I buried my face in my handcuffed palms, too ashamed to lookup and scan the courtroom, as I did not want my gaze to meet my family members, at particularly not that of my long suffering and loving wife, Martha Wangechi, and our 18 year old daughter Marvel.
But try as I could, it was an arduous task. What with my neck aching, and the discomfort of having to bend, staring at the faded and dirty wooden floor of this Makatara courtroom. And then my lawyer Inachus Rayora, had a point or two to clarify with me, before the magistrate strode in, and so, I had to look up.
The courtroom was full to capacity, and was getting filled up by the minute as more and more people came in, some staring at me with wide unbelieving eyes, as if I was a cannibal who had just landed from somewhere in the jungle of Kongo Forest.
And they had a reason to believe that I, Jackson Kimunda, the principal of the famed Chikania Friends Academy – the school that produces doctors, lawyers and architects – was actually a cannibal. How, in God’s name would the body of a dead man be found in the deep freezer at the house of his mistress, a woman who was once the dead man’s wife?
Well I, too, could not believe that it was me. A whole schoolmaster, sitting in this dock waiting to answer to a charge of murder. Murder of a man – the estranged husband of the woman I was having an affair with – after separating from my wife of twenty years.
I looked around the courtroom. Behind Mr Moriss Wasike, my deputy, I saw her. My wife Martha, her eyes bright but dry after perhaps a weekend of crying, and nail biting anguish wondering what the world had come to.
Our eyes met and locked. For eternity we looked at each other. Our whole life together since we were lovers in college, eventual marriage and happily living as man and wife flashed like a ray of light between our souls as we stared at each other. Then we blinked, wiped our tears and looked aside.
I regretted having ever fallen into Jessy Koroku’s grip in the last six months. I had one day stopped to assist her on the roadside after her car had broken down, and one thing had led to another, after she confided to me that it wasn’t only her car that had broken down but her marriage, and that she was a lonely woman.
Jessy must have cast a spell on me because I found myself falling deeply, foolishly and hopelessly in love with her. Like an infatuated teen, I could not resist her lustrous beauty and hot romances that followed. To my dismay I found myself having to choose between her and my wife, causing a friction to the two decade marriage I had enjoyed with Martha.
Eventually I had to get myself an apartment where I would host Jessy almost every other evening for romantic sleepovers. She still lived in her matrimonial house in Runda which her ever busy and filthy rich husband had left for her and once in a while I would visit and spend time with her.
A few times she hinted to me that she was trying to get a divorce because she and her husband were no longer interested in each other, and that she was looking forward to getting her share of their property and that she wished to keep the Runda home. ‘’Once we are through, you can come and live here with me,’’ she had told me that once or twice.
Though Martha was angry, hurt and disappointed, she tearfully but gracefully let me go. She would not fight for her marriage… I don’t know how I faced Marvel to actually tell here I was moving out of their life. Though I cherished my relationship with Jessy, I still missed my daughter and her mother, and I thought about them once in a while.
Then two weeks ago, six months after I had moved, Martha called me, requesting that we have dinner together at home. I obliged, since I still regarded her as my wife, despite the separation.
Just one look at her beautiful and innocent face, I felt like a big letdown. How on earth could I have betrayed such a sweet soul, I wondered. What moved me further was the fact that Martha wasn’t even angry with me or judgmental; she was as friendly and loving as she had always been when we were courting ages ago.
She had prepared a very delicious meal, one that I always cherished during our life together. Marvel wasn’t around, as according to Martha, she had gone visiting with friends.
‘’She would have loved to see you again, but I told her that I needed you all to myself since we have not seen one another for quite a while and that we had some business to discuss,’’ Martha said smiling as she served me with two cold bottles of Guinness, after the meal.
During the two hours we spent together, Martha confessed again and to my embarrassment and uneasiness that she was still very much in love with me. I loved her too; after all, weren’t we supposed to be a married couple? Amid some struggle with tears, she said that she hoped I would come back home to her one day, and leave the other woman alone, but she was not going to push me, she said, adding that she was sorry for anything that she might have done to make me run away from home.
I could not give her an answer immediately, but asked her to give me a few days to think about it. Her dazzling beauty almost made me decide there and then to come back home, but something was still pulling me towards Jessy.
‘’Please, give me a few days, and I will give you my answer,’’ I told her, at the back of my mind struggling with the question of whether I should file for divorce, once Jessy got hers.
Suddenly my phone rang. It was Jessy.
‘’Hello…’’ I said.
‘’ Hi… Jack… please come quickly… Zaddock is killing me. …’’
‘’What!’’ I exclaimed, as I looked at Martha. She looked back at me, alarm written all over her face.
‘’What is it, Jackson?’’ she asked, as I covered the mouthpiece, and said to her… ‘’it’s Jessy…’’ then I waved her away as I went back to the phone.
‘’Jessy, what are you telling me?’’
‘’My husband is here and he is fuming… he is after me… please come…’’
I don’t know how I left Martha’s house and ran straight into the parking lot, jumped into my car and a few moments later I was driving like mad towards her house. How could Zaddock do this? I thought the two had been out of each other’s lives ages ago.
I arrived at her massive mansion at Runda which her husband had abandoned after they separated. Mr Jarius Zaddock, one of the richest man on the land currently lived in Karen with a new wife, where he had another impressive home and many other property dotted all over the city, the coast and in Nyahururu and ranches around Nanyuki.
No wonder he could leave this Runda property to estranged wife without flinching after they separated. But why was he back, and why did he want to kill her, as she had claimed on the phone. Funny enough, the only car in the compound when I arrived was Jessy’s. Had he left, I wondered.
As I came out of the car I saw Musau, the gate man locking after I had entered. So I called him. He looked somewhat nervous and stuttered as he spoke.
‘’Musau, what’s wrong… you look as if you have seen a ghost…’’
‘’Ghost, where…? No sir…’’
‘’Is everything fine?’’ I asked him, hoping he would tell me about the scuffle that might have happened inside between Jessy and her ex-husband.
‘’Yes…’’ he said still looking shaky and shifty.
‘’Is madam fine… she called me saying Zaddock was here…’’
‘’Yes… But he is now gone…’’
I realised he would not help me much because perhaps it wasn’t a serious scuffle, and Zaddock had just had an argument and left… but why would Jessy hysterically call me?
The moment she saw me she jumped and hugged at me as if she would never let go. She was whimpering in my ear and saying how scared she was. I comforted her the best way I could then we sat down.
‘’Tell me, what happened,’’ I asked as she wiped her tears with a tissue paper.
Then amid more sobs and tears she narrated what had happened. ‘’He was raving mad and wanted her out of the house if I did not stop seeing you. He threatened to shoot me and I had to run to the bedroom and lock myself up. That’s when I called you,’’ she said.
It sounded odd. Why after all these months was he giving her conditions? At no time in our relationship had she accused him of being violent, and she had just left him because he had little or no time for her. Now this?
I looked around. Apparently they had been drinking as there were two glasses of what looked like whisky and wine. She noticed that I was looking at the glasses and explained, ‘’When he came, he just said he wanted to say hello, and I invited him for a drink as we had general talk. He then changed suddenly and started questioning me about you,’’ she offered.
‘’But I thought he always knew about us, and that… he didn’t care.’’ I asked.
‘’I don’t know what came into his mind.’’
She told me that after she ran to the bedroom and called me, she heard him drive off after a few minutes. ‘’I called Musau and he confirmed that Zaddock had left.’’
I could not let her stay alone there so I asked he to accompany me to my place where she spent a couple of days before she was brave enough to go back to her Runda home. For her own security, I advised her to instruct Musau never to open the gate for Mr Zaddock again, unless he was accompanied by police. I never heard of Mr Zaddock again, and thought everything was now fine.
Until two days ago, a fortnight after this incident, when all hell broke loose.
I had visited Jessy as usual and we were having a lazy and cozy afternoon when the bell suddenly rang. It shook me up a bit because she rarely had visitors, at least not while I was around. She looked at me sharply as if wondering if I would understand the bell, since apparently she also never entertained guests.
‘’I shook my head and said, ‘’why don’t you check and see…’’ I said.
‘’No, I have told Musau never to let anyone in. He should have informed me before ringing the bell’’. She said angrily, picking the phone and calling Musau’s number. It went unanswered. Flabbergasted, she stood up and walked briskly to the door.
The moment she opened the door it almost crashed on her as she was pushed in by three burly and mean looking men, who were followed by a shaken Musau.
‘’What the hell…’’ she said, as I also stood up in shock. Could these be Zaddock’s men out to teach us a lesson?’’ I wondered.
‘’What is the meaning of this?’’ screamed Jessy again.
‘’Are you Jessicah Koroku Zaddock?’’ asked the man with a silver scar between the left ear and the cheek.
‘’So what if I am?’’ she asked defiantly.
The man put his hand inside his breast pocket and took out a card. ‘’I am superintendent of police Johnson Kasaja. I have a search warrant to search this whole house.’’
‘’What for?’’ I asked almost chocking.
‘’And who may you be?’’
‘’He is a friend… my guest,’’ Jessy said.
‘’Then let him stay out of this…’’ said the cop.
‘’So what are you searching for… I have not stolen anything.’’ Jessy screamed.
‘’Madam… sit down and let us do our work. But if you should know, we are looking for the body of your missing husband – Mr Zaddock.’’
‘’What? Is he dead?’’
‘’Please don’t ask questions, to which answers you might know… sit down you two and let us do our work…’’
I knew things were bad when I started seeing Jessy fidget, while Musau was actually shaking in terror. Did these two know something that I didn’t?’’ I wondered.
I didn’t have to wonder for long. Zaddock’s body, still with fresh looking knife wounds was retrieved under several food items at the bottom of Jessy’s deep freezer in the kitchen. The three of us, were arrested for the murder.
And so, here I am in court, waiting for the judge to come and read our charges.
‘’Not guilty your honour,’’ we all pleaded innocence to the murder of Jarius Zaddock, the well known tycoon of Nairobi.
The court was hushed to silence as the magistrate noted down our pleas.
Then he looked up expecting the lawyers to apply for bail, but before of the lawyers stood up, the deputy state prosecutor Merceline Anyango stood up.
‘’Your honour, I have an application to make,’’ she said as all eyes stared at her.
‘’Yes Ms Anyango.’’
‘’The state would like to withdraw charges against Jackson Kimunda.’’ She said and I felt a sweet pain of relief rip through my heart, lungs and stomach. So someone had realized that I was innocent, I thought.
‘’How come?’’ the magistrate answered.
‘’We have come across new and crucial evidence that shows that the second accused is not guilty, but just a victim of circumstances, and hence, we would like to treat him as a prosecution witness.’’
Things happened so fast, and before I knew it, I was with Martha, in her car, driving me to her place. I was still dazed and didn’t know what the hell had happened.
‘’You should thank me,’’ Martha said after I had mechanically followed her into the living room and slumped into the sofa like a mannequin.
‘’What are you talking about?’’ I asked. I was still dazed. First the discovery of Zaddock’s body in the freezer two nights ago, the arrest and spending the night in the police cells, the charge in court, and the quick acquittal before being driven away by Martha.’’
‘’I called the police and told them that you were innocent.’’ she said.
‘’You see, according to the charge the murder happened on the same evening you had come to visit me. You remember we had just had dinner when Jessy called. According to the police Zaddock died around then, and it was after that reports of his disappearance started.
‘’What solved the mystery was the fact that a taxi driver who dropped Zaddock at the house was filmed by highway security cameras enter the residence and leave. He later told the investigators that he had just dropped him there and left.
‘’I had been with you here and it was after they killed him that she called you, claiming that Zaddock was attacking her.’’
‘’You mean that body had been lying in that house all this time?’’
‘’Yes, in the deep freezer.’’
‘’How do you know all this?’’
‘’The lawyer I got for you, Mr Rayora, told me after looking at the police documents.’’
‘’Good Lord! And why would she kill her…?’’
Then it downed on me. All that talk of how Zaddock didn’t want to give her a divorce because he didn’t want to part with his property came flooding tome… Jessy might have been beautiful and sexy, but she was also crooked. I thanked God for getting me out of the mess.
Thinking back it occurred to me that Jessy must have hosted her husband, made him drunk and with the help of Musau murdered him, and hid his body in the freezer, waiting for the opportune time to get rid of the body. They never got the time.
I stood up and hugged Martha… ‘’I was a fool. A blind fool… please forgive me…’’ I pleaded.
‘’I had forgiven you a long time ago… I love you Jack…’’
‘’I love you too Martha…’’ I said and as we were about to kiss, we stopped. There was some slow motion clapping behind me. I turned. It was a beaming Marvel.
‘’Hey look at those two lovebirds… isn’t it awesome!’’ she said as she continued clapping and walking towards us.
‘’Come here you brat…’’ I said joyfully as I grabbed her too, and together with her mother, we had one huge bear hug, never to separate again.
©Patrick Ngugi 201219