A preacher and an agnostic walk into a bar…

Some skeletons are best left in the closet, or is it church compound?

In Summary

• A drink unearths hidden secrets in Jiji Ndogo after a man of God dares revisit the past


I know this sounds like the beginning of a joke, but I assure you it’s not. Allow me to explain.

Late in the evening, my boss Inspector Tembo decides to come out of self-imposed exile, and the first order of business is to take Sgt Sophia and I out for drinks after work, and that’s how we end up at Shimo La Pewa bar.

‘You know,’ he begins once the first round is on the table, ‘when I was young, things were very different. You didn’t press buttons on a mobile phone to talk to a girl, you went to her home and hid in the bushes, making surreptitious noises and hoping she’d come out to pour waste water or check on the cows.’

‘In other words,’ Sophia says, ‘you were all stalkers.’

‘What is love anyway, but stalking someone until they relent and give in to your lies and empty promises?’

‘So, what happened if she didn’t come out?’ I ask.

‘You waited, slapping mosquitos off your back and watching out for the dogs,’ he said.

‘This one girl I fancied had a brother. The snort came out to feed the dogs, so I waved him over and asked him to go fetch his sister.

‘And you know what the little bastard did? He went in and announced that a boy on the other side of the fence was inquiring about his sister. To which his father ordered him to let the dogs loose on me. I have a bite scar on one of my butt cheeks to prove it.’ He rises. ‘I can show it to you.’

Sophia waves him down. ‘Oh, no, dad. Nobody wants to see your butt cheeks.’

At this moment, Deacon Kongo walks into the bar.

‘Deacon,’ Inspector Tembo says, ‘What brings you to this ungodly place?’

‘A man of God goes where he is needed, be it houses of ill repute or otherwise. And it’s now Pastor Kongo, if you please.’

Sophia scowls. ‘Since when did you go from deacon to pastor?’

‘The Lord works in mysterious ways, his people to promote to seats of glory.’

‘Doesn’t being promoted to glory mean you die?’

‘Glory on earth, Sgt Sophia. And talking of death, the reason I am here is to seek your help as the law enforcement in Jiji Ndogo.’

‘What can we do for you, Pastor?’ I ask.

‘I’m afraid one of our own down at the Coast has many of our flock questioning their faith.’

Sophia jumps to her feet. ‘You call that faith? He convinced people to starve to death. Men, women, children… all made to believe they would go to heaven if they ate nothing until their demise.’

‘But surely, sergeant, you don’t believe one small rotten apple spoils the bunch, do you?’ he asked.

‘To use an example close to you, there are among law enforcement officers those who act… shall we say, not in accordance with the law? We shouldn’t distrust you all based on their behaviour, should we?’

‘What can we do for you, pastor?’ I ask.

‘I would like to invite you to a murder investigation.’

‘Murder? Who’s been killed?’

‘No one, actually, that’s the point. But I hope this exercise might pacify my congregants,’ he said.

‘You see, some of the faithful in my church aren’t so sure I don’t have bodies buried in the church compound. If you could prove there are none, maybe I can have the regular flock back next Sunday.’

The waiter comes over. ‘Pastor, I don’t think that’s a very good idea.’


‘Your church is built on an old burial ground. You don’t want to dig it up.’

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