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Keegan’s Game and the Peerless Target- a short story

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Mariama Khan. Former Secretary General and Head Of Civil Service The Gambia

Story Written by: Mariama Khan

Gambian Poet and filmmaker

Writing from Rhode Island

Untitled Chapter

It’s past midnight in Manhattan. Inside one of the apartments in an old colonial building, in Greenwich village, a middle-aged man suddenly sprang from his bed. He is 5. 3 feet tall and weighs about 140 pounds. He sits on the edge of the bed. He is trembling. He stretches his hand to reach the switch of the bedside lamp, which he turned off before he went to bed. The lamp is switched on. He is still trembling as if he has been exposed to frigid temperatures for an extended period of time. But it is not winter time. It is a night in summer. 

    “Why I’m I trembling?” The man murmurs to himself. 

He is wearing a beige cotton pajama. He crosses his hands over him with each palm tightly clutching his elbow on the opposite side of his arms. He gets up slowly feeling light headed. He walks into the toilet, which is connected to the bedroom. He stands over the sink, checks his face in the mirror above the sink. It is pale, white and hawkish. He turns on the tap. He collects water in his cupped right palm to wash his face. He takes a deep breath several times. Finally, he returns to the bedroom and switches on the main light, flooding the room with brightness. He turns off the bedside lamp. 

Instead of returning to bed, he went into the kitchen, press the Keurig coffee maker. The liquid drips inside the cup as the machine makes swooshing sounds. Then it stops. He picks up the cup of hot coffee and walks into his study, at the far end of his plush apartment. He sits on his desk and begin sipping the coffee slowly. His eyes rest on the stack of photos on his study table.

The photos which were apparently taken discreetly showed an African woman sitting on what appears to be public transportation. Some photos of her were taken on the bus. Others on the train. He picks one of the photos in which the woman seems to be smiling to someone. He peers into it as if he would anything pull the real person from the photo.

The man Keegan McKinsey, a native of the American west, has long been obsessed with the woman in the photo. He has a huge triage of documents and photos of her.  He follows her every move through his network of watchers, listens to her every phone conversation, reads her every email communication, and watches her even when she is in the toilet. The true evidence Keegan has collected on the woman for almost a decade shows she is a harmless, easy-going but highly-opinionated single mother.  She is intelligent and self-assured. She seems to need no one. She is beautiful but seems to have no serious interest in dating any man. Sometimes, Keegan feels a strong emotion towards her. 

But his work is not to vindicate the woman. Instead, it is to fabricate her into a national security threat, make everyone give their back to her, make no one want to associate with her, isolate her, throttle her source of income, make her completely broke and finally take her out. 

Keegan is a master in taking people out. He has a large network of people and millions and millions of dollars for his assignments. His life’s trajectory has made him the ideal security operative who can be relied on to succeed in any mission in America or outside America.  His domestic network was cultivated through his life’s journey. He was born in Arizona. He went to high school in New York. His college education was in Texas. He completed graduate school in Boston, MA. He has worked in Washington DC for several years before moving to California for nine years and finally returning to Manhattan. 

Keegan works as a security operative for any willing customer. He has been long friends with different law enforcement personnel in all the states he has once lived in, including in New York. His work also connects him to the world of crime. He knew many neighborhood gangs in different states. He knew which members he can recruit for assignments. He also knew which rogue law enforcement personnel he can coax on his side for any assignments.

He feels he is a man of power. In some sense, he is some sort of king in his shadowy world. He is powerful. He has connections to many important people and he can influence many of them to support whatever case he wanted to put forward.

When Keegan newly took on the woman as a new target, he had no qualms than within a few months, she will be a done deal. In the first three months, he personally travelled to Washington state to meet a man who was a potential love interest of the woman. The two met at a plush restaurant in Seattle. After a private dinner and talking, he tells the man:

“Remember, you will be saving yourself and your family from criminal litigation if you refuse to cooperate. Your U.S citizenship will be revoked and you will be deported to your native country. You have to make a choice. I’ll pay for all costs incurred in the project…”

The man, a tall dark middle-aged man, wearing a white kaftan, worriedly shook his head to confirm to Keegan that he was willing to do what he wanted. The deal was sealed. 

Keegan brought out a small book from his briefcase.

He holds it towards the man. He took it from him. Looking the man straight in the eyes, he said: “Mail this to her, I’ll pay for all costs.”

      The man, Salifu, calls the woman right in front of Keegan.  His phone was on speaker mode for Keegan to hear what she was saying.

“Hello baby, how have you been?”

“Hey, is that you?” Then the woman starts speaking in their language. Keegan signals to the man to keep the conversation going in English so that he understands every word the woman said. The man continued to speak and respond to the woman in English.

“Why are you speaking English to me today? Who do you want to hear me talk?” 

The woman teasingly asked the man, who awkwardly stammered before telling her.

“I’m not that person who records other people. Why will I have another person hear my conversation with you? Is English not the language we all speak in America?”

Salifu’s defense was not convincing. 

“Okay, Mr. English man, let’s talk in English then.” The woman laughed softly. The conversation continued in English.

Keegan was impressed by the woman’s intuition. She must be a smart bitch…in an ideal world, she will be a brilliant asset. He thought to himself. 

Even the voice of the woman left an impression on Keegan. This is the first time he heard her speak. But the softness of her voice had an attractive innocence to it. He felt a sudden sensation in his heart; an emotion like love seemed to stir in him. He brushed aside his feelings, reminding himself she was a multimillion-dollar project he must close.

“I have a Quran I want to send you.” Salifu told the woman.

“Why? I have my own Quran.”

“I want you to read the one I have. I bought it when I went for the Umra in Saudi Arabia.”

“No, I do not need a second copy of the Quran. I already have one. It has been with me a for long time now.”

“Baby, how can you reject the first gift I want to give you.”

Keegan was happy that the man seemed to demonstrate some skill at convincing the woman.

“I got you a new phone too. I’ll mail it with the Quran to you.”

“Why are you insisting for me to have your Quran?” 

The woman thought something must be happening. Curious, she agreed for Salifu to send her the Quran and the phone.

Keegan stayed in Seattle for two more days. He gave Salifu a new phone to mail to the woman with the book. Then he flew back to New York, first stopping at Boston, to speak with a co-worker of the woman. 

A week later, Oumie came from work on a Tuesday evening and saw a slip that she had a mail held at the Post Office. The following day, she went to receive it. It was from Salifu. She signed for the mail and left with it.

At home, she opened the mail. There was the book. She curiously flipped through its pages as she skimmed through it. She has never read or come across such violent literature that is mimicking the Quran. She wondered why would Salifu read such a book. Why did he mail this book to her?  She became suspicious of Salifu’s intentions. Without paying any attention to the phone which came with the book, she took her cellphone and texted Salifu. 

“Why did you send me this book? I’ll mail it back to you. I do not read such literature. This is not a Quran.”

The following day, she mailed the book back to Salifu. It was after a week later that she began using the cellphone to speak with Salifu. The phone came with a phone line and Salifu informed her that he will be paying the bill monthly.


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