Another call comes through, Mr. Onkwani again. I wondered what would be bothering him now.
“Maina, fanya hivi, rudi tukutane hapa Galleria, nimekumbuka kuna kitu gari haikuwa imecheckiwa na sio vizuri uende na gari ikusumbue.” “Kuja tuangalie”
“Sawa, wacha nigeuke.”
I figured whatever was in store at Rongai would wait. In fact, by the time we were done with the check, the traffic would have reduced. So I waited for the oncoming traffic to reduce and made an illegal U turn right there. The drive to Galleria was shorter since the traffic was not as heavy as it was towards Rongai. I almost missed that exit to Galleria. It was my first time and still under confident. I found a parking spot dimmed the lights and sat for a while. Feeling great of course. You would think I had conquered the world. After about five minutes, I called Onkwani. ‘Yes Please’ had totally taken me away and I kind of forgot about the rest of the world. The lot was empty, so I would be easy to spot. He said he would be with me in 5 minutes.
He arrived in the company of another guy in less than the five minutes as he had said. I never left the driver’s seat. He walked over to the driver’s side and he asked me to step outside. This I did without protest. He said the wheels needed alignment and balancing since he had not done that after the last wheel change. I told him that it was actually a good idea that he was around Galleria since we could do it right there. He said that would not work since he had his preferred garage. I think it should have started ‘smelling’ rats at this point. I said fine. So he asked if it was okay we be driven by his friend who I never took note of his name. I stepped out of the vehicle and sat back right. I expected him to sit at the front seat but he did not. He walked around the car and sat on the back left seat. Onkwani looked at me with a face full of concern or was it adult mischief? I expected him to ask a question but he took his time. By this time I had loosened my tie and one could see my vest since I had undone the top buttons of my shirt. I was already safe in the comfort of ‘my car’.
“Hiyo ni station gani unaskiza?”
“Sio station, ni kitabu naskiza.”
“Haiya! Siku hizi zinakuja hivo?”
“Eeee, unasoma tu ukifanya shughuli zako.”
“Unapenda kusoma sana?”
“Books are good,” I said.
“Ndio maana wewe ni mjanja hivo, sindio?”
“Ati?” I had not understood what his last statement meant. No. I acted stupid…
“I do not understand what you mean by that Ujanja term.”
“Let me tell you something Maina, we have been in this Nairobi for a very long time, & we can tell when people are trying to get smart. We came here to find an honest penny but some people just don’t want to see you get it.”
I give him a clueless face. We have not left Galleria yet.
“I called your referrals and they have given me conflicting information. The only thing that sounded true was that you live around Umoja and that you are not married. Ile kitu sielewi ni, wewe ulikuwa askari ama wewe ni askari?”
Ahaa!! This explains the call I received from that lady friend of mine about marriage and all. The only thing that rung in my mind was that she hang up on me. I let out a giggle that did not come out so well. So Onkwani was at me again.
“Where and how have I lied to you?”
“Haya sasa niambie vizuri, wewe ni nani na unafanya nini.”
“As I said before, I am a student pilot at Wilson and that is what I do.”
“Mbona unataka Gari?”
“I have business to take care of and I needed a car to take care of it safely.”
“A student, business… which business is this?”
“Do I have to tell you that Mr Onkwani? Why not tell me what this interrogation is all about? If you have second thoughts about giving me your car, you can return my money and I will find another car hire company and we can both go our different ways!”
“Nooo, I am not interrogating you. I just want to know your intentions. You know, something tells me you are not genuine.” One of your friends say they are not sure what you really do. They know you are a student at Wilson but they do not know which job you do. Not even one mention about being an askari…”
“Ngoja kwanza, I was not a police officer by the way. I was a military officer with the Air Force. Askari is a general term. Ama kama ulikuwa unataka nitumie jeshi. Sawa, nilikuwa jeshi na nilitoka.”
“That is one of the things I don’t understand Maina… In my village, young men and women are crying for jobs, why would leave such a lucrative job?”
Directing my voice to the driver. “Excuse, ebu nitolee hio simu.” Amy Poehler’s voice was suddenly silenced. I gave Onkwani a stern look and asked him.
“Is this about the car or are we now going to discuss my career?”
“I just need to understand something, why did such a young man leave a job so good. I also wanted to join the Military but I was never picked, eh. So why leave when so young?”
“People are different Mr Onkwani. We get jobs because of different reasons. Mine was different from yours. Now can we move on because I have a feeling this is not about wheel alignment.”
“Sawa basi, Mimi, kusema ukweli, I think you wanted to steal my car. Nimejisemea pangu.”
I let a laugh so loud the guy at the front seat turned around to give me a good look.
“You are not serious James, are you?”
“I am. Unajua nyinyi vijana wa siku hizi ni wajanja sana! Ama aje nani (referring to his friend at the front) so nimeona, nikuje niendelee na vetting nijue kama ni ukweli.”
“Wait, James, you saw my documents right? I gave them to you and you gave them a good look, if I am as smart as you claim I am, why would I pull a stupid move as use my own documents to hire a car and then run off with it. Gari yako ina tracking sindio? Na nimekulipa? Na nilikuonyesha shule yangu? Nini sasa!?”
“Mr Maina I am not saying you are a car thief, I am just saying you are a suspect. & as I said some of us came from very humble backgrounds and we came to Nairobi to make an honest living. So when someone tries to make us fools, we feel very bad and actually we feel insulted…”
“Wait! Wait! Wait! So you are referring to me in this claim? Do you realize that as you speak you are insulting me?”
“Sasa, wewe niskize Maina, I did not insult you, I am saying it like it is.”
“So what do you want?”
“Mimi sasa, I am an honest person, and I don’t like spoiling my business. Sitoshi kudhibitisha kama mambo unasema ni ya ukweli ama ni uongo. So, I just want us to go to a police station because I don’t believe you one bit. Otherwise hii ni attempted robbery.”
I laughed again. By now he was used. I had dealt with such characters before or their equivalent. But this is the real world and I had a real situation, or so I thought. Some people are just thick in the head naturally. It is almost contagious. So here I was a car theft suspect. The car that was here in the first place.
“Okay then, let us go to wherever it is you feel they will authenticate my documents.”
“Naniii, twende Karen.” (Referring to the Driver)
Suspicious note two. The nearest police station was Langata. I do not know why he chose Karen. But the innocent spirit was flowing all over. Again, I am not the kind to be intimidated by the Police. Unless in another life. I told him I was okay with whatever he decided as long as he was comfortable. I fastened my seat belt and settled on my seat comfortably ready for the ride to Karen.
“Ati umekuwa jeshi miaka ngapi?”
“Wewe ni kijana mdogo bana, mbona unanidanganya?”
“Ni mimi nilikuwa Jeshi ama ni wewe sasa?” “Kama unajua si uwache basi kuuliza!”
I was already getting pissed. Since I could not use my earphones – which would have been rude, I accessed Kindle and picked up from where I had left off with The Mystery of Malaysian Airlines 370 by Sylvia Wrigley. I had found it while browsing aviation books on Amazon. I shut out the world around me and embarked on my read. I cannot remember if he spoke to me again but time surely flew and in no time, we were at Karen shopping center. I set up my bookmark and braced for the upcoming encounter.
“Sasa Maina, Hio story unaniambia, utapeana hapa.” “Hawa wana uwezo wa kutuambia kama ni ukweli ama ni uongo.”
This he said while we were pulling up at an empty parking lot next to the reception at the police station. I later noted the slot was for the OCS. Then we walked to the occurrence desk where an officer with an oversize sweater was reading an article from a piece of a newspaper.
“Jambo! Habari ya leo?” Went Onkwani.
“Muzuri bwana, Iko nini?”
“Sasa afande, hapa iko maneno. Huyu kijana tumepatana leo, Alikuwa anataka gari, car hire. Mimi nikampea na roho safi, sasa, shida iko kwamba documents zake siziamini…”
“Ngoja, kidogo… unataka kusema ameunda makaratasi ama?” “Kwa sababu huereweki, bwana!” said the officer.
“Documents nimeziona lakini kwa ile kujaribu kudhibitisha, kuna maneno kadhaa haiingiani!” “Kwa hivyo nikaona ni vizuri mnidhibitishie hio maneno nisije nikapeana gari, ipotee…” “Na ndio maana nimekuja kwenu.”
“Ohhh, nimekuerewa sasa.” “Ebu muingie hapo kwa ofisi mningojee nisikirize hio maneno yenu vizuuri.”
We were directed to an inner office with a desk at one corner three seats and a bench. We sat there silently as we waited for officer whoever. He did take his time. Maybe he was consulting because when they came, they were two of them. One sat on one of the seats, I had taken my position on the bench already and the other one sat on the table.
The new guy was already barking!
“Naona magaidi wameanza kuingia mapema leo Ndung’u?”
“Sasa niambie shida yenu.” Said the guy we met at the reception.
Onkwani was the first to speak. His attempt to disguise a squeak in his voice with a fake bass and an accent free flow of words was just failing badly! He just dragged and slurred through his words.
“Sasa, kama nilivyosema, mimi nina biashara ya car hire. We had a contract with this guy and gave him my car. But after second thoughts, kuna kitu iliniambia… documents za huyu jamaa haziingiani, mara alikuwa askari, mara ni pilot… mara ni mwanafunzi… mara hana kazi… Na bado anasema gari ni ya kufanya biashara Fulani. Sasa mimi nashangaa, biashara gani na mtu hana kazi ama mahali pa kutoa pesa? Kitu ndani yangu ikaniambia, pengine, hii ni gari yangu inataka kuibwa. Haya! Kupigia watu alinipea simu zao, nao wananipea story tofauti. Ndio nikashuku Zaidi. So I called the guy… aaand asked him to meet me I needed to do something to the car that I had not done. Ndio tukapatana, nikamwambia tukuje hapa tuhakikishe.”
Ndung’u the officer was the first to respond. “Kwa ufupi unatuabia huyu ni suspect ya wizi, sidio? Na arikuwa anajaribu kuiba gari ama sikuerewei?”
“Kitu kama hio…”
“Basi sijui hapa story mingi ni za nini!” “Ingiza huyu mtu kwa OB na uchukue statement ya mwenye gari” “Hii ni kazi rahisi sana, koti itaamua hio maneno ingine”
Well, a booking in the OB for me meant, a night in the cells. Well done fate, well done! It was now approaching 10 pm.