(Continued from Poisoned Chalice II)
Peninah is watching television silently in her father’s house. She has already poured her heart out to him, explaining not only what she saw, but what she felt. She feels like a little girl again. Ever since her mother died, it was always the two of them. They have always been there for each other. Or more accurately, he has been there for her. Geoffrey rarely displays emotion. He takes everything stoically.
As she sobbed while explaining the events of the day, he simply listened while stroking her hair. He did not utter a single word. Then she lay on his chest as she did those many years ago. At 46, she is still daddy’s little girl. It is a long time since she became vulnerable to her father because Martin took his place when he married her.
Geoffrey is preparing supper as his daughter watches television. He is an excellent cook. Even when her mother was still alive, her father prepared most of the meals. Being her father’s daughter, she is also a good cook and prepares most of the meals at her home. Martin cannot cook to save his life.
She is thinking about him when the Breaking News headline flashes on the television.
A hospital administrator in Tharaka Nithi is on the run after being accused of assault and attempted rape. Karanga Hospital CEO Martin Ndeke is accused of assaulting and attempting to rape Dr. Patricia Gatiri in his office earlier today. The police are still looking for him. Mr. Ndeke is the husband to celebrated banker Peninah Ndeke.
“Dad! Come and see this!”
Geoffrey walks from the kitchen to the sitting room slowly, defying the urgency in his daughter’s tone.
“What is…” his sentence is cut off midway as he sees the headline.
“Martin? A rapist?”
“He did not do it, dad,” Peninah says emphatically.
“A few minutes ago you said that you did not think he could cheat. You can never defend a person, any person, a hundred percent.”
“I was there dad. I saw him with that girl. He was not forcing her. She was sitting on his lap and her hands were cupping his face as they kissed. That is not the posture of someone being raped.”
“Maybe she just wanted to be kissed but after you left he tried to force her into having sex with him,”
“Unlikely. He followed me home. I could see him in the side mirror. When I came here he turned and went to our house,”
Geoffrey ponders this for a while.
“Then that is indeed very strange,”
Martin is roughed up as he is taken into the cells. The cops take his shoes, his belt, his tie, and his keys. He left his phone at his house. He is thrown into a filthy cell. Immediately he gets in, he steps on something wet that he suspects to be urine. The room is full of drunkards, some singing, some snoring, some hurling insults at imaginary enemies. If there are sober people in that room, he cannot tell. It is pitch dark. Karanga Police cells are infamous for their filth.
He wonders how he will survive the night. He is hungry, tired and sleepy but at the stinking room is filling him with nausea. How things can change in hours! A few hours ago he was in his posh office strategizing on how to make Karanga Hospital the best hospital in the region. Now he is in a dingy cell, unsure of what the future holds.
After what looks like an eternity, but what may have been less than an hour, his name is called out. A young policeman walks him out of the cell and takes him to a well-lit area. To his surprise, it is Douglas, a young man Peninah had employed at the farm many years ago. Douglas was an orphan who had dropped out of school after KCPE. He did not have school fees to proceed. By the time Peninah found him, he was working as a casual farmhand around the village and had given up all hope of continuing with his education.
Peninah gave him the job of collecting eggs and sorting them. Then she enrolled him at Karanga Mixed Day Secondary School. The following year, Martin and Peninah decided that he needed to go to boarding school, so Martin admitted him at Karanga Boys High School where he was the principal. Martin and Peninah personally paid his fee and did his shopping. He scored a C+ in KCSE and decided to be a policeman. He attended a recruitment exercise and qualified. The last time they talked he was working in Makueni and had promised to visit them.
“Douglas! What are you doing here?”
“I work here now,”
“You are wicked! You could have told us to welcome you home properly,”
“I reported yesterday. Look mzee, you can’t stay in that cell. I can’t release you but I can find you somewhere else to sleep. There is a new cell here so you can stay there. I will find you a blanket and a mattress.”
“Do not get into trouble over me, Douglas. I will be fine.”
“No, I insist. I know you did not do what they are saying you did. They are just making you suffer for nothing,”
“But how do you know I did not do it?”
“I know you mzee. You are a man of integrity. Every day I aspire to be like you,”
“I am flattered,”
“Besides, everyone in this station knows you are being harassed. And my girlfriend confirms it,”
“I did not know you have a girlfriend,” Martin says with a smile.
“She was part of the surprise. We would have come home together once I had settled at this station. Probably over the weekend. We still intend to come,”
“I might be in remand,”
“I don’t think so. I hear the prosecutor is a good man who truly believes in justice,”
“Yea, but the final word is with the magistrate, who I hear is a crook. Anyway, you said everyone knows I am being harassed. How come?”
“If this was a genuine case, I would have been the one to arrest you because I was on patrol. The guys who arrested you were off duty. They were pulled out of the club by the boss. They are usually his handy-men when he is doing something without following the law,”
“And your girlfriend knows this? Is she a police officer too? ”
“No, she is not. She was a house help at your house many years ago. She was a wild girl looking for a sponsor. She says she tried many times to seduce you but you did not even try to touch her. In fact, she says you almost fired but your wife intervened. She says mama Peninah transferred her to the farm and paid for her education She says you and Peninah are the reason she reformed. She is now a teacher.”
“Elosy is your girlfriend?”
“You remember her,” Douglas says with a smile.
“I remember everybody who has ever worked for me.”
Martin wakes up more tired than he slept. Sleeping on the floor is not ideal, especially on a thin mattress covered by one thin blanket. Mosquitoes were on his case and wouldn’t even allow him one wink. Douglas brings him breakfast, a cup of very thin tea and a slice of bread.
At eight he is taken to the courts alongside the others. They are locked up in the court cells. Nkanabo comes to see him there and assures him that he would try to get him out on bail. At 9.10 he is ushered into the courtroom. Nkanabo smiles and nods at him.
The charges of assault and attempted rape are read out to him and he denies both. Nkanabo asks the court to release him on bail. The prosecutor, an intelligent-looking young man, says she has no objection. The magistrate grants him cash bail of half a million shillings.
Nkanabo posts the bail and Martin is released. He then drives Martin to his home where the latter takes a shower, dresses, takes brunch and heads to the hospital.
Patricia is doing her morning rounds when she hears that Martin has been released. She is surprised. How could Alex do that to her? He had promised to deny him bail. She looks at her watch. 11 am. About the time he takes his recess. So she calls him.
“Don’t flower me. You released that fool,”
“I did not. I did not even manage to go to work today. I have a running stomach. I am still in bed,”
“I am in bed as we speak,”
“I am so sorry. Get well soon,”
As soon as she lays the phone down, her mind starts working. She needs to come up with another plan to get rid of Martin. She cannot allow him to come back as the CEO. She will make sure he is arrested again, And this time she has to ensure that Alex is on the bench, even if she has to drag him there.
As Martin steps out of his car, he is surprised to see people milling outside his office. Strange people he has never seen.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen, can I help you?”
“Are you Martin Ndeke?”
“Yes, I am,”
“You are under arrest for corruption and abuse of office. You have the right to remain silent…”
Martin is so stunned that he does not hear what the cops say next. What is going on? He calls Nkanabo before he is hurled into the police van for the second time in less than 24 hours.
(To be continued)
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