“I’m sorry! I can’t find your name in the list,” said the officer in charge of clearing scholarships at the Foreign Office.
“What do you mean?” snarled Pendo, pacing to and fro by the counter.
“Have a look.”
“You must be crazy,” she said fumingly, hands akimbo. She threw the list back at him.
“Cool down, Madam.”
However, the more he tried to explain, the more she became uncontrollably hysterical. “I can’t waste my time reading a doctored list.”
“Try to understand.”
“What don’t I understand?” she yelled, trembling with fiery rage.
“Please, go clear it with your parent ministry. We can’t help as it is. I’m sorry,” said a touched officer.
Pendo was raving mad. Pointing accusingly at him, she asked, “What else did you require other than these documents?”
“Please, take them to your training officer.”
“I passed through his office and he confirmed my scholarship. What’s cooking?”
A pensive Pendo thought for a moment. With some composure, she requested the officer to show her the list once more. He readily gave her the list.
Reading slowly, she came across the name, Bahati Katana, a colleague in the office where she worked.
“Ah! Oh yes…! She is the woman who stole my scholarship. Ok. Thanks.” She gave him back the list and went out almost running. She did not know where she was heading; she was dejected, blank and very confused. But she went on and on in the winding corridors until she was out of the massive building.
As Pendo made to cross the road absent-mindedly, she was jolted by the hooting and the screeching of vehicles at the busy Uhuru Highway. Having crossed over to Uhuru Gardens, she looked for a nice, secluded place where she could rest and regain her composure.
However, no attempt at self-composure seemed to stem her restlessness.
Finally, Pendo sat up. Tears welled up in her eyes and she started to cry out like a wretch, assailed by emotional insecurity. Heaving with visible fury, she gazed at the towering buildings. This, however, only served to worsen her already demented sorrow. She looked out into the distant horizon and thought bitterly. Now, she was no longer crying. Wiping beads of sweat and tears from her young, beautiful face, she connived a plan.
She declared with a firmness of resolve, “I’ll have to take my revenge. I’ll have to teach this Bahati a lesson of her lifetime. Yes, I’ll make an excellent example of her. I’ll foil this scholarship. I don’t even mind creating hell at the airport. Today! Yes, today and not tomorrow.
She then fished out her cell phone and called her boyfriend, Panga Shinda. “Look!” she said commandingly. “I’m in trouble. Help!”
“Come! Are you listening?”
“Come alone over to Uhuru Gardens with your car.”
“Tell me baby. Are you in trouble?” he asked breathlessly.
“Yes, I’m in trouble. Come over. And don’t waste time, please.”
“Do I come with anything?”
“Yes, come with your executive briefcase, a file, a clipboard and a pen.”
“Pendo, I’m confused.”
“Hey man, don’t make me crazy! Do as I tell you. If you don’t…,” she shouted so loudly over the phone she almost lost her voice. She then broke out into intermittent sobs. “How can you be so cruel darling? Please co…me. Hurry up!”
“Baby, I’m sorry. Don’t mind my vulgarity. I’ll be the last person to upset you. I’m coming straight away.” And without much ado he got into his car and drove off like a lunatic to Uhuru Gardens.
Pendo got up and headed to the main entrance. Just then, Panga’s car pulled up.
“Do you have everything ready?” she asked as he got out.
“Oh, my dear! If you had demanded a donkey, I would have loaded it into the car for you.”
“Hey you! Forget about your donkeys. I’ve called you for a bigger mission than that. Are you ready?” she asked half-smiling.
“Very ready, I assure you. If your necklace were to fall to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, I would dive down there and get it for you. You know this.”
“Thanks. And neither are we here for necklaces. This is it. By the way, can you act?”
“Oh, my dear! If you were to tell me to walk the length and breadth of Nairobi at noon, jumping up and down, and making all sorts of faces, I’ll do.”
“It’s nothing of that. I did not call you here for amateur dramatics. I’ve called you for a real life drama tonight.”
“At your service, baby. I just hope nothing has gone up the sky. Even then, if it were to happen, I would go after it and get it back for you in no time.”
“That’s if you can fly. Ok listen,” she said searching his face. “The scholarship has been stolen.”
“I’m no longer travelling. A lady by the name Bahati Katana, a colleague in the office, has stolen it.”
“This is unbelievable. How did it happen at the last minute?”
“Forget that for the moment. She will be checking in at the airport reception hall tonight. With the items I asked you to bring, you’re to act as an officer on duty in the hall.”
“That’s easy for me.”
“As for me, I’ll take cover at some strategic place within the premises. When she shows up, I’ll motion you.
“When she enters the hall,” she explained, “you should pretend to be looking for her. It should be very natural, though. Your attempt to identify her should not raise eyebrows. Once you meet her, introduce yourself and confuse her with big-office jargon. Then tell her there is some discrepancy with the lists…that kind of language. I hope you understand.
“Having won her, ask her most professionally to give you all the relevant documents to you to go and countercheck.”
“Excellent! Go ahead.”
“Once you have taken all the documents from her, sneak out of the hall. I’ll be out there waiting for you. Understand?”
“A clever idea,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek. “You’re brilliant my dear.” He then laughed loudly, a long contagious laugh. He jumped up and down, went round and round, then suddenly stopped. “Baby, you’re a genius,” he said as he gave her a long, reassuring look at close range.
“Ok. Let’s get moving. It’s already mid-afternoon and we should be at the airport in half an hour. They got into the car and drove off.”
On reaching the junction between Uhuru highway, Haile Selassie Avenue and Mombasa Road, they were held up for an hour due to a heavy traffic jam along the routes. As they waited, both fell into a useless argument that deteriorated into a shouting match when he told her he’ll take Haile Selassie Avenue.
“Hey you! Don’t be nuts,” she shouted at him. “If you take Haile Selassie Avenue, the whole thing flops. The jam along that route extends up to Jogoo Road. Don’t you know?”
“Shishi…!” he tried to silence her but to no avail.
“No! Oh no! Do…n’t!” she cried.
“Shut up! Or else…,” he said threateningly. He ignored her and when the traffic eased, drove along Haile Selassie Avenue.
For sometime, both observed a truce, though tense. However, when she looked ahead and saw the traffic along Haile Selassie Avenue was light, she sighed deeply in relief.
By six in the evening, they were at the airport parking bay.
With Pendo holding the briefcase and Panga the file and the clipboard, the two melted into the cloud in the reception hall.
At exactly seven, Bahati escorted by her family members, relatives and friends stepped into the hall elegantly and with air of greatness.
With a sign, Pendo motioned Panga from her hideout. He strode towards Bahati.
“How are you?” greeted Panga, exuding confidence. “Madam, could you be Bahati Katana,” he asked, looking at her straight in the face.
“Oh yes, I’m,” replied Bahati, stopping to look at the smart gentleman holding a file, a mass of papers and a very executive pen. She was confident he was an important airport officer on duty. She therefore paid him due attention.
Panga shuffled through the file, keenly perusing the papers. “Madam Bahati, there is a minor error which has to be rectified before you proceed. So, do give me your introductory letter from your ministry and the one from the Foreign Office. I would also want to see your air ticket and the passport. This is routine clearing procedure. It’ll take just some few minutes to clear for you the small matter.” he said reassuringly
Bahati was bewildered, but took it for a small hitch that the officer would take care of. She therefore produced all the documents he had asked for and handed them all to him. The man grabbed them and disappeared immediately into the crowd. In the meantime, a joyous Bahati started chatting with her jubilant family, relatives and friends.
By Khamis Kabeu
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