Abuse is the foundation for uncertainty – Mary Mitchell knows that all too well. It doesn’t matter if that maltreatment is emotional or physical; whether it happened during childhood or in later stages of life; or even if it occurs randomly or on purpose – it eats away at self-esteem, causes hate and erodes trust. The most important trust that eventually slides down the steep slope of guilt and anger, is the trust one has in one’s own ability.
The first time she heard this argument, was shortly after her father’s death. The bank manager implied it was some shoot-out, and that her father was linked to a syndicate exploiting children – that, she knows, is the official version. The people of AAA – Action Against Abuse, a NGO concentrating on supporting abused girls – were extremely helpful. After her father was shot, she had been the prime suspect. But with no proof – and the mass of evidence against her father (other girls came forward, the smut on his hard drive and the video tapes in the lounge) – the State not only agreed she was innocent, but also made sure she would never be haunted by any further investigations. Mary simply disappeared from the orphanage’s records and her touring with the band made her almost untraceable.
That’s why the bank never found her. And that’s why nobody ever suspected Boggel of being involved. The two of them share the dark secret, something that wil bind them together for the rest of their lives. The killing was ascribed to ‘person or persons unknown, bent on taking revenge’. That much, it must be said, was true.
But at the core of her being, uncertainty lingers. What will happen if they find out what Boggel did – whoever ‘they’ may be? And … why did she not resist her father’s unwanted advances with more aggression? Okay, it started at a young age – an age when nobody would expect her to know right from wrong – but certainly, when she was in her teens … she must have known it was wrong to accommodate his perversion? And that single thought haunts her as she sits down with Boggel on the veranda outside Boggel’s Place.
But then again – he was her father, for goodness’ sakes! He was the man in the house, the patriarch, the one who ruled and the one they all respected. He was the bread-winner and the provider. Surely such a man would not err, would not do wrong? Whatever he wanted in return for his generosity, wasn’t something to be ashamed of?
Now, years later and as an adult woman, she has to face the fact that she was as wrong as he was.. Perpetrator and victim carry the same amount of guilt, for did she not allow those actions? If he was wrong in seducing her, was she not equally to blame for acquiescing? Should she not have done one of a thousand things: run away, go to the police, told a friend, spoke to a teacher? But no, she didn’t; so it went on, and on, and on. And the further she went down that path, the less she was able to do anything about it.
Why did she involve Boggel? He took the life of a man – a bad man, to be sure – but still…
Like so many times before, there is only one conclusion: she was too weak. Correction: she is too weak. There is something wrong in her mind, that’s why. She’s not the woman she wants to be, simply because she’s a weakling; an unsure, insecure person with no morals and definitely no self-esteem. An outcast not fit to belong to a normal society.
She doesn’t listen to Boggel’s voice, droning on about how glad she is there. Boggel has got the Italian, why would he bother with her? She has a past she can’t talk about; a guilt she will carry for the rest of her life and memories that’ll nauseate the most forgiving person in the world. In stark contrast, the Italian is vivacious, bubbling with self-confidence and an absolute beauty. By Lucinda’s own admission, no man can withstand her charms.
Why did she even bother to come to Rolbos?
Old Marco suddenly appears on the stoep.
“Boggel! People! Lucinda, says Giovanni he says she no coming back!” The panic in his voice is unmistakable. “She say Giovanni he send a man to come here. He bring important message, she say.”
Boggel’s voice stops in mid-sentence. “What’s this all about, Marco? Why would Giovanni send back somebody here with a message? If she could telephone you – why can’t he?”
The veranda fills up with people thronging around Marco. Everybody asks questions and the old man has to raise his withered hands to quieten them. “I don’t know. Giovanni, he is a man of great power. He rule a piece of Milan where he is the law. Now, I don’t know why Lucinda went there, and I don’t know why she stay … but I do know this: If Giovanni send a man here, it is not to say hello to me. Lucinda, my daughter, she is trying to tell me something, I think. I think is bad news. For me, for you, for everybody.”
This is where the Great Mafia Debate starts. Old Marco is so distraught, he simply flops down at the counter to order a Cactus Jack. Gertruida, however, has a completely different view on the matter. If the Mafia wants to come and get old Marco, they will have to outsmart Rolbos. Vetfaan tells everybody how his great-grandfather shot down the English at Amajuba. Servaas – not to be outdone – remarks on a much earlier generation when one of his clan single-handedly sorted out a rabid lion. Kleinpiet has to better that and tells them all how he tracked and took prisoner a speedcop near Upington, when he was speeding under the influence.
It is clear to everyone that the guy from the Mafia will stand no chance to do harm in Rolbos … everyone, that is, except Mary Mitchell, the only one to understand the workings of devious minds. In her state of doubt and uncertainty, she has a feeling of doom about the visitor from Milan. Those guys, she imagines, can wipe out the town without even blinking an eye.
“When will he be here, Marco?” Boggel – forever the practical one – wants to know.
“Today. Tomorrow. I don’t know. Soon, I think. Yes, maybe tomorrow. She say he already left Milan yesterday. She only get to a telephone now to warn me.”
Gertruida gets that faraway look she gets when she’s working something out. “Okay you guys, listen up. If he left Milan yesterday, he would have landed in Cape Town this morning. If he hired a car, he’d be at Upington about now. That means he’ll stay over there and be here, first thing tomorrow. Now that gives us a bit of time to prepare. I suggest we all retire to the bar, get a few drinks, and discuss what we’re going to do. And Mary, wipe that sorry-for-myself look from your face. The world isn’t going to end now, For you, my dear, it’s only starting…”
Francesco Francoli isn’t a small man. Standing almost two meters tall in his socks, he resembles most lady’s mental image of the proverbial Adonis. He’s just had a cold shower to rid himself of the fatigue of the long flight and the dreary road trip to Upington. Tomorrow is the big day – he’ll sort out that old man and then enjoy the two weeks in the Kruger National Park. By that time the murder of an old man in the Northern Cape would be old news – Giovanni assured him of that. And who would look for the murderer in a national park – especially and Italian tourist who wants to relax and get away from it all? No, Giovanni told him, the police will bungle it up: they’ll be looking at a burglary gone wrong – they’d never suspect a professional hit.
Giovanni. Now there’s a true leader! With his network of drug dealers and smugglers and traffickers, he controls almost the entire Italian market in illicit trade. You want abalone, or cocaine or a nice young girl? Giovanni supplies them all. Yes, Francesco thinks, his older brother is a genius. Without Giovanni, he would have been nothing – a faceless Italian trying to eke out a living in recession-hit Europe. It was Giovanni, fifteen years older and so much smarter, who made sure that he, Francesco, was trained in martial arts. Giovanni sent him to Afghanistan to learn about guns and bombs and the other finer arts to get rid of troublemakers. And it is Giovanni who supplies the boys he needs to live out his fantasies. Yes, Giovanni – the man he’ll serve without question for the rest of his life.
He glances at his Rolex: it is ten o’clock. Time to turn in and get a good night’s rest. He’ll need to be sharp tomorrow…
Outside the motel, the group in the pickup van is having an argument.
“Listen, he won’t stay in a dump of a motel like this! Look at the place: it lives up to it’s name. Dusty’s Inn! Giovanni’s helper won’t stay here.” Vetfaan is thirsty and tired. It’s a long way back to Rolbos.
“Oh, shut up Vetfaan.” Gertruida has had enough. “We’ve been everywhere. This is the last place we haven’t checked out already. The point is: we have to find him before he finds old Marco. So be patient while I go and talk to the clerk at reception.” She gets out and walks off into the darkness.
Francesco sighs as he pulls the thin blanket over his body. The silenced 9mm pistol makes an uncomfortable lump under the cushion and he has to move it a bit to settle down. He falls asleep to dream of Luigi, the twelve-year old boy Giovanni has promised on his return…
Nobody shall sleep!…
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know…
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!…
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!