The Cornfield Conspiracy
After all the excitement of the long summer summer break, the formation of the Fraternity, the bringing down of much of Mama Tweed’s and Charlie Kamau’s street and local cross-border criminal activity, and all the international acclaim accrued the boys through their unexpected successes in rugby 7s and martial arts during the first half of the Trinity Term, the second half of term seemed to all the lads to be painfully boring. In other words they were doing what 99.9 per cent of kids generally do: school work interspersed with sports and inter-curricular activities. And no, Finch, in that last class of undertaking, one generally does not include what happens after official Lights-out in the Musketeers’ dorm!
There was the small issue presented Felix and his co-leaders with the sudden and totally unexpected arrival of Andy, Xiao, Stars, Kim and Mahmud Resa from Oman and Letif Ali Khan from Qatar, both of whom had been class mates of Sheik’s in Abu Dhabi.
When Felix sat with David, Isaac and Lucas and brought in Frank and Rob as school Skippers by phone conferencing to discuss where these new arrivals should go, he begun by assuring his friends, his brothers, that he had been given no advanced knowledge by his father that these six were arriving now.
“Look, I think many of us were aware that Kim and maybe Andy planned to join at Christmas and that several from Abu Dhabi hoped to do so also, but whether any other than one or both of the Hong Kong boys would remain long term, I knew nothing about at all. But now we have three Hong Kong, a Korean and two Arabians. So, Lucas, I’ll give you first shot at ideas here.”
“Fello, it seems to me we can settle on two very easily. If we assume that the Fraternity as a whole is staking its rugby reputation principally on The Mount, then the Arab boys should go there. If their parents are willing, of course. It isn’t a top notch school after all. Or should we try to build-up a second school in rugby 7s to act as a support for Ant’s squad, like cyclists have support in the peloton? Then I’d be suggesting the Arab boys go to KIA as, to be honest, their rugger is better than ours at South Rift, where we have focused on football.“
“The others?” Felix pressed his deputy.
“I don’t have an opinion except that South Rift is over represented in terms of numbers, unless you include Listeners, right now. Sorry for the split infinitive, Daktari who is certainly listening in the ether somewhere.”
Several boys giggled thinking of Arthur and his punctilious strictures on English grammar.
“OK, then Isaac. As the one responsible for activities, what say you?”
“Maybe what I say will be not too popular. You see, I want these new boys to quickly fit in and become fully integrated into the teams they join here in Kenya. I think the best way to do that it to split them from the comfort zone they arrived with. So the two from Abu Dhabi will not go together. One to Ant, I suggest the one who has better experience in playing 15s rugby. Then the martial arts…
“Felix, I am expected to train a full squad of martial arts boys by 2007 in Vancouver. I want to know if any of these four boys are going to be around for me to include on my squad in two years before I can give you a reasonable answer as which I would like in South Rift. Like Lucas, for the sake of the numbers game. You must tell us if the Listeners count as Fraternity in calculating how many of us are at each school. What is Franl’s input on that? We have too many variables to make definitive decisions, yet you say they must be made today. Fello, this is madness.”
“indeed it is, but it is not of my making, Isaac. Allow me to make a few enquiries, things you each have raised which are very valid. It is 12.45 now,” said Felix. “Let’s meet back here in study room 3 at 16.30. It gives enough time, still, for boys to move this evening to Kericho and Nairobi by road. “
Felix looked much happier when he walked back into the study room just a minute later than the 4.30 pm the boys had agreed upon. He hadn’t wasted a second of the three and a half hours he'd spent talking with each of the newly arrived boys, looking at those portions of their school records which were not confidential, particularly their sports activities, and speaking to his favourite sports coach – the athletics manager.
He thought he had a plan. Maybe. Possibly. Perhaps.
“Frank and Rob, you two have said nothing, so far. I think it’s time the floor is yours,” Felix began before he’d even sat down.
“What, er. Well, OK....I suppose,” began Frank haltingly, obviously taken by surprise to be asked to speak first. Generally, being the youngest just about every time and on every occasion, his opinion was the very final one to be requested, as a sort of post script to the general discussion. He assumed it was hardly ever taken into account anyway.
“Mose and I feel the loss of Zee very profoundly. You who were not at our school didn’t have the chance to get to know him as we did. His years of schooling overseas brought to us a depth of wisdom we have built into our thinking which I know neither of us, nor any in our small group could have gotten elsewhere. You all got a glimpse of Zee’s talent in the way he handled that near riot situation at the Bringitar bus station. But that was just a tiny taste of this wonderful boy’s abilities. We will miss him him terribly at KIA and nobody you could send us could fill that gap.
“But, life must go on, and what Zee has taught us will strengthen our abilities to do the tasks you set us, Isaac. Yes, we do count our colleagues Peter, Dix, Ali and the Listeners at KIA as our numbered bretheren. Not as Fraternity, you understand, but as part of our fighting strength. I suspect that the Mount are close to including boys such as Tamir, Noah, Mustaffa and others in the same way. And what of your fellow TKD fighters at South Rift, Isaac, are they simply fellow pupils, still? I doubt it.
“So, when you divvie up the new boys, don’t give thought to balancing numbers, Fello. That is what some accountant would do. Put the boys where they would best contribute to the overall good. Full stop."
There was a pause of a few seconds. Then Felix simply said, “Robbie.”
“Brothers. After what Frank said, and after the way he said it.....the expressive way.....the way it came from his heart..in truth I didn’t immediately say anything, simply because I couldn’t think of anything to say. And now, after a while to gather my thoughts, I still cannot think of anything to add to Frank’s perfect conclusion. So, unlike so many meetings we have all listened to grown-ups each repeat one another just for the sake of hearing their own voice, making meetings last two hours which could have been concluded in 20 minutes, I will just say. Frank, A-men to that, brother.”
“Everyone has had their say, to some extent except..” but Felix was interrupted by David violently shaking his head and waving his hand in a dismissal sign.
“I take that as a proceed, no comment,” Felix was smiling to his closest friend. He actually had already known this in advance, they having discussed it the previous night, about 3.00 am. However, he wanted the others to know David had been given the chance to say his piece. The previous night his piece had been too busy doing something other than uttering words, however. Sigh!
“So, this is what I suggest. Ali Khan was captain of the school’s successful under 12s 15s rugby squad in the 2003-4 season. I know that under-12s 15s is played over a shortened 25 minute each half time, as opposed to the full 40 minute regular game for under 15s which you will now play, but he does have have the thorough knowledge of the game. I intend asking him to move to the Mount, and it is my recommendation, that you suggest to Ant that he be made vice-captain and responsible for building a 15s squad.
“I know that KIA has an established 7s squad, so Mahmoud will move there and I want you, Frank to chose one of your existing brothers to begin training with them, even if they never make the team. In addition, Andy will go to KIA. His father’s business offices are in Nairobi, so it makes sense he goes there. In addition, his cosmopolitan background is the closest fit of all of the newbies to Zee.
“This leaves Kim, Qiao and Stars. Obviously, Stars is a fit for the Frat Boyz. I find Qiao has a substantial martial arts background too. Kim is something of a dark horse in that he has attended several long vacation schools for martial arts, one of over eight months in duration in Thailand when he was nine, but I find no record in his school notes of qualifications or anything.
“None the less, after listening to Frank and to Rob and noting that the Mount has no martial arts beyond basic TKD, I am putting the three in South Rift, under Isaac’s gentle care.”
Isaac’s immediate response was, “Yessssssss!!”
And everyone laughed, while David said in a stage whisper, “Poor bastards!”
The remainder of the Trinity Term continued at all three schools, as the new boys settled into what for them were slightly unusual structures. Each of them were already at international schools, however, so the curriculum in each subject were little different. It was the subjects which varied somewhat. Gone were were Arabic or Chinese (Cantonese and Pundongwa) or Korean, of course. Also gone was Comparative Religion or Meditation Studies or Koranic Studies. Instead there was Kiswahili and Religious Education, the latter focusing entirely on Christian religion up to grade 9, though there were alternative streams for Moslem or Hindu or Jewish students. Kenya had never had a student of Star’s religious leanings before, which were basically a branch of Buddhism called Won Buddhist, a sort of modernised form of Buddhism based on 100 years ago there being a new modern-day Siddhartha founding this new wave in the faith.
So everyone was adapting, and forming themselves well. Sports played more of a role here than in Hong Kong, but about the same as in Abu Dhabi, but less than in Korea, where Stars explained that school or house spirit was drilled into boys by team sports from the age of seven. He was an active swimmer, so had been expected to swim three hours a day. An hour before breakfast and two hours before dinner. That was in addition to team training. Training was six hours a week. There there was martial arts six hours a week too. Then there was regular gym or sports classes for five hours a week. So, in total, he was committed to 35 hours of sports exercise or training a week, as he had swim training off on Saturdays. In addition he was often picked for football or badminton squads as a back-up too. He was a good sportsman.
“I put you up for martial arts, Stars, but you say your better sport is swimming. Mine is distance running, but both Finch and I are in the swim team too. What are you, a sprinter, or a distance boy?” Felix was lounging on his bed stroking Francis’s forehead which lay on his bare stomach, his shirt laying open after an hour’s cross-country ride on horseback to exercise their neglected Andalusians.
“I am a long distance freestyle swimmer, by preference. 1000 m is my best distance, or long course 1500 metres. I have done the 400 metres individual medley too, quite well. I dove as the second squad in my school on the 25 metre table and on the 10 metre table, but wasn’t much good on the springboard. My best friend and I also twice competed in the Swimathon at Silto Bay, where we swam back and forth across the bay in the open water as many times as we could to raise money for our chosen charity.”
“In open sea. Fuck, how far did you get in that choppy stuff,” asked Finch in his typically flowery lingo as he emerged from the shower, towelling himself off in a totally unashamedly au naturelle state.
Being Korean and accustomed to east Asian bath practices, male nudity didn’t shock Stars one iota, so if this had been Finch’s intention by his walking into the bedroom so blatantly he totally failed. A boy on a swim team worried by nakedness? You must be joking! Now, Felix playing with Francis’s damp hair, and stroking his brow, and allowing him to rest his still damp head on his abdomen – that was something to cause Stars to think again.
“My friend and I paced each other. There were lots of people to begin with, but steadily the numbers thinned out, so by the fifth hour...”
“The FIFTH hour....holy fuck!! You were still swimming five hours after setting off, Stars. Bloody Hell, I thought I was a damned ace swimmer, but I doubt I could keep on swimming half that long if my life depended on it,” stammered Finch.
“Here, here. I know I couldn’t. I’m not the best swimmer in our team, by a long shot, but I doubt there’s a one in our team could come near swimming for five hours without a break,” added Felix.
“It isn’t all that difficult if you pace yourself. After all I swim three hours every day already. So it wasn’t such a great stretch. Any road, by the end, Benny and I completed 6 hours and 40 minutes. We were next to last to drop out. The last to go on lasted over an hour more and were four military cadets. We got almost 14 kilometres. So we made just under $14,000 for our charity, which was Doctors without Borders. I want to be a doctor when I complete my studies.”
Finch threw his towel into the laundry basket. “Fello, what’s the status on the sting regarding the magistrate and the clerk and everyone?”
Felix was obviously very uncomfortable. He didn’t know how to reply to Finch. The idiot should have known better than to have asked him questions about so sensitive an operation when someone was in the room who knew nothing about it. Damn, he expected better of Finch than this.
“It is all rather vague just now, Finch. I’m sure we’ll all hear something very soon,” continued Felix, trying to divert his friend from the more sensitive areas of his enquiry.
“Anyway. it’s time I went back to my dorm and finished reading the Scottish Play, as the new English Master called it today,” said Stars as he stood up from the easy chair at the foot of David’s bed. The David who’d been notable only by his absence the entire evening since Preps began. Stars was now sleeping just a floor below, sharing with Xi Jian, a Scot and Dickie Bombardier.
Winking slyly at Felix, Finch stood up suddenly and approached Stars. “Stars, your story of your bravery in raising so much money for charity has so impressed me.”
As he approached Stars, the Korean boy saw the game he was playing, trying to embarrass him as a sort of initiation to his house. He decided to turn the tables on his his new-found friend. He wondered just how liberated he really was!!
“Oh, Finch, my boy, you want to play? Why didn’t you say so?”
Totally shocking Finch, Stars grabbed the boy’s semi-hard dick in both hands and forced Finch back on his bed. What happened over the next ten minutes is not for publication, it is for imagination. But was for both boys’ satisfaction and for the viewing boys’ gratification, salivation and, ultimately, lubrication!
* * *
Isaac and Lucas met with the Head of the Sports at South Rift and explained exactly everything which had transpired, from the boys’ perspective. They focused particularly on the offer made of a full sponsorship of a coaching team in preparation for Vancouver 2007.
Henry Davies, Head of Sports was of the old school. He had taught at South Rift since 1967, gradually gaining promotion from a junior teacher with part-time coaching roles. He believed he recognised talent when he saw it and also good leadership potential when he saw that too. That Sikuku boy had leadership in spades and had the rare ability of knowing how to delegate. To get that by the age of 12! Well, he’d only seen that once before and that boy was now Prime Minister of his country. Young Isaac seemed a promising enough boy too. He’d handled that tournament like a champion, totally without adult help, organising media support and everything. And he got the older boys to back him up even when he made a bad error in judgement at a critical time. No one blamed him. They all boosted him. That shows the degree by which they trust him. Which is rare in boys.
“Isaac. If 99 out of 100 boys in this school had asked me. No, change that. If any boy, other than you or possibly Felix Sikuku, had asked me to set aside a teacher’s coaching role on his say so I would have laughed in his face. But you, my boy, have succeeded in doing something very, very rare among young, wild, unreliable, constantly jealous, teenage boys. You have garnered their trust as a peer. When you made a stupid, imbecilic, dare I say cowardly mistake in judgement; one which possibly if not probably cost you and your team mates the World Championship, they didn’t do what I would have expected. They didn’t do what 99.0 per cent of teams I have seen in my career have done in much less serious situations for far lower level prizes than this. Hell, our school has never, in my almost 40 years teaching here come close to a world championship before. No, your mates didn’t attack you, castigate you, curse you, put all the blame on you. In fact they put NO blame on you at all. They comforted you. They felt sorry for you. They supported you. They worked to pull you out of your depression.
“My boy, this proves to me how great a team leader you are and so it indicates to me, as it does to the Headmaster, that we should listen to you, and to Master Lucas here, and to Felix the kingpin in your Fraternity, and override our general reticence to follow the rules and so, from the beginning of next term, the present TKD coach will only coach to grade 6. You have open house to select a new coaching team for upper school. But they have to teach all of upper school Grades 7 through 12, including any girls in grades 11 and 12 who wish to participate. I must have last veto rights on the appointments and, of course, anyone working in this school must pass the standard police background check for working with children. You have six weeks to get your names to me.”
Henry was beaming broadly by the end.
“Run off. Run off. I know you must have phone calls to make.” Henry saw the two scampering in the direction of Middle School dorms.
Meanwhile, back at the lawcourts in Bringitar, the First Court, home of the Principal Magistrate, was preparing to hear the opening arguments in the case of murder. The defendant had been out on bail, already an unique situation.
Trials in East African courts are nothing like those shown on television in Britain or the US. To begin with, there is very rarely a jury. Secondly the trial is run by the Judge. He or she is much more proactive than in Western courts. Thirdly, trials in almost any significant case can take months. This is because they are not continuous. Strange as it seems to outside eyes, the opening statements may be made by the prosecution and defence today, but the chief prosecution witness hasn’t turned up. So the Prosecutor asks for an adjournment for two weeks to find him. But the judge has another trial trial in two weeks, so the date is set in five weeks. Bail is asked to renewed. After some haggling, it is. Remember normally the accused would in fact be in gaol, if a huge bribe hadn’t been paid.
This same circus is repeated, with missing witnesses, or the judge on holiday, or on a course, or at a meeting, so the trial in fact takes all of 10 months to complete. It is not unusual to see major trials take up to 2 years because the judge has changed district, so testimony had to be re-heard. Only the simplest traffic or petty crime is heard in one sitting. Why, no one knows.
At the same time, the sting centred on Langat’s contacts and on the retail scams and strong-arming of commercial enterprises by Mama Tweed and Charlie Kamau and their associates beyond the confines of Bringitar, this has drawn in rich prizes already. DC Rashid has had to bring in the Provincial Commissioner as Inspector Kipsang has arrested over 40 involved in conspiracy to defraud, trafficking of persons, sexual exploitation of minors, conspiracy to deal in illegal substances and class A drugs, conspiracy to threaten violence to gain financial advantage, racketeering, and several other charges, including ownership of stolen weapons. Several of the arrests were made outside the district and involve threats made to business owners in other districts in the province, so the DC needed to involve the PC. This is a major feather in both his and the Anti-Corruption Squad’s hat, so in Kip Kipsang’s, too.
“I can’t imagine Mama Tweed is taking all of this which has occurred in the past four months entirely calmly and without any reaction,” said Rashid Hussein.
It was Wednesday, 30th November and a small group had gathered at PM s to have preprandial drinks and afterwards some cassoulet, the unique recipe for which David’s partner was keeping a state secret. What was not as recondite was that it was absolutely fabulous. Once tasted, people pleaded to be invited back. The proud became snivelling, pleading, pitiful..... well, one gets the idea.
Tonight no one could have been classed by Dave as one of the cassoulet supplicant hoards.
There were only Adam, Arthur, Kip, Rick Buyella, Zak, Patrick and Peter Mooney. It was an all male do tonight. Isaiah unfortunately had other commitments, as did the Chebet brothers, in their case a church event. Judge Makokha was sick. Matron Jo was on duty. Willi Wanyonyi was away in Nairobi. Brother Robert was away too, on a mission in Turkana for a month.
“This is an end of term congratulatory dinner, then Dave?” asked Patrick of his host whilst toasting him with his bottle of Tusker Lite.
“No, no congratulations. No relaxation. No letting down our guard one micrometre yet, my little brother,” interjected the new member of the group, who’d been primed by Kip to ‘Get in there early and establish your presence’. So Rick Buyella continued, “Yes there are very, very gratifying successes to laud and to accept for what they are. And the individuals who led those successful teams and those who risked most and those who gave most, even sacrificed the ultimate amount, deserve every ounce of recognition.
“The take down at Adumai. This was an absolute Ace affair. A diversion, the bikes to stop escape, the total destruction of supplies to prevent renewal of operations, every non-combatant escaped unharmed. We gained new recruits. Everything went by the book, except of course for Stevie. And that was totally his call. He made it. Cut off renewal of operations for weeks at the cost of his life. It was his choice and he knew it. Running into fire in the course of battle with the adrenaline high and the bullets flying and your mates around you and everyone doing the same, that is one sort of bravery. But coolly cutting a rope when your on your own, knowing it will bring tons of metal crashing down to crush you to death. It is all silent and there is no one to see you and no sound of battle, but the war is just as real. All you can do is whisper down a radio and click it off. And cut. And die. That is true heroism. To die all alone. To do it for others and do it with nobody watching and nobody with you, hoping somebody realises why you did it. Well, Stevie, Steve, Steven, we bloody well do recognise why you did it. And in my book, of all the boys who sacrificed this past four months, the ones who need to stand and hold hands as the two ace heroes are you and Quin. In fact I have in all my career so far never heard one single story of a police officer carrying out a braver act than yours Stevie. Not one.
“But Adumai is only one story of the past four months, eh Inspector?”
It was obvious, the two police officers had planned this dialogue.
“True, true Sergeant. For on the same day our intrepid double act of police and Fraternity took down a retail conspiracy based around corrupt GSU officers at the Akichelisit camp in Teso. Again this was 100 per cent successful, and new recruits were brought in.
“In Bringitar, a complex system of intimidation of retailers and small traders and commercial enterprises was uncovered and linked to associates of Tweed’s or Kamau’s. Arrests have been made and the king-pins held without bond pending trial. In all over 30 people were involved and 1.3 million Shillings found in various deposit points. As for the child prostitution business. As far as Bringitar is concerned, it’s finished. The boys are in homes or at least at work with accommodation. Felix and Francis lead in this. Fello, I honestly don’t know how you faced down your dad after the Langat video. But it was the beginning of the end for street boys in Bringitar.
“So we have deeply hurt the infrastructure of both the leading operations here in Bringitar, and Western. But there is lots yet to do. Let me list them.
“Priority One: The very reason the Fraternity was first founded, and why Josh died. Who is killing boys at Toriop and the vicinity, cutting off their penises, and leaving them to die?
“Next, finish the Murder Sting. This will bring huge dividends in enabling the Department of Internal Security to begin a comprehensive investigation into the judicial system in Bringitar, possibly in the whole of Western, which would be even better.
“Tweed and Kamau are damaged a bit, but not enough to quit or even think of quitting. So we must go for something which will hurt even more. There are two things I have in mind. One is a trans-shipment of drugs I suspect is taking place from here to Uganda and on to Ethiopia, using the busy but remote centre of Changara as the hub.
“Then we need to extend our reach as far as ending child prostitution is concerned. Our Bringitar customers with cars have now moved to Webuye or Malaba or Mumias. Some as far as Busia. Of course there are lots in Kakamega, but that is well outside my area. Even reaching out to Mumias or Busia I’d need to ask permission, but I’m sure I’d get it.
“In line with this, starting December 20th, every police officer is getting instructions very personally to begin checking every bus, matatu and taxi owned by Kamau or Tweed for every tiny traffic or functional violation. For example: a bald tyre, a missing tail light, a window not opening, a wiper not working, an indicator not flashing, no correct or functioning belts in a matatu, or too many passengers. It will drive Kamau crazy to see his rival owners pass by with 16 passengers while he is forced to dump four people on the side of the road and give them each twice their fare in compensation at the police officers’ demand, unless the driver is to be arrested.
“This will go on over Christmas with Kamau’s long distance buses from Eldoret and Nairobi. In their case we will play really dirty. We plan to stop the vehicles as soon as they cross into the district. Of course they’ll be overcrowded and they’ll have some violations. Certainly the driver won’t want to offload passengers in the middle of nowhere. So of course he’ll want to deal. As my officer walks off he’s bound to walk up and offer something. Whatever transpires, my officer is trained to push all the right buttons. For the entire conversation is being video taped and recorded by a second police team nearby. As he walks off, that second team will come out and arrest him for attempting to bribe. The bus is impounded. We will have briefed a Nation TV team that something was going to come down. And where. I will arrive, give a brief statement about the national sickness of corruption beginning at the roots here on the streets and highways of our lands and that ‘kito kidogo’ was a cancer which I was dedicating my professional life to eradicating. And this bus is a start.
“I then encourage the camera crew to talk to passengers and anyone. I hope someone asks me what happens to the passengers now. For the reply is simple. They paid Charlie Kamau to get them home. He broke laws by running an illegal bus. He then hired a driver with instructions to bribe a police officer if he was caught. However, there still remains a contract between Charlie Kamau and these passengers. I personally am concerned for their safety here as evening approaches. Live on air, before the Kenyan people and having taken legal advice that it is an appropriate action in the circumstances, I have recommissioned local taxis to take the bus passengers to their destinations, as they would now have missed their connections at Bringitar. The drivers will bring the accounts to me at my Bringitar office tomorrow, which costs will also be added. I will submit a 10 per cent service fee to the drivers but charge nothing at all for our own administrative fees. All of this I shall expect reimbursed by Mr Kamau by years end.
“I will add that I hope no further overcrowded or no- serviceable buses will be coming into Bringitar anytime soon.”
“Inspector, Sergeant, you seem to have the remainder of 2005 pretty much sealed up. And it will have been a top notch year, even if a costly and tragic one for some of us,” said Rashid, as he cast a frown of thoughtful dolefulness crossed his brow. “You must let each of us know what resources, of what we have at our disposal, we can offer to supplement yours, which I know must be stretched to the maximum. My Administrative Police, other than the bare squad necessary for security of the various compounds, are available wherever and whenever. Just inform Chief Inspector Kituyi, alright?”
“Thank you, Commissioner. During the Christmas operations, I will almost certainly take you up on that offer.”
“As to the boys,” said Arthur, “School break for Christmas is from December 16th through January 10th, that’s a Tuesday arriving by 17:00. Some of the boys have significant commitments already. The most central surround Oliver and Philip’s surgery in Spain, of course. David and Ant will accompany Philip, while Mark and Timmy will go with Oliver. Felix is also going with his Dad, as is Steve as a sort of older chaperone. Though, to be honest, I think Felix will prove to be the most sure footed of the eight when it comes to foreign travel.
“There is to be an Academy-organised training camp at the upper level after Christmas. For SEKs and Fraternity on December 27th and 28th and 29th; for SEKs and Listeners and Irregulars 30th and 31st; and for everyone on January 1st. Then an overnighter just for Fraternity on 2nd. I will include the Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi boys with the Fraternity for these exercises. In addition, members of Frat Boyz and Frat Boyz 7s not in the Fraternity have asked if they may join the Irregulars. So I will try them out by training them in these days this Christmas. I suggest that on the 30th and 31st, when the Fraternity boys are not involved, but it is not practicable they go home, Peter you could spare me someone and I’ll rope in a nurse from the Children’s, and Clement if he’s free and maybe Asmaa, as I want to run a basic two day emergency medical life-saving course. It keeps on bugging me whether Quin’s life could have been saved if Finch knew more. Even Josh’s life possibly. So I want to run this course. These are very smart boys. Now I do not expect to turn them into medivac triage nurses in two days, but just possibly they could sew a suture correctly and know not to pour oil on a burn, and learn what a shock position is, how to read a pulse correctly, even undertake CPR.
“For your tasks in Changara, Kip, what are you looking for from the Fraternity, exactly? It would have to be Felix and Lucas who decide, of course, but you now know the fixed commitments at least,” finished Arthur.
“Not quite,” added Adam, who had hitherto been quietly nursing a Waterford heavy crystal straight glass of his favourite Speyside tipple, a small sip taken now and then, just to keep to ensure his stomach that his throat had not been cut, he told Felix one time, to his son’s reply of ‘Nice one Dad. Perhaps you’ll let me try that one with a glass of Pinot Noir at dinner, eh,’ To which Adam response to then 10 year old Felix was, ‘God, but you’re learning my lines faster than I learned them from my Grandfather.’
“No, not quite. Firstly, Arthur didn’t give you the dates of our sojourn in Spain. Our departure from Nairobi is by the night flight to Schiphol on December 16th. I saw no purpose in coming all the way back here only to go back there so to speak, in the boys’ case. Our tentative return date is January 31st. But, of course this is a moveable feast dependent on how each boy’s surgery goes. If necessary for urgent operational reasons, Felix can fly back at any time to deal with a crisis. I am satisfied that he is confident enough a traveller to cope with travelling alone across Madrid from the railway station to Barajos airport and then changing again at Schiphol. So just call and I will get his ticket changed. As for the others, I have need of them for those six weeks, sorry.”
“Adam, that is quite fine. I am sure we shall cope,” said Kip. “I’ll probably drive down to see Felix and Lucas and Isaac soon and outline the Changara operation, discuss with them which boys might be interested in being involved. I think about seven to nine boys in all. Yes, nine in fact. Three groups of three. But one group is a bit different. I am setting up two of my men as tobacco carters and two others as dealers from Karamajong. One set of boys will simply be from around, drifting in and out for a few days, being seen around for a few days. they’ll have to build themselves a story of why they’ve arrived. Perhaps brothers arrived from their father in one place to their grandfather here or something.
“Second trio is with the carter. Third with the Karamajong. The task is to befriend boys with any of Tweeds carters, find their routes. The lead boys will be given trackers. If they are detected, which is a tiny chance, the boys will each carry a card indicating they are fitted with a cardiac pace maker. There is just one hitch, though. Having a cardiac pace maker fitted leaves a permanent scar just above and to the left of your heart. That cannot be faked.”
“Neither can the best cassoulet this side of the Sahara. So let’s eat, gentlemen, and others,” said Dave with a wicked wink in Steve’s direction.
It was a week later that Kip found his way 400 km southwest at the very pleasant and leafy west campus of South Rift school on the next to last Sunday of Trinity Term. It was 3.00 pm and there were sports going on everywhere. Lucas had greeted him at the parking ground and, as it was a typical December 33 degrees with a light breeze and just wispy clouds, it seemed a great idea to retreat to the swimming pavilion for tea and scones.
“Everything here is home made in the kitchens or at the domestic science classes, Kip,” said Lucas, indicating an array of not just scones with or without raisins, with cheese or without cheese, wholewheat, or white; but also about six or seven cakes ranging from simple Victoria sponge cakes with homemade loganberry jam and dusted with icing sugar, to an exquisite and lavish Strawberry Charlotte with oodles of stiff whipped cream in bowls by the side to add additional sin to the plate!
“There’s Lapsang Souchong, or Darjeeling of course, or Kenya tips (my favourite) or there’s green tea too, or a mint tea infusion or Chamomile if you feel a bit faint or something. Finally, if you want a totally powerful cuppa, there’s Russian Caravan, which in my opinion tastes of smoked fish, but there you are. Oh, then if you totally are out of your mind there something called decaffeinated tea in that jar. Ugh, the idea. Oh, and I forgot, there is a pot of Kenya coffee over there too. Help yourself. Pots are there. Boiling water, and I assure you it is kept constantly at 100 degrees, is there in the corner. Trays, knives, dessert forks, napkins, see this school already has me speaking all right and proper, like, after just three months, Inspector. There’s hope for me yet,” said Lucas with a smile and a wink, as he poured water on his three spoons of loose Kenya tea leaves in the blue tea pot. He’d decided on a slice of ginger and molasses cake which looked as if it could out-weigh a shot put. Kip had absolutely no will power, but nobody would know as he had virtually no waist line. At 26, in inches his age would equal his waist measurement. So he opted for the Charlotte, and cream – as a first course. But he’d been Philistine and really knew nothing about these posh teas. So he took coffee.
“Sorry the others are late, but Timmy is not around as his fencing team is competing in Mombasa this weekend. Last I heard, at lunch, they were through to the National finals this afternoon. So they’ll be very late back, or maybe even tomorrow, I don’t know.”
“No one told me he was a fencer.”
“That is one sport he has kept a little quiet about. I suppose he thought we’d all pull his leg about it, as none of us do it. But talking to the team captain, a French boy, last weekend, over lunch he said to me that Timmy is a natural. He’s taken to the sport as if he’s been playing it all his life. Yves, the Captain, told me that in Foil and Epee, Timmy’s already beating nine out of ten of the boys in the club. Saber is a little more challenging for him, but he still bests three out of four. In his age group of under 13s, Yves said he would not be shocked to see Timmy on the podium with a medal today. Partly he says it is natural ability, partly its his quick learning skills, and certainly it is also his total fearlessness. He told me he watched Timmy the other week with a slightly older boy, but a great deal longer in the sport. The opponent was playing typical lunge, parry, lunge, parry, lunge, parry. Then Timmy got fed up and smoked his opponent, he went in parry, parry, lunge, lunge, lunge, lunge, lunge, lunge, lunge. His opponent quit. He couldn’t deal with seven attacking strokes in succession.”
“And what was Timmy’s reaction?”
“It was a total stopper. It halted every match going on that evening. And it even totally stunned me. The coach was knocked off his feet and sat right down. He shouted at the boy, ‘Ya can’t take seven lunges from a foil from a 12 year boy who’s only been doing this sport just over three months! Fuck. What kind of fighter will you ever make if the chips are ever down? No use counting on a dribble wanker like you! Face seven cocks or betray your friends and then you’ll know what you’re made of. And I know who I am and for what is more important, I know 24 guys I can count on to face not seven lunges from dud sword tips, but real ones if they had to. Cause I saw them shot and bleed for each other, and I saw one kill himself for me. That is what a real boy is not a pansy run off. OK, do a good job being an admin man. I respect that. But don’t pick up a sword if you prefer not to use it. That’s all I’m saying. In my crude, hillbilly way.’ And as I said, the gym was frozen. Until the youngest boy there, a 10 year old English black boy, I think of Caribbean heritage but speaking the most perfect and delicious English you ever heard, anyway, this boy, Adrian, just begins clapping. Simply clapping his hands, slowly at first, but gradually speeding up. Others join him then, as did I and soon the gym is alive with applause for what was without doubt a very courageous little speech.’ And all of this I learned from Yves last week.
“And this week, it seems his premonition is coming to pass, as the team is at least through to the Final.”
Just then David and Isaac arrive. David immaculate in white tee-shirt knee-length khaki shorts, brown boat shoes, no socks and carrying a laptop case. He was almost a copy of Lucas, except for Lucas’s shorts being a couple or three inches shorter. And he had no laptop today. David had agreed to be scribe. Isaac, on the other hand had just come direct from his swim meet at the pool. All he had done was rinse off the chlorine and towel dry. So yellow school uniform swimsuits was it.
“And where is our lord and master, pray?” Isaac said as he loaded a slice of Swarzwaldekirchtorte on his plate the size of Lincoln’s nose on Mount Rushmore, allowing for mild exaggeration (for the nose) and sloshed four spoons of Earl Gray for which he had gained an inordinate taste since getting to know Felix.
“You’re reading too much historical drama, Isaac. I’ll lend you my copy of Out of Africa. It’s supposed to be about Kenya. It will give you a real laugh,” said David who was nibbling on a oatmeal biscuit. “By the way, I just heard from the office that our boys won Gold at the Fencing Finals in Mombasa. Yves won gold in the under 18s Foil and silver in Epee and sabre or is it saber? Nicholas won gold in under 16s Epee and bronze in Foil and sabre. Gregory won Silver in all three in under 15s and Timmy won Gold in Foil, and bronze in Epee. So, overall we have most points. Good job, eh. They’ll fly back this evening to Nakuru and get in about eleven, they think. I suggest we organise a proper welcome, as long as Head agrees. I’m sure he will.”
There was general approval and sharing of high fives amongst the boys, too.
Finally Felix strode in, or almost hummed in.
“God, Fello, I can smell you from here. Couldn’t you shower first, or something. Wow, but you stink,” Isaac said.
“Sorry guys. I know I may be less than fresh, but I’ve been eventing since 7.00 this morning, totally nonstop. First dressage, then jumping, and lastly cross country, all in one day. It’s a new idea, to make it more viewer friendly. But it’s damnably hard work on horse and rider. I am out and out fucked. I am late now and I don’t have a change of clothes here if I shower. So...”
“You can share with with me, Fello. We’re about the same size, except height. I have my stuff downstairs. If the guys can spare us 10 more minutes, you have my shorts, I stay this way with a shirt, you are shirtless, so what?”
Nods all round, and a very sweaty and horsey smelling Felix went off to shower with Isaac. Lucas suddenly wondered if he’d brew a little more tea, as he was sure 15 minutes would not be enough!
In any case, after ‘a while’ shall we say, the group had supped their tea, eaten cake sufficient to sink the QEII (look it up, you uneducated Yanks!), and had settled around tables under the acacia at the end of the cricket pavilion, where the score boards were. No games were scheduled that day and the batting nets were set the opposite end of the field, so no one should disturb their meeting, which Felix had somehow blessed with with a case of Tuskers, which mysteriously emerged from under covers of one of the low tables, each 750ml can in a thermal insulator marked ‘Green Bay Packers’!
“How in Hell did you get these covers, Fello?” asked Isaac. He didn’t wonder about the beer, or drinking it in front of a police inspector. Just about the thermos covers keeping the beverages cool. How this boy’s life has changed in a few short months.
“Forget the beer, or covers, or anything just now, Isaac, except why Kip has come all the way down here. You need nine boys, I hear. For an operation before Christmas. Gimme details,” Felix said seriously. He was looking directly across the narrow table he shared at Kip Kipsang.
“How do you know I need nine boys, Felix? I have told only a select group of people. I know for sure Arthur and your father won’t have told you. In fact none of the small community group I briefed in confidence last week would break that seal. So how come you know?”
“Kids always find things out, Kip. Don’t you realise that by now. You can never keep secrets from us. So best cut to the chase. What sort of boys do you need, for what sort of work? And I’m warning you now, if it is truly risky then it’s we Musketeers are going in first this time. No amateurs like Quin.”
So Kip explained the plan. Then Felix asked if he and Isaac could be excused a few minutes. He took his head of training and effectively now also assistant to Lucas as head of Ops and went with him for what was for him a gentle jog around the nearby athletics track, he in Isaac’s shorts and Isaac in his swimming racing yellow trunks.
“OK I think the three to assimilate in a village on the border of Soy Sabaot territory and Iteso land is an easy call. Finch for his gregarious nature, Derry because he knows all about business and knows what to look for, and Harry, as he comes from very near to there and might even recognise some people. “
“Wait, Fello, for that very reason, I’d swap Frank for Harry in that team. Don’t keep Harry hanging around too long. He might draw suspicion. Have him in the Carter’s team. He can still recognise people, but stay more hidden.”
“Good point, Isaac. I knew you were the right man for this job. Any other ideas for the Carter’s team?” Of course Felix had his own choices in mind, but was keen to see if Isaac’s melded with his, and wanted the boy to offer his ideas first.
“”Yes, Cory, as he is semi-local too, and has shown aptitude for operations such as this with his work against the GSU officers. And Grey. I think he deserves an opportunity to go out and show his mettle.”
“I agree with Cory 100 per cent. As for Grey, well I stand to be convinced. I was leaning towards Wheels. He’s keen to get his feet wet too. And the Karamajong team, probably the most at-risk group?”
“Well, Fello, there is obviously Francis and possibly myself too. But as for the third as a Karamajong stand-in, I suppose the best you’ll get is Xavi or possibly Wheels here if not as a Carter boy.”
“I go along with Francis, of course. It would have been Timmy as well if he we were available. You, Isaac? I hadn’t thought about it. I assumed you'd be home coordinator, but of course Lucas could do that. Yes, you could be number two. Third is a problem. I, too, lean towards Xavi mainly as he would be great as a third in case of trouble. You, Francis and Xavi, if it came to trouble, would be as good a fighting trio as any I could think of from among us. I will ask Kip a couple of questions, and then decide.”
By now the two had been steadily jogging for about 30 minutes, at Felix ‘slow’ 6.5 minute mile. So they’d covered almost 5 miles. This was a very light workout for Felix, but for Isaac it had been a killer after swimming for 2 hours. He landed on the sofa beyond the last Acacia, where they gave way to a copse of labernum.
“I assume Fello took you for his slow jog, Isaac,” said David with a wicked grin on his face. “I fell for that one soon after first meeting him in July. I’m amazed it’s taken this long for it to reach you. You must be about the last to fall for it. Light jog my arse!”
Everyone else, but for Kip and Isaac, laughed hilariously at the Frat Boyz captain’s expense.
“Kip. I need an honest answer now. We recognise that of the three teams, the Karamajong Three stand to be at potentially the greatest risk. It may be one or more of them may need to travel some way with them to discover enough to be truly of use. I will require the Operation Director, whom I shall appoint dependent on your answer to a question I shall soon pose, to insist that NO one boy travel onward with the Karamajong traders alone, even if it means losing the operation. And I will put this as a written direction of all three elected officers. My question of you, Kip, is how risky is this operation and how much cover are you giving our boys?”
Kip thought a while before replying. The beer was long gone and the party mood had turned to one of serious business. The atmosphere was sombre and focused.
“Fello, Isaac, David, Lucas. We have done so much together that there is no way that your young years will encourage me to bull shit you. Nevertheless, I can tell you that the degree of risk is not overly great. When your boys sleep over at the carter’s or Karamajong camps, obviously risks are greater. But your boys are trained and we have men around too in significant numbers. So long as you are in Changara, we can handle just about anything. I am more concerned if any of your lads decide to travel beyond the village.”
“Right, then. Subject to Lucas and David’s stamp of approval, Isaac and I have devised the following three teams: The Changara Team, with Finch i.c. also including Derry and Frank. The Carriers Team with Harry i.c. also including Cory and Grey.”
Isaac looked across at Felix at that point, and Felix returned his look with a wink. Obviously he’d been playing along with him to see how far his press his case and had been impressed with how he’d stuck up for his man.
“As for the Karamajong Team. It’s Isaac as i.c. with Francis and Xavi in his team.”
Isaac was a little surprised, if not shocked that Francis was not put as i.c. and approached Felix about it as soon as he could, as others went for tea or to the toilet.
“Isaac. You’re Head of Training. You’re Captain of Frat Boyz. Everyone will know you were involved in choosing the boys for this op. How would it look if then you delegated the leadership to someone not even present at any of these meetings? It would totally undermine your credibility, Isaac. This is the time to not just lead a team in a tournament, but lead a team in the field in real life. I am entrusting my boyfriend’s safety to you while I am 5000 kilometres away, Isaac. That’s how much I trust you. Plus just now admitting to you he’s my boyfriend, of course. Tell anyone else and you’ll be singing soprano all your life, OK?” And Felix smiled one of his killer smiles to his friend.
There was absolutely no come back line for that!
“I have to mention one little thing here, before I leave,” said Kip. “As an added safety measure, I want each team leader to have a GPS marker installed on him. That’s Finch, Harry, and Isaac. To protect each boy lest these are detected by anyone, the boys will carry cards saying they have cardiac pacemakers. But in order for this to be credible, they must have the necessary scar which the surgery for implanting such a device would leave. So Daktari Arthur has agreed to come down here tomorrow to carry out the necessary incisions under local anaesthetic. He assures me it won’t hurt a bit.”
“When will the scars go away?” Isaac asked.
“Never,” was Kip’s honest reply.
“Wear it like a proud battle wound, Isaac,” suggested Lucas.
“Yea, damn,” was Isaac’s final say in the matter.
So term wound itself to an end. The first for the Fraternity. A semester and a previous summer of losses and highs, of new friendships, new schools, new sports, new self discovery. Most of all, a term full of development in spirit. And of awful low points too, of course, learning of the outrages man can commit against man. But how, together, even youth can win against much seemingly insurmountable odds.
On December 16th, boys criss-crossed the country to begin a Christmas Vacation unlike any other the vast majority would ever imagine in his wildest dreams.