The camera panned around the alley and the next thing I saw made me jump out of my skin. As the camera centred on the dead gangsters I could no doubt sense the familiarity in their clothes. Beanies and oversized jackets, short man, tall man, big man and then just what I was hoping not to see; raspy. There was a bullet hole instead of the left eye and two more on his left hand, but it was raspy. The news presenter was serious about the images being graphic and horrific. Raspy still had that toothy smile he had flashed at me in the alley earlier that day but he was dead. Raspy and his goons were all dead. I had just interacted with all of them not more than an hour ago but now I was staring at them on the screen, all dead.
I dug into my pocket to pull out my phone. I wanted to call someone, anyone. I realised I had not put together the phone from its fall in the alley. I pulled out the front cover, the keypad, the back cover, the body and lastly the battery. I started assembling everything is a semi-panicked state. I quickly turned the phone over and before I had even snapped the back cover in place I powered it up.
“Shit!” I cursed and put my hands into my pocket for the SIM. Apart for some loose coins, an old receipt and some cash there was nothing in my pocket. I frantically started expelling the contents from all my pockets. Jeans front, jeans back, jacket outer, jacket inner, jacket top but nothing.
For the others in the living room, I probably looked like an ape in a scratching frenzy. To myself I was an ape with his life on the very verge of an irreversible catastrophe. Was that my SIM they had mentioned in the news?
How was that even possible with all the garbage that was on the floor?
What are the chances that the police force is efficient enough to find a 2cm by 1cm piece of paper and metal on half an acre of the filthiest streets in the world. This was the same police force that could not find a whore in a brothel on any given day.
My mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, assumptions and conclusions. None of them looked good from my perspective.
I continued staring at the screen with my mouth agape. Cathy, probably the only person in the room with brains, asked “Is everything, okay Sam? You look a bit pale.” I shook myself out of the temporary stupor and looked at her. I knew my mouth was still open but I had no idea what to stay. The image of raspy in the street alive and raspy in the street dead kept flashing in front of me.
I realised that Linda, the girl who had taken the joint from me, had her arm outstretched with it in her hand towards me. It took me some time to realise she was returning the joint to me. My heart was already pounding and the drug was not helping. I took the joint and sucked on it like I was trying to pull a golf ball through a hose pipe.
“Sam!” Cathy said with a little more urgency and firmness in her voice. There was a policeman giving an interview on the screen, but I could not hear anything save for the blood pounding in my ears. I could feel sweat forming on my brow. By back had not dried from the encounter on the street but now it was drenched. I looked at her and I started blurting random incoherent sentences that even did not make sense to me.
Cathy looked at Jemo and flicked her head in the girls directions. I do not know if Jemo understood but he turned up the volume of the television. The girls were too engrossed to notice Cathy come over. She sat on the armrest as Jemo came over too more because of Cathy’s stern beckoning gestures than his own personal will.
“What happened Sam?” enquired Cathy, thus time with a much more soothing tone in her voice filled with concern and care. Cathy had large imploring brown eyes that at this moment felt comforting and motherly. I blinked a couple of times and started narrating my ordeal in the alley that was being televised. From the no-show of Kimani’s contact to my importune meeting with raspy and his goons to my strangely lucky exit from the alley, I narrated it all.
My words were tripping over each other and I kept going back and forth as I remembered things. It was not a long tale but I was seeking solace and I kept justifying myself. I looked at Cathy and then at Jemo. He started wringing his hands which in retrospect I realized was because Kimani was his distant cousin and thus his contact.
Jemo went to the cabinet in the corner we called our bar, poured a stiff whisky and brought it over. I looked at the amber liquid in the cheap crystal imitation glass that we kept for our guests, swirled it around and swallowed it in one big gulp. As the liquid went down I could feel the warmth from the alcohol going down my throat and spreading through my stomach. The vapour from the good whisky came back up the throat and tickled my nostrils. Normally I would enjoy a whisky like a first date with a beautiful girl. Right now the best I could offer was to treat it like a cheap harlot.
I had never been this disoriented before and I had no idea what to do. I felt a tugging on my glass and realized Jemo was trying to take the glass from me. My eyes had glazed from the situation and the sting from the alcoholic vapours. He walked over to the bar and poured a bigger shot. He brought it to me. I looked up and muttered by gratitude, disrespected the brew master who had spent fifteen years perfecting that whisky, swallowed it all. Again.
My head was reeling from the weed and the whisky. I had no connection to the dead gangsters apart from that of a chance meeting in a dark alley. It could happen to anyone, right? Or were we supplier and customer. Yet, I had left behind my SIM card as evidence of my presence. Knowing the Kenyan police if they ever traced that back to me could I feign innocence or would they weave me into the intricate web of investigations, suspects and possible prosecution. I had never been detained in my life before, not even in school. Prison was a thought I could not even conjure in my wildest nightmares. I had heard and read all sorts of horrifying tales and here I was soon to be starring in one story of my own.
I opened my eyes and everyone was staring at me including the two girls, Linda and somebody. Cathy had concern etched all over her face. Jemo had the usual nonchalant smirk on his face, but from the creases on his forehead, I could tell he was worried as well.
“Why don’t you rest now, we will figure out something tomorrow” said Cathy.