HANDBAG CHRONICLES

by k Cheryl Mwanza | Episode #9

Tiffany Forester concluded the morning meeting with the fierce clutching of her hands, like she always did. Without the need to tell people to leave her office, this gesture had come to symbolize the meeting adjourning. As her employees filed one after the other out, she took her seat behind a huge crystalized glass table. The table had been custom made for her by Glass and Glass Co., and it has cost a pretty penny.The glass was tempered and bullet proof just like the glass that was the boutique.

Tiffany’s vision when she saw the land was crystal and clear. Literally. She wasn’t about to fuss over the price, that’s why she became Mrs. Jared Forester. The floor of her office, like that of her boutique, was of reclaimed hardwood that gave the entire place a sophistication she liked to believe was an extension of herself. The glass walls blended well into the floor and the antic black and white shelves, meant for shoes, handbags and perfumes in her boutique and files in her office, made for a finishing touch that was exclusive as it was expensive. There was something about the boutique that made people want to spend more. Tiffany was for the belief that less was more, unless it involved money, and she treasured her space so much. As such her office only contained her table and shelves that stood on either side of the door. To give her the privacy that the glass denied her, she had heavy charcoal grey curtains cover her office.

When the last of her employee closed the door, she began working on her make up. Tiffany was thirty-six but looked at least forty three. But on purpose. Her husband was seventy, and the way the two had begun dating had been so controversial, she feared her business was doomed before it had debuted. She met Jared when he was still married and moved in with him when he was going through the messiest divorce battle Rosemary had laid its eyes on.

Anyway, Tiffany had a thing for a lot of make up with a smoky eye and  sultry red lips. Her red lips made her ghostly pale porcelain complexion even whiter, which in itself aged her. She had a thing for a tight big bun on the center of the head, and always had her platinum blondes locks fashioned in that way. She was tall and slender and dressed her figured in knee length figure hugging dresses, nude stiletto heels and lots and lots of diamond jewellery.

Tiffany looked away from her mirror as she heard footsteps. She got up and opened the curtains and as soon as she had done that, she came face to face with her assistant Mary Bishop, a sassy dresser such as herself, and two black people she didn’t know. A female and a male. She went for the door thinking they were disgruntled customers, even though she hadn’t seen them before.

She opened the door, smiled at Mary then allowed her guests to come in.

“They are detectives from Harare.” Mary whispered.

“Call Jayden immediately.” She said to her assistant as she closed the door.

She took a seat behind her desk then began drumming her hands on the glass.

“Mrs. Forester-“

“I’m not talking to you without a lawyer present.” She said looking at a pure diamond watch. “He will be here in five.” She said stealing a peek from the two who were marveling at her office.

If she wasn’t already a married woman, she might have considered the man for a partner. He was strong, tall, with a glimmer in his eyes as indication of boyish charm. He had brown skin with short, well cared for, hair and a strong jaw. She liked that in a man. Detective Sergeant Brandon Makiwa was not that much into a fashion, although he wasn’t a bad dresser. Since he could remember, he had always dressed like a biker. Dark jeans, with a muscle top and leather jacket. The fingerless gloves was something he had picked up from an ex-girlfriend.

The lady sitting next to him wasn’t a bad dresser, but she, Tiffany, was a better dresser. Tiffany had to admit though, this lady was the first person with curves who looked exceptionally well in a pants suit. The suit was black, shaped her just right and the tank top was a nice twist. She was well, kinda nice looking with wine red cropped hair and a so-so complexion.

“Jayden.” Tiffany suddenly said when her step-grandchild opened the door.

There was an urgency on his face that made the detectives curious. His eyes were intense, though Detective Inspector Dhlamini had to admit, beautiful. He was tall and broad, he clearly took care of his body. And he wasn’t bad in the dressing department either. He had on a formal navy blue trouser with a matching waistcoat. A snow white shirt with the top button undone and a diamond watch just like Tiffany’s peeking from his shirt and to finish off, he had on J.T Bean designer white sneakers. All of this aside, it was his hair that Dhlamini fell in love with. It was a brownish black and was pulled back rather stylishly. The brownish in his hair complemented his sun kissed complexion.

“Is everything alright?”

“These two are detectives from Harare.” She said standing up to greet him. She put a hand on his shoulder as he looked at the detectives seriously.

“How can we help you?”

“You’re her lawyer?” Dhlamini began sarcastically. “Surely didn’t see that coming-“

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tiffany snapped.

“Rosemary is just a couple of minutes from Harare. It’s not a world of its own.”

“Junk aside, detective. How can we help you?” He asked as he put one hand around Tiffany.

“I’m detective inspector Qiniso Dhlamini and this is my partner Detective sergeant Brandon Makiwa and we are with the Homicide Unit. We are here because we wanted to talk to Mrs. Forester about a handbag that belonged to our victim.”

“A handbag? Are you accusing her of anything?”

“No.”Makiwa answered. “The handbag is missing and we are reliably informed that it carries with it a GPS signal that might help us track it. The bag might be what we need to break the case.”

“That’s it?” Jayden asked dropping his hand. He turned to Tiffany, biting his teeth he whispered, “I ran out of a meeting that could have made me millions for a handbag?”

“I didn’t know what they were going to say. Jared said if ever I was approached by the police from Harare, to have you in the room before saying anything.” She answered as she took her seat.

“Why would your husband tell you that?” Dhlamini asked wanting to know.

“I thought you were here about a handbag. What about it?” She asked matter of fact as she gathered her hands on the table. Jayden slipped his hands into his pockets as he stood like a statue next to her.

“Yes we are, ma’am.” Makiwa said as he produced a magazine cutout of the bag.

“I’m not that old. Call me Tiffany.” She said as she took the paper. She studied it once then put it down as she formed a bridge with her fingers. “It’s a Jackie Black handbag 2010 edition. What do you want to know about it?”

“How long is the GPS tracker in the bag active?” Makiwa asked.

“Until the bag is destroyed by fire. With all the technological advancements, you would think by now we would have a fire-proof bag.” She laughed lightly then said, “The GPS is there so that if the bag is stolen, it can be recovered rather quickly. The good news is, most of the people who steal it can’t afford to buy it and hence don’t know about the tracking system. And those that buy it are okay with the system being intact.” She said with a smile looking at Dhlamini.

“We want to track the bag. What is needed?”

“Tell me the name of your victim.” She said as she reached under her table for a white laptop.

“Laura Vanhuvangu.” Dhlamini called out.

“Laura V.”  Tiffany said and then looked up. “Oh.” Her expression changed to shock.

“Laura V. is dead?”

“You knew her well?” Dhlamini asked.

“Well enough. She was one of my biggest customers.” Tiffany dropped her eyes, thought for a while then looked at the detectives as she said, “I will help you any way that I can.” She said as she returned to her laptop. “Ok, there is the signal of the bag.” She said as she turned her laptop so the detectives could see. “It’s at the Harare International Airport.”

“Excuse me.” Dhlamini said as she jumped up, on her phone, as she exited the room.

“Is there any other way that we can track the bag without your laptop? As it is, the bag is mobile and our best chance of getting whoever is carrying it are about to go down to hell in a hand basket.”

“Give me your phone. I will send you software that will allow you to track only this bag.”

 

….

 

As soon as Detective Keegan Gono got off the phone with Dhlamini, he rallied up a team of uniformed detectives and prayed to his saint he would get to the airport in time. Sounding his siren only got him so far as traffic in the capital was bad. Lucky for him Chief Superintendent Lincoln Chigariro was making one call after the other, and his actions paid dividends when he was able to get the security team at the airport to have all planes grounded until further notice.

Not only that, the airport was barricaded and no one was allowed in or out. He communicated the developments to Gono who was now on a smooth highway outside of the city center.

 

With the software already operating in his phone, Makiwa and Dhlamini headed for Harare International airport.

Jayden waited until the detectives were gone to let his frustrations loose. However, Tiffany didn’t respond to his frustrations in the same manner as always, and he was genuinely concerned. He sat on one end of the table, close to her, softening his voice, he said,

“You do know I’m not a lawyer, right?”

“Jared said you have been interrogated by the police so many times and slipped right through, you are my best bet at getting out of any interrogation.”

“That might be true. But you also have to remember that I have a day job and unless it’s necessary don’t call me. Okay.”

“I knew her. You know. She wasn’t just any other customer. To me she was a fellow fashion lover.” She licked her lower lips as she got up from her chair. She walked to the window, opened it wider then breathed it. “She was like a friend. Why would somebody do that to her?”

“I’m sorry.” He had never seen this side of Tiffany and didn’t know how to handle it.

“If you don’t mind, I would like to be alone for now.” She said with her back to him. Something she had never done.

She couldn’t believe Laura was gone. She wasn’t close enough with Laura to cry, but they were close enough for her to hurt. Dying was one thing. Being murdered was another. She repeatedly asked herself why someone would do that to Laura. She was genuinely a fun person to be around.

Tiffany could remember the last time she had seen Laura. About two months ago. Laura had come in wanting to buy a clutch for a party she was attending. The clutch cost eight hundred dollars and she only had five hundred. Tiffany had given her the bag for free. At that time she had thought it was good to treat Laura good, after all the kid had good taste and was going to come into the store for years to come.

Coldness filled her body as she thought of that day. She hadn’t known that would be the last-. She refused to finish that statement. She went for one of her cardboards. Behind the files was quality Knight 101 red wine. Grabbing it by one hand, she went to the boutique.

They had just opened, and thus people hadn’t started coming in. She ordered one of her girls to close the door and draw the curtains, and once that was done, everyone inside got a glass.

“I’ve just learnt that Laura V. is dead. You might not have known her, but she was a fellow fashion lover, she had good taste and was a good person.” She breathed in as she raised her glass. Others did as well. “May her soul rest in eternal peace.” She brought her glass to her face and sipped.

 

 

Police cars parked haphazardly at the entrance to the airport. Drawing their weapons, with the exception of Gono, the police budged in. Panic filled the air as people immediately dove underneath the closest benches. Those that weren’t fast enough had their hands in air before the police even ordered them to do so.

Uniformed police officers lined all the entrances and had rifles pointed toward the public. Gono and his team went deep into the terrified public and as his phone indicated they were close, excitement was rife.

He suddenly stopped then turned back to look at both Dhlamini and Makiwa who had his back.

“What?”

“It’s her.” He said pointing to a girl who was on her knees with her hands over her head.

She was less than a foot from where they were and unless she was a very good actress, she looked scarred. Since he was the only one without a gun, he walked toward her and tried to be as nice as he could.

Dhlamini who wasn’t buying into her innocence followed at a respected distance ready to fire if things went sideways.

Makiwa knelt next to the girl, immediately noticing the bag. He tapped her shoulder, she looked back at him with terror in her eyes.

“You are coming with us.”

“Why?” She asked already in tears.

“We want to know where you got that bag.” He said as he led her out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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