him company, and the story is that the senior surgeon is optimistic that he and his team can get both older boys penises rebuilt later this year. Odede might have to wait up to three years. The reasons took too long for a phone call. The small complication is we need to raise some money as the surgeons insist that as this is new, cutting edge surgery and each involves several procedures, they must do them at home in Spain. So we need money for air and train fares for the boys and a companion for them and a staff member. I think David said they would be away about six weeks."
"If they reconstruct it, will it be plastic or what, will they urinate through it with control, what about , no, no they couldn't possibly have sex because there would be no feeling there, correct? It leaves too many questions doesn't it?" Rashid had his glass of mango juice midway between lips and table, musing options aloud.
Willi reverted to his reporting notes.
"Mike Juma tells me to report that the shooter, Abdulbakker is obviously, if you'll forgive my quoting his language directly, shit scared. He is torn between the chance he is being offered of a plane out and a life in prison, where he likely won't survive a month. He is very close to giving up names, Mike believes. Once the prisoner hears how vulnerable the Big Guys are to attack even by a bunch of little kids, he reckons he'll fold like a busted flush."
"It seems as if you're bringing me good news on every front Willi. Can you visit like this every day?" And they both chuckled. "But I suppose Langat is remaining silent?"
Willi just nodded assent.
"Willi, my wife, daughter and I have been discussing something very seriously. Obviously our home feels very empty without Alex in it. He can never be replaced. Never, ever. But, more. It is empty of a male presence when I am always working and during the holidays when the girls are home and, oh! No boy there! So, we were thinking, is there among the Fraternity any boy who has no real home? Perhaps he is a true orphan, or perhaps you know him to be effectively an orphan...just think about it a while and let me know, all right my friend? You know his faith won't be a problem for me, don't you? .
"Actually, I can tell you straight away that there are three. Exactly three, Rashid," Willi answered.
"So many. This shocks me! But go on."
"Actually, no. Make that SIX. I totally forgot the three Adam took to South Rift. All of them, Philip, Oliver, and Odi are effectively orphans.
"Philip's mother sent him, at eight years of age, to live with a married older sister he didn't know in a town 100 km away. There he was treated as a houseboy, not a family member. He was beaten, ill-fed, poorly clothed and mistreated by his age-mate cousin.
"Odede and Oliver look like parental conspiracy to murder cases. Enough said.
"Tizzy has lived on the streets for over three years, in Kitale and here, having run away from a very violent abusive environment at home in Lodwar. I know one younger brother died from a broken skull, but as usual nothing happened to the father. But Tizzy might manage in a group environment like the Casa, in a single family, I am not so sure.
"Then there's 10-year-old Dido. Extremely intelligent, fanatically dedicated boy. His only older brother died on your streets, the victim of bad meth. Since that evening when Dido found his brother's body 10 meters from the gates of the hospital, the place to which he was obviously trying to crawl, the boy has totally dedicated his out of school time to shaming and naming the town's drug dealers. He is totally fearless. I found him in your police cells because he'd been arrested at 10 years of age for causing a fray by standing by a drug dealing and calling him out and making a big crowd. His single mother is a total neurotic and is better without having the responsibility of looking after him…
"Finally there's Finch. What can I say about Finch? He's 11 going on 30. Sixth of 8 children, but youngest boy from the high mountain. He's part of David's younger brother's group of scallywags who are into all sorts of mischief, but also help sort out bullies and such, it seems. Somehow they seem to accumulate money too, my local sources tell me. Maybe they are the country equivalent of city street boys on call. I'm not sure. Certainly he is academically gifted. I know his Mwalim. He told me that if the mountain had a gifted children's programme, which they don't, he would be one of the first on it. He's also a keen runner and football player, swimmer and in the church tae-kwon-do club. But he doesn't get on at home. His dad isn't around so one of the older brothers runs the roost. The two have never gotten on. Since Finch was six or seven, there have been very unequal fights. Since he's taken up Tae kwon do, they have become more vicious. Both have stubbornness in their natures. I'm afraid as Finch gets older, if he stays around - one day, one of them, probably Finch, as he is 7 years younger, will get a seriously critical beating.
“And there you have your boy menu, Rashid."
With distinct humour in his deep voice, but a frown across his furrowed brow, the 6-ft. 3-in., 83 kilo former sweeper and good 5th man all-arounder (though he'd admit himself not that good at keeping wicket), Rashid commended seriously yet with a hint of sarcasm, ”You make it sound like my choice of entrée at the Safari Club or the Norfolk for God's sake, you heathen."
"Why not take two for the price of one, Rashid? You can afford it. It would ease the boys into the culture shock of moving from an equatorial rain forest culture to life naked, from what Felix tells us, in a desert. And knowing most of these boys, they won't just cling to one another, they'll be out winning friends among the local boys in minutes."
"Two? Now that's an idea I hadn't contemplated…but the more I do, the more it makes sense. Do you think I might pay a visit tomorrow?"
"Yes, it would need to be tomorrow. The boys begin ops on Wednesday. In fact I think you may already be missing some of them."
» » » » » « « « « «
"Odi was disappointed, I know, but he's just too small for the surgery to work for him."
Peter was briefing Arthur and Tom and Clement and some key nursing staff. Felix had asked special permission to sit in too, as David and Steven had been with the team at South Rift, so he was the only somewhat clinically proficient boy not up to speed - having worked in his dad's clinics for six years during holidays.
"What shall we do for the smiling charmer?” posed Tom. "You know he holds the hearts of almost every female nurse in the palm of his hand, right?" And he grinned.
"Yes, and he's going to grow into a real heart throb too. But he's also stuck with a major health risk in the form of a superpubic catheter for the next two or three years, depending on how quickly he grows. This presents a major sepsis risk. It also presents kidney problems. He certainly cannot live in a typical house with a normal dirt floor, little access to boiling water, a pit latrine for a toilet and so on. However, he is perfectly mobile, can play like a normal kid, and could attend a normal school. He doesn't need to be here."
"I have the perfect answer," said Arthur after a couple of seconds of pregnant silence from everyone.
No one said anything.
"So. What is it? Don't just sit there like a lump on a log, man!" said Felix with his huge conspiratorial grin across his face. "Bet you my allowance for a dirt bike, Dad, that it's got a certain German Catholic Sister attached to the answer!"
"No bet. You boys know damn well far too much for me to risk so much as a bent hartling,” said a chuckling Adam.
"Now, Felix,” began the ageing anaesthetist,” how in heaven's name did you cotton on to my idea of Sister Gertrude when I think I only thought of it myself today, in fact a few minutes ago? In fact I am quite certain that is so. Are you taking telepathy as a part time course at school or something?"
Felix was in stitches, as was Tom. In fact everyone comfortably sitting round the Green Drawing Room, as the place Felix referred to as the Sitting Room at his house was properly called, was having a bit of a laugh with Arthur.
Felix decided to explain. "My revered senior friend, Daktari Arthur. You are actually just too easy to read. You are a good, faithful Catholic. You have been talking recently that Sister Gertrude is lonely now that the two other sisters have retired to Germany. I know you strongly believe new challenges help people overcome disappointments or grief. You've told me that several times. Gertrude losing her companions is a bit like grief. I can well imagine you thinking this fresh, new, 3 year challenge to be ideal for her. And ideal for him, providing a positive woman in his life for the first time. But also not a too soft, undisciplined woman, but someone who will keep a rein on him. There is also a school right next door to her compound. I think I've covered everything."
The same silence returned for a few moments more, then....
"Felix, Felix," began Arthur, ”you sometimes truly, if I may be so bold Adam regarding your son, scare the crap out of me. You came up with all of those connections between your dad telling us Odi couldn't be a patient this year and me saying I thought I had an idea where he could go? What was that, maybe three or four minutes at most! I repeat. At times you truly frighten me by your thought processes. I'm glad your father has you each day. I love you dearly, but I think keeping up with you, or trying to, would drive me crazy if I had to try to do so every day!"
"We're settled then? Good, "said Adam. "Philip and Oliver will travel on December 17th, provisionally. I will travel at my own expense because I want to investigate a longer term relationship with hospitals in that region to help children from here with procedures which we are not capable of doing here. I intend taking Steven as the boys’ clinical caregiver. He has sufficient training and will principally be there as a translator for the nurses. Provided we can raise the money I also plan to take a caregiver for each boy. Obviously David for Philip and Jesse for Oliver."
Just then Rashid and Willi walked in, both a bit flushed from having run a bit. Willi, however was sweating profusely indicating how much more out of condition he was than his admittedly younger but also much fitter colleague.
"Sorry to barge in, but we've been watching the boys on their firearms practice. All I can say is that many of them are exceedingly accurate," said Rashid. "That Lucas. From a damn wheelchair even! Boy, oh boy, he was hitting targets 200 m. a way with an accuracy some of my administration police officers couldn't equal if they were shooting while standing!"
"Yes one does see some have gifts one way, some another. I enjoy seeing how the boys complement one another,” said Adam.
"I didn't mean to upset the flow of your meeting. Please go on. I am going to just add my bit later to complicate and, perhaps complement the work, too,” added the DC.
"Actually, we're about finished. Obi is probably going to be going to live with Sister Gertrude at her principal house in north Teso, though she keeps day clinics in Sirisia too. I haven't briefed anyone here on the technicalities of the processes for reconstruction for Philip and Oliver. Those interested in that can join me at Oliver and Philip's bed early tomorrow morning, before breakfast, at 7.00, where I can go over the procedures…
"Now, Rashid, the floor is yours," finished Daktari Adam.
"There are two things I have to say. But before I do, I want to tell you that I plan to be here tomorrow to hear your briefing about the reconstruction, and to shake each boy's hand as he sets off on the op.
"First of all, you know my wife comes from a wealthy family. From what Alex may have told you about his schooling it was a very expensive school. My father-in-law is not Gabra but from Abu Dhabi. He wishes to set up a scholarship fund in Alex's memory and, of course I agree. But I stipulated that the first recipients must be all the current members of the Fraternity. So Adam, please decide for me which is the most appropriate school for each of the boys to attend starting in September, for I know not all are as academically gifted as others. Some wouldn't adapt well to a Nairobi international school, and so on. And obviously, you don't want all 20 boys forming one big clique in one school either. You just let me know. I'll do the rest. Fees, books, uniforms, trips, sports, allowances, transport, and, very important just now, security.
"Secondly - and Willi and I discussed this yesterday which is why I rushed up here this morning before anyone left on ops - my wife and I want to adopt. Of course we're not adopting to replace Alex. That would be impossible and absurd. We're adopting because we all, including the girls, recognise that without a boy child among us there is a void. Alex found his peace here in the Fraternity, even if only briefly, so why would we look anywhere else for a boy to adopt. Willi told me of six boys here with either no parents or major problems at home. Obviously Odi is now off the list, though to be honest I had never seriously considered him. I came up today to talk to three boys, really, whom I had short listed. I had precluded Tizzy as too old for us, with the girls and everything. I'm afraid I also precluded Oscar as just too complicated a case for me to handle. So it was Philip, Dido and Finch.
"With your blessing, once this operation of theirs is over I am going to offer Finch and Dido a new home."
There was a moment's quiet before a ripple, then a round of applause came from everyone present.
"Not a word to the boys, Felix, OK?" warned Adam sternly.
"Only to David, Dad and he and I do keep secrets you already know that,” said his son brightly.
As the meeting broke up there was a general buzz in the air.
Those doing advance work for the streets op were already on their way.
Boys were sorting clothes for those best for both day casual wear and camouflage.
There was a great movie in the games room after dinner. It was an old one and was a psychological thriller called “Don't Look Now”. Felix had bought it because he thought he'd fallen in love with Julie Christie when he was 10. Now he was 12 he felt he was probably gay, but he still liked Julie Christie. So who cares about labels when you're 12?
Some boys went to bed early to do what boys go to bed early to do when they're 12!
COME OUTSIDE AND SEE!!
“What! I'm naked for…”
“Get the Fuck out of my room! You perving on me or what?”
“Hey! Knock next time! Sorry, Matt, did I bite you? It was just the shock of him running in...”
"This better be worth it. Felix was just hitting the spot...WOW! where is that?”
"It's Bringitar, obviously but where exactly? It's too far to tell individual buildings."
"Wait," said Felix, ”I'm patching in on an emergency call coming in on Dad's Emergency Response Network phone.”
"How come you can get access to that?!" asked Matt
"Just shut up and follow me inside to get dressed in case we are needed for something. Tell everyone to be ready to rock and roll in three minutes. Something big is going down," said Felix.
David quickly rounded up every team leader and told them all to get their teams dressed, armed and in the great room in three minutes. He told Lucas to set up radio ops and Gabe to establish Intel in the Green room. There it's normally quiet. He and Felix ran to get dressed. He chose blue denim jeans with dark red tennis shoes, no socks. On top he wore a thin sweater embroidered with a multicolored pattern spelling out the word “Cannabis”. He added a reversed plain blue long-billed baseball cap. Because he would later end on the street crew, Felix wore light khaki shorts mid-thigh, commando style with a sleeveless paper-thin plain white t-shirt. In his back pack he had another shirt. As did Dido, Dak, Tizzy and Matt. He was barefoot.
"You can't go like that, Felix," said David, aghast. "You look like a first class street slut!"
"That's exactly the plan, genius. But don't worry. I'm well covered. There're police everywhere. I'm armed. So are Matt and Dido," Felix smirked in reply.
"Everyone's here, David. Even Francis," reported Mike. And David was very pleased to see every one of his 18 boys, even those in wheelchairs, present and ready for anything.
"Felix, please tell your father we are ready and awaiting his orders."
Feeling very happy to do so, the very soon to be 12 year old knocked on Adam's private suite door using the three sharp rapid knocks, followed by one knock signal it was him, turned the door handle and went in.
"Hi Dad, what's cooking? Must be big for you to get the Emergency Response signal. All 18 boys are dressed and armed in the Great Room waiting for ammunition and directions, Sir." And he produced a reasonable representation of a clipped military attention.
Adam looked up.
"Well, indeed. We do seem to have grown up mighty quickly. Alright. Tell David to choose 12 boys. All will be those who can fire and can run. I see you are dressed like street boys. That could be an advantage. Tell them all to dress cheap. No shoes. Nothing new. Street clothes like you are wearing is OK. I'll be up in 5 minutes," his dad replied.
When Felix got back he immediately related the message, almost verbatim.
"So,” said David, ”obviously the Ops team, Felix and me, that's eight, plus Matt, Dido, Tizzy and Dak - even though you last two don't carry. Now go change if you need to. Remember, look cheap and no shoes. But cheap doesn't have to mean quite as slutty as my partner here, OK?" Everyone was laughing as they went off to their rooms, though Tizzy stayed behind as he already wore only a tight tank top and shorts which would have been too small for him two years earlier.
"You have your other shirt safe, yes, Tizzy?" asked Felix.
"Oh yes. I can't wait for the right time to wear that!"
Adam was carrying boxes of ammunition and Steve was carrying tiny radios with earpieces as both entered the Great Room. Abel, the penultimate boy to arrive took a seat alongside Frankie. Finally Finch arrived and Matt couldn't resist giving him a wolf whistle, to which he responded by wiggling his ass - which totally brought down the house. There were hoots of laughter, screams of "Get 'em off!” from somebody who shall remain nameless but who's a surgeon's son, general laughter and a 'give us a 'twirl' (which he did ), and a ' give us a show' (which he didn't). What caused all this was his get up. The slender, brown mountain boy of 4 ft. 11 in. or so and about 45 kg wore a striking bright yellow singlet, cut off above his navel. He had black, inclined running shorts cut at the sides right as all long distance runners do. No socks, of course. The shorts and singlet obviously had been bought second hand at a market somewhere for a few shillings.
"You saw the blaze in the distance tonight boys. It was Bringitar Prison. Someone blew it up. Fortunately there are not too many casualties, probably about 12 or 15 deaths and a similar number of serious injuries, and perhaps 30 or 40 walking wounded. So not so many as to require calling me in.
"Many prisoners have escaped, though, and here the Chief thinks we can help by following leads in which way they went. You see, the Chief believes some of them were involved in planning the bomb. And, if so, then they're involved in our Money Mafia. Why does he believe this? Because the whole bombing incident was planned to kill Sergeant Langat.
"The bomb totally obliterated Langat's cell and the one next to it."
"So Langat is kaput, Daktari?” asked Francis excitedly.
"No. As luck, or fate, or kismet or whatever you chose would have it, he was in the sick bay because - would you believe it - he is being treated for a huge boil on his ass!"
"So he was saved by his ass? That is, somehow, appropriate," said Tizzy. "He's been using other people's so much I suppose it's about right."
"In any case, they're flying him out of Kitale right now. I can tell you, but no further, it's to a tiny gaol in Vanga." Adam said.
"We know Vanga!" Said the twins in counterpoint.
"Yes I know you lived there once which is probably why the place was suggested. Felix and I have driven through the mangroves to get there twice or thrice too. It's a pleasant remote spot and with only one road in, easy to guard.
"So when I get to the airfield in Bringitar, I will get out with Steven and Tom and try to get a crowd gathered to talk about gathering in the escapees. Once you think it's safe, David and Felix, start sending out your squads two by two. I am handing each of you 5000 shilling emergency money. Don't put it all in one place. You know your drills for tomorrow, which we'll continue as planned. Tonight is extra. After Friday make your way back as planned. If you get a lead tonight, scramble Kip on 003 on these radios. The earpieces don't use wires. You cannot see them unless you look right inside the ear.
"Finally, the three emergency bolt holes: Isaiah’s shop in Toriop, Hezekiah's Church office, and PM's bar. Felix you have something in your hand. Is it to show me?"
"We won't see one another for a couple of days, so I thought you guys on ops, with whom I will be part of for a bit, before I join Street Crew, but I shall leave later, and you guys here in base, should know that we on the street have a big surprise for our targets when Francis joins us. Until now, even he hasn't known about this. And there's no changing our mind on it dad, so don't even think it."
Then Felix opened his crisp new white t shirt. It had inscribed. You killed ALEX... You slaughtered JOSH... YOU'RE MINE... MOTHERFUCKER!!!!! Followed by a picture of a boy with a pistol.
"I would say that will fairly effectively get a your message across, boys. Now you have to live up to your bravado!" So said Adam.
Felix simply quoted, "Lead on, Mcduff!"
David responded, ”You what?”
Felix replied, ”The Scottish Play."
"Don't let's go there. Let's go board the chopper."
And they did.