Anna dives back into her footwell when the Hummer stops behind Vetfaan’s old F100.
Vetfaan, it must be said, has seen his quota of conflict over the years. He has been brave on occasion, but also knows the shame of cowardice. Then again, we all get dumped in situations from time to time when the decision to run or hide is the wrong one. Sometimes the only way ahead, is by facing the reality of defeat.
Vetfaan gets out of his pickup to walk towards the huge 4X4. Due to the tinted windows, he can’t see the interior of the monster vehicle; so he stops at the back fender of his pickup, waiting to see what their moves are going to be. After what seems to be a very long time, the driver’s door opens to allow a giant of a man to exit.
“That woman belongs to us.” No friendly greeting; just a flat statement.
Trying to play innocent isn’t going to work. Anna had told him about the three men that removed the injured agents. They’re a back-up team, she said. They operate with clinical efficiency. And, she said, they are extremely dangerous.
“Not according to her,” Vetfaan says as he leans back on the tailgate of his F100. His opponent simply shrugs and starts walking towards the passenger side of the pickup. “I wouldn’t do that,” he adds.
Still ignoring Vetfaan, the giant keeps on walking.
Now, one must understand there are a few rules you have to obey when travelling in the Kalahari. You need, for instance, two spare wheels. A puncture in the wrong part of the desert, can be fatal. Vetfaan, who spends his life in this arid world, follows the rules. That’s why he always carries the long tyre-lever on the back of his trusty old vehicle. When the man is level with him, it’s the lever that comes around in a swift arc, to strike the man squarely between the shoulders. He goes down like a shot antelope, flat on his face.
“Told you,” Vetfaan says. He sounds more confident than he is. He has no way of knowing how many guns are trained on him from inside the Hummer. Guessing they wouldn’t shoot from inside the big vehicle, he ducks behind the F100 to wait for their next move.
To his surprise, a turbaned man gets out with a big smile. He is dressed in a smart suit, shiny boots and a pair of oversized dark glasses.
“Well, well, well. Impressive, I must say! I can use a man like you.”
Taking a chance, Vetfaan lowers the lever as he gets up from behind the loading bay of his pickup.
“Ahmed? What are you doing here?”
That stops the man in his tracks. “How did you know…?”
“Anna told me all about you, mister. Everything. We had a long chat last night, before we taped a statement that we dropped at the police before leaving town”
Some people maintain that emergencies are the best times to pray. That may be true. But it is also true that in some emergencies, the human mind can think up lies faster than prayers. Vetfaan guessed the man was Ahmed. Where the bit of the long chat and the taped statement came from , he’ll never know. Somewhere inside the grey matter of his brain, the lie formed as glibly and smoothly as if it were the truth. The effect of Ahmed is amazing. The snub-nose .38 appears in his hand as if by magic.
“You will die for this!” The anger – even hatred – in his scream is unmistakable.
When you grow up in the veld, you learn the art of knob-kierie fighting from your pals on the farm. This involves long sparring sessions, done with great restraint, against each other. The object is to connect your opponent on the head with a gentle tap, which makes you the victor. Of course, boys will be boys. Some gentle taps resulted in heated arguments afterwards. The point is: if you grow up on a farm, you learn to use long sticks and watch your opponent carefully. Once, after being tapped with some force, Vetfaan ran away from his adversary – who then threw his kierie horizontally towards Vetfaan’s legs. This is done by spinning the stick, end on end, parallel to the ground. Vetfaan remembered that day for a long time. Not only did he have an impressive swelling above his left eye, he also sprained his ankle when he fell.
Now, as that gun comes up to aim at him, he throws the long tyre-lever just like that. It flies over the distance in a helicopter-like whirl to catch Ahmed’s legs just above the knees. There is a huge difference between the playing stick of youths and the tyre-lever. For one thing, the lever is made of solid steel and quite heavy. Another factor involves the laws of momentum. When something that hard, that heavy, strikes a softer, more fragile object, one can expect some damage to the more breakable of the two.
Ahmed lets out a terrified scream as his femur shatters. The gun drops from his hand, as he sinks, sobbing, to the ground. Vetfaan sprints across, retrieves the gun, and runs to the Hummer. To his great surprise and relief, the Hummer is empty. A quick search of the interior only reveals a bulky briefcase on the back seat.
Another two things you’ll always find in a farmer’s bakkie, is a packet of cable ties and a roll of duct tape. You can fix most things with these; from fences to leaking radiator pipes. Although rarely used to tie up criminals, it does come in handy when the need arises.
When the two men are safely tied up and Ahmed’s moaning silenced with a liberal length of tape, Anna finally leaves her hiding place to stand next to Vetfaan. Her admiring look says it all.
“What are you going to do with them, Vetfaan?”
“It depends on what’s in the briefcase, I suppose.”
Ahmed, who made his fortune by selling sex-slaves to bored oil billionaires, always had a plan B. This involved buying his way out of trouble. This, of course, required an amount of cash to be available at short notice. When he flew over from his hideaway after Anna’s call, he made sure he could mop up the mess properly. His backup team sorted out the injured agents, and Ahmed intended to pair up with Anna to complete their objective. To handle unforeseen problems, the suitcase was filled with local and international currency.
Vetfaan lets out a long whistle when he forces the locks on the briefcase and realise what the contents of the case could mean..
Article in The Upington Post..
Police spokesperson, Aaron Nkosi, confirmed today that due to exemplary detective work by a special unit investigating human trafficking, a major breakthrough resulted in the arrest of several suspects in the Northern Cape. No details were given, but it is believed the core of a child-smuggling syndicate is safely behind bars tonight. Nkosi said this proves how serious the government is in stopping these heinous crimes…
Captain Clarence Mnati accompanies Anna Bruski to the Customs desk at Cape Town International Airport.
“This is the woman the General gave instructions about,” he says importantly. “I am to make sure she boards this plane, accompany her to Paris, and then get her on the connecting flight to Warsaw.” Police work must be the most exciting career ever, he thinks. Who would have guessed it’d take him all over the world? He’ll certainly bring a present back for his uncle. Having such a family member in Parliament certainly has smoothed his career in the Force.
Anna has cooperated fully with the local authorities, telling them everything she knows. She follows meekly behind Mnati and settles into the luxurious seat in the first-class section. When Mnati offers to put her briefcase in the overhead locker, she smiles politely as she shakes her head.
“So, how was your trip to Upington, Vetfaan? Did you get a new carburettor for your tractor?”
Vetfaan sits down with a secret smile, orders his beer, and shakes his head.
“No. They just don’t make those spares any more.”
Boggel sympathises. Vetfaan has tried so hard – over so many years – to keep that old machine running.
“Gee, I’m sorry to hear that, Vetfaan. What are you going to do?”
“Can’t do much now. I’ll just have to wait, that’s all.”
“Wait for what, Vetfaan? Waiting won’t fix that tractor and you know it. Maybe we should phone a few of the farmers. There’s bound to be a spare somewhere. Even place an ad in the Farmer’s Weekly.” Gertruida can’t understand the male psyche. Waiting and drinking beer won’t solve a problem.
“Not like that Gertruida. Not at all. I’ll wait, just like I said.” He shoots her a defiant look before collapsing in laughter. “I’ll wait…for the new tractor. I ordered it, and it’ll be here next week.”
“Blow me down! Really? Those things are expensive, Vetfaan! And the banks are so stingy with loans these days. They must have hit you hard with the interest rate.”
“No interest rate, Kleinpiet. I paid cash.”
In a private room of the hospital in Cape Town, the nurse administers another shot of sedatives to the moaning man. He’s scheduled for operation tomorrow, and is constantly moaning and muttering about stolen money.
He doesn’t know – and neither does the pretty young nurse – that the sedative will have lethal consequences in a few day’s time. The bone marrow of the shattered femur is leaking into the small blood vessels of the thigh, forming little thrombi that are slowly growing. The sedative will keep the patient nice and quiet, allowing the thrombi to accumulate. They’ll lay dormant, waiting for the first session of physiotherapy before breaking loose and blocking the artery to the lungs.
Of course the General will be disappointed. The case against the Minister will be considerably weaker without the star witness…