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Excerpt from The Consequence of Memory

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'The Consequence of Memory'.Njoroge: Kenya:
Day 9


Kneeling on the plastic sheet beside the body the consular liaison officer, who'd once been a detective, turned the head, facedown and, still wet from the early morning dew, to one side. The victim, a white male in his early 60's had a slight smile on his face, the eyes, brown and with a piece of short grass stuck to the iris conveyed nothing. Sighing, the government man looked up. "Why am I here?"

"He has a British passport -- I thought it best to call your office." Clearly anxious to mollify the senior official, he continued, "Two herd boys taking the cattle out along the road found the body and ran back to the station. There was no car. This is a quiet road and has not much traffic -- almost none actually." He spread his hands apologetically, "He is, as you can see, not dressed for walking -- I checked for injuries before the forensic team arrived from Nakuru and there is a small amount of dried blood from one ear. The other side," he said quickly, watching the official glance down at the still face.

"So, he could have had a stroke -- a burst artery in the brain, what the hell is it called?"

"An aneurism -- yes, but I think forensic will find a small caliber bullet in the brain."

"What -- and how do make such a leap sergeant -- how?" The consular official rose from the plastic sheet carefully brushing the knees of his suit pants. He wished the damned police would do their work without involving him; he'd done his time in the police force under Moi's government and, smelling the wind of coming change, traded employment with the help of a highly placed relative. The call had come through to his Nairobi office two hours ago and the minister had been emphatic -- 'get down and find out what's happening, Njoroge. A dead tourist is always a major disaster -- but keep the press off this until we know more, understood?' So he'd driven fast down the escarpment past Naivasha, the ministers flag fluttering and getting salutes from the military checkpoints. The Nakuru Police LandRover had preceded him up the Menengai road, then on to the barely used side road through the scrub and small trees below the extinct volcano's rim. He spat, a dead tourist was one thing but a murdered tourist was something totally different. The foreign press would be all over this.

Njoroge stared hard at the policeman, noting the rank badge of sergeant and cautious eyes in a worn, weary face above a creased uniform. The face of a man who'd survived the turmoil of political change and investigations into police malfeasance; a man who would understand without being told what was at stake.

"Why do you think he was murdered, sergeant? It seems to me that he could have banged his head on the way down. Good God man, you're making a huge assumption. You of all people should know how press loves a murder story -- even if it turns out later to have been a heart attack."

"Yes sir, I know, but I found this," and placing a hand inside his tunic pocket he removed a small clear plastic bag. Something glinted golden inside. "It's a .22 cartridge case -- recently fired."

Njoroge sucked his breath in sharply. "You say forensic have been and taken their photographs, why did you not give it to the detectives?"

"I walked away from the scene while the forensic team and detectives were here and went to other side of the road for a smoke. I must have dropped my lighter, for when they had finished I was called over and told to stand guard until you arrived. Later I wanted another cigarette and could not find my lighter so went back to where I'd been sitting and in searching found this." The sergeant shook the package gently.

Njoroge snorted, the story was watertight and maybe even true. "Did you find your lighter?"

"Sir?"

"Your lighter, you said you were searching for it."

"Yes, sir -- after I found the cartridge case."

The sergeant's face betrayed nothing. Njoroge nodded.

"Very well, give it to me. I'll see that the detectives get it."

The sergeant handed the small packet over. Njoroge held it up to the light. That something so small had the potential to cause such damage to the struggling tourist economy was bizarre. First the terrorist bombs at the American embassy, then the problem of crime at the coast and the refugee surge from Sudan had scared all but the most intrepid travelers away. Finally, a new president and a revamped police force had begun to straighten the country out economically and crack down on crime and corruption; finally tourism was slowly but steadily increasing. Sighing he placed the packet into his suit pocket.

"You're to be commended sergeant -- I'll see that you receive credit for excellent work."

The sergeant nodded jerkily. "Thank you, sir." Both men understood that a deal had been agreed.


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The East Wind | To Taunt a Wounded Tiger | A Lie to Comfort the Dying | The Gatekeeper of Lies | The Consequence of Memory



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