The room was so quiet Mashane could almost hear himself think. His home study where he worked during the night was a masculine room with Venetian blinds that stood out like a sore thumb in the ancient English study theme. He hated the blinds perhaps because it was his wife’s idea to mount them. She said the room lacked soul without them. Mashane knew better than to argue with his wife especially on subjects he had little opinion to speak of. Mashane wheezed out a puff of purple smoke adding to the already stuffy room. He jabbed the cigar back between his thin lips while leisurely studying his laptop computer where he occasionally typed corrections using a document editor that was running.
Mashane was a chain smoker, he began at the tender age of thirteen and he only got better at it with time. Mashane always thought he would die an old man, probably of old age or something cliché to that effect. He had imagined spending his sunset years playing chess with his grandsons in a condominium by the ocean somewhere in Malindi. That now seemed so outlandish and unimportant that it amused him even in the grimness of his current situation. He hated his sense of humour, for years he had used it to charm his way into the hearts of the fascinating array of women that he caroused with during his 30 year life.
However, charming women was not what he valued his humour for, men loved his company and this placed him at a vantage point when it came to conjuring up business relationships. At his age he had amassed wealth that would have made anybody twice his age green with envy. He broke bread with prime business personalities in the country and they valued his friendship which was the basis upon which most of his partnerships were based. Simply put, Mashane was a savvy socialite. Mashane opened a top drawer on his heavy mahogany desk and produced a small silver coloured casing whose contents were secured inside by a dial-up combination lock. He punched in the code before emptying the case contents carelessly onto his desk. Three standard size water damaged photo albums fell out, a necklace that had seen better days and a colt .45 pistol. He began scrolling the photos from the first album.
Mashane’s childhood was a well-kept secret, not even his wife knew that he was heir to a soldier and a bartender, both who were long dead. He always maintained that he was born to an underage mother who gave him up for adoption and was raised in monastery. Being the psychology expert he was, Mashane understood profoundly that the best lies were half-truths thus he carefully crafted fake history from actual events of his life. Indeed the lie was good, it was so credible that he had almost begun believing it himself; he smiled wryly at the thought.
He looked at a photo of his mother, it was the only one he had and it was torn through the middle and later fixed expertly using masking tape so that parts on the middle were hidden by the now yellowing white tape. Tears welled up in his eyes and he let them flow freely; something he would never have done normally. He felt safe showing some emotion from the comfort of his office. He could not remember much about his mother at his age but he wished he couldn’t remember how she died.
Mashane never told a soul that he was rescued from a potential murderer and a habitual drunkard. His father had come on a Sunday evening and upon arguing with his wife he descended upon them both with a machete in his drunken stupor. Mashane’s mother lay on her son to protect him from imminent death. Mashane could never erase his mother’s accusing death stare from his mind three decades down the line. The door opened abruptly and Mashane barely managed to drop the album on the floor when a female figure silhouetted through the door.
Faith Mashane walked into the office, she rarely knocked and it irritated him deeply. However, she was the only person with that privilege. He didn’t mind the inconvenience really, he could live with it. She seemed to float into the room silently almost like a ghost in her scarlet satin night robe. Mashane gave her the most sombre glare he could muster but it took no effect as she landed a wet kiss on his left cheek. All his defenses fell and he managed a weak smile as she left as silently as she had come in. Mashane thought she was a spitting image of Lauren Hill, who was his adolescent fantasy. It was one of the primary reasons he had married her, something she would never find out and he wasn’t sure she would be offended either if she found out anyway.
It was a shame that would be the last she would be seeing of him alive. He thought. Just then Mashane was struck by a violent cough which shook his frame; he sputtered blood all over his now empty desk. He cursed under his breath and wiped the blood carelessly with a cotton handkerchief from his pocket.
* * *
Three months earlier Mashane had tested positive for lung cancer. He had managed to keep it secret from everybody. He was certain that death was imminent and it scared him more than he would have cared to admit. He was happy his wife Faith was too self-absorbed to notice his loss in body mass and disinterest in love making. He used morphine bought through an illegal pharmacy in the city to ease the pain.
As his Lawyer, I helped him draft a will, with most of his assets going to funding charities he believed in. He put in place a trust fund for their adolescent daughter’s education. He gave the house to Faith but not a penny more. This would serve as a punishment in disguise. It would take her full month’s salary to simply pay for gardening services. She would finally part with it eventually. The daughter Mashane was raising was not his biologically, something he had found out when she was barely of school going age. He loved her all the same for the simple fact that he was all a father she knew.
Mashane then made me an offer I could not say no to. In his quest to die in what he considered a dignified manner he asked me to be his hired assassin. I would kill him in cold blood and he would ensure that I would never get caught and in return he would pull strings, collect favours and grovel if he had to, for my son’s ten-year manslaughter charge to be dropped. I had agreed.
* * *
At exactly 0200hrs Mashane eased into his seat and lit a cigar in a futile attempt to calm his nerves. He was anxious, an emotion that had not been commonplace in his adult life. He watched as the door knob turned slowly and a figure clad in a black body suit emerged in the dimly lit room. Gun in hand. Mashane suddenly rose to his feet in horror upon seeing the face of the assassin. The woman pulled the trigger and the last thing Mashane saw were two muzzle flashes and Faith’s charming grin.
That was how Mashane died.