Nightingale walked back from Chebilat market centre slouching, walking lazily and highly disappointed with herself. She had just ran into Sello, the infamous man himself. Nightingale’s real name is Jacinta, locally pronounced as Chasinda but this name had long been forgotten since she joined Simbi AIC choir where people learnt of and interacted with her amazing vocal talents. “She sings like a nightingale, I tell you!” a Scottish missionary once commented and from then that became her name.
It has been many years since she acquired the name that no one even knows how the name first came about. It had been 18years since she last went to church let alone served in the choir; she had gotten pregnant and the rich Mzee from the village who was responsible had taken her in as a second wife. People being people, she was highly scandalized in the village – not so much because the village was known for chastity, rather because she was thought to be on fire for the Lord.
Shortly thereafter she delivered a bouncing baby boy she named Wesley. While she basked in her connubial bliss a great misfortune overtook her, the rich man succumbed to a short illness and the first wife and her children saw to it that she got bare minimum inheritance, hardly enough to live on let alone support her son.
Over the years she had pulled herself by her bootstraps and somehow educated her son. Once Wesley was done with high school, he received his calling letter to Kabarak University in Nakuru. Unfortunately, this phase of his education promised to be a lot more expensive and Nightingale was going to have to sell most if not all of her assets in order to educate her son. They needed to raise 80,000 shillings for Wesley to report to school. Hence, she determined to sell her most productive cow Seroy. She hoped that she would raise about 120,000 shillings that would cover the cost and perhaps buy her another calf which she would look after and raise.
Unfortunately, Sello noting her desperation drove a hard bargain and bought the cow at 60,000 shillings. Nightingale had no alternative as the economy was biting and nobody except Sello had the money to trade with her especially at that time of the year. All the other prospects only offered promises which they were to shoulder once the tea bonuses rolled out after four months or thereabout. However, her urgency could not wait and so she accepted Sello’s offer begrudgingly pronouncing a curse, “ityech urus.” – May calamity befall you.
Mohammed Yassin, a slender chocolate-skinned middle-aged Somali with short greying and a rather full beard dropped from Eldoret Express at Chebilat market. He wore an oversized grey jacket and hung an Arafat scarf around his neck. He held on to an old brown leather briefcase in his left hand. The time was a little past 2 pm and the sun was shining in the sky. (Chebilat is a part of the country that experiences the rains of Kisii and Kericho and some of the hot and humid conditions of the lake basin simultaneously.)
He looked around and spotted a butchery across the road which he walked to and there he met Maenga the butcher. “Salaam aleikum waria”, he greeted the butcher. “Samwaleku salaa” the butcher responded hoping that his response was appropriate and while at it, he began sharpening his knives against each other.
However, the customer didn’t seem particularly interested in placing an order. At least not for meat. Instead, he made an inquiry.
“Aisee ndugu…” calling the butcher to greater attention. “Mtu akitaka kununua gombe mingi bahali hii, yeye tanunua wabi, haiye?”
“Mingi ni ngapi waria?” replied Maenga.
“Sigisty ama sebendi, haiye.”
Recognizing that the number as well beyond his capacity to broker, he recommended Sello as the only man in the area with the financial and network capacity to pull such an undertaking. Unfortunately, when he was asked about the whereabouts of the said Sello, Maenga refused to offer any information. His face seemingly expressed fear. So Yassin pulled out 2,000 shillings which he handed over to him. While putting the money into his pocket, Maenga pointed Yassin to Urwo bar about a hundred meters down the road.
“Go there after 5pm and ask for a man called Sello. If anyone asks, I didn’t give you any information and you were not even in my butchery. Sello is a very dangerous man who often gets his way by brute force and violence. He’s also a ring leader of a Mafia like gang in the area that extorts money from traders in the local market.”
After promising that he wouldn’t rat him out, Yassin went to find a lodge for the night. Thereafter, he proceeded to the bar that he was earlier directed to. He picked a corner where he could notice everyone who walked in and out of the bar and sat down. Nyaboke the waitress saw him and she rushed to take his order. He ordered two bottles of chilled Pilsners and waited. As he continued imbuing on his drink, two shabbily dressed men walked up to Yassin and asked him to get out from their corner. As if deaf, he kept sipping on his Pilsner.
The two men walked out and came back with reinforcement of four other men. One of them was wearing a cowboy’s hat, a curved club on his hand. The other five followed him from behind and it was easy to tell that they kissed the ring on the finger of the peculiar one in a hat.
“Iii fichana yangu ameambia wewe atoke maali yangu lakini nasigia wewe nagataa?” Sello spoke in a deep Kalenjin accent.
“Mimi mugeni ya mtu kubwa, haye,” Yassin answered without a shred of fear in his face.
“Mutu gani?” inquired Sello.
“Mtu yangu anaitwa Sello, haiye.”
Sello stared at his face for some time trying hard to discern what the stranger’s intentions were. He wondered if he was he a foe from the past, perhaps coming in search of revenge. But he couldn’t remember dealing with a Somali ever. He again thought to himself that maybe he was a police officer investigating a recent incident he and his boys could have committed. But again, that he quickly ruled out as he was already acquainted with all the police at Sotik Police Station along with those attached to Chebilat Police Post.
Yassin did not telegraph any fear even as Sello struggled to look intimidating. He gently refilled his glass with beer and intrepidly looked back at him. Sello asked his boys to move away so that he could converse privately with the man and they duly obliged. He guessed right that it all might have been a business opportunity.
Sello had been to Mombasa in his childhood when his parents were still together. His father worked at the docks of the South Coast. When he was eight, his parents separated and his mother returned to her rural home with the young boy. He grew into a young man who always told stories of heroic sailors in Mombasa who feared nothing. Perhaps his leadership of the gang owed a lot to his early childhood impressions. Sello was the local rendition of sailors he spoke highly of.
He sat down on a chair beside Yassin his looking now turning into a stare. Shortly after, a conversation ensued and each introduced themselves as businessmen. Yassin hyped Sello that his fame had reached far and wide, noting that he travelled all the way from Nairobi only to come and do business with him. Sello was of course flattered and began looking forward to hearing Yassin’s proposition.
In an attempt to instil the fear of God in Yassin, Sello retrieved his African sword better known as ‘njora’ just in case he forgot the kind of person that he was dealing with. Yassin smiled and said something about businessmen needing protection. He then exposed the grip of a CZ P-10 pistol which was in the left inner pocket of his leather jacket. Sello immediately realized that a new bad boy was in town. After the preliminaries had been established and understood, the men went on to discuss the subject matter at hand.
Yassin said that he was a businessman dealing with beef cattle. That he had a contract with Kenya Meat Commission to supply 120 beef cattle every week. Unfortunately, in his herd of 2000 cattle; a few had been suspected to have had recently been infected with Rinderpest and his entire flock was on quarantine, pending further review from the district vet officer. He reported that he had 60 cows already at KMC and was looking for another 60 cows. Urgently. His budget was about eighty to a hundred thousand shillings for every cow. He then looked around curtly and carefully unlocked the briefcase he had been walking with, opening it enough for Sello to see the notes in Kenyan shillings that lay therein.
His eyes immediately sparkled with greed, imagining what all that money could do for him. He could finally go back to the South Coast, if anything, just to walk on the shores and reminisce.
“Wewe tawezana na hiyo kazi?” Yassin asked Sello.
Sello exuberantly nodded his head, knowing well that he didn’t have enough money to procure sixty cows. They both agreed to meet up the next day and Yassin finished his drink and afterwards left for his lodge.
Sello called back his men and told them about what he and Yassin had discussed. He told them that he could cut them in for a share of the profits. They plotted to look for cows worth forty thousand shillings each, which they would tell Sello were worth ninety thousand shillings. Each. They all made contributions to create a pool for the business deal. The next day, the men, riding the high of a great mood left for Itembe market to get the cows. They were able to acquire fifty cows, all of which were loaded nicely in a truck that Yassin had said would arrive in KMC early in the morning of the next day.
Tired, they decided to go rest. After all Rome wasn’t built in a single day. Since they were all in possession of loads of money, one of the men suggested that it would be wise for them to spend the night together instead of taking separate rooms. Yassin, making it look like it was entirely their idea, invited them into his room saying that the gun was the ultimate protection weapon . They were now brothers, brothers brought together by business.
Drinks were bought and so was meat. The better part of the deal had successfully gone through thus it only made sense for them to begin celebrating the Kenyan way. Yassin volunteered to cook for them the Somali way. They had purchased all sorts of spices, curry powder, black pepper, masala and the works. As Yassin went about preparing the meal whilst telling his new friends more about how he was a serious Muslim, they in turn told him that it had been a while before they’d been in church.
“Is this meat halal?” Yassin asked at some point.
“What’s halal?”they asked in response.
“Halal means that it was slaughtered by a Somali while facing Mecca and offering duas to cleanse the meat.”
“No. Wasn’t it slaughtered by Maenga the butcher?”
” Haram! Haram! Haram!” Yassin cried, his hands on his head as if he had been afflicted by an unfortunate calamity. ” You guys will have to eat this meat alone. I’ll get myself mursik for the night.”
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Sello and his bootlickers were excited because that would mean there was more for them to eat. They ate and drunk and made merry. Soon after that, their lives would never be the same again. And they were right. They woke up three days later. Had it not been the caretaker who came around because Yassin’s time in the lodge was up, they would have woken up much later than that. Yassin was gone. The money, gone. The cows too. They were checked into Litein mission hospital, all of them worried about the debt they’d gotten themselves into and how now they had nothing.
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