Judy had worked under Baraza in his last posting. Now with all-grey hair and sacks under her eyes she looked all her sixty years. She oozed an air that commanded respect not just of a parent but that of someone who knows and respects the line between right and wrong.
‘I was in the staffroom preparing a verse for the meeting when the wails came,’ Judy said. ‘Coincidentally I was reading Psalms 103:15 which say…’
‘A person’s life is like grass,’ Sanse said.
‘Who else was in the staffroom?’ Sanse asked.
‘Clifford was in Zachary’s office. Janet arrived minutes before the tragedy.’
‘Tell us about the metal rod,’ Pai said.
‘I got it from my son four, no, five years ago. He is a welder…’
‘When did it go missing?’ Pai said.
‘Two days ago. It has been misplaced a dozen times over the years.’
‘Do you know who took it?’ Pai asked.
‘As a matter of fact I thought it had been misplaced within the kitchen.’
‘Tell us about Maggie,’ Sanse said.
‘She is an angel,’ Judy said. ‘For the two years we’ve worked together she has been the perfect companion; industrious, mature, honest.’
‘Does she have a lover?’ Pai asked.
‘I think she is best placed to answer that.’
‘Whom can you vouch for?’ Sanse asked.
‘Clifford and Janet,’ Judy said. ‘Detective, are you saved?’
‘Another time and place,’ Sanse said. ‘Kindly call your boss.’
‘Out goes the only person whose word can be relied upon but who has nothing to say,’ Pai said. ‘The rest are knots to be un-knotted.’
‘Why not remove the ceiling altogether?’ Sanse asked Baraza the moment he stepped inside Zachary’s office. Baraza glanced at the dilapidated ceiling before he collapsed on the chair. ‘Tell me you have the killer.’
‘Who replaces Zachary?’ Pai asked.
Baraza adjusted his glasses. ‘Is the murder about positions?’
‘Esau?’ Pai asked.
‘Esau is too cavalier and temperamental,’ Baraza said. ‘To my wife he is “the tout”. Nonetheless, he delivers.’
‘Would his friction with Zachary get this far?’ Sanse asked.
‘Hardly,’ Baraza said. ‘Incidentally, I ought to have known if this is about work. I’ve been in the game for four decades.’
‘Clifford?’ Pai said.
Baraza chuckled. ‘Clifford is too buttoned-up. Most geniuses are anyway. He must be hurting to advocate for Zachary’s justice. Can he lead? No.’
‘Edmond?’ Sanse asked.
‘Zachary replaced Edmond who heads the lower section. Nonetheless, it has been a year with no incident!’
‘What was the agenda of the meeting?’ Pai asked.
‘Routine stuff: performance, plans for the remainder of the term, staff morale.’
‘I understand there ought to be a gatekeeper,’ Sanse said.
‘James called in sick.’
‘Who keeps the key to the second gate?’ Sanse asked.
‘Was Zachary seeing someone?’ Pai asked.
‘Yes, my daughter.’
‘Zachary was a user, so to speak, how did you take it?’ Sanse asked.
‘Noel is Zachary’s mirror image,’ Baraza said. ‘She once bolted with a man for six months. Look, it is every parent’s wish that their kid settle down. Perhaps the two could have tamed each other, who knows?’
‘Still you hold a policy against intimacy at work and hiring of relatives,’ Pai said.
‘So I can’t stand by my principals, is it a crime?’
‘Is anyone intimate presently?’ Sanse asked.
‘Clifford and Janet.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I have my ways,’ Baraza said.
‘What steps have you taken?’ Pai asked.
‘None,’ Baraza said. ‘Janet is leaving at the end of the term.’
‘Where is your wife?’ Sanse asked.
‘She is a manager with National Bank.’
‘When did you arrive?’ Pai asked.
‘Twenty past eleven.’
‘Fifteen minutes after the murder,’ Sanse said. ‘Who is your doctor?’
‘H. M. Nene.’
‘You said that nobody got in or out,’ Pai said.
‘That is correct.’
Baraza slid furthest in his chair, his mouth wide open.
‘Call her over,’ Pai said.
© Anthony Mugo 2017