Have you ever been assaulted? Had a gun stuck to your face?

One of my all-time favourite TV series is Suits. In an episode I saw last year, Louis Litt (played by the bodacious Rick Hoffman), the lawyer whom everybody that watches Suits loves, got assaulted. He was rushing to a meeting when a lanky and menacing thug dragged him into an alley and shoved a gun to his face, taking with him Louis’ wallet and phone.

Louis was distraught. Excessively agitated and distressed afterwards. For a moment, I was tempted to blame the screenwriters for sloppy writing because, in my opinion, no real man who ever gets mugged behaves in that way. Luis was unable to function, and the aftermath of the robbery left him shaking with fear at every turn. I was like, “Muggings happen all the time! A real man just shakes it off, puts on a brave face, and goes on with life.”  The reason I didn’t berate the script-writers was that throughout the show, Louis has always been portrayed as effeminate. I thought that perhaps his off-the-charts reaction was atypical to sissified gentlemen like him.

I was about to know better.

Today I caught up with the show. Louis’ mugging storyline was being wrapped in one of the latest episodes (If you’re a Suits’ fan, I suggest you stop reading now to avoid spoilers). The police gave him a call, saying that the guy who mugged him had been arrested.

All that terror from when he was mugged came flooding back. The dread was so raw that Luis was hesitant just to identify the suspect in a line-up, let alone testify while facing him in court. It took immense strength for him to do both of these. Despite that, the suspect was still let loose due to some bull prosecutorial misconduct.

This time though, while watching the episode, I nearly cried. Louis’ dread was so palpable, it seeped through the screen and struck me with trepidation right there on my sofa. I felt for him; I felt his pain when he was forced to face his attacker once more, and then watch as he was set free. I agonised with him vicariously.

Why the change of heart in my reaction? Had I somehow turned into a sensitive and empathetic wimp over the months between the two episodes? They say only the wearer of a shoe can truly understand where it pinches. I had been in Luis’ shoes not so long ago.

You see, I too was assaulted. In broad daylight. I was threatened with a gun, beaten, robbed and humiliated. It was the humiliation that hurt the most.

I had been struggling to carry out my journalistic work because I did not have a camera. In this line of work, a picture is actually worth a thousand words. As such, I had borrowed a camera from a good friend of mine, Margaret, who had told me that I could keep it for good as long I managed to get it repaired. The following day I set off to Nairobi CBD, hoping to make my way to a good camera repairs fundi I know along Luthuli Avenue.

As soon as I alighted from the Kenya Mpya bus at Luthuli, a guy grabbed my arm and attempted to pull me to a secluded corner. Knowing instinctively that I was being robbed, I fought back and shoved me away. Then a second man pounced on me, grabbing the bag that contained Marge’s camera. I decided to run. I hardly made it to the middle of the road when I was waylaid by a third man who descended on me with blows and kicks.

“Naibiwa! Wasee Naibiwa!” I shouted frantically, trying to let the passers-by know I was being robbed. The other two assailants were closing in.

“Naibiwa! Wezi! Weeezi!” Thieves! Thieves! I figured that if I made as much commotion as possible, people would come to my rescuers and my accosters would flee. I figured wrong. My screams had managed to bring the busy street to a standstill, but the bystanders only looked at me with curiosity. The hullaballoo was just but a source of benign afternoon entertainment to them.  Not one person lifted a finger to come to my rescue. I was learning a lesson about Nairobians that I will never forget.

I saw a uniformed security guard standing at the entrance of an electronics shop. The uniform, I thought, gives him some form of authority and surely, he’ll be able to help. So, while still struggling to fend off the kicks and blows from three burly men like a wildebeest fighting a losing battle with crocodiles while crossing the Mara River, I cried out to the guard: “Nisaidie! Wananiibia!” He shrugged his shoulders and moved away, further from the door.

My next genius move was to enter the electronics shop. ‘There are security cameras in there and a lot of attendants,’ I thought. ‘Surely, these thieves won’t be brazen enough to follow me into the store!’ Again, I was mistaken.

I cried out to the attendants, asking them to shield me, but none of them wanted anything to do with my situation. There was no way out. The three men charged in, and that’s when I saw the pistol. It was pointed directly to my head.

“Shout ‘Thief!’ once more time and watch me blow your brains out!”

It was the first time in my life that I was seeing a gun up-close. I stopped struggling and gave in to fate.  Then out came the handcuffs.

“Why are you running from the police?”

“How could I possibly know that you are policemen?”

“Are you trying to get clever with me?” A kick to my stomach. I try to hold on to a counter for balance, but the cuffs on my hands don’t allow me. My legs buckle. Another kick. A slap on my head that turns me instantly hot. Another kick. Another blow. Another slap.

“Msimuulie hapa! Sitaki hiyo kisirani! Mchukue mwende na yeye!” It is a man who has just come into the shop from the back, probably the complex owner. He is urging my tormentors not to kill me inside his shop; he doesn’t want to deal with that inconvenience. They listen to him and frogmarch me to the street.

“Jambazi sugu wewe!” One of the men accuses me of being a hard-core criminal

“I have never stolen from anyone in my life, Wallahi!” I swear. More hot slaps.

“Why were you causing all that commotion for?”

“You guys didn’t identify yourselves. You never even showed me your badges. How was I to know that you are policemen?”

They laugh. How someone can find mirth in such a situation discombobulates me. “He thinks he’s clever, huh?” One of them says.

“Atajua hajui!” The other adds.

We’re now marching towards a lane that connects Luthuli Avenue to River Road. The occasional slaps that I receive from the bullies, together with the shiny handcuffs adorning my hands, make me quite a sight to behold among passers-by.  At some point, I notice that one of the trio has trailed off.

We get to a building which, though I don’t give it a good look, seems like a something under construction. The ground floor (or basement or parking), which is covered by discarded carton, is deserted. A kick to my groin area sends me slumping down; landing on my buttocks. They go through my bag and I watch as they pocket my last three thousand shillings for the month.

“Do you know why we have arrested you?”

“I have no idea, but I’m sure there’s been a mistake.”

“We have been tracking you for a while now. You rob people at gunpoint then you come to sell their valuables in Luthuli.”

“You see! You have the wrong person! I have never seen a gun in my life and I haven’t even been to Luthuli in years!”

Somehow my answer offends them. They kick me some more, but I hardly flinch now. I am becoming inured to their beatings. Then I see the gun again. It is black, with faded grooves that reveal an underlying silver metal.

“Fungua mdomo!” One of them commands me to open my mouth. I comply. He tries putting the gun inside my mouth. I swerve, thrusting my head vigorously. The gun’s muzzle scrapes my lower lip. I taste blood. Searing pain. They laugh.

I set out to write a short piece after seeing the Suits’ episode. I was thinking maybe 300 words. But now I see that I’m pushing close to 1500. I’ll try to summarise what happened next.

They threatened to take me to Buruburu and shoot me, then file a report that I was among a set of thieves who had been shot the day before. Another gun was introduced through another thug, and they made me touch it. Then they said that if they do not kill me, they’ll ensure that I’ll spend the rest of my life in prison. They went through my phone and asked for my mobile money M-Pesa pin. Somewhere during their interrogation, they discovered that I write for the Daily Nation. I guess that caught their attention. They demanded I call my contacts and ask for 200,000 shillings to be delivered to them by midnight. I tried calling my mum, but I couldn’t speak. I just cried on the phone. Worse that Luis Litt, I know.

Somehow I escaped. I believe I tricked them while pretending to make calls, but my mum is of the opinion that they discovered I had nothing more to offer them and thus decided to let me go. My lawyer, Robert Mwangi, says it was God who mercifully delivered me from the jaws of death that day.

Luckily, I had 100 shillings in my pocket. I wanted to go back to my place, but I remembered that my keys were in the bag that was now in the thugs’ possession. So I went to my mum’s place. I tried hard not to think about the incident; how they had devalued me and treated me with contempt. But my hurting head constantly reminded me. My throbbing lip couldn’t let me forget and my aching ribs replayed the unfortunate episode in my brain over and over again. At some point, the dams in eyes burst.

The following day, I went to see my lawyer. I knew that I had to report the incident, but what if I walked into Central Police Station and found my assailants manning the OB desk at the reception? This is Kenya, and such nightmares have been known to come true. But Robert was of great help. Not only did he guide me through the legalities, but he also went out of his way to offer a shoulder to lean on. His words during that period were like soothing ointment upon a painful open wound.

So, yeah, I now fully get why Luis Litt was haunted by the mugging. To be dominated in such a brutal way, to have it made clear to you that you’re worthless, to be robbed of every single shred of honour and to be reduced to a pusillanimous wimp… It hurts more than most things in the world.

Through the brazen efforts of Samantha Wheeler (played by wonder woman Catherine Heigl AKA Dr Izzie Stevens of Grey’s Anatomy), Luis Litt was finally able to assert his revenge on his mugger. But then, that’s a TV show. I have given up all hope for justice in my case.

Phew! 2000 words! Brevity is certainly not one of my talents. Lemme post this real quick and get back to the series finale. Any good shows I should check out after?

3 Comments:

  1. This must have left a scar, I’m sorry that the system is broken.

  2. Its such a scary thing to manouvre around this city…

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Lukorito Jones

Lukorito Jones is a columnist and correspondent with Kenya's leading newspaper, Daily Nation. He also dabbles in fiction works at times, hoping to be the next Stephen King. Sometimes he takes time out from writing to perfect his deer-dancing and goat-screaming skills.