Journeyman and The Shadows

This guy likes to walk. A lot. He’s always saying how you should get some exercise here and walk a little more there there. All kinds of hours, this guy is two-stepping his way along the roads. It doesn’t matter where he’s going or where he’s coming from. It could be three in the morning and he’ll be on his feet making his across the cold, dark streets of Nairobi. It’s the way he is. It’s his thing. So it’s no surprise when I hear a knock on my door at 1AM and it’s Journeyman dropping by to say hello. What is a surprise is the blood on his clothing and purple bruise above his eye.

“What happened to you?” I ask him.

He brushes past me and goes straight for the kitchen cabinet. There he pulls out a few tea bags and tosses them right into the kettle with a few cups of water and sets it to boil.

“Where are your lemons?” he says.

“My what?” I say.

“Your lemons, you dingbat. You know, round, bitter, fits into the palm of your hand. Sometimes yellow or green depending on your taste or depth of wallet. Whatever, I’ll find them myself.”

He starts rooting through the drawers in my kitchen and I shake my head. This kind of behaviour is typical of him. Just barging in and assuming that he has access to whatever he likes.

“They’re in the fridge,” I say with a sigh. “Shall I get the notebook?”

“Of course,” he says from behind the fridge door, digging thought its drawers.

Ten minutes later, Journeyman and I are sat in the living room, by the liquor cabinet. I’m not much of a drinker but I take pride in my booze stock. Each row is lined with a bottles with obscure labels from around the world. I reach into it, pull out a bottle of whiskey and pour for myself a double into a frosted glass. Neat. No ice. Journeyman’s tales can be difficult to decipher some times and every now and then a few names and places have to be changed to protect the innocent. Alcohol helps to keep my writing in flow. I tuck my head down and start to scribble on the page as Journeyman narrates the events of his evening. He sits on the armchair with a steaming cup of tea in his hand and his head leaned back, a lemon wedge across his eye. He claims that they’re good for bruises.

*****

Journeyman was on his way home from one of his late night haunts. Could have been that high-class opium den on Bogani Road, or from that brothel he likes down on the Game Drive. He wouldn’t say. He never says. All he would say was that it was late and the moon was covered by cloud cover so there was no light and three masked men accosted him. They peeled out of the shadows of the hedges and from behind electricity poles. Quick, and graceful, they closed him in a tight triangle.

This wasn’t Journeyman’s scene. He finds muggings to be so childish. He feels that if a person really wants something then they should find the right way to ask. Well, you could say that a mugging is a way of asking. But it doesn’t leave the person asked with many options.

He reached his hand into his back pocket, took out his wallet and tossed it at the feet of the man directly in front of him. He and his friends were clad in all black. Black pants, black shoes, black top and a black ski mask over their faces with eye slits cut into them. The wallet landed right in between the man’s feet but he didn’t even register it. He just stood there blocking Journeyman’s path with a menacing posture. A lesser might have been shaking in his boots.

“Seriously guys,” said Journeyman. “I’m not about to get into a fight over some non-essentials.” He dug into his trouser pockets and pulled out his cell phone. “You can have this too,” he said and tossed it in between the legs of the man to his left, but with a slighter higher arc so that for a second it looked like it was about to connect with the man’s crotch but he didn’t even flinch as the phone sailed through his legs, bounced on the tarmac and broke into its constituent pieces.

Instead, a knife dropped into the man’s palm from inside his sleeve and he lunged at Journeyman. Journeyman stepped inside of the knife jab and jammed his own blade into the man’s abdomen. He was close enough to see the man’s eyes open wide with surprise before he crumpled to the floor and Journeyman made a half turn to his right to face the two remaining attackers.

But he was too slow and caught a right hook from one of them in his face. Dull pain spread across his temple and the vision to his left turned blurry. He rolled with the punch, took two steps backwards and immediately pulled a glock out from under his arm, pulling the safety down as it came out of the leather holster, and fired off two quick shots at the goons still standing.

Both men collapsed onto the floor and stayed still. Not writhing and moaning on the ground like their colleague with the knife wound and Journeyman was thankful for their silence. Stab wounds to the gut can be nasty. The blood leaks internally and externally at the same time. There’s plenty of organs down in there but no major veins or arteries, so the blood leaks slow, making for a long and painful death. Imagine that you’re a blown up balloon and you can feel the air pressure leaking out from a tiny hole. Bit by bit, everything from the inside that makes you who you are is lost to the outside world.

Journeyman isn’t involved in the business of mercy killings. Especially not for someone who just tried to kill him. So he picked up his two spent shell casings and left him there to die in a puddle of his own blood, in the company of his dead colleagues, and continued about his way, down the dark street.

*****

“So you took out a few muggers,” I say. “Big whoop. You could have waited until morning to tell me this.”

“Those weren’t muggers,” Journeyman says. “I tossed them my wallet and my phone and they had zero interest in them.”

I raise an eyebrow at him, unsure of what he’s getting at.

“And muggers aren’t that swift in the shadows,” he said. “They were after my life. Assassins.”

We sit in silence for a moment. Letting the gravity of what he’s just said settle into the room.

“Assassins?” I say. “But that means…”

“That means that somebody wants me dead,” says Journeyman.

“But who would want you dead?” I ask him.

“It can think of a few,” he says. “Black Ivy. Crazy Daisy. Sharon…”

“The Vampire Banger?”

“Yes, Sharon the Vampire Banger.”

I think about these three suspects and notice an obvious connection between the three of them. I would point it out to Journeyman but I don’t want him to take it the wrong way.

“How will you know which one of them ordered the hit?” I say.

“Simple,” he says. “I’ll just swing by theirs and see how they’re doing. Whoever doesn’t shoot me on sight isn’t the one.”

“And if she is the one?”

“Then I’ll know for sure,” he says. “Let’s go, you’re driving.”

I lift my nearly empty glass of whiskey and point at it. He shrugs and points at the door. For whatever reason, my three glasses of whiskey isn’t a good enough reason for me not to drive him.

“But it’s the middle of the night,” I say.

“Exactly,” says Journeyman. “Can you think of a better time to find the Vampire Banger?”

I sit back in my chair and place my chin on my fist. The Vampire Banger is hardly ever seen during the day. She’s prefers to avoid sunlight. I look up at the clock on the wall and it reads 2:30.

“Okay,” I say. “We’ve got a few hours till the sun rises. Where will we find her?”

Journeyman stands up and makes his way across the room to the front door.

“I have an idea,” he says. “Come on, we’re burning moonlight.”

He lets himself out of the front door and I go into my bedroom to change out of my pyjamas.

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