Sersant Dreyer pushes open the door at Boggel’s Place and pauses in the doorway for a moment. This bar has been a refuge over the years, providing a sort-of sanctuary when he wanted to escape the memories of that time. Now they come flooding back..
Sersant Dreyer shakes his head to clear the thoughts of those final minutes. When Cathy died, something inside him simply stopped living. It was as if a fuse was removed from some critical circuit in his brain, leaving him to be with the empty feeling he could never get rid of.
Oh, he tried.
The investigation into the murder of Cathy’s father had reached a dead end. Like it so often happens in South Africa, the docket got ‘lost’. The gang simply bribed their way to freedom. The administrative clerk responsible for the blunder was never identified and Jack Okapi remained untouchable.
Until the night Sersant Dreyer heard that Jack was planning another murder. The sympathetic neighbour, who covered the bleeding body of Cathy after the attack, phoned to tell him Jack and the gang was on their way to ‘necklace’ somebody they suspected of being an informer.
“Please sir, you must help. Please...”
Dreyer then did the unthinkable. He took off his uniform and dressed as a labourer. He went to the evidence room and got a gun. Then he ‘borrowed’ a vehicle from the pound and set off.
The report on the incident states that an unidentified man in a stolen vehicle drove past the angry mob and that three shots were fired before the suspect sped off. Because it was dark, no description of the man could be obtained. The bullets recovered from a certain Jack Okapi were not suitable for ballistic analysis because the shooter had turned them into dumdums that shattered on impact. The police were at loss to explain how a vehicle disappeared from the pound.
It was all over n half-an-hour’s time. The reports of the shooting were just filtering through when Dreyer walked back into the office, a steaming mug of coffee in his hand.
“It’s the Pretty Boys,” he announced. “I’m sure of it. They’ve been after that Satan’s Knives gang for some time now. Hopefully they’ll sort it out amongst themselves.”
And that’s exactly what happened. In what became known as the Battle of the Cape Flats, a major war broke out between the two rival gangs. Over a period of three weeks, fifty gang members were killed and an unknown number injured. The police intervened with less enthusiasm than one would expect, allowing the Battle to take care of the criminals that always managed to escape being caught.
Despite the satisfaction (and he was careful never to show it) of having killed Jack, the emptiness didn’t leave the troubled mind of Sersant Dreyer.
Even the killing of the killer wasn’t enough. Fifty dead bodies didn’t bring Cathy back. Sersant Dreyer. despite his promotion, remained a man who lost the one woman he loved. When the post in Rolbos was advertised, he was the only applicant.
And now the letter was a voice from the past, reopening the old wounds of a love – the scars that just won’t go away…
“What was the letter about?” It’s Gertruida of course, who knows (almost) everything, who jolts Dreyer back to the present.
“I have to get your advice on it,” Sersant Dreyer says as he sits down.
“You have to answer the letter, Sersant,” Gertruida says gently, “You simply have to help her. I mean, if Cathy meant so much to you, you owe it to her sister – or half-sister in this case. She’s family, after all.”
“It’s easy for you to say that, Gertruida.” By now Sersant Dreyer seems downcast and reluctant. “This is part of my life I so desperately tried to forget. Cathy was the world to me…and I can still not explain why…”
“It’s simple, Sersant,” Gertruida interrupts without apologising, “It’s called love. You can’t explain it. If you can, you can call it fascination, infatuation, or even plain lust. Love, my dear Dreyer, isn’t something you can put in a little box. If it’s there, it fills your world. And, may I add, it’s something that never leaves you. Love is like Einstein’s energy: it may change, but it can’t ever be destroyed. I’m afraid you’ll just have to live with it – for the rest of your life.”
She gets a few puzzled frowns from the men, but Precilla and Fanny nods their understanding. Even Mevrou smiles her approval.
“Tell you what,” Boggel refills the empty glasses on the counter, “you’ll never settle this thing by writing letters. There’s only one way to settle this: invite the woman to come and visit us. You can never tell her what Cathy meant to you by writing words on paper. She has to see you, see your eyes, hear your voice, to understand who and what Cathy was. Remember: she never met her half-sister. You’re the only link to her family. You owe her that.”
And so, on a dusty winter’s morning, with the sun desperately trying to warm up a blustery and cold day, Sersant Dreyer opens the door of the car Lucia van Wyk got at Upington Airport.
“I’m Dreyer,” he tells the extended hand of Lucia van Wyk, not daring to look into her eyes for fear of recognising something of Cathy in them. “Let’s go inside, Boggel has a fire going.”
“Okay.” One word, that’s all she needs to say.
It is Cathy’s voice.
And when he looks up he closes his eyes quickly. In them, in this very instant, he’s taken back to the beach at Hout Bay, cradling the woman he loves in his arms, watching the sun set over the distant horizon. Near them, the family building the sand castle gives up as the waves start destroying their beautiful building.
And he hears her voice, that precious, weak whisper, asking him why everything turned out the way it did.
He could never answered that simple question.
There is no answer…he said it, as the waves smoothed the beach while he held her lifeless body with a tenderness he never thought possible.
Oh my dear father,
I like him, he is very handsome.
I want to go to Porta Rossa
to buy the ring!
Yes, yes, I want to go there!
And if my love were in vain,
I would go to Ponte Vecchio
and throw myself in the Arno!
I am pining and I am tormented,
Oh God! I would want to die!
Daddy, have mercy, have mercy!
Daddy, have mercy, have mercy!
(from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi (1918))