SEP 15, 2022
Johari and Nea froze, rooted in their seats, unbelievable scenes happening right in front of them. The dignitaries at the podium were storming towards the exit door, as the gunfire increased. Johari felt himself being lifted to his feet. Nea rose up and stood beside him, and they were half dragged to the rear exit. As they rushed through the VIP entrance, they sidestepped the blood that caked the paving. General Abdi's blood.
They slid into their car, its roaring engine hastily propelling it away from the stadium. Johari was certain they were in the wrong car, as he did not recognise the driver, but he saw Amiri in the passenger seat holding a machine gun. He felt more confident. Nea, in shock, felt tears slowly trickle down her face as fear washed over her. As they raced through the streets, they zoomed past irate mobs that had lit bonfires. Their world was falling into chaos.
What just happened? Johari was in shock.
“Eshe? Where is Eshe? Adea?” Nea needed answers. “Johari, do you hear me?”
He heard her, but for a second ignored her, swigging from the water bottle as the shock of the reality of what just happened hit him again. Their heavy car roared up the hills, entering their compound. Already, armed guards were manning their gates and key points along the compound perimeter. When the car stopped, they jumped out and were quickly ushered into their home.
Nea sat on her favourite chaise lounge, pulled out her phone, and started scrolling, searching for Eshe's number. She dialled. Three beeps. The network was busy. She looked for Adea's number and dialled only to get three beeps.
Frustrated, she turned to her husband. “Johari!” she called.
He was looking for the television remote, seeking answers.
“What are you doing, Johari,” Nea confronted him. “Where are our girls?”
“Have you tried calling them?” He retorted back at her.
Nea was going spare. Johari was trying to get the television working. He wasn’t bothering with his phone. The networks were going to be flooded with calls as people tried to figure out what was happening.
He finally got the television to work, and on the screen, he saw terror.
'Shots fired at the celebration…'
Nobody knew anything. They weren't willing to speculate on the president's whereabouts, his condition, or even the fact that he had been shot. The only thing they alluded to was that there had been a shooting and that the president had left the stadium under heavy guard.
Johari was fretting, not quite sure of what he needed to do or who he needed to talk to. He switched to another station, getting the same news. Suddenly, the television broadcast stopped, and the station logo glued to the screen. He switched to the national broadcaster, their own mouthpiece, and it too was broadcasting its own logo.
Then it changed to a live broadcast. A panicked anchor was announcing, “In the studio, we have a live broadcast starting in ten minutes. Please stand by.”
He stared at the TV. It wouldn't even be a minute before the next broadcast began, showing the putschists seated behind a broadcasting table, wearing green berets and sunglasses. The one reading their statement seemed familiar. Johari slowly walked backwards, getting a better view, when the realisation hit him.
“Nea!” he screamed.
She looked at him while typing out a message. She wanted to ask what, but she saw him collapse into the Ottoman.
“Nea! Look!” he said, pointing to the screen.
She saw it too and instantaneously felt ill.
“Good day, citizens. This is the Revolutionary People’s Front. We are now in charge. General Abdi is dead. We announce the disbanding of the government and the suspension of the current constitution. We will begin…”
Was that Adea?
“Adea, what are you doing?!?” Johari screamed at the television.
Adea kept reading from the sheaves of paper. Next to Adea was Jabali, and a fellow he did not recognise, and finally, Eshe.
Nea dropped her phone, finding herself at a loss. What was happening? Adea and Eshe were plotters? Johari, bewildered, screamed for Amiri. On the screen, Jabali started talking.
“Mosiya. I want to go to Mosiya, now,” Johari bellowed.
“Mosiya? Why?” Nea confused.
“Amiri, let’s go. Nea, get your things ready, and we go.”
“Go to Mosiya? Johari, have you lost your mind?”
Amiri, standing with the machine gun at the door, responded, “Nobody is going anyway, boss.”
“No boss. Eshe told me to keep you here, and use force if necessary.”
He was stunned and felt feeble. Eshe was issuing orders in his house, to his staff? Nea's tears poured out. Her beautiful daughters. Accomplices in the coup. This turn of events pushed her to her final limit, as her anger snaked its way up. Why did Adea have to be so cunning, or Eshe so headstrong, or Johari a scandalous dolt? She felt helpless. In their estate, they sat, safe from the chaos, but prisoners of their own children.
The sunlight faded. Johari has not moved from his Ottoman. His wife opposite him sat drinking tea, her trembling hands clinking her china. Her tears had finally dried up, but her heart was not at peace. In the distance, they could hear the sporadic gunfire robbing the night of its usual peace.
* * *
The headlights pierced the night. A weary Johari blankly stared out. He could see cars driving up, with soldiers jumping over the fence into his compound. His armed guards had long deserted him. Only Amiri remained, armed, patrolling the compound alone, with the guard dogs. The cars stopped, and Johari heard voices. Instantly, he recognised Eshe's voice of defiance in a celebratory mood. Amiri let them in, and they hastily walked in through the parlour. Adea, Eshe, Jabali and four other guards.
The glimmer of recognition hit Nea and Jabali.
“Hi mum,” he greeted her.
Nea was bewildered by his flagrant revelation of their deep dark secret.
“Hallo, my son,” she responded, resigned to the truth finally coming out.
Adea's cunning smirk fell off her face, as she froze.
Eshe gasped, shocked. What was wrong with this picture? Son? Mother? She had a brother? Wasn't he Adea's on-again-off-again flame?
Johari was deafened by fear as Jabali towered over him.
“I’m in charge now, Johari,” he dictated. He motioned to the guards. “Take him.” The hauled him to his feet.
Adea delirious, screamed, “Stop!”
Eshe, taller, put herself between the door and her father. Betrayal? By Jabali?
“You promised,” she hissed.
Jabali sneered back. “No, he is not going to jail where he belongs. Take him to Militaire.”
“The hospital?” Nea wondered. What was he playing at?
“Wait.” Jabali ordered, a thought playing in his head. “Put him back down.” They sat him down.
Adea, going haywire, screamed at her mother. “Son?!?”
“Yes, son,” Jabali countered, answering for her. “Nea is my mother.”
Adea felt bile fill her mouth. “Jabali, what have we done?”
She had told him everything. Given herself to him. He had done things to her. They had done everything. If asked, she would have admitted to being in love with him.
“Do you need to talk on the big white telephone?” Jabali tauntingly mocked her, noticing her repulsion.
Jabali's dark Machiavellian hand was well-timed. The word revenge became part of his lexicon from the day he learned what it meant. He had learnt of his heritage, a poorly hidden secret in the presidential palace, where he had been secretly raised by his now-dead father, General Abdi. His torrid affair, a moment of weakness for Nea, and his way of drawing her into his orbit resulted in him.
After medical training in Cuba, where he had picked up alternative political ideologies, he had returned a changed man. His success as a surgeon gained him popularity, and access to influential people. Despite the trappings of success and wealth, he never deviated from his revenge plot.
Johari, finally kicking into gear, felt crushed. He leered at Nea. He had suspected an affair, but she had become pregnant, so he had always assumed it was his child that she had claimed to lose towards the end of the pregnancy.
The consequence of that affair was now all too severe. His beautiful daughter had been violated. That humiliation slowly turned into anger.
Nea was as good as dead. She knew her husband. Once betrayed, he could be cruel. Johari was going to destroy her.
Eshe sat stunned, her bullheaded demeanour crushed by these revelations. Her family was this scandalous? She felt defeat overwhelm her.
Johari tried to rise to his feet, but he felt uneasy. His heart was thumping, as a stream of sweat slowly trickled down his face. “Dad! Dad!” he heard Adea shouting as he slowly slid onto the floor into unconsciousness.
* * *
The sloshing of the heavy rain woke Johari up. He felt cold and weak, as he tried to raise himself, but his hands felt heavy, owing to the sedation. As he stared up, slowly trying to figure himself out, he saw the distinct ceiling of Militaire. He was disappointed. Death too had betrayed him. The nurse realising he was trying to get up, pivoted the bed upwards, allowing him to sit up, while she discreetly pressed the call button. His wife and his two daughters stood by his bedside, faces full of worry. Momentarily, Jabali walked in wearing his scrubs.
“I can't save you,” he casually informed Johari, “you are too far gone for a medical miracle.”
He knew all this, that he was terminal. That sobering reality washed over his family.
“However, you will live long enough to see the outcome of your deeds,” he scorned, “all of you.”
He turned and walked out, off to complete his revenge.
At midday, Jabali appeared on the television, surrounded by military leaders, with a cowering Chief Justice in tow. His broad chest puffed out, his face beaming with pride from his accomplishments. He stood on the podium, still stained with his father's blood. The crowd began cheering, “Jabali! Jabali! Jabali!”
With his hand raised, and the other one on the bible and the constitution, he began, “I, Jabali Abdi...”