The night was long. A thousand pains multiplied stabbed his body from the multiple beatings he had got earlier in the evening from the lynch mob. They say hell is in the afterlife but this pain was more than the real thing. Numbness assailed his body. He felt his eyelids cover his eyes in a stubborn blanket that would make his eyes open his eyes in slits come morning.
Even his tongue, which had suffered several bites, was too sore to wet his cracked lips which felt aflame. He was later to realize that some of his teeth were missing, but the puffy face that awaited him on the mirror come morning was one that would shock him. He didn't even feel some parts of his body, only an occasional stab of pain reminded him he was still intact. Problem was that was just the beginning of his tribulations.
The crack of dawn and arrival of beams of light brought with them renewed trouble. In the desolate regions of the night solitude had alleviated a sense of self consciousness that comes with interacting with people. Come morning, the stares and inquiries from neighbors and the Missy-two-goody attitude of people unsettled him. Pitiful words from the neighbor’s friendly children irritated him, the questions from the well meaning shop steward making him retort unkindly, an attitude that was foreign to him.
His mind was a racing turmoil. Sanity was a luxury he could only afford as long as he kept his calm. Reason and reality proved otherwise. A hundred thousand shillings of his life’s fortune had gone down the drain the previous evening. Not only would his father have a field day castigating him, his poor mother, her relations with his dad already strained, would get the proof that was a failure. If the loss of that money won't send her to an early grave, the rape charges against Jeff's wife would no doubt put his elderly mother in ICU.
The long awaited call from a gruff policeman came at around midday. His throat was perched dry for neither a morsel nor a drop of water had gone down his throat since the last evening. Wobbly knees and a general weakness ten fold added to his woes. Looking like the only survivor of a head on train wreck victim, he took a taxi toward the local police station. He didn’t tag a friend along; was it his fault last nights events made him distrust all of them?.
He arrived at the designated meeting point opposite the police station where he was to make peace with his friend Jeff. Hope that he would be refunded the hundred thousand shillings made his pain more bearable. The gruff policeman had told him over the phone that Jeff had seen the lie in his wife and wanted to settle matters.
James wobbled into the designated café and asked for a glass of water. If the effort to bring it unto his lips was torture, then swallowing it was pure hell. He gave up, just in time as a very apologetic and caring Jeff strolled in, smart as usual and carrying a brown briefcase. There were no hugs, no preliminaries, just contrite words and assurances from Jeff to make it up all for James.
There were no lengths Jeff wont go to make it up to James, not only from refunding the money James had paid last night to get his freedom but Jeff was prepared to meet the hospital bill too. The misunderstanding, Jeff promised, would not derail their plans. Minutes later, a call came for Jeff. He spoke into the phone for a minute, asked to excuse himself for a moment to take care of some business. With with a trusting look, he gave James the briefcase, which seemed to hold something important for for safe keeping. “I trust you bro,” Jeff said, apologizing yet again, placing the briefcase next to James and heading out.
In less than three minutes after the departure of Jeff, a long old model Peugeot 504 screeched at the entrance to the café. Even before the 504 came to a stop bully armed figures sprung from it as James wondered where an armed robbery could be taking place. They say that bad happen all the time but good things happen all at once. That adage was being proved wrong
The armed men, whom from hearsay and experience he knew were the dreaded flying squad positioned themselves at the entrance to the café. His reason and logic failed to meet. Were they training their ugly guns muzzles at him? Bewildered, he looked hither, lacking comprehension, only to realize the other two patrons in the cafe were staring at him. That’s when he heard the menacing snarled command from the leader of the squad
‘Mikono juu, step away from the table slowly or I make a sieve out of you’. James slowly got up, oblivious to the pain springing from his battered body. The rest happened as if he were a mere spectator watching a piece of action he wasn’t involved in. In swift clinical motions the squad member's stepped into the café, guns still trained on a James now shaking with fear. Inside the café they fanned round him, giving him a wide berth like he suffered from a highly contagious disease, enclosing him in a horse shoe ring.
The operatives seemed to know what they were doing, -what they were after. One of them deftly opened the briefcase. Crisp one thousand notes were neatly arranged in the briefcase. James felt his jaw drop. The naivety in him failed him; he didn’t hear the words "fake money" and "lie down". He didn't even know the magnanimity of their find and its ability to alter the course of his life.
A sweeping kick connected with his lower feet, landing him on the floor with a thud, swiftly followed by the butt of the gun to his upper abdomen that punched all the wind out of his system as he sprawled in pain on the floor.
He momentarily lost consciousness and was tossed into the boot of the police car. When he regained consciousness, bully faces stared down at him from far up above. He was lying on his back in a clearing in the forest. The far off faces he now came to recognize as those of the cops. His spirits rose a bit when he saw his friend Jeff. That man must be the reason he wasn't in the police cells. He smiled.
His smile was cut short with words that sent a shiver far up his spine a knife could not cut. "How could you be so stupid to carry fake money with you?" Jeff asked him. "I have arranged with this friends of mine that if you cough up fifty thousand shillings you wont have to spend the larger part of your life behind some dingy cells as deserves criminals such as you", his friend Jeff went on.
Has reality ever failed to register with you only for it to later hit you like a flying brick?