THE LIFE SERIES, VOL 3: THE SECRET
A dark cloud loomed over Pangani Village. It was a night to remember, a mystery never to be solved. Who had slain the sons of Pangani’s royal bloodline? Like a thief in the night, a ghost had entered the chief’s residence and took a knife to the throats of the thirteen male descendants of Pangani the Great, including the reigning chief himself, Ganizani Pangani. The attack had been silent, swift, and deadly…until the last born daughter of Ganizani’s twelfth bride spotted the lifeless body of her father as she tried to make her way to the latrine.
Fear gripped the faces of the women, but there was something in the eyes of the men that didn’t sit well with the royal family’s head of security. It would be hours before the local police made their way to the small village, it was thus his duty to get to the bottom of things before it was too late.
Kamwendo instructed his men to gather all the men in the makeshift community hall. They would tell him exactly who was behind the killings before the break of dawn. He had five major suspects in mind. No, six, now that his great nemesis was back in town. These men had not made it a secret that they loathed the chief’s family and it’s supposed shady dealings. But they were wrong, the village had grown bigger and better under Ganizani’s reign. There was more money in the people’s pockets, more wealth. It was only jealous that was eating up these foolish men.
“The five men, you know yourselves. Come to the front right now,” Kamwendo commanded.
There was no movement in the crowd. The men all just stared at him like he was the biggest fool to have ever walked the earth. “The first suspect should be you Kamwendo!” Someone shouted from the back.
“Who said that?” The chief of security asked. No response.
“You’re all cowards!” The officer barked. “How dare you slay your fellow man in his sleep? Why not fight him like real men in broad daylight? You think me a suspect?” He scoffed. “My family has faithfully served the royal family for four generations now, four!”
“It is also known that your family has been after the title for generations.” This time he could see who had spoken up because the young man, about five foot eight, well-toned body, and with an unshakable confidence that could bring most men to their knees was sitting right in the front and glaring at him challengingly. The two young men weren’t strangers to each other. In fact, they were rivals. It was only a few moons ago when the son of Chima the carpenter, one Sanana had gone ahead and married Kamwendo’s betrothed. A war had been declared, and both men were determined to come out victorious.
“Lies! Lies! Lies!” Kamwendo screamed into Sana’s face. The young man never flinched. He held his nemesis’ gaze and dared him to make a wrong move.
Without his power as a royal officer, there was absolutely nothing about Kamwendo that was threatening to the young scholar. Indeed, Sanana was the pride of the village. He was the first man to obtain a degree from the highest institution of learning in the country. Four years ago, he had left behind him a village torn apart. Supporters of the corrupt and abusive royal regime felt that education was a white man’s tool intended to blind the black man so he could forsake his heritage. Those that stood on Sanana’s side, popularly known as the traitors, Sanana’s father and his four other loyal friends argued that education was what the village needed to rid itself of the corruption, abuse, and plunder going on in the chiefdom, spearheaded by the royal family. Sanana was supposed to be the son who would liberate them all from all such vices.
Kamwendo had hoped Sanana’s departure from the chiefdom would be permanent. During that time, he had managed to ingratiate himself to the royal family and won their favor. Thus, at the tender age of twenty-three, he was made head of security. Unlike his predecessors in his family who felt they were the rightful heirs to the throne, Kamwendo never coveted the throne. He had learnt through the futility of his father’s schemes that it was easier to maintain power and control from the back. And now the untimely assassination of the royal family had put a dent in his elaborate plan.
“What reason would I have for killing the royal family when I know I would be the obvious suspect?” He was now standing on the podium, addressing the villagers like a king. “I know what you all think about my family, however, killing chief’s family in such a manner would do more harm than good for us. Everyone will think we are just as wicked. Yes, I’m aware of the propaganda some of you have been spreading in the village.
“You’ve turned the people against the royal family with your nonsense about child abuse, forced marriages, under-age girls, ” he laughed.” If a man thinks a woman ripe, then she is. Period. You speak of corruption and plunder when what the royal family has been doing is managing your resources for you. If not for them, you would have minerals sitting in the ground for centuries to come, never benefitting from them. And you would have land filled with weeds and thorns.”
“But aren’t they guilty of all these things they’ve been accused of?” It was one of the famous five, Akina the shoe maker. If not for Sana, the two men would be in-laws.
“Says who?” Kamwendo asked. “Since when did honoring our culture become a crime in this land? The daughters of Pangani have always been ready for marriage. They’re taken from their mother’s wombs ready to serve their future husbands. It’s always been their purpose. And this land that you claim we’re selling to the government and the Chinese? This is all for the good of this village. We have so much land we don’t know what to do with it. What is wrong with giving it to people willing to give us money so we can feed our families and expand our farms?”
Murmurs rocked the room once again.
“The people have never seen that money!” Sana roared. “Our people are dying from hunger and diseases that can be easily cured. We are not saying don’t sell some of the land. All we are saying is that use that money to make the lives of our people better. We can’t keep relying on herbs to protect our sick. Our women keep dying in child birth, our girls-“
“Didn’t the royal family build you a clinic? What more do you want?” Kamwendo asked.
“That’s true!” A sharp voice echoed through the room. There was silence as everyone turned to look at the speaker. Somewhere in the middle of the seated crowd, a short man rose to his feet, nodding his head proudly and profusely. “Our good man here speaks the truth,” he said, his eyes searching the whole room for undivided attention. But everyone knew who he was so they murmured even more.
“That’s not a clinic, it’s a useless shack, a mortuary!” Someone shouted.
“There are no medicines there so what’s the point of saying we have a clinic!?” Another shouted. “There are no real doctors there. Those fake healers keep killing us!” They went on and on and on.
“Silence!” Kamwendo fired a shot through the tattered tented roof and sent the room into glacial silence.
“Thank you my good man,” the short man nodded appreciatively, ever more profusely.
“Shut your cheap dirty mouth Kachepa,” it was another of the famous five, Miyanda the Maize farmer. He was sitting just a few feet away from the man of the moment. “We all know why you worship the royal family like that. It’s those eight fat cows in your backyard. We have no time to listen to sell-outs here. Let real men talk before we stick you in the ass of one of your fat animals. It wouldn’t be a long way after all.”
“Did you hear that! He insulted me!” Kachepa cried excitedly to Kamwendo.
“We are diverting from the real issue here,” Kamwendo said. “We are here to find out who wiped away the entire royal family, leaving the chiefdom without a single heir.”
“Who says there’s no heir?” Sana Asked. “The royal family has more than thirty daughters and the late chief had more than twenty wives during his very short tenure as a chief.”
Murmurs in the room.
Kamwendo was laughing. “Here we go again, with all this talk about women. You’re a married man now, why are you still so obsessed with women?”
“It’s because I’m married now that this issue has become even more important to me,” Sana said.
“So you think just because you left the village for a bit and learnt how to read and talk like a muzungu that now you know better than all of us?”
“I never said that, that’s your own inferiority complex speaking,” Sana retorted. “And leave my wife out of this. She’s none of your concern, has never been.”
Sana chuckled. “My point is, in as much as we need to find the killers of the royal family, we need to ask ourselves why someone…or some people felt justified in wiping out an entire family in the first place, specifically the sons. People are angry Kamwendo. They want to see change. When people have fought monsters for so long, they too risk turning into monsters.”
“Should I take that as a confession Sana?” Kamwendo asked.
“You can if you have the balls,” the young man fired back.
Kamwendo furiously rubbed his hand against his forehead in a bid to control calm his escalating emotions. He didn’t need to give Sana any more reason to think he was the better man. “So, you think slaying the royal family will fix that?” He asked. “Because of such foolishness, a succession dispute looms over us. Who is going to rule us now? We have killers in our midst right now, meaning no one is safe.”
“The only people that aren’t safe are the ones who insist of going against the people,” Sana’s father said.
“Is that a threat?” Kamwendo asked.
“Do you feel threatened Kamwendo? Have you ever acted against the will of the people?” He asked.
Kamwendo appeared tongue-tied.
“I would also like to say something.” A grey haired man seated on the far left in the third row raised his hand, his head bowed to the ground. Everyone in Pangani, young and old could recognize that strong enchanting voice in their sleep.
“Ah, Bakuyi, speak our wise one.” Kamwendo stepped down from the podium to sit on one of the high chairs. The room fell silent as everyone waited for the old man to speak.
Bakuyi was revered and feared by both men and kings within Pangani village and beyond. He was a man of a few words, but whenever he spoke, his words were gripping and memorable. Two chiefs who had disregarded his role in the chiefdom had died the most painful death and left behind embarrassing legacies that would haunt the royal family forever. And now the whole male blood line had been wiped out because they refused to heed his warning against incurring the wrath of the people. Pangani village accredited all its bountiful years of prosperity to the wisdom of the old man, and rightly so.
From his sitting position, Bakuyi raised his head to look at the young man in front. “A single bracelet does not jingle,” slowly but surely, he stated. “Listen, not with your ears, but your eyes.” He paused, slowly turning his head to look from left to right, then back at Kamwendo. “When the Shepard comes home in peace, the milk is sweet,” he continued. “There is no secret in a village, unless the village itself is the secret.” He proceeded to thump his wooden handstaff three times against the ground before lowering his head again.
If Kamwendo had hoped to find answers, he had finally succeeded.
The assembly had officially come to an end. Pangani Village was never to be the same again. The dark cloud above shifted as the heavens set dawn into motion.