As I pondered the images on the screen, there was a loud glassy thump on my table and I squealed as if I had been accosted in the shower room of an all male prison.
Jeremiah, the waiter just looked at me absurdly and thumped another plate on my table. After years of frequenting this restaurant, I still did not understand why he banged the plates on the tiled table nor why I was not used to it by now. I thanked him for my food and he walked away still staring at the TV.
The thought of the fourth unknown man in the alley was gnawing my brain as I gnawed on the burger. The vegetarian burger they serve here is so good that sometimes I think it’s not vegetarian at all. I finished my meal, went to wash my greasy, saucy hands, paid the bill and swapped some notes for change. I would have to ‘look after’ the watchman for looking after my car despite it being a public parking. Also due to its condition no self respecting street hustler would touch my jalopy not even as scrap metal.
The sun was peeking through the clouds and as I exited the restaurant, the little rays of sunlight were reflecting off the cars park outside. I shielded my eyes as I scanned the parking lot for the watchman. I finally saw him standing just beside my car and as I headed in that direction, I noticed he was not alone. He was chatting with a man in a cream suit. The man with the scarred chin.
My legs went to jelly and my stomach felt like an empty falling pit despite the heavy meal. As I debated whether to turn and hide, those red dragon-like eyes sought me out and locked onto me like a predator does to his prey. As I stood there in temporary paralysis, he did the unthinkable, he smiled at me. Then just like that, he walked away.
It took a very long moment for my paralysis to abate. The watchman was still standing beside my car. He palmed the twenty shilling coin that I gave him and it disappeared like a conjurers trick. Then he gave me a small scrap of paper which he said was from the well dressed man. It was a folded scrap of white paper, probably from the inside of a cigarette packet and read:
You are in trouble. I can help you. Call me on….
There was no name or signature but based on the prefix, the scribbled mobile number was definitely a newly acquired line, probably for a use and throw purpose. My hands were visibly shaking as I pocketed the scrap, nodded at the watchman and drove back to BGA. Despite having napped all morning all I could think of was getting back into bed and waking up to all this being just a nightmare.
The drive home and the walk up the stairs was uneventful but when I got up to the flat, Jemo and Cathy were both waiting for me. I briefed them on the days events, my visit to the police station, the run in with scarred-chin at the station and later at the car park. Then I added the news about there being four man in the alley the night before and four mean dead in the alley after, yet scarred-chin was alive and wanting to get in touch with me.
Jemo’s reaction was pretty standard, he raised his eyebrows, let out a low whistle and turned on the TV to see the news to confirm I was not hallucinating about the fourth body. Cathy was more objective about the issue but she was all against me calling scarred-chin. Jemo just nodded to what Cathy said and looked more worried than I felt. We debated this back and forth and the repercussions of each action like the seasoned chess players that we were not.
By 9.00pm we had not reached any conscious decision and I was in need of a stiff drink. “F*ck this!” I said, “I’m going out for a drink you guys wanna come?”
It was a rhetoric question because come what may, Saturday night the only thing Jemo would be doing is to appease to his lord by shouting ‘Oh God!’ as loud and as many times as he could.
Cathy gave me her phone to keep as I headed out, ‘in case of emergency’ she had said. I was fresh, I was tense and I needed to drink my pain away. There was only one place I could think off but it was in town and I was still debating being back in town. I walked to the gate and asked Jonas, Reuben’s surly reliever to get me a cab from the rank round the corner. I was planning to get very intoxicated which meant driving back would not be a good idea and there was no way I would leave my car, despite it being a jalopy, in town. Unattended, even at that.
As I watched the gate while my taxi was being fetched I pulled out the paper from my pocket and re-read the neat script and phone number left behind by scarred-chin. I pulled out Cathy’s obviously feminine phone with its tassels and luminous wrist strap, unlocked it and was about to dial the number when the taxi announced its arrival with a hoot. Deciding to delay the phone call I exited BGA and got into the antique taxi. My drivers name was David and it seemed that he believed in God a lot. There were stickers all over the inside of his taxi proclaiming his love or holding the car together, I thought the latter to be true. Either way from the looks of it, we would both need to pray if this ancient vehicle would get anywhere.
“Wapi?” he enquired my destination and I gave him the direction to the supermarket of sins that I wanted him to take me to. The establishment was well known to locals as well as tourists alike. The music was good, the booze was cheap and nightlong relationships were even cheaper.
There was still some traffic on the road and David pulled into a petrol station and requested for an advance on his fare so that he could fuel up the ancient contraption. If first appearances were anything, the car would have easily run on coal.
I got out of the car and indicated to David that I was going to the convenience store. I thought of picking up some beer to make the ride a little more enjoyable. By the time I paid and got out, David had decided to get the attendant to do a 50-point check. The hood was open, the radiator was being filled by the attendant while David was adding air pressure to the balding tyres.
I slouched into the back seat and despite all the warning signs about not using your mobile phone at the petrol station, I decided to make the call. I pulled out the pink phone and its wrist strap and thumbed in the number from the scrap of paper and pressed the green button for dial.
<<< To be continued >>>