Wanted: Dead or Alive
Bernard Kachingwe was very busy reading his favourite newspaper 'The Insider' in his office when suddenly the phone on his desk buzzed. He quickly picked up the receiver and after listening to the message, walked towards his boss' office which was a stone throw away in a concrete and bulletproof glass building at the police headquarters in Lilongwe. His boss, Mathews Chikhwaya, who had just arrived from Blantyre, wanted to see him immediately.
Chikhwaya was the head of the National Police Anti-Criminal Squad, the special group which was always charged with the task of dealing with notorious and dangerous criminals.
"I'm putting together a special team of the top-priority mission, Bernard," said Chikhwaya.
"How would you feel about joining this mission, boy!"
Bernard was utterly surprised because he had just arrived from Chikhwawa district where he had successfully helped track down two notorious serial killers who were behind bars, patiently-or impatiently-waiting to be hanged. However, knowing pretty well which side of his bread was buttered, Bernard knew for sure that he had no option but to cooperate with boss.
"What's the job like this time around, boss?" quizzed Bernard, somewhat snappishly.
"Tithana Gwesela!" hazarded Chikhwaya authoritatively. "Find him and bring him in-dead or alive!"
Bernard's eyes widened. Everyone in Malawi, for sure, knew who Tithana was. Moreover, every cop worth his salt in the country had him on their personal most-wanted list. Nicknamed 'Kaptain Kool' by his friends, Tithana was undoubtedly the most notorious criminal the country had ever had. The man operated a gang of highly organized and exceedingly clever thieves who operated over the length and breadth of the country.
When Kaptain Kool was only 15, he raped a 16-year-old schoolgirl near his home in Madisi in Dowa district, in the central region of the country. But as a minor then, he was only sentenced to 5 strokes.
However, instead of preventing the young Tithana from committing more crimes, the incident helped him vault into a hardcore criminal. And within weeks he struck again, stabbing to death a witness in his friend's murder case.
His crime spree did not end there!
Two years later he resumed his violent rampage with vengeance after being sent out of prison. He mercilessly raped an 18-year-old woman, and later tried to sodomize a terrified man who he robbed at gunpoint in Kasungu.
And from then on the die was cast: Tithana was a professional criminal and regarded crime as his newfound career.
"I'm the kind of guy who calls a shovel a shovel-not a garden implement," Tithana once told his friends.
"People today make money either through corruption or stealing, period! Right now top government ministers and other officials are stinking rich, not because of hard work, but because of corruption. Yet they get away with it! But to be honest, these people are equally thieves because they reap where they didn’t sow”
Therefore, to accomplish his goal, diabolic though it was, Tithana roped in a number of highly intelligent men and women into his growing gang of criminals, which he dubbed ‘Baddest Company’.
And the criminally sharp Kaptain Kool was then rumoured to have gunned down about 100 businessmen, including a well-known business magnate from Kasungu. Actually, rumours had it that he shot away all the man’s face except one eye, ample evidence of his sadistic streak and skill with weapons.
Following instruction from the country’s Attorney General, Katain Kool and his Baddest Company were targeted by Judge Baxter Banda, aka BB by the judiciary fraternity.
And due to BB’s hardworking and intelligence, Kaptain Kool was netted and thrown into jail, and because of his numerous criminal activities, he was denied bail.
But without knowledge of the police, Kaptain Kool had a highly-sophisticated miniature cell phone which he used to communicate with his gang, which was still at large. And through these clandestine communications, which were usually carried out at night, the Baddest Company masterminded an 007-style master plan to rescue Kaptain Kool from the police cell at the police headquarters in the capital Lilongwe.
When the day for his trial came, the courtroom was jam-packed with people which had come to hear the fate of the man who was at the helm of a gang of thieves that had been giving them sleepless nights.
After hearing the nuts and bolts of the case, the presiding Judge Baxter Banda of Lilongwe High Court, with no qualms, pronounced, “I hereby sentence you, Tithana Gwesela, to life imprisonment with hard labour for the crimes and killings you committed.”
Kaptain Kool turned towards the Judge with certain watchfulness.
Meanwhile, the whole courtroom was shaken to its very foundation, as people jeered, thinking that that was the end of their problems since the man who was terrorizing them would be behind bars-forever.
But these people were all wrong!
According to the Baddest Company’s master plan, two of the gang’s key members attended the court hearing in disguise. The two traveled in the gang’s Pajero which was skilfully engineered so that it could travel faster than any other car in Malawi, and was also fitted with all sorts of sophisticated equipment and gadgets.
As two police officers escorted Kaptain Kool into a police vehicle which was parked outside the court, the two members of the Baddest Company leaped into action as planned:
Maria Mbambande, the gang’s most intelligent woman-who was also Kaptain Kool’s girlfriend-got into the waiting Pajero, as her fellow gangster Saul Paul, fired his automatic AK47 into the air, to scare the people around. As planned, the sound of the deadly machine sent shock waves into the people around, scattering into sixes and sevens.
And during the pandemonium that ensued,Saul skilfully managed to whisk away his boss, Kaptain Kool into the car whose engine was still running. Within seconds, Maria, also known as Amazon because of her guts, raced the car as fast she could.
Meanwhile, the police officers quickly got into their car and gave chase; however, the chase did not take long because the fugitives dropped some spikes onto the road, deflating the tyres of the police car.
In disbelief, the cops watched the Pajero vanish into thin air, and it was kind of letting go a wounded lion.
And once the gang got to their hideout, Kaptain Kool vowed to retaliate against all those who tried to send him to jail to rot, especially Judge Banda of Lilongwe High Court.
One afternoon, as Judge Banda and his colleagues, drove from the City Centre in Lilongwe to Area 18, several hundreds of kilograms of highly explosives concealed below the road suddenly went off. The explosion not only killed Judge Banda but also his beautiful wife Stella and his colleagues. And that incident demonstrated, once and for all, that the Baddest Company’s power was everywhere-no one lay beyond their power.
The brutal assassination of Judge Banda and his wife and colleagues stunned and humiliated every cop in the capital, because everyone knew that it was the hand of Captain Kool that had pushed the button of the remote-controlled detonator which blasted the bomb that killed Judge Banda and others.
But that was the end of Kaptain Kool’s vengeance. A few months later he ordered the kidnapping of Jose Martinez, a 10-year-old son of the Brazilian ambassador to Malawi.
The Baddest Company kept the boy prisoner, torturing him and sending horrifying video clips of the boy’s ordeal to his father to force him to pay them a ransom fee of K10m.
Instead of complying with the gang’s demands, the government ordered the police to comb the country’s major cities for the boy, but to no avail.
And seeing that the Brazilian Ambassador to Malawi could not meet their demands, Kaptain Kool ordered that the innocent little boy should be brutally killed and a video be sent to his father.
All the news media in the country carried the news as their lead story. The country’s president was greatly moved with the murder of the little boy, and consequently, he ordered the Inspector of Police to urgently do something, or else be relieved of his duties.
In this connection, the Police IG directed the Anti Criminal Squad chief, Mathews Chikhwaya, spring into action at once.
And at the helm of this operation dubbed “Wanted: Dead or Alive” was Bernard, a holder of a degree in Modern Crime Investigations and Intelligence from United European Detective University.
Bernard was now the only hope to unlock this jigsaw puzzle that had befallen Malawi.
As Bernard and his team of investigators began their manhunt, they took solace in one fact only: an ordinary fugitive might sneak out of the country, but a big-time Kaptain Kool’s diversified business interests meant he had to stay and run these businesses. Only in the capital Lilongwe could he rely on mob protection, yet the huge network turned out to be an Achilles’ heel.
The investigators, anxious to net him, first targeted Madisi, Kaptain Kool’s family home for years. Bernard thought that starting their search at Madisi could be a logical thing to do. However, as he began the hunt, he knew that it could not be normal surveillance, because local traffic was light and the presence of a stranger would be immediately detected.
Nevertheless, the Baddest Company, with spies all over the place, smelt a rat, Soon after the search had begun, members of the gang in Lilongwe and the country’s major cities were observed taking elaborate security measures; for example, while walking they kept looking over their shoulders or checking their reflections in the shop windows. While driving, they did repeat stops-and-go; or abrupt, tire-screeching U-turns.
Due to his determination to nab the notorious criminals, especially Kaptain Kool, Bernard put surveillance teams in Lilongwe. He also hid a couple of prowl cars off the winding roads, just outside the city.
And one morning, Bernard was in his car when suddenly a Mercedez Benz, carrying two passengers raced past him. He thought that they were some members of the Baddest Company, probably