Naomi paced around the living room biting her nails. A habit that manifested whenever she was under alot of stress. Kasiwe was with her husband in his office when she received Mwamba’s call. Panicked, all she could think of doing was telling him she was in a meeting.
“He just called me.” She reported immediately Kasiwe walked into the room.
“No. Mwamba. I’m sure he knows Peter has been away.”
“You didn’t talk to him?”
Naomi shook her head nervously. “I couldn’t. I don’t know what to say if he asks. Did you ask Derek about his friend from zicta?”
“Yes I did. But he says the guy has been out for a while though he’s see what he can do.” Kasiwe sat down on the carpet. “Stop pacing around. Just talk to Mwamba, he might help.”
“Let me go back to his office. I’m sure someone there knows where he lives.”
Kasiwe sighed. “Ok, go for it. I wont be able to come with you though. Derek needs me for something. But let me know how it goes Hey?”
“Sure.” Naomi left sulking. She had hoped Kasiwe would help her out until they found Peter.
Lwipa put his phone down after talking to his friend from the office. He had known Naomi would look for him there. It was only a matter of time before she found his actual home address.
“You called?” Wezi asked at the bedroom door.
“Yes. Pack my bag. I need to travel.” Lwipa said standing up from the bed.
“When? And where are you going?”
“Today!” Lwipa passed her at the door with no other explanation. “Where is the boy?”
“In his room”
Peter lay on the bed with his eyes closed. Hearing the door open, he quickly wiped his tears away, turning to face the wall.
“Wake up and pack your things.”
Peter jumped up from the bed upon hearing Lwipa’s instructions. “Yes sir.”
Once Lwipa was out of the bedroom, Peter did a small victory dance. Unbeknownst to Lwipa, Peter had never unpacked his clothes. Everything he wore in the morning was placed back into the bag in the evening before bed. He was anxious to get back home, especially to his sister and father.
An hour later Lwipa and Peter were on the road. To Peter’s surprise, Lwipa drove them out of town. Afraid to ask where they were going, Peter clutched his bag closer as they drove in silence.
Lwipa drove them to Chirundu where his mother was currently staying with his younger sister who had put to bed a few weeks earlier.
“Ah, my first grandson.” Cathy beamed at seeing Peter. She opened her arms widely to hug him. “You are truly a clon6of your father. You look the same as he did at this age.”
“How are you mum?”
“I’m fine. How are you? Have you even been eating well since I’ve been gone?” She asked taking a long look at him. “You’ve lost some weight.”
“That’s because you’re not there for me to enjoy my meals.” He teased.
“Ah, your wives just needs to learn how to cook better.” Cathy laughed. “Don’t worry, by the time you’re going back you would have gained back all the weight.”
Cathy ushered them into the house, taking their bags to the bedrooms. Her daughter Amelia had just gone for a nap shortly before Lwipa had arrived.
“Peter, why dont you go into the kitchen and get some juice and scones. The juice is in the fridge and the scones on the kitchen counter. Check through all the cupboards to get your cup and plate.”
“Thank you.” Peter murmured as he walked to the kitchen.
Alone in the sitting room, Cathy turned to her son. “You managed to get him like you said?”
“I asked her to give me a figure of how much she had spent on school fees, health care and general upbringing. She gave me a ridiculous figure.” He leaned back in his seat. “I have paid her close to seventy thousand in the last few months in direct deposits as well as in kind with gifts, fuel and the likes. So I have done my part and now it’s time for me to claim ownership.”
Cathy shook her head. “You should have given her so much money. You owe her nothing. You were a child when it happened. Now that we are a grown man, you pick up from where she has ended. If anything now is when you will spend more than when he was young.”
“No, giving her so much will work to my advantage, just wait and see. But I need the boy to stay here for a while as I sort out issues back home. I head back to Lusaka in two days.”
Cathy beamed. “This is your house so this is his home!”
Naomi sat parked at the gate unable to enter the yard. Her day had gone by with Peter still missing and no leads on Lwipa’s location. It was almost dark out. Having avoided Mwamba all day, she knew he was nothing but upset.
“Bana Milda, is anything wrong?” Dorica asked arriving at the gate. She had seen her parked as she walked home from the bus station.
“No, nothing. I’ve just arrived as well.”
“Ok. Let me open the gate for you then.” Dorica placed her back into the car and proceeded to open the gate. Naomi drove in slowly, parking just in front of the house. She waited for Dorica to close the gate and get her bag before locking the car.
Mwamba sat in the living room at the edge of his seat. He mumbled a greeting in response to Dorica who left immediately seeing how tense he looked.
“Hi.” Naomi said peeking at the door then trying to walk away.
“Naomi, come here!” He commanded.
“Let me use the toilet first. I’m so pressed.” She pushed on.
Mwamba stood up and followed her to the bedroom but did not find her there. She had instead used the family bathroom where she stayed locked up for the longest time.”
“I dont have all day.” Mwamba roared at the door making her jump.
The sound of his voice made her stomach churn. She ended up with a loose stool despite her not initially wanting to go in the first place. Knowing she couldnt hide there for long, Naomi brace herself and opened the door.
“Where is he?”
Mwamba hit the wall beside her. “Dont play games with me Naomi. Where is my son? And you had better not tell me he is with that man!”
Naomi mumbled, trying to find her words.
“What is wrong with you? Huh? I have spent the entire afternoon searching for him with all his friends before it dawned on me that the reason I couldnt trace him was because you had done the very thing I had told you not to do!” He pulled her to their bedroom and closed the door behind him.
“Who do you take me for? Huh? Naomi answer me!”
Naomi only faced the floor.
“So you cant even use your smart words now eh? I really am nothing to you eh? Am I such bad a father to him that you decided he needed another one?”
Naomi kept staring at the floor.
“Answer me damn it!” He roared making her jump.
“No!” She whispered.
“No what? No I’m a bad father? No I dont have a say in his life? No, I dont know shit! No what?” He paced back and forth.
“I’m sorry. But I just think Peter has a right to know who his father is!”
“I AM his FATHER damn it! Me! I have been the one to raise him, I changed his diapers, I taught him to walk, to ride his bike, to take him on his first day at school. Me! And where was that scoundrel? No where in sight. He abandoned you both. Left you to suffer alone. I took up the responsibility of raising a child I had not birthed and I did it with pride. I was mocked for it. No one understood how I could raise another man’s child. No one understood the bond that I shared with him. And here you are wanting to destroy all that for what? Huh? What is your game plan? You want to rekindle your past romance? Is that it?”
“No.” Naomi whispered again, this time with tears in her eyes.
“Is this why you made love to me this mor ing when I arrived? To keep me preoccupied with you?” Mwamba moved closer to face her. “Take me to him now!”
“I dont know where he is.” Naomi responded after the longest pause.
“What did you say?”
“I dont know where he is. He was supposed to bring Peter back yesterday but I have not been able to reach him since he picked up Peter on Friday.”
Mwamba took a few steps backing away from her. “Let me get this straight. Peter went to visit a stranger and you allowed him without knowing where exactly this man lives? Is that what you are saying to me?”
Mwamba turned and punched the wall, cutting his hand in the process. It started bleeding immediately but Mwamba was oblivious to it. “How could you be so daft? How?”
“Mwamba hi. Wasn’t expecting to see you today.” Gavin, the Human Resource Director smiled, standing up to greet Mwamba and Naomi.
“Yes. I didnt make a prior appointment. Sorry for that.”
“That’s alright. What can I do for you?” Gavin leaned back, watching them closely.
“Firstly let me introduce you to my wife, Naomi.”
“Yes, I’ve met her before. I didn’t know she was your wife though.” Gavin remembered seeing her the previous day asking for Lwipa’s address from the HR Assistant.
“Gavin, I’m here on a personal matter as you must have figured out by now. Mr Kalenga took my son for the weekend but has not returned him back as scheduled. Unfortunately, we do not know his physical address. I know we provide that information with your office. I’m kindly requesting your assistance of availing his home address to us.”
Gavin looked from Mwamba who stared back at him, and Naomi who nervously played with her fingers since they arrived in his office. “I really wish I could help you Mwamba, I really do. Unfortunately information provided to our office is confidential and cannot be released to anyone unless with the consent of the person involved or by submission of police warrant.”
“Please, I admit I am desperate right now. It’s very urgent that we get this information. He is not answering any of our phone calls and I fear for the safety of my son.”
“I feel for you, truly. But I’m bound by my ethics and code of conduct. Report the matter to the police, I’m sure they’ll be able to help.”
Mwamba sighed deeply. He stood up and extended his hand. “Thank you for your time.”
Gavin stood up as well, taking Mwamba’s hand. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of much help. I wish you the best of luck in locating your son.”
Once gone, Gavin asked his secretary to call the HR assistant.
“Misheck, what is going on with Lwipa?”
Misheck opened his mouth to respond.
“Before you say anything, i would advise that you choose your words carefully.”
Misheck swallowed loudly. “Well, he asked me to give a wrong address to the woman that comes asking for it.”
“Something about custody issues with his baby mama. I dont really know the full story.”
Gavin looked squarely at Misheck. “I’m disappointed in what you did. I take my office very serious and your behaviour is unbecoming of it. Whatever friendships or alliances you have should not be entertained in this office are we clear?”
“Yes sir. But Lwipa is also the boss so I couldn’t just say no.” Misheck defended himself.
“That is where you are mistaken. No one gets hired or fired without my approval. So if you want to keep your job, I suggest you act within your job description and not connections. You can leave.” Gavin watched Misheck mumble his apologies then leave, closing the door behind him. Lwipa was one of the few people he did not like due to his arrogant demeanor. Gavin knew Misheck was only a pawn to gain access to information that Gavin often refused to share with Lwipa.
Mwamba and Naomi drove in silence to the central police station. One of Naomi’s cousin’s worked there. Mwamba hoped he would be of help in trying to locate Lwipa.
For the longest time Mwamba had tried to figure out who Lwipa reminded him off. Now he knew. The resemblance was uncanning. The saying that when a man denies a child they come out looking like them is true after all.
At the police station, they found Zangi waiting for them outside. He directed them to where they should park at the back of the building.
“Mulamu, long time.” Zangi grinned as he and Mwamba shared a quick hug.
“Good to see you man.”
“Naomi. How are you?”
“Fine.” She mumbled back.
“So, what brings you here?”
Mwamba narrated to him the events that led to Naomi taking Peter to Lwipa and Lwipa now being out in the wind.
“You are joking right?” Zangi asked at the end.
“No.” Mwamba responded.
“Naomi? You have really been seeing Lwipa? After everything he did to you?” Zangi asked her. “You are unbelievable. Does dad even know?”
“I haven’t told him yet. I dont know how to.” Mwamba responded.
“How were you communicating with him?” Zangi asked looking at Naomi.
“Only through calls?”
“Hmm, we met a few times at the mall.” She responded, not once looking up at him.
“And when you took Peter, what was the agreement? ”
“He picked him up at the same mall, promising to bring him back on Sunday afternoon.”
“And you didnt check to see where he was taking him?”
Naomi rolled her eyes. “If I did we would not be here.”
“Naomi remember who you are talking to! You may be older with your own house but to me you’ll always be my small cousin ok. So dont be smart with me.” Zangi was clearly upset.
“We tried to get his home address from the office but the HR will not provide it unless with a police warrant.”
“Ok. Give me a few minutes I’ll be back.” Zangi went into the building, leaving them waiting in the car. 30 minutes later he emerged with a female police officer. “This is Constable Phiri. She is from Victim support unit. She will assist us for this investigation.”
Constable Phiri recorded a statement from both Mwamba and Naomi. Thereafter, Mwamba drove them back to the Shoprite administration where Gavin readily provided Lwipa’s current home address.
The four easily located his home in Makeni. They found a man watering the grass out the yard. He opened the gate and showed them to the door.
“Ba aunty, they are looking for ba boss.” The man explained to Wezi who had been cooking in the kitchen when they arrived. Wezi skipped a beat at the sight of the police officers.
“Thank you Bwalya.” Wezi dismissed the gardener. “How may I help you?”
“We are here for Mr Kalenga.” Zangi said.
“He is not home unfortunately. Mind telling me what you need him for?”
“Who are you madam?” Constable Phiri asked her.
“I’m his wife, Mrs Kalenga.” Wezi explained.
“Good. So you can tell us where their boy is. His name is Peter. Your husband took him for the weekend and has not returned him.”
Wezi looked at Naomi who’s eyes where red from crying. “I’m sorry but they are not here. I thought be took him back yesterday.”
“What do you mean?” Zangi asked.
“Lwipa left with Peter yesterday. I thought he was taking him back to his parents.”
“And where did your husband say he was going?”
Wezi bit her lower lip. “He didnt tell me.”
Constable Phiri laughed out. “Madam we are here on serious business. Please for your sake do not lie to us. Where is your husband? And where is the boy?”
“I swear I do not know.”
“Call him now!” Zangi commanded.
Wezi started to walk back into the house when she was stopped.
“Call him from here and put him on speaker! You want to tio him that we are here?” Constable Phiri said.
“I want to get my phone.” Wezi responded in a shaky voice. She went back into the house escorted by the officer. They returned moments later with her phone in hand. She dailed Lwipa’s number. Her call went answered.
“Try again!” Zangi told her.
Wezi called him again, this time around he picked up just before the line cut.
“What!” Lwipa snapped on the other side.
Wezi turned red with embarrassment at how he had answered her call. “Eh, there are some police officers looking for you.”
“Mr Kalenga. This is inspector Zangi. We are here to collect the boy Peter. His parents have reported him missing.”
“Is that so? Well I’m the boy’s father so he cannot be missing.”
“You need to avail yourself and the boy immediately so that we can verify that claim.”
“I am out of town for the rest of the week. So I will come on Monday when i return. As for the boy, you can verify who i am to him from his mother. She is the one who brought him to me after all so she cannot claim him missing.” With that he cut the call and switched off his phone.
“Madam, you better tell us where your husband is otherwise we will lock you up for withholding information.” Constable Phiri said to Wezi after a moment of silence.
“I really do not know, I swear.” Wezi responded sounding panicked.
“Put on your shoes we go to the station.”
Mwamba waved his hand. “Zangi, I think she’s telling the truth.” He said into his ear.
“Where can you think he can go to? Like family, close friends. Write down every address regardless of where it is.” Zangi instructed Wezi. “Don’t go anywhere. We’ll be back” he told her after she provided the list.