Gertruida’s Journey (# 7)

townBy one o’ clock the group in the bar calls it quits. They’ve talked, discussed and argued about what they should do, and finally decided to meet again in the morning. Besides, they’ve finished the supply of Cactus Jack, which didn’t really contribute to the logic of their arguments.

Vetfaan suggested they take refuge on Bokkop, where they can hold a week-ling picnic.

“Look,” he said, “this is the most successful strategy in South Africa today. You ignore the threat, divert the attention elsewhere, and then the problem goes away. It works wonders for our president – he can’t be wrong, can he? And slowly every one of his problems simply fade to the background and he carries on marrying maidens to relieve the stress. It worked with the Arms Scandal, Nkandla, Guptagate, – and he’s proven that he says it best when he says nothing at all.

“So if Rolbos disappeared for a week, they won’t come looking for Paul anymore. No town, no Paul…it’s simple, really. The Boss will go somewhere else, like Prieska or Pofadder, and we’ll be safe.”

“You can’t make the town disappear, Vetfaan!” Servaas held out his glass for a refill after slurping up the last drop. “We can go somewhere, but the town will remain. How are you going to move the church, huh?”

And so the discusiion went on and on, until Mevrou started teetering about, complaining of a mild attack of dizziness. Boggel, who knows about her low alcohol-threshold, suggested reconvening the meeting in the morning. Paul nodded thankfully – the stress of the recent events have taken their toll.

It’s an uneasy night in Rolbos as the people toss and turn. If both the henchmen of the government as well as The Boss and his team are out to get Paul, their chances of escaping scot-free are rather limited.

It’ll take someone with a deep understanding of human nature to provide and answer.

Someone like Boggel, the humble barman,  with his years of listening to troubled customers spilling their hearts out late at night. He’s heard it all. And he’s seen what happens if problems aren’t addressed properly and speedily. At three o’clock he gives up trying to sleep, picks up the phone, and calls Vetfaan.

***

The Boss is tired. He’s been driving for hours  and even the strong coffee in the flask can’t fool his ageing body any more. He’ll have to pull over somewhere and nap a while. His heavy eyelids just won’t stay open much longer.

He’ll lose an hour or two, but that doesn’t matter too much. The three men he called on to help, has to come from the farm near Beaufort West – the safe haven for men and women who prefer not to appear in public. It is here they are building the Afrikaner Freedom Front, a far-right grouping of fundamentalist Afrikaners who plan to take over the government of the country – preferably by force. Surprisingly, they’ve had contact with Washington, had a secret meeting with an agent from the CIA, and were promised limited support. Of course, there’s no record of this meeting – they’re not that stupid – and what exactly was meant by support, is still unclear.

The Boss had studied the detailed map when he refuelled in Kimberley. He told the men he’d meet them in Grootdrink by midday the next day. He’ll brief them about Paul, and set into motion the plan to get rid of the irksome ex-agent. As far as he can see, there’s only one road to Rolbos – and it ends at the little town. That makes escape impossible. No, with a few (stolen) AK 47’s, they can make his problem go away and even blame it on a mass farm murder.  The thought made him smile: it’s always such a thrill to create evidence to blame someone else.

Deception – that’s the name of the game.

***

“He wanted what?” General Ngobeni leans forward on the polished surface of his desk.

“Er, sir, he wanted an address of a woman in some godforsaken little town. Useless information. And we have just nabbed Mister Taxi. I think I made a good swap.” Sipho Kekana smiles happily. Surely the General will propose a promotion?

“Why?”

Sipho frowns. He doesn’t know. The Boss asked for an address, so what? It isn’t like that woman was important or anything like that. Sure, she used to work in intelligence circles, but that was years ago. National Intelligence stopped worrying about her when they realised she had fled to avoid embarrassing not only the old regime, but also to protect several officials in the current government. She knew she knew too much, and sent a signal: I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone. Infrequent reports from the branch in Upington confirmed the fact that she was leading a quiet life, so surveillance was stopped.

“I-I son’t know, sir. The Boss didn’t say. I think it is a personal matter. And we got Mister Taxi…”

“You are more stupid than even I have guessed,” the General hisses. “:The man must have a good reason for exchanging Mister Taxi for a street address!” He sits back, steepling his fingers under his chin. Sipho withers under the disapproving gaze of his superior.

“Now, let me think. We know The Boss has some damning reports hidden away. A few days ago it came to my attention a certain Paul Harrison is back in the country.” When he sees Sipho’s puzzled look, he sighs. These new recruits can be so ignorant! “He’s got one of the passports we keep track of, you dummy. You won’t know it, but he is an agent with an international reputation.”

Sipho still doesn’t get it.

The general throws up his hands in disgust. “Listen, you blockhead! This Harrison chap used to be associated with the woman The Boss is so interested in! My hunch is that the three of them are up to no good. I suggest you follow up on this story and report back to me within the next two hours. I want to know what The Boss is up to, and I want to know it by yesterday already! Do. You. Understand?”

Sioho scampers from the room and has to turn back when the general shouts at him to close the door.

The general picks up the phone with the secure line. It takes fifteen minutes to get the President on the line.

“My President, I think we have a problem…”

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