The Manor house was situated at the top of the hill. It had taken Woolie just over twenty-five minutes to walk up from the gate where the yellow-and black Nissan matatu had dropped him off. The long, asphalt drive-way was lined with tall match-wood trees on either side. Beyond the trees were open fields. Woolie observed black-and-white dairy cattle grazing in the deep grass. There was also a small flock of sheep feeding happily in the sun on this Monday morning in late march.
There was nobody in sight as Woolie made his way to the open front door. Just inside the door-way stood his friend the retired detective Inspector. He was in quiet conversation with a young woman police officer. They turned to look at him when he got to the top of the stairs. The retired cop did that irritating thing and looked pointedly at his watch.
“It’s a long way from the main road”, Woolie said. “Perhaps I should have taken a taxi.”
“Well you are here now so we are ready to begin.” said the former detective. “I would like you to meet Commander Ruby Mwekundu here. She heads the County Crime Squad and is in charge of this investigation.” Woolie put out his hand as the detective said “This is my associate Mr Woolie Kondoo.”
“So they have brought in the big guns, eh?” Woolie asked, noting that commander Ruby had a firm handshake.
“Mr Maramba was a powerful business man with important friends in high places. There is a lot of pressure from upstairs for us to solve this matter quickly.” said the commander.
Woolie smiled and said, “ I thought you police treated every murder investigation as a priority irrespective of the victim’s social standing.”
The commander gave him a withering look and turned to ask the former cop “Babu, what is it exactly that Mr Mbuzi here does for your outfit?”
The retired detective seemed to be enjoying the tension. He said “Mr Kondoo is a behavioural psychiatrist. He has invaluable knowledge on the criminal mind.”
The commander nodded impatiently and led the way into the house where the murder victim’s body still lay. They walked into the room which resembled some macabre abattoir. The late Mr Maramba was lying face up on the bed. His throat had been slit wide open and the voice-box had been plucked out. There was dark blood on the bed, on other furniture and all over the floor. The police forensic team had finished taking their prints, samples and photos.
After another quick look around the room Ruby led them out again along a wide corridor and into a large dining room. This room was bright and sunny with ceiling to floor windows looking out to the formal gardens at the south face of the house. They sat at the table where the commander gave them a summary of the events that had taken place at the Maramba Manor.
Mr Maramba had hosted a weekend party. It was common knowledge that Maramba enjoyed entertaining and liked a good party. There was good food and wine. He liked to hire in the catering and music for the Saturday bash. Most guests stayed on for a formal Sunday lunch. Maramba Manor would hold seven or eight such weekend parties throughout the year. Guests were usually business and social contacts and a few political big wigs. There was often a journalist or two hoping to snatch exclusive interviews.
Maramba had placed great significance on this particular weekend because his eldest child and heir would be formally introduced to the distinguished guests having just returned home from a long sojourn in the Netherlands. There had been about a dozen guests who stayed on for the Sunday dinner. Just after 6.00 pm on Sunday evening a jovial Maramba had gone into his study to complete some urgent paper-work for one of the guests to take with him the following morning. At 8.00 am this morning the home-nurse had gone to fetch Maramba for his morning physiotherapy. She got no reply to her knock at the door which appeared to be locked from the inside. Maramba’s nephew and some of the other guests were having breakfast in the dining roon nearby and the nurse went to ask for their help to get the study door open. They had broken down the door and gone through the connecting door into the bedroom where they found the deceased. The nurse is adamant that the door was locked from the inside. Another of the guests found the key on the floor where it had been knocked out of the door when they broke it down.
Commander Ruby now sat back, took a deep breath and looked at the two men seated opposite her. “Babu, the windows in the study and bedroom are barred. There is no way that anybody could have entered or left the room other than through the door nkt.”
Babu said, “I think we are ready to interview the guests now – then we can let them go home.” He asked a police Constable to ask the guests in one at a time. Please ask the young Maramba to come in first.
The young Maramba was called Monica and she was still in a state of shock and disbelief. she answered the questions that were put to her using simple sentences, offering mainly one-word answers. Her father was kind and just and as far as she knew, he did not have any enemies. Monica did not have any idea who would do such a thing or how the killer had entered and left the locked study. The other guests were interviewed and their responses followed a similar fashion expressing shock, horror and disbelief at the crime.
The house nurse described Maramba as a good employer and patient. She had come to live in the home just after he was diagnosed with diabetes and gout. He took his physiotherapy very seriously and had managed to bring his weight and blood pressure almost as low as someone half his age. She knew many of the guests by sight but did not know any of them well. The other members of the household were happy and loyal. She could not think of anyone who would have committed this heinous act
Next to be interviewed was the journalist. She gave her name as Rita. She had arrived on the Saturday night and had been at the party until the small hours. This was her third time at the Marambas. She knew Maramba quite well and had also known his late wife. Rita revealed that Maramba was a shrewd business man with a somewhat ruthless streak. When he had taken over the small newspaper where she worked he had walked in and fired the editor on the spot. The editor, a chain-smoking alcoholic started talking about going to the employment tribunals and such like but Maramba cut him short and said to him “Go to the tribunal if you like. I will sue you for taking company money under false pretenses. You claim to have been an editor here for six years. It is patently clear that this newspaper could not possibly have had an editor, what with the shoddy writing lousy spelling, and the shallow news reporting over the years…… and yet you have happily taken a pay-cheque every month.”
So the angry editor had walked away…
* * * *
end of part one