Trapped in Zambia

By Roy Kalaki
‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘I’m checking out this morning. I’d be obliged if I could have the bill.’
          ‘Certainly, Mr Kalaki,’ he said, as he moved towards the computer, ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed your stay in Hotel Zambia.’
          ‘I always enjoy coming back,’ I said, ‘to see how the old hotel has developed over the years.’
          ‘Here’s your bill, Mr Kalaki,’ he said. ‘It’s always nice to see our old regulars again. It’s only a pity we can’t attract foreign tourists. They always stay at the Hotel Victoria on the other side.’
          ‘You could try changing this tatty carpet,’ I said, trying to be helpful. ‘And what happened to the huge pair of tusks which used to frame to the entrance to the cocktail bar?’
          ‘Stolen,’ he said sadly, ‘by the previous management. The case is still in court.’
          I looked at the bill. ‘K750,’ I said. ‘Seems a bit steep.’
          ‘If you look more carefully, sir, I think you’ll find most of the charges were incurred at the bar.’ His phone rang and he picked it up. ‘Yes, sir. No sir. No, he’s still here sir. I was aware of that, sir. Everything is under control sir. Thank you, sir.’
As he was talking on the phone he took the money and issued a receipt.
          ‘Thanks,’ I said. ‘There’s just one more thing. I left my passport in your hotel safe.’
          ‘Bit of a problem on that one, sir. That was the General Manager on the phone, instructing me not to release your passport.’
          ‘What!’ I said. ‘What are you talking about! That’s my property!’
          ‘No, Kalaki. It’s now the property of the hotel!’
          ‘Look!’ I shouted. ‘I can’t go anywhere without my passport!’
          ‘That’s exactly what the General Manager said,’ he replied calmly. ‘In fact you’re to be confined to the hotel until outstanding matters have been sorted out.’
          ‘Oustanding matters!’ I shouted. ‘What are you talking about? I’ve just paid the bill!’
          ‘There’s no need to shout, sir,’ he said in a soothing voice. ‘Otherwise I shall have to call security, and that will be another case against you?’
          ‘Another case? What are you talking about?’
          ‘Last night in the dining room you were drunk and disorderly. Standing on a table and shouting obscenities.’
          ‘What! I was merely trying to attract the attention of a waiter. After twenty minutes of trying to attract his attention, my patience snapped.’
          ‘Yes, sir. And so did the table leg.’
          ‘Accidents will happen!’
          ‘Yes, sir. But we need time to conduct investigations. You see, there is also the question of the urine found in the swimming pool.’
          ‘I never pissed in the pool.’ I screamed. ‘I deny it!’
          ‘You may say so, sir. But the lab test showed a high concentration of brandy in the urine, so you have been identified as the prime suspect.’
‘What rubbish! I can’t be detained here to listen to such nonsense!’
‘And there’s something else, sir. Something more serious, and rather sexual and pornographic in nature.’
          ‘What! What on Earth are you talking about?’
          ‘A young woman was seen coming out of your room at 9.15 this morning, sir.’
          ‘That was the chambermaid. She was clearing out the empty bottles.’
          ‘You may say so, Kalaki. But I have to tell you that Beauty is the General Manager’s favourite chambermaid.’
          ‘I don’t believe any of this!’ I sneered. ‘Let me speak to the General Manager myself!’
          ‘That won’t be possible, sir. The General Manager is in Beijing, seeking investment funds so that he can turn Hotel Zambia into a first class hotel for rich Chinese tourists, and not have to entertain the local riff-raff in future.’
          ‘Riff-raff? Is that what I am? I’ve been coming to this hotel for the past fifty years!’
          ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘and the General Manager is most upset about the lies you’ve been writing on Watchdog about the poor service, piss in the swimming pool and the brothel on the sixth floor!’
          ‘Ah Ha!’ I exclaimed. ‘Now it’s all becoming clear! Now I understand the trumped up charges! Well, I’ll show you! You can’t trap me in this grotty place! I’m a free man! I know my rights! I shall get a court order forcing you to return my passport!’
          ‘You’re free to do so,’ he smiled. ‘Go to the judicial suite on the top floor, and ask for Judge Loveless Chikopo, I’m sure he’ll be able to assist.’
          ‘Chikopo! What’s he doing here!’
          ‘We give him free accommodation and allowances, in return for which he investigates and prosecutes all judges who issue court orders.’
          ‘If you think you can trap me in here you’re mistaken!’ I shouted. ‘I’m just going to walk straight out of here! Just watch me! Just try to stop me! I can’t be intimidated! I can’t be kidnapped in my own country in broad daylight!’
But even as I spoke I felt the handcuff close around my wrist.
But no, not handcuffs, it felt more like fingers closing around my wrist. I woke up with a start, to find Sara sitting at the side of the bed, taking my pulse. ‘You’ve been asleep for twelve hours,’ she laughed. ‘I was just checking to see if you’re still alive. It’s eleven o’clock! You shouldn’t drink so much!’
‘What!’ I said. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up? Christ, what day is it? Thursday! I’ll be late for the MISA meeting! I’ll miss my free lunch!’
‘There are riots all over town,’ she said. ‘We’ve all been advised to stay indoors.’
‘You mean we’re trapped in our own yard?’ I shouted.
‘Exactly,’ she replied.

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