Johnstone Kinyanjui was startled awake by the loud clap of thunder outside his corrugated iron-roofed watchman’s post. The skies had opened and dumped sheets of rain on the red earth of the path leading up to the steel gates of the Honorable Minister’s, or Mheshimiwa’s, mansion. The red earth, unprepared for such a deluge on what was supposed to be a dry month, passed the water onto the grass that grew by the path. Johnstone had worked for Mheshimiwa for ten years. The salary was not good, but it was consistent, and Mheshimiwa promised him a salary increase in the coming year.
Johnstone typically had an early supper with his wife Waithera and their two children Wanjiku and Wacira. Johnstone considered his marriage to be one of the great joys of his life. Waithera ran the household flawlessly, even though their only source of income was Johnstone’s meagre salary. His house was always clean, the children well cared for, and, when he arrived home early in the morning after a long night at work, Waithera always welcomed him with a smile and a warm meal.
Wanjiku, named after his own mother, was, like his mother, a very strong-willed person. Even though she was only ten years old, she spoke with the conviction of one much older and wiser. He jokingly called her “mama”. His son Wacira, named after Johnstone’s father, had been born with a slightly weak left leg, and at thirteen, walked with a slight limp. What he lacked in physical strength he made up for in intellectual prowess. Wacira had consistently been the top student in the entire county, and all the teachers agreed that great things lay ahead for the brilliant child. He was due to sit his KCPE in one year, and everyone looked forward to his admission to one of Kenya’s top secondary schools.
That evening, Wanjiku had cried when her father left for work. She did that sometimes, wanting him to stay home instead of going to work so he could tell them folk stories his own grandmother had narrated to him as a child. He bid his family goodnight, promising Wanjiku that he would tell her many stories when he returned the next morning.
Now at his watchman’s post, Johnstone thought he heard a car driving nearby. He wondered if Mheshimiwa was expecting relatives at this late hour. Mheshimiwa had all sorts of visitors, most of them constituents coming to ask for financial assistance. It was rare for them to come by this late, unless it was a for medical emergency requiring more money than they could afford. To say that Mheshimiwa was not a very generous person would be a gross understatement. The man was so tightfisted, even his own family was denied fairly reasonable requests. Most of the time, Johnstone was under strict instructions not to allow anyone in the compound after sunset. The daytime watchman told Johnstone that it was not the lateness of the hour that stopped Mheshimiwa from seeing his constituents, rather, it was the tightness of his fist that would not allow him to help those in need. Both watchmen hoped that they would not be in a position where they would need urgent assistance from Mheshimiwa.
Johnstone looked around to see if anyone would approach the gate, but when no one showed up, he tuned his small radio to kameme fm, settling into a long night of watching and waiting. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw movement. He immediately grabbed his rungu, the club he carried to protect the big man inside the mansion and turned on his flashlight. He had just walked out of the watchman’s post, wading into the red earth-stained water, when seemingly out of nowhere, three men surrounded him. Johnstone blew his whistle to alert Mheshimiwa’s family about the intruders, but the loud storm muffled the sound of the whistle. He swung his rungu at the first man and hit him on the head. The man fell, groaning in pain. The remaining two men pounced on Johnstone, hitting him with rungus and demanding that he let them in the compound. The beating continued for a while, but Johnstone would not give up the keys.
As fate would have it, one of Mheshimiwa’s friends was coming to visit, and three card swung into view, driving up to the gate. The first car was a private security company car, with flashing lights, protecting Mheshimiwa’s friend, and the thugs, thinking someone had called the police to arrest them, grabbed their wounded colleague and fled, leaving an unconscious Johnstone on the ground. The driver of the security car jumped out of the car and, seeing Johnstone lying on the ground, carried him and put him in the car. He then ran to Mheshimiwa’s friend’s car, and asked him to call Mheshimiwa so they could administer First Aid to Johnstone in Mheshimiwa’s house. Mheshimiwa refused, saying he did not want his house muddied by a mere watchman. Mheshimiwa’s friend instructed his security to drive Johnstone to the nearest hospital.
Unfortunately, that was an hour away, on very muddy and slippery roads. When they finally arrived at the hospital, the doctor had left for the night, and the receptionist asked how they would pay for Johnstone’s treatment. The security guard informed the receptionist that Mheshimiwa would pay for the treatment, as Johnstone was his watchman. Johnstone was admitted into the General ward, and the nurses got to work cleaning his very swollen head and body. The next morning, a series of xrays showed that Johnstone has suffered multiple fractures from the beating he had received and that he would need emergency surgery to remove some bone fragments from his lungs. This surgery would be performed in Nairobi, and he needed to be airlifted to Nairobi Hospital.
Waithera was becoming concerned because Johnstone had not returned from work, which was highly unusual. Her children Wacira and Wanjiku kept asking when their father would return. It was at that moment that their neighbor, a nurse at the hospital, broke the news to them. They were devastated. Waithera asked the neighbor to watch the children while she went to ask Mheshimiwa for financial help. When she arrived at Mheshimiwa’s home, she was met with hostility, and was told that Mheshimiwa had already found a new watchman, and would not be needing Johnstone’s services anymore. Her pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears.
Waithera went home, collected her children and together they made the one hour trek to the hospital to see Johnstone. He was unconscious, and the doctor explained to them that if he was not airlifted to Nairobi immediately, he would not survive the night. Waithera explained that she did not have the funds to pay for the helicopter ride, and pleaded with the doctor to find an alternative way to help Johnstone, but the doctor did not have the equipment or expertise needed to treat Johnstone. That night, Johnstone breathed his last.