My mind was still a mess from the events that had unfolded and somehow I felt that this razed and looted building was a message in itself. In my minds eye, I was that very building. In turmoil, in anguish, collapsed and broken.
It was at that point that I realised that the only way forward was to pick up the pieces and move on. I kept walking as if in a trance. I took the next corner very fast nearly bumping into a hawker trying to sell socks, knives and sunglasses, all off the same rack. I was bee-lining for the building at the end of that block; the police station.
Absent minded, I pulled out my phone with the intention of calling Cathy to let her and Jemo know of my plans. After cursing my own stupidity of forgetting about the missing SIM, I put the phone away. The streets were now getting filled up and there was light traffic, matatu’s, pick-ups and people off to work. The street was full of obstacles, burnt tyres, broken glass, pieces of wood and the odd piece of cloth or broken looted items. All that would affect traffic flow creating a snarl up later I thought.
Then suddenly, there I was, staring at the police station from across the street, not knowing what had made me come till there. As I contemplated whether I should go in and tell them what I know and redeem my life – or conscience – the horror stories about police stations in Kenya started painting ghastly pictures in my mind. The stories may have been many but the urban legends were even more and twice as scary.
The building was old, probably pre-colonial painted a brilliant white half way down from the top. The bottom part was a dark royal blue, with a thick yellow stripe separating it from the white. They were the colours of our boys in blue. The colour they would probably beat me to, if I did not admitting being an associate of the thugs in the alley.
Police stations the world over are known to be forlorn forts of corrective activity and safety from all sorts of daily perils, but this ancient building was no where near it. If you could smell corruption, that building reeked of it. A thick smog of corruption tickling the inside of your nostrils, gagging in your throat and turning your stomach.
The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. I needed a story that would make sense and basically cover my arse in more ways than one. What could possible have warranted me being in the shadiest part of town during these tumultuous times, that would be convincing to my soon to be prosecutors. Even during the day, most people would not have ventured into that part of town on their own.
I was walking back from town after some shopping and took the alley as a short cut to the matatu stands across, I dropped my phone, it fell apart, I picked the pieces up but could not find the SIM, I have come to report the same so I can take a copy of the report to the mobile phone operator for a replacement SIM.
That was the story I conjured up. Simple, unambiguous and damn right believable. I repeated it a few times in my head like a mantra so as to make sure I had it covered and so that I believed it too. I looked at my watch, it was nearly 9.00 am. The shift change at the station must already be over I thought to myself, which meant a fresh policeman behind the counter. Which also meant he would be more alert and interested.
I do not know what it is about policemen (and women – especially police women) that makes them so good at calling out your bluffs. It is almost as if they had some sort of advanced psychological training into sniffing out your lies; and that scared me a little. Nonetheless, I had to go in and set precedence for my future freedom.
I took three or four deep breaths to psyche myself and stepped off the kerb onwards to the station. Focussed on getting across the street and reporting my story I had not bothered to look left or right before crossing the road. The blaring horn and screeching brakes of a matatu reminded me of just that. I apologised amid his colourful use of Kikuyu and Swahili, looked both ways and ran across the remainder of the street.
The short sprint and the fright on the road and off course the predicament ahead of me, had left me slightly breathless, so I waited a couple of seconds, slowed my gait and stepped out from freedom and in to the loathsome cave that was the police station.
It reeked not only of corruption but bodies (unwashed ones at that), sweat, food, urine and for some reason goats. It may have been a bright day outside, but in here it was as dark as Bin Laden’s cave. There was one naked bulb hanging from some semi-stripped wires off the ceiling. It cast an eerie glow to the whole place almost as if it was the set of some horror movie. Well it was going to be my horror movie.
The light was casting elongated shadows on the walls behind the two police that were present behind the chest-level counter. The wooden counter was old and scratched. It had pock marks from rodents and other heavy material that may have been dragged across it. There was a ‘client’ been served by one of the police officers while the other was yes-sir-ing, no-sir-ing on a radio hand set. The former was nodding his head and making notations in the huge hard-cover occurrence book. The person being served was tall and well dressed but had his back towards me.
I looked around as I waited to be served. It seemed that they had only managed to secure funds to paint the outside of the station. The walls on the inside of the station were faded, peeling and there was large evidence of water rot. There was a small bench in the corner where I presumed I was to wait. As I sauntered over, I noticed the stations hall of fame. The notice board. Apart for the precursory “This is a corruption free zone – it is your right to be served” posters, there were forgotten national identity cards, driving licences and mug-shots of wanted criminals. The only familiar ones to me were the American Embassy bombing related mug shots as they had been all over the news and walls everywhere for months after the unfortunate events.
I sat on the rickety bench that felt like it was about to fall apart and tried to eavesdrop on the conversation that was going on between the policeman and the complainant he was with. However, it seemed that their conversation had ended as the policeman guffawed as they shook hands. The man chuckled in response to whatever joke they had made.
There was something peculiar about the chuckle that suddenly sent shivers down my spine. I felt like it was evil, almost diabolical and the long shadows on the wall were not helping.
The man proceeded to exit and we looked each other in the eye. There was a hint of familiarity in those dark eyes and then I saw that one thing that made my heart stop beating, my hands went limp and I almost blacked out.
The scar on the chin; raspy’s accountant.
<<<< To be continued >>>