“Huh?” was the only thing I could blurt out.
He just looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and smirk on his face. I was so sure he could see the paranoia in my eyes and the tremble in my body.
“Didn’t you hear what I said?” he said in his squeaky voice. “I said I know that you are lying to me”
“What are you talking about?” I asked indignantly. This was like a horror scene from a cheap low budget movie. Although I was shaking in fear, I resolved that I would vehemently deny any and all accusations in relation to the alley murders.
The policeman stood up with a sardonic smile and for all I cared sadistic intent. He took out a small notepad from his back pocket, opened it at a random page and sat down. He ran his finger along some writing, flipped the page and continued doing the same. Suddenly he looked like a kid receiving his first birthday gift of the year and his face lit up.
“You see here it is.” he turned the book and showed me an entry. I had no idea what I was to look at or what he was showing me. All I saw is some notes in the same block, indented handwriting he had written my statement with.
“What am I looking at?” I enquired out of genuine confusion.
He guffawed in disbelief, took the book back and leaned back in his chair and gave me that smug look that geeks in class have when the teacher asks a question and they are the only ones who know the answer. By then between my fear, frustration and his smugness, I actually felt like slapping him.
He proceeded to explain to me how under the directive of the local municipal council, the police and the council guys had gone about rounding up all street boys (and girls) from the city centre. They were all been shipped to rehabilitation centres were they would undergo reformation and be taught skills that will assist them in securing menial jobs which require minimal skills.
Based on the same, he was so sure that there were no street boys present in the city to rob me. Then he said “let’s just be honest with each other, after all we are gentleman” to complete his narration.
I was sure at some point in my life I may have been a gentleman, but I was quite sure this mandazi eating, greasy handed, paper indenting, squeaky voiced corrupt guffawing man was anything but a gentleman.
I just stared at him in general disbelief and amazement as well as fear and loathing. “You see” he continued “many young man like you come here to report stolen phones and stolen wallets but in reality you have been robbed by the prostitute you hired.” What the f*ck! Was this guy for real I thought as I tried to understand where his train of thought was heading.
“So instead of telling the police that you were duped by a prostitute who ran away with your possessions, you make up this stories about a chokora robbing you.”
I just looked at him and started laughing. I don’t know if it was from disbelief, from amazement or from the fact that deep down inside I was slightly relieved. He looked at me and started echoing my laughter. There he was with his deep guffaws like a coughing lion and me with my bubbly laughter (yes women do find man with bubbly laughter cute) and at that moment I realised I had not laughed or felt any form of joy, this genuine type of joy, in a long time.
“So you see, I knew you were lying” he said to me wiping the tears from his eyes.
“Yes, I can see you did see that I was lying Inspector” I lied for the umpteenth time that day. I could tell that he was not an inspector but one of the few things I had picked up living in Nairobi is that watchmen and policeman will go the end of the earth for you if you give them a little extra respect.
He turned the occurrence book and asked me to read the statement and sign the bottom of the paragraph to confirm what I had reported was indeed correct. I signed as requested, looked up at him and asked if there was anything else required of me.
The second policeman walked in just as the one who took my report was about to say something. He did not even acknowledge either of us, put his radio call on a charging dock and walked back to the nether regions of the police station he had appeared from.
I was just about to exit when he muttered something. I pretended that I had not heard him because his chair had scraped against the harsh concrete floor. He repeated again, “It’s pretty hot today isn’t it?” as he flapped the top of his shirt with his thumb and forefinger in the universal fashion that people who are genuinely feeling hot do.
It was pretty cool outside and the station was definitely cooler, but his armpits told a different story. I knew what his gesture really meant, he wanted a reward for the ‘hard work’ he had put in writing my statement. To be honest from the way he had etched in the occurrence book I could tell Fred Flinstone had nothing on this guy in the chiselling rock department. Hell this guy could do Fred’s job with his biro and sheer writing strength.
I fished around in my pocket and pulled out a couple of notes, a hundred shilling and a fifty shilling note to his dismay. He did not take the money but gestured with his eyes that I should place it on his table. As soon as the money was on the pockmarked sad excuse for a writing surface, he placed his officers cap on it to hide it.
He tore a piece of paper from his notebook and wrote me my reference number and his mobile number. We shook hands and he pointed the way out to me like an usher at the movie theatre.
I turned and walked out into the bright daylight outside. My eyes took a few seconds to adjust to the change in the intensity of light and I stood there figuring out my next move. I was relieved that I had managed to put on official police record an alibi that would come to my rescue in case that SIM card was ever traced.
I turned in the direction I had come and made my way back to BGA. The walk took less time as there was a spring in my step and to be honest I felt like a huge burden had been taken off my chest. I reached the gate and gave it a rap, Reuben slid the small peephole, saw me and opened the gate. He gave a crisp salute and handed me the days paper.
I got up to the flat and noticed that the girls on the sofa had gone and from the lingering perfume of cheap female deodorant I could tell that they had probably just left. Jemo and Cathy were still asleep, standard, and I was too lazy to cook breakfast. I threw the paper on the coffee table, went to my room and went to sleep on my unmade bed.
When I woke it was nearly 3pm, so I did what all famished bachelors who have had a harrowing Friday night do. I headed to a place that served a good fry-up. This grease pot was a 3C in my books, which means it was close, cheap and cheerful. Although, it was close I took my car and luckily found a parking right outside on the pavement next to the establishment.
It was your regular run of the mill restaurant made up of tiled tables and velour cushioned steel chairs. The menu’s were printed on plain paper and laminated to last longer. It smelt of cooking oil and frying chicken and chips. It smelt good. I sat and ordered two burgers, fries and some mango juice.
The TV was showing a cartoon that I could not understand but I could tell the kids two tables away from me were visibly amused by it. The cartoon ended shortly and one of the waiters promptly walked over to the TV set to turn up the volume. In Kenya, no matter where you went, no matter where you were, things came to a standstill when the news was being aired. Even more so just after the violent elections we had just faced.
It was an English speaking station and after the usual witty and dramatic headlines (which included the alley incident) the presenters introduced themselves and proceeded with the news. I didn’t pay much attention to it as I was waiting for my burgers, fries and the alley story.
Although it was a different television station from the one I had watched at home last night, the screen shots were similar and the cameras had the same angles. Everyone in the restaurant was fixated on the news except the children. They were busy trying to figure out exactly how much tomato sauce their plate could hold. As I watched the familiar scene, I remembered the man with the scarred chin.
I recalled from the alley last night there was raspy, a short stocky man, the accountant and one more short mystery man. Four men, three short and one tall. I continued watching the news being aired oblivious to what was been said, I noted that there were four men. Raspy with the bullet holes, stocky man with a smile on his face and two covered bodies. One short, one tall, tallying with the attendees at the meeting in the alley the previous night. Perfect tally.
As the cameraman sidestepped another camera and continued to film the ghastly sight, it became apparent that the last man was not tall, but his shoes had come off and had been placed near his feet giving him the look of a taller person. If the man with the scarred chin, the tall man, the accountant was alive and not one of the dead bodies in the alley, then who was the fourth man?
<<< To be continued >>>