Fanny’s Surprise (# 15)

N14_upington_pofadderThe taxi hums along on the tarred road to Grootdrink, while Henry tries to work out a practical approach to get Fanny to lead him to the fortune. He’s relatively sure she wouldn’t be keen on the idea – she did explain that she thought it’s best to leave the area undisturbed. Now, that is something he doesn’t understand: if there’s money in the desert that technically belongs to nobody, why leave it there? It’s plain stupid to ignore the treasure. Finders keepers…

Slapjan Rooi watches his passenger in the rear-view mirror. To pick up a fare all the way to Rolbos, was a stroke of pure luck. Usually his passengers only travel a kilometre or three – to the shops, the airport, back home – and suddenly here’s this terribly aloof character who wants to go to the out-of-the way little town. Of course Slapjan inflated the fare a little – when you’ve been a taxi driver for so many years, you can spot a loaded passenger a mile off. This poor sod; with his suit, silk shirt and tie; must be some executive. He’s white, so he can’t be some government official or local company CEO. His accent suggests a very English background – and the hot-potato-in-the-mouth  is a dead give-away, as is the haughty nose in the air and the little military moustache. No, this Englishman is here on serious business – hence the serious tariff per kilometre. He speeds up a little: the sooner he gets back to Upington, the faster he can get to the shebeen to brag about his good fortune.

***

Vetfaan negotiates the sandy road back to the farm with the experience that comes from years of travelling on the slippery surface. Fanny has recovered a little, but she is still rather pale. They are both worried about !Ka being alone on the farm..

Some people believe in coincidence, others blame fate and yet others don’t even stop to think why things happen. Oudoom regularly reminds his congregation that there is a purpose to everything under heaven when he preaches from Ecclesiastes 3; and it’s true. Chance meetings aren’t by chance. Things heard or seen aren’t by coincidence at all. Don’t discard the events of any moment – they’re there for a reason. 

The plume of dust, announcing the approach of a speeding vehicle, makes Vetfaan slow down. Not only will die thick dust obscure his vision for a few hundred yards after he’s passed the vehicle; there’s always the danger of stones thrown up by the other vehicle’s wheels. He breathes a sigh of relief when he sees the other vehicle slow down too. 

“Hey, that’s Slapjan’s taxi,” he says as they get nearer. “I wonder who…”

“It can’t be…” Fanny’s hand flies to her mouth as the taxi passes them. “Oh no! It is! It’s Henry…” The note of despair in her voice is unmistakable.

Vetfaan brakes to a skidding halt and does a U-turn. If Henry is on his way to Rolbos, they must follow him. He has an uneasy feeling about this; Henry certainly isn’t here on a goodwill visit.

“Seems you were right, Fanny. He’s either here to find those coins, or he wants to stake his claim and get engaged. I can tell you: he’s not here on a romantic excursion.” Vetfaan’s voice, too, has an edge to it.

***

Keeping just behind the clouds of dust kicked up by the taxi, the Vetfaan speeds on towards Rolbos, where the little crowd at the bar is discussing the issue of the jilted lover, the fraudster and the fortune seeker – all of them the same person. Kleinpiet says they haven’t had such a lot of excitement since the that thunder shower in 2005. 

“Well, Vetfaan said they’re going to fetch !Ka and bring him back here. I asked Platnees to share his cottage with !Ka for a while – they are family, after all. The Roois and Geels and the !Ka family goes back a long time. They’ll have a lot to talk about.” Boggel is adding up the moth’s totals for the individual patrons to settle, scratches his head, and decides to give them all a discount. By all accounts, it’s been a good month in the bar. “Do you really think that Henry will come here, Gertruida?”

“I suppose it’s possible. Fanny is here. So is that old wagon she told us about…”

Before she can finish her sentence, the sound of a vehicle outside brings the conversation to a stop. Servaas, nearest to the window, tells them it’s Slapjan and then: “Oh my goodness.What did you say about excitement, Kleinpiet? This is going to be very interesting…”

***

Henry Hartford squares his shoulders as he walks briskly to the bar. He can see there are a lot of people inside, strengthening his hope that Fanny would be there with that silly Afrikaner. He’s formulated his approach carefully. First of all, he must determine exactly what she knows at this stage. Maybe she hasn’t heard the news yet…

And then, of course, he must do what that speech therapist taught him: sweep her off her feet with sweet words. He’ll remember to smile while he talks – it gives the listeners a sense of trust. And yes, he’ll keep on the dark glasses – she’s such a good judge of the feelings in the eyes.

Yes, Fanny my dear, he thinks, today you’re going to change my world…

4 thoughts on “Fanny’s Surprise (# 15)

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