The Cornfield Quartet: Book One ~ The Cornfield Fraternity

The Cornfield Fraternity - Chapter Fourteen

 

The Cornfield Fraternity

Chapter Fourteen

 

Augh! Uuuugh....not again, surely.  I thought I made a deal, God.  I'm a bloody (sooory!) good Turkana Catholic, not like most of my clan, sticking to old ideas.  I really, truly accept Jesus as my very, personal Saviour.  I very truly meant it when I said it at first Communion and I mean it now.  I enjoy ministering at the Sanctuary at Mass, as acolyte, server, thurifer, or whatever.  I very, very, very, truly mean, it God.  So when I asked that when I closed my eyes last time you let them stay closed I thought we had a deal....ugh.  

''I guess not!

I can't even call anybody I've got this motherfucking big plastic or some such thing crammed down my esophagus and I cannot even peep...damn it.  My arms are restrained somehow.  But not for long God damn it (sorry again, Lord) I'm not a Turkana for nothing.  

''Ugh! Just a bit harder.  I feel the right one giving......aaaaaaaaaaaaagh.   YES!  But what in hell is all that racket of pings and bells and such?''

 

Where is me? Am I ? Were I ? Was l? Simyiu , pull yourself together boy.  This is heaven of course.  Or Hell.  No, heaven 'cause the place is white.  Sunday school teachers always said hell was red flames.  Heaven was pure white.  So, by some mistake or miracle I somehow made it past Peter and snuck into heaven.  Dad will be sick when he finds out.  He's sure never likely to get here after sending men to kill his own son.  Well, that's what I've worked out happened any road.  It flashed open to me as the blood leaked out of me in that field wherever it was those two men took me.

I saw it all so clearly.  What should have been so obvious before, but  I've always been a bit thick really and my dad , well let's just say it has always been tough for me to see the bad side of him.  Even when mom got sick and he dumped her and took a sexy second wife and shunted her off to live with her mom on the foothills, I couldn't stand it when she talked badly of him.

When she was dying it was me, at 11 that was left to tend for her, but still I didn't blame dad.  I said he must be real busy in the city.  He was busy all right.  Busy getting me a new young brother !  At least he came to the funeral, then he took me back with him to the city.  But I had begun to have epileptic seizures by then, something new for me.  God knows why.  But dad began rejecting me even more.  So I became more and more a true Bukusu boy , a pain in the butt in other words.  

I attacked him for abandoning mom, I called him a paedophile for him, a 45 year old, to take a 17  year old wife, someone just four years older than me.  I asked him if he was into paedophilia, perhaps he'd like incest to add to the list, so would he like a piece of me? I guess that was a bridge too far, as that movie I saw in the video store put it.  Wow my jaw hurt for a week, and I couldn't sit without a cushion for a fortnight.  I still think he overdid the belt a bit.  

The important thing is I touched a nerve.  Talking of nerves.  If I'm in Heaven, why am I hurting a bitch?

God damn it! I was thinking so much I was so focussed on why dad killed me cause I'm the First Born and he needs to get rid of me so the new brat can inherit, that I didn't realise that all over me bloody well hurts.  No, no.  I realise I think I am in heaven, but I must be truthful.  It is more than that.  

I FUCKING HURT!!!!!  And I don't know why I am restrained by these wires and tubes, God damn it!

Now the place is full of bells and loud beeps.  What in Heaven is going on?

 

''Sister, grab Adam from the meeting and tell him Oliver is coming round, and is very proactive,'' said Daktari Tom to the sister who was rushing to the Fraternity unit as it had been nicknamed.  ''Tell him also that I am joining Daktari Arthur who is already attending to Francis who, by some inexplicable happenstance, 24 hours before he's even supposed to be emerging from his post-operative sedation, pulled all his sensor leads and cannulas and tried to get out of bed five minutes ago until he was restrained.  Please ask if Tizzy and Felix could be excused to mask up and join us in the ICU also, please.''

''Certainly, Daktari,'' replied the 20 something nurse, as she went on her mission, quietly smiling to herself and thinking that Daktari Tom, a very good doctor was a Mijikenda, she thought, and simply didn't understand the North Western pastoralist mentality.  Turkanas like Francis would fight every inch, every millimeter of the way.  They survived in areas where sometimes rains failed for two years.  Where a walk of 100 kilometers through dessert scrub barefoot was a walk in the park, for two 10 year old boys alone.  So it didn't surprise her that Francis woke up early.  She was a Pokot herself, a neighbouring tribe, and, incidentally, normally sworn enemies!

 

As soon as Adam received the message he asked David to adjourn the meeting for an hour.  He also asked for two boys to accompany him to be Oliver's companions, just as David and Felix, and now Jesse had and were Philip's.  He also despatched Tobias and Felix to ICU, the latter guiding the way down the labyrinthine corridors and down the ramp onto the lower level where the surgical units are situated.

''Hard to believe dad's father began all of this with one ward of ten beds in 1932, isn't it Tizzy,'' asked Felix?  ''A group of his former college classmates from Edinburgh said they would put up money for the first, proper children's hospital in colonial East Africa if my dad's dad could run a ten bed unit for two years.  He obviously succeeded.  So in 1935 a 52 bed hospital opened and a foundation established to fund it.  The rest, as they say, is progress.  Here we are...Intensive Care Unit.  ICU here in this hospital means one nurse per two beds and a clinical officer on duty on the ward 24/7 with a doctor on call in the hospital at all times too.  There are 12 beds here.  We have this ICU and another 6 bed ICU for patients who have potentially infectious wounds and need more space between beds.''

''The way you say, 'we have this ICU', Felix is like you own the place or something,'' said Tizzy grinning.  He was half making conversation out of nervousness in being in a totally alien environment, and half out of genuine interest.

''The hospital, and everything to do with it, like the choppers in which we've ridden, are owned by that foundation I mentioned was set up over 80 years ago now.  As Adam's son, one of his three kids, I have a share in that Foundation.  So yes, in a small way, about 18.00 per cent or a bit less, I do own the place.''  Felix said this very seriously without great expression, looking down a little.  He looked up when he'd finished, as if primed for some sort of reaction.

''I don't know how many of your friends know what you've just shared with me, Felix.  I suspect not too many from the way they act around you.  I will not change the way I am with you because of what you've just shared.  But I will say that you have an awesome responsibility on such little shoulders.  Anything I can do to help share the load, anyway, anytime, anywhere, just call.  Is that clear?  We can't let your granddaddy down.''

With that Tizzy leant over and gave Felix one of those half hugs so typical of males everywhere.

And they entered the ICU and a world in turmoil.

 

 

Meanwhile, back at the ''Fraternity Unit'' things were not much better.  

''Oliver.  Mukhwas, mukhwas, oriena mukhwas!! Mulembe swa!! Mulembe tena!!'' 

Of the dozen boys who had volunteered to partner Oliver, David chose two who surprised most until he explained his reasoning.  First he chose Dido.  His Kibukusu was excellent.  He knew the Bringitar streets like Oliver did so maybe they had mates in common.  Dido had lost an older brother on the streets; this was a way to redress the balance a bit.  Second he chose Stevie, his brother.  The boy was new, needed a new challenge.  He'd recently lost his sister in hospital so needed to learn good things can come from hospital too, not just death.  He also needed to understand that not all Fraternity work involved fighting.  Some of it is quiet work like this.

So it was Dido who was greeting Oliver, ''Welcome brother, hello, brother, peace, great peace, absolute peace. ''

That is not a perfect translation.  Perfect translations are impossible from most Bantu languages directly, because there is so much underlying meaning, particularly in greetings.

Mulembe, the greeting common to all 16 Luyha sub dialects spoken by the 7.5 million Luyhas in Kenya and the 1.5 million in Uganda means “Peace for your day, Hello, Good Day, Marvelous to see you.”  All of this.  Add to this the suffix swa and you multiply the greeting with ''so, very, very much''! And if, instead you add the suffix tena, well your adding ''I can't possibly tell you how much I mean this when I say it so, so much!'' So the absolute, ultimate greeting Dido could offer Oliver, one a Chief would offer the Queen Elisabeth if she were to visit his location, for example, would be, “Oriena! Mulembe.  Mulembe swa.  Mulembe tena.”

''Who, what? I hadn't thought which language they spoke in Heaven.  In Sunday school books, Jesus had a reddish beard and fair skin, so I guess I thought we'd all be speaking Kiingilesi.  But Kibukusu! And the voice sounds younger than mine.  But, the pain.  .....well at least all that racket from bells and pings and things has stopped.  But the pain.....”

 

''Oliver, can you hear me? I'm holding your left hand.  If you can hear me, just squeeze your left hand,'' said Dido in Kibukusu.

Meanwhile Stevie had wet a  clean Terry cloth with warm water infused with Acanthus oil.  He proceeded to gently clean Oliver's face, focusing on his eyes, nose, and around his mouth were saliva and mucus had gathered.

 

''What the......I don't get this.  The pain is a lot better.  It just seemed to ease all of a sudden.  Perhaps Grandmother is right and there is a God, it's just that it's been hard to credit such a being in my life recently.  But still I believed in Heaven.  I was never hot on logic.  I was not quite 14 when I got taken out after all.  I can be cut some slack.   But, waaay.....what's this with the squeeze the hand? Who is this? Where am I really? Stop a mo here! What's with this on my mush? Is a big fat cat licking my nose here? Waaay! A wet finger up my nose here!! What the bluebells by the shady lake is happenin' here?  Now this very pretty smelling tongue like thing, no not a tongue, but whatever, is cleaning my lips, my lips even.  Where next I'm tempted to ask myself.  But I will say it is very pleasurable.  If this is Heaven perhaps this is one of those virgins who........  oh , no that's for Muslims only, I remember Ishmael, when we were at a school camp together in Kitale when I was 10 and he came from Mumias Muslim Primary, showing me in the Q'ran that he was going to have, I can't remember how many, but lots of virgins, waiting for him when he gets to heaven.  Perhaps when he gets here he'll share a few if he gets tired.

''But back to this squeezing the hand bit...??? Should I risk it???? He'll, what do I have to lose.  If I'm dead, I can't be more dead.  If I'm not, then what on earth is going on with this cat up my nose and a Bukusu dwarf or girl squeezing my damn hand?

“So.......”

 

 

ICUs are typically the most ordered and, apart from the beeps of monitors, the quietest of the 75 or so units at Children's Foundation Hospital.  Even the single bedded units generally generate more volume of audible activity than the 12 very sick children in this critical ward.  It was an unfortunate statistic that, other than Post Op Unit, it was from ICU 1, this unit, that most fatalities on the hospital's ledger originated, in terms of deaths per bed unit.  Regrettably they lost, on average, six children a week.  Post Op lost 11 in that period normally.  That was the price of a class 1 trauma centre.  You got only the patients other hospitals wouldn't take.  Add to that the distance many cases travelled and the time lapse since the initial injury, and the miracle was that death rates were not far higher.

In fact, of course.  Many admissions never survived even to get to surgery.  They were admitted as palliative care and later transferred to nearby nursing Anglican and Catholic sisters to care for during their few surviving days or perhaps weeks.  Others didn't survive surgery, perhaps around 11 per cent falling into this category.  An absurdly high figure for a hospital in Birmingham or Boston or Berlin or Brisbane but incredibly low given the kinds of cases dealt with.

But even these figures hide the true level of fatalities totally outside the hospital's control.  Neurosurgery, for example, is a specialty outside the gamut of staff surgeons at Children's.  So are certain types of cardiovascular surgery, such as transposition of the great arteries and all transplant surgery.  For these the Foundation either relies on volunteer surgeons who come in and help for a week or two every year or two, or it raises money to fund a group of kids and some staff to go to an accommodating hospital in Europe (US hospitals being far too expensive) each year for six weeks.  A group of 12 has been taken each year.  (Note - by 2017 134 kids have taken this trip.  134 have returned successfully.)

But for every child accepted for such specialist surgery, whether by volunteers during their 2-week visit, or by going to the Netherlands, Spain or Switzerland, about 20 children had to be turned down.  A majority of those would not survive to be considered the next year.  Of the 36 kids the Foundation's advance team could pull out of a village about to be attacked by the opposing militia in South Sudan, by crushing in 48 or 50 when the limit was supposed to be 36, the triage doctor, maybe Tom, or Adam, or any of six or seven others, would be leaving over 500 others with just 11 or 12 almost impotent UN peacekeepers.

The choice once any critically injured are aboard is a stark one.  If one leaves girls aged 10 to 20 they will be gang raped by the approaching militia.  The UN soldiers will undoubtedly put up an initial show of force with their two hum vees but against over 200 armed militia they will have to withdraw or be wiped out.  So if one leaves boys aged 10 to 20, they will be mercilessly killed.  

So they took 50 boys, every one they could possibly cram in until the pilot cried that he wouldn't be able to take off.  

So fatalities in ICU is just the tip of the iceberg for doctors in East Africa.  It's not like working in the Lower East Side, exactly.

So when Felix and Tizzy entered ICU and the end bed on the left, far side saw Daktari Arthur trying to restrain Francis without hurting him or undoing any sutures or upsetting bandages, while Francis was trying to shout while Daktari Tom had a mask over his face and two nurses were failing totally to reconnect his drip to one cannula and blood to another, because he was moving about so much.

''We're going to have to sedate him again, and I hate doing that,'' said Tom.

''I can't see we have a choice.  The boy will undo every suture and bleed out or something if he goes on like this,'' replied Arthur.

''If you'll let me.  I have the solution,'' said Felix as he came to the foot of the bed, ''but I'd be more comfortable if the nurses weren't around, though if they absolutely must be here I would require they swear to keep to themselves what they hear.''

''Very mysterious, Felix.  But.....''

Dr. Tom looked over at the two sisters who were getting nowhere with their tasks.  ''Sisters, take a five minute break.  Felix is going to try to talk some sense into his good friend.  Let's see if he gets anywhere.  I'll call you over when he's finished.''

The greatly relieved pair of nurses went off to join their colleagues at the nursing station 12 meters away to grab some java.  

''Make your magic Felix,''  said Daktari Tom.

Felix went up to the Turkana boy, the one who had shared the entrapment of Sergeant Langat with Tizzy and him.  The one he'd watched run to cover Alex when the Gabra boy had gone down yesterday - was it only yesterday  - and whom he, Felix - then felt compelled to run to protect until felled.

His lower face was all one great bandage, but his eyes were clear as ever.  

He looked straight into them.  Felix knew everyone was silent now.  He had Francis's head in his two hands as he actually knelt on his bed.  He moved Francis's hand and placed it on his leg, where he knelt.  Everyone was quiet, expecting a soothing, dulcet, few words, to act as an emollient.  Arthur had the word 'mellifluous' on his mind as Felix opened his mouth.

''YOU DAMN STUPID, HAIRBRAINED, HALFWITTED, SHIT-HEADED FUCKING PASTORALIST IDIOT, FRANCIS KIYONGA!''

There was an audible intake of breath by the two medics, but perhaps, was it a sniff or a choked back snigger from Tizzy.

''But you're brave as all hell too, a true Turkana warrior, and I'd walk from here to Lokichogio to support anything you're doing.  But for now, you're in hospital.  You've been shot – OK?  Tizzy and Finch are looking after you, he's a new guy in our group, but real tough.  Now you got shot in your lung, so no walking for a couple of days.  Your knee in one leg, well you'll need a totally new one.  Should be interesting.  I'm going to ask to come in to watch that surgery.  The better you behave, the quicker they do this, the quicker you learn how to walk with it, the faster you're back kickin' again, ok?

''Before you say anything, you can't say anything.  Much as I shall miss hearing your dulcet tones these coming couple of weeks or so, I have heard people use the term ‘he just shot off his mouth one time too many’.  Well, I guess, somebody reckoned what you did with the camera qualified.  You shot too many images.  They took it out on your beautiful mouth.  Look on the bright side.  The maxillofacial plastic surgeon Dad has lined up to fix you is fantastic.  I've seen her work.  You're going to look a whole lot better after the surgery than you did before.  Mind you, and I know everyone here joins me in this,'' and Felix looked around with a conspiratorial look, giving Tizzy a wink, to which he returned with a nod though he knew not to what, ''yes, that we all agree that anything has to be an improvement on what you looked like before.''

Tom, Arthur and Tizzy couldn't stop themselves bursting into laughter, though Tom felt bad thinking that Francis couldn't get back on his friend.

''But there is one little thing my good, good, friend, which is why I asked the sisters to leave.  Your hands are all bandaged up and everything, but you're still 12 and still Turkana and still a great hero in my book for throwing your life in harm's way for a boy you barely knew.  A true brother in my book.  I now have a little reputation as the boy who caught Sergeant Langat by providing him with a blow job.  Afterwards, he said I was good at it.  Hmm! I wonder.  Would you be so kind as to give me a second opinion? ''

With that Felix embarrassed Arthur, amused Tom, had Tizzy in fits of laughter, and for 10 minutes (for he had learned a bit on the internet about some ways of keeping people to and fro as he chose to call it) had Francis in ecstasy.

Finally, licking his lips a little, Felix looked again at Francis's other head and first asked, ''So? Hold my hand.  No squeeze for useless.  One squeeze for OK, but don't come again.  Two squeezes for I like and when can we meet again, and three squeeze for pant,pant, pant, don't go!!''

He got four squeezes.

''You tasted really sweet too.  Redolent of the desert, goat’s milk and lemon.  If you are a compliant, well-behaved patient, when I come to visit, as I shall every day unless I am sent someplace, then I'll see the nurses leave us alone for 15 minutes, ok? The only time I may be away is when I go north with Alex, you know?''

Francis was gesturing wildly with his hand.  Meanwhile Tom whispered in Felix's ear that no opportunity had arisen to tell Francis of Alex's death, of course.

''Francis,'' said Felix.  ''I will make sure sister has pencil and paper here for you from now on.  But it is my job as your friend, my best friend, to tell you about Alex.  Francis, Alex was dead when he hit the ground, or very soon thereafter.  Dad said he got hit four rounds rapid fire.  He stood no chance.  I expect that David and I will travel north to Laikipia next week for the burial.  They have the gunman under arrest.  I'll be in court tomorrow for his arraignment at Webuye.  That's all.  Now Tizzy I feel sure will be happy to fill in for me the couple of days I shall be away.'' Felix smiled as Tizzy nodded enthusiastically.

 

 

''It squeezed back harder  harder!!  This can't be real.  Well, of course it's not real, real  real.  Like in real life, real.  Cause this is after life reality real, like.  Or am I talking a lot of shit, as usual, because I'm as confused as all bollocks by this squeezing hand and this tongue that isn't a tongue which may or may not belong to a vertical virgin, or whatever Ishmael said they were called.  Whatever, why would one of them stick her finger up my left nostril? And I'm real woozy too, but the pain.....what pain? Did I ever say pain?  No siree Bob, whoever Bob was.  There it goes again that wet tongue thing.  Only it's on my stomach now.  Licking my belly button.  When you've watched some of the street boys you know that's an erosis, no, that's not right, eroctic, no.........erotic, that's it.  What was....oh yes this tongue...!

“Did I men.....who the Fuck am I talking to ,  myself here.  Am I going demented at almost 14 like great auntie Gretta, or what!

“But, did I mention the pain is gone? Waaaaaaaaaay! That hand is gripping me again….”

''Oliver.  Focus Damn your eyes.  I know you're in there you bone headed Bukusu.  Think of your grandma Victoria who's worried for you.  I am Didemous, but call me Dido.  I am going to be your number one friend.  But first I will be your number one tormentor, because I want you up and out of that bed.  So.........Oliver Simiyu! Speak!''

And Dido squeezed Oliver's hand hard as he could,, which was very hard.  Simultaneously Stevie took a very wet towel and began washing the boy's feet and legs.

''I cannot manage all this information.  I'm sure I heard Kibukusu again.  Lots of it with my name and my grammy's name too.  More, the grip on my hand is now quite firm, certainly no virgin girl.  No girl I want to meet anyhow.  Then this great wetness all over my legs.  If my head and my belly maybe were big cats tongues, no way this is, it cannot be any cat I ever saw, nor one I want to see for that matter! Damn it's wet.  It feels like I pissed myself.  You remember, that warm wet feeling trickling......oh, forget I mentioned it.  Teen involuntary micturation my doctor called it.  He said it was caused by shock after mom died in my arms.  It stopped after a couple of months, but the epilepsy stayed.  I think it would have been better for me the other way around.  Easier to hide a bit of piss than jerking around on your back on the street for 45 seconds and then being unconscious.”

''Look here you ignorant know nothing, good for a broken shilling, pot head, shit eating, bum fucking, rent boy, you may be a disgrace to all the rest of us Bukusu, indeed all Luyha boys, but for some reason Daktari Adam wants to save your sorry, useless, ragged ass, so stop waiting to die.  You’re not dead.  You’re not going to die unless I kill you, which is a temptation just now and if you continue this way, I may snap and fulfill your wish for you.  My brother died because some street slime gave him doctored Molly.  He choked on his own vomit just 30 yards from the hospital gates he was trying to reach.  Now you may be the guy gave it him.  I don't know.  I don't care.  Cause Daktari Adam has trusted little me to help him help you.

“Oliver, for a big mzungu daktari to entrust a big responsibility to a young boy like me, a nobody from nowhere, is huge.  So get it through your psychotic or epileptic or whatever epileptic skull that even if I have to kill you to do it, you WILL get better.  Are we straight?

''Now squeeze my hand back if you understand.  Or there WILL be consequences.''

 

“I'm listening to this voice drolling on and on, grasping about one word in three, while my head reels from one planet to another.  Consequences, Hmm! Sounds bad.  Not dead??! I'm not dead he said.  Wait on ........a..........second.........there.  Not dead? I'm not getting this.  

“Swath.  Stop stop no!!! Don't.  I will wet no........  no..Stop..  ha.  Ha.......haha.....hahaha.....Stop.I.tell.you,     piss on you...........trespasses..hahaha...........I.do.it,see.sqeeeeeeeeeeze.   hard enough for you.

''My name is Oliver Simyiu.  I am......ha.ha.ha....stop.please....a Bukusu and I am NOT a rent ....he.ha boy,  you fucking bastard whoever you are.''

Dido and Stevie stood and applauded while Adam and the young nurse who was helping him, Faith Khatiti - a slip of a girl who suited her name perfectly for it meant tiny in Luyha - looked on bemused as the successful conclusion to a most unusual method of inducing resuscitation from a subconscious semi-comatose state.

''Most off-the-book and would probably get me shot if that was done in North America or Europe, but highly effective, chaps,'' said Adam with a chuckle as he clapped Dido and Stevie on the back.  ''Tickle Resuscitation Therapy by Dido, I can see you present the paper at the next Pan African Neurological Congress,'' mused Adam with a smile.

''Would one of you stay and eat with him now, before you say both of you I suggest one so that as many as possible are at the second part of the meeting just outside.  You may even alternate, to and fro.''

This was agreed and Dido stayed first.  So when early supper was brought the hospital residents and the sister recommended Dido try Lasagna, something he'd never even heard of before, he sat on the side of Oliver's bed and offered the older boy a fork as sister suggested it was a better way to tackle this  food,  which she said first came from Italy.  

''You have to try new things, boys,'' Sister Khatiti, who was only four or five years Oliver's senior, had said. ''Here at Children's we always have a choice at lunch and supper.  There's always a traditional local dish with ugali, and then there's something else.  It can be a Coastal dish, something Wahindi, Chinese, European like tonight, other parts of Africa, Arabian food, once I remember we had a Japanese food called sushi because we had some students here.  One was a very rich boy from a wealthy family and he wanted us to try this special Japanese food.  So he had it brought here from a restaurant in Dubai.  Enough for 200 people.  I think about 70 patients tried it with this special very sticky rice and all different hot and spicy sauces.  All I can say is every scrap was eaten and everyone clapped Takihito when he did rounds next day.  We're looking forward to his return next year.''

''What was that special food?''

Dido and Sister were shocked.  This was the first time Oliver had just come out with a long string of words like that, a whole sentence, a question even.

''Oh, it was beautiful, Oliver, it was a combination of fish, seaweed, tofu, beans like soya, but all patterned and rolled and made to look so lovely.  And then with some very hot stuff called wasabi, and other spicy sauce and I don't know.  But the magic was everything was uncooked.''

Sister hoped she was drawing him out further by leaving this statement to the end.  She had judged correctly.

''You mean, even the fish was uncooked.  Like, raw?''

When she simply nodded, everyone paused for a bit, then gingerly tasted their first sampling of Italian cuisine.  By the look of the plates less than 5 minutes later, Mediterranean cookery could reasonably be adjudged a success by at least two Bukusu.

 

» » » » » « « « « «

District Commissioner Rashid Hussein stood and everyone suddenly stopped chattering and the garden was quiet, save for the birds and the hum of the generators and the distant sound of a cow bell.

''Boys, men, friends, this tough time is made a little easier knowing Alex found true companionship in his last days, a friendship I feel he might have had for years if he'd attended school with Felix and others rather than have been sent abroad to study.  But life is full of 'what if’s' and history cannot be re-written.  So my task, and if you'll accept it, your task alongside me, will be to continue this time line beyond Joshua and Alex to root out those who are at the root of a malaise which results in people being afraid, traders being blackmailed, boys being raped, abused and killed, and now mass shootings taking place.  Open warfare on the streets of my district.  

“I will not countenance this situation.  The corruption is obviously deep seated, goes into very influential levels of every corner of my district's administration and security services, and is well established and long standing.  In other words, to use street language, it's going to be a bastard to beat.

''But, by God, if it takes my last breath to do so, best this Money Mafia I will.   Chief Juma will now explain some of our proposed strategy.  Then you can decide whether you're in or out.''

Just as Mike Juma was about to stand, his son Matt beat him to it, as was becoming his wont.

''Sorry to I interrupt again.  Well, not really, but then…  I just thought I'd clarify something for the record, as someone seems to have missed it, or been off in the ozone somewhere.  Our Fraternity have already voted to continue with the fight to bring to justice those who attacked everyone so far attacked and to take on the battle against those who misuse street kids and corrupt our administration.  So for 17 boys it's done, dusted, settled.  Just tell us what you want us to do and leave us to get on with it.  Stop wasting fucking time, for God's sake.  I don't know about the rest of the lads, but I am soooooo hot to kick some ass!!!''

There were cheers from Stevie, Dak, Finch, Tizzy who had arrived back from ICU with Felix just as the DC rose to his feet, Jesse, Robbie and Frankie.  The others applauded him politely, though it was noted by David that Mark, while he smiled at his brother broadly, kept his hands otherwise engaged.

''Thank you for your sempiternal message, requiring us, my son, if we followed your path today, to cease being furtive, sneaky, and surreptitious in our work to slither our way into the inner workings of the Money Mafia, as the DC has newly coined the name for this corrupt network, '' said Mike Juma.  ''Instead, you would have us, perhaps you as the personal harbinger, cease our dissembling and just rush in with guns blazing today.  Oh we would catch a few sprats in our net.  But our victory would be an evanescent one.  The real crooks would live to devise new plans and recruit new little elvers.  

''No, no, my brave, keen, well-intentioned boy, your brothers and my officers, and the community leaders here must conflate and create a plan so solid that when we spring into operation there can be no escape.  There will be work to do in preparation, so don't think you'll be sitting around doing nothing.  

''David, with your permission, I would now like to ask Kip Kipsang to explain how we proceed from here in detail.'' David simply nodded, so the young police sergeant rose, yet again.

 

''You know, it is hard for me to get my head around my transfer from a lowly police constable to Desk Sergeant with operational responsibility for these 18 highly skilled boys all in under a week or so.  It is very clear that when Chief Juma said he was a new broom, he sure intended to clean with a vengeance.''

As was becoming his forte, Sergeant Kip had found a great way to relax his audience after the previous speaker's highly charged talk.  Chief Juma looked at him and immediately recognised senior officer potential in the lad in years to come.  A real talent.

''This group needs to be much smaller to make sensible operational units.  First of all, of course, I recognise that Pastor Hezekiah, you Emanuel, Mzee Ochieng, Dave and your partner Babu, and Sarah from your office Willi are working on influencing other shopkeepers and community leaders, and trying to adjudge from the reaction you’re getting how many and which are influenced by, afraid of, or even part of this Mafia as we'll call it for simplicity's sake.

''Then Patrick, and Brother Robert are already involved with street boys.  I need more in this team.  I will explain why once they are in the team.  I don't want to explain it here.  This is a place to lay down a few ground rules now.  You may have committed yourself to this, but you may back out when you hear these rules.  They apply to everyone except those employed by Willi Wanyonyi or Daktari Adam or those I have already named.

''For the duration of the long school holiday, and possibly beyond that depending on requirements, except when an operation requires otherwise, all operatives will sleep at Casa de Medicos or Children's Hospital, as required.  No more going home.  Second, you will normally sleep in your teams.  You will be briefed with your teams.  You may discuss with other teams, unless told otherwise.  There will be times when you may discuss plans with no one.  When not on operation you must help around the house.  Everyone must help with our less able brothers in hospital.  Finally, to keep fit, in teams of at least three, everyone must run a minimum of 8 km in a continual run each day.

''So for the street boys team I have obviously chosen Tizzy, and I have added Dido , ''  There was a very audible ''yeeeessssss'' from the younger boy to this news, ''and next Francis when he's better, which I know, Adam, won't be for a while so don't worry.  I would have added Oliver too, but waiting for two sick kids is too much,''

''I don't know if I'm interrupting or not, but why not me? I know the streets a bit,''interrupted  Felix.

''First let me say that you are an obvious choice and you will be working with this team from time to time, but Chief Juma and I have decided that David and you will be floaters, attached to no one particular group, but joining whichever group I feel needs either or both of you at any particular time.  But I am putting Matt - because of his South Rift experience and because they seem to get on well together I am adding Dak as well.  

''So that is Tizzy, Dido, Matt and Dak to help Patrick and Brother Robert.  I am making Dido team leader for our boys because he knows the language, the streets, and has earned the right by how he handled himself in Police cells for two days.  He is a plucky kid.

''Next team is Intel.  Obviously for this you need some knowledge of books, maps, the area, and now computers.  Alex was our crack hacker.  David reckoned he could follow in his footsteps.  Gabe also wanted a shot at it.  During our extended break, Chief Juma and I took the opportunity to let them put their money, or rather their reputations, where their mouths were.  What I can say, unequivocally, is that both run rings round both me and the Chief on computers.  I called in the Hospital head of IT and he got them going a bit more.  In the end, it emerged that both are able hackers.  David could get into any one of yours or my PCs quite easily, but Alex's programme for getting into the national mainframe of the Secretary of internal security was beyond him.  It was not beyond Gabe, though.  Gabe reckoned he probably could not have written that code from scratch himself, but he could work it out now he'd seen it.

''So Gabe is team leader of the new Intel team.  Because Intel is much, much more than computers, I am adding Bryan because he has intimate knowledge of the area and his new found friend Frankie who knows every pannier route on the mountain according to his brother and Jesse because you'll need someone to travel out to Bringitar and places to gather info for you that isn't on the internet.

''Undercover is a vital part of our work.  It is also, unfortunately, extremely risky.  Do you have the propinquity to smell having been recognised?  It's that sensitive a person, a boy I need for this team.  They will be going places to listen.  Starting in a bar, perhaps, recognising a hint.  Following it to an open window.  Then to another.  Then another.  Then God only knows where.  You'll have money for pikis, and maybe have to sleep rough some nights, who knows? Just follow the hint......keep in touch by phone and another brother will tail you if it looks like a real hot tip.

''For this team, if you agree, I have chosen Mark, Robbie, Stevie, Finch and Abel with Lucas as your anchorman back at base.  Having a Comms anchor is vital for undercover work, which is why I kept Lucas aside from Intel, though you can help Gabe when you're not busy Lucas, OK?'' The boy just smiled his usual enigmatic smirk.

''As team leader I have decided on Mark.  By the way, after a couple of weeks, if things are not panning out, just tell me and you can simply choose someone else as your leader.  This is just to get you started.''

''Just a small, logistical question, then, Kip or Skip we could call you like we call our chief coach at school.  Whatever.  If I am team leader,'' said Mark, ''and say, David, who is our overall Fraternity leader or even Felix, his deputy, were to join us for an op, who is leading then?''

''Nobody but an almost teenager or a teenager would worry about such a question at such a time, '' interceded Chief Mike, laughing quietly.  ''But to reply to your question, you are team leader, but you may not lead each and every op.  Whoever leads that op leads it, regardless of even if I appear on the scene.  Even the DC couldn't interfere in the orders of an op leader once the op was underway.''

''Wow!'' was the only response Mark could manage.

David stood up at last.

''It's been a long and fruitful afternoon and we have much to think about.  Oliver and Francis are awake.  I understand Felix is already negotiating with his dad to have as many as possible moved to the Casa as soon as we can.  The question marks obviously surround Philip, Oliver and Francis.  But tomorrow is another day, and begins for some, like Felix and Mark at Webuye.  

 

''Wekhera, Lala salama, kwaherini.”    (Good night in Kiwanga, Sleep in Peace , see you all tomorrow, both in Kiswahili.)

 

» » » » » « « « « «

 

''Come in, come in, come in!  God damn it!  And who are these good gentlemen accompanying you, my dear Mr Wanyonyi?''  The question was being posed by a tiny, brown man wearing a somewhat worn once classy grey pinstripe suit over a perfectly pressed white shirt and blue Windsor knot tie.  He sat behind a desk even more work than his attire and littered with stacks of files tied with light red ribbons fastened into tidy little bows.

The very essence of the man surrounded by red tape, thought Mike to himself, awaiting introductions to be made.

''Your Honour, this is the new District Police Chief, Chief Superintendent Michael Juma, whom you will recognise from having read as having been responsible for bringing the necessary evidence forward for state prosecutors to bring charges against key figures in a criminal conspiracy to subvert justice among police officials in Mignanori district.  And to my right is Counsellor Omar Majdi Omar of the Inner Temple now practicing here in East Africa having been born here and accredited to all three of the common law jurisdictions here in East Africa, your Honour.  He is also permitted as a friend of the court in Rwanda.  He represents the interests of the three boys in this case, Sir, though I understand they appear only as witnesses, indeed this morning only two of them are here in person.  One has a friend of the court who has his sworn Affidavit.''

''Thank you Willi.  He, my friend, the excellent protector of human rights here in Bringitar district was so busy ensuring he did a tip top job introducing you two good folk to me, he missed out telling you who I was, so firstly, take a seat the three of you, with my long time secretary, aide, friend, and general factotum, Daniel Makokha, and I will introduce myself.

''I am Noah Okidi, Deputy Chief Stipendiary Magistrate of this district, and head magistrate here at Webuye.  Very wisely, Willi steered your case away from the far more busy, more politically charged, and shall we say, more sensitive, melée which is the magistrates court scene at district headquarters in Bringitar.  I have only 9 months remaining until my statutory retirement.  I have absolutely no desire to enter politics thereafter.  None, zero.  Zilch.  I also have no wish to sit at home watching my wife plucking chickens, occasionally being called upon to evict a snake from the kitchen, and listening to nonsense babble.  So I have already asked a couple of universities for a Readership so I may work with young IT researchers to encourage them to develop software to help future magistrates not have mountains of paper tied up with pink ribbons as I have to contend with each day.  Better that than they just build better video games all the time don't-you-know!

''But Chief, talking of games, it's a rich and risky game you're upon, and you're asking me to join up to.  Mignanori is just like tiddly-winks to contract bridge when you take on the deep seated and very deep pockets of the corruption ring in the justice and police system in Bringitar and wider Western.  Sometimes I've felt like Don Quixote here these past nine years since I was transferred from Machakos.  But now we're talking serious, what's that modern English expression my youngest kids use.....  ah yes, take down.  That's it.  We're now talking serious take down.  So, Chief Juma, do you have sufficient interrupted and incorruptible officers to both carry out your investigation AND to protect those helping you who are civilians, such as these boys, and Willi and his staff, and, I must add, me.  I only have one 62 year old Administration police security officer.  I don't think, try as he might, he could catch a cold, let alone a gunman.

''And before you answer me with excited enthusiasm for all the great officers you've been surprised to find here, take my advice, before you trust one, single, sole, Luyha officer of any grade, run him or her past Willi here first.  I love my neighbouring Luyha, truly I do, even though as a Teso we have a traditional enmity.  I am married to one after all.  But each is very loyal to both his Bakoki, which Chief you won't know not being from Western, but means a Bukusu boy circumcised the same August alternate year, and to a lesser extent to his clan.  So he may be charming and smile to you.  But I can tell you, a good, charismatic Luyha could get the Pope to give up chastity - and I am talking about a teenage boy here when both Luyhas and Catholics call homosexuality an abomination.'' And the judge chuckled.

Chief Juma smiled back, thinking to himself that here was a tough old bird who he was certainly pleased was, outwardly at least, in his corner.  He would have made a formidable adversary.

''Thank you for your guidance, your Honour.  Indeed, since arriving I have found the rot here, at least at district headquarters in Bringitar Police Station, to run very deep and broad.  I have already used my license given by the Permanent Secretary to get my Chief Inspector, my Detective Inspector and my Desk Sergeant transferred out of province.  In fact all reception staff are now either in Eastern, Northeastern or North Rift.  I have a whole new Desk and Reception staff under a 24 or 23, I can't be sure, year old sergeant who is a Soy Sabaot.  My gaol staff is in the process of being totally changed too, with a sergeant transferring in from Busia, a Luo, to take charge.  I have asked Nairobi for two key personnel, a Chief Inspector from Laikipia but who is a Maragoli by birth, and a Detective Inspector from Kericho who is a Marach.  I hope I can get both as I have worked with them before and know them to be excellent.  Finally I have asked for an extra Inspector from Nairobi, who currently works in the Kibera division.  I want this person especially for the city of Bringitar and the street crimes and street kids.  She is a Taita.''

''Sorry to interrupt, Chief.  But did you say she is a Taita.  She, as in female of the species?,'' asked the magistrate with a glint in his eyes, not in any way hidden by his fine gold-rimmed spectacles.

''Mr Deputy Chief Magistrate Sir,'' Mike Juma began, with a smile and a hint of sarcasm in his voice, ''I always find a female she more to my personal preference than any other kind.''

This brought a round of laughter, even to the two police officers, one stationed at each door to the large office, which, typical of most public administrative places of work Mike had seen in his travels all over his country, was painted in a green no natural plant had ever grown up to an average man's waist, then what is politely referred to as Off-white.  He just called it off-putting.  Why not clean colours.  Why unnatural, yuck hues?  As his boys would say, whatever!

''This 34 year old Inspector is outstanding, Sir.  I want her because I feel she is just the rôle model we need to show girls and young women out here that there is more to life than becoming someone's second or third wife.  And, if you'll forgive my bluntness, she's damn good working with people working at the very bottom of the social ladder.  When, as she has, you've worked in Kibera slums for two years, there's just about nothing in the field of social and moral depravity you haven't seen.  But also, you've seen true community spirit at its best.  1.2 million people in one section of Nairobi, not even recognised as a place at all for decades.  Do you know, Sir, that still today, in 2005, for those 1.2 million souls, the city provides just six, listen to me six toilets.  That works out at one for every 200,000 bums! Hope nobody gets diarrhea, eh!''

''Just carry on Chief.....you were saying.........''

''Yes, your Honour (with a slight smirk on his face, Mike continued) I have apportioned my aforementioned Soy Sergeant, one 'Kip' Kipsang as my link man and coordinator of all operations involving the 17 boys  inv..''

''Wait, stop.  Sorry to abruptly shoot you in mid-flight as it were, but did you say seventeen  boys.  I thought there were two or three, but 17!! What on earth is going on? Why are so many involved? I'm sorry, but this concerns me greatly.  Willi, Chief...can either one of you explain why I should countenance my continued involvement in something which appears to me to involve a ragtag of pubescent tearaways?''

It was Willi Wanyonyi, who had known Noah Okidi even before he'd been posted away to Isiolo, who took up the cudgels.

''My old friend, you know I wouldn't be bringing you to your court house at 6.00 in the morning to prepare you for a 7.00 o'clock session, two hours before general sessions if everything hadn't been thought out to the t.  By God man, I thought you knew me better than that.  If Mike Juma and I have 17 boys we have 17 of the finest God damn boys in all of East Africa.  Their leader, or he prefers coordinator because even at 12 he rates the idea of primus inter pares (First among Equals), even if he doesn't know what it is, (There were chuckles here by Noah and Mike ).  He took his dying sister on his back 11 kilometers and then by matatu to Bringitar.  When she died, rather than sulk, he took to helping the badly injured, assaulted boy, Philip in a nearby bed.  Philip and David - they are two of the 17.  David's younger brother Stevie and his mates, Dak and Finch, who devised a plan to save a community watering hole from being taken over by a bullying family, but had to fight it out in the process are also in the 17.  So is the next brother, Frankie, because we would all have had to fight him to keep him out, he's such a plucky 9 year old.

''Then we have the son of the man who first found Philip crawling on that pathway, Robbie, and his friend Abel, both of whom walked 5 kilometers to volunteer to help, and Jesse from the same village, the last boy Philip spoke to before he was abducted and attacked.  Next comes Dido, a truly brave 10 year old whom I found in the police cells without charge, having been there overnight.  His older brother had died on the streets of Bringitar from drugs and he sees it as a duty to bring down the street drugs pushers.  It was for confronting such a guy and causing a noise he was arrested.  He is definitely one of the 17.  So are both of Chief Mike's twin sons, Matt and Mark who have experience working with a streets kids programme with their school in the South Rift.

''On to nicknames now.  First comes Tizzy.  He is a street boy.  Or he was one.  We aim to change that if he'll agree.  He will be in court today.  Second in a slightly older boy at 14, who will join us next week, nicknamed Wheels.  His brother Joshua died last week defending himself against two men.  The two we firmly believe attacked Philip and another boy we have in hospital with similar injuries, Oliver.  Josh gave us a comprehensive description of his attackers before he died.  He was determined to hold on to life until he'd done so.

''Of course a few of our 17 are still bed-ridden.  Lucas is a Teso and is going to anchor our undercover operations.  Gabe is a previously undiscovered ace computer hacker and is going to take over the excellent work started by Alex who was killed at Kopsiro, and Bryan is going to do the intelligence work involving mapping and planning and so on.  Bry is in hospital because he was a victim of attempted murder by a police officer.  He is another case that needs urgent investigation.

''The last pieces of the 17 piece jigsaw are the other two involved in today's court hearing.  One is Francis, a 12 year old Turkana, who joined initially simply because his father, the Bringitar Hospital head gatekeeper, told him how much he admired the way David had brought his sister all the way from the mountain alone and got her admitted quickly and then that inspired him to get involved in David's new project with Philip.  Now, of course, Francis's totally selfless act in jumping to cover Alex from the bullets raining on him had made the pastoralist not the hero of the Fraternity, as the boys have called themselves.  Then there is Felix, Daktari Adam's son, probably the most naturally charismatic 12 year old, if not early teen even, I have ever met.  If he had not ruled himself out he would certainly have been leader of these boys.  But he sees the need to be free to run thither and yon as he said to my assistant Zak the other day.  He is the one, among all the boys, I am most scared for.  He feels deeply, personally responsible for Alex's death.  And he has deep feelings for Francis who is grievously injured.  He will take risks to avenge them.  I know he will.  And he's far too intelligent for us to be able to hem him in.

''So, Noah, your Honour.  There are your 17.  You or the aptly coined Money Mafia will underestimate them and will make a gross error in judgement.''

''Before you say anything, Sir, '' put in Mike Juma suddenly, '' We are, of course, not simply putting out a bunch of kids on a limb and saying, 'Get on with it'.  Firstly, with those working with street boys there is already a street programme involving a coordinator employed by Adam's Foundation and involving both major churches.  Add to that a Postulant brother and Willi's assistant Zak.  I also have brought in four undercover officers from outside divisions to watch certain banks and suspected drug dealers I suspect are working in collusion with police officers with street boys as couriers.  In the Intel area, I am currently working to see if the IT WPC at our police HQ can merge her work with what Gabe is doing at Casa, but I will be honest, Sir, all of this stuff in 2005 technology  is way above my head.

''The undercover group.  I'm sorry, all I can tell you is, Trust me.  These individual operations will likely end up in your court house.  Best you know nothing about them beforehand.  Anyway, each one will probably involve some element of risk and I want to limit that by making information limited to a need to know only basis.  I hope that is not unreasonable.  Finally, in regard to what I call static security.  I have been provided two extra squads of police constables under a sergeant and a corporal from Machakos and Diani.  These are for six months secondment only, at least initially.  I am going to use them for security detail.  From this morning you will have a police driver and security detail of three, two on one off, day and night.  Also s WPC with your wife when she is alone.  

''Willi is having a guard with him, and the Casa is having three police to beef up its existing Askari security.  I have selected Felix, David, Robbie, Abel, Tizzy, Wheels and my own two boys as the first tranche to receive basic firearms training in handguns.  I understand Felix has some already and so do Matt and Mark, but my aim is that within two weeks all the boys can carry a concealed firearm.  I absolutely detest guns.  I hate the idea of 12 year old boys carrying a firearm.  But I prefer this than burying them.  And we now know we are dealing with people who have no compunction in shooting at totally defenceless children.”