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Bill O. farmer Bill O. farmer
Recommendations: 14

The Wet Spoor


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She had a friend.

When you get singled out, its one lonely trail.


The rain is slanting hard, the darkness is thick as a cloak. The campus grounds are deserted. The water is a torrent in the gutters. The storm drains are a swirl of dirty brown water, mineral water bottles, polythene bags and discarded papers. Lightning rips across the sky. The whiplike crack of thunder is instantaneous.


Simon Koli sways in the drenching rain holding his right hand tightly just above the elbow. He needs to find immediate medical care. The bullet has ripped through his upper arm right into his side. His efforts at stemming the blood flow are fruitless for he can feel the warm trail down his side. The trail of life ebbing out of him. The rain is not helping. Whatever clotting that his blood could have done is effortlessly destroyed as the rain keeps the wound fresh and the blood thin.


Leaning against a tree, his lips pursed together, Koli exhales through them rapidly blinking to keep the rain out his eyes. His fingers are getting numb from the cold, or is it the beginnings of his entire body shutting down.


With one look over his shoulder, Koli moves away from the cover of the tree across the ankle deep grass. It’s with great effort that he prevents himself from breaking into a run. Under the circumstances surrounding his wounds, Koli is confused of the two, whether running of walking would draw the attention of the man following him. Under rain people dart from point to point to keep from getting drenched even if they are already drenched. What does one do when one is being followed and does not want to draw attention?


Jumping onto a walkway, Koli gets into a brisk walk past a light. He can only manage short gasps of breath. The lighting is poor; insects have collected inside the glass shield and have been burned to crisps by the high pressure mercury lamps. The verandah away from the rain is inviting, but walking upon the dry surface would leave a track for the man behind to follow. If whoever was following him didn’t have any tracks then it was safer not to give them. The rain was both a blessing and a curse. At the end of the block, he goes a few yards past it before turning and disappearing out of sight.


Maintaining the building as cover, he does not go around it to the back, but doubles up in a run, trying to put as much distance between him and his pursuer. He is in and out of consciousness that he goes crashing through a knee high hedge bordering a walkway into a dead lamp post and a puddle of water, hot tears well up in his eyes for he is dying and there is no one to help him.


*******************************************


The waxed boot sinks into a puddle of water. The grooves are still new, the grip firm. The trench coat, blending in with the darkness, drips with the rain. The collar is turned up so it is just up to below the ears, the hood would muffle sounds magnifying the rain drops so it is not pulled up. The baseball cap, pulled down to just above the alert eyes is a good shield against the down pour. The man looks to the left and right; he is not in a hurry, before cutting across the campus grounds. He does not follow the walkway like his prey does.


Leaping onto the verandah, he continues along the wall to the corner where he slows down before peering around it. There is no one. He gauges the distances between buildings to see if the young man could make it across to the next cover in that short time. To confirm, he looks behind him to reconcile the distance he has covered from the initial point where he was standing among the trees with the distances between the buildings and he is not satisfied. It is either the fellow ran or is still on the other side of the building. Pulling the handgun out of the trench coat pocket he calmly walks along the back of the block. Its dark and inviting and there are no lights here. He is a man of the dark.


************************************************


Simon Koli is a little boy again. Running along the beach, the kite rides the breeze high behind him. His mother is behind him and they are both laughing. His dog Diego is yapping and leaping excitedly ahead of him. Sally Atim comes splashing out of the water towards him. In her hand she has a pink bucket of water that she hurls at him. He realizes too late as the water leaves the bucket, sparkling in the sunshine. He cringes as the water slams against his small chest knocking him backwards.
‘Careful!’ his mother calls out.
Sally shrieks with laughter. Diego cocks his head at her like she has spoilt his glorious moment before tearing around the sand in a circle towards her. Sally notices him and goes back splashing into the water. Diego is fast on her heels tripping her into the water.


Arms circle young Koli's waist lifting him off the ground and with a little effort toss him into the air, towards the brightness of the sun.


Koli blinks rapidly out of his reverie. The rain is plopping into his eyes and nose. He rolls over to his side shielding his face. ‘Mum?’ the call goes unanswered. The hiss of the downpour drowns everything else. It is suddenly a lot colder. Koli remains rigidly still, jarred by the memory of his mother.


'Mum?' Koli echoes the word again, this time it is with less strength. Its a call that rounds up the last of his energies.


Swaying, body shivering uncontrollably, Koli rises onto his arms first then onto his knees then finally onto his feet. 'Its time to go home,' he declares to himself. 'Its time to go.' With one last look over the shoulder, Koli hugs his body for warm and to stem the flow and stumbles head on into the night.


**********************************************


“Bishop to Knight Six, Check!” Desmond moves the piece five paces diagonally across the board.
“Lay off.” Sam Okoth blocks the bishop with a pawn.
“Knight to Queen Seven, Check!”
“I can see you aren’t letting up.” Sam peers at the board pensive, trying to figure out a way out of the worsening situation, and yet be able to dismantle Desmond’s well laid setup.
Desmond takes the opportunity to stretch and reach out for the transistor radio that has been tuned to BBC World Service on the Short Wave band. It howls and whistles irritably.
“These batteries are gone,” Desmond snaps open the battery compartment and turns the dry cells towards the lonely filament lamp. “They are starting to leak.”
“I told you never to buy those leaky tiger heads,’ Sam replies without looking up, ‘you never listen.”
“Like you don’t know what we have on the market,” Sam snorts. “You can’t separate this government from those fake Chinese goods.
‘Power rationing, curfews, salt and sugar scarcity, no freedom of speech, broad day light kidnappings in the name of treason, and the list is endless.”
“And the propaganda to go with it,” Sam is still studying the board.
“Yeah, the propaganda.”
Just then there is a knock on the door. They snap to attention, looking at the door. Desmond and Sam look at each other, then back at the door. There are three raps then the knob is forcefully turned and rattled.
“You expecting someone?” Desmond asks in a hushed voice.
“No, you?”  Sam whispers back.
“No!”
Desmond turns off the radio and swings his legs off the bed.
“Open up.” The knocking turns into a pounding.
Desmond jumps off the bed and scuttles to the door.
“Hey, what is it?” He stands to one side of the door. He can hear heavy breathing on the other side of the door.
“Just need some help.”
They look at each other. What? Sam gestures with his hand. Desmond responds with a shrug.
Sam tiptoes to the door and peers through the peep hole. He can see nothing.
“That thing does not work,” Desmond whispers to him, “some guy claiming he needs help.”
They both look at the bed like they have contraband spread all over.
"Hey." Desmond grabs Sam's arm and points on the ground.
Sam reacts lifting his feet off the puddle of water spreading through the bottom of the door. They look at each other. None has an answer for the other.


Sam grabs the knob, swiftly turns it and yanks the door open. Desmond takes a step back. Koli suddenly thrown out of balance, for he had been leaning upon the door, drags a foot across the floor when his leg gives way under him. He tries to recover but it just gets his body into a sideways spin and he goes straight for the floor like a great mvule.


"Jesus!" Desmond springs back. Koli slams against his head against the cold floor and remains there.
Sam rushes forward from besides the door.
"Wai... wai... wait!" The urgency in Desmonds voice and outstrech hand towards him makes him check his rush.
"What!" It comes out as statement than a question from Sam.
"Don't ... touch him!"
"Why?" Sam looks at Desmond questioningly.
"Somethings not right." Desmond leaps over Koli and peers up and down the corridor. He turns back into the room.


"Come off it, you are now putting the frights into me," Sam leaps over Koli but looking into Desmond's eyes to get the meaning of the corncern on his friend's face. He walks into the corridor peers up and down both ends taking the measure of the wet tracks on the floor, when he catches a red blotches on a sheet of paper lying on the floor. Sam walks over to the paper picks it up and the blotches run off to the edge leaving streaks.


He peers at the raised sheet in his hand then down the corridor, following the floor towards the staircase. He does not hear a thing other than the muffled hiss of the rain beyond and the distant rumbling of thunder. A fluorescent tube flickers over head near the stair case. There are no students out of the rooms.


Sam backpeddles and returns into the room. "He seems to be bleeding,' he declares as he goes around the body towards the head. Desmond has lifted the edge of the curtain and is peering through the window into the darkness outside.


Sam lifts a shoulder and half turns the body so he can look at the face when he gasps, "Desmond, it Koli!"
"I know," Desmond replies dropping the slightly parted curtain and returning into middle of the room.
"Come, give me a hand," Simon lifts Koli and rolls him over over. There is no sign of response from Koli.
"That guy is dangerous. Its better you have nothing to do with him!" Desmond jerks Sam away from Koli.
"Desmond, he is hurt and needs attention."
"And how do you intend to give him that?"
"Jesus, you are the medical student here," Sam moves back to the body but hesitates to touch it. It is something that will haunt him later. That one person can utter a stray word that destroys the last defences of compassion in another.
"Its not just about giving medical attention to whomever it is you think needs it.."
"I can't believe its you talking like that," Sam staightens up, "this is a fellow student we are talking about."
"And you think those protests went without repercussions?"
"What protests?" Sam's mind takes a dive searching his memory but the truth is staring him in the face and he knows what Desmond is talking about. "That was and isn't a big issue worth killing students for."
"A peaceful protest is still a protest and you can't go againt a sitting president like ours demanding for his resignation and you think you are going to have a picnic there after!"
"These were just a bunch of students, none armed."
"Go tell the authorities that," Desmond sneers, "you are the lawyer here aren't you?"
Silence reigns you could hear a pin drop.
"And by the way, the four students who were picked up two weeks ago on the day of the protest have not been seen again." Sam and Desmond stare at each other.  


Sam steps forward and kneels besides Koli. He gently rolls him over without saying a word, his hand comes up bloodied. He gets more confused.
"He is far gone, Sam."
"Just shut up!"
"You wouldn't even make it to the hospital what with the curfew, the mounted roadblocks and footpatrols."
"I said shut up!" Sam is heaving lungs fulls of breath by now; a thin line between a panic attack and rage. He rises and jumps for the wardrobe rummaging through it, tossing stuff out. "I shouldn't... I shouldn't...I shouldn't be doing this."
"Its worth trying..."
"Worth ...?" Sam turns around. "You ain't even giving a helping hand while a guy lies bleeding to death infront of you and you say its worth trying?" Tears are cascading down his face. "What is two years worth of medical training if you can't apply it now?"


Desmond looks at his friend for a lond, long time, then steps forward rolling up his sleeves. My first aid kit is leftside of the wardrobe, bring it forth. Just as he goes down on one knee to check the Koli's vitals. The door darkens. The waxed boots fill his view. The trench coat dripping rain. The measured look of the stranger who takes in the entire view of the room through the open door. He misses nothing.
Desmond slowly exhales and straightens up. The perpetrator of this death has taken a long time arriving. But eventually arrive he did.


Sam is rooted to the floor, eyes locked on the face of the stranger so much so that he can't turn away. He has the first aid kit in his hand. Its with an effort that he turns his face away to look at Desmond but all he can see there is despair. When he espies the gun hanging in the right hand of the man at the door, it dawns on him, he is at the mercy of the man who rules the moment. And that man blocks the door!


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