The footsteps stopped outside his stall. There were feet showing in the gap under the door. “This one here’s occupied.” Hamm tried to make his voice sound normal. The feet didn’t move. Black feet, wearing sandals. “Somethin’ I can help you with?” Hamm said.
“Come out, please.”
Hamm’s chest clenched. Something coiled and writhed in his stomach, a snake dying in the acid. It’s the cops! Already! “Why?” Hamm managed.’Cause you’re busted, Cheesesteak! You’re going to the big house!
“We need to talk, Mr. Hamm.”
End of the line, Philly Hamm! Goin’ downtown to the interrogation room!
“Please,” Hamm muttered. Get a’ hold of yourself! Cops don’t wear sandals! Maybe it’s just a reporter!
Reporters don’t wear sandals either.
“Come out, please,” the voice repeated.
An accented voice. Hmm recognized the accent. African. More than that. Warumbi. Not a cop at all.
Hamm stood and jerked open the stall door. He stared at the man on the other side. A tall man, wearing a colorful robe of scarlet and yellow and green (looks like a damn parrot) and a red skullcap. Black skin, so black it was shiny, with dark eyes, black irises with yellow corneas. The man was not smiling.
“Whatta you want?!” Hamm demanded.
“We should go somewhere to talk,” the man said.
“You’d best start talkin’ right now!” Hamm said.
“Someone might come in,” the man said. “We should go someplace more private.”
*Wait a minute. I recognize this guy.*
“We have things to discuss,” the man said.
Hamm’s mind carried him back to Kenya. He and Judith Mocker and Maribelle Tate, on their way to look at a dead zebra.
“I’m grateful that WEBWATCH feels our bodies are worth guarding,” Judith Mocker had said. Or something like that. “Moreso as of late, with what happened to those poor missionaries.”
Hamm remembered his response. “Tried preachin’ to the wrong audience, didn’t
That was when one of the Warumbi had stepped forward, an angry scowl on his face. “My people did not kill them!” he had blurted. “The Warumbi would not kill such men of peace!”
The same man stood before Hamm now.
“Whatta I have to discuss with you, Buckwheat?” Hamm demanded.
The Warumbi’s expression didn’t change.
“Perhaps your fondness for children, Mr. Hamm,” the man said.
Hamm froze. Started to say something. Started to laugh. Started to punch the man in the face. He did none of those things.
Instead he turned and vomited into the commode behind him.