The man in the Kevlar vest and a tactical helmet poked his head cautiously through the doorway and said, “They refused.”
In the darkened office, the man behind the large desk sat facing the large windows and the incredible vista of the night lit city they afforded. He grunted at the news and took another large sip from the tumbler in front of him.
“They refused?” he rumbled.
Mbiyu, the man at the door nodded apologetically. “They said the government cannot resign. They think you’re mad.”
“Do you think I’m mad?”
Mbiyu shook his head, a clumsy action, with the helmet on in the narrow space between the door and its frame. “Doesn’t really matter what I think, doctor,” he said. “They said I have twenty minutes to talk you out of this.”
The doctor grunted again and took another large gulp from the glass. Then he stood up. Mbiyu took a half step back into the corridor. There were six dead GSU officers behind him, their bodies contorted and their equipment scattered all over the place. The blood stank. The doctor had killed them.
“Mbiyu, I need to trust you,” the doctor said, still behind the desk. “You standing there like a frightened rabbit doesn’t really augur well for that. Why don’t you just step in? Leave the door wide open. That way you can still get out. ”
Mbiyu shook his head again and his helmet clanked against the door. “I’m fine over here, doctor. Now, what will it take to end this?”
The doctor stepped in front of the desk and sat on the edge there. He reached for the tumbler then stopped. He cleared his throat.
“Remember our conversation?” he asked. “What would be good for this country?”
“Yes,” Mbiyu said, “but right now, if you want to live, which I still believe you do, you will come with me. In another -” he looked at his watch “- fifteen or so minutes, the special forces will storm this place and everything will be dead. Right now, that’s you.”
The doctor laughed. A sad little chuckle. “I thought you’d stay here with me to the bitter end, Mbiyu,” he said. “Tell you what, don’t worry about the time. I have something else to tell you. Then we’ll have all the time in the world.”
Mbiyu cocked his head. Something else? What? The good doctor here, a physicist, claimed to have planted a series of fertiliser bombs all around Nairobi’s central business district. In his left hand, he held what he claimed was a remote detonator for all of them. He had made some outrageous demands, the least being the immediate resignation of the government’s cabinet and dissolution of parliament. The police commissioner had especially scoffed at these. The alleged bombs would cause a lot of damage and loss of life if they went off, especially on this Friday night and the doctor had refused to disclose their locations. The policemen who had been sent here to arrest him were lying in the corridor, dead. Now, the whole block was sealed off and the media were reporting it as a burglary gone wrong. If they knew, the large crowd behind the police barriers would have run right home. So what did the doctor have up his sleeve?
“What are you talking about?” Mbiyu asked. “What do you mean?”
“The bombs I told you about?”
“One of them is nuclear.” then the doctor laughed. He laughed until tears came to his eyes.
“You’re lying,” Mbiyu scoffed. “Where would you get those? You’re lying! I have to make a call.”
“Go ahead. Ask for more time, oh and a peri-peri pizza, large.”
He stepped out into the corridor. The doctor could hear a strained conversation, followed by raised voices then abrupt silence. Mbiyu’s head poked through the doorway again, this time sans helmet. His face managed to display defeat and rage at the same time. He had a tic on his right cheek.
“They refused,” he said flatly.
“What? The time or the pizza?” asked the doctor. He gulped down what was left in the glass. There was a bottle somewhere behind the desk. Mbiyu didn’t flinch as he reached for it despite the fact that he knew the submachine gun that had killed the cops outside was back there too.
“Both,” said Mbiyu. He looked squarely at the doctor as the man refilled his glass. “Are you fucking about?” he asked. “About the nuke?”
The doctor giggled as he set the bottle of Glenlivet on the desk. “Am I what? What was that you said? ‘Fucking about’?”
“No. I am serious. And if your friends come through that door in -” he looked at his watch “- the next twelve minutes, it’s the end of the world as Nairobi knows it.” he started laughing again.
“Shut the fuck up!” Mbiyu shouted. He stepped forward and the doctor waggled a finger at him with his left hand. The little light there was glinted off the object in it.
“Careful, son,” the doctor said. “There’s still time.”
“For what?” Mbiyu waved his arms about. “You’re going to kill us all. What about all the innocent -”
“Innocent? Innocent?” the doctor got off the desk and reached behind for the police issue G3 rifle he had back there. He gingerly placed the detonator on the blotter and with amazing quickness, changed the magazine on the rifle for a fresh one. He picked up the detonator and walked over to the window and faced out, holding the rifle by the pistol grip. “No one’s innocent, you fool,” he scoffed. “Every one of those ninnies down there is born tainted. Why do you think the world is as it is, Mbiyu?” he half turned to look at the younger man. “Man is evil. Haven’t you been listening?” He loosed a short burst from the rifle at the street below. The window shattered and the screams from below were all the more clearer in the cold breeze that rushed in.
Mbiyu sprang forward, covering the space between them in one leap. He stopped short of the desk, the hot muzzle of the rifle half an inch from his chin. He could smell the cordite, he could hear the pandemonium from the street and he could see the clock on the parliament building about a kilometre away through the shattered glass. The clarity was immense. He had never felt more alive.
“It comes to you now, doesn’t it?” the doctor asked quietly. The muzzle never wavered. “The essence of it all. It’s beautiful too, isn’t it?”
“You see,” the doctor continued in his silent voice, “this is the problem with Man. we never get it, until it’s gone. That, Mbiyu, is what all this is about.”
“No. there’s no ‘but’. Now sit down.” the doctor pointed at a chair with his chin and lowered his gun hand. Mbiyu sat quickly, winded and confused. The doctor went back to the desk and produced a second tumbler, filled it with whisky, went over and handed it to Mbiyu.
“I don’t drink,” Mbiyu said. “I told you that earlier.”
“You do now. Celebrate your new position as the fifth horseman, Mbiyu.”
Mbiyu took the whisky, sipped it and mumbled that there were only four horsemen.
“Who’s to say?” said the doctor. “Really?” He knocked back his glass and let it drop on the floor. “How much time do we -”
Three canisters arced into the room, two of them hissing. The one that was a flash-bang flashed and banged loudly enough to deafen Mbiyu, who was in the act of diving off his seat. A helmeted and heavily armoured figure, clad in all black, burst in through the door, firing an AK-47 blindly into the room. Then there were three such figures, spraying the office full of 7.62 millimetre holes. Then there was silence. The doctor staggered up from behind the desk, the detonator in one hand, the G3 in the other. There was a large patch of blood on his shirt around the midriff.
“Weka chini!” screamed one of the men. The doctor laughed again, painfully this time. He raised the G3 and fired one shot before the deafening clamour from three AK-47s pushed him out of the window. Mbiyu and the three men rushed to the window just in time to see the doctor’s body slam into the roof of a police Land Cruiser fifteen stories below. There was a beat, and then the earth shook, hard. And again, three times. The fertiliser bombs. A thin wail rent the air, the sound of a thousand screams. Mbiyu went back to his chair and sat down. His tumbler had fallen right side up on the floor and there was about half an inch of whisky left in it. The squad leader took off his mask and watched him raise the glass and take a sip.
“Are you insane?” the squad leader asked.
“Nope,” Mbiyu replied with a smile, “I’m celebrating.”
“No,” Mbiyu said simply. “That.”
There was a flash outside. It was brighter than the sun and filled the office with a hard white light so luminous it was tangible. The squad leader’s eyes went wide.