• When the offer is too good, think twice, is what Sgt Makini reckons after tragedy
Sgt Sophia M Kali and I are at the Police Post when Mrs Tembo arrives, a chondo in her arms.
“There you go.” She sets it on the desk. “Ya kukaribisha mgeni.”
Unsure, Sophia stares at the package. I jumpstart her with an elbow. She uncovers the chondo. Beautiful aroma fills the small room. Since I recently became a bachelor, the value of free food has rocketed. I pull the bag towards me, dig out the hot pot. I drop it like it’s hot… which it is, nearly spilling the steaming contents.
“That’s what you get for kiherehere,” says Mrs Tembo. “Wewe ni mgeni?”
Still, there is enough food for both of us. Mrs Tembo talks as she doles it out.
“Sophia, it’s so nice to have another woman from the city. Unajua how hard it was kupata celery huku? I had to show the vendors a picture.”
“Huku wanaita hii French beans,” I explain, pointing at the culprit on my plate.
Sophia and Mrs Tembo laugh.
“Unaona?” Mrs Tembo says. “Even Matumbo thought I was feeding him onions for vegetables.”
“My husband. Your boss. He can’t even tell between Rosecoco and Mwitemania beans when I cook them. Men, right?”
Sophia’s face stays blank.
“You have no idea what she’s talking about, do you?” I ask her.
“I’m sorry, Mrs Tembo,” Sophia says. “I’m not much of a cook.”
The older woman’s eyes nearly pop out of their sockets.
“At your age? No wonder the country is full of single mothers. You can’t keep a man.”
The meal is sumptuous, but we pay by enduring Mrs Tembo’s lecture on the virtues of good housekeeping.
“Honey, men only care for three things: food, sex and peace of mind.”
“I’ve seen the Inspector devour the first,” I say, sarcastically, “never heard him mention the second, but he keeps complaining about the third.”
I’ve hit a nerve, since Mrs Tembo begins packing the utensils with gusto.
“You don’t plant French beans and harvest celery, Makini.”
“I wasn’t done with my plate,” I complain.
“Next time, more eating, less talking.” She heads for the door, stops and turns. “Oh, about those three things men care about? If you get the second elsewhere, we poison the first, then you really lose the third.”
“I love her,” Sophia announces once Mrs Tembo is gone.
“What? Shouldn’t we arrest her for conspiracy to murder, Miss Straight Arrow?”
“Being good at my job doesn’t mean I have no sense of humour.”
I’m about to tell her I’ve not seen her smile once in the week she’s been here when she clutches her stomach and doubles over.
“Hospital!” she cries.
“I’ll get the bicycle.”
“Only transport we have here.”
After some debate, I call a motorbike and take her to Dr Kanzu’s clinic.
“The doctor is not in,” Kanzu says.
“You’re the doctor!” I yell.
“Haven't you heard? We’re on strike.”
Sophia unholsters her pistol.
“What about now?” she whimpers.
“Okay, okay.” He ushers her in. “No need for violence.”
As I wait, a horrific thought hits me. Convinced she’s a spy, Inspector Tembo has been trying to get rid of Sophia. Could he have…
“You look sick, too.” Sophia says, stepping out.
“I’m okay. What did the doctor say?” I’m dreading her answer.
“I was poisoned.”
“Dear Lord!” I shoot to my feet. “The-son-of-a-gun did it!”
“Relax. I should’ve asked before I ate. Unprocessed animal fat doesn’t agree with me. See? I do have a sense of humour.”
“Wait! What do you mean ‘the-son-of-a-gun did it’?”