The rain fell hard against the windscreen of the Peugeot. It hammered the glass in an incessant rap and the sound it made seemed like it was trying to get his attention. He was seated behind the wheel, staring out into the rain but not seeing past his thoughts. He wandered in them the way a madman wanders around his home village. Lost but not really lost. He was parked by the roadside, about a hundred meters away from a shopping mall they called Galleria and just ahead of him, the gate to some international school was up in bright lights that seemed to steam in the rain. He only noticed this by passing, with the hazy part of his mind. He was subconsciously aware of where he was as the rest of his conscious mind tried to figure out how and when he had gotten to this fucked up point. There was a sealed white envelope on the passenger seat and it lay there ominously, sticking out against the grey finishing of the car like a monk in a nightclub. He thought about the nights before him, now lying on the ground spent and wasted, all of them bearing a little part of the sin he was going to again commit this night. He had always thought of himself as a good man, in all the ways that mattered. He had had the rarest gift of a clean conscience and now all he had was doubt. He had abandoned idealism with the excuse of realism when he chosen to save his dying mother.
The loud blare and blinding glare of a passing truck revived him. There, still in the car, still not a step closer to solving the problem that was before him. Self pity and running around in thoughts was not going to help. He started the car and cautiously swung onto the road. As he drove down the hill, there in front of him was Rongai town. Standing like a ghost city in the rain.
He knocked on her door about thirty minutes past eight, one hour earlier than he had come last week. She had known the minutes by heart. He was standing there drenched, his thick black hair dripping with water. He only wore a thin shirt and it clung to his skin for dear life. But he was looking straight at her without blinking. Seemingly oblivious of the rain. As she let him in, she thought to herself if there was a world in which she could actually be with him regardless. But she too learnt the futility of thoughts when he announced in her living room,
“This is the last one.”
She closed the door and looked at him as she went into the bathroom and found a clean towel by the shower. It was white and warm and she knew he’d be as cold as he was dark now. He was standing in the middle of the living room. Dripping water on her rug. His hands hung loosely by his side and in the right one was the envelope. She did not speak as she proceeded to put the towel in his hair and tried to dry him. He however gently shook his head and took the towel in his left hand.
“I can’t do this anymore Emily.” He was stretching out the envelope.
She took it and stepped back to watch as he dried himself. She set it down on the sofa and sat next to it.
“You are not doing it for me dear; you are doing it for your mother. You know what would happen if you stopped.”
He stopped his motions and sat down heavily. She could tell he was tired. And troubled.
“What happened?” she asked moving closer to him.
“These are real people that they are killing and you are helping them. We are helping them.”
“You ruined my life.”
She had first seen him in her French class on a Friday afternoon. He was new and he didn’t know what to do with himself. He had admitted later that he had zero interest in French. She had been captivated by his eyes before she realized that he would be the perfect one for the plan. By the time she asked him to deliver the first name, they had slept together about four times. She told him that she was being forced too, and that they were the same, just grass in a battlefield. So as often as it is that good get corrupted so fast in her world so it was and his mother got insurance. As long as he handed over the names of all small scale marijuana dealers in campus to her, the administration.
“I didn’t sign up for this you know,” he was saying.
“I thought all I was going to do was to get them expelled. And suddenly two of them are dead. I didn’t know what you had planned. ”
“It breaks my heart that you still have to lie to yourself darling.”
“I am certainly sorry that I dragged you into this but you could have said no.”
“And let my mother die?”
“No. And found an honest way to keep her alive.”
She stared into his eyes and saw his pain. His conflict and his misery. She wanted to make it all go away.
“You are my lecturer.”
The nature of his conflicts had seemingly changed.
She kissed him.
Later, when he was much warmer and less despaired, he stepped into his clothes in her bedroom as she lay in the sheets looking at him. She was ten years older than him and society would never accept them. Even if they could find a way to escape her bosses and flee to her home country, her world would still always look down at him. But he could never leave his mother. So they were stuck in a place where they would always be a secret, for one reason or the other. But he had found some kind of unmeasured satisfaction in her. He had not wanted a single thing more than just to have her in his arms. He was hopeless and she had exploited that. But he knew that deep down within this twisted life that they had found themselves in, there was a baseline of love.
And then it came back to him in a rush. The envelope. The names. And why he was here. He rushed to put on his wet boots.
“I can’t. I’m sorry, I have to go. I’m not doing it anymore. I’ll find another way.”
He fumbled in his jeans pockets and found the keys to the 504, parked a few meters from her house.
“You can have your car back.” He looked at her.
She did not say anything as he turned and walked to the front door. He stood there holding the knob, waiting for her to come after him. To say the wrong things in the right way and then he’d be back in again. Consumed. He heard the faint shuffle of sheets and thuds on the floor as she got off the bed. He waited, pulse racing.
She appeared at the end of the short corridor to him and stood. In her white nightgown and her blonde hair that was messy around her shoulders. He saw the gun in her hand; the long black silencer seemed as cold as death.
“No Patrick,” she said.
The rain outside roared on. Oblivious of the gasp that he made as the bullet hit his heart.