DO NOT OPEN – Episode 12
© Brian Ngoma
To begin with, the road was bad and it even got more worse the further she drove. Nikiwe could feel her car crying foul. When she bought it three years earlier, driving in such conditions was in no way part of her plans but the mission at hand requested. It was also very hot she kept wiping sweat on her temples. These jobs, she sighed.
Before she made a turn, she found a grumpy old man by the road she asked for directions. She thought she had gotten lost but was assured she was on the course. After driving for what seemed like the road would never end, she saw a house in the midst of crops. It was the last and only house in the middle of nowhere.
As she drove into the compound, there was no one but only chickens, ducks, doves and a few goats. From the way things were, it was obvious someone had just left the moment they saw the car coming. Nikiwe parked the car and grabbed her handgun as she came out of the car. Whilst standing by the car, she shouted, “Anybody home!” Making her presence known.
The door squealed and a man came out of the house. He was wearing some ripped shorts and brown vest which was originally white. His hair was scruffy and so was his beard. Looking at him closely, Nikiwe could tell that he wasn’t as old as he appeared to be. Give all take, he could have been 44.
“How are you?” Nikiwe managed to say.
The man looked around suspiciously and back at Nikiwe. “I stopped using, I’m clean now.”
Nikiwe was confused but had an idea of what the man thought she was there for. “I am not here for that I am here for old man Chipande.”
“Who are you?”
“I am detective Nikiwe from…”
Before Nikiwe could finish her introductions, the man jolted to the house which left her astounded. She looked around inquisitively to what had just happened. Why did he run back into the house? She thought she had made it clear that she was not there for whatever he thought she was there for. She slowly walked towards the door shouting hello.
She heard some ruffling from the house and held her gun holster in preparation for any danger. Her instincts were calm despite the potential danger she might have been faced with but she had to be careful, it was a professional hazard. Sometimes Instincts can betray you and get you killed. So, she was ready for anything that could happen.
A moment later, the man came out with an old brief case. He found Nikiwe at the door and was startled. Ignoring her, he walked to her car and put the brief case on the roof of the car. He was that tall. He opened the case and started looking for something. Nikiwe followed not saying a word. She had to wait.
“He said one day you’d come,” the man broke the awkwardness.
“Who?” Nikiwe asked, surprised.
The man did not answer but continued searching for whatever he was Searching for.
“Who said I would come?”
Nikiwe’s heart was pounding. What the hell was she doing here with a stranger in the middle of nowhere? She felt cold and nervous and was almost regretting pursuing this.
“This,” the man turned around and handed over a small ripped book.
Nikiwe looked at the man before grabbing it. “What is this?”
“The most important piece of the case.”
“Wait, what case are you talking about?”
“The case that has brought you here, detective.”
Nikiwe opened the small book and saw some drawings similar to the ones she had seen from Tanashes piece of paper. Her heart was now unstoppable. “Who gave you this and how did you know that this is what I’m looking for?”
For the first time since Nikiwe had gotten to the secluded house, the man smiled and said, “He said, one day, a brave detective would come through to finish his work.”
Nikiwe was more puzzled.
“To be honest, I never thought it would be a woman,” the man said. “You can come out now,” he shouted at someone.
Nikiwe heard footsteps behind her and turned around. She saw a woman with a baby and a little girl coming out of the house seemingly scared. They walked past her and stood behind the man.
“This is my wife and children,” the man said.
Nikiwe looked at them and forced a smile. She couldn’t help it but think about what he had just said. “Who said I’d come?”
“Are you old man’s Chipande’s son?”
“The one and only surviving child.”
Nikiwe’s mind raced back to the 89′ Witness statement. There was a child who survived and witnessed the murder of his sister’s. Could this be him?
“My father worked tirelessly to solve these cases. The more he got into it, the more detached from reality he became. When he finally got the final piece of the puzzle, my mother died and he lost his mind. He blamed himself for not proving her innocence. Before he completely lost his mind, he begged me to pursue the case but after what I saw that fateful day, I couldn’t. I was so scared and the more I heard of other similar cases, I withdrew from society. Everyday life was a dread. What if she came back to haunt me?”
“She?” Nikiwe probed.
“The woman who killed my sister’s.”
“You mean your mother?”
“No detective,” he looked at her in disagreement. “I am sure by now you know that everyone who was convicted of these murders was innocent. It’s that woman that possessed them.”
The man grabbed the book from Nikiwe and flipped the pages and showed her the exact drawing as Tanashes. Nikiwe could feel her legs shaking.
“My father said whoever would come here to look for him would close the case once and for all. Can you close it, detective?”
Nikiwe didn’t know what to answer but stared at the blank faces of the family standing before her. It was obvious they had been through a lot. Whatever happened to old man Chipande.
“My father died 8 years ago. He never knew about the 2019 case but I read about it. It was the more reason I brought my family here so that It couldn’t locate me again,” he held his family together. “Who gave you our address?”
“He still works there. I know him by another name,” the man chuckled.
She ignored his last words but concentrated on the reasons he left town and found himself in the middle of nowhere. She recalled how scared she had been when Clarence told her about an envelope which she thought was the one in the cases she was handling. She understood the man’s urgency and overprotectiveness. She would have done the same, especially where it concerned her three boys.
“Thank you so much for this,” Nikiwe said as she walked to her car.
“Detective,” the man called her.
Nikiwe stopped and turned around.
“You don’t have to do this alone, there are people more close to the case than you are at the station you are stationed.”
“How do you know which station I’m stationed?”
“When I read in Newspapers that HQ was under attack, I prayed the files were destroyed too but after asking around, I learned they were not and took to New Kasama police station. I figure that’s where you work from.”
“And who are you talking about?”
“It’s up to you to find out who. You’re a detective. It’s not upto me to reveal people’s Identities when they choose to remain anonymous.”
He was right. She thanked him for the time, got in her car and drove off.
There are people at the station who are more close to the case than you are? Which people was Chipandes son talking about? And by close, did he mean people who were involved or witnessed the murders? Why wouldn’t they come forward? Were they protecting themselves the same way Chipandes son was protecting himself? But what was the point of protecting oneself from such by staying closer to it? What was their endgame?
The other officers?
Nikiwes mind was overcrowded with questions. She had thought of directly going home but she couldn’t yet. She had to go to the station and find out who Chipande’s son was talking about and most importantly, look at the final piece of the whole thing.
To be continued