“Buda kumbe ni wewe (My friend, I can’t believe it’s you),” Man G.G exclaimed reaching out to me with a brotherly hug. This was at Grogan garage yard, in Nairobi's downtown.
I had brought my car for repainting after a notorious Githurai Paradiso bus scratched its bumper.
G.G was my high school comrade and seeing him brought back memories of mischief and bitter-sweet deals.
He is possibly the only student to beat Jar’s (deputy principal) thorough interrogation skills -- he was a walking lie detector.
G.G's uncanny gimmicks would fetch him an extra ‘kaquarter bofro’ (a quarter of a loaf of bread) from the school head cook.
Kaquarter was the most coveted commodity in school, and G.G somehow convinced John, the head cook, that he could make some extra coins if he agreed to enter into a partnership with him to sell the loaves of bread that remained after each student had had his share.
At first John reprimanded him and threatened to report him to the principal, but G.G retorted that he would tell the principal that John was selling bread to students at the school bakery.
And if the principal dared expel him, his father, who was the chairman of the school Board of Governors, would ensure John loses his job in the kitchen, he threatened.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
John, being a naive man, caved in to the blackmail as he feared he would end up losing his job, especially if the BOG discovered that he did not have the academic qualifications required to be the school head cook.
Two weeks later the kaquarter cartel run by G.G rivalled the Shauri Brotherhood that smuggled weed into the school. G.G recruited lieutenants and foot soldiers who would rake in close to Sh7,000 a week.
G.G needed access to the school library, and that’s when I got involved.
Being the library captain meant that I stood between him and the door shutting the books of knowledge. But it’s not knowledge he was craving for though; he wasn’t a reader.
In his view, he needed to lure me into the kaquarter cartel for his own benefit. “Brathe wewe ni mnoma sana chemistry, unaweza kuwa unanicoach hio unit ya molar mass jioni? (You are really good in chemistry. Could you coach me in the evenings?)”
Knowing him too well, I was hesitant but his next words made me change my mind.
“Nitakuwa nakukanja kachai kiasi (I will pay you),” he continued.
We reached an agreement, but the canny lad did not reveal the most important details of the ‘chemistry coaching classes’. I later learned that I was just but bait in a bigger scheme.
By the end of the week G.G was joined by two more students, Gangte and Moje, in the coaching sessions.
That’s when I became suspicious. These two fellows were bad news; they were the smoke that Jar was fond of trailing because they were always involved in some mischief.
In the second week I realised that as I was coaching G.G, his lieutenants were balancing some cash books, which they would hand over to him at the end of the session. When I confronted him and he denied it. But I pressed for details, threatening to banish them from the library, and he came clean.
G.G and his lieutenants needed the library to conduct their business and hide their loot. And I was the key to the success of their scheme.
What was in it for me? You might wonder. The discovery of their scheme meant I was already swimming with the sharks and I was in too deep to return to shore.
I demanded a cut of 25 percent on all the sales. They agreed, provided that we also used part of the ceiling of the library captain's office for our banking services.
After two months we had made close to Sh45,000. We were Form Three students, but our 'earnings' were more than what many working adults made.
The Shauri Brotherhood came under financial threat; the weed business was not doing well and most of their customers were turning from weed to bread. It sounds crazy, right?
With Jar and the Brotherhood snooping around, we had to tone down our business for a few days.
But the real threat wasn’t the two as we had anticipated; it turned it was actually our customers who had gotten used to the ever available quarter loaf of bread they bought at an affordable fee.
When the supply was cut out, students were agitated, and John the head cook got quite comfortable such that some students were now buying the bread directly from him and he no longer needed us, the middlemen. Something had to be done urgently.
But before we could remedy the situation, something happened. The school principal, Dr. Chombi, announced that the BOG had resolved to scrap weekend entertainment and replace it with tuition sessions. This announcement did not go down well with the students.
Later that night, Form Two students went on the rampage. And someone who knew where we kept the cash books and the money broke into the library and made away with our ‘hard-earned' loot. It must have been one of us; and it pains me to this day.
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