by K Cheryl Mwanza| Episode #6
Detective Sergeant Brandon Makiwa sat across from Mrs. Ziko in one of the interview rooms. The woman was hardly startled by her niece dying, or maybe she was just good at masking her feelings. Either way the detective was about to find out. He cleared his throat, she looked at him with distaste in her mouth. He looked like the guys her daughter usually dated. Men who had no sense at all, they couldn’t see the perfect woman right in front of their eyes. The detective was young, fair and average looking. He was a jeans and hoodie type of guy and during cold days, he rocked a black woolen beanie with his name written around it in white.
“Your mother is okay with you waking out of the house dressed like an extra on a cheap music video?”
“I don’t live with my mother anymore, ma’am.” He said as he gathered his hands on the table. “Laura’s mother said you were personally responsible for delivering Laura to her in laws. According to her you left around one and by two latest you would have reached your destination.”
“How is it that she was abducted after six, and she was nowhere near Kuwadzana?”
“You are accusing me of a crime?”
“Lady, I don’t have a lot of time. Get up, I’m putting you in a holding cell until you ready to talk.” He said pulling his chair behind and taking out his handcuffs.
“You can’t do that.”
“Watch me.” He breathed out.
“Okay. Okay.” She said shaking her hands in the air. “I was supposed to meet her it town but she did not came. She had packed a bag the previous day and dropped it at my house. We were supposed to go that afternoon but she didn’t show up.”
“Then where was she?”
“How should I know? If the mother didn’t care enough to know the whereabouts of her daughter then why should I? Her not coming meant I had a load off me. You have to understand detective, I have a daughter who I am trying to marry off. You think I would lose sleep over some undecided little prick?”
“Can you tell me your whereabouts between two and seven that day?”
“Well I was in town with my oldest daughter until about three then we went back home. I never left home till the next morning when I went to church. You can ask my daughter, my husband and the next door neighbor. We kinda had a fight that afternoon. Long story that has nothing to do with the crime.”
“I will check on that. So you don’t know where Laura was that day?”
“No, she wasn’t picking up my calls.”
“Besides, Ronny, who else was Laura in a relationship with?”
“Nicholas from Town and Zander a visiting business man from Bulawayo. Give me a piece of paper and I will write you their addresses.” She said then quickly added, “You have to know detective, and I did care about her.”
“Yeah. I get that from everything you have just told me.”
“I have my own daughters to crack over about. If her own mother wasn’t concerned then why the hell should I?”
“I will be in touch ma’am.” He said getting up.
Makiwa met up with Detective Kegan Gono who had just gone through an interview with the Zvoushe family. Out of everyone who had come to the station that day, only Ronny seemed to be devastated by Laura dying. His father was actually glad the girl was dead. At least she would stop pestering his son.
If it wasn’t for his airtight alibi that he was in South Africa on that day, he would have been prime suspect for the crime. His wife hardly said much although she too seemed glad Laura was out of their son’s life. According to her, Laura was a bad influence on their son and was leading him astray. Before meeting Laura, Ronny was a God-fearing man with rock solid values. All that seemed to quickly rot away the more he became entangled with Laura.
“All they did was tarnish her name.” Gono said. “I’m still going to look further into their backgrounds. They might not have directly killed Laura, but they are involved in this somehow, I just know it.”
“From the profile given by the wonder kids, I highly doubt the killer was paid to do the job. There was something personal about Laura. She wasn’t selected for the killer. She was selected by the killer.” Makiwa said, “Besides Ronny, Laura had two more boyfriends.” He said showing Gono the note written by Mrs. Ziko.
“I will take Nicholas from town.” Gono said as both men walked out of the station.
Dhlamini met up with Doctor Saidi who had been waiting for then by the mortuary door. He first offered his condolences then led the way into the morgue. Mr. and Mrs. Vanhuvangu along with Dhlamini entered and stood by the side of table that had a body covered with a white cloth.
The whole room was silent except for Mrs. Vanhuvangu who was sobbing with painful moans. She had her hand over her mouth, and a part of her wanted this to be just one big misunderstanding. She wanted the body underneath not to be her daughter. She wanted so much for her daughter to be alive somewhere.
The doctor swallowed as he opened the cloth to the chest. Mrs. Vanhuvangu took in sharp bouts of air as she staggered backwards. She hit the wall then slid down with it as she began to sob out loud. Her husband on the other hand was frozen. All he managed to do was look away from his daughter’s ashen face. He wished to remember her for the beautiful woman that she was, not for what she had become.
Everything inside of him was frozen, and he found he couldn’t even walk, or think. When finally burning tears rolled down his face, he felt enough strength to walk toward his wife. Instead of picking her up, he knelt besides her and they began sobbing together.
“How long till the body is released?” Dhlamini asked.
“I’m done with the autopsy. Do they have a funeral policy or should we hold on to the body until they are ready to take it home?”
“Let me get in touch with the aunt and hear what she has to say.” She said as she looked at the sobbing couple. “Give them a few minutes alone. They need it.” She said walking away.
The doctor rushed after her, then loosely grabbed her hand such that she continued walking even though she had turned to acknowledge his presence.
“How do you deal with it? Being confronted by grieving parents constantly?”
“I share in their pain. Ngabe uyazi, Kuyanginika the strength to keep fighting till the bastard is behind bars.”
“I meant on a personal level. How do you deal with it?”
Dhlamini stopped then asked, “How do you?”
“I cry. I feel like crying right now.” He said and tears began trickling down his face.
Dhlamini put a comforting hand on the doctor’s shoulder then said, “I will catch the man who did this. I’m going to throw his ass in jail. Feeling like that, that’s how I deal with it.”
Zander Nxumalo fixed his tie in front of the full length mirror that doubled as a bathroom door then smiled in his reflection. A self-made CEO who ran a successful dairy in the heart of Bulawayo, his success had come rather as a surprise. He had started the Dairy Company as a means to take care of his expanding family. The job had made him a chick-magnet, and for someone who lived all his life being ignored by women, the change in scenery had done wonders for his self-confidence.
Now he was able to get any woman he wanted in Bulawayo and as it turned out, the game was the same in Harare. He had been there only three days when he had met a beautiful woman that made him feel young and so full of energy. Granted all she wanted from him was his money, he was glad to ‘bless’ her with it to her since he was getting his money’s worth in return.
Too bad his trip to Harare was ending today. Well, he thought to himself, he didn’t actually regret going back home. He had cut all ties with her and he was going home the same way he had come, with the only baggage he had being his luggage.
There was a knock on his door, he answered it and a clothed detective walked in. The detective’s gun was in full display and his hands were in finger-less gloves, the kind he had seen on street boxers from his township.
“Can I help you with anything?” He asked as he closed the door. “As you can see, I was about to check out.”
“You will check out when I say so, now sit down. Unless you want to take this to the station.”
“Should I call my lawyer?”
“Do you have any reason to call your lawyer?”
“I’m an inno-cent man.” He stammered.
“Tell me Mr. Nxumalo, do you have a wife?”
“Yes. And four children.”
“How old are your children?”
“The oldest is 23, then 20, 18, and 3.”
“A family man who was having an affair in Harare with a woman as old as his first child.” Makiwa said sitting down on a cushion chair. “You still not guilty?”
“Having an affair is not a crime.” He answered on the defensive as he dropped his tie. “People don’t go to jail because of that.”
“They don’t usually do. But when the woman he was having an affair with turns up dead, then you have a problem?”
“Dead? What do you mean dead? Laura?”
“Dead as in dead, dead. She was found murdered-“
“Murdered? Who would do that to her?”
“That’s what I need to find out. So Mr. Nxumalo, when did you last see Laura Vanhuvangu?”
“Three days ago? But I didn’t kill her.”
“What time?” He asked ignoring his last statement.
“From one to five.”
“She left saying she needed to go home.” He said choking. “I allowed her to.”
“What happened in the time that you were together?” Makiwa asked looking straight into Zander’s eyes.
Zander was beginning to sweat and something about his demeanor betrayed his innocence. Makiwa made a couple of notes in a small black diary, looked up then said,
“I won’t ask again.” There was a chill in his voice that made Zander almost wet his pants.
“We talked.” He answered. He swallowed hard as he felt guilt eating away the pit of his stomach. Feeling defeated, he added, “She suspected she was pregnant. I told her it was too early to tell. She wouldn’t let me go just like that.”
“So what did you do?”
“I gave her five thousand dollars for an abortion and she left. I swear.” He said tears welling up in his eyes.
“Five thousand? Where did she put all that money?”
“In a black handbag. She always carried that bad every time that we were together. I asked if it was the only bag she had, she told me it was her favorite bag.”
“Can you describe the bag for me?”
“It was a Jackie Black designer bag.” He said getting up and disappearing behind the bedroom wall. He came back with a copy of Jewel Magazine then opened to a page in the middle of the Magazine. “That’s the bag.” He said pointing at a black handbag with gold lining priced at two hundred and fifty dollars. “She bought it in Rosemary, at Tiffany Forester’s boutique. She bragged about how not many people could afford it. I can’t believe that was our last conversation together.”
“Is there anything else that you can tell me?”
“She did say that once stolen the bag was easy to trace since it had a barcode or something. Like GPS. All she needed to do was go back to the boutique and report it stolen.”
“Thank you for all your help, Mr. Nxumalo. Have a nice trip back home.” He said as he got up.
Left alone, Nxumalo threw himself at the bed, suddenly confronted by his own mortality. A girl he had spent the entire week with was dead. Just like that. It gave him the chills just thinking about it.
He sat up, reached for his phone then called his wife.
Nicholas was no help however. According to his mother, he left for China two months back on an Engineering scholarship. It didn’t matter though, Zander had given the police another lead to follow.
Laura’s body was released to Nyaradzo funeral home and a day and a half later released to her family. She was buried in Warren Hills Cemetery on a cold morning with friends and family present. Her mother had almost cried herself to death, and by the time the coffin was being lowered into the ground, all she did was stare. Her father on the other hand could not control his tears and on two occasions he had threatened to jump on the coffin.
Cynthia had attended the funeral and she had sobbed like she had been close to the victim. For her however, the fact that she found the body had forged a bond between her and Laura that was so strong, she felt like she had known Laura.
As people began to walk away from the grave, Laura’s mother had stayed back. So had Cynthia. After everyone was gone, the two women came together and for a long time hardly talked about anything. They focused on the freshly dug grave.
As the sun was setting and streaks of red appearing in the sky, Mrs. Vanhuvangu turned to Cynthia then said, “You are supposed to be a journalist, right?”
“You haven’t asked me anything.”
“Because I’m not here as a journalist. I came here as-“
“The woman who found my daughter.” She completed the sentence. “She was the world to me you know. I could only have one child and I tried my best to raise her right.” She shook her hand then breathed out.
“You tried your very best. But the world is still cruel.” Cynthia answered.
“Right.” She said as she reached into her jacket pocket. “When I saw you back at home, I thought of two things.” She took out her daughter’s diary from the pocket then handed it to Cynthia. Inside was a picture of a brightly smiling Laura. The picture brought tears to Cynthia’s eyes. “My daughter, she wasn’t perfect. No one is. But she was an okay person. I know how these investigations go. But whatever happens, I want you to see my daughter through her own eyes.”
Cynthia wiped her eyes as both women turned to look at the freshly dug grave.