Duel in the Savanna
By Wanjiru Waithaka
Copyright ©2015 All Rights Reserved
The days passed languidly, as Bola steadily got better. After two days in the HDU he was transferred to Makena’s old room in the North Wing where he continued his convalescence.
Tony and James continued to take care of the businesses and Isabella took over the running of the three farms. Makena had been discharged, but every morning she arrived at the hospital armed with the various tools of her trade, which she set up on the balcony of her father’s hospital room and spent the day painting.
Bola spent a few hours at her side soaking in the sun, reading or chatting until visiting hours when he received other family members and friends. It was against the rules for Makena to spend so much time at the hospital, but when the doctors saw that she didn’t overtire her father and often encouraged him to take strolls in the garden which speeded up his recovery, they let her be.
Bola was discharged after two weeks in the hospital and continued to recuperate at his Tezi farm. Peter and Grace flew back to the US in March and resumed their lives, happy in the knowledge that their father was well on the road to recovery.
The doctors had advised Bola to rest as much as possible, warning that recovery time from multiple gunshot wounds was measured in months, not weeks or days. It would be some time before he was well enough to resume his normal activities. He was ordered to walk for at least an hour every day to exercise his muscles and boost circulation.
Isabella made sure that there was always a friend or two at the house ready to accompany her husband on his daily walks at 5pm in the late afternoon when the sun wasn’t too hot. Sometimes Tony or James also accompanied their father, using the time to brief him about various aspects of the business.
Isabella had forbidden her husband to set foot in his office until the doctor gave the green light. If anything urgent required his attention, then his sons came to the farm and discussed it with him, taking care not to stress him unduly.
There hadn’t been any more attacks on their businesses since the shooting, which was a relief. Tony didn’t think they could handle any more problems right now. He sat in his office on a Monday afternoon in early May three months after the shooting, enjoying a drink with Freddo and Isaiah.
The trio were relaxing after a game of golf in the company of James, who had dropped by his office to get Tony’s signature on some cheques. Makena was also present. She had spent the day painting at the park near the dam and was now waiting for Tony to wind up so he could give her a ride home.
A knock on the door was followed by the entry of an office messenger who placed a small package wrapped in brown paper on his desk and left as silently as he’d entered. Tony walked over to his desk and opened the package absently, still laughing at a joke that Freddo had shared. Inside was a tape and a grainy photograph. Tony frowned as he stared at it, a prickling awareness at the very edge of his memory.
“Tony what is it?” Makena’s concerned voice cut through the din in the room, the sharp edge to it silencing the others, who turned to him with curious stares.
Tony walked to the display cabinet, got the music player from its place and brought it to his desk. He put in the tape and waited for it to play. A grating, distorted male voice filled the room.
We have your children. If you ever want to see them alive you will do exactly what I tell you. You have 72 hours to turn over the ownership of Liberty Insurance and Woodville Golf Hotel and Country Club to us. The details of the company which you should transfer ownership to are on the back of the photograph. Call the police and we will send your sons to you in pieces. If the deadline elapses and you haven’t obeyed our orders, we will send your sons to you in pieces. Don’t waste valuable time trying to find us. I assure you, we have hidden them well. The clock starts ticking at 6pm. There will be no further contact. Do as I’ve ordered and your children will be returned unharmed. The lives of your sons are in your hands Tony Karenga. Don’t let them down the way you let down their mother Sophie.
There was a click as the voice stopped speaking. The others stared at each other in stunned confusion, rendered speechless by the earth shattering announcement.
They slowly got up from their seats in the small alcove next to the window which served as a lounge with its brown leather sofa and two matching wing chairs. Isaiah and Freddo sat on the guest chairs at Tony’s desk. Makena parked her wheelchair a short distance from them. James remained standing.
“Is it possible?” James recovered his voice first, the question an incredulous whisper as he turned to face Tony, the focus of all eyes in the room.
Weighed down by shock, Tony sunk into the chair behind his desk as the recorded voice delivered the message in cruel triumph. James rewound the tape and they listened again until it faded into silence.
His brother clutched the photograph which had been delivered with the tape tightly, betraying the strain he was under. A thin sweat trail ran down his back. He swallowed compulsively and tried to speak but his tongue refused to work. The phone shattered the silence. James grabbed the receiver.
“Yes,” he answered in a gruff tone. He listened quietly and tensed then replaced the receiver and bent over the huge gleaming desk slowly clenching and unclenching his fists. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, he ignored the curious stares of the others and squarely faced his brother. “She’s here. Sophie.”
The simple statement sent an electric current through the room. Tony jerked back like he had been struck then bowed his head again still clutching the photograph with clammy fingers. “Sophie is here?” He grimaced in pain, the mere mention of her name like a knife twisting in his gut.
“This is another tactic to force us to sell, the bastards!” James paced up and down like a caged animal. He pulled his lips tightly across his mouth and scowled at his brother. “That bitch! She’s obviously a gold digger in cahoots with these criminals. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was her idea,” he declared getting more agitated by the minute.
“James! How can you judge someone you’ve never even met?” Makena spoke sharply, disapproval in her voice.
He glared at his sister. “You haven’t met her either. Why do you assume I’m wrong?”
Makena turned and silently beseeched Freddo and Isaiah. Freddo looked away. Isaiah merely shrugged, his palms raised in a helpless gesture. They all turned back to Tony waiting for him to say something.
Freddo crossed over to his sister. “Makena is this for real?” he whispered.
She shrugged, shock evident in her clear gaze. “I don’t know and I don’t think he does either. I would have known.”
“Sophie is here…” Tony finally spoke, repeating his brother’s words in disbelief.
He felt like he was in the middle of a bad dream. He didn’t have children. Or did he? Didn’t Sophie get the abortion? Is that why she left? Why she’d hid from him all those months he searched for her? He remembered the times he had spoken to Luke, her brother and Carol, her best friend. Had they helped keep the truth from him? Was he really a father?
He stared at the photo in his hands and shuddered. Twins. Dear Lord, he was the father of not just one kid. Twins for Pete’s sake. Children he knew nothing about and who he may never see unless the monster who made that tape got what he wanted.
How could the universe be so cruel? Hadn’t they suffered enough? His father’s shooting wasn’t enough, his children were now pawns in this terrible war whose origins he didn’t understand.
Tony lifted the heavy wooden paper weight on his desk and threw it at the glass panes of the display cabinet which shattered with a crash. His friends winced. Makena cried out and covered her mouth with both hands.
He stared at her, agony clawing at his insides, the sense of betrayal so deep he felt like a man who was drowning. His sister was the only person he’d confided in about his love for Sophie. A love that she had betrayed in the worst way possible.
Being ambushed with the knowledge that he had two sons was one thing. But to find out like this. To know that the same maniac who had tried to kill his father, now held the fate of his children in his hands and was forcing him to make the most painful choice a man could make – to choose between his father and his offspring.
After all their fighting, after everything they had done to protect their businesses, it had come down to this. The bile rose in his throat, so bitter that it threatened to choke him.
They all froze at the sound of a knock on the door. The door slowly opened as Tony gazed at it in morbid fascination. One part of him wanted to rush to it and slam it shut, to keep out whoever was out there and somehow rewind the clock to a few minutes before when they’d been laughing and chatting, looking forward to the end of a fruitful day.
The other part waited with bated breath, knowing that life as he knew it was over. Destiny had played her hand. He had searched for Sophie for so long and now finally she was here. Nothing would ever be the same. Then the time for contemplation was past. The door swung open and there she stood, the woman who had turned his life upside down.
She took a single step into the room and stopped just inside the doorway, her brother Luke behind her. No one moved or spoke. Whereas a moment before Tony had been filled with rage, now all he could do was drink in the sight of her. She had changed.
The long straight, shoulder length hair was gone, replaced by a pixie cut, short on the back and sides with slightly longer curls on the top. She had pierced her ears and wore tiny silver drop earrings. Motherhood definitely agreed with her. Her slim figure had filled out and she looked curvier than he remembered, her hips more pronounced in her dark wash blue jeans, cream beaded short sleeved top and black ballet flats.
“Where are my kids?” Her slightly husky voice had taken on a shrill tone. She stepped further into the room and ignored the others, facing him squarely across the width of the desk.
Tony stood up. Nothing in his deportment betrayed his inner turmoil. “I don’t even get a greeting? After three and a half years?”
“This isn’t a social visit. I want my kids. Now.”
Mixed feelings stirred in him as he stared into almond shaped eyes that had haunted him for a year after she left. There was nothing dead about them this time round. They flashed with a rage so violent, he wondered how her voice could stay so calm. The bags under her eyes however, told the story of a woman under a great deal of strain, who looked like she hadn’t slept in days.
That part was familiar. Similar to how she had looked the last time he saw her, moments before she walked out of his life with no warning or goodbye. His lips twisted with bitterness at the memory. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Sophie’s lips tightened as she stared at him. “I’ll discuss it after you produce my kids.”
“They’re not here,” James cut in, scowling at Sophie from his standing position at the side of the desk. “Nobody here knows anything about your children. What kind of scam are you trying to pull here?” The question was a vicious snarl.
“What?” Sophie half turned to face his brother, arms akimbo.
“Go tell your friends that whatever game they’re playing, it won’t work. If you don’t leave this office right now, I will call the police.”
“James don’t.” Neither of them reacted to Makena’s blurted out plea.
“If I don’t see my kids in the next sixty seconds, I will be the one calling the cops. And don’t bother making threats. I don’t care how rich or powerful you are. I’m not afraid of you,” Sophie retorted. She turned to Tony, still fuming. He was staring at her with a puzzled look on his face.
“Sophie, why do you think I have them?” He searched her eyes intently.
“I got an anonymous tip.”
“How would I know? He didn’t leave his name,” she snapped.
It was clear to Tony from her tense demeanour that she was holding on to the last threads of her control. He went around the desk and took her arm. “I think you should sit down.”
Sophie shrugged off his hand roughly. “No! What I need is my kids. Where are they? I will tear this hotel apart if I have to, but I will find them.” Her breathing had hitched up, chest rising and falling rapidly.
Tony looked at Makena and saw comprehension dawn on her at the same moment realisation clicked in his brain. Those bastards had sent her here expecting to find her children. She had no idea they had been kidnapped and were in mortal danger. How was he going to tell her?
“Sophie, we got a message a few minutes ago from someone claiming to be holding my children hostage. Until then, I had no idea you’d given birth,” Tony explained softly, trying to cushion the blow.
Sophie bit her lower lip which had started trembling. “What are you talking about?”
“This.” James switched on the stereo.
“Wait.” Makena’s and Tony’s warnings came too late. That hateful voice filled the room once more.
Sophie stared at the music player in bewilderment, then turned to Tony once the recording ended. “What kind of joke is this? It’s not funny.” Her voice had lowered to almost a whisper and her eyes filled with tears.
“Wow, you’re a really good actress. I can almost believe you knew nothing about that tape. That shocked, helpless mother act is quite good. But you’re not fooling anyone here.” James’s lips curled in disdain.
Tony reached across the width of the desk and picked up the photograph that had come with the tape. He handed it to her.
Sophie glanced down at it then grasped the edge of the desk as if to steady herself. Tony watched her keenly, seeing again in his mind’s eye what he had shown none of the others. Two boys on a sofa, wearing black shorts, red shirts and black shoes, faces turned away from the camera, looking at someone or something on the side, awkwardly holding today’s newspaper.
The picture was grainy and out of focus, the children’s faces not very visible; the photograph obviously taken by a complete amateur. The newspaper was slightly crumpled, partly obscuring the headline, but there was no mistaking Victor Akisa’s photo on the front page, which matched exactly the newspaper lying on his desk.
Now as he scrutinised Sophie’s face, that prickling awareness of danger on the edge of his consciousness crystallised into an icy feeling of dread.
“Tony please tell me you have my kids. Please.” Her voice was shaking. He shook his head slowly. Sophie cried out then swiftly clamped a hand over her mouth, stifling it. “Are you saying…my kids….the people who shot and almost killed your father? They have my kids?”
The stuttered words pierced through him like a blade. Tony desperately wanted to deny it. To erase the terrified look in her eyes. But he had to tell her the truth, no matter how much it hurt her. And it would hurt. His brother was wrong. It wasn’t an act. Until she walked into his office, Sophie had no idea her children had been kidnapped, at least not by anyone other than him.
“It’s possible.” Her knees buckled. Tony barely had time to catch her before she hit the floor.
“Talk about dramatic. My, this girl can put on an act,” James said derisively as Tony lifted Sophie in his arms and carried her to the sofa in the alcove.
“Shut up James, you blind moron.” Makena’s angry voice pierced the sudden silence in the room which lasted for only a few seconds before pandemonium broke out. Everyone started speaking at once.
Tony placed Sophie gently on the sofa, removed her shoes and put throw cushions under her legs to elevate them. He looked up at Luke who had followed him to the sofa, his face creased with worry.
“Luke, there’s a washroom through there.” Tony pointed to a door on the opposite end of the room. “Wet a face towel and bring it.” Her brother rushed to do his bidding. Tony listened to the cacophony of voices across the room and stood up. “Everybody out. Now.”
The din subsided. They turned to him wearing various expressions on their faces. Makena looked angry, James frustrated, while Isaiah and Freddo just seemed bewildered.
“What?” James finally asked after a lengthy silence.
“You heard me. Get out. I’ll deal with Sophie. You’ve done enough damage.”
“But we need to come up with a plan on how to handle this,” Makena protested.
“She’s had a nasty shock. She doesn’t need so many people in her face when she wakes up,” Tony replied, his voice throbbing with anger.
“Come on, let’s give them some space,” Makena said after a minute or so, wheeling to the open door. The others followed, casting curious glances at Tony, who stood ramrod straight, fists clenched at his side.
Luke came back into the room with the wet face cloth. Tony took it from him and gently applied it to Sophie’s forehead, then dabbed her cheeks.
“I’m sorry baby.” The endearment slipped out before he could stop it. He glanced at Luke but the other man didn’t react. He sat on the arm of the sofa and stared down at his sister’s unconscious form.
“She hasn’t eaten or slept in three days. Neither of us was prepared for the news that the kids had been kidnapped. They went missing on Friday afternoon. We thought they wandered off and got lost until I found a message on the answering machine in the office this morning,” Luke explained in a soft voice.
Tony looked up at him, a silent question in his eyes. “It was the same voice. He said you had taken the kids. That you found out about them a few weeks ago and wanted to punish her for keeping them a secret.”
“Punish her how?”
“By taking her to court to claim full custody,” Luke explained.
“No wonder she was so angry when she walked in here.”
Her brother nodded in agreement. “Tony, what’s going on?”
Tony sighed and bit his lip, wondering how to explain the events of the last three years to Sophie’s brother. “My father has some very powerful enemies. They have been trying to take over our companies by force. First they tried to put us in receivership but we fought back. I guess they’ve become desperate.”
He stared at Sophie, a huge lump of emotion clogging his throat. His rage had drained away leaving deep regret in its place. How many times had he wished, in the long months after she disappeared, that he could hold her in his arms again? And for it to happen like this, after he’d handed her the worst news of her life.
“Where has she been all this time?”
Luke stared down at his sister with a deep sigh. “I know you have a lot of questions Tony. But I can’t answer any of them. This is between you and her. I’m here to protect her as her brother. Whatever explanations you need, you’ll have to get them from Sophie.”
Tony held his gaze a long moment before his shoulders slumped in acceptance. He continued to dab Sophie’s forehead, the fingers of his left hand tracing the contours of her face as memories flooded through him.
Makena launched into a tirade the moment James shut the door of the conference room. “What’s the matter with you? Are you insane? How could you do that?”
“Do what?” James shrugged, arms raised in a helpless gesture that if anything infuriated his sister even more.
“How could you break the news to Sophie by playing the tape you insensitive dufus?”
“You really expect me to be polite to the woman who is in cahoots with the people trying to steal our companies?” An expression of amazement crossed her brother’s face.
“Stop saying that. She had no clue her children had been kidnapped until she came here,” Makena swiftly countered.
“How do you know? Are you a mind reader now?” James’s voice was mocking.
“I don’t have to be. I was watching her. She was just as shocked as we were.”
“You actually believed her act?”
“You really don’t get it do you?”
“The kidnappers sent her to us. They lied that Tony had taken her children. He wanted to ease her into it; but you just had to go and act like a moron.”
“I was trying to protect all of us.” James angrily paced to the other side of the room and stared out of the window at the lush gardens and greens of the golf course. “This is just an elaborate scam. I’m not falling for it.”
“Didn’t you see her face, how stressed she was? You really think a mother would risk her children in this manner?”
“A gold digger would.”
“Sophie is not a gold digger.” Makena’s eyes blazed with fury as she wheeled across the room to where he stood and glared up at him. “If she was, she’d have resorted to blackmail years ago. Instead she walked away, never told Tony she had changed her mind about the abortion and opted to raise his children on her own. Gold diggers don’t do that.”
“Woa, what’s this about an abortion?” Makena would have laughed at the stupefied look on Isaiah’s face if the situation wasn’t so grim.
“He never told you huh? That’s what I figured,” she replied.
“How did you know?”
“He told me.”
“When?” Freddo looked at her, equal parts surprised and curious.
“You remember the Christmas when you introduced us to Ruth and then went with her to the coast to celebrate New Year’s? Freddo, you were overseas.”
They both nodded.
“I persuaded Tony to come to Nyago with me, dad, Bella and the girls. Grace too. The second night, on New Year’s, I found Tony swimming in the middle of the night. I’d thought for some time that there was something bothering him. He was always raving, drinking and gambling with a different woman every night.”
“Yeah. Tony can be wild, but that time it’s like he’d gone nuts,” said Freddo with a thoughtful shake of his head.
“We started talking and he told me all about her. It ended with a fight actually, when I suggested that he was in love with her. I thought he was going to hit me.” She looked at them with a cheeky grin. “Anyway, later that night he admitted it. He loved her. Probably still does.” She stared pointedly at her brother.
“How do we even know those kids are his? We should insist on a DNA test before we do anything,” James retorted.
“Makena banged her fists against the armrests of her wheelchair. “Didn’t you hear a word I said? Tony may still be in love with her.”
“That’s why we have to protect him from her. We need someone who can look at this situation objectively and make the right decisions for our family.”
“Those kids are part of this family. They are your nephews.”
“Look, until I get definitive proof of that, I am not signing over the insurance company. Dad left me in charge so what I say goes.”
“It will take weeks to get the results of a DNA test, assuming we can get samples to test. The kids have been kidnapped remember?”
“That’s not my problem.” James shrugged.
Makena took a deep breath and tried to stay calm. “Don’t you realise what’s at stake?”
“No matter what Tony does, he’s screwed either way. If he chooses to keep the companies, he loses the children that he’s never even seen. If he gives in to the kidnapper’s demands, we lose everything that dad has worked for all his life. Imagine being put in that position. What if it was Chris and Lewis?”
A short loaded silence filled the room.
James finally threw up his hands. “This debate is pointless. I’m calling the police. A crime has been committed. They can handle it.” He walked to the sideboard and picked up the telephone extension.
Makena swiftly rolled over to where he stood and before he could dial, snatched the receiver out of his grip and threw it across the room.
“What did you do that for?” James shouted in anger.
“You’re a complete idiot, you know that?” Makena yelled back.
“Stop with the insults. You’re getting emotional.”
“Of course I’m getting emotional. The thought of my nephews dying will do that to a normal person,” she spat at him.
James sighed and sat on his haunches, which brought his face level with hers. He grasped her hand where it lay in her lap. “Makena, listen to me. This is a trap. I’ve been dealing with the people trying to steal our companies for a long time. It’s exactly the kind of thing they would do.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “You’re probably right.” James stood up, relief evident on his face and took a step forward to retrieve the telephone handset which had landed on the floor several feet away. “I just want to say one thing before you call the police, then I promise to shut up.” He stopped and turned to face her.
“You’re probably right, this smells like a scam. But are you 100 percent sure it is?” She stared at him keenly. “If there is even a one percent chance that those children are Tony’s do you know what calling the police will do? If these are the same guys who shot dad, they mean business. They will kill those kids. Imagine coming to the office tomorrow and finding a brown envelope with two fingers inside. You do a DNA test and they turn out to be the fingers of your brother’s children.”
Makena paused, waiting for her message to sink in. “James, do you want to live the rest of your life knowing that you sent Tony’s children to their graves?”
A sharp intake of breath answered her question. It came from behind her but Makena didn’t turn to see who between Isaiah and Freddo had reacted.
“Chances are no matter what we do, someone is going to get hurt. But if someone has to make a phone call to the police that will very likely lead to those children dying, then it should be Tony or Sophie – their parents. Not you or me or even dad. None of us has that right.” She took a deep breath and waited for her brother’s reaction.
James turned away from her intense scrutiny and sunk into the nearest chair, elbows on the table and cradled his head in his hands. A long silence descended on the room, broken only by Makena’s heavy breathing. On top of the OI, she was asthmatic but these days it only manifested itself when she was under extreme stress, like now.
Freddo walked over to her, crouched and rubbed her back in a gentle soothing motion. “It’s okay. Stay calm. It’s okay,” he murmured in her ear. Isaiah looked from her to James, then back again but didn’t speak.
“I hear what you’re saying,” James broke the silence. “But do you really want us to do nothing? Tony has his hands full dealing with Sophie and we don’t know how long she’ll take to wake up. I can’t just sit here.” He banged his fists on the table making Makena jump.
Freddo flicked him a reproachful glance, then continued rubbing Makena’s back as a thoughtful frown creased her face.
“There’s one thing we can do.”
“What’s that?” The question came from Isaiah who leaned forward eagerly.
“Get Patrick in here,” she told James. “He’s a former cop and understands criminals. Perhaps he can help us find a way to involve the police without tipping off the kidnappers.”
“What?” James stared at her in disbelief.
“We’re in over our heads here. But I have to believe there’s a way to save Tony’s children and our businesses too.”
“There is. It’s called a miracle.” Isaiah’s dry retort followed her words.
“If anyone can help us find a miracle, it’s Patrick. Call him,” she urged her brother. “He can help us come up with a plan that we can share with Tony and Sophie when they’re ready.”
James stared at the highly polished wood of the conference table for a while then sighed and unclipped the radio from his belt. “Juliett to Sierra, come in.”
“Go ahead Juliett,” Patrick’s deep voice came over the radio.
“Your presence required urgently in East Wing conference room. Over.”
“Juliett out.” A sombre expression crept into her brother’s eyes. “I hope you’re right.”
Sophie opened her eyes and stared at Tony. “What happened?”
“You fainted.” Tony put his hands on her shoulders restraining her, when she made an effort to get up. “No, lie still for a few minutes.”
Sophie covered her eyes with her arm. “How long was I out?”
“Just a few minutes.”
“Can I get some water?”
Tony stood up and walked across the office to the small fridge at one corner behind his desk and retrieved a pitcher of cold water. He got a glass from the sideboard next to the fridge and walked back to the lounge area. He poured water into the glass and assisted Sophie to sit up so she could drink. She took a few sips and lay back down.
“I’ll get you something to eat.” Tony placed the glass on the coffee table and stood up.
“I’m not hungry.”
Tony sat back down on the edge of the sofa and stared at her with a worried frown. “Luke tells me you haven’t eaten in three days. That’s probably why you fainted. It will happen again unless you try and eat something,” he said softly, stroking her arm.
“Or maybe I fainted because some crackpot fighting your family kidnapped my kids.” Tony winced at her bitter tone. She shrugged off his hand and swung her feet to the floor. “I’m fine. I just want to find my kids.”
“I know. But do you want to end up in hospital? You need to keep your strength up,” Tony spoke softly, persuasively.
“He’s right sis. And I am starving,” Luke chipped in before she could respond.
Tony shot him a grateful look then walked to the telephone on his desk. “I’ll call the kitchen. Anything in particular you’d like?” he asked over his shoulder.
“You pick,” Luke replied.
Tony spoke softly into the telephone then walked back to the sofa where Sophie sat curled up in a corner looking so forlorn and bereft that it took all his willpower not to pull her into his arms right then and there. But he was afraid she would lash out at him in anger.
He sat in the armchair next to the sofa, leaned forward, elbows on his knees and stared at his clasped hands. “How are you?”
“I told you, I’m fine.” She sounded cross. He glanced at Luke warily then tried again. “I meant, how have you been? Where have you been?”
Sophie stared at the maroon carpet. “Tony, now is not the time for this. I’m worried about the kids. That man said if we call the police he’ll kill them. What are we going to do?”
Tony stared at her thoughtfully, a worried frown knitting his brows. He had a million questions but they would have to wait until this crisis was over.
“I’ll go and speak to James and come back with a plan. Please wait here and try to eat something ok?” She nodded.
He stood up and left the office. He walked down the corridor and hearing voices coming from the conference room, decided to check to see if the others were there. A deluge of questions greeted him the moment he opened the door. Tony raised his hands. “Please, one at a time.”
“How is she?” Makena asked, anxiety clear in her expression. He crossed the room to where she sat and ruffled her short afro.
“She’s awake and talking. She’ll be fine once she eats something. Patrick, I’m glad you’re here. Has James briefed you on the latest?” Patrick nodded.
“I was just telling Patrick why we can’t call the police just yet. He says he needs to hear the recording and see the photograph,” Makena chipped in.
“Other than you, who else touched the photo, tape and envelope?” Patrick asked Tony.
“I gave the photograph to Sophie. But no one else touched the tape and envelope.”
“Don’t forget the hotel messenger who brought the envelope to the office,” said Makena.
“That’s right.” Tony nodded.
“We may be able to get fingerprints which can help identify the kidnappers,” said Patrick. “Did Sophie tell you how they managed to get hold of her children?”
“Luke said the kids went missing from the yard where they were playing on Friday afternoon. They assumed they got lost until he got a message on the answering machine at work saying I had taken them. It was the same voice on the tape we got.”
“Who else was in the yard when the kids disappeared? Someone may have seen something. Have they reported to the police?” Patrick asked.
“I didn’t ask.”
“We can’t do anything without more concrete information. I need to talk to them, find out exactly what happened. Are they still in your office?” Tony nodded. Patrick moved to the door and everyone else followed.
“Wait, we can’t all go back in there. I don’t want Sophie to feel like she’s getting ambushed,” Tony protested, arms on his waist, blocking the door.
“Alright, just you then,” Patrick said. Tony preceded him out of the room. They entered his office just as Luke hung up the phone.
“I was just updating Carol. I hope you don’t mind,” he said, sliding off his perch on the corner of the desk. Tony and Patrick froze. “Something wrong?” Luke asked worriedly, noting their abrupt shift in demeanour.
Tony closed the door and came further into the room. “What exactly did you tell Carol?”
“You need to be more specific,” Patrick interjected walking up to stand next to Tony.
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Luke asked.
“This is Patrick Lusebo, our head of security,” Tony replied.
“I was just telling her that the kids didn’t get lost like we thought. That they were kidnapped. I told her about the photograph and played the recording so she could confirm it was the same voice. She was with me when I found the message I told you about on our answering machine at the office.”
“Oh no. This is bad.” Tony and Patrick exchanged a coded look. Sophie got up from the sofa and walked over to the trio.
“I’m really sorry if I made a mistake. I didn’t think you’d mind if I used the phone,” Luke said apologetically.
“It’s not that. I don’t mind. It’s just…” he glanced at Patrick who gave a subtle nod. “The phone is tapped.”
“What?” Luke and Sophie looked at each other in surprise, then turned back to Tony.
“You mean like in the movies where the KGB and the FBI sneak into a building and put listening devices in a phone and the lamp and behind a painting, then park a dark van around the corner to listen in while the foolish people inside spill all their secrets, something like that?” Sophie remarked with a grin, punching her brother playfully on the shoulder, reminding Tony of the old Sophie.
It was the first time she’d smiled since entering the room and it sent a shock wave of heat through his body.
“Actually, it’s exactly that, except in this case it’s the NIS,” Patrick informed her dryly. If Tony didn’t know better, he’d have sworn there was a trace of a smile on his head of security’s face.
“The Special Branch? You’re kidding right?” Sophie asked. They shook their heads.
“You said before that your father has powerful enemies. What exactly did you mean?” Luke asked. Tony watched Sophie’s smile falter.
“Dwanje and a few other people.”
“Please tell me you mean someone with the same last name as the president,” said Luke.
“The president is somehow mixed up in my children’s disappearance?” Sophie’s voice was faint. Tony nodded.
“Wait. You mean to tell me the Special Branch now knows everything I just said to my fiancée?” Luke seemed to be having trouble grasping the enormity of what Tony was saying.
In an instant Sophie was in his face, hands shoving against his chest. “What the hell have you gotten my kids into?”
Tony grasped her hands and held her away from him. “How dare you? I didn’t even know they existed until an hour ago. You kept that a secret. I may never get to see my children because of you!”
Sophie flinched and covered her face with her hands, then dropped into the nearest chair, her shoulders shaking with sobs. Tony regretted the words the moment they were out but it was too late. He watched as Luke crouched beside his sister, put an arm around her shoulders and tried to comfort her.
He turned to Patrick. “What does this mean? Will the intelligence agents contact the police?”
“Not necessarily, but I need to know if they already reported her children missing.”
Tony took a step forward and tapped Luke on the arm. The other man glared up at him. “Patrick needs to ask you both a few questions about the day the kids disappeared,” he said apologetically.
Luke nodded briefly, then took Sophie’s arm and led her to the sofa. He whispered to her as the other two men sat in the wingchairs. After a few minutes, Sophie looked up, wiping her eyes with a tissue.
“What do you want to know?”
“Where do you live?” asked Patrick.
“In Lango, along Buja Road.”
“Can you describe the compound for me?”
“It’s just like any other plot in the area. Eight houses, arranged on two sides of the stone fence, four on each side with a small yard in the middle. Each house has two or three rooms. We share a toilet and bathroom which are at one end of the plot. Next to it is a small raised area which is cemented where we wash dishes and do the laundry next to the clothes lines.”
“Were you at home when it happened?”
Sophie shook her head. “I was at work.”
“Who was home with the kids?”
“Alright. Tell me what happened.”
She took a deep breath. “It was around 3pm. Kevin and Sean were playing in the plot with my neighbour’s kid who is slightly older and a cousin who had visited the previous week from their shags.”
“Continue,” said Patrick, writing in a small black notebook he’d retrieved from his inside jacket pocket.
“A few minutes later, my neighbour’s kid and his cousin were called into their house to take porridge. Kevin and Sean continued playing. My maid was inside the house ironing the clothes she had picked from the line. When she finished she went outside to check on the kids and couldn’t find them. She checked all the houses in the plot but they were not in any of them. Then she checked the plots on either side of ours. Kevin and Sean often go there to play with their friends.”
Sophie’s breath hitched as tears threatened to overwhelm her. Her brother put his arm around her and squeezed her shoulders then took over the narrative.
“The maid went to a telephone booth nearby and called our office. Sophie told her she was on the way. There is a line of kiosks across the road from the plot. Sophie told her to check all of them and ask the shopkeepers if they had seen anyone loitering near the plot. Before leaving the office, Sophie called me at work and told me what had happened. I asked my boss for permission and left immediately to go to Lango.”
“Where is this other office?”
“We have a small fish farm in Kiseti, a few kilometres from my flat in Ngairo. I only work there part time, mostly helping with the accounts as I still have my job at Majiwe Ltd. Sophie does most of the work,” Luke replied.
“Carry on,” Patrick said.
“We mobilised Sophie’s neighbours to help with the search. We looked in all the nearby plots, the kiosks, the church, but nobody had seen them. So we went to the police station.”
“What time was that?”
“Around 9pm. The police told us they couldn’t open a missing person’s file until the kids had been missing for at least 48 hours. They said they were most likely lost and someone would find them and bring them back home or bring them to the station. They told us to go back if they didn’t turn up in two days.”
“What?” The stupefied expression on Tony’s face betrayed more than he could ever express in words. “Why didn’t you demand action? Insist on seeing a more senior officer?”
Sophie looked at him bemused. “Like that would have helped.”
“What do you mean?”
“They would most likely have locked us up for disturbing the peace,” Luke replied.
“That’s ridiculous. The police are there to handle problems like this.”
“Maybe in the world you live in. But in Lango, the only time we see a policeman is at election time when the area MP visits Makoko slum to campaign for votes. I knew even before we went to the police station that it would be a waste of time. But Luke insisted we try. We spent the weekend going round all the houses in Lango, showing people photographs of Kevin and Sean, asking if they’d seen them. This morning I planned to go to The Guardian and ask them to run the photos in the newspaper, asking for information and offer a reward. Then Luke told me about the message on the answering machine saying Tony had taken the kids.”
She turned back to Patrick. “Now that you know the whole story, what now?” Patrick flipped through his notebook, his face an expressionless mask.
Silence descended on the room as they waited for his response. A knock sounded at the door. Tony walked across the office and admitted a waiter carrying a tray of food. He walked in and placed the tray on the coffee table.
“Would you like me to serve sir?” the waiter asked with a bow.
“No thanks. That will be all.” Tony turned to Luke and pointed at the food. “Please.”
Luke leaned forward and lifted the covers off the silverware. In one dish, fragrant rice steamed, filling the room with a delicious aroma. In the other, he uncovered a chicken stew. A small side dish contained stir fry mixed vegetables – carrots, peas, French beans, broccoli and cauliflower.
He picked a plate, dished up a generous serving of everything and handed the plate to Sophie. He picked a second plate and served himself. “You’re not joining us?” he asked Tony, when the other men made no move to serve food.
“I’m good,” Patrick replied.
Tony shook his head and stood. “Can I offer you something to drink? Juice, soda?”
Luke turned to his sister. “Sophie what would you like?” She shrugged, picking listlessly at her food. “Do you have mango juice?” Tony nodded. “Get her that. I’ll take a cold coke.”
Tony walked to the fridge and came back with the drinks. He turned to his head of security. “Drink for you Patrick?”
“I’ll take some of that mango juice, thanks.”
Tony walked to the sideboard and picked another glass, which he filled from the packet on the table. Tony sat down and watched Sophie push food around her plate. Luke meanwhile shovelled food into his mouth like a man who hadn’t eaten in a week.
“Sophie, you really need to try and eat,” Tony spoke softly, persuasively. She took a bite, chewing slowly, absentmindedly. He sighed and turned his attention to Patrick. “Any ideas?”
“There must be a jeshi which maintains order in the neighbourhood?” he asked Sophie.
“You mean Kosovo Boys?”
“We can use them to find your children. They will be more efficient than the police.”
“How? They could be anywhere and we only have three days.” She set her plate on the stool beside the sofa. She had barely touched her food.
“Do you know how to find a needle in a haystack?” Sophie shook her head. “You shake down the hay until the needle falls out.”
“What does that mean?” she probed with a puzzled look on her face.
“Gangs like Kosovo understand two types of currencies – violence and cash. We’ll recruit them and pour money into Makoko until someone talks.”
“Why do you assume my kids are in Makoko?”
“Before I answer that, let me ask you a question.”
“Would your children willingly go with a stranger?”
Sophie shook her head vigorously. “No. They are not even allowed to talk to strangers. I’ve drilled into them, if anyone they don’t know tries to take them somewhere, they should scream as loud as they can.”
“That’s what I thought. You see crimes like this are rarely committed by a stranger. Most likely your children were lured out of the compound by someone they know well. The fact that no one saw any suspicious people or strange cars parked outside would indicate they were led away on foot, most likely to a house within or close to the slum. The police will naturally be treated with suspicion because they rarely go into the area and that will hinder their investigation, causing delays that may lead to your children being harmed.”
“Killed you mean?”
Patrick nodded. “The Kosovo Boys on the other hand know the territory well and can therefore cover a lot of ground in a very short period of time. They’re our best shot at finding your children.”
“Who are these Kosovo Boys?” asked Tony, looking confused. Patrick gestured with his hand towards Sophie, indicating she should explain.
“Lango is like the gateway to Makoko slum. Obviously life there isn’t anywhere close to being as bad as it is in the slum but we border it, which could create a lot of problems for us, but doesn’t because Kosovo Boys provide security. They actually got their name from one of the 11 villages that make up the slum. Each house pays Sh50 a month protection fee to the gang to ensure they’re not robbed.”
“That’s extortion,” Tony interrupted. “It’s the police’s job to provide security.”
“There you go again. This isn’t the high class neighbourhood where you grew up. We’re next to a slum which the police have declared a no go zone. We’ve learnt from experience that even if you call them, they won’t come.”
“So a bunch of thugs is a better option?”
“I would rather pay Sh50 and enjoy peace and quiet knowing I can walk home from the bus stop at night and not fear getting mugged. It’s like the tax that the government imposes. Except that with Kosovo Boys, I get value for my money. They ensure that we always have water and electricity. A few months after I moved to Lango, we woke up one day to find a heap of garbage right next to the gate. Every night it got bigger and bigger.”
“Garbage from where?”
“Where do you think? The rich in Riverton, Kensington Gardens, Thatwa Ridge; they pay handsomely to have their filth taken off their hands but guess what the greedy garbage collectors do? Instead of taking it to the official dump site way outside the city, they dump it on our doorsteps so that they can save on fuel.”
“Oh.” Tony didn’t know what else to say.
“We tried to get the kanjo guys to collect it, but like the stupid karao, they can’t be bothered to set foot in Lango.”
“Who is kanjo and karao?” Sometimes talking to Sophie was like talking to someone from another planet.
“City Council and police,” Patrick clarified.
“We asked Kosovo Boys for help. The heap of garbage disappeared the next day and no one has dumped garbage there again.”
“Halleluyia for the Kosovo Boys,” Tony said, throwing up his arms.
Sophie ignored his sarcasm. “Plus they make sure the men of Makoko behave. When a man keeps coming home drunk and beats his wife, she only has to report to them and they convene a kangaroo court where he’s disciplined.”
“Well,” Sophie shrugged carelessly. “I’ve heard a few have been caned in public.”
“I don’t believe this. These are the thugs you want to send after my children?”
“Correction. My children.” She leaned forward as if ready to do battle and gave him a pointed stare, loaded with meaning. Tony decided to back off.
“It’s not like we have much of a choice. If the kidnappers get wind of our rescue operation before we’re ready to move, it could be fatal for the children,” interjected Patrick.
Tony didn’t like it but he trusted his head of security. Patrick had pulled them out of the fire several times since the war with Dwanje began. If not for his quick action after Bola got shot, that story would have ended very differently.
He owed him more than he could ever repay, even if he lived several lifetimes. Once again, he and his family hoped Patrick could work his magic and get them out of this crisis, with the lives of his children and their businesses intact. “What’s the plan?”
“I need to go visit some old friends. While I do that, go to the bank and withdraw Sh200,000 in small bills of Sh50 and Sh100. We can meet here afterwards or at your house.”
“At the house.”
“Alright. I should be back in two hours at most.” Patrick stood up and left the room.
Sophie stared after him then turned to Tony, a look of disbelief on her face. “That’s it? Shouldn’t he have given us more details about his plan?”
Tony shrugged nonchalantly. “When he’s ready, he’ll tell us.”
“We’re talking about my kids. I need to know what’s going on,” Sophie protested.
“Don’t worry. Patrick is very good at his job,” Tony assured her with a gentle smile.
“So what now? We’re just supposed to sit here and twiddle our thumbs until he returns?”
“Would you like to rest and freshen up? It might make you feel better. This is going to be a long night.”
“My house is close by. We could go there and you can take a shower while I make you a cup of tea? Perhaps take a nap? Luke tells me you haven’t slept in three days.”
Sophie rebuked her brother with a swift glance. “You moved out of the cottage?”
“Yes. I got a place in Thatwa Ridge.”
“Almost two years ago.” She nibbled her lower lip and hesitated. “Just say it Sophie. If I remember correctly, you were never afraid to speak your mind.”
“I’m not really comfortable going to your house.”
“Well, it’s either that or stay here. But I don’t think you’ll enjoy it. When you left so suddenly, rumours started flying.”
“What kind of rumours?”
“About us. I just ignored them till they died down. But with you back here, people are bound to talk and I know how much you like your privacy.” Sophie shuddered and closed her eyes in distress.
“You shouldn’t go back home. Now that we know who we’re dealing with, it’s important that you’re protected. I can do that better here or at my house. Stay at my place until we find the twins.” She stared at him stonily. “If it makes you feel any better, Luke can come too. I have three bedrooms.”
“What do you think?” Luke squeezed her shoulders and touched her forehead with his.
“Now that he knows about the kids, I can stay with you,” Sophie whispered and looked pleadingly at her brother.
“Ngairo is really far from here. If anything happens, or we get news of the children’s location, getting you back here will take time,” Tony said, before Luke could respond.
“He has a point sis.” Luke looked at her regretfully. “You can’t avoid Tony forever. You have to talk about what happened between the two of you sometime.”
Tony got up from his chair and crouched beside the sofa. “Sophie look at me.” She continued to stare at the floor and gripped her brother’s arm tightly, but finally turned her head to face him. “Right now my only focus is to find the kids and to keep you safe, that’s it. There will be no pressure. You don’t have to talk about the past until you’re ready, okay?”
“Promise?” The tension in her face had eased with his words but she still had a wary look in her eyes.
“I promise,” he assured her. “And Luke will be there to beat me with a stick if I break it,” he said on a light note, glancing at her brother, who was smaller than him. They both knew that Tony could take him easily in a fight. She smiled, which was gratifying.
Sophie looked at her brother. “I guess we’re going to Thatwa Ridge.”
Relieved, Tony stood up. “Give me a few minutes to update the others, then we can go.” He walked to the door.
“Tony wait.” He stopped with one hand on the door knob and turned to face her. “What about the cash Patrick wanted? Don’t you have to go to the bank?”
“That’s one of the things I’m going to brief James about. He keeps the cheque books.” He winked at her and left the room.
The Karenga siblings debated hotly about whether to tell their father about the kidnapping. Makena wanted to keep him in the dark, believing that disclosure would set back his recovery.
Tony and James insisted that he needed to know and that any decisions made should involve him. The future of his companies was at stake after all. In the end, the boys prevailed. They arrived at Tezi farm early the next morning within minutes of each other and found Bola eating breakfast with the family.
Tony had not eaten that morning and joined the others but James begged off, only accepting a cup of coffee. They discussed general issues during the meal. Once they were done, Bola led the way into his private study.
The room was comfortably furnished with a large oak desk at a corner next to the window overlooking the manicured lawn. A black leather two seater and two matching wingchairs occupied the centre of the room. A brick fireplace dominated the wall opposite the window, family photos displayed closely together on the mantel.
A bookshelf crammed with books of all descriptions filled up one corner, next to a comfortable leather recliner. Wall to wall carpeting with a black and grey checked pattern absorbed the sound of their footsteps as they trooped into the room. James sat on the sofa, Bola and Tony, the wingchairs.
“What’s up?” Bola asked, noting the tense demeanour of his sons, especially Tony, who looked like he hadn’t slept. No one spoke. “Has there been another attack on the hotel?”
Tony and James glanced at each other then Tony cleared his throat and leaned forward, elbows on his thighs, hands clasped in front of him. “There’s this girl I was dating a couple of years ago,” he began, then taking a deep breath, plunged into the rest of his tale.
“She got pregnant and we…I asked her to get an abortion. She disappeared soon after and I thought she had but…” Tony closed his eyes and pinched the top of his nose right between them, clearly mortified at having to reveal details of his love life to his father.
“Go on.” Bola’s voice was gentle. Tony met his father’s intent gaze and resumed his tale as James shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“Yesterday we got a tape recording saying that my children – twins, two boys – had been kidnapped. The kidnappers will spare their lives in exchange for the hotel and insurance company.”
“What?” Bola couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He struggled to put his feelings into words. “How certain are you that they are your children?” he finally asked.
“My thoughts exactly,” James said before Tony could respond. “Leswa and Sudipta have pulled some really nasty tricks to try and take over our companies. She could be lying.”
“Tony?” His father raised his eyebrows quizzically.
“She’s not lying. They’re my kids.”
“You sound really sure,” his father said.
Tony unclasped his hands and stared down at his palms. “I get why you’re sceptical. But you don’t know her like I do. She wouldn’t do something like this.”
“Three years is a long time. People change. And with twins to raise on her own, maybe she got desperate and is doing this for money,” said James. Tony stared at the carpet for a long time before speaking.
“After she told me she was pregnant, we fought for weeks about the abortion. Sophie wouldn’t even consider it. But then out of the blue she said yes. Afterwards I tried to find her. I even hired a private detective.”
Bola’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at this piece of news. James stared at his brother in disbelief.
“I contacted all her friends and left many messages with her brother. Sophie had to have known I was looking for her, but she didn’t contact me. Clearly, she’d decided she could raise the twins on her own. She didn’t need me or my money.” There was a trace of bitterness in Tony’s voice as he made that last statement.
Silence engulfed the room. “I guess I don’t have to ask if you still care about her. It’s obvious you do,” Bola finally spoke, his voice and his face full of compassion for his son whose pain was all too evident. “Where is she now?”
“She’s staying with me until we find the kids.”
“What? Is that the best idea? She’s already clouding your judgement…”
“Dammit James, stay out of it,” Tony shouted, turning to his brother in anger.
“Like hell I will,” his brother retorted, raising his voice as well. “She has a weapon that could destroy everything we’ve worked for all these years. All dad’s sweat down the drain and you want me to step aside?”
“Those are my kids. They’re not weapons,” Tony shot back, agitation pushing him to the edge of his seat.
“My point exactly. Face it Tony, you’d give up our companies to save those children, wouldn’t you?”
Tony glared at his brother then sunk back into his chair, the temporary flash of anger having burned itself out. He bowed his head and covered his face with his left hand. Another silence engulfed the room, this one heavy with unspoken emotions.
Bola felt the slow burn of anger begin to build inside him as he watched his son. Through this entire ordeal, Tony had always been the one who encouraged everyone else, who assured the family that their enemies wouldn’t win.
He had come up with strategy after strategy to protect their businesses, revealing a shrewd business sense that until then Bola had never suspected his happy go lucky, often reckless son who liked to party way too much, possessed. He had matured in the last two years. Bola watched with pride the transformation in his third born son as he shouldered burdens that most men twice his age never experienced in their lifetime.
During those horrible days when he clung to life and the weeks that followed as he recuperated at home, Tony is the one who held the family together, with even James deferring to him when important decisions needed to be made. Jawiri worked closely with his sons during the crisis and afterwards confessed how surprised he was that of the two, Tony is the one who stepped up to take the leadership mantle.
But now he looked beaten and broken. Bola understood his pain. He’d give up his business empire in an instant if it would save the lives of his children. It didn’t matter that Tony had never met his twin sons. He was reacting exactly as a father would. In his mind and in his heart, he had already accepted them and would do anything to protect them. Their mother too.
Bola’s heart swelled with pride. This however, presented a bitch of a problem. He couldn’t let Dwanje win. Not like this. He couldn’t believe that his foe had resorted to such a cowardly act. Even in a war filled with low blows and dirty tricks, Dwanje had reached a new low, that despicable cad.
It was one thing to go after his businesses. That was just money. But this was his son’s life and judging from the look on Tony’s face, Dwanje had dealt him a mortal blow. Tony might never recover if his children died in this war that wasn’t of his making. Bola would die before he let his long-time foe destroy his son.
Enough was enough. Dwanje had gone too far. It was time to clip his power once and for all. But first, finding Tony’s children was their top priority. “How much time do we have?”
He addressed the question to Tony who seemed lost in his own world. “58 hours,” James said, after a quick glance at his watch, when his brother failed to respond.
“Have you contacted the police?” asked Bola.
“The kidnappers said if we do, they’ll kill the children,” said James. “Patrick seems to have a plan, although he hasn’t shared all the details yet. I think he wants to use a local gang in Sophie’s neighbourhood to find the children. He’s asking for Sh200,000.”
“Whatever he needs, give it to him. Patrick knows what he’s doing,” said Bola.
“He’s sent the tape and the envelope it came in together with a photo of the kids which the kidnappers sent, to a friend at the CID to check for fingerprints. He’s hoping to track the kidnappers that way,” said James.
Bola nodded thoughtfully. “What about this company which they want us to transfer our companies to? Can we find out who the owners are?”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” James admitted, looking at Tony who seemed to come alive with his father’s statement.
“That’s a good clue. I’ll get right on it,” Tony said with enthusiasm. “Any more ideas?” He looked eagerly at his father.
Bola shook his head. “Why don’t you get started on that? If I think of something else I will call you.” Tony nodded. “Keep me posted on Patrick’s progress. Where is he now?”
“He’s meeting his CID friend so that they firm up the plan on how to use the Kosovo Boys. He’s also hoping to get the results of the fingerprints,” Tony replied.
“Good. Get going, you have work to do. And so do I,” Bola said standing up.
“What are you going to do?” James asked, curiosity written all over his face.
“I need to make a few calls.”
“To who?” James pressed for details.
Bola patted him on the shoulder. “I’ll explain later.”
“You sound just like Patrick,” James complained. Bola laughed at the hangdog expression on his face.
“Better get to work. You have a lot to do. Until your brother’s children are found, you’re handling all the companies. Tony will be too distracted.” James grimaced and stood up.
Bola squeezed his younger son’s shoulder as he left the room. “Don’t worry. We’ll find your kids. And I’ll make sure the bastards who did this pay.” His eyes flashed with sudden raw fury. His voice was grim, each syllable pronounced.
Dwanje had played his last card. Bola would make sure he never messed with his family again.