The two men move silently to the annexe next to Boggel’s Place; tracker and hunter, closing in on the prey. The tracker is a brilliant detective; the hunter, an assassin without morals. They are a formidable team…
You won’t find Twilight Partners in the Yellow Pages. If you were to stumble across the name in official documents, you’ll be led to believe that it’s a debt-collecting agency, used by the Presidency to recoup monies lost to corrupt officials. You may even think that this is a wonderful initiative by government to recover bribes received by officials and that these funds are then allocated to various charitable NGO’s. It is a front that has fooled everybody – until now.
Tracker points at the annexe and waits for Assassin to nod. Yes, that’s where the woman is. I understand. I’ll get her. Checking that the safety is off on the silenced 38, he moves towards the room on silent feet.
Old Servaas isn’t the man he used to be any more. Gone are the days when he was a spry young man, the best shot in the district and the object of many a young maiden’s desire. Despite his age and appearance, he still imagines himself to be relatively fit and agile for his age.
Using the shadows for cover, he slowly tiptoes to the edge of the veranda, which is adjacent to the newly-built annexe. Should any intruder try to get near that room, Servaas would be ready for him – or them. He has a gun, a dog and a lot of resolve. Nobody – but nobody – must harm Bianca. For a moment he considers calling in the others, but that would mean giving away his position and (which is worse) deserting his post.
Ah yes! There’s a movement. Something darker than the shadows is moving slowly and silently towards the annexe. The man – Servaas assumes it to be a male because of the large bulk – is moving, back against the wall…and now the glint of moonlight on something held in a hand draws his attention. A knife? A gun?
Servaas brings the shotgun to his shoulder. If that man reaches for the doorknob…
Suddenly, Vrede’s frantic barking shatters the silence. At the end of Voortrekker Weg, the tracker tries to ward off the storming dog, but Vrede won’t be denied. With an almighty growl, he launches himself into the air, flying in a perfect trajectory that ends on the right wrist of the stalker. Despite the experience of many campaigns and years of working under cover, the man lets out a terrified scream.
At the same time, Servaas acts.
“Stop where you are! Stop right there…or I’ll shoot!”
The assassin swirls around, identifies where the shout came from, and lets off a shot in one fluid movement.
In a single second, the operation to eliminate Bianca fades away in the confused shouts that follows the shot and growling. While the rest of Rolbos switches on every available light, it is Bianca who rips open her door.
“Oh no!” She’s shouting for help as she sees Sevaas staggering off the veranda to fall in the dust of the sidewalk next to Voortrekker Weg. “Help! Servaas has been shot.”
The next few seconds witness the Rolbossers trying to make sense of the chaos in their main street. Vetfaan storms towards the growling Vrede, only to discover a very agitated man screaming for help. Precilla and Fanny run instinctively towards Bianca’s shouts and Boggel’s Place. It is Gertruida who understands what Bianca is saying, so she turns around, reenters her house, and then storms out with a first-aid kit.
Kleinpiet joins Vetfaan and together they convince Vrede to let go of the man’s bleeding wrist. Despite his whimpering protestations, the tracker gets tied up securely without any sympathy from the two men. Then, with Vrede keeping a tail-wagging eye on the little procession, they frog-march the man towards the bar.
Servaas is bleeding copiously from a wound in his shoulder. He’s trying to sit up, ashen-faced, when the women kneel next to him.
“Take him inside, we need light.” To everyone’s surprise, Bianca takes control over the situation. “We have to stop the bleeding immediately.”
The bullet passed through the fleshy part of Servaas’s shoulder, severing a small artery on its way. When they get him on to the counter in Boggel’s Place, he is short of breath with a barely palpable pulse.
“Get me a cloth. A towel. a shirt. Anything! Now!” Bianca presses down on the spurting wound, but it is clear that Servaas is in a bad way. Gertruida wastes no time. With a mighty heave, she tears Kleinpiet’s shirt right from his back and hands it to Bianca.
“Have you got a doctor in town?” Bianca seems calmer now as she forces the remains of the shirt against the wound. “A nurse? Anything?”
“No. The nearest medical help is in Upington.”
“‘Cilla, you have a little pharmacy – I think you said that when we were introduced?”
“Have you any intravenous fluids in stock? Saline? Ringer’s? Dextrose? Anything?”
“Yes, well, I have a vaculitre of Dextrose. I ordered it when Judge was here – he was a diabetic and…”
“Get it. Get it now. And an infusion set and a needle. Any bloody needle. Now!”
Gertruida watches the unfolding drama. Bianca is not acting like a common harlot at all – she suddenly assumed responsibility for Servaas; and she’s done it in a decidedly authoritative way. This woman, she decides, has seen much more action than just bed-time gymnastics. She’s acting like a well-trained…soldier?
Servaas groans and tries to sit up.
“Shhh, my darling. It’s going to be allright. Relax now. Lie still.”
Theses are the most beautiful words Servaas has ever heard. He slumps back on the counter with a silly grin.
“They…they didn’t get you? Good…” With that, he closes his eyes, whispering: “I’m so glad…”
When Precilla returns with the drip, Bianca gets busy setting up the infusion. Within a minute, she’s got the clear fluid running into a vein.
“Boil some water. Two litres. Add three spoons of salt and a quarter cup sugar. Let it simmer for five minutes….Can somebody please do it immediately?” Fanny rushes off, shouting Okay, I’m on it!.
For a while the little crowd watches the old man on the counter. He’s showing no sign of response; his breathing is still slow and irregular.
“Will he make it?” Timid, from Mevrou. She’s standing towards one side, barefoot and without a gown.
“Let us pray,” Oudoom says and closes his eyes. Servaas is only dimly aware of the prayer – he remembers a song Siena loved so much. Smiling, he feels Bianca’s fingers on his pulse. With the greatest of efforts, he manages to twist his hand to find hers. Heaven, he thinks, must be something like this.