(Continued from Daring the Wolves I)
Things are happening too fast for Bernard’s mind to process. The two plain clothes detectives usher him to a white Toyota Fielder. Bernard tries to convince them to allow him to follow them to the police station in his car but they threaten to arrest him and take him by force, so he complies. He sits at the back of the Fielder with one of the detectives. The other detective is driving, with the woman sitting on the co-driver’s seat. The Fielder leaves the school at high speed, and it is only after they get to the highway that Bernard realizes that he should have demanded to see some identification. He decides to call his wife and inform her that he has been arrested. But the detective sitting next to him takes away the phone.
“What do you think you are doing?”
“I am calling my wife. She needs to know that I have been arrested so that she can get me a lawyer.”
“You will be told when you can make a call.”
That makes Bernard anxious. How can he be sure that these men are detectives as they say? What if he is being kidnapped? His anxiety heightens when the Fielder stops at a private house instead of a police station. It is an old house that looks abandoned. More critically, it is isolated; there are no houses or habitats nearby. It is the perfect place to kill someone. Bernard thinks about all the people who mysteriously disappear, only for their bodies to be found dumped in rivers and thickets. He shivers involuntarily.
Bernard now realizes why the men did not want to handcuff him: they did not want to be seen dragging him out of the office. If someone had seen him being led away in handcuffs, alarm would have been raised, and someone, most likely Christopher, would have followed the Fielder after instructing his secretary to call a lawyer. But that did not happen because he followed the men voluntarily. Even if someone saw him entering the Fielder, they wouldn’t have thought too much about it, and so he or she wouldn’t even have bothered to check the number plates.
“Get out,” the man who had been sitting with him orders. The driver, who had started walking towards the house with the woman, stops and looks behind. The woman, seeing that her companion has stopped, stops too. By now Bernard has figured out that they are all part of a team. What he is not sure is whether they are police officers. But it really does not matter, because he has heard stories of people being kidnapped and killed by the police.
“If you are going to kill me, do it here,” Bernard says defiantly.
“Don’t start playing clever Mwalimu. We do not intend to hurt you; we are just following orders. But if you make our work difficult, then we will be forced to inflict pain upon you. Trust me, we have the capacity.”
“What do you want from me?”
“Nothing. We are just doing our jobs.”
“Then why aren’t you taking me to a police station?”
“Eventually we will do just that. But before then we need to interrogate you. That is why we brought you here.”
“Then why don’t you ask your questions while I am here? I am not getting out of this car.”
Bernard can see the young man scowling and flinching, and he prepares for a blow. But the driver intervenes. He is older than his colleague. He is probably in his forties, while the other man appears to be in his late twenties.
“Mwalimu,” the older man tells Bernard. “Believe me we do not want to harm you. Our instructions are simply to bring you here, interrogate you and then take you to the police station. We don’t want anything from you, and we have nothing against you. But we have families to feed, and if you make our jobs difficult by becoming stubborn, then we are more than capable of hurting you. So please Mwalimu, do what we tell you, and everything will be fine.”
Bernard looks at the man. Like his younger colleague, he is heavily muscled, and Bernard has no doubt that he is armed. Bernard is actually certain that the women are armed too; there are two women now because a second woman has emerged from the house and joined them. Bernard is sure they are lying to him, but he doesn’t think he has an option. He knows that whether he complies or not, they will kill him. They did not blindfold him while bringing him here and there is no way they will allow him to see a lawyer with that knowledge.
But perhaps if he complies they will make it quick. Maybe they will be compassionate and shoot him in the heart, instead of torturing him. Bernard has always thought that he is ready to die for what is right, but the reality of his imminent demise scares him.
“Okay, I will do as you wish,” he says, trying to sound calm, but knowing that he is shaking.
Eunice does not notice that her boss is not in his office until Dr. James Maugu, whose chain of hotels is one of the largest purchasers of eggs from the school farm, comes to see him at 4PM. He is accompanied by the Farm Director. Dr. Maugu’s secretary called yesterday to book an appointment, so Bernard had been expecting him. But when Eunice calls Bernard on the landline extension to alert him that Dr. Maugu has arrived, he does not pick. She finds that to be strange. She has worked for him for five years now, and never once has he been late for an appointment.
She walks to his office and enters after knocking once. Bernard is nowhere to be found. She tells herself that he has probably gone to the washrooms, but the alarm bells in her head are already ringing. She goes back to her station and asks the Farm Director and Dr. Maugu to be patient. After ten minutes, she goes back to Bernard’s office, but he is not there. She calls his cell phone, but finds that it is switched off.
Now she is worried. She wonders how he could have slipped past her; he never leaves without telling her where he is headed. He had no other meetings scheduled for the day other than his meeting with Dr. Maugu. She now remembers that an hour ago she received a call asking her to go and collect some documents in Deputy Principal Christopher’s office for Bernard to sign. She remembers asking the girl who called why she couldn’t bring the documents herself. Eunice had assumed that she was talking to Christopher’s new secretary, Loreen. The girl said that Christopher had asked her to urgently find a file that she was having trouble finding, yet the documents that needed to be taken to the principal’s office were urgent as well.
Eunice wasn’t busy, so she did not see the harm of going down to second floor to pick the documents. But to her surprise, Loreen told her that she had not made the call, and that she was not aware of any documents that needed to be signed. Puzzled, Eunice started going up the stairs in order to return to her station. On third floor she met a man looking for directions to the Guidance and Counselling office, because he apparently had a meeting with Mrs. Akai, the head of Guidance and Counselling. The man looked harassed and confused, and did not understand the directions that Eunice was giving him, so she offered to take him to the office on ground floor.
As they walked, the man explained that he is in the middle of a divorce with his wife and that that his wife is harassing their son, who is in form three. She assumed that the man wanted Mrs. Akai to monitor her son, but he wasn’t interested in talking about the boy. Instead, he went on and on about how overbearing his wife was, and she was not satisfying in bed she was. Eunice expecting him to start making passes at her, but he didn’t; he was so engrossed in his narrative that she doubted her presence was even necessary. When they got to Mrs. Akai’s office, her secretary told them that she was in class. There was another man waiting for her, so the man Eunice had brought would have to wait as well. Eunice wanted to leave, but the man wanted to finish his narrative. It took her about fifteen minutes to extract herself from the conversation. She came back to her desk and continued to play Solitaire on her computer until Dr. Maugu and the Farm Director arrived ten minutes ago.
Now, standing at Bernard’s office, she realizes that something is seriously wrong. Bernard’s suitcase and tablet are in the office. She also realizes that the call asking her to go to Christopher’s office was part of a scheme to get her off her working station, and the man who needed directions was meant to distract her. Someone wanted her to move away from her desk, and she fell for it. She walks to Bernard’s desk, grabs the phone and calls the Christopher, the Deputy Principal in charge of administration.
“Mr. Gituja, could you kindly come to the principal’s office immediately?”
“Why, what is the matter?”
“I think the principal has been kidnapped.”
Christopher rushes to his boss’s office. He finds Dr. Maugu and the Farm Director still waiting, and ignores them. He bursts into the principal’s office, breathless.
“What do you mean the principal has been kidnapped?”
When Eunice fills him in with the details, Christopher calls the security guards and demands to see the recording of the CCTV cameras inside and outside the principal’s office. But when the guards go to extract the tapes, they find that they are missing. Someone had taken them, and that same person or his accomplice has disabled the system so that all the cameras in the school are not recording anything.
Image by Emslitchter from Pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/borgward-hansa-isolated-oldtimer-2161701/
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