SHORT STORY: Betrayal in the city!

Tuesday May 18 2021
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The six men moved with precision, trained and ready as they were. They’d picked tonight for it was one of those deeply dark, moonless nights, with the presence of heavy clouds that blotted out even the starlight. ILLUSTRATION | JOHN NYAGA

By The EastAfrican

Tiny beads of sweat appeared on Angela’s upper lip as she hunkered down behind the couch where just a minute ago she’d been lounging, casually flipping through channels on the TV.

She sucked in tiny puffs of air, fighting the panic that was numbing her mind, wrapping itself around her, as she counted six figures creep stealthily passed the large bay window that was the focal point of her living room.

Angela had first been alerted by the sharp screeching of her main gate. It was impossible to merely touch the old, stately metal gate without it giving off an ingratiating squeal, and while it had been a bane of late, tonight she was glad for it. She’d been confused for only seconds before instinct made her leap off the couch and switch the lights and TV off, minutes before she heard footsteps crunch on the gravel and saw figures creep past her window.

She was to testify on a national scandal in a week and had asked for protective custody but was told the authorities would get back to her. Even now in her panic, anger rose painfully in her throat; why did she put her neck on the line? What was going to come of it? Cowering behind the couch, the last vestiges of her fear fell away as it dawned on her that she was all she had in the present moment, and she had two choices, do something or don’t; it was that simple. Her mind went into overdrive.

It was dark outside. So dark, objects and shadows seemed to melt one into another, so that the landscape was a picture of various shades of black; with only silhouettes to distinguish what was what. The six men moved with precision, trained and ready as they were. They’d picked tonight for it was one of those deeply dark, moonless nights, with the presence of heavy clouds that blotted out even the starlight. It was an easy mission, the target was meant to be alone, out here where all the large homes were spread out from each other. Her two watchmen had been bribed to disappear for the night, and a panic button to call in private security had been disabled the day before.

Nothing stood in the way of this administration, when they wanted you gone, well… Conscience was not a word in their vocabulary. The six men knew nothing more of who they had been sent to kill, other than her face and address. Not that they cared much anyway. In the blackness they crept on, ghostly shadows that hardly made a sound.


Inside in the kitchen, in total darkness as well, Angela pressed a button on a small device furiously. After a few seconds, she tossed it disgustedly aside, why wasn’t it lighting up to show her distress call had been received? Where was all her security? As it dawned on her no one was coming, she began to wonder where they’d attack from. She didn’t have to worry about the front door with its wrought metal grill, or any of the large windows with their ornate metal grills either, unless these people had brought a wrench. But she did have to worry about the kitchen door, and just as the thought crossed her mind, so did a shadow in one of the kitchen windows and her heart dropped to the floor of her stomach. Ducking down, Angela quickly scanned the room, her eyes falling on a box of metal tacks on a nearby counter, next to where she normally pinned her to-do list up.

It was right by the cooker and she had a sudden moment of inspiration. She was well past her panic now, fear had unleashed a flood of adrenaline that was coursing through her, energising her. She lunged, fiddled with the dials on the cooker, grabbed for the box of tacks, then, scattering the pins across the floor, she streaked out of the kitchen, not caring to hide her shadow as she went dashing up the stairs.

“I saw something!” one of the men near the window, a squat man with mean eyes whispered harshly and far too loudly, paused, then on hearing Angela’s footsteps pounding up the stairs, yelled out before the team-leader could signal him, “She knows we’re here! Breach!” The team leader hesitated, but only for a second before he was shoved from behind by five, burly men, all rearing to go.

They burst in through the wooden kitchen door and charged in, guns at the ready. The team leader and the man right behind him stepped on most of the pin tacks, and though their heavy boots protected them from the sharp pins, the flat, shiny surface of the tacks turned their rubber boots into skids. The two men went down, the team-leader smacking his head so hard on the tiled floor he saw stars in spite of his helmet. The second man fared worse, he lay unconscious in a heap on the floor. “Who is this woman?!” it was the squat, mean eyed man screaming in the confusion, “I thought she was a secretary!” “Shut up and move!” the team leader was getting dazedly to his feet even as he yelled back, a searing pain shooting behind his eyeballs.

The men charged into the living room and then suddenly stopped. It was too dark, too quiet. “She’s upstairs!” the squat man huffed, his whisper a shout in the stillness. “We clear the ground floor first.” the team leader had regained himself somewhat and was eager to assert his authority, a balm to his wounded pride.

The five men began to spread out but they didn’t get very far. A swift shadow was followed by a loud thud right outside by the large bay window, as Angela leaped from her bedroom balcony. She rolled on the ground for a minute, feeling the jolt run through her body but was unhurt, her fall broken by thick, flower bushes she’d tended herself. Then she was up and running.

The men didn’t hesitate and she’d been hoping that they wouldn’t. They opened fire, the squat man first, never smelling the gas that had been leaking from the cooker all along. The house went up in a spectacular bang and Angela sunk to the grass behind a tree on the edge of the property.

“Screw the system,” she murmured bitterly as she watched her home burn down, lighting up the dark with a sinister orange, red glow, “Screw defamation, procedure, state secrets and all…I’m going to the press.”