In the barracks where he was, Sergeant Major Grenet Topila, went about his business whistling and with a jaunt stride. His billet colleagues noticed this and wondered what good fortune had befallen their comrade.
Perhaps he had been spotted for a promotion; in which case he would jump the ranks. Usually, from that rank, one went straight to Major; that would be good fortune, indeed, to whistle and be in a spree for.
It, however, was not what was in Topila’s mind. At that time, he was enumerating the things he was going to do to really please Eunice Kokoi. He considered her a good catch, perhaps an appropriate one for a wife. It did not matter that she was from a different tribe from his; in fact that would be an advantage with his immediate superior, who might take it a plus for him when considering him for promotion, since Kokoi and he, were from the same tribe.
For now, that was secondary. What lunch would he buy for her? He wanted to take her to his favourite restaurant in the city, but she might choose a different one, which he would first of all ask her for her preference. Unfortunately, the time of lunch was not for alcoholic drinks, because he would have considered buying for her a glass or two of wine.
Perhaps he would convince her to extend the invitation to evening time for such an entertainment. In which case the evening would stretch until the next morning with her: that was an exhilarating thought!
On her part, Kokoi was still mulling over the issue of the lost earring. The explanation still did not have a ring of truth, but that was the best way to bring Sgt. Maj. Topila to a conversation. Then, from that how to proceed to the matter at hand: the case for Col. Chokoler. It had to be very circumspect – nothing to tie it up to her work – but lay out some king of spontaneous curiosity; and see how much Topila knew.
For, he must know, or at least have a good idea, what the whole thing about Col. Chokoler was about. From their encounter at the Junior Officers’ Mess, it was clear that the soldiers were aware of the issue. Indeed, their ribald jokes about it indicated guarded information about the case. Possibly, they had been instructed not to talk carelessly about it, lest the truth came to the fore. Her assignment was to penetrate the curtain trying to obscure the affair of Col. Chokoler.
How to do that without raising any eye brows? She decided that the best approach would be to ride the circumstances as they came, so that if there was any inkling of information, it should not arise from her but from Topila, or anybody else connected with him.
That meant that she had to be in a place like the Junior Officers’ Mess where there would be an unguarded talk or actions from the soldiers. Yet, it would be difficult for her, certainly suspicious, if she suggested to Topila that they should go to the mess for lunch. She did not even know that the Mess served meals or was there merely as a drinking joint, which from her recent stint there, suggested the latter.
Too, going to the Mess would suggest that she liked the place, but the fact was that, for her, it was more-or-less, an eerie joint, with all those soldiers and mostly military talk. Besides she could not easily enter into such conversations without appearing, either nosy, or foolish.
She decided she would first hear Toplia’s suggestions after lunch and after that formulate an impromptu plan of action. She thought that with Toplia’s apparent interest at seducing her, she would not find it difficult to talk him into accepting her suggestions of what to do after lunch, as long as it did not go into amorousness.
Kokoi was also thinking about her workmate, Atanasi Sapat, on what he was likely to be finding at the other end of the investigation which had taken him back to the crime scene, as it were. Part of the information he found out there again, had to have a sequence with what she would find.
They wanted to tally their findings so that when they wrote the story, the Editor would find it convincing to publish, knowing the sensitivity of the matter. From all the work they were putting into uncovering the identity of Col. Chokoler, it would not be good at all, if the Editor spiked their story for any lack of credibility.
Her part of the story was somewhat smaller to what Sapat had to do, but the entire case had to tie up. It was the reason the Editor had made the decision for them to co-investigate and eventually co-author the story. For such a story to have her by-line would be a very good accolade towards developing her journalism.
Kokoi mused about this as she got into a taxi cab to take her to the place where she and Topila had agreed to meet. Presently the taxi alighted at the place. As she looked around for Topila, somebody held her from the back at both shoulders; and she instantly knew that it must be Topila, with this familiarity.As she was turning he said:
“No need to be concerned. Your most gallant soldier is by your side, Madam,” Sgt. Maj. Topila said to her ear as he slowly turned her round to meet him.
“Oh, Grenet,” she replied with a giggle, “That is certainly you not to take into account that there some people around, looking at us.”
“Don’t mind about them,” Topila answered. “For now, consider that we are alone, you and I,” as he led her away by the hand.