As if the stench of cigarettes were not enough, the room reeked of alcohol. Unless they were permitted to drink on the job, I was convinced they had kept a hopeless drunk confined in here all night. The fact that the bathroom sized windows were wide open did not make any difference. The air in the room was so torpid you would think it deliberately refused to freshen up the room.
“Amantle?” The policeman hovered over me from behind and handed me an affidavit form.
“Yes, ee Rra.”
“Go through all these albums and see if you can identify that thief of a Pastor,” he said. To his left was his colleague helping a victim of mob justice write a statement. He had been smirking at me nonstop. “Waitse pastors of today. You should be careful mma?” he finally said. “Don’t you watch the police docudrama? We warn people about such con artists. People think they are true prophets misusing their talent, but I bet the idiot has been stalking you for a while…”
“Shut up Mothusi. You are not helping!” snapped the policeman assisting me. “Haven’t you heard that these con artists possess intense magical trickery? They put their victims under some trance.”
His rebuke clearly fell on deaf ears because Muthosi continued. “If you watched our docudrama Mmamani it could have warned you of such idiots.”
His utter frankness was annoying. He should mind his own business, I thought to myself.
“You are lucky you didn’t lose too much money. Some people have lost millions. With your 200 pula and an iphone, wheeew…mara the iphone. He is going to make a huge sale. Maybe a grand or two,” he persisted eyeing me pitifully.
He meant well, but his words pierced me, causing more harm than good. The words were meant to comfort me, to make me feel like I wasn’t the only victim. On the contrary, I felt like a helpless idiot, like a person who’d received the worst prank since the discovery of mischief.
“Go through the pictures, try to identify him and ignore this heartless fool,” the policeman assisting me said while giving his talkative colleague friendly punch.
I went through the first album. The fake pastor’s picture was not in there. The second one also yielded nothing. By the time I shut the last album I was drained of all energy, hope and faith in the world. Who were all these hurtful people, and how had their victims recovered from whatever ordeal?
“Anything promising?” the policeman asked with an optimistic smile.
“No, nothing. Do you have any other albums?”
“No these are the only ones,” he said, then sighed. “How about you write a statement. If you know your phone’s serial number write it down. Don’t forget to put your cell phone number down too, an alternative one I mean or landline.” He instructed.
“Thanks.” I said as he walked out of the office, which was now less stuffy because I had gradually adapted to the environment.
All alone in the storeroom sized office, I could not bring myself to write the statement. What was I supposed to say? Where was I supposed to begin? The man had appeared from nowhere. He had been humble and had this calming presence. After offering a telephone prayer to my ailing father who was hundreds of kilometers away, I was confident he had returned the cell phone to me. As for the money, hadn’t he clearly instructed me to take it out of the purse? I had emptied the purse before giving it to him to bless, of that I was positive. What was I then supposed to write? That when I got to my initial destination, I suddenly realized that I couldn’t pay for my hot-wings order? That my purse had been crammed with a bunch of newspaper cuttings, which one of the policemen had said I shouldn’t have thrown away in case they turned back into money?
“These guys use magic. Apparently by throwing away the newspaper cuttings they replaced your money with, you are giving them the permission to use the money they stole from you. All you had to do was keep it in your purse for as long as it took,” the policeman had informed her, but it was too late.
So what am I really supposed to write? That feeling dizzy with fear and shock I ransacked my handbag in search of my phone while my hot-wings order was cancelled by the cashier whom by then had started taking me seriously? She had thought I was joking when I told her that my money had turned into papers even though she could see them. Since my phone was nowhere, she advised me to go to the police station. To come here—for what, I now wonder. They cannot help me. No one can. All they have managed to do so far is make me realize I am a victim. A victim of negative African magic, a statistic like any other, a case that will never be solved.
I pushed the statement form away. This exercise was pointless. There was no way they were going to find this man. Even If they did, I doubted they would find my money and iphone still on him. The man is getting as far away from here as he can while I sit here feeling sorry for myself. Hadn’t he said his family was waiting for him? They will definitely have something tasty to eat tonight thanks to my gullibility. Maybe he had lied about having a family too. Come to think of it I hadn’t asked which church he ministered for. What statement am I supposed to write with this meagre and ridiculously laughable information?
The rickety chair squeaked under me as I roughly shoved my body from its confines. Praying that the policeman who was assisting me would not notice my untimely departure, I swept for the door chiding myself for the stupidity that had landed me in this mess. I had been robbed in broad daylight.
“Going somewhere?” The voice rang into the depths of my consciousness recalling me to the present. I stood frozen on the spot, gazing at the man I had just tried to dodge.
“I think one of our constables might have found your guy,” he said ignoring the obvious fact that he had just caught me on the move.
“Apparently the guy tricked someone else this morning. The policemen who did the early morning shift handled the report. When we reported for duty they passed the case to that annoying guy I punched half an hour ago. He’s been on the lookout since and has luckily just picked the rogue on his way back here from the hospital where he’d gone to drop off that victim of mob justice. The rogue might have changed his clothes since, but your description fits him.”
The image in the post is an adaptation of a photograph by Tony Webster via Flickr.
About the Author:
Sharon Tshipa is a Media Practitioner, Writer and Social Entrepreneur based in Gaborone, Botswana. As far as literary writing is concerned, she has short stories published in Brittle Paper, Deyu African, StoryMondo, The African Street Writer, and The Kalahari Review online publications. Her short story titled ‘Like Little Ones Do’ won her a 2013 Kola Magazine Award in Nigeria. She also won the 2015 Poetavango Award for Short Fiction for her short story titled ‘Reality for Sale’. Sharon is also a CACE Africa 2014/2015 Writivism Writivist/Mentee. When not writing short stories, Sharon writes music, and poetry.