This time, Fanny arrives in Rolbos in a new Land Rover alone. Her job is to get Vetfaan to find !Ka and his family, and to convince them to move nearer to Rolbos. This will ease the filming and sort out some logistical problems regarding travelling and re-supplying teams in the veld. Henry made some impressive sums about the savings this will cause. Fanny’s presence was deemed necessary to convince !Ka that she will be in charge – the bond between them had been strong and he would certainly cooperate if she was there.
Vetfaan actually drove to Upington two days before to kit himself out with new khaki shorts, a shirt and a pair of old-fashioned boots. Gertruida said he must wear a name tag; otherwise Boggel will welcome him as a new member of the community. Vetfaan didn’t laugh at that.
Now, the entire population stand on the veranda as Fanny stops in Voortrekker Weg. Servaas is wearing pressed Chinos, Oudoom is in his Saturday best, and Boggel sports a freshly-ironed shirt. Mevrou and Gertruida agreed on wearing matching straw hats. The final picture, they all thought, looked rather colourful and happy. They’re telling Fanny how welcome she must feel.
Vrede scratches at that inaccessible spot behind his left ear as he sits in front of the group. He likes this woman. She’s got soft hands and a gentle voice – telling him how much she respects animals. He likes that, too. She’ll most probably feed him little scarps of biltong when the others aren’t looking. He likes that the best.
Fanny – dressed in old jeans, a T-shirt and dark glasses, steps from the vehicle – her smile radiant and happy. She greets everybody in turn, leaving Vetfaan for last.
“I missed you,” she says softly.
“Um.” His tongue simply refuses to say the words he had memorised so carefully. Gee, Fanny, it’s great to see you. I’m so glad you’re back. It’s not a massive speech; not saying too much, yet telling her of his joy; and he thought it was both safe and sensible. Now he stands, unable to move or even respond by hugging her like the rest did.
Fanny eyes him uncertainly for a long second. She shrugs, turns to follow the others to the bar.
“Er…” Vetfaan wants to call her back, still unable to find the words. She turns around immediately.
“It’s been dry. The drought, I mean. No rain. Very dry,”
A slow smile spreads across her pretty lips.
“I noticed, Vetfaan. I saw how dry the veld is as I drove in.”
“Ja.” His throat is parched, his tongue thick; his jaw working to get a way to say something sensible. “The Basset stays with me, now.” At least that comes out relatively smoothly.
He nods as if some puppet-master dipped some strings to make his head move forward.
“Come sit down here.” She sits down on the steps, patting the space next to her. Somehow he manages to summons the nerves and muscle to comply. “Fanie, this is awkward. I can see your heart. I understand, believe me. But I have to tell you about Henry – now, here, right at the start…”
Ka follows the spoor he picked up just before the sun was fully up. A small herd of springbuck has been here, their droppings still steaming in the early morning chill. They’re heading for the spring he knows about; it’s several miles away, but their tracks are heading straight that way. Picking up his characteristic slow jog, he follows the spoor across the barren terrain. He expects to sight them soon.There are plenty rabbit tracks around, so he makes a mental note of the position. This could possibly be a supply-spot in the future. He doesn’t recognise the slight depression in the surface where the wind partially filled up an old, unused burrow. His leg sinks away unexpectedly, swallowed by the residual hole under the surface.
Before he falls down, arms flailing, he recognises the distinctive snapping crack sound. He’s heard it before. It is the sound of a leg breaking.
!Tung sits up suddenly. She has been resting in her shelter, like she always does, during the morning hours. She’s never been a good sleeper at night – the dreams and visions see to that. They seem to be unstoppable – series after series of pictures flash through her mind, begging explanation. Some of them are easy to interpret, others not. Last night, she saw – again and again – a black cloud rushing across the desert before settling above her family. Her family…her legacy. She loves all the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. !Kaggen has blessed her with so much…
But the black cloud? The English woman? And the realisation that Death was near? What does it all mean? For once, she wished that her mother was still alive; she had an uncanny way of stringing these dream-thoughts together.
But now, deep in reverie, everything stops. The pictures disappear, to be replaced with an image of…!Ka!.
“… So Fanie, It is complicated. Henry will be here soon, and we must find a way to settle this feeling we have between us. What do you think?”
“Um.” Vetfaan swallows hard. “I-I think this is something you must decide on, Fanny. “ Damn! If only he could speak normally! “Er…”
“I know, Fanie, And it’s hard. Henry has his head in the clouds; you have your feet on the ground. You are complete opposites in every way. And yet, when I think of you, I melt a little. When I think of Henry, I know it’s right – for the companies, the conglomerates, the money. And Fanie, I’m not talking about millions or billions. I’m talking earth-shattering figures. Henry tried to explain everything to me, but I lost him after the second sentence.”
“Well…” Vetfaan is trying to think of something sensible to say. when Vrede lets out a protracted howl. From where he was sitting at their feet, he swirls around, facing west. The hair on the back of his neck stands on end; his ears are pointed; his tail straight out, still. Then, without glancing back, he sets off at a steady trot.
“What’s with Vrede?” Fanny’s pretty brow creases with the question.
“Something is wrong.” Vetfaan’s voice is normal, easy. “Something terrible is wrong.”
“Where, Fanie? What is it?”
“Something out there. And here…”
He gets up quickly to head for his pickup. Fanny, without thinking, follows him…