Roshaenmier Park Place Towers, Nairobi
The President and CEO of October Corporation, Terence Lesley Gatiba stepped down from the podium escorted by an enviable round of applause, as he graciously bowed, smiled and headed back to his dining table right at the front row of the hall.
Anyone who caught a glimpse of him as he made his seemingly long walk towards a reserved seat, could have summarized the public figure in two words only – Power and Mastery. His widely gregarious smile belied the stern authoritative figure that lay not so well hidden, beneath. Because Terence was a man who got nothing less than the extra mile from those who worked with, and around, him, partly because of his contagious persuasion and drive.
However, deep down within the recesses of his grossly misunderstood mind, was a man of countless psychological complexities, abundant in skillful manipulation which often propelled him to achieve his desired results. All this was packaged, however, in the reserved and pampered stature that the public eye saw him to be. His gait was effortlessly measured in tune with his surprisingly well-toned and balanced physical frame.At 6 foot 1, not too much of anything really, made him comparable to the mythological Greek god Zeus, with a simmering yet palpable aura of majesty and powerful mystery that reverberated off him.
Terence Gatiba simply bore testament to a fact that rightly described him by a writer in the Daily Nairobian –
The man is like wine, he gets better with age!
A battery of photojournalists continued to scramble to get excellent shots of Kenya’s most prolific billionaire, but could only do so from a well-restricted perimeter, which the Plaza security tightly guarded.
It was nine o’clock in the evening on Thursday, and the celebrations and tribute to the success and lifetime achievements of Terence Lesley Gatiba were just short of their prime. Hundreds of exclusively invited and hand-picked guests were witnessing the mogul make a milestone speech. This was the 30th anniversary of his hand-built, from scratch, empire, and one year closer to his fiftieth birthday.
Ladies were adorned in exquisite evening gowns in the event-required shades of the national colors of green, black, red and white, while the gentlemen exuded class, in their respective bib and tucker. Around the tastefully furnished Plaza Hendred Ballroom Hall were hundreds of meticulously hung artificial stars, suspended from the deliriously high ceiling, as a cornucopia of stylized crystal lamps gleamed all round the room, creating a dreamy and barely realistic atmosphere. Surely it was an occasion of glitz and glamour, all taking place in this ballroom of the world-renowned Roshaenmier Park Place – the shy of a mile high headquarters of Gatiba’s October Corporation. The tower was purposefully and strategically placed by its equally world-renowned architect, at the newly developed up-market district corner of Prudential Street and Hendred Grove, in the Kilimani area at the heart of Nairobi.
For Terence however, things could not be worse!
Vagabonds and cut throats, he thought, one of you is out to get me but you won’t win! This is not any pundit you’re messing around with.
Looking around the table he was at, Terence stared emptily at October Corp’s powerful and established right-hand men and women, deservingly dubbed the “Giants of October”. These were people who had as much clout in the company, as they did in the high society circles of Kenya’s capital: His wife, Cecelia Gatiba, owned a controlling twenty five percent of the corporation – she looked lovelier than ever, in her kiko Romeo rose-blush robe, hair tightly held back in a French bun: Darren Gatiba, his adopted son, sharp and snazzy in a white dinner jacket and pants, had a twenty percent stake in the company. He never had trusted him – it was his frighteningly raw ambition that shockingly echoed the desires he had once so vivaciously possessed at his age: Darren was involved in light conversation with Penelope Ajani, a ten percent owner, together with her husband, Eric, the chief legal advisor to the company. Terence gave his wife a falsified but reassuring smile, as he thought about the situation at hand.
As if in triumph, he lifted up his hands. October Corporation, the company which he had moulded with his own two bare hands into the gem it had become, was about to come tumbling down like a stack of light paper cards that had been haphazardly piled on top of each other! After over three decades of hard work and feverish competition, the company finally sat at the apex of perfection and superiority – and for what exactly? What everyone saw was a rare corporate success story, with all the accoutrements of the fuel behind the engine, the people in the limelight who made it a reality. What they did not see though, was the turmoil, the rage, and the almost ludicrous betrayal that unabashedly intertwined beneath the squeaky clean image, forming a devastatingly harsh yet crippling combination. To only think that all this was because of those who surrounded him at that moment! If only each of them could see and experience the harbored contempt and disgust he felt, sensing the deception and greed that hovered in the air.
“Smile a bit darling. Don’t let your misery be too obvious! You can enjoy it while it lasts!” Cecilia wrily whispered abruptly, grinning pretentiously.
Terence gave an unenthusiastic smile and distractedly looked at his watch and saw that it was already half past the hour.
“Excuse me everyone,” he stood up steadily and dumped the napkin he held in his hand onto the chair he quickly vacated, “…all this shrimp and pasta is not doing my digestive system justice! I should go and lie down for a while or you’ll quickly become uncomfortable guests!”
That sent the whole table into fits and giggles, although his unabashed humor bordered on the disgusting. He swiftly proceeded to make his way out of the ballroom. The rest at the table then exchanged brief glances at the abnormality of the gesture, Terence never left any occasion before it was over, but shrugged and went on with their conversation. Cecilia promptly followed her husband, as a figure from the other corner of the room raced out in the same manner.
Terence entered the wood-trimmed washroom, dabbed some water over his face at the sink, as he gazed at his reflection in the mirror, asking himself if what he was about to do was right. He was never a man to think twice, but when it came to criminal intent, who wouldn’t?
“Don’t show wearing and tearing at the edges!” He scolded himself straightening up, drying his hands by the towel, and racing out of the washroom. By this time, the figure that had walked out of the ballroom in tandem with Terence was safely tucked behind a pot of flowers, speaking into a cell phone in a low tone.
“The subject is leaving the premises: Proceed with the second phase of the mission; now!” He rushed back to the ballroom as Terence met up with the guard at the entrance, quietly giving the guard a thousand shilling tip as he exited. Sometimes he surprised even himself with the manner in which he would handle a crisis at hand. Just then, Cecilia came flying through the hallway, in time to catch her husband.
“Oh no you don’t! You’re not going to humiliate me by leaving me here alone. If you’re going, I’m going too.” She demanded. “Haven’t you…”
There was no time for arguments. He wordlessly grabbed her arm quickly as they manouvered out, finding his chauffer-driven Mercedes S Class waiting a few feet away. He literally shoved his wife in and signaled to the driver who sped off at an unearthly speed.
“Terence, can you explain why…” Cecilia began as a deafening blast tore through the ground floor of the building in a split second, obliterating virtually everything in its wake. She looked at her husband disbelievingly and breathlessly as a tear of realization and comprehension gradually trickled down her cheek.
“It had to be done.” was all Terence said, conclusively. All the time what ran through her mind was that he would have left her there to die.