There was nobody at the right end of the back seat!
I looked again. Nobody!
The two college girls had plastered themselves at the furthest end of their seat at the window, their trembling hands covering their open mouths as they stared at me in horror and incomprehension.
Mr. newspaper-exam had gone limp in my arm so I released the pressure on his neck lest he ends up brain dead due to lack of oxygen supply to the brain. Penny had tears rolling down her cheeks and sat frozen as she stared at me. Her unblinking eyes registered absolute shock as if she were staring at a ghost. Mrs Afro covered her head with both hands and had her head down like she didn’t want to see what was happening and did not want to be part of it.
The interior of the mat was so silent, you could hear a pin drop in that mat. I could see the bewildered face of Mr. pick-my-nose-to-death at the corner of my eyes frozen whilst looking at me.
"Hawa ni carjackers na walikuwa wanataka kutucarjack!" I declared hoarsely. My voice sounded like I was choking on egg shells. If I was listening to myself, I could have asked me, "What?"
"Mimi ni polisi" I explained as I unzipped Mrs. Faded-jeans handbag to display the gun to my dazed audience.
Then the car jerked suddenly as if it had hit the kerb. There was a loud squeal of tyres then an ear-shattering bang towards the front of the car. My eyes closed reflexively for a split second at the sound and when I opened them, the vehicle was careening sharply to the left and it was crashing into wood, metal and concrete as a debris of glass crashed on it. The car's windows spilled onto the passengers as they screamed and yelled. I was flung upwards and collided mid-air with Mrs Afro and my arms flailed in the air seeking support.
The matatu fell on its right side and skidded on a floor then crashed onto a hard, barrier. Then it stopped.
My face had slammed on the roof of the car as my body was flung up, then sideways and my left wrist was twisted at an unnatural angle. As the car slammed to a stop, my right foot was hooked on a car seat and somebody was thrown against it by the impact and as his weight was transferred to my right knee, it gave a gut-wrenching crack.
I mercifully passed out before the pain could register.
I was struggling from the depths of a smoke-filled swamp and there were screams and voices all round. My mouth was full of the muck from the swamp and its murky warm fluid was filling my nostrils. I tried to spit it out and open my eyes. But the mist was too thick.
I coughed out some muck and the screams became louder and light exploded into my face. My eyes popped open and the daylight stabbed into them. I wondered why the world was in such a twisted angle. Then I realized I had been in an accident and our mat had crashed into something. What I thought was swamp muck was a mixture of my blood and dirt.
Penny! I thought. My mind raced.
In the smoke and dust and pandemonium, I realized my body was twisted behind the driver’s seat with my head down and my neck twisted to an angle where it was aligned to my shoulder. I pushed my face away from the floor and moved slightly. I managed to twist my head up and allowed my body to slide down and take up the space where my head was. Then I looked around.
Mr. newspaper-exam was lying face down next to me, just above my head. I instinctively pushed him for a sign of life and he moved slightly.
Penny! my mind screamed.
I struggled up. My right leg sent such a searing jolt of pain that I lost control of my bladder. A searing scream escaped my lips and I started sweating profusely as I deployed all my energies toward hanging onto consciousness, afraid of passing out again. My leg was broken. My breathing suddenly increased tenfold and now I was panting and hissing in pain as I got soaked in sweat. It was all I could do to keep from surrendering into unconsciousness.
While keeping my leg immobile, I dragged myself to a better position where I could better see the interior of the mat. I realized that blood was dripping from my nostrils and my mouth was full of blood. I instinctively spat and tried to move my tongue around my mouth. It tasted cement, diesel and blood. The right side of the car seemed to be vanishing and I realized that my right eye was almost swollen shut.
I couldn’t see Penny!
I looked at the driver’s seat. Mrs. Arm-around-car-seat was sprawled at the front of the car. She must have fallen forward and took the windscreen with her as she crashed. Her legs were twisted in an embarrassing angle and she lay groaning softly. Mr ugly-as-sin was muttering imperceptibly as he tried to crawl from atop the driver to outside the car. I looked towards the back of the mat. Mrs. faded-jeans was leaning on Penny's seat and was coughing. She seemed fine. One college girl was on her knees coughing and one of them was sobbing as she tried to clamber out through one window. I could not see Mr. pick-my-nose-to-death and the driver.
I inched forward toward Penny's seat, carefully dragging my helpless leg behind me. Then I saw her body. I could only see her back as she was curled in a foetal position. I reached for her and pulled her shoulders. She started coughing. Her face seemed fine. I looked around for an exit route. The windows seemed to be the easiest exit and I tried to pull Penny up. She was too heavy. I needed help.
I looked around.
The car had crashed into a building and I saw the arrangement of the counters and labels TELLER 1, TELLER 2... and realized we had crashed into a banking hall. From the bank colours, I could tell it was a branch of Barclays bank. Then I saw three uniformed policemen rushing toward us, with machine guns held at the ready and I was flooded with a feeling of relief.
Many people in the hall were screaming and running out of the bank while some stood and stared at a distance with their mouths wide open.
One of the policemen approached the mat and took a quick look around and opened the door. Then he grabbed the arm of Mrs faded-jeans and dragged her out. She gestured at me and said, "Haka ndio kameleta hii shida yote"
I looked at the policeman and saw some bulges around his eyes.
He was wearing a face-fitting mask!
"Twende!" he said as he dragged her and ran towards a door at the end of the queue of teller booths. Two of the "policemen" approached a guard standing near the door and ordered him to open. He complied and they rushed in, brandishing guns.
This was a bank robbery! This realization hit me like a truck.
One "policeman" was at the entrance and in a split second the other three rushed from within the bank carrying three bags with Mrs faded-jeans in tow. I guessed they were full of cash. Two went to the entrance and one approached the mat with Mrs faded-jeans. I heard them say "Mato."
They looked around and grabbed Mr. newspaper-exam by the shoulder and turned him round. His eyes were closed and he was and he was muttering deliriously. I could tell from his swollen thigh that his femoral artery had suffered a trauma that was making him lose blood through internal bleeding. A lot of blood. The “policeman” pulled a pistol and shot Mr. newspaper-exam in the neck as Mrs. Faded-jeans recoiled in horror.
The force of the bullet threw Mr. newspaper-exam back and slammed him against a seat then he collapsed in a heap where he was earlier and he started gurgling out his blood as his legs started kicking and his arms began stretching spastically. They turned towards me. I closed my eyes and stayed still, playing dead.
I felt them grab my hand and wrap my fingers around a pistol and use my index finder to fire one more bullet at Mr. newspaper-exam. Through the slits of my eyes, I saw them take the gun and place it near Mr. newspaper-exam.
"Nendeni!" One of the other "policeman" told them and they ran off. I heard some gun shots outside the bank. About six shots were fired as this last cop took one last sweeping look around.
Another policeman burst into the banking hall, gun cocked. It was my supervisor, Senior Sergeant Mailu! He ran in and barked at the onlookers to lie down as he shot twice at the last "policeman". But his shots went wild.
The "policeman" shot back at my supervisor and his shots also went wild and as my boss moved away from the door and took cover behind a pillar, the "policeman" ran out toward that door and my boss ordered a nearby guard to set off the fire alarm and told them to seal off the bank and ensure nobody left.
"Nyinyi hamuoni kuna wizi hapa!?" He reprimanded them as he barked into his phone for back-up.
I realized this whole thing was orchestrated. My boss never intended to shoot that thug!
By this time, Mr. newspaper-exam's body lay lifeless and Penny was slowly trying to pull herself into an upright position. I could not feel my right leg and my arms were shaking too much to be of any use.
"Do not move! an inch!" My boss shouted in a voice that could crack a brick wall. I slowly turned to look at him. He was standing next to the mat, his smoking muzzle pointing right at me. His hands were shaking.
Then his face collapsed in a mortified look of guilt as he recognized me and lowered his gun.
But that mortified look was suddenly replaced by a stubborn, resolute look and he clenched his teeth and took aim.
He pressed the trigger. I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder and the blow sent me flying backwards.
Darkness enveloped me as I lost consciousness.
**To be continued**