He summoned me from hospital. Soni, my granddaughter, drove me there, and then pushed me in my wheel chair up to his room on the third floor.
When she left, he started talking. He had changed in the last 50 years. His cheeks were drawn in and the once handsome face was wrinkled like a near rotting potato. Gone were the muscles that had made him such a fearful leader. I could see his hands and skin hung loosely where his biceps used to be. I knew time had taken a toll on him, as it had on me but he looked far much worse than I did. The only remnant that this was once the great Njogu were his eyes. They still shone with intelligence and his voice was as commanding as ever.
He tried getting up but strength failed him. Sweating, he rested his head on the pillow and pulled the bed sheets to cover his arms and half naked upper torso.
“My brother,” he started after clearing his throat. “How many years has it been?”
Was it a rhetorical question? I sat there watching him as the memory took me back half a century ago where I had last seen him in action.
We had just passed Ntuoni caves in the Kirinyaga Mountain. Njogu was ahead of me sprinting. Behind me were the three finest and fittest European soldiers in the squad that fought against the Mau Mau. We were all tired and my throat felt as if there was a hot coal in there despite the chill and fog that fell on the undergrowth of the mountain. Visibility was reduced to a few feet and the night was getting colder by the second. It was the third week since we had left the Mau Mau in favor of the Europeans. It wasn’t a hard choice given the comfort of the home guards and the lives we had lived trying to liberate our people. Surely there was no way we were going to win this war. And so we double crossed those that we had called brothers, broke the old oath and swore a new oath to each other. Njogu slowed down and came to a stop. We ran towards him and crouched and looked into the darkness waiting for a signal. It was then that he pointed out Pasha’s hideout.
“The years have treated you well.” The statement cut short the memory trip. I smiled at him. I know we promised never to speak about what we did.”
I watched him knowing where the conversation was going. I had been informed that he had recently joined a charismatic church and was born again.
“Life changes and as it does, so do we. I know you will never say what we did and respect you for it. But now, I am dying. I don’t have much time. I have diabetes and liver problems. And I have also changed, God has changed me and I am not the man I once was.”
The statement took me back again to the forest.
He punched Pasha again and again on his face. “Where is Kimathi? Where is he?” he punched him with every question until the white askaris told him to stop. Pasha had said nothing and Njogu’s anger was beyond words. He took out a pair of scissors and turned to Pasha and told him in Kikuyu. “Talk or I will remove your manhood and take away your kids.” Pasha didn’t move. Each of his legs was tired to a different tree so that they were widespread and his back rested on another tree where his hands were tied above the head. The only movement he could make was with his head but he looked at Njogu defiantly. Do you know what sort of man I am? Njogu shouted
I left the hospital with his words ringing in ears. “I am changed!”
Soni pushed me into the car and we sat next to each other in silence for a while.
Njogu had not changed. He was still as selfish as ever. He wanted to say everything because he was dying. The realization made me angry. Everything I had worked for, what I was leaving my kids and grandkids would be ruined. I would be an outcast and my children would suffer. I started shaking and tears rolled down my eyes. Soni said nothing, she knew better. After a while, I cooled down.
“So gramps?” She asked as she switched on the engine and started the wipers. It had started raining heavily.
I looked at her and sighed. “Call the boys. He has gone soft. He has to go and go immediately.”
She nodded, switched on the engine and drove towards home. I looked outside into the rain and craved for the whisky at home.