• This is a new series revolving around a fictional police post in a village called Jiji Ndogo
• Sgt Makini has just been promoted and posted there. His boss, Inspector Tembo, also new, hates it there and wants a transfer
“Okay everyone, please settle down,” I tell my audience of about 50 men, women and children, the largest crowd I’ve ever addressed. We’re in the tiny village of Jiji Ndogo, under a tree next to the police post.
“My name is Sgt Makini and I’m the new sergeant assigned to Jiji Ndogo police post. Inspector Tembo, my boss, will arrive tomorrow. Today, we’re here to…”
“We want the corona guy!” someone in the crowd shouts. Everyone else claps in agreement.
“Yes, Dr Kanzu is here to educate us on the ongoing pandemic,” I say and turn to a tall, stately figure dressed in a white lab coat. “Doctor.”
“With all kinds of misinformation circulating,” the doctor says, “I want to start with the facts. The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough.”
“Nilijua tu!” a voice says. “Mzee Kimanzi has had it since last year.”
“Who’s Mzee Kimanzi?” the doctor asks.
The crowd parts dramatically, exposing an old hunched man, standing with the aid of a cane. As if in confirmation, he coughs slightly. Everyone takes a further step back.
“Well,” Dr Kanzu stammers. “Mzee looks quite old. His weakness and cough might be the effects of old age. Besides, Covid-19 was not here last year.”
“Maybe he has Covid-18,” says the accuser. “The one before Covid-19?”
“Young man, there’s no Covid-18. The number 19 denotes 2019, when this strain was discovered.”
The crowd doesn’t look convinced. I step up, hoping to save the situation.
“If worried, please see the doctor after the meeting for a free checkup,” I say.
No one seems too interested in my offer. “Please, don’t you all come at once,” I say with a smile. No one gets the joke either.
“No way! So I can be canteened?” shouts a middle-aged man.
“It’s quarantined, idiot!” says a woman next to him disdainfully. “Besides, you’re too stingy to host even a virus, Jeremiah.”
Spontaneous laughter from the crowd. Wounded, Jeremiah slithers to the back of the crowd. I take this opportunity to end the meeting before it derails again.
“Thank you all for coming,” I say. “The police post is now open. I know some of you have pending cases, so we will…”
I realise I’ve lost my audience, their attention on something behind them: a tall, fat man in full police regalia, standing next to a police cruiser in the middle of the dusty road. Though I don’t recognise him, I march up to him as per protocol.
“Inspector!” I salute him. “Sgt Makini at your service, sir!”
“At ease, soldier,” he says, looking around with a frown. “Where the hell are we?”
“Welcome to Jiji Ndogo, sir!”
His eyes pop out. “This is my new command? One decrepit shack and a Land Rover on stone blocks?”
His description is completely on point.
“There is a bicycle in the building, sir!” I inform my new boss. “Complete with wheels, sir!”
“A bicycle? Dear Lord! Tell me that again when I’m out of uniform with a cold beer in my hand.”
“You’ll have to wait till next week for that, sir! The beer truck doesn’t come for another four days. But there’s some coffee in the office.”
He rubs his hands in anticipation. “Instant? Good! Hits the same spot as a cold beer.”
“No, sir!” I’m fighting hard to conceal a smile. This is going to be one long assignment. “The kind that has to boil for an hour.”
Suddenly, the witty woman from before appears and sizes up the inspector.
“So, you’re the new honcho?” she says, the now-familiar smirk on her face. “Weren’t you supposed to arrive tomorrow? Let’s hope your eagerness means you’re better than your predecessor. My goat has been missing for four straight years now. I'll be in your office tomorrow.”
She leaves abruptly.
“Dear Lord!” says the inspector. “This is going to be one hell of a long assignment!”
Edited by T Jalio