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I walked into the lounge of KNH and made for a bench in the middle row. I was carrying a large new yellow file that carried a doctor’s scribble, a misdiagnosis. Though I was not sick, I was feeling terrible enough to warrant an urgent admission to an ICU.

The lounge had a plasma TV, running some afternoon lovey-dovey programme. Patients, mostly women, who were not in very bad shape, had their eyes glued on the screen, hanging on every single word that was tumbling out of the actors’ lips. Men were either catching up on the news in the dailies or browsing on their smartphones. I almost smiled to myself when I remembered a joke about Kenya being a country of smart phones and dumb people.

Among this latter group that showed utter disinterest in the telly was one ‘tomboy’, burrowing behind sun-glasses, a sun hat and a newspaper. A crocodile-skin handbag carrying an automatic pistol was on her laps. That was Jane. She was here to watch my back — not the TV. And behind those dark glasses, she was doing it perfectly well.

I sat down with a wince and a gasp, one arm clutching the fake pot-belly. It felt ridiculous. People here were diseased through and through. Some were on their last legs. By faking sickness, I was mocking them. It was not particularly a moral undertaking yet it was far from being evil. Why guilt had to sweep over my conscience momentarily was beyond my understanding. Maybe it was time to drop in at the psychiatrist. Spying was a hell so hot you could lose your marbles. And again, following the things that were going on all over: domestic and gender-based violence, brutal murder of kids by their parents, women dancing naked to entertain foreigners, bestiality where women took to the stage with dogs as partners while some pervert recorded them on WebCam, etc.; it was clear that the whole nation needed psychiatric help.

I made a mental note to book an appointment in two months time. Therapy could wait. Duty couldn’t.

A nurse wearing a white full-dress uniform and a nursing cap came over.

“Good afternoon, sir?” she greeted.

“Good afternoon, my daughter. How are you?”

“I’m fine, sir. Thank you.”

She was young and beautiful with a healing smile that did therapy to a variety of maladies. I had difficulty remembering that I was a bald mustachioed old man who was suffering from acute appendicitis.

“Can I help you, sir?” her melodious voice rung out. Damn you nosy nurse, I thought.

I effected a wince. “No. Thank you, my daughter. I’m waiting for my doctor. I called her and she asked me to wait here. She should be here in no time at all.”

The nurse nodded and went away. Despite the large number of patients crowded in the lounge, she had come straight to me. Maybe old age was not the best disguise there was. Too much attention. I should have thought of that.

I shot a glance at Jane. She was nowhere to be seen. Poor kid. She was going to hurt herself imagining that all beautiful ladies coming into contact with me were her rivals. In a sense, for one speculative moment, I had a feeling that she was right.

Men are conditioned to compete and lose and feel nothing. Women are conditioned to compete and lose, and die in denial.

The doctor, a willowy woman of 28 with long flowing hair, a pert nose and sensuous lips, wearing a trendy black skirt reaching at the knees, a lacey blouse and a white coat an inch or two shorter than the length of the skirt, her long elegant legs on display, arrived at precisely 3:05 p.m. I heard her familiar stiletto echoing on the floor. Then I saw her, a stethoscope drapped across her shoulders, opposite ends dangling directly above her firm breasts. There had to be a push-up bra or something. I felt like investigating. And why not?

“Can I have a look at your file, sir?” she said without preamble, a perfect example of medical snobs.

The other patients in the lounge were ogling me as if I was an alien from another planet. I was. I did not belong here. Not today.

After studying the file silently for a while, while I concentrated on the wincing and the clutching of the fake pot-belly, she asked me to follow her to her office. The idea was welcome. The hostile stares were becoming uncomfortable. Patients had abandoned the actors on the telly for me. We left the lounge and I heard someone say a quiet ‘good riddance’.

The office was down a long hallway that was wide enough for two stretchers to line up side-to-side. A young man was sitting uncomfortably in an arm-chair in the office. Infact, he almost jumped right out of the seat when the door opened.

“Leo thinks he has been followed,” the doctor informed me after shutting and locking the door.

“Yes, Tracy is right,” Leo chimed in. “It’s becoming too dangerous.”

I settled myself on the chair opposite Leo’s. Tracy was between us, resting her behind on the desk in the office.

Setting up an intelligence office here had been a good idea.

“I’m not going to meet you again,” Leo announced. “I can’t risk.”

TO BE CONTINUED..

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