SHORT STORY: Thou shalt not get caught!

Friday July 30 2021
Traffic on the congested streets

Despite the traffic on the congested streets, Petra was home early. She could navigate all the back streets and shortcuts with eyes closed. She’d made it her business to learn the city, for it had been integral to her success and safety. ILLUSTRATION| JOHN NYAGA


High above a bustling city landscape in a sleek corner office with floor-to-ceiling windows on two of the walls, Petra looked down detachedly at tiny people and cars jostling for space on the street below.

It was a beautiful evening, starting a sunset that was promising to be spectacular what with the delicate blues, ambers and salmon pinks colouring the sky, but Petra was too preoccupied to notice.

A stream of thoughts and musings kept up a constant flow in her mind as she tapped her heeled foot on the lush carpet and drummed dark green perfectly manicured nails on her imposing desktop. The sterile modern design of the room was juxtaposed with furnishings and sentimental mementos that leant an almost homey feel to it.

There Petra was, laughing toothily with her adorable toothless nieces in one photo on the desk, there she was in a wooden framed photo on the wall in a tug-of-war match-up at her company’s team-building retreat covered in mud and grinning ear to ear. Then, of course there was a mug with ‘Best Friend’ emblazoned prominently in dark font on a low shelf set with a jar of assorted candy and a scattering of other pictures; the room told of a wonderfully warm, pleasant and full life.

Leafy suburb

Petra exuded it too, a warmth that drew you in and made you feel like an old friend, but now, as she turned from people watching, swivelling in her chair and leaping gracefully to her feet, her narrowed eyes held a look that would have made even those made of sterner stuff flinch. But it was gone like a flash, fleeting as a fast swooping bird, replaced by that complacent, approachable look they always held.


“I’m off for today,” she smiled at her secretary who stared devotedly at her as she breezed out, carefully locking her door behind her.

Despite the traffic on the congested streets, Petra was home early. She could navigate all the back streets and shortcuts with eyes closed. She’d made it her business to learn the city, for it had been integral to her success and safety.

“Honey!” she called out as she walked through her spacious, tastefully decorated living room, “I’m home, but I’m headed out for my run!” her voice was a cheery, sing-song.

Her husband of twelve years padded out of kitchen where he’d been perusing the fridge contents and smiled as she bounded past him to change into her exercise gear.

He was well acquainted with her routine well and their amicable relationship often left little need for much conversation and besides, when she’d called out he had only just spotted a container of leftover pasta she had made the night before, and the remembrance of the gooey cheese and tomato goodness had him engrossed.

He was back in the fridge when Petra jogged out, dressed in black spandex head-to-toe, with a fanny pack strapped around the wasp-like waist and a black beanie covering thickly coiled hair that sprouted lushly from her head.

They lived in a leafy suburb, which like most had as its neighbour a mushrooming shanty community from where it drew its casual labour and hired hands from. She jogged towards the sea of tiny wooden and metal sheet houses that bordered the pristine, tree-lined avenues of her estate, only pausing to draw lungfuls of air when she was deep within the disordered, noisy maze.

Furtive looks, averted gazes and sudden hushed conversations met Petra as she ventured further in, coming finally to an unassuming single-roomed wooden structure, which she darted into.

It was dark and cool inside, crammed as it was with the eleven men who stood somberly, lining all four walls. Petra took her position in middle of the tight square and stood confidently, breathing evenly despite her run. Without preamble, she began speaking.

Double life

“What are the sales like? Nick?” she addressed a man to her right who towered over her yet spoke deferentially when he answered, head bowed, eyes staring at the brown dust on the ground. One by one, she received a report from all of them, each mumbling what he had to say until one said something under his breath that stopped her cold.

“You were… arrested?” her tone was low as she rounded on the beefy man, “What did you tell the cops!?” she hissed drowning out the man’s protests, then without warning, she whipped a small pistol from her fanny pack and fired, not shuddering as all the other occupants of the room did when he slumped down dead at her feet.

“What’s my first rule?” she spat venomously, “Don’t get caught!” she fixed a cold glare upon each of the downturned faces then turned back to Nick, seemingly the leader of the group, “I’ll be back next month with more drugs, and this time,” her eyes narrowed even more, “I want zero slip-ups.”

A pretty blue light coloured the world as twilight firmly established itself. Crickets sounded in the clustered flower bushes outside each stately home and Petra admired a shock of violent pink flowers on one as she jogged past. She mentally made a note to have her gardener ask the neighbour what it was, as she wanted to plant some of it outside her bedroom window.
Wiping a slight sheen of sweat from her brow and upper lip, Petra stood outside her house and exhaled slowly.

“Honey, I’m back home!” she called out, her hard eyes now mellow, and dancing with a glint of light born of adrenaline but mistaken by all who thought they knew her for gaiety, “What do you want for dinner?”