As he drives out of the house he notices that the left passenger side mirror is missing and thoughts rush through his mind like torrents in a storm drain. Did I get into an accident last night and was not aware? Impossible.
He stops the car and looks closer and realizes that the mirror has been pushed backwards as it would be if somebody underestimated his girth as they pass between two cars. He gets out, pushes the mirror back in place “wtf?” He thinks silently as he climbs back into the car heading to his appointment. He looks at the dashboard clock as he thinks about how late already for a 10 o’clock appointment.
I will pay attention to this mystery when I can focus.
As he parks at the police station, the answer to the question he was not even aware he was asking but was there all along “how did he get into the car- nothing seems to be broken”. The left front passenger window looks normal until you stop looking at it- and you realize there is something not quiet right about it. You know like how the dentures fit in the mouth- not quiet natural really- but adequate for those that are paying attention elsewhere.
The window appeared as if it had been taken out and forced back in. Whoever it was they were in a relaxed mode. They were intent on making sure they are not spotted, yet they get the work done. That feeling of violation comes rushing in. He is now paying attention to all his senses. He starts realizing what else is missing. The jacket that had covered the laptop earlier that afternoon while he sprinted for the train and could not put it away in time. It’s gone. The top half of one of his favorite suits. He feels a tinge of loss. Looks at the backseat of the car and also realizes. That winter felt jacket he had been keeping there is gone. Earlier in the month it had been winter. That back seat had been a moving winter wardrobe.That brown jersey that he had not worn since he bought it over two years ago. The winters were not as cold I guess. Somehow it felt appropriate to wear it this year. It was also gone.
He walked into the police station, remembering the last time he was in it. It had changed completely. New chairs, shiny floors. The pictures of the ministers of police and safety or whatever they call that political department now. There were five people in total in the queue . One of the plain clothes policemen passed by him absent mindedly, with a gun holstered neatly in its leather holster. He looked around and almost immediately caught the eye of what appeared to be the floor manager or a queue manager. You know like the ones some banks use to manage traffic that flows into the bank.
She enquired as to what he was there for. “My car has been broken into- I would like to report the case”.
“That’s the window to use” says the queue manager. A broad smile on her face.
He approached the window and was met by the smile of the gentleman behind the counter. He was wearing a blue uniform, neatly pressed, with corners so sharp a fly would lose a limb should it have landed on one of those creases. the word constable written on his brooch.
“How can I help you sir?” His teeth were white and he had a quiet anticipatory disposition. It was amazing how things had changed from how they used to be a few years ago. Dirty floors, pregnant girls dragging their feet while the queue stood still in 32 degree heat. Unbearable. “She walks around like she has a boil between her ass cheeks” one customer had commented snidely. She had had been in a vehicle collision where “this drunk nearly killed me and my children”. She was fuming then “if I could just catch him- I would kill him- never mind that he’s a man and I am a woman”.
“Sir…” The smile was fading, consternation slowly taking its place. He got out of reverie and repeated his plight.
“Oh I’m so sorry sir! That is too bad! Was anything stolen?”
“Yes, a couple of personal items. Still not sure of the extent of it. ” the constable was already completing elements of the form – date, his signature etc.
“Can I ask you to complete this part sir”‘ the constable pushed the form across the counter to mashudu. Mashudu started completing the form-
“Which window Is broken sir?”
” it’s not broken, just jippered and taken out then pushed Back in again” answered mashudu, without lifting his head.
The constable continued to ask questions about the incident until he had all the information written down.
” please read through the statement and sign here please” he points to the bottom of the form.
When all of the forms were completed, the constable stapled all of these together and pressed a few keys on the computer in front of him. “We are almost done sir” he raised his face with that toothpaste smile to mashudu. “Just a few more questions for the next step of the process” continued the constable.
“Do you have the car here?”
“Did you touch anything in the car other than what was necessary to drive here”
“Okay ” he punched a few more keys into the computer
“There we go sir, we are done with part one of this process. An SMS will come through confirming the case number in the next few minutes. The next step is to see the investigating officer standing just behind you. Please follow her to your car please.”
” Thank you” mashudu looks over his shoulder to see a tall black woman with those expensive looking weaves. Black suit- skirt and top. Kind of flared at the hem, falling just below her knees. Her high heeled shoes accentuating her long caramel legs. Blemish less. She looked more like a bank official than a police investigating officer. Mashudu smiled as he follows just behind her not to look at her form and the confident way she was moving. Her confidence caused gentle undulations of her body. Mashudu caught up with her as he is finishing his thought: Connie Masilo-ferguson meets cop.
“My name is Eunice. I will be investigating your case”. Her voice. Honey molasses. Mashudu almost gasps. She could be doing any job, but she is here. Years ago it was unheard off. A woman like her would rather work in a bank, be an actor or maybe a retail consultant instead of a policewoman. .policewomen got no respect then. So what you would typically see would be what another disgruntled customer on the queue called “legwenya la summer- le tshutshuma mafura” (a summer fatcake sweltering fat all over). It was not known which designer made the uniforms then. All of them would squeeze their ATMs into size 52 pants- the belt tightened tightly at the waist. Otherwise the officials in the police stations would be in their personal plain clothes with no semblance of order on whether this person was an employee or a customer.
His train of thought stops abruptly. “You said the left front passenger window right?”
Yes” he replies
“Did you touch it?” She asks again
She takes out a finger-dusting kit out of her bag. Gingerly opens a silver container and dips a small brush that could be a make-up brush on to the window pane. The doors. The side mirror. Her hands move fast. Self assured. She has a mellow look on her caramel face. Blemish- free. Her lips are small, the color of dark cherry. her lipstick perfectly applied. She takes out what looks like a masking tape- runs it over the powder on the prints she sees.
“Done!” She pronounces as she packs her paraphernalia. “Please follow me to the waiting room. do you have time still?”
“Yees” mashudu replies tentatively. Eunice notices this and quickly starts explaining that they are moving into part 3 of the process. She will go into the computer system to do an analysis of the prints and try to see if they match anyone on the national database.
“You might want to grab a cup of coffee… The total process should be over within the hour” mashudu looks at his watch, it’s been 30 minutes since he first walked throuGh the doors of the police station. It can’t be all that bad- he thinks to himself and watches as the investigating officer undulate into the back office.
It was a good thing he had decided to go back out into the car to collect his iPad. It had been raining that evening. An enjoyable night out for dinner. And at eleven P.M. he parked the car, jumped out and opened the back passenger door and dragged the laptop bag out and over his shoulder into the house.
In the house he quickly got out of the wet clothes, started locking doors and switching off the lights. Otherwise the rest of the house was quiet. As he steps into bed he remembers that the iPad was on the floor in the backseat of the car. “No way, I am not leaving it out there. The last time I did that I lost a projector” he murmurs to himself as he takes the keys and goes outside to collect the iPad.
“Sir…” Honey molasses again. “Can you follow me please”. Mashudu stands up and follows her undulations. He sits down at her instruction in the small office. No ventilation. Clean though. Table is neat, with 3 piles to the right side of the chair and a laptop and an inbox. A vase with those decorative plant installations stands in the corner to the room.
” we have managed to match three patterns. One of them is obviously yours. However the 2nd has been traced to this gentleman” she pushes a picture across the table. manicured hands. shows him the picture of a slight man, protruding shoulder blades, gaunt face and eyes that have disappeared into the sockets. Like they were trying to hide from the very camera that was trying to capture them.
“Do you recognize him?” she asked- her intelligent eyes piercing into him. The whites of her eyes were very white. He noticed that her iris were rather hazel. Wait what color is hazel again?
“No” he answered.
“okay. I am going to organize a search for him. We will give you a call as soon as we get news of him”. She produced another form.
“Can I ask you to sign here”…..