By six o’clock, the four of them were landing at the Wilson Airport, and by quarter past six on a sunny Easter Sunday evening without traffic, an Uber was taking the three terrorists through the 30-minute drive to Eastleigh.
“Fahad, Assad and your friend Sheikh Mahmoud Meji will be joining us for breakfast in the morning,” Bashir told Ahmet as they got out of the car to be assailed by the many smells of Eastleigh – the scent of Somali fragrances mixing with the smell of dust and road-side cooking and that of new clothes.
The Uber driver, upon eavesdropping on them earlier and hearing the talk of hotels, had highly recommended a hotel in Eastleigh.
Upon which Anas had gone deathly quiet, leaving it to Bashir (who would sleep with the bomb, as Ahmet shared a double room with Anas) to tell the Uber driver to drop them off at the junction of Twelfth Street, Eastleigh – where Passenger Service Vehicles (PSVs) with loud music and louder touts hustled on the road with ‘don’t care’ pedestrians, handcarts called ‘mikokoteni’ and more than a few chicken, sheep and goats – all of them crossing the road.
‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’
Because that’s just what you do, when you are in Eastleigh.
After paying the Uber driver and making sure the gentleman was gone, Bashir crushed the phone he had used to call the Uber under his boot. He then threw the broken gadget into a nearby city kanjo bin.
“Good evening,” he said, and turned left to go to the nearby Madass Lodge where he (and the bomb) were to spend the night, as Ahmet and Anas went right to the Hiding Hotel.
“Why did Bashir break his mobile phone?” Ahmet asked Anas as they strolled the short distance to their sleeping place. Anas gave him the look one reserves for a very useless inedible vegetable.
“So that the Infidel anti-terrorism police will not be able to track it or him, especially since he used it to call on Uber, maybe? Just a wild guess.”
“Oh,” said Ahmet and rubbed the back of his head like a dunce. “I see!”
They were now approaching the gate of the Hiding Hotel. “You better enjoy your night at the Hiding, ndugu,” Anas said.
“Really ?” Ahmet asked . “Any particular reason why?” “I tell you the truth?” Anas said.” Tomorrow you will be in Paradise. You know why I say that?”
Ahmet shook his head in shock.
“Exact same word Christ says to a thief they were being crucified with,” Anas smiled. “Ala, what do they teach you in CRE these days in your schools?”
Ahmet’s legs were shaking with fear by the time they got to the gate of The Hiding Hotel so he could hardly stand - the truth being he was terrified of the road that led to Paradise.
Later that evening after eating a bit of kot kot – a combination of goat meat with pili pili and pilau all served in a platter with a soupy paste – he rushed from the dining area to the toilet and threw it all up.
I get out of the white Toyota Workmate outside Two Roads’ Mall in Nairobi and walk up to the main entrance manned by both a male and female security guard.
It is Easter Monday morning. The female security guard is called Kerubo and her male counterpart is a bored young man called Wang’ombe.
Wang’ombe wears a name-tag on his grey suit with a sky blue shirt that is supposed to give a rich look for the benefit of the high-end shoppers who come to Two Roads’ Mall.
They make Wang’ombe look like a fellow who does all his clothes shopping at Mabati Rolling Mills - like a chap dressed in corrugated iron sheet.
The only non-cheap shiny thing on Wang’ombe is the 17-mm Glock semi-automatic gun in a gleaming Hydex holster attached to his hip.
If Wang’ombe detects what I have hidden in my heavy Manchester United jacket, I have no doubt I will discover the contents of the 17 Glock; and at very close range.
I got the Man U jacket at one of Eastleigh’s endless 24-hour four-storey shopping buildings early this morning, a Somali Sports shop that specialises in fake Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool and Chelsea sportswear, made and shipped straight from China.
“One thousand two hundred,” I said, although Sheikh had given me three thousand bob, but was staying out of sight as I made the purchase.
“One thousand, five hundred,” said the shop attendant. “Laz’t brize!”
I bought it. Later, in Bashir’s room in the Madass Lodge, the bearded man sewed the bomb into the jacket.
“I did not know you were so good at Home Science,” Mahmoud teased him.
Neither Bashir nor I laughed. I looked out of the window of this room that smelled of Bashir’s beefy sweat. I could see the white Workmate through the fence, where the other four bad men were waiting for us.
I mutter the prayer Usman taught me at dawn after prayers for courage.
Miraculously, it works, and the calm of heaven settles upon me.
As a white woman with a clutch bag gets searched to my right at the entrance to the mall, I remove my Manchester United jacket for it to go through the electronic security screen box.
I pray that Assad’s jamming device operating from inside the white Land Cruiser across the street is working, but get ready to run if it is not.
If it bleeps, I am done for. Especially if Wang’ombe is a good shot. It bleeps! Wangombe reaches for his gun, and instead of taking to my heels, I find I am frozen with fear as the machine goes - bleep bleep bleep bleep, like the heart monitor of a dying person. [Tony Mochama]
- This is an excerpt from the 2017 Burt-award shortlisted novella – ‘A Jacket for Ahmet.’