• Discovery of an abandoned infant gives the lone cop a new mystery to solve
Midmorning at the Police Post, two boys walk in toting what seems to be a delicate bundle. Inside a carton, wrapped in a filthy blanket, something wriggles, making gurgling noises.
I jump back. “Hii ni nini?”
“Ni mtoi,” says one boy.
“A baby? From where did you get it?” Now confident, I peel away part of the blanket. The poor thing is a day old if not less.
“Kwa dumpster nyuma ya Mla Chake Shop.”
I hold back the boys for questioning as I summon Dr Kanzu at the Jiji Ndogo Clinic.
“She’s no more than 20 hours old.” The doctor turns the baby over. “The amniotic fluid is barely dry. I’ll take her back with me for further tests.”
According to the boys, Dr Selitol, the proprietor of Mla Chake, had burned some old tires at the dumpsite, and they had gone to scavenge for wires when they came upon the box.
My first stop is at Dr Selitol’s.
“Mimi choma tyre,” he says, “apana choma matoto.”
“Did you see anyone around?”
“Ile wazimu iko kuja hapo mara nyingi natafuta chakula.”
I find Mwendaa, our resident village madman, sleeping under a tree near the town centre, pose the same question to him.
“First of all, how did you get in?”
“Get in?” I look around. “Where?”
“Into my office! My secretary didn’t buzz me.”
“Cut the crap, Mwendaa. I need to ask you about—”
“Shh!” He pretends to put a phone to his ear. “Christina, didn’t I tell you to hold all my appointments? Then what is The General doing here?”
“Mwendaa, did you see anyone dump a baby?”
“I refuse to incriminate myself for moving it near the fire.”
My eyes pop out. “You tried to burn the newborn?”
“Do I look crazy to you?” He shakes his head. “To keep her warm, that’s why.”
To his credit, the warmth might have kept the poor infant alive.
“Thank you.” About to walk away, I stop and turn. “How did you know it was a she?”
“I checked. If he was a demon I’d have burned him alive.”
At the clinic, I find Dr Kanzu concluding his checkup. “But for a slight cold, she’s perfectly healthy.”
“Doctor, which of your patients was recently pregnant and due any minute?”
“Even if I knew, doctor-patient privilege prohibits divulging that information.”
“But a crime has been committed here.”
“No matter, Sergeant. Only if a pregnant woman confides criminal intent would I come to you.” He calls after me as I leave. “I think we should give her a name. Jane Doe just feels wrong.”
“Nice name. Any particular reason?”
“It’s my mother’s.”
The midwife in Jiji Ndogo is a woman built like a country bus with the combined bass of two men. “Ever heard of doctor-patient leverage?” she booms.
“Like hell, Bertha. I could haul you in for practising without a licence.”
“Okay, but you didn’t hear this from me.” She lowers her voice. “Nyarinda’s been due forever. No word of delivery yet.”
“I know that witch Bertha led you here.” Nyarinda holds fort at her door, looking very pregnant. “That phony midwife shouldn’t be delivering babies.”
“When are you due?”
She squints angrily. “Due for what?”
“When’s your baby due? Or have you delivered already?”
“I’m not pregnant, you idiot. For that, Angel Gabriel would have to come by.”
“But what? Being fat is a crime now?”
Dr Kanzu confirms it but delivers bad news. “You have a tumor the size of a baby in your stomach, Nyarinda.”
The search continues.
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