I drank the tropical cold smoothie in one gulp, and ordered an ice tea. My mental clock told me Remo should be walking in any minute. But, I had been warned of the poor time keeping record that people in Nairobi seemed to operate by. I had gone through the details of my assignment countless times. Each time, something came up that I seemed to have overlooked. Something that could go wrong. Something that could seal the deal for me to rot in a tough maximum security prison in Kenya.
I watched the stream of people pouring in and out of the famous Nyayo House. I knew in the building, passports and IDs were processed, but outside the building, there were all sorts of ‘agents’ who made a fortune trying to speed up the process which could take a long time depending on who you knew. From what I had read on the internet, Nyayo house had been named a torture chamber during president Moi’s era.
Well, I did not know anybody in Nyayo house. I also did not know Remo. All I knew about the guy I was about to meet was a hushed street myth that he was the best in acquiring any fake document that I needed to be a legit Kenyan.
In return, for his effort, I would be giving him a Walther P38 pistol which was tucked in my handbag. He had specifically asked for that model. It had gained respect for its style, accuracy and power. It had taken me a long time to get hold of this pistol, but I had eventually been introduced to a German businessman by a person who owed me a favour. I was armed but I had no idea what sort of character Remo was.
Two police pickups sped past the café. I had been warned that money transfers from banks are heavily guarded, due to the high incidences of hijackings in the capital by robbers, who were extremely desperate for means to survive. Their trigger happy approach to robbery had put many in Nairobi on edge. The sight of the armed policemen reminded me of the long prison sentence that I could see beckoning.
On the other hand, if my meeting with Remo went as planned, the next day I would be a bona fide Kenyan citizen. I could then secretly carry out the plan that had brought me to Nairobi in the first place. The excitement was more intoxicating than foreplay. The reality was that if I was trying to play with the big boys, then I had to be prepared to pay the price the big boys paid when things went wrong.
Any minute now Remo would walk in. I had not been shown a picture of him, but he knew how I looked like. So as I sat watching the door, I tried to suss out the people who came in. 40minutes after the agreed time, I was beginning to lose hope about Remo. From the corner of my eye, I was able to catch the back of a short guy who had dropped a note on my table without saying a word and disappeared through the back door. The message was written on a receipt from Tuskys which I guessed was a supermarket.
‘Java cafe Mama Ngina Street.’
Despite having been in Nairobi for only a few days, I had made sure that I had learnt the streets and knew how to get about. My first rule was to blend in with the locals and behave like a typical Nairobi youngster. I did not want to start asking strangers directions.
As I left the coolness of the coffee shop leaving my ice tea barely touched, the strong sun made my eyes take time to adjust. It took me about 6minutes to wrestle my way though people and vehicle traffic. I passed many youngsters who were my age. I guessed they were going to or returning from college. Most of them talking about music, reality T.V programmes and the usual gossips. I missed that. I had grown up from that type of talk many years ago though I wasn’t even 20 yet. In the last few years, I had been dealing with men and women who operated on a very separate set of rules mostly involving violence. The weight of the pistol somehow reminded me how deeply immersed I was in lawlessness and anarchy.
As I walked through the front door of Java coffee shop, I saw the subtle nod of a guy who was in no doubt Remo. With some people, there is an air of self-assurance that hangs around them making it impossible to miss. As we walked down the stairs in the basement area, my blackberry beeped. I had a message from mum.
‘When are you coming home honey?’
‘I wish I knew mum, I wish I knew.’ Was all I could think as I switched off my phone, a
Thoughts about home and my family and how little they knew the real me crept in my mind for a second but, I wiped it away quickly and followed Remo to a corner table.
Remo turned out to be nothing like I had imagined he would look like. He was dressed in smart-expensive casuals. His black t-shirt had a small slogan that read ‘South B power drops!’ his tall frame combined with his urban swagger made him come across as someone who could very easily change from one character to the next with great ease. His clean shaven face emphasized his strong jaw-line, a flawless dark skin and dashing white teeth.
He had a face that people tend to trust easily. It was hard to connect the picture that was before me and the thuggish reputation that went hand in hand with the mention of the name Remo in the streets of Nairobi. When he spoke, his deep voice had a milky dreamy like quality that I imagined would put a lot of people at ease. He had a casual way about his manners that left his face bereft of any expressions of excitement or anger. From experience, the likes of Remo and their ability to keep their natural emotions in check was what made them the most dangerous in the criminal world.
We talked about Tony. His business associate and a close friend back in London. Tony was the main reason I had been able to meet Remo. I had been working for Tony for over two years. Remo kept asking me if Tony was mad to trust someone as young as me to carry such dangerous missions. I had proven to Tony that I was reliable, fearless and a top driver. Qualities that you had to have to work for Tony. Since I got my driving license at 17, within two years, I had been the get-away driver at two robberies, one of which had nearly resulted into an arrest. The flashbacks of that day had been so scary that I had wanted to quit.
I admit that I really liked the Kenyan coffee. Remo stuck to still water. Apparently he would be going to the gym after our meeting. Lucky him! I had been dying to go back to the gym myself. Back in London, I religiously went to the gym 6days a week. It was the only way to keep my mind focused. My dangerous life relied on agility and physical fitness.
Discreetly not deviating from the casual talk, Remo slipped the pistol in his inside pocket. In its place, he dropped a khaki envelope that I knew was my Kenyan passport and ID. Remo told me to speak to Tony if there were any problems or I wanted any help whilst in Nairobi. I understood.
We spent the next hour talking about Nairobi and London. I told Remo that I liked Java coffee shop and I would sit there and catch up on my emails before going back to my rented apartment near Nairobi hospital. After Tony left, I decided to go through the notes that had been wired by Tony. My task sounded easy enough in theory. All I had to do was steal a particular painting from the National Archive. I knew the picture carried enormous historical significance, but I wasn’t sure about its financial value. That was not my problem. All I needed to do was carry out the robbery, take it back to London and get paid, and wait for the next call from my boss.
As I was logging off my tablet, I saw a person I had never expected to ever come across again in my life. T904433! What the hell? The last time I had seen him, we had helped him escape from an Immigration detention camp in the English countryside. He was with a young beautiful girl who was obviously enjoying the company of the ‘London boy.’ After his successful escape, he had double-crossed me on a small quick-money scam and fled. We had decided to split the proceeds in half. Unknown to me, he had pulled the scam a day before and that was the last I had heard or seen from him. What was he doing in Nairobi?
I couldn’t risk being seen, but I had to wipe that smile off his face. On the bill, I wrote ‘T, see your appetite for young chicks has never stopped. On the business side of things, Datura is in town. Small world Huh!’ I gave it to the waiter to pass it on and quickly ascended the stairs.
I crossed the street and stood outside 20th century cinema plaza and waited. In a few seconds, he came flying through the door. He was unnerved and definitely scared. Most people think irrationally and make mistakes when scared. T904433 forgot his woman and briskly headed towards Moi Avenue. I followed him at a safe distance. Very soon he was going to make a mistake and I would be there to remind him the basic code of the street laws!
WRITTEN BY: Sheecole. J