Chapter 8 – I Remember, Do you?
Nairobi had changed in eight years. The city had grown, expanding its wings to the surrounding towns, boasting bigger and better buildings. Charles Dhali found it exciting. He’d grown too. Eight years in the outside world, learning business under his father, he’d had no choice but to grow and adapt. Isaac Dhali was his father, but when it came to making money, the man turned into an unrelenting tyrant. His father had once told him the only way he would inherit anything from him, was if Charles held a larger net worth than Isaac did.
Who was he to take a challenge lying down?
He’d taken that challenge up with determination and built Dhal Corp. Dhal Corp dealt in real estate, tourism and owned two resorts. Sadly, he’d made a mistake with his first business decision when he’d chosen to partner with his mother. Ashley Dhali owned half of his company because she’d helped bring up the business when he had been abroad.
Doing business with his mother was dangerous. Ashley Dhali made enemies easily. The moment he’d arrived in Kenya, he’d offered to buy her out, but she was being stubborn. It made him suspicious.
Charles sighed and shook his head staring out the windows. He needed a driver these days. Traffic was insane and he still hadn’t acclimated yet. He was on his way to Westlands, his driver speeding along Waiyaki Way at seven in the morning. A starbus stopped abruptly ahead of them and his driver expertly navigated around. Yes, learning to drive around this town was going to take him a few weeks.
His thoughts returned to the company. It was taking him longer than he had expected to orient himself with the company’s employees. Today, he was meeting the managers of all the businesses owned under Dhal Corp. Glancing at his watch, he decided it would be good to see who was on time.
Dhal Corp’s headquarters was housed in a twelve-story building in Westlands that boasted ocean blue glass. His mother owned the land. He’d funded the building. It had taken him four years to finish building. They had been four years of struggling with building inspectors, sourcing building materials, and dealing with a meticulous contractor. Dhal Corp used the top four floors as corporate offices. The rest were rented out to businesses, two of them belonging to Dhal Corporation.
He didn’t have time to admire the building when the driver stopped at the main entrance. Six men in neat dark suits waited at the front. They hurried to him when he got out of the car. He greeted them with a nod, his gaze fixed on a short man with a beer belly who stood in the back, behind the eager managers.
“Everything is as you ordered,” the man said when he lifted a brow in question.
“Are you sure it was delivered anonymously, Mr. Kimei?” Charles asked.
“Yes. I bought the tree myself, no names on the receipts. My people carried the package into the offices. Why a tree instead of flowers, sir?” Mr. Kimei asked.
Charles smiled imagining the reaction the tree would have gotten.
“That’s for me to know,” Charles said.
Mr. Kimei hurried away, and Charles started into the building followed by the remaining five men.
“Jack, how are we doing on the title deeds in Thika?”
“They were delivered yesterday. I had our lawyers check them and they are in order,” Jack Mathuva answered.
Ashley considered Jack her right hand man. Charles was inclined to agree, as Jack was nothing but helpful in his transition to CEO, still it was too early.
“Then construction should be underway,” Charles said. “The contractor has everything he needs.”
“They have started work, sir,” Jack replied.
They had reached the elevator and Jack pushed the button so that doors slid open. Once they were in the elevator, Charles turned to a short, pudgy man in his late thirties, named Peter Kosgelle.
“How is property management working?”
“Our systems are running smoothly. We are at ninety-five percent on rent collection, and maintenance. I have hired a new team of agents for the new properties. They’ll focus on sourcing new clients. Apart from a few incidents with particular renters, everything is fine,” Peter said.
Charlie held Peter’s gaze. He didn’t sense deception in Peter’s words. The man was relatively honest. He had spent hours analyzing the financials on Dhal Properties and found no problems in their accounts. The business was making a satisfactory profit. For now, Peter was good enough for the job.
“I doubt it’s as easy as you make it sound,” Charlie said. “I would like it if you pushed that ninety-five percent to one hundred percent. We’re a business after all. If someone hasn’t paid their rent, handle it, Peter.”
“Yes, Charlie,” Peter said with a smile.
The elevator doors opened on the first floor to reveal a neat lobby with the words Dhal Properties on the wall ahead. Peter bid everyone goodbye and exited the elevator. Charlie watched the man greet his employees, his tone warm. The elevator doors closed and Charlie turned his attention to the man on his right.
This man was tall, and muscular, like an American football player. It seemed absurd to have him in a suit when he would be quite at home on the field playing a sport.
“Mahali Travel has too many problems, Stanford and is part of the reason I came back here. What is going on, Stanford?” Charlie asked.
“We were undergoing massive staffing changes,” Stanford said.
“Staffing?” Charlie shook his head. “There are so many qualified travel agents out there. If you want, I will hold interviews for you.”
“The staff we have now is quite capable,” Stanford said.
Charlie sighed. “Mahali Travel is getting an external audit. I’m telling you because it has already begun and I want your cooperation.”
Stanford’s jaw clenched and Charles narrowed his gaze at that. So, there was something going on at the travel agency.
“No one is immune to investigations, Stanford. I have investors who want answers, and they want them now.”
The elevator doors opened on the third floor and Stanford got out. Charles couldn’t abide incompetence. The moment the auditors revealed that Stanford was useless, Charles would send him out the door.
Jack started to press the button to close the elevator. Charles’ gaze was on the different posters gracing the lobby at Mahali Travel. Each advertising a vacation spot. He wondered if it wasn’t too clinical…then he saw her.
She was walking toward the elevator. Her braids were in a ponytail, her body trim and shapely in a short pink skirt suit. Her skin the color of butterscotch, he remembered the feel of it against his fingers. She smiled at her companion, and his heart slammed in his chest. The elevator doors closed and he jammed his index finger on the open button, for the doors to open again.
It was her. He knew it. The doors took their time to open and by they time they slid wide, she was nowhere to be found. She must have taken the stairs.
“Something wrong, Charlie?” Jack asked from inside the elevator.
Charlie sighed, glancing at the closing stairway door, he shook his head and returned to the elevator. He didn’t offer an explanation to the three men in the elevator. The elevator resumed its way up and once they reached the twelfth floor, they all exited and headed to his new office at the end of the hallway.
Charles opened the door, his gaze lingering over the new sign mounted on the door. It read Charles Dhali, C.E.O. Dhal Corporation, such simple elegance for so much responsibility.
He shrugged his jacket off and dumped it on a white arm chair. Unlike his managers in their neat suits, he preferred more relaxed attire. Dressed in a grey polo shirt and dark slacks, he put his hands in his pockets and went to stand by the floor length windows.
Behind him, the three men settled themselves in the chairs around his mahogany desk. Charles didn’t move to take his seat behind that desk. He remained by the windows, staring at the city around him.
“I want to know what Stanford is hiding in the Travel Agency,” Charles said.
“Our investigation is hitting road blocks. We can’t find three of the four previous accountants. Money is flowing, witnesses are too absent,” Jack explained.
Charles turned away from the view and glanced at the man seated beside Jack. His name was Nyagah. Nyagah was a tall, thin man. He carried his height well, and wore glasses that were always perched on the tip of his nose. Charles liked him for his meticulous nature.
“Nyagah, document every bit of information you get out of that travel agency. Submit it to me first, even if you have to find me at the house on Ndwaru.”
“The report will be with you in two weeks,” Nyagah promised.
“If there is anything untoward happening in that agency, Jack, I want those people finished,” Charles said.
“We’ll get it done, Charlie,” Jack said and stood up. He followed Nyagah out of Charles’ office, making sure to close the door behind him.
Charles moved to his desk then, and took a seat on the imposing executive chair to face the remaining man. Archer Weru, an average man with unremarkable features. He had an uncanny ability to remain unnoticed in a crowd. People tended to ignore him during important conversations. His services were immeasurable to Charles.
“I hope you have good news for me,” Charles said with a sigh.
Archer gave him an odd smile. “Well, she’s a skilled businesswoman. She seems happy enough.”
“I remember how pretty she was when she smiled. Does she smile?”
“She does,” Archer said.
Archer placed an envelope on the desk. Charles took it and opened it. He pulled out photographs.
“I took those last night at the club she owns with her friend. That’s her cousin Hana and—
“Ashi,” Charles said. “I remember. I want to see her. I thought I saw her downstairs at the travel agency.”
“You could have,” Archer said. “Her advertising agency is handling promotion for the travel agency. They are on the verge of signing a three-year contract.”
“Really,” Charlie said. That was indeed good news. If she succeeded, he would have access to her.
Archer continued his report.
“She spends her daily hours working at Avenue Advertising, some evenings at the club. On weekends, she devotes her time to the property she inherited from her father on Ndwaru road. She’s purchased two parcels of land surrounding her father’s land and expanded the original house. That is where she stays.”
Koya Kalahari, Charles thought, a woman after his heart.
He smiled at the pictures of her hugging Ashi, toasting a drink with her cousin, and then of her dancing. He wondered if she still thought about him.
“What would you like me to do next?” Archer asked.
“Keep tabs on her for me,” Charles said.
Archer nodded in understanding and stood up. He paused as he turned to leave, glancing back at Charles.
“What?” Charles asked.
“There’s a man she spends a lot of time with,” Archer said. “They call him Kim. I thought that might be of interest.”
Archer pulled out a picture from his jacket pocket and handed it to Charles.
Charles stared at the picture of Koya and Kim at a restaurant. They seemed so homey together. He gritted his teeth and nodded his thanks to Archer. Archer left and once the door closed, Charles tossed the picture of Kim and Koya aside. He picked up the one with Koya smiling with her glass in the air.
“Koya,” he said in a quiet tone. “We have unfinished business. Why did you never answer my letters?”
To be continued…thank you for reading ^_^