It was now 6 days since the incident. Richie was at home thanks to his wife who had immediately got him out of jail for what he claimed were trumped-up charges. She had paid 50,000Kshs for him to be released. On their drive back home, Richie was too chatty and looked nervous. Esther had tried to keep her calm because she saw that he was in a state of panic. Richie had come up with a lie maintaining how he was dropping off one of his buds after a night out and they were arrested for drunk driving.
Esther did not believe him.
“Babe, which guy are you talking about? Have I met him?” she asked in a calm and concerned voice
“You’ve not met him. How are the kids?” he frantically tried to change the subject
“They are fine. What’s his name and is he okay? Was he released?” she looked at him with worried eyes
“Uuum, he got yesterday! They put us in different cells! I only found out today.” He lied while looking away.
He tried to change the topic by telling his wife how tough it was in there and how he was hit by a guy called Oti and how he had struggled to find a phone to call her.
“If your friend got out yesterday, why didn’t he try to contact you or your family? What’s his name again?” she asked inquisitively
“I wonder too. He’s clearly not a stand-up guy as I had thought! Babe, do you have some painkillers in your bag? I have a terrible headache!” he said trying to feign sickness
“Check the glove compartment, dear.” She said, shaking her head knowing that Richie was clearly lying and evading his questions
Esther dropped the conversation as she figured that Richie would spin a web of elaborate lies and she just wasn’t ready for the drama. She passed him her water bottle to swallow the painkillers and drove him home in silence. All the while, Richie thought that he had managed to wiggle his way out of the conversation and pretended to sleep.
A week had now passed after the incidence and Richie was still at home trying to recuperate from his ordeal. When he had gotten home a few days back, he had called the office and explained to his boss that he would be away for a while. His boss, who had already received a call from Esther when he was missing, had told him to take all the time he needed.
The following day, Richie decided to find out what had happened to Lexi. He was worried sick and wondered if she was locked up in jail too. Her phone was still off and he had never met any of her friends. He didn’t know how to contact her. As he was trying to figure out how he was going to find her without raising his wife’s suspicion, he remembered that Lexi had given him her business card during their early meetups and that would probably give him a good place to start.
After scouring around at his documents in his home office for what seemed like an eternity, he finally found her card. He held it closely, reminiscing about her and realizing that he missed her terribly. The card was elegant and beautiful, just like her. He sat down and thought about her and the fun times they shared. He saw the store’s location and quickly got up and headed towards the bathroom for a quick shower. He later told his wife he was going to the office to get some documents that he needed to work on.
He headed to town and was anxious about what he would find. Would she be there? If so, why hadn’t she tried to get a hold of him! He played out a million scenarios about how it would all go but he realized that it was making him more nervous. He took a deep breath as he parked in front of ‘Lexi’s’; she had named the store after herself.
As he walked in, he could feel her energy around. The décor, the lighting, the colors all reminded him of her. His heart was beating too fast and he almost went tongue-tied when a beautiful lady walked towards him.
“Jambo! How may I help you today?”
“Uuuum, I… I… I am looking for a handbag for my wife!” he said stuttering. He hadn’t clearly thought out how he would handle the situation
“What kind of bag?” The lady asked as he led him towards a huge collection of stylish handbags. He perused quickly through the collection and settled on one.
“Lemme see that!” he said pointing at a white elegant bag that he knew his wife would actually like.
“I’ll take that!” he said while looking around the shop hoping to see Lexi.
“Excellent choice. Anything else?” she said with a huge smile thinking how she had made a quick sale.
Richie nodded that he was okay and she then led him towards the check out counter. All the while, he was trying to figure out how he would start a conversation about Lexi. He had to talk to someone and subtly ask of her whereabouts without raising any eyebrows. At the counter, there was a nicely dressed gentleman with a manager tag on his shirt. The manager smiled at Richie and asked his mode of payment, he said card and proceeded to get out his wallet. His heart was now racing and he just had to ask; it was now or never.
“Uuuum, the last time I was here, I met the owner of the store and we decided to do business as I export shoes from abroad! “ He said hastily. “We exchanged numbers and set up a meeting two days ago but she was a no-show! I have been trying to call her in vain. Is there a way you could tell her I was here!?” He said and crossed his fingers that the manager would believe him
The manager looked around as if to check if anyone was listening and leaned in to talk to Richie.
“Sorry sir, but no one knows where madam is. She just disappeared. Haven’t you heard? It’s been all-around social media. She left her house more than a week ago and never came back.” He said in hushed tones
“What?” Richie said trying to act surprised. He immediately regretted why he was not active on social media
“Yes! She just disappeared. Her case has been reported to the police who are looking for her last whereabouts. We are all worried sick. People say that…” he quickly jerked and his face froze as he saw someone coming towards them. “Will that be all Sir?” the manager feigned a smile and looking frazzled.
Sensing that someone was walking towards them, Richie quickly picked the now packed bag and prepared to head out.
“Yes. That will be all. Thank you.”
As he turned and started to walk towards the door, he came face to face with a familiar face. They locked eyes and stared at each other and his heart started beating fast. He quickly opened the door and started to walk towards his car. As he looked back, he saw that the person had turned and was now looking at him. He panicked and entered the car in a rush and drove off. He had just come face to face with Greg, Lexi’s husband. He recognized him from her phone screensaver.
Richie drove off in a hurry, heart thumping and a million questions running through his mind. Had Greg recognized him? Did he know who he was? Did he know something? He was too confused to even think straight. He drove and parked into a petrol station and tried to collect his thoughts. He sat there in a daze wondering what was happening. He couldn’t risk telling any of his friends what was happening because the whole situation was becoming tricky. But he had to put his head on straight, stay focused, and continue with his plan. A few minutes later, he drove off and headed towards Mlolongo; the police station that he had been brought to. He desperately needed answers.
He got to the police station after a while and thought about what he would say. As he approached the reception, a cold sweat ran down his spine as he remembered what had just happened to him there a couple of days ago.
“Habari yako.” He said to the policeman who just looked at him and never bothered to respond.
“Nilikua nataka kuona Oti.” He said fearing the policeman would recognize him.
“Wewe ni nani?” he asked rudely
“Mimi ni rafiki yake. Alikua amenituma kitu” he said, hoping his story would pass off
“Sign hapa!” the policeman said as he handed him a book to sign in.
He almost smiled as he never thought that it would be that easy to gain access to a police station. He thanked his gods and was led into a small room with only 2 chairs. As he waited, he thought how he would approach Oti without making him angry and getting his ass whopped.
A few minutes later, Oti was brought in and he stood to greet him. For a few seconds, Oti couldn’t recognize Richie, then it hit him and he smiled as he shook his hand.
“Ala! Niaje mkubwa! Kwani umerudi hii mtaa?” Oti asked in his loud shuddering voice
“Salama sana Oti!” he answered wondering how he had gone from being bullied to being called ‘mkubwa’. “Nimekuja kukucheki kidogo tu” he continued.
“Sema. Nikusaidie aje? Umeniletea mazuri nini?” Oti said with a big smile on his face.
Richie reached inside his pocket and drew out 3 thousand notes and handed them over to him. Oti was so happy that he stood up and hugged him. Richie was taken aback on how Oti was now treating him. Maybe it was because he was now on the other side of the bars, he thought. As they sat, Richie told Oti that he needed to talk to the guard who had given him his phone. He needed to find out why the guard had told him to forget about the person he was with the night he got arrested.
Oti told Richie that the guard might not talk to him unless he bribed him with a good amount of money. Richie agreed and told Oti he needed to talk to the guard immediately. Oti looked at him and saw how serious he was and decided to help. He walked out of the small waiting room and headed towards the guard’s break room.
Richie waited for almost 30 minutes before Oti and the guard showed up. The guard was not too pleased to see him and his face showed. Oti had done a lot of convincing for him to sit down with Richie.
“Boss, sii nilikuambia usahau hio maneno?” the guard cut to the chase
“Please afande. Nisaidie tu. Nataka tu kujua kule alienda. Nimemtafuta kila mahali lakini sijafanikiwa. Tafadhali!” Richie said pleadingly
“Sijui kitu chochote mimi!” the guard said looking away
Oti motioned Richie to give the guard some money and Richie obliged. He gave the guard ten thousand shillings and the guard was excited to see the money. He clearly wasn’t expecting it to be that large.
“Please afande!” Richie said again.
The guard looked around and said,
“Mimi na wenzangu tulilipwa pesa mzuri sana kuchukua huyo msichana. Unajua huyo ni bibi ya wenyewe?” he asked Richie
“Ndio. Najua” Richie answered, head hanging low.
“Tuliambiwa tupeleke yeye Kibera, karibu na mto watamchukua huko. Tukaelezwa tulete wewe hapa! Sijui kitu ingine!” he said as he turned to get up.
“Afande tafadhali, nani aliwapea kazi? Na kwanini?” Richie pleaded with him.
“Sijui. Sisi hatuulizi maswali. Tunafanya kazi tumepewa” and stood to leave.
The guard told Oti to go back to his cell and Oti nodded at Richie and left. As the guard left, he turned back and told Richie he didn’t have much information as everything was on a need to know basis. Then suddenly, he turned and said,
“Kitu najua ni ati plan ilibadilika siku ya mwisho! Hatukua tupeleke huyo msichana Kibera. Tulikua tumuue!! and walked away.
To be continued…