Every lie is two lies — the lie we tell others and the lie we tell ourselves to justify it. ~Robert Brault
It was all settled. I would be staying for supper. It was a situation which, when I thought about it, was most excellent; Rubina was said to be a wonderful hostess and her house was warm and comfortable on this cold and miserable evening. I felt honoured to be asked to stay and I was also a little curious to find out what the evening ahead would reveal. I made myself useful and helped with final preparations, tidying up the sitting room while Rubina laid the table.
We sat down to catch up with the evening news on tv as we waited for the guests. Rubina was really quiet and though she was looking at the telly I could tell that her thoughts were elsewhere. I wondered what must be going through her mind. Would she finally get to know about her mother?
Rubina jumped at the sound of the doorbell. She looked at me and I gave her a thumbs up. She took a deep breathe and let it out as she walked across the room. She smoothed her clothes and turned to look at me again. I nodded encouragingly. She went to the front door and moments later she was ushering two women into the small sitting room and taking their coats.
The introductions followed, The older woman was taller than Rubina. She wore a smart trouser suit and heels. Her name was Maliwaza and she spoke in a clear voice that was used to giving orders. She was the director at a young womens’ refuge in the city. The other lady, Benter, giggled shyly and spoke in a squeaky voice. Her stylish spectacles gave her a scholarly look that complemented the giggles. She was dressed in a red top, smart jeans and trainers. She told us that she was a data analyst: code for secret service. As the ladies sat down Rubina introduced me as a work colleague and a friend of Babu’s. I poured the drinks and Rubina got up shortly afterwards and went to fetch the food. She then called us up to the dining table.
The ‘simple’ supper before us was a feast to behold. I had been in the house the whole afternoon and I had watched as Rubina prepared the meal. Now at the table every dish and platter was a super surprise to me. When had she made the amazing crispy samosas that she now served as a starter? I had not seen her cut the tiny lime wedges which the ladies squeezed on their samosa in delight. The main course was tender lamb chops and creamy mash potato served with lovely seasonal vegetables. On the side we had spicy chicken wings roasted to perfection. There was plenty to eat but I still had room for the fresh fruit salad and ice cream that followed.
All through the meal, I kept the wine glasses topped up. The young Benter held us in stitches with her funny anecdotes about data and computer analysts. The girl was a revelation. Maliwaza was pleasant enough and one got the impression that she was a woman who did not play with her food and drink. She had several large helpings and cleared everything on her plate.
With dinner over we retired to the sitting room. The lady VIPs had been in the house for over 2 hours and It was time for the discussion that had brought us here. Benter looked at Maliwaza and took her cue. She explained how Babu had contacted her describing to us briefly what his instructions had been.
Benter was not laughing now as she gave us a rare insight into the life of a spook. We were all mature enough to appreciate that it was not all glamour and fast cars as portrayed on television. The work involved hours and hours of surveillance and eavesdropping work which often yielded little information of value. It was dirty work, rummaging in people’s soggy rubbish bins looking for that vital clue or scrap of evidence. They often worked undercover in extremely difficult conditions. It was during her trawls in the darkest corners of people’s private lives that Benter had come across something that looked like a lead in their search for ‘Jennifer’.
With Babu’s guidance Benter had began her enquiries in the city of Oxford, England. The trail there was weak after all these years but she learned that a young lady had been making enquiries similar to her own just some two years after the child had been abandoned. The police had been informed at the time and an officer was dispached to the hospital. It appears that the young lady had probably seen the police car and decided to leave. Benter learned that a report of this unusual activity had been passed on to the police in Brighton where Peter Malo and his child were now living.
Benter then travelled to Brighton where she learned that in the weeks following there had been several reports of a ‘lady behaving strangely’ close to where the Malo’s lived. No arrests had been made and the matter had died. On a hunch Benter had asked Babu to arrange a quick visit to the document archives, West Sussex Constabulary. It took her an hour to find what she was looking for. Around the time of the ‘woman behaving strangely’ reports a young Ugandan lady had walked into the Police Station and declared that she had been mugged and that she had lost all her possessions. Amongst these had been her wallet, her passport and some important college papers. She needed the police to issue an affidavit of sorts to enable her to obtain travel documents from the Uganda High Commission in London. She had no money. She needed to attach a photo onto her travel document application The kindly desk Sergeant took a series of photos using the mug shot camera. He gave one to the woman and one was attached to her incident file. ‘Jennifer’ now had a face!
Flushed with renewed excitement Benter boarded the Brighton to London train. Her destination: Uganda House in Trafalgar Square London.