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Behind bars

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Behind Bars

Book 1 (The arrest and first court appearance of Thomas Sox)

By

E. C. Mtize

BEHIND BARS

ISBN: 9781521966938

Copyright © E C Mtize / 2017

No part of this publication may be reproduced, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, without the prior written permission of the author and/or publisher.

Dedication

This story is meant for everybody who cares for me.

Chapter One

Thomas Sox truly justified himself but, one day, he found himself languishing behind bars. On daily basis, normally at 7am, Sox would get his breakfast from Sarah, a daughter to his landlady. Madam Phiri was his landlady. Nevertheless, on this day, she made herself absent. This was something which had never taken place before. Sox, who used to maintain a degree of unfaltered hope when faced with an anomaly, waited so patiently for quite some time but to no avail. He frequently peeped outside the house through the window but could only see nothing except a frail woman who lived in the opposite apartment and, who constantly spectacled at him through the window with a strange level of keenness quite unusual for her age.

While both starved and mentally unsettled, Sox violently rang the bell. Instantly, he heard an unusual knock at the door and saw a strange man getting inside the room. This was the first time in history for him to see a male figure entering into this house. It was a lean but seemingly tough-looking gentleman who had paid Thomas Sox an unsolicited visit. All his outfit were dark-blue and tight, with many folds, pockets, and buttons. A dark-brown, thick leather belt encircled through his pair of trousers’ six distanced and widened buckles to complete his flawed appearance, all this to exhibit a great level of preparedness within him. Assuredly, his dressing was meant for work. However, the intention which had just brought him into this house was still anonymous. “Who is this?” indirectly questioned Sox, while raising his head up like the undefeated wrestlemania superstar,The Undertaker. The chap, however, remained mentionless like he should simply had to be welcomed in there.

A few seconds later, the man then answered Thomas with a question:

“Aren’t you the one who rang the bell?”

“I wanted my meal from Sarah,” replied Thomas. He responded while being totally absentminded. His curiosity was still about the man’s identity: Where actually is he coming from? And what’s his mission to this room? What about his name, then? All these unanswered questions gave him a complete mental breakdown and emotional distress.

Thomas was just puzzling himself quietly about that stranger. His eyes were hovering up and down so foolishly, from the top to the bottom of that new figure, but without extracting any clue. The man, however, didn’t offer him enough chance after he moved backwards, going straight towards the door. He let it open slightly, peeked into the next room in a slow motion manner, and then uttered something:

“He wants Sarah to bring him his breakfast.”

Indeed there was a person in the sitting room, if not many. The little sound of laughter which bubbled out could confirm this assumption. Perhaps it came from the neighbouring house, nobody knows. The strange man could not have learned anything from it that he hadn’t yet been known by Sox. Nonetheless he just proceeded to tell him something, as if he was making a report:

“That is not going to happen.”

“I think that would be the first time ever, since my birthday!” replied Sox, while skipping out of the bed to immediately pull on his blue Adidas track-bottom.

“Let me know who’s in the next room first, and also, why is it that Madam Phiri has allowed you and your pears to disturb me like this,” he added.

Meanwhile Sox regretted to have made such an audible murmur, worse before he could have identified these people’s identities. But, of course, he had a certain mentality which didn’t care much about anything. Whatever, he boldly thought.

The strange man later read everything about Thomas’ stubbornness. Such caused him to say, “I think there’s no any other better place than that which you are currently sitting on, am I lying?”

“No, it’s not! You are totally wrong!”

“Plus,” Sox went on to say, “I don’t have time to talk to you until you’ve given me your name. As a matter of favour, may you please introduce yourself to me now.”

“I meant it for your own comfort man,” the strange man replied. Now he was reopening the door. However, nobody had requested him to do so at this moment. This could be understood. Upon entering, Sox did not allow him to slam shut the door. Therefore he followed suit with so much vigor.

In the next room, into which Sox threaded more lackadaisically than he had intended ealier on, had been (at first sight) an exact appearance like that it had in the previous evening. That is where Madam Phiri stayed. It was a small room packed with fancy furniture and luxurious electrical appliances (a single sixty-four inch 3D Samsung flatscreen was playing quietly on the wall, and there were three Mac laptops and an HP desktop computer which shared the same space on the large wooden table in the far end corner). There was also fine china and, plastered photographs were all over the room.

Compared with other previous days, however, it seemed that there had now been a little more space in this room than today. Nonetheless, if this assumption could hold water, that wouldn’t be asserted right now, mostly because the main difference in there had been about the presence of a chap who sat so much closer to an open window, with an iPad mini in his hand, from which he now rose his owl-like eyes in order to say something:

“You must have remained in your own room! It’s like Larry hasn’t told you yet, did he?”

“Tell me this first, comrade, who are you and what are you here for?” said Sox. He glanced back and forth, between this new acquaintance and Larry (the one who had just been with him in his own room).

Through that open window, Thomas Sox could see that old lady walking outside, and it was just near the house. She at one time drew towards it, and her act was really intentional: to vividly watch everything that took place inside. The woman exhibited to have such keenness that really made it look like she had lost her sanity.

“I’m looking for Madam Phiri…,” claimed Sox. He made a weird movement like he wanted to break away from these two gentlemen, regardless of the fact that they had been standing at a distance far away from him and, of course, with signs of preparing to leave the house.

“Excuse me, dude,” said the man sitted by the open window, as he dropped down his iPad on the coffee table like a hot potato. And, immediately, he rose up.

“You are not going anywhere because you’re under arrest.”

“Really?” Sox replied stupidly, and with full of bewilderment.

“What crime have I committed?” he was still in utter shock and darkness.

“We have no right to disclose such information to you right now. Otherwise you may just return back to your own room and wait for us there. You shall know everything about this issue after we have completed all the required procedures.

“Indeed I’ve done something new, wrong and totally forbidden to have maintained a friendly attitude towards you. My job doesn’t really permit such kindness whatsoever but, I do believe this shall remain underground forever, except for Larry who has been with us here. Like me, he has done the same thing also, and it’s something which he should have simply prevented. It seems like you’re a prayer warrior, Sox, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I go to church sometimes, man, but not…,”

“Where do you go?” he interjected him.

“I’m a Devine Reformer at this nearest branch.”

“Okay, keep on praying man, at least you may save yourself from such cruelty like we possess.”

Sox endeavoured to find somewhere to sit down while taking a breath, but the whole action was utterly in vain. Besides the chair near the window, there hadn’t been any other place on which one could have ensconced himself.

“Just to convince you that we truly meant what we say, when we claimed: ‘you are under arrest,’ we have to prove it to you now, going onwards, and in the form of real action not previously portrayed jokes,” declared Larry, and both men instantly galloped straight towards Sox.

Indeed these two men were giant enough to lift a tonnage of railway line, I suppose. And they seemed to be much more tougher in appearance compared to him, especially the second one, who occasionally slapped Sox on the left shoulder with an oversized right-hand palm.

These two self-proclaimed officers had already become jealousy about Sox’s bluish nightshirt that they quickly ordered him to take it off and put on a shabby one, which was filled with all sorts of filthy substances, probably mucus and grease. That quality shirt, together with other undergarments which they had possessed from him, were not going to be placed in his prescribed storeroom upon arrival to the remand prison, but would remain in their own hands. This was done for the mere reason that there had not been proper security in that holding place.

“I think it’d be much better for you to surrender all your clothes to us than to leave them in the storeroom,” said Larry.

“Yes you don’t lie my brother,” concurred the other man, “things like clothing do normally go missing in remand prison, and if the prisoner overstays there, all their belongings would be lawfully sold out at various auction centers and, definitely, this’ll be regardless of the fact that the case is still going on or has been closed. And, of course, cases like yours can probably take a very long space of time before assigned to a trial date, especially if they have arrived lately like this one.

“You may be compensated for the loss you’d have incurred for your own clothes, however, but it’s very certain that the money you’d get won’t be much acceptable. In fact it won’t be reasonable no matter how expensive your clothes might have been. To add more salt on a bleeding wound, you’d be paid only windfalls from the amount of bribes they’d have collected as ‘state revenue,’ that’s if they feel sorry for you and, also, if there has been someone who wishes to pay them something. Otherwise you’d lose everything for nothing, despite how successful your case could have gone through the court, and despite how hard it’d have been to work for them.

“I think you’re now conscious about such problems and complex processes associated with governmental organizations, especially the Ministry of Police and Home affairs in this particular case – they take too long to handle cases – and it’s like the process goes from one hand to another allowing bureaucracy and massive corruption to take charge, years and years, decades and decades until everything loses it’s original value.

“From your own piece of mind, who do you think would have the urge to claim such would-be rags and leftovers? Absolutely nobody!”

Sox paid a very little attention to what these two men had been waffling interchangeably. He did not place much value on what he may have still possessed or on who were to decide what happens to them. What seemed much more important to him had been to receive a vivid explanation concerning his still anonymous case. But he could not think about such clearly in these two man’s presence. Although he had received a fair treatment from these police officers at first, he became less hopeful when he finished an in-depth analysis about their real characteristics. The stout belly and soft palms of the second police officer did not conform to his rigid facial expression at all. Neither did his horse, cruelty-filled voice bring solace to his senses. All he could see was now a future filled with bleakness. He fully believed that the occasional interaction between these two men, concerning his non-societal attitude, was definitely going to lend him in hot soup, sooner or later. How are they going to treat me if they are real policemen? Thomas had been mentally agitating about all this.

In such a democratic society where Sox lived, human rights were very much respected altogether. Violations of them, as well as some abuses of all forms of power and influence would ever come as a shock to people like him, as he had learnt to live freely under the rulership of liberals. In fact everyone regardless of race, tribe, colour, gender, position and political affiliation enjoyed democracy to its utmost extent. So who had the powers to disturb someone’s peace in such a great land like this? That would be the strangest act ever, since the onset of the post world war era!

As for Sox’s lifestyle, everything was meant to be simple; everything made him to cross bridges when he came to face them, or pay no attention to whatever consequence that faced his life, notwithstanding how bad the future looked like. He mostly played a do-or-die game. Nevertheless such behaviourial negligences were a really great mistake to opt for at this very moment. He could have taken all that as funny, like a big joke set up by his former high school colleagues in a social messenger group, on the internet, intentionally to simply reminisce everybody about the school old days, or could have taken it as a mere surprise since today had been his fortieth birthday, but all this shouldn’t be like that for today, going forward. Even though there was any of the above mentioned possibilities, of course, maybe all he had to do was to just laugh so cautiously in the policemen’s face, or in some ways such that they would join him also. If they were tradesmen from the corner of the street, they would not betray him such privileges whatsoever. Nonetheless he was not determined for everything ridiculously mentioned above. There had been a slight risk that people would laugh at him later on, saying he couldn’t really understand what is meant by a joke, but because he wasn’t normally in the habit of learning from experience, he might also have had a few useless occasions in mind when he, unlike his more cautious friends, had acted with no thought at all for what was coming in his own future and, had been made to suffer for it already.

Sox didn’t want all that to happen again, however. Never at all for this moment! If these men were kidding, he should have to act along with them. Truly he still had the grace period to alter the entire future.

“Excuse me,” he threaded in-between the two police officers, while going back into his room.

“It’s like he has so much intelligence,” claimed the other man, “have you seen him yet?”

“Yes, he’s actually active,” replied the one called Larry.

“Yeah, let’s see what’s gonna be his next move now.”

Thomas over-heard the entire conversation that took place behind him.

On his arrival in the room, he energetically pulled open the two drawers of his writing desk, while randomly hunting for his identity documents. Everything he came across in there was rather useful, but not intended for his urgent mission. He disorderly withdrew online shopping accounts’ username and password-filled diaries, some with agreements of buying and selling contracts, church service themes and verses and, the whole lot of information and other archived stuff. It was like that moment when somebody misses an interview session owing to a misplaced educational certificate. Imagine yourself when you are in that situation, when you have only ten or less minutes left to get into the town and, in order for you to beat the traffic jams and robots, you should have already left home some forty five minutes ago, but you’ve not yet packed anything. Neither have you taken shower, or a quick teeth brush. All what would be left for you now is to make a quick glance at your watch, get disappointed, and then sit back and relax to resume new job resume fillings, provided they are still available. Obviously the whole deal of getting a new job would have been faltered for now, it would have been made a daylight dream due to a silly mistake of being disorganized! That’s a scenario which equates to what Sox went through in his own room today.

Later, he finally spotted his Television license and, was almost going back to the two police officers when he thought it to be too silly and petty to help him present a strong evidence before them. Therefore Sox continued searching until he found his birth certificate.

Just as he got back into the adjoining room, the door on the other side opened and Madam Phiri was about to pay him a visit. He only saw her for a short while, for as soon as she recognised him, and before she became dumbfounded and muttered something apologetical to his own ears. But, within a swift dash of a second, Madam Phiri was nowhere to be seen. She had left the door slamming behind her noiselessly.

“Come in, Madam,” Sox could have asked her like that immediately. Nevertheless it was now too late for such words. Now he foolishly stood in the middle of the room with papers in his both hands, while still staring at the door which had already been shut. He maintained such state until he became bored enough by the shout-out of the policeman who sat at the little table closer to the open window in the next room and, as he now realized, the man had now started eating his breakfast.

“What is that which has bared her from getting into my room?” Sox shouted furiously.

“She’s prohibited,” answered the giant officer.

“Have you forgotten that you’re under arrest now?”

“But how can that be a reality? And what’s the reason behind all this..? What crime have I committed?”

“Now you’re repeating the same thing again and again, aren’t you?” the man had now changed his complete facial expression. He spoke while dipping a huge buttered piece of bread in the honeypot, of which he quickly wolfed it before saying, “We don’t respond to such nonsensical questions, are you getting me?”

“You have a must to answer them,” boldly said Sox, as he left his room, “and, here are my identification documents, now show me yours and I certainly want to see the arrest warrant also.”

“Oh, my goodness!” the policeman felt exhausted, “How dare you utter such rubbish? And who are you to give full-grown men like us orders? You’re a bloody fool, isn’t it?

“Let me tell you something young man,” the giant officer went ahead, “it would be a fatal mistake for you if you have the thought that threatening us would make you become free. That’s really impossible! Otherwise you have to thank God that we have treated you well enough, since our very first arrival here.”

“Yes, that’s plain truth my brother,” said Larry, “he has to be very grateful for us because we are overlooking some of our work recommendations here, particularly seriousness.” He had been holding a cup of tea in his hand. Nevertheless he did not put it up to his mouth at all. Rather, he was only gazing at Sox in such a way that was likely meant to be full of unmentioned words, but could not be simply understood, or else uttered.

Thomas found himself in a mute dialogue with Larry, and all this was not incidental. He lately slapped his right hand down, on his papers, and then said, “May you please see my identity documents.”

“For what apparent reason?” responded the tough-looking man, so vigorously.

“Why’d you behave like a new born baby? What actually is your problem, young boy? It’s like you want to escape from an offense by simply faking us up with your spoiled documents, would you think that’d be really possible? And you dare make demands for an arrest warrant, from us? Don’t you know that we’re merely constables who are working according to commands from senior officials? Nobody amongst us knows about such things like IDs, arrest warrants, and etc, etc.

“Our job description,” the strange man added, “is all about keeping you offenders for a given time period and get remunerated for that. That’s all we are here for! For your own information, we are not the ones who make criminal charges against people, but those at the top.

“These high officials we take charges from find out just what sort of a person is it they’re going to arrest and plans the reasons for doing so, before they issue the so called ‘arrest warrant’ you’re yelling for. This is just something fair and straight forward. Furthermore, our bosses, as far as I know, and I’m sure to know such for the least grades, don’t go out looking for offenses among the public; rather it’s the offenses that pushes them out, like how they prefer to put it forward: it’s us junior police officers who goes out to enforce the law.

“That’s how the law operates, Sox. Do you find any fault there?”

“You’re telling me something new, comrades,” replied Sox.

“Then you’re in a very tight corner, Thomas,” boasted the giant policeman.

“I think you’re generalizing things here, aren’t you? You’ve no idea of what you’re talking about, I’ve seen that since the very first moment you got in here,” said Sox, as if he wanted to insinuate his way into the thoughts of the police officer, perhaps to re-shape those thoughts to his own benefit or to make himself feel much comfortable. But the policeman seemed to be much more ahead of him, when he ignorantly said:

“You shall see the results, young man. I’m sure you’ll get to know how it operates…”

Larry quickly interjected him, saying, “You know what, Smith, this guy has once admitted that he’s not familiar with the law, but now he’s trying to defend himself; he also insists that he’s not guilty. I’m now being puzzled by his level of sanity.”

“Yeah, I do agree with you, Larry, but we have to also make a strong clarification for him, so that he’ll get to understand us properly,” replied the other man.

Sox later decided to quit the conversation with these two chaps: They’re now using me like a toy. Do I really have to keep on interacting with them when they are treating me like trash, in this way? And how could I be embarrassed by someone who has no confidence in himself? That’s totally impossible for me! I’m a well educated man, better than them too! More so, they’re talking about things which they don’t actually have the slightest knowledge about. That’s really utter stupidity I’ve to just prevent from ruling upon myself. I just need some few words with someone of the same social standing as myself and everything will be incomparably clearer, much clearer than a long conversation with these two lunatic figures.

Sox had began thinking a lot to himself.

He began to roam up and down the free space in the room, for a couple of minutes, while he could see that old woman through the window who, by this time, had dragged an old man (much older than herself), and had put her arms around him.

Sox had to put an end to this display: “Take me to your superior, then!” he shouted adamantly.

“Only when he’s now ready to see you. Not now,” said the policeman, the one named Smith.

“Just to give you a better advice,” he added, “you’ve to return to your room, mantain a high degree of silence, and wait there, while watching to see what’s going to happen to you. If you consent with us, you won’t stress yourself much, thinking about these useless things. You just have to relax as there is a lot that has to be done regarding your case. Understand that you’ve mistakenly failed to behave towards us the way we expected, despite that we’ve tried our best to be social towards you.

“Again,” he went on to say, “you forgot that we, regardless of our still unknown identity, are just free men, whereas you’re not, and that’s the plain but very saddening truth. That’s really pathetic!

“Notwithstanding that you’re no longer a free man, we still permit you to eat something because it’s your constitutional right to do so. Therefore, if you afford it, you can just go out quickly and buy yourself a breakfast meal from the tuck shop over the road,” he said.

Hearing all this, however, Sox could not utter a single word in response, even for the officer’s last statement. He maintained his ignorance for quite some time.

Perhaps, if he decided to open the door of the next room or even the front one, the two of them would not dare to stand in his way, perhaps that would be the simplest way he could implement to overcome them, as a result of a face to face encounter. But, maybe, they would challenge him back, grabbing him by the throat, and if he were to be thrown down on the ground, he would lose the whole immunity he, in a certain likely manner, had over them.

So, and while still conscious about all this, Sox chose on the more certain option at last, the way things would go in the natural course of events, and went back to his room without any say, either from him or from the policemen. He threw himself down onto the bed, and from the dressing table he took a guava that he had placed there the previous evening for his breakfast. Now that was the entire meal he have had and, anyway, as he confirmed just after taking his first big bite of it, it was far better than a breakfast he could have had through the goodwill of the policemen – buying a meal from the dirty tuck shop.

Thomas felt to be really comfortable as well as audacious despite his lingering police case and, also, regardless of the absenteeism for work in which he had involved himself at a certain local bank, this very morning. But the latter issue could easily be excused because of the relatively high position he held there. He only had to decide like this: Should I really have to send an explanation there? If nobody would believe him while in this serious but really understandable case then, it was just fine. He could drag Madam Phiri as the first eye witness, or even those two old love birds from across the street who, even by now, were probably on their way to get closer to the opposite window.

What puzzled Sox, however, was the possession of such an issue from the policemen’s perspective, the point-of-view which let him to go into his room while alone notwithstanding that he had a thousand different ways to commit suicide. At the same time, though he personally asked himself looking at it from his own view-point: what could have been the reason for him to kill himself if those two ‘foolish comrades’ were sitting just closer to him in the next room, and had realistically taken his breakfast, not in a dream. It was just folly for him to terminate his own life no matter how he would have felt the urge to do so. More so, such sense of stupidity, if he could have permitted it, would have made him unable to succeed in life whatsoever. Maybe he would have done so successfully in some senses, perhaps if the policemen had been so obviously limited in their mental capacities or, supposedly, if they could have miscalculated his next move and saw no any danger in leaving him walking around in the house while alone. However, since they were not far away from him, and since they seemed to be not so dumb to such an extent of miscalculating his movements, they could simply observe him now and then, and they could understand how he would go to the cupboard in the wall, where he stored some bottles of gin, how he would have emptied the first glass in place of his uneaten breakfast, and how he would then take a second glass full of wine in order to give himself strength and courage, then the last one as a precautionary move to counteract any probability of fear and failure.

Thomas was so flabbergasted to hear a shout to him from the other room that he struck his teeth against the glass:

“Hey you young man, may you please return here so quickly. Our boss wants to see you right now!”

A strong voice had yelled out. It was such a loud voice that he became weak in his knees, within some few seconds; a curt, shocking military shout that he did not even expect from the police officer named Larry. From the way it was made, he got forced to overcome the spirit of resistance within him.

“Ok I’m done, Sir!” Larry called back, while he hurriedly locked the cupboard and later made a swift movement into the next room.

The two officers had now been patiently waiting for him and, upon his arrival, they chased him back into his bedroom like something had gone wrong.

“What have you been doing there?” they all cried.

“Do you think you can meet the supervisor while dressed up in just a single shirt like this? You’re trying to mislead him that you’ve gotten a right thumping, isn’t it?”

“Leave me alone you bloody fools!” charged Sox, who had already been pushed back as far as his wardrobe, “Do you think one can just get up from his bed while in full and smart dressing?” he still felt overwhelmed by furry.

“Your foolishness will never save you, young boy,” said the usually ignorant policemen, now almost indignant.

“Ridiculous formalities!” Thomas continued to grumble, as if he had lost his senses.

He hurriedly lifted his coat which was left on the chair up and kept it in both his hands for a little while, as if holding it out for the policemen’s inspection.

They both shook their heads.

“You have to wear a black one,” the officers ordered him.

At that moment, Sox threw his jacket to the floor, and involuntarily blurted out something which he did not even understand himself:

“That won’t be a main trial, after all.”

The officers laughed ruthlessly and continued to insist:

“It’s got to be a formal black coat, not a sports attire like that.”

“Well it’s just not a big deal, gentlemen,” said Sox.

He then opened the wardrobe himself, spent a long time while searching through all the clothes, and chose his best black suit which had a short jacket that he did not wear most of the times, then he also pulled out a fresh shirt and started to dress up himself carefully.

Inside his own brains, Sox was simply telling himself that he had succeeded in speeding things up by making the police officers to forget that he had to also take a bath. He occasionally stared at them to see whether they might have remembered anything about that at all but, of course, it never occurred to them and it seemed to be not much useful at this time. On the other hand, Smith did not forget to send Larry up to the supervisor with a message saying that Sox was now being officially arrested.

Once he properly got dressed, Sox had to pass by Smith as he headed into the next room (the one beyond the sitting room for Madam Phiri). It’s door had already been made wide open. Sox knew it very well that this room had recently been let to a certain data capturer called Madam Clarah. This new lodger was in a habit of going out to work very early and coming back home very late, and Sox had never exchanged more than a few words of greeting with her. Now, her bedside table had been pulled into the middle of the room to be used as a desk for the intended proceedings, and the supervisor had sat himself behind it. He had done so with his legs crossed, and had thrown one arm over the backrest of the chair. There were also three young people in the corner who were looking at the photographs which belonged to Madam Clarah, and those pictures had been put into a piece of fabric frame on the wall. A blouse had been hung up on the open window.

At another window across the street, there was now a group of old people standing. Their number seemed to have been increasing, the same like those who stood behind them, and it looked all these people had become abnormal -- far taller than they were before. Amongst them stood a man with an open shirt that portrayed his masculine chest and had a white goatee beard which he squeezed and twisted with his fingers.

“Thomas Sox?” the supervisor began to question, perhaps so as to merely attract Sox’s attention as he looked right around the room.

Thomas nodded.

“I believe you got quite surprised by all that’s been happening this morning,” said the supervisor, as he cleared off everything ahead of him, mainly the neatly arranged magazines and novels, as well as the single ‘switched off’ Huawei tablet and a half-burnt green-coloured candle on the bedside table. There was also a pin cushion which lay there as if it included the things he would need for his own business.

“Indeed,” said Sox, and he began to feel more relaxed now that, at last, he now stood before someone with some reasoning capacities, someone with whom he would be able to present his situation.

“Indeed I’m shocked, though It’s not the first time to experience such kind of surprises.”

“You mean it’s not even the first time for you to be faced with such accusations?” curiously asked the supervisor, as he placed his smartphone in the middle of the table and the other things in a group around it.

“It’s like you’re not getting me correctly, Sir,” Sox replied instantly.

“I said…,” he began to speak absentmindedly. It seemed he was now looking around for somewhere to rest himself onto.

“May I sit down?” he asked.

“That’d be very strange,” replied the supervisor.

“I was just saying…,” Sox tried to answer once again, now it seemed he had come back to his normal senses. That made him to proceed without wasting much of the supervisor’s time:

“yes, it’s true that I am very surprised but the fact is when you’ve been already in the world for forty years or more and have been used to know everything through various life experiences yourself, like what has happened to me, then you’d become more resistant to such surprises and you can’t take them to be too tough to overcome. Not only referring to what I’ve seen today.”

“Why factoring out what you’ve just seen today?”

“I wouldn’t want to say that I see all this as funny, because you seem to have undergone yourself through a very difficult time while making all these arrangements. From what I think, it’s a responsibility for everyone who is in this house to take part in this case, not excluding yourself too. That would be going beyond what could be a joke. For now I can emphatically say that this is merely a joke!”

“Oh, that’s alright…,” said the supervisor, looking as if he wanted to light up a cigarette from his fingers.

“But in another words,” Sox made an interjection, while hovering his distabilized eyes around the room. He seemed to put much concentration at everyone in there, and even to get much attention from those three people who had been viewing the tacked photographs on the wall:

“in another words this is really not all that important. What’s important for me is to get an indictment, but…,” he then paused with a blank stare, “I’m not conceiving any slightest offence for which I could be indicted whatsoever.

“Anyway, that’s is all not the point here. The main point is: Who is responsible for my indictment? Which office is facilitating this whole affair? Are you real police officers? I’m asking all this because there’s no one amongst you who is wearing an officially-stamped uniform, except for these rags that you are currently putting on.”

Now Sox momentarily flashed his eyes back to Larry.

“There is no such kind of uniform,” he rubbished, “rather it’s actually more of a mining overalls. I’m waiting for a clear explanation concerning all these questions, and I do believe that once things have been made clearer, we can take a leave of each other on the best of terms.”

On hearing Sox’s seemingly offensive utterances, the supervisor slammed down on the table with the box of matches he had now been holding in his right hand.

“You’re very wrong, Sox,” he charged him.

“May you please be aware that we don’t have anything to do with your case here. Assuredly, we know almost nothing about you. We could be wearing uniforms as proper and exact as you’d like, but that doesn’t change the status quo! Regarding the fact that you’re whether on a charge or not, I can’t give you any sort of clear response to such a question, for I don’t even know whether you are a real criminal or not.

“The phrase: “you’re under arrest” maybe real, but I’ve no any other clue, to know more than that. Otherwise these officers could have been playing around with you. And, if they have been, then that’s just okay! I can’t give you any answer regarding all those questions, Sox. However, I can give you a little bit of advice, a sort of warning that you’re free to either accept or reject at your own discretion: you don’t have to worry much about our identities and, also, about what’s going to happen to you next. Rather it might be much wiser for you to just think about yourself than anything else. And, again, stop being troubled about your state of innocence; you don’t really present a very negative impression in any way, but you’re otherwise destroying it by doing all this.

“Suggestively you don’t have to be much talkative like this, Mr. Sox. More so, you’ve to bear it in mind that we could have taken everything you said from your own behaviour, even if you’d have spoken no more than a single word. Actually you’ve said something that has not been exactly in your own favour!”

Sox intently stared at the supervisor from his head down to the toes. He seemed to have developed a certain degree of eagerness to find out much about him: Is this man younger than myself, if he could present such a lecture like a schoolmaster? Is he being simply punished for merely loving his job? And, is he being here to learn nothing much about all the reasons for my arrest or those making me becoming arrested? After he had finished pondering about all these issues, Thomas became almost bewildered and began to roam up and down the room. Nobody dared to halt him from doing so and, as he continued, he first folded both his hands, before he later uncoiled them and rubbed off his bare head with an unrestrained roughness.

After some minutes, Sox went straight up to the three men and shouted:

“That’s really nonsense!”

These three chaps had now gazed at Thomas with faces filled with nervousness and, already, he had made an instant U-turn to return backwards to the supervisor. There, he stopped at some few inches away before him.

“State prosecutor, Mr. Ruben Francis, is my closest companion,” Thomas claimed, “can I call him right now?”

“Whatever you may think of, dude,” ignorantly answered the supervisor, “but I don’t find any reason for you to do so, unless you’ve a different issue or something else far from this matter to discuss with him.”

“Which other issue are you now talking about?” asked Sox, while he became more unsettled than ever before.

“Why’d you overrate yourself like that?” he added, “And, you want to involve yourself between our conversation with the PG, for what apparent reason? Now listen, man, that’s none of your business! These fellow brothers of yours are the ones who approached me at first, here in my house, but it now seems like they are enjoying my suffering in your presence, as if they’re watching a free movie at a local cinema. By the way, what’s wrong with me placing a phone call to my friendly Prosecutor general?

“To fix you, I’m no longer interested in doing so now, I won’t call Mr. Francis anymore, are you getting me properly?”

“It’s up to you, Sox, to call him or not,” answered the supervisor, as he stretched out his hand towards the table to lift up his Tablet, “here’s a phone for you to go ahead, man. Do make your phone call right now.”

“No, I said I don’t want to anymore,” replied Sox, and he went over to the window.

The people were still standing across the street, much more closer to the window, and that was when Sox moved towards them in a bid intended to induce a tremor of terror upon their guts. But he probably meant something else, his mood depicted. However, the crowd had already become unstable. They all wondered about what was actually taking place in this house. The old couple then decided to get up and fled the scene, but they got halted and calmed down by the man behind them:

“Don’t worry elders, nothing will ever happen to you in our presence.”

Whereas, in the flat, the fire was still burning: “I’ve support all over the country, and I don’t fear anybody,” it was Sox who boasted while turning his face to the supervisor. He spoke while pointing his forefinger towards the window.

“Get away, you bloody fools!” Thomas then rebuked the crowd.

Nobody outside could withstand his shout. Even the old pair found themselves behind the man who later concealed them with the breadth of his body and seemed, going by the movements of his mouth, to be saying something incomprehensible into a distance. They did not left entirely, though, but seemed to be waiting for a moment, where they could return to the window without being seen.

“Stupid, thoughtless people!” said Sox as he turned back into the room.

The supervisor might have concurred with him, at least Sox thought that was what he saw from the corner of his eye. But it was just as possible that he had not even been listening as he had his hand pressed firmly down on the table and seemed to be comparing the length of his fingers. The two police officers were sitting on a chest covered with a coloured blanket, while rubbing their knees. The three young people had placed their hands on their hips and were looking around the house aimlessly. There had now been a moment of silence in the room, like in a certain office that has become disused for a long time.

“Okay, comrades,” called out Sox, and for a moment it seemed as if he was carrying all of them on his shoulders, “it seems like your business with me is over now. In my view, it’s pretty much best for you now to stop wondering about whether you should proceed or not with this case. In fact you just have to bring this matter to an unconditional end, with a mutual handshake. If you agree with me, then please…” and he walked straight up to the supervisor’s desk and threw out his hand to him.

The supervisor, however, lifted up his eyes, licked both his lips and looked at Sox’s outstretched hand; Sox still believed the supervisor would do as he had suggested. But, instead, the supervisor got up from where he sitted, picked up a hard round leather hat which was laying on the bed and wore it carefully onto his head, using both hands as if it was a new one.

“Why do you simplify life to such an extent, Sox?” he looked puzzled, “You’re saying we have to bring this matter to an end, because of what? Never, that won’t happen! Remember, on the other hand, It was not meant for you to think there’s no hope for you. No!

“The fact is, however, you’re still under arrest and there is no any other way to reverse that. That’s what I had to tell you, that’s what I’ve done and now I’ve seen how you’ve taken it. That’s enough for one day and we can take our leave for each other, for the time being at least.

“I expect you’ll want to go in to the bank now, won’t you?”

“Into the bank?” asked Sox, “I thought it’s not possible when one is under arrest.”

Sox spoke with a certain amount of defiance, a little bit of stubbornness and obstinacy. His handshake had not yet been accepted, even by now. His thoughts were more centred on the independence he was receiving from all these people, especially from the supervisor. In fact he seemed to play jokes with them.

When they were to leave, he had decided to chase them and offer himself to them for an arrest. That mentality only forced him to think about the same thing:

“How can I go into the bank when I’m a prisoner?”

“It’s like you haven’t heard me correctly, Sox,” answered the supervisor, as he was already standing at the door.

“Being under arrest doesn’t imply that one doesn’t have those constitutional rights, particularly the right to work, to eat, to sleep, or even to talk! And, as inshrined in that supreme law of the land, we stand to both defend and respect as officials, there shouldn’t be anything or anyone to stop you from carrying on with your daily life activities. In fact you’re free until proven to be guilty.”

“Oh, well, meaning to say I’m still free the way you’re? So there’s no need for us to keep on talking about this matter for, in real senses, I’m just like anyone else walking in the streets,” said Sox, and he moved closer to the supervisor once more.

“I never meant it should be like that,” whispered the supervisor.

“It hardly seems to have been necessary for you to notify me about this arrest case,” said Sox, and shifted a little bit closer once again.

The group of people outside had also become nearer to the house again. They had all gotten together into a narrow space by the door.

“That was my responsibility, my certified duty,” said the supervisor.

“A stupid one, isn’t it?” said Sox, unyielding.

“Perhaps,” replied the supervisor, “but let’s not waste much of our time waffling all this rubbish. I thought you wanted to go to work early. Now you have to be very attentive as I say this: I’m not here to force you to go to the bank, Thomas Sox. That has just been my thought that you wanted to. And, to make things much easier for you, and to let you decide freely about your job issue, I’ve delegated these three gentlemen, who are more of your colleagues, to be at your own disposal!”

“What do you mean?” exclaimed Sox, while he stared at the three men with astonishment. He could only remember seeing them in their group by the photographs, but these characterless, meager young individuals were indeed officials from his bank, not his colleagues like what the supervisor had just put it. Rather they were not even junior staff members at the bank.

How could Sox have failed to identify them?

It gobbles the mind a lot to note how Sox had been so occupied to such extent that he could not recognise these three! Norman, with his stiff demeanour and swinging hands, Trevor, with his blonde hair and deep-set eyes, and Reason, with his involuntary grin, caused by chronic muscle spasms.

“Good morning, fellas,” said Sox after a moment. He extended his hand to the gentlemen as they all bowed with full respect towards him.

“I never thought you were here,” he said. “ So, should we start to work right now?” The three gentlemen laughed and nodded enthusiastically, like that had been what they were waiting for all the time. Sox had left his hat in his room so these young men dashed, one after another, into the room to fetch it, which caused a little embarrassment. He stood where he was and watched them threading through an open double doorway, up until the last one got to disappear. Of course, that was really apathetic as Norman had broken into no more than an elegant trot. Trevor got to the hat and Reason, as he often had to do at the bank, forcibly reminded himself that the grin was not deliberate.

At that moment, Madam Phiri opened the door from the hallway into the living room where all the people were. She did not seem to feel guilty about anything at all, and Sox, as he did most of the times, looked down at the belt of her apron which, (for no reason) cut so deeply into her hefty body.

Once downstairs Sox, with his watch in his hand, decided to take a quick taxi. He had already been delayed by half an hour and there was no need to make the delay any longer. Trevor ran to the corner to summon it, and the two others were making strong efforts to keep Sox diverted when Reason had pointed out towards the doorway of the house on the other side of the street where the large man with blonde goatee beard appeared and, had become a little more embarrassed at first, for he had allowed himself to be seen in his full height, while he stepped back to the wall in order to lean against it, probably with an intention to hide.

The old couple were probably still on the stairs. Sox was cross with Reason for pointing out his forefinger towards this man, whom he had already seen himself, and in fact whom he had been expecting:

“Stop looking at him!” he snapped, without noticing how odd it was to speak to free men in such a way. But there was no explanation required anyway, for the taxi had already arrived for them to sat inside and set off.

Inside the taxi, Sox remembered that he had not noticed the supervisor and the two police officers leaving the room. The supervisor, he recalled, had stopped him while noticing the three bank staff and now the three bank staff had stopped him noticing the supervisor. This showed that Sox was not very attentive to any detail altogether, and he resolved to watch himself more carefully in this respect than any other person. Nevertheless, he gave it no thought as he twisted himself around and leant over the rear shelf of the car to catch sight of the supervisor and the policemen, only if he could. But he returned back straightaway and leant comfortably into the corner of the taxi, without making any effort to see anyone. Although it did not seem like that, now was just the time when he needed some encouragement, but the gentlemen seemed tired just then. Norman looked out of the car to the right, Trevor to the left and only Reason was there with his grin at Sox’s service. It would have been inhumane to make fun of that.

After work, that spring, and whenever possible, Sox usually spend his evenings in the office, until nine o’clock, and sometimes taking a short walk, either by himself or in the company of some other bank officials, and then would go into the bottle store, where he would sit at the regulars’ table with mostly older men until late at night. There were, however, some exceptions to these habits, times, and instances, when Sox got some invitations by the bank’s manager (whom he greatly respected for his industral ethics and trustworthiness) to go with him for a ride in his own car or to eat dinner with him at his mansion, in the low density surbub of Lindslay. Sox would also go, once a week, to see a young lady called Sofia who worked as an attendant at a certain private bar, of which she did so through-out the night until late in the morning. During daytime, that young lady only received visitors while still in bed.

That evening, though, the day had passed quickly with a lot of hard work and many respectful and friendly birthday greetings, Sox wanted to go straight home. Each time he would get a small break from the day’s work of which he considered, without knowing exactly what was in his mind, that Madam Phiri’s flat had been always the house of great drama, trauma and disorderness like what he had experienced on this very morning. He wished such disorderness to be rectified, and to make every trace of those events erased such that everything would take its previous course once more. In particular, there was nothing much to fear from the three bank officials, for they had immersed themselves back into their paperwork and there was no alteration to be seen in them. Sox had called each of them (separately or together) into his office that day for no other reason than to observe them; he always felt satisfied and had always been able to let them go again.

Chapter Two

At half past ten that evening, when he had arrived back in front of the building where he lived, Thomas Sox met a young lad in the doorway who was standing there, with his legs apart and smoking a pipe.

“Who is this?” he immediately asked, bringing his face close to the lad’s, as it was hard to see in the half light of the landing.

“I’m Madam Phiri’s son, sir,” answered the lad, taking the pipe off his mouth and stepping to one side.

“Madam Phiri’s son?” Sox asked with a lot of dissatisfaction, and impatiently knocked on the ground with a wooden stick he had picked.

“Is there something you’re looking for, sir? Or maybe you want me to fetch my father?”

“No, no,” said Sox, as he exhibited something regrettable in his voice, like the boy had harmed him in some ways. That led him to make an excuse:

“Okay, that’s fine.”

He proceeded but, before he could climb the stairs, he first turned around once more, to scrutinize his own safety.

Sox could have gone directly to his room, but as he wanted to speak with Madam Phiri first, he went straight to her door and knocked so hard. She sat at the table with a knitted stocking and a pile of old stockings in front of her. On seeing her opening the door, Sox apologised for arriving home so late, but Madam Phiri was very friendly and did not want to hear any apology, therefore she was always ready to speak to him. Sox knew it very well that he was her best and favourite lodger. He looked around the room and saw that it looked exactly as it usually did: the breakfast dishes which had been on the table by the window that morning, had already been cleared away.

“It’s really true that a woman bears the entire burden of the house, as her hands will do many things when there’s actually nobody seeing,” Thomas mumbled.

He might, himself, have smashed all the dishes on the spot but certainly would not have been able to do that. Otherwise he stared at Madam Phiri with some sort of gratitude.

“What is it that makes you work till so late like this?” he asked.

They were now both sitting on the table, and Sox then sank his hands into a pile of stockings.

“A lot of work is making me busy tonight,” she answered, “during the day I’ll be attending to my tenants’ business; if I’m to sort out my own things there are only evenings left for me to succeed.”

“I’m regretting to have caused you some exceptionally high work today.”

“In what way, Sox?” she asked, while becoming more interested and leaving her work on the lap.

“I’m talking about the men who were here this morning.”

“Oh, I understand,” she reconciled, and resumed to do what she was doing, “but that was not much troublesome, not really at all.”

Sox stared at her in silence as she took up the knitted stocking once more. She seemed to be surprised on his first utterance, he thought. More so, he observed: she seemed to think it’s improper for him to mention such a previous issue.

“Look, I have a lot more important things which needs to be done tonight,” the old lady said.

Thoughts continued to be digested in Sox’s own brain matter: It is only the old woman like this, whom I can discuss this matter with.

“But it must have caused some more work for you,” he later said loudly, “but it won’t happen again.”

“No, it shouldn’t,” she agreed, and smiled back to him in a way that was filled with some sorts of pain.

“But, are you serious about this issue, Madam?” asked Sox.

“Yeah, very,” she replied more gently, “but what is more important here is that you don’t have to stress yourself much. There are so many shocking things happening in the world. As you’re being so honest with me, Mr. Sox, I can really admit it before you that I heard some of the going-ons behind the door, and that those two police officers told me one or two or more things concerning your case. It’s all to do with your happiness though, and that’s something that’s quite close to my heart, perhaps more than it should be as I am, after all…, because I’m only your simple landlady.

“Anyway,” she continued, “so I heard one or two things but I can’t really say that they were very serious.”

“But they have already opened a case against me, so how could you say it’s not much a serious issue, Madam?”

“No. You got arrested, but it’s not in the same way like when they arrest a thief. If you’re arrested in the same way like a thief, then it’s really painful, but an arrest like what I suppose you’ve gotten… it looks to me like it’s something very complicated, excuse me if I’m now saying something so stupid, but it’s something that you don’t really need to understand anyway.”

“There’s nothing so stupid about this, Madam Phiri, or at least I partly agree with you, only, for the way I judge the whole saga is much harsher than yours, and I think it’s not only something complicated but simply stupid like what the way of knitting a stocking looks like to you.”

Madam Phiri could have been surprised by my recent utterances, Thomas thought; she seems to think it’s improper for me to talk about it. This is more important for me to do so. Nevertheless, it’s only an old woman like this, whom I have to discuss all this matter with.

“I was just caught unprepared, Madam,” Sox began to narrate, “That’s what have taken place today. But I really know that if I would have gotten up as soon as I became awake, without letting myself getting confused because of Sarah’s absence; if I’d have been awake and paid no regard to anyone who might have been in my way and come straight towards your room, and if I’d have done something like having my breakfast in the kitchen as an exception and then asked you to bring me my clothes, from my room, in short, or else if I would have behaved with much sensitivity during that moment, then, I surely believe nothing more would have happened to me. I’m really sure that everything that was about to happen would have been forfeited. Nevertheless it’s a norm that people are so often unprepared when they are going to fall into some troubles.

“In the bank where I work, for example, I am very sensitive, and nothing of this sort could possibly happen to me there, for I have my own assistants in alertness. Plus, there are telephones for internal and external calls in front of me on the desk. These works hand in hand with twenty-four-hour surveillance cameras that hang out right-round the building.

“In addition to that, I continually receive visits from people, representatives, officials, but besides that, and most importantly, I’m always occupied with my work, that’s to say I’m always alert; it would even be a pleasure for me to find myself faced with something of that sort. But now, the tragedy has already taken place, and I didn’t really even want to talk much about it. Actually I have only come here to hear what you, as a more responsive woman, have to say, and I’m very glad to hear that we’re in an agreement. But now you must give me your hand, a concession of this sort needs to be confirmed with a handshake.”

Will she agree to shake hands with me if the supervisor have once refused, he thought, and looked at the woman abstractedly, while examining her from bottom to top.

Madam Phiri stood up, while following suit to what Sox had just done, and there happened to be a little consensus going about. In fact she hadn’t been able to understand everything about what Sox had just asked.

Following this self consciousness saga, she muttered something that she certainly did not intend to utter and certainly was not appropriate.

“Don’t trouble yourself, Mr. Sox,” she said, with tears welling down her flat cheeks and also, of course, she had already forgotten the much needed handshake.

“I didn’t know it that I was taking it too seriously,” said Sox, feeling suddenly sorrowful and seeing that if this woman did not consent with him, the whole issue would become insignificant.

Before he left the room, Thomas Sox asked: “Is Madam Clarah available?”

“Mmmh, no,” answered Madam Phiri.

She replied while smiling so foolishly, something which showed that she had much vigor to divulge more details about this lady’s whereabouts:

“She’s gone to the theatre. Do you want to see her tonight? Should I message her now?” Madam Phiri was just whispering to him.

“No, don’t worry, I just wanted to have some few words with her.”

“I’m feeling scared, you know? Right now I don’t even have any clue about when she’s gonna be here; she usually gets back late when she’s been to the theatre, but not much like this.”

“I don’t think it’s a big deal, Madam,” said Sox. His head had been hanged backwards as he opened the door to leave.

“I meant only to apologise for hijacking her room today,” he said.

“I don’t see any reason for doing that, Mr. Sox. You don’t just have to be Mr Right all the time. Understand that the young lady you’re talking about knows nothing about what have taken place here today; she hasn’t been available since early in the morning and everything’s been put back to order. You can just see it for yourself, if you are a doubtful Thomas?”

Madam Phiri talked with Sox while she pushed the door inwards, to open Madam Clarah’s room.

“Okay, thanks; I’ll just put my belief upon your word,” said Sox, but he proceeded over to the widely opened door.

The moon shone quietly into the bulb-less room. And from the way things looked like, everything was indeed in complete order, and not even a single blouse could be seen hanging on to the window’s handle. The pillows on the bed seemed to be remarkably plump as they lay half in the moonlight.

“Madam Clarah usually arrives home late,” said Sox, as he gazed at Madam Phiri, like what he had just said had been her responsibility.

“That’s what you young people do!” claimed Madam Phiri in a bid to excuse herself.

“Exactly, I do agree with you, Madam,” said Sox, “but some people tend to complicate things.”

“Yes, of course they do,” said Madam Phiri, “you’re very correct, Mr. Sox. It could be something happening even in this case. Truly I feel being not at liberty to despise such a good woman like Madam Clarah, she isn’t that bad at all. Rather, that young lady is one of the best girls in the entire area of Plainview plateau. She is friendly, down to earth, tidy, punctual, a hard worker, actually everything that portrays a best woman in town. I believe if she could have been aware of all these qualities, she would become much more uplifted in her spirit, body and soul, than ever before!

“I think it’s now a second time this month, when I’ve seen her with a strange gentleman. As a norm, I’m not really comfortable to say things like this, Mr. Sox. It’s just a matter of privacy and trust that you’re the only person whom I’ve told. Heaven knows that I am really serious!”

Madam Phiri lifted up her hand to swear, before she continued:

“Anyway I think I’m going to have some few few words with Madam Clarah about this issue. And I’m not only worried about such things, Mr. Sox, let me tell you the truth.”

“Madam, you seem to get off the right track here,” said Sox, as he now looked to be so dissatisfied to an extent which he could not hide, “and you have, to a greater extent, misunderstood what I’ve just said about Madam Clarah, I didn’t meant all such hogwash! In fact I’ve just warned you quite vividly, not to divulge anything about her, but you seem to be quite mistaken. I really know the lady we’re talking about here, very well and the picture you’re trying to paint concerning her behaviour is not real at all.

“Furthermore,” he added, “perhaps I’m going too far, I don’t want my name to be dragged into mud. Therefore respect other people’s private businesses! Have a pleasant night.”

“Mr. Sox!” called out Madam Phiri as if she wanted to ask him something very urgent and, she hurried straight to his door (which he had already opened), “I don’t want to speak to Madam Clarah at all, not yet, of course I’ll continue to keep watching her but, you’re the only one whom I’ve told what’s actually in my heart. And it is, after all, something that everyone who lets rooms has to do if he or she has to keep the house decent, that’s all I’m trying to do here, Mr. Sox.”

“Decent!” shouted out Sox through the narrow crack in the door, “if you want to maintain decency in the house, then you’ll first have to give me a notice!” Immediately, he slammed the door shut.

Madam Phiri made a gentle knock at the door but Sox disregarded it. He did not feel at all like going to take a rest. Therefore he chose to stay up, and this would allow him the opportunity to find out whether Madam Clarah would get home or not. There seemed to be a greater probability that he, despite being not much important, would have a few words with her. As he ensconced himself there, closer to the window, and while pressing his hands to his weakened eyes, Thomas Sox even thought for a moment that he might punish Madam Phiri by cajoling Madam Clarah to give in her a notice, at the same time as he would. However, he immediately realised that that would be shockingly too much for the old lady, and there would even be an unusual suspicion that he was moving out of the house following the incident of that morning. Nothing would have been more folly and, above all, more pointless and contemptible than that action.

When he finally became tired of peeping out through the window, onto the empty street, Sox slightly opened the door to the living room so that he could see anyone who entered the house from where he lay and, he sat himself down on the couch. He lay there silently as he smoked a cigarette, until about quarter to twelve in the midnight. He could not hold out longer than that, and went a little way into the hallway, as if in that way he could fast-forward Madam Clarah’s arrival time. He had no particular desire for her, however, and he could not even remember her physical appearance, but now he wanted to speak to her and it irked him much that her late arrival at home meant this day would be full of uneasiness and confusion from the first time, right to its very end. Again, he thought it was his own fault to have failed to take any supper that evening and, that he had been unable to visit Sofia as he had intended. He could still make up for both those things, though, if he would have gone to the pub (where Sofia worked). He wanted to do so even later, after the discussion with Madam Phiri.

The time had already gone half past twelve when someone could be heard trailing like an elephant herd in search of water, down in the stairway. Sox, who seemed to have lost his mind in the hallway, while he walked up and down loudly as if he owned that house, fled to the back of his door. Madam Clarah was now home. Shuddering, she pulled a silk shawl over her lean shoulders as she locked the door. The next move was certainly that she would head into her room, where Sox ought not to evade during midnight; that means he had no any other proper time to talk to her besides now but, being not lucky enough, he had failed to switch on the electric bulb in his room such that: when he stepped out of the dark it would give a false impression to the lady that he had been an intruder and definitely, in most cases, that had been quite alarming.

There was no time for wasting, and in his cluelessness he whispered through the crack of the door:

“Madam Clarah.” That sounded like Thomas Sox was beseeching to this lady, and not just calling her.

“Who’s there?” asked Madam Clarah, looking around with her eyes wide open.

“It’s me, Thomas Sox,” answered Sox and, immediately, he exited from his room.

“Oh, Mr. Sox!” said Madam Clarah with a broad smile: “A good evening to you, Sir,” and she stretched out her hand to greet him.

“I’ve something to talk to you, Madam. I don’t know, would you mind to spare me your time?”

“You mean right now?” surprisingly asked Madam Clarah, “does it have to be now, Sir? Ah, It sounds a little bit weird, isn’t it?”

“I’ve been waiting for you since early evening hours, Madam,” he said.

“Well, I’ve been at the theatre, and I knew nothing about that issue, Sir. Can you now see how important it is to have one another’s cell numbers?” She made a ridiculous smile.

“Yes it’s true, I shall save your contact details in my phone tomorrow. Anyway, It’s just the case that I’ve only gotten the need to speak to you today.”

“Well, I really understand that, Thomas. I see no any reason to stop you from talking to me, despite that I’m feeling very tired right now. Can you please come with me into my room for some minutes then. I don’t think it’d be wise for us to have a conversation outside; we’d make noise for everyone who’s asleep and I think it’s us who might lose that privilege of privacy we have to enjoy. Let me put the light on in my room, and then turn the light on down out there.”

Sox patiently waited for Madam Clarah to do what she had just said, and then even waited longer till she came out of the room and beckoned.

“May you please take a sit,” she said, as she indicated the ottoman, and while she kept on standing by the bedpost, despite the tiredness she had just spoken of; she did not even take off her hat, which was small but decorated with an abundance of flowers.

“What is the matter, Mr. Sox? I’m really becoming quite nervous.” She gently crossed her legs.

“I thought you were about to say,” Sox started, “this matter isn’t really all that important, and we don’t have to talk about it tonight, but …”

“Yes, it’s true, I’m not always free to make late conversations,” said Madam Clarah.

“Thanks for granting me such an expensive opportunity then,” said Sox: “Today in the morning, to some extent because of me, your room became a little disordered. This took place as a result of some strange people and against my will but, like what I said earlier on, everything was simply because of my fault; I wanted to offer you my apology for all the mess which has happened.”

“You mean this room?” asked Madam Clarah while keeping her eyes on Sox, instead of looking right-round to examine her room.

“Yes, this one, Madam,” answered Sox and, now, for the first time, they looked into each other’s eyes, “I can’t really explain how that came into being.”

“But that’s an interesting fact about it,” said Madam Clarah.

“Not really,” said Sox.

“Well then?” said Madam Clarah, “I don’t want to force myself into any secret. If you insist that it’s of no interest, I won’t insist. I’m quite free to forgive you for that matter, the way you’ve asked, especially as I’m not seeing anything at all that’s been left junky.”

While she lay her hand flat on her lower hip, Madam Clarah hovered her eyes around the entire room. She halted them short at the mat where her photographs stayed:

“Oh my goodness, look at this!” she cried, “My photographs really have been misplaced. Oh, that’s really terrible. Someone made an invasion into my room!”

Sox nodded, and calmly cursed Trevor who worked with him at the bank and who had always been active doing things that had no use or purpose.

“It’s disheartening,” said Madam Clarah, “that I’m always forced to forbid you to do something which you ought to have prevented yourself, for example coming into my room when I’m not present!”

“But I’ve tried to explain it to you,” said Sox, as he drew closer to her by the photographs, “that I’m not the one who touched your photographs; but as you’re now failing to believe me, I’ll have to admit that the investigation team brought with them three bank officials, one of them must have tempered with your pictures and, as soon as I shall have the chance, I’ll ask the management to have him dismissed from work.” Sox spoke while the young lady intently stared at his eyes.

“So you mean the investigation committee has been in my room because of you?” she asked, curiously.

“Yes,” answered Sox.

“No!” the lady cried with a rudeness-filled laughter.

“Yes, they were here, Madam,” said Sox, “you trust my innocence, do you?”

“Well now, innocen…” said the lady, “I don’t want to declare that this might have serious consequences. After all, I don’t really know you, meaning to say that you might be a notorious criminal whom they’re dealing with. I’m no longer certain now!

“Anyway,” she later calmed down, “for the mere fact that you’re not currently in custody, at least now, I’ll take it simple that you’ve not escaped from any prison, and considering that you seem to be quite calm there’s a big probability that you’re not guilty of any crime.”

“Yes,” said Sox, “but the reason might also be that the investigating team could have seen that I’m innocent, or not so guilty than what they would have supposed at first.”

“Yes, certainly there’s a possibility,” said Madam Clarah, who now seemed to be very interested.

“Madam,” called out Sox, “you don’t have much knowledge in legal matters.”

“No, but you’re true; I don’t,” said Madam Clarah, “and I’ve often found myself regretting about that, since I’ve much pleasure to know everything about the law. There’s something so smart about legal matters, isn’t it there? I believe as time goes on I’ll definitely improve my knowledge in this subject. In fact next month I’ll start to work as a legal secretary.”

“That’s very smart, Madam,” said Sox, “that means you’ll be able to advice me with some legal tips concerning my upcoming trial.”

“I wish it would happen like that,” said Madam Clarah, “but why not? I like to implement what I know in real life challenges.”

“I’m really seriously,” said Sox, “or, maybe, partially serious like you do. My affair is rather too minor to involve a lawyer, but I could just seek assistance from someone who’s knowledgeable enough to give me directions.”

“Yes but, let’s say I fail to do so, would you be much free to tell me something about such a matter?” said Madam Clarah.

“There lies the problem,” answered Sox, “I’m not really sure about that myself.”

“So you were just kidding with me, then?” said Madam Clarah, looking to be excessively disappointed, “you really don’t have to play jokes with older people like me, worse when it is so late like this and while you’re in my house!”

Madam Clarah stepped away from the photographs, where they had spend much time standing on.

“Madam Clarah, no,” pleaded Sox, “I’m not joking with you. Please listen to me: I’ve already told you everything I think I know, probably more than I know, as it actually wasn’t even an investigating committee that entered this house. That’s just what I thought them to be, because I don’t know any better title to call them. The time for cross examination wasn’t provided at all. I got a mere arrest but, purportedly by a committee.”

Madam Clarah later sat on the ottoman and made a ridiculous laughter once again:

“So what was it like, then?” she asked.

“Very terrible,” said Sox, although his mind was no longer concentrated on the matter. He had become totally absorbed by Madam Clarah’s look, as she was now supporting her chin on one hand while her elbow had been rested on the cushion of the ottoman, and slowly stroking her hip with the other one.

“It sounds so trivial,” she said.

“What’s so trivial?” Sox asked, then he thought something else, “Are you free to let me show you what it was like?”

Thomas Sox had now become double-minded, like he wanted to make a step forward and get out of the room or to completely boycott such conversation and leave the room.

“I’m already filled with fatigue,” said Madam Clarah.

“You came back home so late,” replied Sox.

“Now you’ve started telling me off. Well, I think it was okay for me to just let you outside my house in the first place, and it turns out there wasn’t even any error in doing so.”

“Oh, that’d have been a very big mistake, Madam. You’ll see now how important this was,” said Sox.

“May I move this table away from your bedside and put it here?” he went on to say.

“What do you want to do?” asked Madam Clarah.

“Of course you can’t! And I can’t prove you anything,” said Sox, sounding quite dissatisfied, as if Madam Clarah had committed some incomprehensible offence against him.

“Okay then, if you were asking to show what you meant, just take it,” Madam Clarah later gave in and, after a short while, she added in a weak voice, “I’m so tired now. In fact I’m now abusing myself.”

Sox put the little table in the middle of the room and then sat down behind it.

“Now you have to get a proper idea of where these people were situated, because it is very interesting. Imagine I’m the supervisor here, sitting over there on the chest, are the two police officers, and standing next to the photographs there are the three young people from the bank. Hanging on the handle of the window is your white blouse, of which there’s no much reason to mention it. And now the whole story starts. Ah yes, I forgot myself, the main actor!

“So I’m standing here in front of the table and the supervisor is ensconced there with his legs crossed and his arms are touching the backrest here like a loafer. And now it really does begin. The supervisor calls out as if he is waking me up. In fact he shouts at me, and I become afraid; to make it much more vivid, I’ll have to shout back as well, and it’s nothing more than my name that he has shouted out.”

Madam Clarah, as she laughed excessively, laid her forefinger on the mouth while she also listened to Sox’s narrative. Her move was intended to prevent him from shouting out a lot, but that action seemed to be too late. Sox was too engrossed in his role and finally called out:

“Thomas Sox!”

However, the shout-out was not as loud as he had threatened ealier on. Nevertheless, once he had suddenly cried, the shout seemed to gradually spread itself all over the room. There were series of echoes and regular knocks at the door of the adjoining room. Madam Clarah headed there while her hand was on the left side of the chest. Surely she had turned pale-blue with fear. Sox was also completely astonished and, as for this moment, he had not been able to think of anything else other than what had transpired on that morning. He had hardly pulled himself together when he jumped over to Madam Clarah so as to take her hand.

“Be calm,” he whispered, “I’m ready for anything. But who might it be? The sound came from the next door in the living room, and there’s nobody who sleeps in there.”

“No, someone does,” Madam Clarah whispered into Sox’s ear, “a nephew to Madam Phiri, who is a captain in the army, has been sleeping there since yesterday. There’s no extra room except that one. I’d forgotten about it too. But why’d you shout like that? You’ve betrayed me, Mr. Sox.”

“Don’t worry it’s not a big deal, Madam,” said Sox and, at that moment, Madam Clarah had sank herself back onto the cushion, after he had kissed her on the forehead.

“Get out of my house,” she said, while throwing herself down, “I said leave now, what are you still doing? He’s listening at the door and I’m sure he is hearing everything. You’re causing me so much trouble!”

“I’m not going anywhere,” said Sox, “until you’ve calmed down a little bit. Come over into the other corner of the room, he won’t hear anything there.” She later complied.

“ Remember,” he cautioned her, “even though this might be unpleasant for you, you’re not in any real danger. Do you know the level of esteem Madam Phiri has for me? She’s the one who make all the decisions in this house, not her nephew, the captain. And she believes everything I say without a question. What’s more, then? She has borrowed a large sum of money from me and that makes her vulnerable to me. I will emphasize whatever you say to cover-up our story --our being here together, however inappropriate it might be, and I guarantee to make sure that Madam Phiri will not only say that she believes the explanation in public but will believe it truly and sincerely. You will have no need to consider me in any way. If you would like to let it exposed that I have attacked you then, Madam Phiri will be informed of such and, she will definitely believe it without even losing her trust in me. That’s how much she respects me.”

Madam Clarah looked at the floor in front of her, quiet and a little sunk-in on herself.

“What makes Madam Phiri not believe that I’ve attacked you?” added Sox. He placed his eyes at her hair in front of him, kinked, bunched down, reddish and sandy-thicker. He thought she was going to lift up her face but, without changing her manner, she said:

“Forgive me because it was just the abruptness of the knock that daunted me so much, not the presence of the captain or anyone else at the door. And, of course, it was also quiet before you have shouted, so the environmental changes which took effect after that action totally distabilized my mind. Thanks for your suggestions, but I’m not going to accept them. I can take all the responsibilities for anything that happens in my own room, and I’m free to do so even without anyone’s help. It gobbles my mind a lot that you don’t realise how insulting your suggestions are to me, regardless of the fact that I certainly acknowledge your good intentions. But for now, you may just go back to your room; please leave me alone. I’m now more than serious, Mr. Sox. Don’t forget that you only asked me some few minutes to talk and, because you’re a notorious con man, you’ve recklessly converted them into more than half an hour; it’s almost more than one hour now!”

However, Sox took hold of her hand, and then smoothly extended his soft palms up to the wrist.

“You’re not cross with me, though?” he said.

She pulled her hand away and answered:

“No, no, I’m never cross with anyone.”

He grasped her wrist once again, and she seemed to tolerate that now and, in that way, lead him to the door. Now he exhibited the desire to leave but, when he reached the door, he came to a standstill as if he hadn’t expected to find a door there. Madam Clarah took that as an opportunity to free up herself, open the door, slip out into the hallway and gently said:

“Now, come along, please. Look,” as she pointed to the captain’s door, from under which there was a light shining, “he’s switched on the light and he’s laughing at us right now.”

“Okay, I’m returning,” said Sox, as he moved forward to take hold of her hand again, then he kissed her on the mouth and then over her whole face like a thirsty wolf lapping water with its tongue after some days of being thirsty. He then lowered and turned his pinkish tongue around her neck, until he got into contact with her Adam’s apple. Thomas did not raise his face until there was a bang from the captain’s room.

“I’m going now,” he said; he wanted to mention Madam Clarah by her Christian name, but did not know it. She gave him a weak nod, and later offered him her hand to kiss as she turned away, like she did not know what was happening. Madam Clarah went back into her room with her head lowered.

Later on, Sox had already been lying in his bed. He had gone to sleep soon but, before he did so, he thought for a moment about his foolishness, his irrational behaviour to such a good lady like Madam Clarah, and he was satisfied about all that but still felt some surprise that he had not yet been more satisfied. He worried much about Sofia because of the captain’s presence.

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

Thomas Sox got an instruction by telephone that there would be a small hearing regarding his case on the next Saturday. They informed him that these cross examinations were to succeed each other at regular intervals, probably not every week but quite frequently. Conversely, it was in everyone’s interest to bring proceedings quickly to their conclusion but, on the other hand, every aspect of the examinations was going to be conducted thoroughly and without taking too much time owing to the associated stress. As a result of all this, it had been decided to carry out a series of brief examinations following one after another.

 

Saturday had been chosen as the proper day for the hearings so that Sox would not be disturbed in his professional work. It was assumed that he would be in agreement with this, but if he wished for another date then, as far as possible, he would be given a go-ahead. Cross-examinations could even be held at night, for instance, but Sox would likely not be prepared enough at that time. However, as long as he made no objection, the hearing would be left progressing. It was just a matter of fact that he would have to appear without fail, and there was probably no any other option or explanation required. When the time arrives, Thomas would be conferred with a number of the building where he had to go, and which was in the street of a suburb situated far away from the Central Business District, which he had never been to before.

Upon the receipt of this phone call, Sox terminated the conversation without uttering even a single word; he had decided immediately to go there that Saturday. He found it to be certainly necessary to do so. The day for proceedings finally came and everything begun. Now he had to face up to it and, this first examination would probably also be the last one.

 

By the day he got the phone call, Thomas was still standing in thought while pressing his cellphone on the ear when he heard the footsteps of the deputy director behind him.

 

“Disturbing news?” asked the deputy director casually, not in order to find anything out but just to get himself space to passby.

 

“Not really,” answered Sox, as he stepped to the other side of the way but did not go away entirely. The deputy director walked some minutes past him and, as if he had forgotten something, turned back and said:

 

“May I ask you something, Mr. Sox: Would you like to give me the pleasure of joining me on my sailing boat on Saturday morning? Only a few people are coming, and you have to know some of them. One of them is Francis, the state prosecutor. Are you interested to come along? Definitely you have to be!”

 

Sox tried to pay attention to what the deputy director was saying. This, however, was of no significance to him as this invitation from the deputy director, with whom he had never got on very well, meant that he was trying to improve his relations with him. It exhibited how important Sox had become in the bank and how its second most respected official seemed to value his friendship, or at least his fairness.

 

The deputy director only spoke while he stood just beside him but, after making this invitation, he then walked a little bit further. Nevertheless Sox would have to shout something embarrassing to his ears. He said:

 

“Thank you so much, Sir, but… I’m afraid I will have no time on Saturday because I have a previous obligation.”

 

“That’s really pathetic, gentleman,” replied the deputy director, and paused for some seconds while staring at him, before he went on to pick a telephone that had been ringing for a while on his desk. It was not a call for a short conversation but Sox remained standstill, while in full bewilderment about what was going on.

 

By the time when the deputy director hung up the connection, he was shocked into awareness and said, so as to partially excuse his standing there for no reason:

 

“I’ve just received a telephone call, there’s somewhere I need to go, but they forgot to tell me what time.”

 

“That’s really very simple,” said the director, “just ask them.”

 

“I don’t think that’s important,” said Sox, although in that way his earlier excuse had already made him weak enough.

 

As he moved on, the deputy director continued to speak about other things. Sox felt the urge to give a response, but his thoughts were mainly about that Saturday: how would it be best for him to get there before nine o’clock in the morning, as that was the time when the courts always start work during the week.

 

Chapter Four

 

 

The weather was gloomy on Saturday. Sox was very tired, as he had stayed out drinking until late in the night, enjoying life with some of the patrons, and he had almost overslept. He dressed up hastily, without the time to think and assemble the various plans he had worked out during the week. With no breakfast, he rushed to the suburb that he had been told about. To the shock of his life, and despite that he had little time to look around himself, he came across the three bank officials involved in his case, Norman, Trevor and Reason. The first two had been travelling in a train that went along Sox’s route, but Reason sat on the terrace of a café and leant curiously over the walls. Sox drew closer to them. They all seemed to be staring at him, while surprised at seeing their superior running; it was a kind of pride that made Sox want to go on foot. This was his affair and the idea of any help from strangers, however not much, was repulsive to him. He also wanted to avoid asking for anyone’s help because that would initiate them into the affair, though only slightly. And after all, he had no wish at all to humiliate himself before the committee by being too punctual. Anyway, now he had been running so that he would get there by nine o’clock, if it was at all possible, even though he had no any appointment for this time.

 

Sox had thought that he would recognise the building from a distance by some kind of a sign, and without any reason to know exactly what the sign would be like, or from some particular kind of activity outside the entrance. He had been told that the building was in Rockford street but, when he stood at the street’s entrance, he saw almost nothing but bewildering, dark constructions, and tall blocks of flats inhabited by impoverished people.

 

Now, on a Saturday morning, most of the windowsills on those buildings were occupied by men in their formal outfits. They leant outside while smoking, or they carefully and gently held small children on their arms. Other windows were piled up with bedding plants, above which the untrimmed heads of women would intermittently appear. People yelled out to each other across the street, and one of the calls provoked a loud laugh about Sox himself. Indeed, it was a long street, and spaced evenly along it were small shops below street level, selling various kinds of foodstuffs, which you reached by going down a few steps. Women were getting in and out of them or stood chatting on the steps. A fruit vendor selling his goods up to the windows, never minded about Sox to an extent that he nearly knocked him down with his pushcart. At this moment, a local filthy pub began to play some murderous tune. Sox walked further into the street lackadaisically, as if he had plenty of time now, or as if the examining magistrate were looking at him from one of the windows and therefore knew that he had found his way there.

 

It was shortly after nine. The building was quite far down the street (it covered so much area and it was almost extraordinary), and the gateway was particularly tall and long. It was clearly intended for haulage trucks belonging to the various local warehouses, which were now locked up, and carried the names of companies some of which Sox knew from his work at the bank.

 

In contrast to his usual habits, Thomas remained standing for a while at the entrance to the yard, taking in all the external details. Just closer to him, there was a bare-footed man sitting on a crate and reading a newspaper. There were also two chaps swinging on a hand cart. Ahead of a pump stood a sorrowful, young-looking girl in a green sweater who, as the water flowed into her can, looked at Sox. A piece of rope stretched between two windows in a corner of the yard, with some washing hanging on it to dry. There was a man standing below it, giving out instructions to direct the work being done.

Sox later went over to the stairway to get to the room where the hearing proceedings had to take place, but he then stood still again as, besides these steps, he could see three other stairway entrances, and there also seemed to be a small passageway at the end of the yard leading into a second yard. It bored him that he felt that he had not been given more accurate directions to the room; it meant they were either being especially careless about him or something indifferent. Therefore he chose to make that vivid to them -- very loudly and very unambiguously.

 

Eventually he decided to climb up the stairs. His thoughts were playing on something that he remembered the policeman, Smith, had said to him: the court is attracted by the guilt, from which it followed that the courtroom must be on the stairway that Sox selected by chance.

 

As he went upwards, he disturbed a large group of children playing on the stairs and they looked at him as he stepped through their rows.

 

“Next time when I come here,” Sox mumbled to himself, “I must either bring sweets with me to entice them or a stick to hit them with it.”

 

Just before he reached the first landing, Thomas even had to wait a little while until a ball had finished rolling down. That was when two small boys with sly-looking faces, like grown-up scoundrels, had held him by his pair of trousers’ legs until it almost dropped down; if he were to shake them off he would have to hurt them, and he was afraid of what noise they would make by shouting.

 

On the first floor, his search began for sure. He still felt unable to ask for the investigating committee, therefore he invented a joiner called Titas. That name came to his mind because the captain, Madam Phiri’s nephew, was called Titas. In that regard he could ask at every flat whether Titas the joiner lived there and, thus he would obtain a chance to check into the rooms.

 

It turned out, though, that that was mostly possible without further ado, as almost all the doors were left open and the children ran in and out. Most of them were small, one-windowed rooms which the people also used for cooking. Many women held babies in one arm and worked at the stoves with the other. Middle aged girls, who seemed to be dressed in just ragged clothes, worked hardest while running errands. In every room, the beds and blankets were still in use by people who were ill, or perhaps still asleep. Sox knocked at the flats where the doors were closed and asked whether Titas the joiner lived there. It was usually a woman who opened the door to give him a response, after which he heard the enquiry, he would turn to somebody in the next room, and the person would raise himself from the bed:

 

“The gentleman’s asking if a joiner called Titas, lives here.”

 

“A joiner, called Titas?” the other one would be surprised.

 

“That’s alright,” Sox would say, although it was clear that the investigation committee was not to be found anywhere near there, and his task was merely meant to give them temptations.

 

There were many who thought it must be very important for Sox to find Titas the joiner, however. These people took a very long time while thinking, before they could name a joiner who was not called Titas at all, or assume a name that had some trivial similarity with Titas, or they would go on to ask the neighbours or accompany Sox to a next door, very far away, where they thought someone of that sort might have lived in the back part of the building or where someone would be, all that to advise Sox better than they could themselves.

 

Sox at last had to quit asking if he did not want to be led right round, from floor to floor in this flat. He regretted his initial plan, which had at first seemed to be so practical to him.

As he reached the fifth floor, he decided to give up the search, and took his leave for a friendly, young worker who wanted to lead him on still further and went down the stairs. But, then, the thought of how much time he was wasting made him cross, and he went back again and knocked at the first door on the fifth floor. The first thing he saw in the small room was a large antiquated clock on the wall, which already darted ten o’clock.

“Is there a joiner called Titas who stays here?” he asked.

“Sorry, who?” said a young lady with dark blue, dazzling eyes who had been, at that moment, washing children’s underclothes in a zinc dish. She out-stretched her wet hand towards the open door of the adjoining room.

Sox thought he had stepped into a meeting: A medium sized, two windowed room was filled with a most diverse multitude of people and nobody paid any attention to the person who got entered. Close under its ceiling, it was surrounded by a gallery which was also fully packed and where the people could only stand bent-down with their heads and their backs touching the top.

Thomas Sox, who found the air to be too unpleasant to inhale, stepped out again and said to the young woman, who had probably misunderstood what he had said:

“I asked for a joiner, someone by the name of Titas.”

“Yes,” replied the woman, “may you please just walk into that room.”

He would likely not have followed her if the woman had not gone up to him and taken hold of the door handle, before saying:

“I’ll have to shut the door after you get entered because there’ll be no-one else allowed in.”

“Very sensible,” said Sox, “but the room is almost full already, isn’t it?”

To nobody’s response, he got back into it anyway. He passed through between two chaps who were talking beside the door, and one of them held both hands far out in front of himself making the movements of counting out some money; the other one looked him so closely in the eyes and someone took him by the hand. It was a small, red-faced youth.

“Get in, get in,” said the small chap.

Sox let himself be led by him, and it turned out that they had been, all of a sudden, in a densely populated area, with people moving up and down in a narrow passage which may have been the division between two factions; this idea was emphasised by the fact that: in the first few rows to the left and the right of him, there was hardly any face looking in his direction, such that he only saw nothing but the backs of people directing their speech and movements, solely towards members of their own side. Most of them were dressed in black, outdated long formal frock coats that hung down loosely around them. These clothes were the only thing that puzzled Sox, as he would otherwise have taken the whole assembly for a local political rally.

At the other end of the hall, to where Sox had been led, there was a little table set at an angle of a very low podium which was overcrowded all over, and behind that table, near the edge of the podium sat a small but stout, wheezing man who talked with someone behind him. This second man stood with his legs crossed and his elbows were on the backrest of the chair, making the scene a little bit funny.

From time to time the man threw his arm in the air, as if doing a caricature of some sort. The youth who was leading Sox had some difficulty in reporting to the man. He had already endeavoured twice to tell him something, as he stood on tiptoe, but without getting the man’s attention, perhaps due to the high level at which he sat. It was only when one of the people on top of the podium drew his attention to the youth, that the man glanced at him and lowered his head down to hear what he had to say. At that moment he pulled out his watch and quickly turned his eyes to Sox:

“You were supposed to be here one hour and fifteen minutes ago,” he said.

Thomas wanted to answer him but had no time to do so. The man had hardly spoken to counteract the general muttering which rose all over the right hand side of the hall.

“You were supposed to be here one hour and fifteen minutes ago,” the man repeated, now raising his voice and he quickly looked around the hall beneath him. The muttering, also, became immediately louder and, as the man said nothing much, gradually died down.

Now the hall had become much quieter than when Sox had entered. Only the people on top, in the gallery, had not halted passing remarks. As far as could be seen above, in the gallery, there had been a cloud of gloominess, dust and haze. The people there seemed to be less well dressed than those below. Many of them had brought pillows that they had put between their heads and the ceiling, so that they would not hurt themselves when they accidentally pressed against it. Sox had decided to do more watching than talking, therefore he did not defend himself for supposedly having been late, and simply answered:

“Well maybe I have arrived late, but I’m here now.”

There followed a loud applause, once more from the right hand side of the hall. It’s really easy for people to support you, thought Thomas Sox, and was bothered only by the quietness from the left hand side, which was directly behind him and from which there was an applause from only a few individuals. He wondered what he could say to get all of them to his side or, if that was not possible, to at least get the support of the others for a while.

“Yes,” said the man, “but I’m now no longer under any obligation to hear your case.”

There was a mumbling in the room once again but, at this time, it was really misleading as the man on top exhibited some signs of giving orders with his hand, and he continued:

“I will, however, as an exception, continue with it today. But you don’t have to arrive late like this again. And now, step forward!”

Meanwhile, someone jumped down from the podium such that there would be a place free for Sox, and Sox stepped up onto it. He stood pressed closely against the table. This was because the pressure of the crowd behind him was so much that he had to force himself back against it, if he did not want to push the judge’s desk down, off the podium and, perhaps, the judge along with it. The judge, however, paid no attention to that as he ensconced himself on his wide chair and, after saying a few words to close his discussion with the man behind him, reached for a little note book, the only item on his desk. It was like an old school exercise book and had become filthy due to too much thumbing.

“Okay,” said the judge, while thumbing his book. He turned to Sox with the tone of someone who knows his facts and uttered:

“Are you a mechanic?”

“No,” answered Sox, “I’m the chief clerk in a certain local bank.”

Thomas’s reply got followed by laughter from those who were in the right hand faction, at the base of the hall. It was very ridiculous that Sox couldn’t control himself in joining it. The people supported themselves with their hands on the knees and shook as if suffering a serious attack of coughing. Even some of those in the gallery got laughed. The judge had become quite cross but seemed to have no dominion over those below him in the hall. He tried to reduce the harm which had been done in the gallery by suddenly jumping up to threaten them, and his eyebrows, until then, had been hardly remarkable, while pushing themselves up to become horrible, black and bushy over his eyes. The left hand side of the hall was still quiet, though the people stood there in rows and with their faces looking towards the podium. They listened to what was being said there, they observed the noise from the other side of the hall with the same quietness and they even allowed some individuals from their own ranks, here and there, to move forward into the other faction. The people in the left faction had not been only fewer in number than the right but, they were probably no more important than them despite that their behaviour was much calmer and that made it appear like they were.

When Sox now began to speak, he was convinced that he was doing it in the same way as them.

“Your question, your Honour, as to whether I am a mechanic, in fact even more than that, have not been asked at all but merely imposed on me, and is symptomatic of the whole way these proceedings against me are being conducted.

“Perhaps you will object that there are no proceedings against me. You will be quite right, as there are proceedings only if I acknowledge that there are. But, for the time being, I do acknowledge it, out of pity for yourselves to a greater extent.

“It’s impossible not to observe all this business without feeling being sorry. I’m not saying these things are being done without due care but, I would only like to clear the air about how things are happening here. I, Thomas Sox, make the acknowledgement.”

Sox stopped speaking and looked down into the hall. He had spoken pompously, more grandiloquently than he had intended, but he had been quite right. It should have been rewarded with some applause here and there, but everything was quiet. They were all patiently waiting for what would follow, perhaps the quietness was laying the ground for an outbreak of activity that would bring this whole affair to a halt. It was somewhat disturbing that: just then, the door at the end of the hall had opened, and the young washerwoman (who seemed to have finished her work) had entered and, despite all her caution, attracted the attention of some of the people in there. It was only the judge who gave Sox direct pleasure, as he seemed to have been immediately struck by his words. Until then, he had listened to him while standing, as Sox’s speech had taken him by surprise while he was still directing his attention to the gallery.

Now, as he paused with a blank stare, the judge sat down in a slow motion manner, as if he did not want anyone to notice. He took out the notebook again, perhaps to give the impression of being calmer.

“That won’t help you, sir,” continued Sox, “even your little book will confirm what I’m saying.”

Sox got satisfied to hear nothing but his own quiet words in this room full of strangers, and he even dared casually to pick up the presiding judge’s notebook and, by touching it only with the tips of his fingers (as if it were something revolting), lifted it into the air. He went on to hold it just by one of the middle pages so that the others on each side of it could closely see the written, blotted and yellowing sentences, before he recklessly threw it down.

“Those are the official notes of the qualified presiding judge,” Sox mocked.

“You can read in your book as much as you like, sir. I really don’t have anything in this charge book to fear about, even though I don’t have access to it as I wouldn’t want it in my hand, I can only touch it with two fingers.”

The judge picked up the notebook from where it had fallen (on the desk), which could only have been a sign of his deep embarrassment, or at least that is how it must have been perceived. He tried to tidy it up a little bit and, held it once more in front of himself in order to read from it. The people in the front row stared up at him, showing signs of displeasure on their faces, and he looked back down at them for a while. Every one among them was old, and some of them had white hair and beards. Could they perhaps be the crucial group who could turn the whole assembly one way or the other? They had sunk into a state of being motionlessness, while Sox gave his oration, and it had not been possible to raise them from this passivity even when the judge was being ashamed.

“What has happened to me,” added Sox, with less vigour than he had had at first, and now he continually scanned the faces in the first row, such that this gave his address a seemingly curious and distracted expression, “what has happened to me is not just an isolated case. If it were, it would not be of much importance to me but, because it is a symptom of proceedings which are carried out against many, it’s now. This is on behalf of others. In fact it’s not for myself alone!”

Without having intended it, Sox had at last raised his voice. Meanwhile, somewhere in the hall, someone lifted his hands up and applauded him, shouting:

“Yes man! Why not then? You’re the only real man here! Again I say, real man!”

Some of the men in the first row groped around in their beards, and none of them looked around to see who was shouting (not even Sox himself thought about any importance but it did raise his spirit). From his own perspective, Thomas no longer thought it all to be necessary that all of those people, in the hall, should applaud him. He felt it was enough if the majority of them had began to think about the matter and if only one of them, now and then, was persuaded.

“I’m not trying to be a successful orator,” said Sox, after this thought, “and that’s probably more than I’m capable of anyway. I’m sure the judge can speak far better than I do. And, it’s part of his job after all. All that I want is a public discussion for a public fault.

“Listen,” Thomas Sox brought their attention towards him, “ten days ago I was placed under arrest, and that arrest itself is something I laughed about. Anyway, that’s not my point here. The point is: they came to arrest me in the morning when I was still sleeping. Maybe the order had been given to arrest the mechanic but they chose me, regardless of my innocence.

“There were two police thugs occupying the next room and they could not have taken better precautions if I had been a dangerous robber. More so, these policemen were unprincipled lunatics; they talked to me till I got sick of it, they asked for bribes, they wanted to trick me into giving them my clothes, they actually wanted some money, supposedly so that they could bring me my breakfast after they had blatantly eaten my own breakfast in front of me.

“And, that is not all. I was led before the supervisor in another room. This room belongs to a lady for whom I have a lot of respect. I was also forced to look on while the supervisor and these two officers making quite a mess of this room because of me, although not through any of my fault. It was not easy to stay calm, but I reluctantly managed to do so and was completely silent when I later asked the supervisor why it was that I was under arrest. If he were here, he would have confirmed what I’ve just said. I can see him in my eyes right now, while being sitted on the chair which belongs to that lady I mentioned before. Nonetheless the picture is of a merely dullwitted and arrogant fool. What do you think he answered?” Sox paused for a moment as if he wanted to get a response from the judge. Nevertheless, nobody answered him.

“What he told me, gentlemen,” he continued, “was basically nothing at all; perhaps he really did know nothing, and he had placed me under arrest to just make himself satisfied. In fact he had done more than that by bringing three junior employees from my workplace at the bank, where I work in the lady’s room.

“These chaps had made themselves busy by interfering with some photographs that belonged to the lady, and merely causing mess in the house. There had been, of course, another reason for bringing these employees: they, just like my landlady and her maid, were expected to spread bad news about my arrest and damage my public reputation and, in particular, play a major role towards my removal from the high position I have at the bank. Anyway, they didn’t succeed in all that, not at all. Even my landlady, who is quite a social none-starter, never backed them. She is called Madam Phiri. The other one whom we stay with, called Madam Clarah, also understood well enough and saw that such an arrest like this had no more significance than an attack carried out on the open street by some youths who are not kept under proper control.

“I shall repeat again: this whole affair has caused me nothing but an untold suffering and a temporary irritation. However, I’m still curious to know if it could not have some far worse consequences, wouldn’t it?”

Sox broke off here and flashed his eyes towards the judge, who did not say anything. As he did so, he thought he saw the judge using a movement of his eyes to give a sign to someone in the crowd. Sox smiled and said:

“And now the judge, right next to me, is giving a secret sign to someone amongst you. There seems to be someone with you who is taking directions from above. I don’t know whether the sign is meant to produce a boo or an applause, but I’ll resist trying to guess what it’s meaning because it’s too early to judge. It really doesn’t matter to me, and I give his lordship the full honour to judge me in the open public and stop giving secret signs to his paid subordinate down there. In fact he has to simply give orders like: “Boo now!,” and then the next time: “Clap now!”.

Whether it was an embarrassment or impatience, the judge rocked backwards and forwards on his seat. The man behind him, whom he had been talking with earlier on, leant forward again, as if he wanted to give him a few general words of encouragement or some specific pieces of advice. Below them in the hall, the people talked to each other quietly but animatedly. The two factions had at first seemed to hold views strongly opposed to each other but, now they began to intermingle (a few individuals pointed up at Sox, and others pointed to the judge).

The air in the room was stinking and extremely smoky, such that the people who stood far away could hardly even be seen through it. It must have been especially troublesome for those visitors who were in the gallery, as they were forced to quietly ask the participants in the assembly what exactly had been happening, albeit with timid glances towards the judge. The replies they received were just as quiet, that they kept on raising their hands and voices.

“I’m almost finished speaking,” said Sox and, as there was no bell available, he struck the desk with his fist in a way that flabbergasted the judge and his advisor to an extent of taking several seconds while staring up at each other.

“Non of this concerns me, and I’m therefore able to make a calm assessment of it all and, assuming that this so-called court is of any real significance, it will be very much, to your own advantage, to listen to what I have to say. If you want to discuss what I’ve just said, please don’t bother yourself by writing it down until later on. I don’t have any time to waste and I’ll soon be leaving this room,” said Sox.

There was an immediate silence in the room, which showed how well Sox was in control of the entire crowd. There were no longer shouts among them like before. No-one even applauded. But, if they weren’t already persuaded, they seemed to be very close now. Sox got pleased by the tension among all the people in there, for some exhibited much interest in listening to his words.

“There is no doubt,” he mumbled, “that there is a certain enormous organisation determining what should be said in this court. In my case this includes my arrest and the examination currently taking place here, today. It’s an organisation that employs policemen who are corrupt, and inept supervisors and judges of whom nothing better can be said than arrogance and haughtiness over others. This organisation maintains a high-level of judiciary system alongside its trailer of countless servants, scribes, policemen and all the other assistances that it requires, not to exclude even executioners and torturers, of which I’m not worried or afraid of mentioning them. And what, gentlemen, is the ideal of this enormous organisation? Its purpose is to simply arrest and convict innocent people, while waging pointless prosecutions against them which, like in my case, will lead to no fruitful results. How are we to avoid those in office becoming deeply corrupt, if everything is devoid of its meaning? That is really impossible, and not even the highest judge would be able to achieve that for his personal gains. That is why police officers try to steal clothes off the back of those they arrest, that is why supervisors break into the homes of people they do not even know, and that is why innocent people like me are being humiliated in front of multitudes rather than being given a fair trial.

“The policemen only talked about the warehouses where they put property and clothes of those they arrest, but I’m still yet to know of these warehouses, where the hard won possessions of people under arrest are being dumped to decay. Otherwise those goods are just being stolen by the thieving hands of the workers.”

Sox finally got interrupted by a screeching from the far end of the hall. He shaded his eyes in order to see that far, as the dull light of day made the smoke whitish and hard to see through. It was the washerwoman whom Sox had recognised as a likely source of this disturbance, as soon as she had entered. It was tough to see now whether it was her fault or not. Thomas Sox could only see that a man had pulled her into a corner by the door and was pressing himself against her. But the lady was not the one who screamed, however. Rather it was the man, as he seemed to have opened his mouth wide while looking up at the ceiling. Meanwhile, a small circle had appeared around the two of them and the visitors near Sox, in the gallery looked so delighted that the serious tone he had introduced into the gathering had been disturbed in this way.

Sox’s first thought was to run over to the scene, and he also thought that everyone would want to bring things back into order there, or at least make the pair leave the room. However, the first row of people ahead of him stayed where they were, such that nobody could successfully move forward, and nobody could let Sox through. On the contrary, there stood, in his way, old men holding out their arms and a hand from somewhere, of which he did not have enough chance to scrutinize. Now, by this time, Sox had forgotten about the pair. It seemed to him that his freedom was being limited as if his arrest was now being seriously taken and, without any thought for what he was doing, he jumped down from the podium. Now he stood face to face with the entire crowd.

Had he judged the people properly? Had he placed too much faith in the effect of his speech? Had they been putting up a pretence all the time he had been speaking, such that he come to the end and to what had to follow? Had they been tired of pretending? What faces did they portray, all around him?! Dark, little eyes flickered here and there, cheeks drooped down like drunken men, their long beards were thin and stiff, and if they took hold of them, it was more like they were making their hands into claws, not as if they were taking hold of their own beards. But, underneath those beards, Sox made a real realization that there were badges of various sizes and colours shining on the collars of their coats. As far as he could see, every one of them was wearing one of these badges. All of them belonged to the same group, notwithstanding that they seemed to be divided by the way with wich they sat down in the room and, when he suddenly turned around, he saw the same badge on the collar of the presiding judge, and he calmly looked down at him with his hands on the lap.

“So,” shouted out Sox, while he threw his arms in the air, as if this sudden discovery needed some more space, “all of you are working for this organisation, really? I’m seeing now that you are all the same cheats and blatant liars I’ve just been talking about, and you all have pressed yourselves in here so as to listen and snoop on me, giving an impression of having formed yourself into two contrasting factions, from which one of you even applauded me so as to test my position. I’ve now learnt that you only wanted to figure out the best way to trap an innocent man! Well, I hope you haven’t come here for nothing, and I hope you’ve either some fun from someone whom you expected to defend his innocence or else to be just let go before he hits you back,” shouted Sox to a quivery old man who had pressed himself very close to him.

“Or else that,” he added, “you’ve actually learned something. Therefore I wish you a very good luck in your trade!”

Sox briskly took his hat from where it lay on the edge of the table and, while surrounded by a great silence (caused perhaps by the completeness of their surprise), pushed his way towards the exit door. However, the examining judge seemed to have moved even more quickly than himself, for he had already been waiting for him at that doorway.

“One moment,” said the judge.

Sox stood where he was, and looked at the door with his hand already on its handle rather than at the judge.

“I only wanted to draw your attention,” the judge added, “to something you seem not yet to be aware of: today, you have robbed yourself of the privileges that a hearing of this kind always gives to someone who is under arrest.”

Sox laughed ridiculously while heading towards the door.

“You bunch of louts,” he shouted, “you can keep all your hearings as a present from me,” then he opened the door and hurried down the steps. Behind him, the noise of the assembly rose as it became lively once more and probably began to discuss these events as if making a scientific study of them.

Story continues…

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Behind bars 1st book (2017). Page 101

 


Behind bars

This book details about the corrupt nature of our current legal system, through the narrative about a man named, Thomas Sox, who surprisingly got arrested despite his genuine innocence. The two foolish police officers who had no idea about the law pounced at his door step before he rose up from the bed. They had been looking for a man whom they've been instructed to arrest but, due to poor policing skills, they ignorantly went after Sox. This was something which gave an embarrassment even to their superiors. Get this ebook to find out more about the arrest of this bank official, till his first court appearance.

  • Author: E C Mtize
  • Published: 2017-09-20 03:20:12
  • Words: 21769
Behind bars Behind bars