PROLOGUE – Sometime in the 1990s
Kimani sat in the dock waiting to hear his fate. When the judge said, “Will the accused please stand up to hear the verdict of the court?”
Kimani stood up in his ill-fitting suit and faced the judge. The judge continued, “After listening to the evidence from the witnesses, I am convinced that you are guilty of the crimes of smuggling and selling blood diamonds from Sierra Leone. I sentence you to life in prison so that it may be a deterrent to others like you who think that they can use their positions in employment to conduct illegal activities.”
Kimani looked at his lawyer in shock, then at his family who were sitting in the viewing section of the courtroom. Kimani’s mother and sister were weeping and wailing. His father and brother were doing their best to comfort them.
Njoroge, his former best friend, workmate, and betrayer, was comforting Kimani’s fiancée. His arms were around her as he herded her towards the door. He paused as he reached the door, turned around and smiled at Kimani who watched Njoroge walk out of the courtroom as he: the innocent dupe in a grand international smuggling ring, stood bewildered and in chains.
CHAPTER 1- DREAMS
Kimani grew up in a small village in Nyeri. His family did not have a lot of money and they lived a modest life. Kimani was bright and did well in school. In high school, he joined the aviation club and learnt how to fly planes. After school, he got a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering. He passed well and worked with different organizations before he landed a position as a flight engineer with an international firm that specialized in the transportation of goods all over the continent.
Kimani was excited because the money was very good. The plane would have just him and the pilot dropping and picking goods. Kimani was also working on the required flight hours to qualify as a registered pilot so that in case of an emergency, he could also be able to land a plane.
Kimani met Njoroge at his new job where Njoroge was the pilot and Kimani the engineer/co-pilot. Njoroge was from a prominent family. He had studied at expensive schools and was earning a huge salary. “I like the small planes because they offer more flexibility in terms of work hours, I have more free time for my family business most of the time,” he explained to Kimani.
Njoroge taught Kimani everything he needed to know about flying small planes; he would also sometimes let Kimani fly the plane.
CHAPTER 2 – LIVING THE GOOD LIFE
As time went by, Kimani was able to fulfil all requirements and got his pilot’s license. Njoroge would let him fly while he relaxed. They became firm friends and before long, Njoroge was inviting Kimani to exclusive events where the high and mighty were present. Kimani and Njoroge started hanging out together regularly. They would hit the town and party over weekends when they were not working. Njoroge seemed to be known by everyone who was anyone.
From time to time, Njoroge would ask Kimani to help him carry his bags through customs and give them to a specific customs officer. He explained that he was carrying gifts for his family, and he did not want to be hassled by the customs officer. He said that he wanted Njoroge to help him because it would raise suspicion if it was noted that he always went to the same customs officer. Sometimes though, he would send Kimani with his bags and tell him he could go to any customs official.
After Kimani had worked for about six months Njoroge asked him what his plans were. Kimani told him that he hoped to get married to his girlfriend from the village who had just completed her degree in commerce. He told Njoroge that he was helping her look for a job in Nairobi. Kimani also told him that he was trying to save some money so that he could set up a business for his brother and sister so that they could stop depending on him.
Njoroge told Kimani that maybe he could help. “I know many people, just send me her CV,” he said. Njoroge was impressed by Njeri’s qualifications – she had graduated with a first-class degree. He told Kimani to tell Njeri to come to Nairobi for an interview in his company.
Njoroge was struck by Njeri’s beauty. She was soft-spoken but aggressive. He offered her a job as his personal assistant which she accepted after consulting Kimani.
With that problem out of the way, Kimani focused on making money to build a business for his siblings. One day, Njoroge returned from a flight and called Kimani who was on leave to his house. When he got to Njoroge’s house, Njoroge had a bottle of champagne on ice, and he looked very happy.
“Kimani today is your lucky day. I just concluded some family business in Sierra Leone and made good money. I want to give you a loan so that you can start a business for your siblings. You can pay me in a year. There’s no hurry. I have money to burn, and I don’t need it in a hurry.” He threw a bag at Kimani.
When Kimani opened the bag, he counted dollars that were the equivalent of 800,000 Kenya shillings. He protested that the money was too much, but Njoroge told him it was okay as long as he paid it back.
Please don’t tell anyone I lent you money. You know how guys are at the office. They will think I am the World Bank. This is between the two of us, don’t even tell Njeri.” Kimani agreed too stunned to think.
The next morning, he deposited the money in the bank. Then he called his siblings and asked them to come to Nairobi. Within two months he had set up a business that imported clothes and jewellery which he brought in from all over Africa in the course of his duties.
CHAPTER 3 – THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS
Kimani was a happy man. All was set for his wedding. It was three months away. As these thoughts ran through his mind, Kimani was getting ready to land. They had just flown in from Sierra Leone with Njoroge and he was looking forward to spending some quality time with Njeri. He was carrying her engagement ring which he had just bought. Everything was going like a dream.
Kimani and Njoroge disembarked and were picking up their bags when Njoroge’s phone rang. He asked Kimani to wait for him as he moved away to talk on the phone. When he came back, he looked upset. He gave Kimani one of his bags and told him to go ahead with it, he would come along shortly. He had left something on the plane that he was supposed to give to Mutiso the customs officer.
Kimani picked up both bags and headed for the customs desk. When he got there, there was a new man at the desk, Kimani asked for Mutiso. The Immigration officer said, “Mutiso is not here, I am on duty today. Open the bags and let me see what’s inside.”
Kimani gave him the bags and looked around the small airport terminal. There was an eerie silence. It seemed that the airport was filled with suspicious-looking people. He wondered where everyone else was.
The immigration officers finished searching his bags and then opened the one belonging to Njoroge. He went through it thoroughly and pulled out a small bag from the bottom of the bag. He opened it and poured out the contents.
He picked up a phone and made a call. “I have found them. I have found the stones; they were in the flight engineer’s bag. Come quickly,” he said.
Kimani was stunned. “What was going on?” he wondered. Before he could recollect his thoughts, two airport police officers were at his side.
Alarmed, he protested, “it’s not my bag. I am carrying it for my friend Njoroge the pilot. It’s all a misunderstanding. Please call him, he will explain”. The policemen shrugged their shoulders, handcuffed him, and led him to an interrogation room.
Kimani was forcefully seated on a cracked plastic seat and told to wait. About ten minutes later, a white guy in an expensive Italian suit walked in. His name tag bore the words Inspector Matthews, International crimes, Interpol.
Inspector Matthews sat opposite Kimani and said, ” Mr Kimani, you have been found trying to smuggle blood diamonds from Sierra Leone into Kenya. You have been under observation for a while and finally, we have caught you. Do you have anything to say?
Kimani told him, “I am innocent. That bag belongs to the pilot. He gave it to me to carry. Ask him. It’s not mine.” The inspector nodded to one of the policemen. He left the room and returned with Njoroge, and the bag Kimani had been carrying. Matthews gestured to Njoroge, “Is this him?” Kimani nodded.
Matthews turned to Njoroge and said, ” Mr Kimani is alleging that the bag is yours. What do you have to say about that?” Njoroge with an easy smile said, “He’s lying that’s not my bag. If it was mine, then it should have my things in it. Let’s open the bag and see what’s in it.”
Matthews gestured for the bag to be opened; inside were some magazines, cologne and a flight suit contained in a laundry bag/ a laundry bag containing a flight suit. Kimani’s heart sank when he saw the magazines had subscription labels with his name on them. ‘How had they landed in Njoroge’s bag?’ He wondered.
He cheered up momentarily when he realized they were going to open the laundry bag zip. He knew he did not have any missing suit. ‘This will prove my innocence,’ he thought. When they brought out the suit his smile faded. On the breast pocket in an embroidered gold thread was the name “Kimani, Flight Engineer”. Kimani finally realized Njoroge had set him up to take the fall. Kimani figured that the immigration officer had tipped Njoroge about the crackdown at the airport and gone into hiding.
When Njoroge saw the dawning realization on Kimani’s face he smiled.
Njoroge said “I am sorry my friend has been caught up in this smuggling business, but it has been proven that nothing of mine is in the bag. You have checked my bags and found nothing unusual. Can I be permitted to go? You know where to find me!” the Inspector looked at him and then told him that he could go.
Kimani was left in the room with the inspector. “Mr Kimani do you have anything to say about the diamonds. It would be easier and better for you if you told us the truth,” Matthews said.
Kimani looked at Matthews straight in the eye and said, “Inspector, I know what the evidence suggests but I am innocent. I have been set up. Except for the magazines and suit, nothing else in that bag is mine. I don’t even know how they got there. You have captured the wrong guy.”
Matthews looked at Kimani thoughtfully and said, “We will see,” then he left the room.
CHAPTER 4 – BETRAYAL
Kimani was manhandled by the two policemen and taken into a waiting Land Rover where he was stashed in the back. He was being taken to Nyayo House for interrogation. Word was out – a prestigious flight engineer had been caught with blood diamonds. Reporters and cameramen jostled to take pictures of Kimani before he was whisked into the building.
Kimani was later transferred to Kamiti remand prison after being interrogated by Interpol and the local police. His family visited him and engaged a prominent lawyer to defend him. Life was not too bad in the prison because two of Kimani’s cousins were also in remand awaiting trial for armed robbery, so they ensured that his life behind bars went by with relative ease.
Njeri came to see him a week later. “Sorry I couldn’t come earlier. It was very busy in the office with reporters calling to ask Njoroge for a statement. Njoroge told me everything. How could you accuse him of being involved? He is rich. Why would he need to smuggle diamonds? Please tell the truth and they will go easy on you.” Kimani could not believe what she was saying. He just looked at her and did not utter a word. Her face displayed disgust: she looked him up and down, seemingly/possibly wondering what had attracted her to him, and then she left.
She never visited again. Instead, she sent his siblings with food and brief notes in which she explained that she was busy, but she still loved him.
CHAPTER 5 – NO SAVIOUR FOR THE INNOCENT
After two months Kimani was arraigned in court. Evidence against him included a deposit of Ksh. 800,000 into his account. He pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against him and was remanded for three months awaiting trial. The prosecution considered him to be a flight risk and entered a plea requesting the court to deny him bail. Based on the fact that he was relatively wealthy, and could fly a plane, the Judge granted the request and consequently denied bail
Kimani realized that things were really bad, and he might be convicted for a crime he did not commit. He was taken back to Kamiti.
The next day, the Interpol agent visited him. Inspector Matthews looked at Kimani across a scarred wooden table. He said “I have a feeling that you are either innocent or are a very small pawn in this game. I want to help you. Is there anything you can tell me that can help me tie Njoroge to this thing? You know Njoroge’s family have lobbied their ‘important’ friends including politicians and the police and they are planning to bribe the judge? So, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life in prison you need to give me information. I am trying to investigate but the police are stonewalling me.”
Kimani told him that the only thing he knew that could link Njoroge to the diamonds was the missing immigration officer. Matthews told Kimani that he would leave his number with his brother so that he could get in touch if he remembered anything. “I am leaving the country, but I will be back for the trial. Let me know if you remember anything significant before then.”
Three months later, Kimani was taken to court. He had not heard anything about the whereabouts of the immigration officer and had given up any hope of convincing the court that he was innocent. He heard rumours that the policemen who had arrested him had been bribed by Njoroge to say that he had even been found with drugs in his possession.
Kimani was praying for a miracle, that Interpol would present new evidence that would clear him. Yet at the back of his mind, he was aware that like most accused prisoners from humble backgrounds, from the village and with no connections, or money to bribe the officers concerned, he had no hope of getting out. As he listened to all the evidence against him, he realized that if he had read those facts in the newspaper about someone else, he would have presumed they were guilty. Kimani wanted to scream ‘I am innocent’ but he knew at this point all was lost.
The trial took four months to conclude. Kimani knew that there were only two people who could prove that he was telling the truth. One had disappeared and the other was his friend who was framing him. “How could I have trusted him so completely? I should have asked questions. Now it’s too late!” he thought.
When the judge asked Kimani to stand to hear the judgment of the court, Kimani braced himself for the worst. The judge found him guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment at Naivasha Maximum Prison. Kimani was in shock. He watched as his family and friends cried. Njoroge walked out with Njeri hand in hand. At the door, he turned and smiled at Kimani.
CHAPTER 6 – DIVINE INTERVENTION
Kimani was allowed to see his family before being transported to Kamiti where he would spend a week before being taken to Naivasha together with other prisoners. He hugged his family and as he left, his brother handed over a Bible that he had found in his apartment. Despite being grateful for the Bible, he wondered how he could read it when God had abandoned him.
Back in his cell Kimani opened the bible and flipped the pages. He saw yellow post-it notes on which he had written verses and things to do. Discouraged he asked God, “how can one fall so far so fast?” When he was about to close the bible, he saw a note with a name and location. At first, he couldn’t remember why he had written down that name, then it clicked!
“Lord thank you, thank you for answered prayers. I finally have something that can help me,” he cried out. Excited he asked another prisoner for a pencil and started jotting notes. His hope was restored; he went to his cousins who managed to get him a cell phone. He called his brother and told him to call inspector Matthew. He was to ask Inspector Matthew to come to see him at the prison. Kimani slept well for the first time since he had been arrested.
The next morning Matthews came to see him. After greetings, Kimani excitedly told him, “Mutiso the immigration guy, I know where to find him or rather how you can find him. Njoroge covered his tracks very well. There is nowhere I can incriminate him. Mutiso, on the other hand, did not expect to ever be caught. He used to ask me for a lift sometimes when we were late getting to the airport. There were certain houses in Eastleigh where he used to go.”
“There was a time the airport was swarmed with VIPs so he couldn’t leave with the bag Njoroge had sent me with. He gave me a number, an address and the name of where I would deliver the bag and the number of the person I was to give the package to. I guess he thought Njoroge had told me what was going on, so I was safe. I have written everything I can remember on the last page of the Bible.” Kimani had been speaking so rapidly that he ran out of breath.
Kimani paused and asked Mathew, “can you help me? This is the only chance I have to prove my innocence.”
Matthew looked at Kimani. “I will see what I can do. This information would have been critical before you were convicted. It won’t be easy but don’t worry I will follow it up myself. I can’t trust the police not to leak this information. If I find out anything I will be in touch with your brother and lawyer.”
As he shook Kimani’s hand before he left, Mathew said, “I have bad news though. You probably don’t know this, but Njoroge and Njeri announced their engagement this morning. They are getting married in a month. I thought you might like to know.”
Kimani was numb. For a while, he could not think or understand. Of all the things Njoroge had done this hurt the most. He could not believe that Njeri, the woman he loved could betray him with his worst enemy to boot. Kimani was crushed. He walked back to his cell a broken man. His girlfriend’s betrayal managed to do what prison had failed to do to him.
CHAPTER 7 – HOPE FOR A DROWNING MAN
Kimani was transferred to Naivasha maximum prison. Although his family had come every day to visit him and encourage him there was no word from Matthews. He had confided to his brother on what Mathews was working on but told him not to tell anyone else in the family. When Kimani arrived at Naivasha he quickly located his cousins’ contacts and once again, he was not harassed.
Matthews still had not contacted Kimani’s brother. Kimani was mentally counting the days to Njoroge and Njeri’s wedding. He fantasized about being set free just before the wedding and bursting in just as the priest asked, “Is there anyone who objects to this wedding?” then he would walk in and everyone would stare in shock and horror as he said, “I object. This woman is pledged to marry me. I am the innocent one. Lock Njoroge up.” But it was all a fantasy, things would never be the same again between Njeri and him; it was all over.
Kimani was beginning to lose hope when two days before the wedding, Matthews came to see him. He was smiling and he even hugged Kimani.
“We found Mutiso. He confessed after we nabbed the man whose name and address you had. I used some of my contacts and the matter was hushed up. So, your friend doesn’t know it yet. We are ready to arrest him. The deals also involve Njoroge’s father and a few politicians who have been helping him to move the diamonds through diplomatic channels. I just wanted you to know. Obviously, you can’t be freed right now. We have to wait until we set up another trial. In a few weeks, you will be a free man.”
Kimani expected to feel relief at those words, but he didn’t. He felt empty and angry. His life had been ruined by a man he had considered to be his best friend. His name was sullied, and he had lost the love of his life. All he wanted now was revenge. He wanted Njoroge to feel the pain and humiliation he had felt.
Kimani said, “Matthews I need a favour.” Matthews leaned over and Kimani told him what he wanted.
CHAPTER 8 – REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD
The day was bright. The church was beautifully decorated and the cars outside the church showed that this was a wedding of class, no riffraff allowed. The guests were well-known individuals from the political, social and entertainment scenes. It took an engraved invitation to attend the exclusive wedding party.
The bride entered the church, and the guests were in awe at how beautiful she was. She wore a white lace dress with crystal beads sewn into it. She had a priceless diamond necklace around her neck and diamond eardrops. She looked like Cinderella at the ball. No one looking at her would be able to tell just how far she had come from the village.
When she reached the front altar, the handsome bridegroom took her hand and kissed it. Many in the audience wished at that moment that it was them up there getting married. The couple was looking too hot for words.
The minister read from the word and then asked, “Is there anyone here who has a valid reason why these two should not get married?’ There was a hush. Guests were conscious of the fact that Njeri’s ex-fiancé was in prison. They thought that maybe his relatives or friends would try to stop the wedding. There was a collective sigh of relief when no one stood or shouted an objection.
The couple then said their vows and went to sign the marriage certificate. Soon after, they were brought back to the front of the church and declared man and wife before the congregation. All of this was being televised live on TV to viewers who had wanted to catch a glimpse of this fairy tale wedding. They all thought, “lucky girl.”
The congregants’ private thoughts were suddenly interrupted by stomping boots as a group of policemen burst into the church. Leading them was Matthews waving a bunch of papers and a gun. He walked right up to Njoroge and told him, “Mr Njoroge, you are under arrest for the smuggling and selling of diamonds from Sierra Leone. And for falsifying evidence against Mr Kimani. Here is the arrest warrant.”
Njoroge’s fuming father shot up, “How dare you? Do you know who I am? How dare you embarrass my son like this? I will have you deported, and I will sue Interpol.” Matthews smiled and said, “Sir I also have a warrant of arrest for you. You have been using your family business to buy and sell illegal gemstones from all over Africa.” At this news, Njoroge’s dad collapsed and was rushed to the hospital. In the ensuing chaos, Njeri could be heard screaming, “it can’t be true, it can’t be true. Do you mean Kimani was innocent? What have I done?
Over the next few weeks, the story made headlines especially after more politicians and businessmen were named and arrested for their involvement in the diamond scandal. Kimani was a hero to many especially those in prison. They applauded him for not giving up the fight for justice.
When he was released after Njoroge’s trial and subsequent life imprisonment, his family threw a party for him in Nyeri. He was trying to enjoy himself and enjoy the nyama choma and beer that he hadn’t tasted for almost a year when his brother called him aside. “Njeri is here. She wants to talk to you. She is at your house.”
Kimani walked to his house and found Njeri waiting for him. “What do you want?” he asked.
“I came to say that I am sorry. I came to apologize. I should have believed in you. I am sorry. Is it possible to start over?” Njeri pleaded.
Kimani coldly told her, “You know what I can’t forgive. You have known me all my life and you choose money over me. I can believe Njoroge fooled you at first; he did the same to me. but for you to forget the man you loved and believe a man you had only known for a few months. That is what I can’t forgive. Anyway, aren’t you married? You should be comforting the man you choose. Don’t ever come looking for me again. What we had is over. I never want to see you again.” He walked out and did not look back even as Njeri sobbed and screamed for him to come back.
Njoroge was jailed for life with 20 strokes of the cane after evidence was uncovered about different smuggling runs that he had conducted. Unfortunately for him, Kimani’s cousins were waiting for him at Kamiti. He did not have a good time and after his trial, he was sent to Shimo la Tewa Maximum Prison where he was expected to spend the rest of his natural life.
His father was also convicted, and the family business collapsed because his embarrassed wife and daughters ran off to Europe to escape the scandal.
Mutiso was also convicted of several crimes, but his sentence was reduced after he testified and gave evidence linking several prominent politicians to the syndicate.
Matthews was given a medal of commendation by Interpol and another by his country. He is somewhere; undercover helping to get information on bad guys that will lead to prosecution.
Njeri had become an outcast. She was no longer accepted in their village in Nyeri and was snubbed by those who had embraced her and her marriage to Njoroge. She moved to Malindi where she is working as a tourist guide to make ends meet.
Kimani is back in school studying law at the University of Nairobi. While in prison, he realized that some innocent but poor prisoners needed someone to defend and fight for their rights. He is also suing the government for 50 million Kenya Shillings for wrongful imprisonment, mistreatment by police and his case not being investigated properly due to bribery. The case has been adjourned severally but his lawyer Muhoro is convinced that in the end, the government will have to settle the case.
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Flowers have been delivered!