The beams of his car’s headlamps pasted on the stained glass windows of the room, and it faded into darkness as the engine purred to a halt. It was atypical of his wife to not have come out unto the balcony after the noise of the car engine had stopped. He gave the electronic clock one last look at it blinked for the last time; 8:30pm was a little later than usual. The man walked calmly the short distance to the balcony, the path aesthetically flanked by a short wall of ixora was illuminated by a beautiful moonlight. There needn’t be a knock, disturbing his family’s night sleep would not be the best idea after returning home unscheduled. Such a complicated man he often thought himself to be, serving two masters at a time: a very demanding home and a very demanding job, to each he tried to give his best. On nights as this he would come home following the postponement of a scheduled night shift at the office. The man gently locked the door behind him, flashed his torchlight around the sitting room, a necessary protocol in his heedful manners, and walked into the passage. The ajar door of the children’s bedroom caught his attention and he had to take a closer look. Lutalo was wrapped in much of the blanket, leaving his sister, Kyagaza, out in the cold. The man didn’t bother covering them well, Lutalo would still pull the blanket away from his sister’s body. He gently closed the door and went into his bedroom. The torchlight found the exposed lap of Elizabeth, the rolling and tossing of a sleepy woman often unveils sensitive areas of the body. The man was staring at his wife’s laps, the much that was exposed below the twisted night gown. Much was left to the imagination and he imagined in silence. He swallowed hard as he dropped his bag beside the door with a light thud, and as he took dainty steps toward the bed, Elizabeth adjusted herself. He dropped his bag beside the door and swallowed hard as he took dainty steps towards the bed. Elizabeth adjusted her position and faced up as her husband sat beside her, in that moment he had to change his mind about sporting with a sleepy woman. He sat in silence removing his work clothes. A bit of memory flashed in his mind: he remembered that day in Memphis when Elizabeth agreed to marry him. For a romance story, love between a middle class Jewish girl raised on the broad way streets of the United States, and a melanin-rich boy whose greatest accomplishment for a long time was leaving his sleepy Ugandan village for Kampala seemed improbable, but such was their story.
In another part of town, Hidi Hamin, the nation’s military chief was hosting a nocturnal visitor. On the balcony of a well-guarded duplex overlooking much of the valley estate these men sat and discussed over wine.
“Singapore.” Hamin puffed a bellow of smoke, he had a cigarette in hand.
“A promising country, isn’t it?” Hamin’s visitor, Bob Carlton, a Whiteman, bald and short, and with a conspicuous moustache, asked.
“Yes, Bob, and now they have one of ours, a hairy ugly one of ours. That should cut a chunk of their promise.”
“President Milton isn’t that ugly, you know. I would say he is of moderate appearance, a perfect balance of both sides of beauty.”
Hamin maintained silence as he gulped some wine. He dropped the cup with a heavy thud and stared vaguely at Bob Carlton, “Tell me whose side you are on, man. You shouldn’t try to sound good on a man we will push off this boat in the next tide.”
“You know, Hamin, you should be scared of me just as I should be of you; two men stirring the cup of treason, setting up the cauldron to cook the man that holds us in trust. Why should we trust each other after now with legacies of betraying trust?”
“I am not and will not be scared of you, man. And when I become the leader of the country you should be scared of me, sore afraid of me. But let’s postpone our fight till after we pull this off. And I do not want to think this a selfish ambition, I want to save my people from…”
“Is it my people already?”
“… I want to save this country from the misrule of that chimp.”
“And save yourself from time.”
“Excuse me?” Hamin was static.
“I know your grafts, Hamin,” Bob Carlton smiled smugly. “It would be only a matter of time before this information gets into the wrong hands and you come under the jury of public opinion; beer parlour politics, you know about it, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t play coy with me, Hamin.” Bob Carlton scoffed. “I don’t traffic in metaphors. I have been clear here. I came across documents in your trashcan, how smart of you to not burn them.”
“Can you explain to me how funds meant for the military end up in your fat belly?”
A look of intense unease came upon Hamin, he looked around the balcony as if to assure himself of their solitude. “The lion does not disturb himself with the beer parlour politics and the jury of sheep. Do not think that I will lose sleep if people eventually find out I abused this office.”
“Oh, yes, the people don’t count, but if my calculations are right, you would derive much of your legitimacy from the international support that would come your way, and now, name one country that would support the regime of a known thief?”
“Hmmm,” Hamin sighed, “Whatever I have taken I have shared with those around me. If this information gets out to the public, Hamin would not be the biggest casualty, a lot of bigger men would come crashing down with me. And think, few weeks ago I gave you a car for your birthday celebration. They would trace that car to you and explanations wouldn’t help you.”
“Hamin, Hamin,” Mr. Carlton giggled, “I am not threatening you. What would I gain from pulling another man down?”
“Good. So, you have nothing to fear. However, I doubt I am the only one that knows about your dealings.”
“Who else does?”
“It is funny how you Africans are so unaware of your environment. You lived with minerals under your soil and for centuries knew nothing about them until we came here to help you. Even now in your own country you know not what happens under your nose.”
“Enough of your racism. Who else knows about this?”
“I saw a journalist at the DHQ on three occasions, and he was investing so much attention in some covert enquiries. He was going through records and invoices…”
“The journalist, the one with the scar?”
“My men are on him,” Hamin said with a satisfactory smug, “soon you will hear a different story.”
“And by a different story you mean?”
Hamin brimmed, “We will get him to sing a new tune. There are so many ways to do that. But if he insists on singing a nasty tune, we will make sure he meets a listening audience in hell. What price is too high to pay for order?”
“Hmmm,” Mr. Carlton sighed, “so you intend to take an innocent man’s life? That’s so quick and severe, well quicker than it is severe.”
“So, I guess you have a better option.”
“The nation will soon get into a period of change. It will not be a time to afford such distractions as an enthusiastic journalist with his reports. Handle him now before the coupe, and by handling him death should be a last resort. First, reason with him, when that fails then threaten him to not publish his findings. The power of death over a living man is not in death itself but in the fear of death. I enjoy such scenes, it is fun feeding off the cry of a grown man as a red hot knife marks territories on his bare chest. I have never seen a man leave the dungeon the same. You wouldn’t need to kill him to silence him, just two nights underground and he would quit journalism for good.”
“You know, Carlton, I could use your mind more often. You will surely have a place in my government.” Hamin sank into his seat happily. “May I ask if you love black women?”
“Don’t be racist, Hamin. I find your women devastatingly attractive. Why do you ask?”
“I don’t suppose you are a man of matrimonial fidelity, are you?”
“Hamin, my friend, the libidinal instincts of man are as that of a pig, so savagely reckless. What can man do against such pressure?”
Hamin made a snap of his fingers and immediately two voluptuous women came out from the house to take Mr. Carlton.
“Hamin, Hamin,” Carlton laughed as he playfully struggled with the women. “Easy, ladies… This is half the reason I love Uganda.”
“And after tonight, it may be the only reason, I am sure they will take you to places you never knew existed!” Hamin replied as they exited the balcony.
Alone, Hamin sighed happily. It still seemed to be a dream that he would be leading his country in a matter of days. From lowly beginnings to the corridors of power, it was a gradual climb to power. But what lay between him and political power would be a well-planned military coup, and with the tacit backing of international powers, everything was expected to turn out fine.
_Okwuchukwu Augustine Ndulue.