The streets are emptier and quieter. The couple is now talking, hand-in-hand, as they walk through businesses and stalls that have closed down. Beams from both the pavements and the street lamps illuminate the dark night.
At about two hundred meters, is the intersection that will take them to their Uber driver. The old man was parked meters off the intersection to the right. Taxis are prohibited from operating within certain areas in town, so, they will have to walk; Cliff does not seem to mind it, but Grace does.
“Government Road,” she says.
“Your history, Clifford…” before Cliff gets a chance to say anything, she goes on, “Tom Mboya. 1969—murdered in these very streets. He was shot, leaving a chemist. His wife must have had a cold, Cliff; Maureen—I looked up her name. Or… or may… be one of his children was not feeling okay, you know? Rest well, Tom.”
“Okay, pumpkin…” says Cliff, “Rest well, Mr. Mboya.”
“My point is that I’m getting worried. It’s late. Look…” they look around, “there’s hardly a soul…”
“Okay pumpkin, I hear you. It’s just a few more meters. Avoid the alleys—obviously. We’re lucky to have walked this far unbothered anyway,”
Grace leans on Cliff as they walk past an alley. Nothing is so different from the half a dozen or so that they have avoided but she slows down as they proceed, then finally stops.
“Did you hear that?” Grace says, grasping Cliff’s jacket.
Cliff listens, then turns to Grace.
“Hear what? I don’t…”
“Shush… listen,” she whispers, releasing Cliff from her clutch, then taking a step back.
“Grace…” whispers Cliff, “a dark alley… in Nairobi… let’s go home.”
Cliff knows he sounds like a baby. He listens, following Grace. He can hear something, alright; but can’t they just get the hell out of there?
Grace peers into the dark alley, and Cliff inches towards her, then looks too. Against some glimmer, is a faint shadow; it moves intermittently, accompanied by HACK! sounds. Grace creeps in and Cliff follows. She can see what seems to be a bend on the alley but can’t tell how far it goes, or who is in it.
She takes another step, and Cliff jumps in front of her. He shushes, then creeps on ahead. More HACK! It is blood-chilling; the sound, coupled with the idea that they are in a dark alley in Nairobi’s dead of night.
Cliff turns to Grace, then signals to stop. She does, and he takes one step forward, another, then he is there at the turn in the alley. What he sees leaves him mouth-gaped for a second—another HACK! At that moment, Clifford knows that he is dead, even though he isn’t. He turns to Grace, then cries, “Run!”
Grace looks at Cliff, confused. He turns to the horrific sight. She watches as something sweeps from the alley in a flash, slicing Cliff’s throat clean, left to right.
He remains standing, his hands instinctively trying to stop the sputters from his severed neck. He drops to his knees, then on his back. His neck gapes as wide as his mouth had, part of his back still attached to his head. Blood then gushes out of Cliff.
Grace looks on, paralyzed by shock. Her mind is a mess, with myriads of spinning thoughts and flashes of memories.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” She curses.
Grace takes a step back, thinking how weak her legs feel. She thinks of why she’s in an alley at God-knows-what-time, with a mystery killer, and her boyfriend now dead. She thinks of the killer, and how she hates him for bringing the end so close to her nose. She thinks of death and life, and the discussion they had in the cafe.
A figure of a man wielding a blade of sorts appears standing over Cliff, and that’s all the push Grace needs. She will not die this night. Not when her boyfriend’s last words were meant to save her life. Not when her parents have not a zilch where she is, with whom, and that she had sipped alcohol so greedily because she is an alcoholic. She will not die when she has enough “safe distance” separating her from the killer (the heartless murderer).
Grace turns and runs. She cannot think straight. She does not know what next. She knows “run,” and run she does; four to five giant strides get her out of the alley. She turns to any direction; she can’t trace left from right but runs.
A few seconds racing like a human Ferrari, her heart thumping murderously against her chest, her mind razing her upper body, and Grace mutters the first word in a while.
She screams, stops, then tries again.
“Think,” Grace whispers.
She looks behind her. Nobody. Nothing. (No way).
“You’re a crazy bitch, Gracie. You’re a crazy bitch,” she whispers, resuming her race.
“Restaurant,” Grace mutters, running, “get… help,”
She runs, and after what she considers to be another “safe distance,” stops, and looks behind. Nobody. Nothing. Just the lights, silence, and a deserted street. She walks, thinking.
Is she hallucinating? Did she not witness her boyfriend die by the blade of a mystery man? (A scary man…) Did they not leave the cafe, or the movie together? (No, no, no…) Has this whole night really happened? Is she dreaming? (Fuck, no!)
“Who will help? Who can?” Grace whispers.
The damsel in distress walks on, then looks behind, shaking her head. Two uniformed individuals emerge.
(Policemen?) She thinks, (but they’re male; male policemen. And I’m alone… it’s dark. God! I don’t think I carried my ID. Where’s my ID? And handbag? Wait, no. Handbag? Handbag!)
Grace stops, then looks behind her—a clear, silent street. Ahead of her and two a few meters, approach the two men.
“Run, idiot, run!” A voice in her head cries.
Grace turns to the dreaded direction she just flew and runs full-gear nuts.
“Hey!” Someone calls, “You, stop!”
Grace does not. She cannot—she runs.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Think!” She says.
She looks behind her, then crosses the road before getting to the alley.
Grace’s heart is racing faster than her feet. Her mind is falling apart. Her knees need more support. But she will save herself first, then worry later.
She paces down as she gets to the intersection, then looks behind. One man. He is still a distance off but walks briskly. Grace looks over to the side they had earlier been, and sure as hell, there is the other individual. They must be oblivious of her plan and are perhaps even hoping to cut her off.
Grace thinks of “their taxi,” which prompts longer strides. (Just a few more meters, then a right. But which car is it?) They ordered using her phone, which was a good, useless thing. There is no time to look or ask around. She will hop on to anything she finds, she decides
Grace gets to the intersection feeling a whole lot relieved. She hurries to cross the road, having eyed a taxi that she would like to try. A Subaru and Toyota are approaching from the left; they let her cross. A Sedan slows down on the right. On either side and to a short distance from the intersection, are vehicles parked in two lines.
“Her taxi” has someone in it. He seems to be counting his hundreds and thousands, snoring, mouth-gaped, like Cliff was when he saw the horrific thing that got him killed (whatever it was). Grace tries the rear door as a tear drops and finds it locked.
She knocks on the driver’s window, meanwhile hawk-eyeing her surroundings and trying not to choke on her worries.
To be continued…