By Lawrence Kadzitche
The offer could not have come at any better time. Chitekwe was deep in financial problems. He was behind with his rent by six months. In three days the loan shark would come to grab all his property. His nagging wife had gone to see her mother and was threatening to leave him if he did not buy her the new dress she had seen in Hanif’s shop at Bwalolanjovu by the time she returned the following week. School fees for his daughter were also due.
Chitekwe worked as a watchman for Dubaduya, owner of the largest shop at Kawale. He decided to approach his employer for a loan.
“Sir, I’m in trouble. I don’t know what to do. My landlord is threatening to evict me. Mguntha will confiscate all my property if I don’t repay his money by Monday.”
Dubaduya stared thoughtfully at him. “How much money do you need to pay rent and settle all your loans?”
Chitekwe told him.
“That’s equivalent to your salary for two years,” Dubaduya pointed out. “Even if I can give you the loan now, how will you repay it?”
“It’s my wife. She’s always looking for new things every month,” the watchman said miserably. “That’s why I’m always borrowing money.”
Dubaduya laughed. “Then divorce her. That’s the best way out.”
Chitekwe looked horrified. How could he divorce her? She would kill him. Even Dubaduya knew that Eliza was not a woman to be trifled with. She should have joined boxing instead of getting married. “Err… it’s that…”
“I was only joking, my dear friend,” the shopkeeper said putting his arm on Chitekwe’s shoulder. “A family is the most important thing one ever has.”
Chitekwe was surprised. Every one knew that Dubaduya was not a friendly man. But he was talking as if he was his personal friend.
“You’re a hard working man, Chitekwe,” went on the shop owner. “What would you do to own a shop like mine?”
“Anything,” the words came automatically out of the watchman’s mouth. “Even sell my own mother.”
Chitekwe thought Dubaduya would laugh at his joke. But the shopkeeper looked serious. “I’m not joking, Chitekwe. I want to give you a way out of your poverty.”
The watchman fell on his knees. “Sir, I’d do anything to get money. I’m like a person swept by an angry river.”
Dubaduya waved him back to his seat. “Listen carefully, Chitekwe. Getting rich is not easy. One needs to be strong, to have a heart of steel. One may have to do things one doesn’t like, do you understand that?”
Chitekwe did not understand but he nodded. “Sir, I would even sell myself to get rich.”
“Chitekwe, do you believe in magic charms?” Dubaduya asked.
The watchman was taken aback by the sudden change of subject. He had thought Dubaduya was going him to give him some sort of an offer. “Well, I don’t know. I’ve never thought seriously about the subject.”
“Well, let me tell you that magic charms exist and they work,” Dubaduya said. “Learn from me. Fifteen years ago I was poorer than you. But I got some charms and lo and behold I was a rich man.”
Chitekwe said nothing. He was looking for money, not charms to make money.
“I’m not asking you to get magic charms,” Dubaduya said as if reading his thoughts. “I want to open a new shop at Chigwirizano. I need magic charms for the new shop. I want you to get them for me. I’ll pay you two million kwacha cash.”
Chitekwe stared at the shopkeeper in disbelief. Two million kwacha was more money than he would ever see in five years.
“What do I have to do?” he asked eagerly.
“Get me private parts of a ten year girl.”
Chitekwe’s hopes crashed around him like a house made of sand. Murder hadn’t figured in his plans. Commonsense battled against greed. But he really didn’t have any choice. If he refused the offer he would be back into his financial woes. While if he accepted, he would clear his rental arrears, pay off the loan shark and Eliza could buy whatever she wanted. He would also have enough money left to start a business.
Greed won. “When do you need the private parts?”
“Tomorrow afternoon. Come with them here. You’ll be off duty until you accomplish the mission,” Dubaduya stood up to show that discussion was over. “But one thing: make sure the murder is not traced to you. I’ll not buy the goods if I feel there’s a chance of you getting caught.”
As he made his way home, Chitekwe racked his brains on how to kill a girl without being caught. The heavily populated township did not have any areas where one could stage an ambush. The only way was to abduct a girl and kill her in his house. But what if someone saw him? He would have a burning tire around his neck while a mob destroyed his house. That was township justice.
He arrived home a worried man. He had the opportunity to make money but was failing to find a way of doing so.
“Daddy, did you buy me my doll?” it was his ten year daughter Lisa.
He had forgotten that he had promised her a doll. Even if he had remembered, he could buy it with what? But if he found a girl like her…
A girl like her…Why not her, a voice asked him. Two million kwacha was a lot of money. Killing his daughter would be easy. His wife was away. He could kill her and report her as missing. He would hide her body and when the body was discovered no one would suspect him. Who would think of a father killing his own daughter?
Of course he would miss her but would eventually get over it. He would after all bear other children. The idea grew roots in his mind and he settled on it as the best alternative. Foolproof, just as Dubaduya wanted it.
He killed Lisa late that night and removed her private parts. He cut her body into pieces and stuffed them into a plastic bag. He dumped the bag in an old disused well far from his house.
The first thing he did in the morning was to go into the motion of asking his neighbours if Lisa had slept at their house. No one had seen her but most of them assured him not to worry she would return. Maybe she had slept at a friend’s house.
Satisfied, he went to see Dubaduya in the afternoon, a bag containing the private parts clutched in his greedy hands. Wailing greeted his ears before he saw he saw a crowd gathered in the businessman’s yard. Chitekwe’s heart skipped a beat. He quickened his step.
“What has happened?” he asked the gardener, his heart hammering.
“Haven’t you heard?” Sitoko asked tears, streaming down his bony face. “Mr. Dubaduya was involved in a car accident this morning.”
“How is he?” the question was wrenched from Chitekwe’s mouth.
“He died on the spot.”
Chitekwe’s heart lurched. Dubaduya was dead. So he had killed his daughter for nothing. Something snapped in his brain.
“Where is he?” he howled foaming at the mouth. “He can’t do this to me. I need my money. Give him this,” he said throwing the bag containing his daughter’s private parts at the astonished gardener.