“Is this the reporting desk?” the young man’s voice falters, like he dreads the reply he is yet to get.
The policeman sneers, points at a handwritten sign and the boy has his answer.
“I’d like to report a robbery” the young man wipes his brow, and exposes a gash on his elbow, the shirt he has on is dirtied, like he was on the receiving end of a scuffle on a dirty road.
The police man sniffs, removes a crumpled handkerchief from his pocket and blows his nose loudly. He motions the young man to sit on a wooden bench and disappears behind the door from which he emerged from. After the policeman is gone, the young man is joined by a young woman of about twenty and they sit in silence. Staring at nothing in particular, each lost in their own thoughts.
A motorbike pulls up at a dimly lit shop, and two young men alight. The shop is green, and there are two men waiting to get served at the shop. The motorbik’s engine runs, a baseball-donning rider with open shoes ensuring the black Boxer 150 doesn’t go off. The brochure said that its engine is self cooling to avoid heating on long journeys, and that it has a higher torque than any bike in its price range, but the riders’ limited grasp of reading meant he tossed the brochure as soon as he got it. After silencing the phones in their pockets that won’t stop ringing, the two young men approach the shop, looking around furtively. One of them reaches into his green bomber jacket, with an image of Medusa, the Greek gorgon, emblazoned on the back and pulls out a .38 Smith & Wesson pistol. It’s shiny, even in the low light, and the first customer notices the weapon pointed in his direction. His open mouth has the shopkeeper and the other customer catching on, and they put their hands up in an awkward mid-air stance. The young man without the gun ransacks the two customers, while barking to the shopkeeper to hand over everything in the till or get his brains blown out. A door is opened and the young man squeezes into the shop, it smells like pishori, spices and urine. The shopkeeper is so scared his khaki pants have the distinct marking of a man who has wet his pants.
The policeman comes back with a big, four-quire book. He feels his pants and breast pocket, and asks the couple if they have a pen. The young man makes a grimace, shakes his head slowly, puts his arms out, his palms facing the mould-infested ceiling, and the policeman shuffles into the door whose silence is broken occasionally by cackling radio calls. He comes back with a black pen and motions to the couple to approach his desk. The girl walks with a limp, the short walk to the desk to the desk taking longer than it should. The policeman records their names, and particulars. Then he asks what they would like to record. The girl breaks down and starts crying, and the young man holds her shaking head on his lap. It’s an uncomfortable scene for the policeman, now joined by a colleague who stares, while pulling long puffs at a lit cigarette. The young man explains that a gang of three on a motorcycle just robbed them of everything they had on, including the girls asthma inhaler as they walked from school. The officer from his desk, scribbles down as the young man talks. His near-illegible handwriting notes that a report for a noise complaint was made. There have been too many such cases and the station can’t handle another open case. He shuts the books and lets the couple know that they’ll be contacted when investigations are done. He rises up and the girl rises her head up, her eyes bloodshot from the crying, and what is more of a wheeze than a statement, asks to use his phone to call to be picked up.
With currency notes stuffed in a neon green bag, the young man emerges from the trap door, and steps out into inactivity. A blue patrol car drives slowly on the road, a good distance from the shop. The armed young man cocks his gun, and conceals it behind his standing leg. The driver of the bike, makes what looks like a phone call. The young man with the bills nervously pulls one out and asks the shopkeeper to hand him chewing gum. The patrol car slows down. The gun is now at the young man’s waist. His body is trembling and everyone’s heart rate at the shop beats like a runner’s after back-to-back sprints. The bike driver locks stares with the driver of the patrol car. He asks him when they are going home, the young man laughs nervously and says that they are waiting for pampers to be packed and they will leave. The shopkeeper nervously tags at his turban and looks at the patrol car helplessly as he packs numerous pellets of chewing gum into the bag that contains the days earnings. Signal the police and he might leave his wife a widow. He keeps his eyes fixed down as the policeman asks whether everything is okay. The young man slips his pistol into his back pocket and shows a thumbs up to the patrol car that is pulling away slowly. His heart beats so loudly, he can’t hear the motorbike roar into life and a reggae mix blast into the Nairobi night.
A white Pajero speeds into a police station.. A middle-aged man jumps out and is followed by a woman clutching at a shawl and who appears to be his wife, judging by the identical slippers they both have on. At the counter, a troubled-looking man wearing a turban, sits at a desk explaining to a policeman how he just lost his days earning to a gang of three young men on a bike The young woman runs into their arms, and they hold her in a tight embrace. The young man stands aside awkwardly, one hand in his denim jeans, the other rubbing the nape of his neck. The man presses a currency note into the palm of the officer whose phone woke them at 2 a.m and thanks him profusely. After another promise that the phone will ring again when investigations are concluded, the young man is invited into the vehicle that promptly pulls off, leaving a trail of dust in its wake.