By Natasha Munde
He was just nodding off, sitting right next to the burning fire. A cold night it was as he felt the bitter cold biting into his old bones, blowing at his withering skin as the waves on the lake angrily lashed at the tethered boats as if rending a punishment to them for some crime committed. He drew his old tattered blanket close to his frail body, both man and blanket tattooed with marks of age difficult to decipher whom between the two was first to come into being. He sat starring at the fire burning, illuminating so bright with gold, emerald, jade and sapphire…. Flickering, dancing in his eyes as he reminisced of the days of old, filled with laughter, song and dance  under the M’bawa tree as he playfully pinched Abiti Simoko on the cheek with sighs of stolen kisses covered by the looming darkness, drowned by the beating drums mixed with high pitched soprano voices. But now, he was old and frail that he swore that he could hear the racketing sounds of his bones as if they could at any time break.
He snapped back to reality as he heard footsteps running on the dock. Then he heard a splash as if a heavy load was being submerged into the angry lake. He stood up, took his torch, opened the door and he quietly went out. Then he saw him, with arms in the air.
“I didn’t do it. I swear I didn’t do it,” he said as he saw the last wisps of blonde hair being submerged into the angry waters.

It was eleven pm when the shrill ringing of the phone brought an abrupt end to his dreamless sleep. Inspector Thomu yawned as he picked up the phone wondering who it could be, hoping that it wasn’t one of the many prank calls coming through their emergency line. How they found it amusing was beyond his comprehension, aargh teenagers! He mused, a difficult generation to understand. He listened attentively to the caller, as he took his writing pad and wrote down the details. He put the receiver down and smiled, another puzzle for him to solve. However, he needed to get someone dexterous, someone quick-witted and light on his feet to go there as he couldn’t go there himself. He had put on weight and any movement caused him to labor in his breathing, he didn’t want to get worked up and worn out, he never liked the great outdoors. He was the brains and for the man power, he just had the perfect man for the job, officer Chipwete. He sat down as he took out his chess board and mused, if he could get this in the bag, it could only mean one thing for him, a promotion.The thought made him anticipate the case more and desire to get his hands on it as quickly as possible so as to work his touch.

He was sitting in the living room, nervously glancing at the time as he sipped warm coffee and roasted groundnuts. Lungile, his daughter was playing with her dolls at his feet. There was the fireman, the Barbie doll and the nurse. She was especially fond of the fireman and his fire truck. He smiled as he watched her engrossed in her childhood gimmicks. “Look Daddy! The fireman is going to rescue the beautiful princess who is in a burning castle,” she said whist mimicking the sounds of a siren as it went towards the Barbie doll. He sighed as he looked at her fondly, they were raising her well. He paced to and fro. She was really late. Two hours passed, of which he prepared dinner for both of them, fed his daughter and tucked her in bed. He looked at the time, it was 11:30pm and his wife was nowhere in sight. He took his phone and dialed the police emergency number.
“You say that your wife is missing. Really now and how long has she been missing?” said the voice on the other end.
“She went out for groceries at 3pm and she is not yet here. I mean… her phones are off officer and I cannot get through,” he said almost panicking.
“Sir, are you sure you didn’t argue? Maybe she has gone to see her friends or relatives somewhere or maybe she has just gone for a walk. We cannot open a missing persons case until 48 hours from now, am sorry sir we do receive plenty of cases like these and the spouses do turn up before  the 48hour timeline,” said the officer as he cut the line.
Chikumbutso sat down with the receiver in his hands and felt his resolve slowly decompose .His wife was missing and there was no ear to listen to him and no arms to embrace him for comfort.

It was 5am in the morning when Officer Chipwete came in with his report to the station accompanied by a young Caucasian man and an old man. Inspector Thomu smiled knowing it was going to be an interesting morning. He then called the young officer aside as they put both suspects in the interrogation room. He opened a can of Cola and took a sip as they stood at a translucent glass window observing the suspects. One, an old man seemingly oblivious to the gravity of the situation at hand, the other, a young man with just the signs of a recently growing stubble on his chin, his cheeks hadn’t yet lost their rosiness. He was still a lad and the inspector wondered if he had had his first shave yet. Visibly shaken, he kept on looking at his hands as if the answers lay therein as tears caroused down his cheeks uncontrollably. They were an unlikely lot certainly, the inspector finally deduced.
“So tell me officer, what have you found out so far?” asked the Inspector with his eyes glued to the window looking into the interrogation room.
“Well sir, there has been a murder on the dock. It happened around 10:45pm .A young English lady had her hands and feet bound and duck tape securely covering her mouth, she has blonde hair, is of medium height and has grey eyes. She was drowned in the lake after being hit with a blunt object which made her unconscious at the time she hit the waters. The old man claims he witnessed the drowning ordeal and accuses the young man of the crime. The young main claims he is innocent sir,” officer chipwete replied.
“Good work officer. I bet we have one interesting story here. I also received a call from one man claiming his wife was missing. The times coincide and could be connected but then again it could be the killer himself trying to throw us off course. If it is serious, then we will know very soon,” the inspector said solemnly.

Chikumbutso yawned and opened his eyes. They felt heavy, he had for the first time in a while cried himself to sleep. He woke up and sat on the couch, his whole body ached. He hadn’t slept well. He took a bath, shaved and had his breakfast. It was a good thing the maid had come in early and really a blessing that she had her own set of keys. Otherwise, Lungile would have been late for school. He sat there as he reminisced how he had met her. They had been together in Medical school, she had called herself May. Yes, her name was May short for Mayline. Theirs was a love loathed by many declared doomed from the start. For how could a black African student get himself involved with a white English student? They called it a passing phase and that nothing tangible would come out of it. It was unfathomable… an abomination…. a rebellion against the natural order of things. But inspite of their different cultures and the arrows life threw at them, they had weathered the storm. She had come into his life and changed his outlook. They were so happy together and now, she was missing… his May was missing.
Suddenly, the phone rang. He was being summoned to the police station. He hoped they had finally found her, that they had thrown their 48 hour rule to the dogs and that she was there, arms at the ready to hold him in embrace.
Inspector Thomu looked at the three men before him, the aged docker, the young stud and of course the love smitten hubby.  Any of the three could have done it, why, murder did not only have to involve you personally. But then every murder had a motive. What would the motive be of these men? He thought as he got his notepad ready and his tape recorder. He invited the old docker into the interview room first as officer Chipwete kept watch on the translucent window.
“Sir, could you please relate to me the events of the previous night in detail as you remember them.” Probed the inspector.
“Yester night was cold you see. The waves on the lake were angrily lashing against the boats and I was sitting in my fisherman’s hut trying to warm these dry bones of mine on a fire. Then suddenly, I heard footsteps running on the dock and I got curious as to who would want to be out in that savage weather. I took my torch and went out and that’s when I saw the young man. He was waving his hands in the air and claiming innocence but I saw young man pushing the young lady’s head into the waters so she could be totally submerged .I then called the police sir,” recounted the old man.
“Is it so? Ok could you please call in the young man then?” the inspector said with a very solemn look in his eyes. He watched the old man leave the room and he sighed knowingly as the young man entered the room with dread written all over his youthful face. He wasn’t a hard nut to crack… no this one would do his bidding.
As quickly as he went in, the young man went out. Face downcast with tears streaming down his cheeks. Chikumbutso was dumbfounded and he started dreading the encounter with the inspector. He the readied himself as he went into the interrogation room.

“Sir, please relate to me everything concerning your relationship with your wife don’t leave out anything,” said the inspector.
“You see, my wife and I are like the modern day Romeo and Juliet. She has brought me so much joy and happiness that I do believe in true love, the selfless, giving and forgiving kind of love. She came into my life, shook my foundations and stole my heart, swept me off my feet and carried me off to a different world. We have been together through thick and thin. She’s my Bonnie and am her Clyde.”
“You must be pretty close I can see. Do you know why you are here?”
“No, I only know I’ve been summoned to come.”
“There’s been a murder on the dock, a woman was drowned and we believe it could be your wife seeing you made a missing persons report.”
“My wife murdered? By who? Oh May my Mayline! What will I do without my dear heart?”
“Don’t be overly dramatic sir. Didn’t you plan to eliminate her? Yes you knew about her trust fund and her assets and you knew how much she was worth. You became greedy and wanted it all for yourself didn’t you?”
“No that’s not true. I didn’t do it. I couldn’t kill her.”
“Then why did you hire private investigators? You knew she was Gresham’s daughter and you knew how wealthy the Gresham’s are didn’t you?”
“No, I hired them because prior to her disappearance my wife was acting strange. I wanted to find out what it was because she wasn’t talking to me. I did find out about the trust fund and her assets but that wasn’t enough for me to kill her. I never knew she was Gresham’s daughter, I swear,” he replied in a broken voice with sobs racking his body.

The interrogation was over and they took Chikumbutso to the mortuary to identify the corpse. He didn’t have to look closely; he saw the clothes she was wearing, the same denim Jacket, Jeans and Yellow top, the butter fly tattoo on her leg. He didn’t have to look at her face to know who she was. He fell on his knees and wept like a child. The two officers looked at him with sympathy and if he hadn’t been so grief stricken, he could have seen pity written all over their faces.

The rays of early morning sunshine shone through the trees as Chikumbutso and his daughter knelt on Mayline’s graveyard. There were the last to leave after everyone had left. Inspector Thomu and Officer Chipwete sat watching them in their car.
“Officer, to think that the man is suffering when his wife is alive somewhat beyond me. To think that the whole murder scenario was staged. The old man was paid to be witness and now he is nowhere to be found. I’ve just found out that the Young man is Gresham’s son and the person they drowned was already dead. The woman, who is being mourned, is not Mayline.”Said the inspector.
“What? Sad business. So are you making an arrest?”
“No, son, Gresham has beaten me at my own game. He has already left this country. Interestingly, he is an asylum seeker where he is based and hence protected,” he said as he put the keys in the ignition, started the car. Had they stayed longer they could have seen the two figures of a man and woman watching as well.
“See that’s how you make a clean getaway my daughter and as long as I live you will never marry any riff raff and expect my blessings. Never!” said Gresham Grimly.
“Father, how could you be so cruel? To replicate my tattoo on that poor young lady, dress her in my clothes and drown her. Why Daddy?” she said with tears in her eyes as she observed her husband and daughter pay their last respects…. respects to her. She stood there hopelessly as she watched them rise up, hand- in- hand and walk away. To them she was dead.

25, Natasha Munde holds a Bachelors of Economics from Chancellor College, University of Malawi.

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  1. Anonymous3:23:00 AM

    Very nice piece...its engaging.I love the twist.

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