Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

“My day cannot get any worse,” Sale said despondently to himself as he stared at the long line of cars that trailed out in front of him. “Of all times to be caught up in a hold up, this is the worst!”
At that moment, his mobile phone began to ring for the fiftieth time in the past half-hour. He did not have to look at it to know it was his boss again. He lunged at it and picked the call on the second ring.

“Sir,” he spluttered, “am almost there… it’s the traffic…”

“Young man, you better get yourself over here in the next five minutes and clean up this mess, or else!” his boss issued threateningly before hanging up. 

Next FIVE minutes?! Haba, I am no magician. How does he expect me to scale through this jam and get down there in the next five minutes? 

He knew, though, that his boss never gave empty threats. He had better be at the office in the next five minutes like he had ordered.

He manoeuvred his car out of the long line of traffic, looked for a place to park and jumped out, racing towards a row of buildings on the other side. He knew there was shortcut in there that led to a smaller road, and planned to get an okada to work from there. 

He was halfway into the narrow path when someone came whizzing past, brushing roughly against him.

Now that is one man who is in more of a hurry than I am, he mused to himself. Somewhat motivated by the other man's speed, he decided to increase his own pace. However, he had not gone much further when another set of hurried footsteps approached him, and the next thing he heard was, "Stop there!"

Certain he was about to be robbed, he spun around to have his astonishment increase at the sight of a policeman standing just a few yards away, with a gun pointing threateningly at him.

“You have the right to remain silent…” the uniformed man spat at him as a pair of handcuffs appeared as though by magic and in a matter of seconds, Sale found himself handcuffed. Confused, frightened and ready to pee on himself, he tried to fathom what law he could have broken. 

Was the path out of bounds to pedestrians? Had he parked his vehicle illegally after leaving the traffic jam? He couldn’t think of what it was, and even as he struggled with his thoughts, another policeman joined them in a half-run.

“You catch am,” he addressed his colleague in a mixture of surprise and admiration.

“Yes o,” the other answered proudly, “the bloody criminal almost escaped, but trust me na!”

“What? I don’t understand what is going on here,” Sale finally found his voice. “Criminal? Me?”

Neither of the men were about to give him any audience. “Keep quiet,” he was told, “you can say everything you want to say when we get to the station.” 

Unceremoniously, he was led out of the alley and a few blocks down the road to a police van that was parked in front of a supermarket. There were a number of people standing there and they stared curiously as he was roughly pushed into the back of the van and hauled away. Everything happened very fast! 

At the station, Sale was stripped roughly of his possessions, shirt, belt, trousers, phone, car keys and wallet. Then he was bundled into a cell with nothing but his boxers on, still with no explanation or reason given for his arrest. All through it he kept trying to ask what he had done, and he was continuously shouted down and even threatened with being shot if he kept resisting.

Resisting? I am not resisting! Just want to know what I did!

He threw frightened glances at the other occupants of the cell as he tried to find a quiet corner to retreat to. They all looked like they were hardened criminals, and recalling tales of horror he had heard of what people like him suffered in the hands of criminals in a place like this, he decided that this had to be his worst nightmare come to reality.

Wetin dey do you?” one of the inmates questioned roughly when he noticed his edgy behavior. 

“Nnnnn...nothing, sir,” Sale stuttered, feeling the eyes of every single man in there on him and wishing he could just disappear. Suddenly, he felt the urgent need to urinate.

“Obong, give this yeye man the singlet. Na him turn to fan me now,” the man commanded. Apparently, he was the kingpin in the cell. The singlet was thrown at Sale who grabbed it quickly and began fanning in earnest. But he was shaking so badly with fear that he botched the simple task.

“You dey craze? Na so dem dey fan?” The kingpin sprang to his feet in fury, ready to descend on him with blows.

At that moment, the officer who had made the arrest earlier returned, just in time to save his hide from a beating. “Hey, you… criminal,” he motioned Sale out of the cell. “My Oga wants to talk to you.”

The Oga, the D.P.O., was standing at the other side of the counter. He looked up as Sale was led to him and asked his man rhetorically, “This is the thief?” Sale was alarmed. Thief?! How!

The officer nodded in the affirmative and the D.P.O. turned to Sale, “So you are one of those making life difficult for the citizens of this town, abi? Now, where did you hide all the money you stole from that supermarket?”

Sale tried to defend himself; “I-I… ddddon't know what you are talking about. I am not a criminal, I think there’s a mix-up here. I was only on my way to the office when…”

“Will you SHUT UP! You bloody liar, on your way to the office indeed! What kind of fools do you think we are? You that I chased and caught by myself, with my own hands!” the officer screamed at him, then turned again to his boss.

“Sir, it was just fortunate that we were driving past the supermarket when this criminal was robbing there at gunpoint. It was when he ran out and the sales lady shouted for help that we realized what had happened, then gave him a hot pursuit. We were able to corner him in a dark alley not far away and made the arrest.”

Sale tried again to explain that he had nothing to do with any robbery and was just an innocent passer-by, but no one was interested in hearing him out. They were so convinced of his guilt. Disgusted, the D.P.O. ordered his men to return him to the cell, promising to make him pay dearly for his crimes.

The Story Continues>>> Final Part

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