Sam had learnt how to play the game. He had become a conman, seducing women online and getting them to send him money. But the games were getting tiring and he still wasn’t rich yet. He needed an exit plan. Was it time to reel in a big fish? Check out part 1 – The Making Of A Conman Catfish: The Beginning.
“Hello, Nigel? Nigel is that you?”
It had been almost two years since that night when he met Godspeed. Sam cleared his throat and mentally prepared to speak with his most refined accent. The beatings from class one to seven in English class had paid off. Still the first phone call, the first words were always the hardest. The moments you are most conscious of them recognizing you are a fraud.
“Hello, my darling Mary. Your voice is almost as lovely as you. Just hearing it makes my heart beat faster.”
He heard a giggle. It was working. He felt more at ease, “And that laugh! My God, that laugh! A thousand angels singing could not compare to its glorious richness.”
“Aww, Stop it Nigel. It’s too much!”
He smiled into the phone. They made it so easy. “No my pendo, you’re too much.”
She stammered, “Pe-pen-pendo? I know that word. I think I’ve seen it somewhere.”
“It means my love.” He said softly, accentuating the ‘v’ to make it more romantic.
Her breathing through the phone came out like soft clashes of waves, “I can’t believe we are finally talking in person! I’ve been so excited, telling my friends about you and they think you are not real but I knew you were. I did!”
He began to tango, this game of words comfortingly familiar to him. His voice took on a wounded tone, “How could you ever doubt me dear Mary?”
She became defensive, “No, no. It’s not like that! I would never doubt you! It’s just my friends, you know? They’re concerned for me I think? There’s been a lot of stories going round about these conmen… uhhh… and they were… uhh , just… questioning, uhm, me talking to you.”
He chuckled nonchalantly, “The conman industry has always been in Western Africa, not here in East Africa. You should know that, or is this one of those stereotypes you white people have about all Africans?”
He could almost see the frown on her lips through her words, “I don’t like it when you say you white people. We should be blind to color, it’s so pointless constantly bringing it up.”
He would have cut the call then. He thought “Were your people blind to color when they treated mine like the dirt you trample on? Did they not see my grandfather’s black skin when they killed him for speaking out against the wrongful detainment of Harry Thuku? I think not.”
He could have let these words spew from his mouth like spit from a baby but instead he inhaled the cool, night Nairobi air. He had to remember what he had learned from Godspeed. Channel annoyance/anger into a tool for exploitation. “Mmhmm, I understand completely Mary. We are all just one,” he allowed his voice to carry lust in it’s melody, “my dear you need to know how much I just want to hold you, to run my fingers all over the smooth skin that wraps around your core, competing with it for your attention. Our whatsapp conversations are not enough for me. I need to see you. ”
She gave a low gasp, “Ohhh, Me too!” Her annoying Western accent sounding more like a whine than the sexiness she was attempting to achieve. He had seen her pictures. She was in her early forties, plain dark hair, and stagnant features. As if they had been sketched onto her face at the beginning of time and like a sculpture never moved. Her mouth a thin line, her nose too sharp, her cheeks too drawn in. She was plain, to say the least, but her eyes were the one feature that stood out. They were a greyish blue, the only part of her that shifted. He had learned to see them, not just look at them. These women who were his livelihood; Well, mostly women.
He cringed as he remembered the one time. The one time he had been desperate, the calls, the attention, the cash, it had become almost like a high; a quick fix. He had taken his girl out for the weekend of valentines.
They were staying at a cozy cottage by the beach in Malindi. Rates were down, tourists were scarce, it was perfect… It would have been perfect if it had remained just so but as they were exploring the city on Saturday he got caught leaning out of the tuktuk to take pictures. It was such a stupid petty thing, but the cops were unrelentingly demanding. His girl was freaking out in the front of the three-wheeled contraption. The driver had conveniently gone silent, leaving just him and the police to sort it out.
‘Nielewe bwana. Sita fanya hio kosa tena.”
The two cops smiled like lions having caught their prey, the one with crooked yellow teeth spoke in his lazy Coasterian accent, “Ndugu tumekuambia utulipe, ama uende jela.”
Sam had no choice. By the time his feet trudged into the wooden cottage, his girl in arm, his pockets were empty. He left her watching a movie with a glass of red wine to calm down. He smirked because she had become those people who needed red wine to calm down. Kama angekuwa Kawangware bado, ange kunywa whatever the hell was available with alcohol in it.
He was spoiling his girl, but he didn’t care. Let her go back and tell her friends about her boyfriend who spoilt her as they would enviously complain like the househelps of Kawangware that sijui how their baby daddies have not paid anything for their little babies. She would see them and never leave him, knowing she had it good. He had never been in love before and this girl, she was growing on him. Maybe if he ever decided to settle down …
He went into the room and picked up his laptop with the list of names. He had exhausted the women on his list. He had told them they shouldn’t bother trying to reach him as he would be out of town for the weekend, if he tried calling any of them now they would be suspicious and he didn’t have time for mind games, with bae downstairs and all.
He saw it. The name ‘John Smith’ with the words “only when desperate” written beside it. He laughed at himself. Hell, he was desperate now. He only had the ksh500 note he had left in his suitcase between him and poverty. He had also missed the beauty and art of the game, the manipulation, the turning of people into mash in your hands.
He removed his special phone for the con game from his suitcase and dialed the number.
“Hello?” The old man voice on the other end creaked with the bitterness that comes with regretted years passed and unanswered what if’s?
Sam knew what he had to do. He cleared his throat and forced his vocals to modulate. This time it was a game of snakes and ladders, his voice had to keep climbing. If he didn’t, he would be caught by the snakes.
“Hey babe.” In his mind he tried to imitate every girl voice he had ever heard but what came out was a half screech/half whine. It was difficult to deliberately feign femininity with his naturally base voice. Hopefully the white buffoon was too old and deaf to tell the difference.
“Sorry, who is this?” The British accent sounded muffled and swallowed up.
Sam forced his now female voice to sound hurt, “How could you not know? It’s me, Adiella. After everything I’ve sent you, after all the deep chats we’ve had you don’t even remember my name?”
“Ohh. I… uhh… I didn’t know it was you! I just, I gave up on the thought of you calling. After I tried to call you severally and you never picked up.”
“I told you, my boyfriend will get mad if he catches me talking to you. I can’t talk to you all the time. Even now he’s probably going to come home soon, and I’m so tired.” Sam sniffled and attempted to moan in anguish as he had seen his girl do when she was crying for attention. “Mr. Smith, John, he hurt me. I need your help. I want to come visit you in the U.K.”
There was a second of silence before he spoke, “Adiella, why does your voice sound funny?”
Shit. His friend Linda, the one who catfished men was back in Nairobi. The two times he had called John before it is Linda who had seduced him. Linda was good, and she had a voice that just made men drool. He was on his own on this one. Sam had become a pathological liar. This was easy. “He hit me and hurt my voice box. The doctors say I need an operation.”
“Okay… I’m sorry about that my dear. How… how can I help?”
This was what Sam was waiting for. The invitation, when they believe it was their idea to sponsor you, you have them. He attempted to make his female imitation more realistic.
“Well Mr. Smith I want to be with you. I will come and be yours. I know you will never treat me like this jerk I have been with. I know you will take care of me won’t you? I just need money so I can fly over to the U.K”
Sam heard shuffling from somewhere but he ignored it. He was enjoying this. The pictures he had used online to fool this old man was of a busty Western African model so he knew which strings to pull. Regardless of his age, he was a man after all?
“Mr. Smith? Do you hear me? I also need some cash for the surgery so that you don’t think I am ugly, beaten, and used when I am with you. I want you to hold me in your arms and love everything you see. I want you to rub…”
The screech fought its way out of her mouth into the empty room. He had nearly dropped the phone as he turned around to face her.
His girl was fuming. “What the hell are you doing?”
He wished the ground would swallow him up at that moment as he imagined the scene from her perspective. Her coming in to find her macho, provider boyfriend on the bed with his legs crossed, talking with a feminine voice into the phone with a stranger about how he wanted to be rubbed… God knows what else she heard!
“How… “ His voice was still high. “How long…” He cleared his throat, “How long have you been standing there?” was all he was finally able to stammer out.
“What’s going on?” The voice on the receiver end spoke into the phone. “Is this a man? What’s happening?”
Sam had forgotten about Mr. Smith, he tried to go back to his high voice to answer the phone, “No, no John I’m still here.”
His girl seethed, he brought his voice back low, “Babe it’s not what you think. Just chill.”
Back to the phone, “Mr. Smith?”
He had forgotten to go back to his female imitation. A string of expletives left the old man’s mouth as he cursed him.
“Do you take me for a bloody fool? I will go to the police. You will be charged! Mark my words I will find you,” the old man was shouting now.
His girl started screaming at him at the same time, “Mwanaume ni? This is so disgusting! I can’t believe I was dating a wimp who pretended to be a woman for money. You are nothing. I’m going back to Nairobi. I don’t ever want to see you again or be embarrassed by your antics.”
He was pissed then but she walked off before he could react. The phone cut as he sunk to his knees. Everything was a bloody mess!
Sam snapped out of his memory, the cringe worthy nostalgia reminding him he wanted to be done with this life. He remembered the story Godspeed told him about meeting his wife. He had asked him how he had been okay leaving the game to settle with an old white wrinkly lady.
Godspeed had said, “Sometimes it is tiring. Being a manipulator to so many people in so many different situations, building so many different personas. I realized it would be easier stimulating the blood of just one fish until it is tender and sweet enough that it would feed me for the rest of my life.” He had smiled, his perfect smile then. “I found my fish Sam, but all the same we are catfish. It is in our nature to chase.”
Was he ready to settle down with just one fish? To give up the chase? Well this woman was wealthy and she wasn’t that old. He could do this somehow. He spoke into the phone, “Mary, I think you should come to Kenya to visit.”
“Oh, Really?” He could hear the hardly contained excitement in her voice. She paused for a little, and spoke so softly it was almost a whisper, “I was scared you were going to ask for more money. I promised my friends if you did I would stop talking to you.”
He knew what he would do. He would buy her a ring. He would propose. She had a good life in Sweden, probably the best out of all the candidates on his list. “My pendo, I told you. Don’t doubt me my darling. I told you I needed the money for a business deal. I will pay you back I promise.”
He would make her happy. She might annoy him but her money would more than make up for that. He knew what he had to do next, “by the way Mary, my other name is Sam. That’s what people call me here. They don’t know Nigel is my middle name, in case you get confused.”
“Sam,” she tested out the word on her European tongue as if it was the most exotic flavor instead of the one syllable word it actually was. “Sam Nigel”. I like it.”
“Great then why don’t you come see me next month? You said you are taking leave days off of work?”
“So soon?” She sounded surprised. “You actually want me there?”
Sam smiled, what made this job so easy was their insecurities. “Yes Mary. I do. I have fallen in love with you and I can’t wait to see you. Don’t you want to be with me? I want to introduce you to my people, I have already told them about you.”
They finalized the details of her flight and Sam walked out of the Java he had been sitting at whistling Juliani’s latest song. He was happy. He was done. He was going to settle down. He needed to make arrangements to borrow a house of a friend for a month, one of his friends who had moved to Europe and had a mansion he had built with money from his rich wife. He needed Mary to think that he was rich and he didn’t need her money. She would be convinced that the money she had “lent” him was for a legit business. He would propose then tell Mary that he wanted to move to Sweden to be with her. He needed a clean start. One or two years in Europe and he would be set.
His phone rang.
“Stephanie” was written in bold. She was the one from South Africa. She was just ripe for the picking. Sam hesitated for less than a few seconds. The lure too strong to resist. He accepted it. It seemed this catfish had a few more fish to sweeten before he was done. He picked up his phone, cleared his throat, deepened his voice and answered the call.