African Crime Stories; Guilty Until Proven Innocent 

His sleep abruptly interrupted, Brian instinctively goes for the golf club he now keeps beside his bed. Any sounds whispered in the night now have the hair all over his body standing on ends. Up and out of bed he’s now in what he calls his commando mode. Five is the maximum number of karate lessons he attended at 13 but he tells himself he can be a black belt when the situation requires it. In light of his new found paranoia, he sleeps with his socks on for the added effect of stealth, when walking about at night to see if an intruder had entered his house. 

A few steps out of bed Brian hears indistinct whispers as he strains to keep his eyes open. The golf club held ready to swing at a moments notice. A few steps out of his bedroom the whispers grow louder and seem to emanate from the bathroom. What is he going to find? A normal burglar? A serial killer? An assassin sent by one his Ex’s maybe? Questions flood his mind faster than he could think up answers. The little attempt at humour in thinking that maybe one of his Ex’s had sent an assassin to kill him quickly fades. Because he realizes it could genuinely happen. Brian fears the worst. 

“I’m going to get there with my stupid golf club and he has a gun, bang I’m dead,” he quietly thinks to himself. 

His grip tightens like he’s holding on for dear life and his heart rate skyrockets in an instant. He tries his best to control his breathing and keep it low. With the gentlest of touches he twists the handle and pushes the bathroom door open, to reveal an empty room. It was just the taps groaning. He hadn’t closed them properly and they were just whispering their disapproval. Letting out a sigh of relief, he shuts them off and goes back to bed. Lying there, looking up at the ceiling he starts laughing at himself, never has a man been frightened so silly by just taps.

Well the paranoia was not all on its own. About a month ago Brian’s life had taken a turn for the worst. Only 27 years of age and working with a senior minister to the presidents office, he was on the fast track to success. Saving for a car and already thinking of buying a house things were in order. It was a modern day fairytale but just missing the love part. This didn’t bother him though, he would think about the bigger picture and just smile to himself. That is until things crumbled. The earth was pulled away from under him. 

A scandal broke out about the honorable Francis Mteke -the minister Brian worked for. Out on the front page of almost every newspaper were censored naked images of Mr Mteke and a young lady (so young she could have been his daughter). The pictures showed them in a rather compromising position on the table in his office.

“MTEKE AND HIS MISTRESS CAUGHT WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN” read one headline, “EXTRA OFFICE HOURS HAVE A NEW MEANING” read another. All the tabloids ate it up, like vultures on an abandoned carcass.

There was havoc in the office as phones rang off the hook and people constantly walked in and out. And as expected the minister was nowhere to be found. Two days later there was a forced max exodus of employees in the minister’s office. Brian was one of the casualties. Fired without notice or reason and just given an extra months pay. Brian had gone straight to the liquor store, bought himself a bottle of whiskey and spent the day drinking himself into a stupor. After an unknown number of shots he began feeling better about the whole thing. His job had been hell, he wasn’t going to miss the work but maybe the paycheck. It was quite lucrative by the standards of any African country.

The worst thing about being at the minister’s beck and call had been that his social life suffered. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been on a date. The days that followed came with a change of mood. He was carefree and breathing easier. He was sweating the small stuff less and less.

Two weeks later minister Francis Teke was at the centre of another scandal. At least in this one everyone had their pants on. The minister was being suspected of corruption. A whooping 5 million dollars was the amount. Brian smiled as he read the article in the paper. How the mighty had fallen, karma truly existed he thought. That whole day he was literally dancing for joy every time he saw a newsstand with the headline. It didn’t bring him any closer to finding a new job but pettiness always has people happy for the wrong things.

The honourable Francis Mteke sat in the police chiefs office, tail between his legs as he received a scolding.

“Francis it is simple, do what you do and keep it behind closed doors or don’t do anything at all. Now you’re making me look bad and we have a problem.” Gerald Dube the 2nd or rather Chief Dube as he had been referred to for the past 15 years spoke without holding back. “I don’t want to arrest my own nephew, so don’t force my hand,” he went on.

“Uncle Dube I am sorry, I didn’t plan for things to…”

“That’s the problem you didn’t plan, you never plan, do you even think? Why did I even help you to get this job? My god how hard is it to just simply not get caught?… Fix this Francis! Get out of my office and go fix this!”

“Yes sir,” was all Francis could reply. He walked out the uncle’s office with his head hanging low and pride bruised. It was especially worrying because he knew if push came to shove, his uncle would have him arrested to save face. The 40% homage or tribute he had paid on the money he stole wouldn’t save him from a prison cell. It had been a fluid relationship he had going on with his uncle. After Chief Dude had gotten him appointed as minister, they began what they called reaffirming the wealth they deserved. Well it was mostly him who did the reaffirming and his uncle was just there to make sure any investigations uncovered nothing.

But this time around things were different, the sex scandal had ruined the delicate balance of the scales. A new ethics committee was immediately put in place to oversee the activities of the cabinet and what do you know $5 million was found missing. It didn’t take them long to look because well Francis hadn’t been bothered to cover his tracks. Now he was facing a dilemma with option A being confessing to the corruption and maybe spending a lengthy term in prison. But he told himself the alphabet still had 25 other letters.

Within minutes of leaving his uncle’s office Francis received a call from an unknown number. It would be the head of the National Intelligence Association on the other end of the line but he wouldn’t know it. Which was just a fancy name for a bunch of corrupt cops that did the governments biding. 

“Hello, who’s this?” Francis answered.

“Your uncle told us you have a problem and we can help you fix it,” bellowed a voice sounding rather impatient.

“How? What do you plan on doing?”

“That’s not your problem, all you have to do is give us a name.”

“Ummmm… Errrrr…” Francis tried thinking for a moment then “Brian Gwati,” he blurted out.

This phone call would set up events that would alter Brian’s life forever. And all because he had been the only memorable character within the minister’s office.

On a Monday days after the second scandal had broken, Brian noticed someone following him. He had started the day with what was now his usual routine. Early morning he had gone for a jog, yes he was now into the fitness life. He had figured if you’re going to be broke and unemployed at least look good. Because your chances of attracting women when you had nothing going for you were zero to none. 

So while on his morning there was a guy who trailed him but he gave it no notice. He just figured they had the same work out route. After finishing his exercise Brian freshened up and headed to the streets to job hunt. It would be around this time, that walking out of an interview he would see the same guy who had trailed him in the morning. But still he just put it up to coincidence, it was a small world after all. As the day concluded he decided to reward himself with a pizza. He needed at least one good thing to smile about after another marathon walked for no results. And behind him in the line for orders he would see the guy for the third time.

Three times could never be just up to coincidence, he was being followed. As soon as his pizza was in hand he darted out, crisscrossing streets and constantly looking behind him. Feeling he had done enough he finally headed home. Less than a 100 metres from his apartment he was blindsided and pulled into an alley. Three well built guys began attacking him with no remorse. Brian simply held his head while he was kicked and punched. The assault ended as soon as it had started, leaving his body already sore. But it had been time enough for Brian to notice that the shoes kicking him were police issue.

“You worked for the wrong minister,” shouted one of guys and they all burst into laughter as they ran away.

Brian stood up and dusted himself off, he felt lucky his face had remained untouched but his ribs and back ached. For a moment he contemplated going to the cops to report the assault but he knew it wouldn’t matter. If someone hadn’t died or been put in hospital all you would hear from the cops is “we’re looking into it.” He picked up his now flattened pizza box and slowly made his way home. From the next morning paranoia would have hold of him like a second conscience.

Back in the present day, Brian stared blankly at the ceiling as sleep eluded him. Finding out it had just been the taps making noise had failed to ease his heart enough for him for him to fall asleep. He decides to get up and work on his CV. It’s already complete but he just wants to polish it with a few more enticing words for prospective employers. Little does he know he could be experiencing his last few hours of freedom.


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