‘Centre for excellence,’ Pai said as he drove through the gates of Shalom Junior School. ‘Well, substitute “excellence” with “murder”.’
The moment Pai pulled up near the flag mast a bespectacled man hurried towards the car. But for the black suspenders the man was all white; white suit, white polo neck, white shoes.
‘Detectives,’ the man said. ‘Clinton Baraza, we talked on the phone.’
‘Where is the body?’ Michael ‘Mike’ Sanse, Pai’s partner, asked as he stepped out of the car. Baraza was stupefied to see him combing his perfectly combed hair.
‘This way,’ Baraza said.
From their position Pai and Sanse could see four buildings in the compound: two blocks roofed with corrugated iron sheets, a storied block coming up, and a cabin just before the block to the left. The space between the complete blocks was occupied by swings, slides and seesaws.
‘I wish this matter was behind us already,’ Baraza said. ‘What a blot to a decade-old reputation!’
The murder had taken place at the far end of the middle block. About ten metres from where the body lay were staff toilets.
‘I sealed off the area as ordered,’ Baraza said.
‘Smell that?’ Sanse said.
‘Bhang,’ Pai asked.
‘I’ll be damned!’ Baraza said. ‘Was he after the smoker?’
The body lay on its face, a rusty metal rod projecting from the nape of its neck. Sanse squatted to study the murder weapon as Pai put on latex gloves and reached for the pockets.
‘Zachary Muia,’ Pai was holding an ID card and a photo with the inscription, HAPPPY 2nd BIRTHDAY KATE. ‘Was he married?’
‘He was ambushed from behind,’ Pai said.
‘The rod was used to stoke fire in the kitchen,’ Baraza said. ‘It went missing two days ago.’
‘Where is everyone?’ Pai asked.
‘We’re in mid-term break. We planned a staff meeting from 11.30 am.’
‘How many workers do you have?’ Pai asked.
‘Sixteen,’ Baraza said. ‘Only seven had arrived by the time the murder took place.’
‘Could you give me their names?’
‘Zachary, Esau, Judy, Janet, Edmond, Clifford and Maggie.’
‘Who discovered the body?’ Sanse asked.
‘Maggie,’ Baraza said. ‘No one has gone in or out.’
A police Land Rover with three Regular police and two forensic officers drove into the compound. The forensic officers got down to work taking pictures and dusting for fingerprints.
‘Damn, who invited the vultures?’ Baraza said as a girl and a man in RTV t-shirts walked into the compound.
‘The killer did,’ Pai said.
‘Mr. Sanse!’ the female reporter exploded.
‘Bertha,’ Sanse said.
‘I cherish the day I’ll catch you without a Kaunda Suit or Travolta boots,’ the reporter said. ‘Do you have a suspect?’
Sanse turned to Pai, ‘Do we have a suspect? Agreed; we should be let alone to get one!’
Sanse walked to the closest room to the murder scene and tried the lock. The door was labelled ‘Class 4’.
‘I can get you the key.’
Sanse turned to see a girl whose hair was plaited into three giant lines. ‘Hello Janet. Don’t trouble yourself.’
The girl’s face clouded. ‘How do you know…?’
‘You colleague called out your name a while ago,’ Sanse said moving to the window. ‘That ceiling is a disaster in waiting.’
Sanse proceeded to the smaller gate near the toilets, tried the padlock and joined Pai who was talking to Baraza.
‘We need fingerprints of the workers,’ Sanse said.
‘But of course,’ Baraza said and summoned the workers. But for a man in a red t-shirt and blue jeans the workers avoided the glare of the camera.
The press left in a hurry twenty minutes later to cover a building that had collapsed nearby. The Land Rover left with Zachary’s body thirty minutes later.
‘I am Senior Detectives Cosmas Pai,’ Pai addressed the workers. ‘My partner is Senior Detective Mike Sanse. Let’s start with some ground rules. One, nobody leaves the compound. Two, stay in the open.’
‘Excuse me sir,’ a man in a checked pair of trousers, a white shirt and red tie said. His long hair framed a thin face. ‘Why must we keep in the open?’
‘What is your name sir?’ Pai said.
‘Clifford, someone killed Zachary. A murder to cover a murder needs very little persuasion. I doubt you woke up today planning to die.’
‘May I?’ Clifford stepped forward and faced his colleagues. ‘Zachary was a friend, a colleague, a good man. He had his limitations which, in my humble view, were far outweighed by his strong points. The least we can do is to help the detectives bring his killer to justice. Then and only then can his soul rest in peace.’
Clifford stepped back.
‘We need a room,’ Sanse told Baraza.
‘Zachary’s office will do,’ Baraza said.
‘Maggie?’ Sanse called out.
‘Yes?’ A girl in a jeans skirt, a trench coat and Ngoma rubber shoes stepped forward.
‘We will start with you,’ Sanse said. ‘Kindly show us to Zachary’s office.’
Read CHAPTER 2
©Anthony Mugo 2017