I woke up in stages. At first, I became aware of the distant sounds of activity; an occasional hoot of a distant car’s horns, a clanging, a barking dog and the sound of a gust of wind. Then I felt my left leg and my bruised face then my eyes. I tried to move my tongue in my mouth and it felt like it was made of sawdust: dry and tasteless. My left eye slid open as the eyelids pushed back dry blood clots that had held it shut. The other one felt like a shadow was blocking its view. A white ceiling and a single light bulb were above me. I tried to raise my head and, suddenly like an electric current, a never-recorded pain shot from my right shoulder and ripped across my entire being and stopped with a jolt on my right knee which felt like a hammer had been dropped on it with tremendous force. I clenched my teeth and bit the scream from rushing out of my open mouth that had been flung open by the bolt of pain. My lips quivered with exertion and I took short quick gasps and beads of sweat gathered like troops on my forehead. Pain pulsated in my shoulder rhythmically like heartbeats of pain. My face was sore all over, as if it had several small razor cuts. I was now fully awake. Frozen in a pain that wrapped me like a cloak.
A part of me felt disconnected from my body, afraid of being swallowed by the pain and a part of me was one with the pain. This part of me observed and remained detached. I was lying torn apart on my back in a bed at the centre of a room of about twenty feet and the bed occupied almost the entire room. My right leg felt heavy but I could wriggle my toes. I was covered in a faded blue duvet cover up to my chest. My upper body was bare and I felt naked beneath the sheets. This alarmed me and I moved my arm to confirm but something stopped me from moving my arms for a few inches. I tugged both hands twice and felt cold hard bracelets. Then it dawned one me: I was handcuffed on the bed! Alarm bells went wild in my head and I looked around frantically. I sat up slowly propping myself up on my left elbow, teeth clenched to withstand the throbbing pain from my right shoulder. Then I saw him.
There was a man dressed in police uniform at the door. His presence caught me by surprise and I felt a shiver run down my spine at his ghostly presence. Why hadn’t I seen him before? Then I realized my right eye was still swollen shut and that swelling cast a shadow that limited my range of vision. He stood still and was silently looking right at me, his right hand gripping an AK 47 rifle slung over his shoulder. His eyes were expressionless, as if he were looking at paint on a wall. He was about six feet and was about thirty, eyes red and of dark chocolate-coloured skin. He was well built and looked like someone recently from the police academy. As if bored to death of looking at me, he shrugged his shoulder, shifted his gun and looked at the opposite wall, as if I had interrupted him from important thoughts. He didn’t shift his weight from one leg to the other. His legs were like tree trunks planted on the ground.
I could feel the hard casing of a cast on my right knee and the rigidity with which it immobilized that knee. My shoulder was heavily bandaged and I could feel a dull pain at the base of my skull. Then the memory of what took place flooded my senses. I had been shot. I must have got a concussion when the bullet threw me back and I hit the back of my head on something. I could now vaguely recall being in and out of the world of pain as several hands lifted me from a crushing world of chaos and screams, ambulance sirens blaring and nurses telling me to be still as they stemmed the bleeding. I remembered my right knee ripping my entire being with pain and flooding my mind with agony I could not bear. I recalled the needles and the smell of anaesthesia, the dull pain as the probing cold scissors and bullet extractor as metal objects invaded the cavity in my shoulder to retrieve another piece of metal, like robots rescuing one of their own from a body of flesh that has swallowed it. I recalled the dull pressure on my oh-so-painful shoulder as they struggled to stem the blood flow and my senses shutting down as the sedatives hit home and plunged me into sweet and merciful darkness.
I remembered and the thought of her jolted me. Where was she? Was she alive? What had they done to her? Where were my clothes? Where were my shoes? Where is my phone? Why was I handcuffed like a common criminal? Which hospital was I in? My mind raced but I tried to stay collected. I kept my eyes only slightly open to avoid the policeman seeing the thoughts torturing me. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. I needed to think. I looked at the bed sheets for any emblem or initial that would give me clues about what hospital I was in but could see none. I could not see any light coming in from outside through the window. What time was it? How long had I been out? I asked myself as I slowly surveyed the room. There was no bedside locker, no cups or plates; just the bed, a naked me under sheets, a light bulb and the policeman. Maybe this was not a hospital! I was probably being held in an unknown location. Why? The only reason they still had me alive must have been because they wanted to ensure I incriminated myself before they released me, or if I refused to cooperate, to ensure they could eliminate me and say I died of gunshot wounds. Or kill me then simply throw my body on a highway, have some vehicles create mince meat from my corpse, and have my pulp dumped at the city mortuary. Had they found out the real reason why I had chosen to become a policeman? That I was handcuffed made me feel helpless but helplessness is not a useful emotion so I quashed it. I had to get out of here or die!
I slowly sized up the policeman guarding me. I felt strong though too crippled for any fight lasting a few seconds. In the past three years after deciding to undertake my mission to uncover my parent’s murder at the hands of an obscure police squad and subsequent cover up, I been training in mixed martial arts and boxing, and I had developed quick hands for my striking and with the help of a retired boxer who was an Olympian, had obtained a good understanding of how to use angles to evade the strikes of my opponents. I got a punching bag and trained three times a week in my house and once in the dojo at Kariakor. And I did my two hour runs every weekend for my cardio. I had trained to be fluid and mobile on the outside, and had learnt to judiciously use my jab and to wait until the right moment arrived to collapse the pocket. This I had tried in the dojo against several boxers and had refined my timing to near perfection. I also knew that when the opportunity presented itself, both my uppercut and counter left hook could be game-changers. But with cuffed hands, my boxing didn’t mean shit.
From my jiu jitsu and wrestling, I had learned to have quick and powerful hips and I knew that even with a broken leg, I could use one hand and my left leg to deadly consequences. I figured that the guard must have been holding the keys to my handcuffs and an idea took hold in my mind. I had already screwed up royally in the mat and almost got killed in the process. This time, I could not goof up again. Any minute now, someone could come in and end this and I didn’t want to leave my fate in the hands of someone I did not know. It was do or die time, I decided resolutely. I tested my shoulder for pain and mobility. It hurt like hell but I had to do this. Pain is the inheritance of every man, whether injured or not. And the purpose of a man is to learn not to be stopped by pain in his pursuits and the longing for comfort and security is a weakness to watch against vigilantly and eternally. I did not ask myself whether I had a suicidal proclivity or poor judgement. That is for historians, I surmised and quickly closed that line of thought before it developed into paralyzing fear. Now is time for action, not pansy-ass philosophy I thought as I controlled my breathing in readiness for action. I clamped my eyes on the guard.
‘Hey, I need to go to the bathroom’ I demanded while propping myself on an elbow and looking at the guard. I decided to assume a position of power while talking to him. I junked the idea of trying to make him my ally. I had no money to offer him and it would take too long to convince him that he was being used to wipe someone else’s ass and would soon find himself in my position. That is what we Kenyan police were. The politicians used us as bodyguards and for their dirty jobs. They could have us to wipe their noses and sing them lullabies behind their high-walled electric-wire compounds while the rest of the country got harassed by criminals. I couldn’t threaten him either. I had no name and no tall relative in government.
He looked at me as if considering the request, then looked away without saying a word. Wishing me away was a weak response and meant he wanted to avoid any tussle with me. I got emboldened. This was going to be easy.
‘If you want, I will shit in this bed. It seems you would really like the smell of an adults crap. Is that what you want? It is just you and me in this room and you are the babysitter. You want to clean my shit?’
He looked at me again. This time, his eyes were filled with horror that he tried to mask. All I needed was one free hand and his head somewhere near my crotch and I would lock him in a triangle choke. He sized me up and his lips stiffened in indecision as his eyes blinked. Deer in the headlights, I thought as I looked away and tried to look casual and harmless. He strode forward and leaned into my face. Oh my, he had a bad breath. What had he eaten? A dead cat? I thought as I trained my nostrils and eyes away from the putrescent gust emanating from his mouth. I almost forgot what I was plotting. Was bad breath his defense? Jesus.
‘If you fuck around I will simply kill you!’ Mister biological weapon blurted, his bulbous eyes almost touching my face, the veins in his neck dilated. I nodded weakly in compliance, not wanting to excite him and risk a hurricane of breath of rotting fresh. He reached for his keys which were stuck in his right hip, never taking his eyes from me as small jets of bad breath still hit my face. Right-handed, I thought. Very good. I casually lifted my left knee off the bed which was the first move in setting up my triangle choke. Once I encircled this leg around his neck, it would constrict the blood flow from the carotid arteries to his brain as I held his head in place with my left hand in a triangle formation. Within seconds, he would be unconscious. He moved into my open guard as he selected the keys, oblivious of the deadly trap he was walking into.
Then the door burst open and a large man strode in.
He walked right to my bedside as the guard stepped back clumsily.
“Senior!” he blurted as he stood stiffly in attention and saluted.
I let my knee fall back to the bed as I looked at the man and cursed silently. He looked at the guard pointedly and the keys he clutched in his hand.
“Step out” he said softly to the guard in a soft reprimand his eyes burning coals.
The guard stepped out and carefully closed the door. This man was about five feet tall and wore a crisp, well-ironed police uniform with the insignia of an inspector. He had a military haircut and had a potbelly that distended obtrusively before his hulking frame. For a man of his size, he moved fast. His hands seemed well manicured and he was well-shaven. His boots gleamed from thorough polishing and he sported a well-cut moustache. He had an intense, large face with bags of flesh under his blazing eyes. He was holding a thin file in his right hand. He looked around the room then considered me briefly. He clutched the duvet covering me and lifted it to examine my body from head to toe. Then he carefully covered me.
He then pulled a seat from where the guard was standing and carefully placed it next to the bed. Then he sat down slowly, crossed his feet to cut the image of utter relaxation, exhaled noisily and opened the file then started reading.
“Mister Ted Teko. Twenty six years. Police corporal attached to Kilimani police station since 2011 August. Single. Living in Umoja II. Diploma in Information Technology, Kenya School of Professional Studies. Started the Tae Kwon Do club in SPS. Born alone. Both parents dead. Primary and secondary school in Nyanza. Had fees problems. Athletic. Toshiba laptop, punching bag, boxing gloves and fighting gear found in apartment. Martial Arts videos and gi found in apartment. Has collection of philosophy books and books on Modernism. Most read is Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish followed by Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. No steady girlfriend. Best student in police academy Kiganjo in 2011. Twelve Thousand shillings in bank account. Recent phone calls to female banker Peninah Khosya. Was in a matatu that crashed into Equity bank along Mombasa avenue. Tried to rob bank. Accomplice shot dead. Several passengers injured. Arrested with broken leg and gunshot wound to the shoulder. Driver of matatu dead and suspected of being injected with neurotoxin. Another passenger, Miss Grace Ndalini nursing serious injuries in hospital. ”
He closed the file carefully and allowed his fireball eyes to burn through me then he placed his hands together with only the tips of his fingers touching. His accent and correct pronunciations indicated that he was a well-educated man and his refined manners and dressing spoke of a comfortable upbringing in an upmarket area. His red-shot eyes indicated that he had seen too much during his life and some of what he had seen and probably done weighed on his conscience and he had chosen to replace the guilt with ferocity. I was relieved to note that they did not seem to know how my parents died and about my higher education. He didn’t introduce himself and his uniform did not have his police number. He was probably the cleanup guy for the cover up. For such a senior guy to be a cleanup for this robbery means that my boss and other participants were mere pawns for masterminds in higher echelons of power. Jesus, what had I gotten myself into?
‘I want to make this very simple. Tell me why you injected the driver with a poison and who your accomplices are’ He tapped the tips of his fingers together and looked at me, his eyes expressionless.
I looked straight at him in surprise. My mind racing. What the fuck?
‘The driver was injected?...’ I whispered to myself as I tried to recall the events leading to the accident.
He stood up and cracked his knuckles. I could now see that he had large hands and black calloused knuckles that I only saw in boxers at the dojo. He must have boxed at some point in his life.
‘Tell me why you injected the driver with a poison and who your accomplices are’ he repeated, his body tensing as he sized me as if picking out a spot to hit with a hammer fist.
‘I don’t know what you are talking about’ I said and meant it.
‘You won’t waste my time’ He spat impatiently as he threw the file on my bed.
‘I don’t have your time sir. What is this nonsense? I need a lawyer and medical attention’ I said and braced myself for the worst. If he was going to crush my bones, I was going to crush his ego. I was fighting the devil while chained at his own turf. I figured that clean up guys don’t dress sharply and carry intelligence files. This guy was here to find out how much I knew before they let me loose. Or If I knew too much, handle me. This could take many savage forms, none of them good.
“So you are also rude” He said as he assessed my bandaged shoulder then his eyes burned back to my face.
“Tell me about Peninah Khosya. Was she involved in planning the robbery?”
“What? Are you serious?” I looked at him, annoyed at the ridiculousness of the accusation.
“I am the one asking the questions”
Then his phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and looked at the number calling then two neat cracks formed on his forehead as he considered the phone. He then pressed the receiving button and fixed his gaze across the room as he spoke.
“Yes muheshimiwa” he said reverentially as the voice at the other end of the line spoke inaudibly.
“No Muheshimiwa” he said as he clenched his hands in a fist in concentration.
“Yes sir, right away muheshimiwa” he said as he stiffened and ended the call.
He then took one last look at me. During that brief moment, I saw in those burning eyes both pity and admiration and I also saw his ruined inner world in the flourishing outer world that he had clothed in well-ironed uniform and polished shoes.
Then he turned and walked out. I never saw him again.
*To Be continued*