Duel in the Savanna
By Wanjiru Waithaka
Copyright ©2015 All Rights Reserved
They stared at each other in stunned confusion, rendered speechless by the earth shattering announcement.
“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.
His brother sunk into the nearest chair as if weighed down by shock, while the recorded voice seemed to echo around the room in cruel triumph. James rewound the tape recorder and everyone listened again until it faded into silence.
Their expressions were mirror images silently pleading with him to assure them that this was just another trick employed by their enemies in the long and bruising battle to wrest control of the family businesses.
Tony clutched the photograph which had been delivered with the tape tightly, betraying the strain he was under. He looked haggard from sleepless nights plotting strategy to stay ahead of their adversaries. A thin sweat trail ran down his back and he swallowed compulsively as if trying to say something but no words came.
Tony was easily the most handsome man in the Karenga family. He had a honey-coloured complexion and a thin face with clear intelligent eyes set close together beneath bushy eyebrows.
His normally sensual mouth looked grim and was adorned with a thin moustache that tapered down to a short beard and pointed chin. His 6’2 frame was decked out in his favourite khaki short-sleeved shirt and shorts which exposed long, thin, hairy legs.
His sister Makena teased him constantly about his ‘mosquito legs’ knowing how much it irritated him. He ran a hand through his hair in agitation, absentmindedly. His untamed hair stood in stiff peaks about two inches long and drove his conservative suit-wearing father crazy.
Bola often compared him to a matatu tout, but Tony ignored his frequent appeals to get a decent haircut. If anything, he enjoyed watching his father’s discomfiture every time he introduced him to business associates.
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 in the office, slowly clenching and unclenching his fists. He took a deep breath to calm himself, ignored the curious stares of the others and addressed Tony. “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 was shorter than Tony but had the stocky build of a nightclub bouncer, which made him intimidating especially when angry, like now. He frowned, his bushy eyebrows a marked contrast to his shiny bald head.
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?” asked Makena, disapproval clear in her tone.
James glared at her. “You haven’t met her either. Why do you assume I’m wrong?”
She turned and silently beseeched Freddo and Isaiah, Tony’s sidekicks. Freddo wouldn’t look at her. Isaiah merely shrugged, his palms raised in a helpless gesture. Makena had nicknamed the trio the three musketeers because they always hung out together. They had been friends since childhood and even attended the same schools.
Frederick Biako – nicknamed Freddo – was the tallest of the trio and had an aloof arrogance intimidating to those who didn’t know him well. He dressed with care and favoured Italian suits and silk ties giving the impression of cool sophistication and was quite the gentleman around ladies.
Isaiah Makanti was short and sinewy, down to earth and wild like Tony. He cared little about his physical appearance or what others thought of him. He treated life as a big party to be enjoyed with no regard to consequences.
Beneath the carefree veneer and caustic wit however, lay an intelligent mind that grasped problems quickly and came up with practical solutions. This trait had helped the trio get out of sticky situations countless times.
Freddo crossed over to where she sat. “Makena is this for real?” he whispered.
She shrugged equally surprised. “I don’t know and I don’t think he does either. I would have known.”
Makena was closest to Tony who was only a year older. James, 33, was the first born in the family, four years older than Tony. In-between was 31-year-old Peter, currently working in Chicago as a data analyst for McKinsey, a consulting firm. Grace, the last born, 23, was also in the United States of America studying for a Masters degree in Economics at Stanford University.
Tony and Makena had always been playmates and confidants while growing up. People often wondered if they were twins because of the similarity in their physical appearance and temperament.
“Sophie is here…” Tony repeated the words in disbelief.
Makena more than anyone knew what that implied. He had confided the terrible secret that had haunted him for three long years. He had only spoken about it once, after a night of too much booze, driven by the despair that was eating him up inside.
They talked for hours that night as he poured out his misery, at one point almost breaking down in tears. Since then, he had refused to discuss it and never told anyone else, not even Freddo or Isaiah.
It can’t be true.
Sophie is here.
She would burst through those doors at any second. The long awaited day had finally arrived. Tony’s date with destiny. He had searched for her for so long but who would have imagined it would happen like this?
And the revelation…if true…Oh dear Lord! What would Tony do? Where did that leave the family, the business?
Tony raised his head and looked at Makena. In the millisecond before he averted his gaze she could see right into his soul.
Her barely audible gasp of dismay could only mean one thing. She’d realised the awful consequences that were also just beginning to dawn on him. Their opponents had employed the masterstroke in this terrible game to forcefully take over their family business.
Thus far Tony had proved to be the rock that everyone could lean on, even Bola. He had thought of every counter strategy and defence to protect their flagship business. His quiet unshakeable confidence that they would win the battle had greatly inspired the rest of the family.
But now perhaps the unthinkable might happen, for they had succeeded in finding his weak spot…Sophie.
Tony stared at the photograph in his hands and felt a chill go down his spine.
Memories of Sophie rushed into his mind like a tidal wave. Slender, 5’5, with a smooth deep chocolate complexion, high cheekbones and a dimpled smile that revealed small even white teeth. She wore her long hair in a ponytail which left her long narrow face exposed.
She had a pleasantly deep and slightly husky voice and had this cool unruffled aura. But when she got excited you could see flashes of hidden fires in those beautiful almond shaped eyes. She was only 20 years old when he met her, but even then she was very driven and tackled everything she did with a single-mindedness of purpose.
But she was also naïve especially where men were concerned and certainly no match for Tony, who loved women. He was an unabashed and unrepentant player who delighted in the thrill of the chase. When a woman took his fancy, he switched on the magnetic charm he had in plenty and few resisted.
Freddo and Isaiah were willing accomplices and the three of them competed over virtually everything. They enjoyed gambling and were always inventing new ways to score points off each other. That’s how the affair between Sophie and Tony began – as a game after a friendly bet between the three musketeers.
She wasn’t his usual type. The women he dated were sophisticated and polished; many from his social set, well travelled and just as loaded as he was. Tony preferred women who liked to party hard and who were under no illusions about an affair leading to marriage. He got rid of anyone who tried to tie him down.
He wasn’t keen on pursuing Sophie initially, but the one thing he liked more than women was winning a bet against his buddies. It didn’t turn out the way anyone expected however.
His mind drifted back to the day it all began…