Kirimi wakes from slumber to a knock from a cold, tired-looking young lady. He quickly unlocks the doors and adjusts his seat. Grace yanks the rear door open then jumps in. A gust of cold air follows her SLAM!
“Lock all doors, please,” she says.
The taxi driver looks at her, then checks the windows.
“Funga milango, tafadhali. Yote,” Grace translates her request to Swahili.
Kirimi obliges, then starts the engine.
“Uhm…” he tries to speak.
“Little Palace, Karen,” says Grace.
He understands his clients, and this one does not seem to have time for anything less. Besides, Little Palace is indeed a small “Palace” estate in Nairobi’s Karen; folks with little patience for a man like Kirimi.
He drives, once or twice, checking his rear-view mirror and getting the same results—it is a cold night.
Grace is a mess. She feels sad and hurt. She feels lonely and afraid. Looking out the window, she thinks of the many ways they could have died that day—they watered all the possibilities with their carelessness and desire to be free. Who was to blame? Life did not ever brush the inevitability of its end on their faces. They had to watch sad and scary movies for that. But she is now there—in the lowest point of her life, and she is terrified.
Grace’s parents live in Karen. She thinks it to be the best next destination. She cannot spend a night at her place in Langata, despite her desires to talk to Cliff and ask him why he he had been so stupid. There is her safety to think about first.
Her handbag is gone and is probably in the possession of Cliff’s killer. What if he comes looking for her? She cannot risk it. Home it is, although she knows no place is truly safe. What about the two men from earlier—why did they come after her? A girl alone in the night she thinks. A girl alone in the night…
“Palace Estate, Madam. Tumefika.”
Kirimi announces their arrival as the vehicle slows down to a halt at the gate. A security guard walks to the driver’s window and he makes an entry, then proceeds in, parking near the gate.
Grace checks her coat and smiles to the face of a Ksh. 500 note. She hands it to the driver, who gives her back two crumbled notes. Grace takes them as she alights.
It must be past midnight, she supposes, so what a surprise! Her father, in the company of three others, stands on a short staircase that leads to the residents’ homes. Grace’s father approaches her looking dead worried.
Is it in the late-night news? “Clifford Bakari is dead.” Grace thinks, “Are there reports of a suspicious young lady seen fleeing the site? Or is this some twisted coincidence?”
She knows a coincidence is unlikely.
“Baby? O’, Grace, baby! Come here, little star, come here…” Grace’s father says as he takes her in his arms.
A warm hug is just what she needs. She cries.
“O’, I know!” The old man pats Grace, “I understand…”
Grace is puzzled but Glad she is home, in her father’s arms.
“Dad…” she finally finds her voice.
Grace breaks off from his embrace.
“Sadly, and I am sorry I was not there when you needed to talk…”
“It’s okay, Dad. You don’t have to be sorry. So, how did you find out; the news?”
Grace’s father frowns.
“No… we made a deal to keep this out of the news.”
“We? Dad, what’s going on?”
“Grace… the policeman, Captain Matteo Limo; he called to report something… o’, child!”
He takes Grace in his arms and she does not resist it. Tears well up her father’s eyes.
“He said Clifford Bakari, that friend of yours, was found…” the old man takes a breath, “he was found dead, baby, dead… in an alley. Here in Nairobi.”
“Yes, Dad… he… he…” Grace breaks into tears, and her father pats her.
“Child,” he says and Grace looks up, “if he was ever harsh to you, then I would understand…”
Grace breaks off from him.
“Dad. What are you talking about?”
The old man looks down, shaking his head.
“Three witnesses place you on the scene, baby. One of them claims that…”
Grace takes a step back from her father, then looks around as if cornered.
“They are accusing me… for the murder?”
Her father nods, tears trickling down his face.
“These three are here to take you, “quietly.” They said if we cooperated…”
“Coo-o… Dad, what the fuck!” Grace cries out.
She takes more steps back as the three men approach.
“Where’s Mum?” She asks crying.
“She did not take the news very well, baby. She is in recovery as we sp…”
Grace turns and takes off. This time, she does not care to think. She knows where she is meant to go—out, and she runs like hell. She easily slips through the gate and out, exits the estate.
She has just landed on the road, feeling helpless, murderous, and hopeless, when a race-car screeches and stops meters from her. Rock music oozes from the vehicle driven by a young man, who looks out his window. On the passenger’s is a young lady.
“Hey, Grace,” the young man calls.
Grace looks behind her, and the three messengers from hell are exiting the estate’s gates. The race car’s rear door then flings open.
“Get in, Grace,” comes a young, male voice from the rear.
Grace jumps in without hesitation and shuts the door. She looks to her side, and a familiar young man smiles. He offers a hand and Grace takes it.
“Hi, I’m Grace. Nice to meet you.”
The young lady on the passenger seat turns to Grace, smiling.
“If you’d please buckle up…” she says before they speed off.
To be continued.