Monthly Archives: October 2013

Rolbos – the Book?

This is NOT the cover

This is NOT the cover

“Sssshhh! You can’t talk about it yet.” Servaas’s urgent whisper and disapproving scowl tells it all.

“Oh, come on! You know the secret is safe with us. At least we can have a Cactus or two to celebrate? It’s been a long time in coming.”

“You know, Gertruida, sometimes I wonder if you know anything. He specifically said the project is only beginning now – and it may only be finished by the middle of next year. So it’s far too early to start counting chickens.”

Like the rest, Vetfaan is extremely excited as well. “It’ll be great to do the jump from the screen to paper. It’ll make me feel more alive, I can tell you. If it takes a bit of time, it’s okay – I can wait.”

“I’m not sure whether I like the idea. Once your name gets published, people start taking notice of you.” Oudoom shifts uncomfortably. “In several stories it is mentioned that I take the occasional…er…tot in Boggel’s Place. The synod will frown on that.”

“You think you’re the only dominee is South Africa that sneaks in a few when the congregation isn’t looking?” Fanny walks over to hug the old clergyman. “Maybe the book will make your colleagues loosen up a bit – they’ll see it’s okay to act normal for a change.”

Servaas straightens his black suit before getting up to leave. “You guys can joke all you like – and maybe that’s all you are good for. This is serious stuff, man. A lot of work goes into a project like this – and he won’t rest until it’s perfect. So, talking about it at this time is far too early. If I were you, I wouldn’t breathe a word until the presses start rolling.”

Boggel gets on his crate to serve a round on the house. He’s been in an orphanage, in love, in an accident, in trouble, and inebriated…but he’s never been in a book. “Oh, come on, Servaas! Sit down! You know we won’t say a word until the book is finished. This is Rolbos, remember? We plan things to perfection and then we leave nothing to chance. Can you recall one single incident when we were surprised by events? No man – the secret is safe. Nothing can go wrong now.”

Vrede does his doggy-turn before settling on Boggel’s cushion below the counter. He doesn’t care about secrets or the uncertainty humans display when they plan the future. He’s going to be famous, and that’s all that counts. How many retired police dogs can say (bark) that? His tail thump-thumps on the wooden floor as he hears old Servaas sitting down again.

“Well, I only hope he’ll portray me as I am: a happy, sober, intelligent, amicable widower, living alone in a small town in his own house with a spare room. Who knows…”

“You’re the catch of the century, Servaas. We’ll have a stream of ladies queueing up to meet you.”

When Servaas manages to angle the corners of his lips slightly upwards, Precilla leans over to plant a kiss on the old man’s cheek. “I’m convinced he’ll write nice things about you, Servaas. Absolutely sure.”

Servaas’s mood may have stayed a while if Kleinpiet didn’t collapse in helpless laughter at that point.  A sexy widow? For Servaas? In Rolbos…? No, not even the best author in the world can stretch the reader’s imagination that far…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAWvHIo4vQU&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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When the Music is Wrong…

The Embarkation for Cythera ("L'Embarquement pour Cythère") is a painting by the French Rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau. Click the picture for its history

The Embarkation for Cythera (“L’Embarquement pour Cythère”) is a painting by the French Rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau. Click the picture for its history

“Just imagine! A world at peace, with love and kindness as the only laws…” Precilla, the eternal romantic, stares deep into Kleinpiet’s eyes. They’re celebrating their anniversary, so Boggel is preparing Gemsbok fillets on the embers for everybody. “Just think how wonderful that would be.”

“Impossible.” Servaas has tried to be cheerful all evening, but this is unadulterated stupidity. The world, according to him, can never be a happy place.

“People have been dreaming of Cythera, the island of Venus – the goddess of love, since ancient times, Precilla.” Gertruida ignores the negative remark. “Watteau even made a famous painting about it. Love, lots of Cupids and a little bit of old-fashioned desire. It caused quite a stir back then.”

“But why? People shouldn’t frown on Love? Isn’t it true that we all search for it, all our lives? Even after you’ve found the love of your life, it remains something that you must work on, every day.” Fanny gives Vetfaan a playful hug, telling him he’s still Number One.

“Nobody frowns on Love, Fanny. The problem is that Love doesn’t always follow the set pattern we imagine it to have.” Boggel sets down the first platter with the steaming steaks on the counter, next to the dinner plates, knives and forks. “We often try to box Love into the size and shape we’d like it to be – and it doesn’t work like that.” He’s thinking of Mary Mitchell, and of course and everybody knows it. The one girl he truly loved…and then lost.

“You mean we try to Samba on a Waltz?” Gertruida, being her old convoluted self.

“Maybe. We come prepared to play our own choice, but the orchestra is off on another tangent. Because it doesn’t fit our picture, we get up and leave. It’s so sad.”

“Harrumph.” When Oudoom clears his throat like this, you remain quiet. “You know why so many couples manage to ruin a perfectly good relationship? It’s because we don’t trust the Conductor, that’s why.

“People forget that He’s in charge – and that He selected you to contribute your music to His composition. Sure – maybe you feel you are not perfect for the situation, but He has His reasons.

“Now, I have to stress that all relationships should be based on Love – but not necessarily the love Hollywood makes movies about. I’m not talking about breathless, sweaty, frantic romping.” He glances over at Mevrou, nods an apology, but feels this point is so important that straying towards a bit of vulgarity is essential to convey his message. “I’m talking about being kind to one another. That, my friends, is Love. I’m thinking about loyalty, respect, commitment. Love isn’t about whispered promises – anybody can do that. Love is what you do – it is something that is shown, not said.”

Surprisingly, Mevrou rubs the clergyman’s slumped shoulders, smiling fondly as she does so.

“I just love arguing with my husband, you all know that. But this time he’s right. It’s about trusting the Conductor. He has a special place in His orchestra for each of us, because He knows what we can contribute to the bigger picture. He wants the music to be perfect – and if you don’t do your bit, the entire orchestra delivers an incomplete rendition.”

“That’s why Cythera isn’t an island any more. Cythera can be the world we live in..if we make it so.” Gertruida emphasises the last bit, pausing afterwards to let it sink in. “And Oudoom is right – it’s the world the Conductor had in mind when He created it all. If only we had enough faith in Him – and in our own abilities – Cythera wouldn’t be a painting of an imaginary island…it’d be all around us.”

Servaas knits his bushy eyebrows together, letting out one of his legendary sighs. “When the music is wrong, I have to adapt? Why can’t I play my own piece? ”

“When you think the music is wrong, Mister Cantankerous, it’s time to look up to the Conductor, admit you don’t think you’re ready…and then see the trust in His eyes. We’re so afraid of failure, we often don’t even try. But with that trust…anything is possible…even Cythera.”

Boggel selects a succulent fillet from the platter and serves Servaas with a flourish. “Elie Wiesel said the opposite of love isn’t hate – it’s indifference. Follow the Conductor. Even if you play badly, it’s better than not playing at all.”

Old Servaas glares at Boggel from under the eyebrows for a second…then manages a wintry smile. “I suppose I’m a bit of a solo artist.”

“Maybe. Music comes in many forms, Servaas, and that’s okay. But if you look up, you’ll find the Conductor tapping his batton, waiting for you to join the orchestra. That’s when you have to be prepared to be surprised…”

“Music. Art. People. We keep on imagining a world filled with Love. And we won’t find it until we understand the word.”  Gertruida raises her glass to the anniversary couple. “A toast to Love! To imaginary islands, beautiful paintings and breathtakingly, amazing music. And to the orchestra of Love – may each of us, trembling, unsure, trust the Conductor to select the music that’ll surprise, captivate and enthrall.”

Vrede accepts the thick piece of fat Boggel has sliced off his steak with a wagging tail. He just loves it when humans agree on important things.

The Reality of the Act

Charlize-Theron-Hair-2013“Soooo,” Gertruida asks, even though she knows the answer, “was that article fake…or true?”

Rolbos has had an unprecedented number of visitors lately, trying to answer this very question. After all, the lady in question represents one of the most recognisable faces in Hollywood today, and it’s almost impossible to say anything about her without stopping the proverbial conversation at the next virtual table.

kwv-2-600“Some believe it, some don’t.” Oudoom swills his brandy around in the goblet, savouring the aroma of the twenty-year-old KWV. Boggel saves the bottle especially for the old clergyman, for special occasions…or when the little community comes up with something extraordinary.

Tonight is such a night – he can feel it.

“Look,” Kleinpiet says because he still has a crush on the actress, “there’s been a lot of trash written about the woman. And you, Gertruida, dug up some rather despicable photos on the Internet. Like you pointed out – they were altered to slander, not to convey reality. I find that unacceptable.”

“The high trees catch the wind, Kleinpiet.” Servaas is dressed in his black suit again – an ominous sign of his approach to the matter. “If the Internet is such a powerful tool, why didn’t she use it to clear her name?”

“Because, dear Servaas, you only perpetuate a lie by keeping it alive with denials. Remember Shakespeare? The lady doth protest too much? That’s the way tabloids make their money, my friend. Somebody says something. Somebody denies it. And hey presto! Sensation is born and a few thousand more copies are sold. Money, money, money…” Fanny sits back, her point made. “It’s not about the person, Servaas, it’s about causing gossip and sensation.”

“Well,” the old man reluctantly agrees, “sensation we got. People from all over the world responded, some of them degrading the girl, others defending her. It seems you are either on one side or the other. Very few were neutral.”

“You’re wrong again, Servaas. Most people who read the story and didn’t respond. Those are the men and women who silently disagreed or simply thought it wasn’t worth it to respond. The silent majority is alive and well and living out there, my friend. They form their own opinion and do not care what others think.” Gertruida lifts her glass in a silent salute. “I respect those…”

“So why, Gertruida, did you bring that article here for all to see?” Servaas has to know.

“You know what? We talk about love, kindness and compassion all the time. Do people pay attention? Are they interested?” Gertruida pauses to let the point sink in. ” No! We only have a loyal following of readers who subscribe to those ideals. But…bring in a celebrity and suddenly the whole world gets on to the bandwagon.

“Oudoom preaches about forgiveness every Sunday, What happens out there? Nothing.

“When we talk about rape and corruption, it doesn’t cause a stir. These things affect thousands of people, every day. Is the world interested? No!

“Farm murders, Nkandla, the Arms Deal? No interest.

“But mention somebody famous, and suddenly it causes visitors from all over the world to voice an opinion. Remember Oscar Pistorius? People are more interested in scandal than in the mundane affairs of a healthy society – or at least a society wanting to be a tribute to humanity.”

Gertruida sighs as she signals for another beer. When will people learn?

“So you brought this up to prove…?” Precilla lets the question hang in the air.

“What Gertruida tried to do, Precilla, was to prove a point. Supposing that lady did, indeed, donate funds to an organisation. So what? Suppose she backed the wrong horse? Well, don’t we all do that at some point of our lives? And suppose this whole debacle was the result of somebody who wanted to cause unwanted sensation? Why pay attention, for goodness’ sakes!” Oudoom admires the amber liquid in his glass before sniffing it appreciatively. “The point? Gossip! Gossip fires the engine of tabloid and newspaper alike. It makes people talk. It provides scandal to a humanity that wants to build icons up, before tearing them down again. We did it with Hansie Cronje, Neil Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Oscar Pistorius. We vote for politicians only to tell the world later what scum they are. Miss a goal in the final on Saturday and see what hatemail you get on Monday.

“Somehow, we want heroes to be successful all of the time – we want to admire faultless gods. And once we detect a crack in the armoury, we prod and we probe until the tower comes crashing down.

“Of course, in doing this, we proclaim ourselves to be perfect. Woo boy! There’s nobody as great as I am – I make no mistakes! That’s what we’d like the world to believe.”

Boggel gets the Amarula from the shelf to mix the final coffee for the night.

“So, Gertruida, are you pleased with the result?”

Gertruida is at the window again, staring out at the moonlit landscape of the Kalahari. The plaintive cry of a jackal carries over the barren landscape, causing Vrede to look up suddenly.

“No, Boggel. Not pleased.”  She returns to the counter to sit down quietly. “Sad. So, so incredibly sad.”

Oudoom smiles sadly as he finishes the brandy. Yes, he thinks, less people will want to read this. But, at least those that do, will understand.

The twenty-year-old sip certainly lived up to expectations…

The Act of Life

“You can’t be serious?” Kleinpiet stares at the article, shocked to the core. He’s always liked the actress, but this is a bit too much. Gertruida found this article on the Internet, outlining allegations that have not been contested or denied…

“I’m afraid you’ll have to adjust your opinion about international politics – and actors. It isn’t just about individuals trying to do well – it’s also about image and positioning.”

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Gertruida gets up to walk to the window. It is a beautiful day in the Kalahari, with the slightest of hints of clouds on the horizon. At least here, she thinks, things remain fairly constant.

“It has become fashionable for actors to play the political game. Reagan became president, remember? Italy had Gina Lollobrigida, America boasts with Schwarzenegger, Clooney and Clint Eastwood , and now we’ve got our own Oscar-winning contribution to international affairs.”

“But it’s not only actors, Gertruida. I think one must consider musicians as well.” Fanny sighs as she remembers the impact John Lennon had on her life.

“That’s true. You must understand that some performers become icons. Their fame rests not only on what they do on the big screen or on stage, but it also involves their private lives. In fact, their private lives are responsible for millions and millions of printed words in magazines and newspapers every year – so it isn’t so private anymore.

“So, as soon as your performance elevates you above the level of mediocrity and people start noticing you, you become the object of close scrutiny. People want to know what sets you apart from the rest. That is the root of fame and fame breeds more curiosity. And that, my friends, is where the real acting starts.

“Today, the big money goes to entertainers. It doesn’t matter if you play golf, tennis, rugby, or the guitar. The bored masses of the world will fork out hard-earned money to be entertained, which generates more TV coverage, more sponsorships and more reports in the tabloids. Money, money, money…”

Boggel drums an irritated finger on the counter top. “Aren’t actors supposed to be intelligent?”

“Of course! But there is something else. Consider the ability to play different roles convincingly enough to win an Oscar. You have to pretend to be someone else with so much conviction, that you adopt another personality. In one movie you play the hero. In the next you’re a serial killer.

“Now, what does that tell you? To me it means that a great actor must have fragments of these personality types stashed away inside their minds. After all, you can’t portray a certain trait if you haven’t got it. Look at Vetfaan, or Oudoom: they can’t act even if you offered to pick up the tab for a month’s drink. They are what they are – nothing more and nothing less. But actors! They’re more than just a single individual.”

“Like politicians?” Precilla’s brow shoots up: the penny just dropped.

“Right you are. Politicians are the best actors in the world, my dear. Their speeches are scripts written by spindoctors and they are more diligent in their rehearsals than the most dedicated actor. Actors can fall back on editing, politicians do it live. Do you think Uncle Jacob writes his own speeches? Or that he addresses an audience without proper coaching beforehand? ”

“Okay, Gertruida, I get it. They all act. It’s fake.” Kleinpiet still stares at the newspaper clipping. “But why would Charlize support somebody like Malema, who said the honeymoon for whites in South Africa is over? Or talk to our president who sings about killing the Boers?”

Gertruida shakes her head. “It isn’t a new thing at all, Kleinpiet. Remember old Shakespeare?All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts? 

“It’s about ego and power. If you can name five politicians who genuinely serve the people who’ve elected them, I’d be surprised. How many actors can you think of who remained true to themselves? Yes, there are more actors than politicians. And yes, you’ll find some actors involved in community service and upliftment – in South Africa we have quite a few. But once international fame comes knocking at your door, it comes with a price.

“So why would Charlize support a dubious cause? Why would she throw money at a corrupt system? After all, she must have known she’d lose the support of a few of her home-town admirers. But…it’s about posturing and politics. As much as one must admire her work as UN envoy to raise awareness of AIDS; and as wonderful as her foundation to improve life in Africa may be, one must never forget one thing: it takes one bad apple to spoil the crate.”

Kleinpiet tears the clipping into small pieces before dropping it in the ashtray. He still doesn’t understand what Gertruida is trying to say – Charlize has been somebody he really, really liked. Now she’s just another actress on the big stage of Life, a good one at that; but one who is playing out a role, saying memorised words and miming rehearsed actions.

Is she for real?

“Gimme another beer,” his voice is tired. “If that article is genuine, I have to think about this. It feels as if I’m trapped in a Hollywood studio where everything is make-believe.”

“That, Kleinpiet, is the illusion we all have to live with.” Gertruida reaches out to take the bottle from Boggel. Smiling triumphantly, she takes a swig. “What you see isn’t what you get…”

It’s a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 6)

1054432-3x2-940x627Constable Sipho Modise just loves his job. Four weeks ago he graduated from being just another man-in-the-street, to being a respected member of the police force…or as they call it: Police Service. Accent on Service… Yes, he’ll protect and serve, that’s what he’ll do. For too long has he listened to the frightening stories of crime in his neighbourhood; it is time to stand up and be counted.

He did well in his training. The driver’s test was almost a fiasco when he bumped the brand-new police van into an unsuspecting but very irresponsible tree, but because he at least hit the target twice during the shooting exam, his superior officer was kind enough to turn a blind eye to that little mishap.

But now, today, Constable Sipho is an unhappy man. The crime. The rapes. The murders. The corruption. And now, the ultimate injustice of all: the Western Province did not win the Currie Cup. With players like Jean de Villiers and Geo Aplon, they were assured to be victorious on their home ground. What happened? The Sharks won then convincingly. And that, Sipho will tell you, is just so wrong.

So today, on his beat, he will see to it that justice is served. Pure, unadulterated, concentrated, 100% proof Justice. No holds barred…

One can understand that – when he sees a naked woman trying to climb through a window – Constable Sipho reacts immediately. Is this a new way of breaking-and-entering? Or is it simply Public Indecency? Or soliciting?

He doesn’t care. He’ll stop crime, no matter what it is called. He’s about to open the garden gate leading to the door, when a minibus screeches to a halt next to the curb.

***

“Help!”

It’s a plaintive shout, a hopeless one at that, directed at nobody at all. The Man forgets all about the value of his asset as he yanks her back into the house, sending her sprawling across the floor.

“How dare you! You are NOTHING! Worthless! I tried to be nice to you…but now! Now I’ll simply speed up your little program with a nice little preview of the rest of your miserable life.” When she whimpers in fright, he backhands her once – hard – drawing blood from a burst lip. The Man finds this funny as he unbuckles his belt.

***

“Constable!” Vetfaan rushes up to the uniformed man with a hand held high. “Please, you’ve got to help us. There’s a woman…”

“The naked one?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. A young woman. I believe she’s being held here against her will.”

Unlike the stereotype so many people entertain in their minds, Sipho is neither stupid nor ignorant. It is true that he grew up in a small village and it is accurate to say his formal schooling left much to be desired. However, his father taught him and his three brothers a lot about life, tradition and culture. Domestic violence wasn’t tolerated. Drinking was evil. Disrespecting your seniors and women were severely frowned upon and usually resulted in a beating.

Now, when Constable Sipho hears the burly man describing in short, urgent sentences why he is here, it is Sipho’s tradition – his father’s teachings – that takes over; it made a far greater impression on him than the training he recently received.

Motioning Vetfaan to follow him, Sipho runs quietly up the stairs to turn the handle on the front door.

“It is locked….”

Of course it was. At least, when he uttered the words, the statement was true…but not for long. He watches in awe as the Vetfaan hurls his big frame at the door, ripping the hinges off the frame.

“Not any more, ” Vetfaan pants as he storms in.

***

Some men are funny. Not Ha-Ha funny…just weirdly strange.Check out a man working on a carburettor, or a Sharks fan watching the final. Somehow, they lose contact with their surroundings as they focus on what they’re doing. Women- generally speaking – are much more aware of their surroundings. Maybe that’s why lionesses do the hunting…?

So, when Vetfaan storms into the room where The Man is towering over Miss Katie Malone, it takes both men a second to comprehend the situation. For what seems to be an everlasting moment, the two big man stare at each other. Katie, with the fast-processing, multiple open-window-microchip inherited by all females, doesn’t have to think – she’s up in a flash to storm towards the open front door and freedom.

***

They watch as the ambulance men stagger down the front steps, carrying the huge limp and groaning mess on the litter to the waiting vehicle.

“That man isn’t going to talk for a lo-o-ong time. And he’s going to have to eat watery porridge even longer.” Sipho smiles smugly from behind the barrel of his pistol that is trained more-or-less in the direction of The Caretaker.

Fanny has found some bandages, and is bandaging Vetfaan’s right hand. Typical male, Vetfaan flinches every now and then to show his woman how much it hurts. She’s not fooled, of course, but true to her gender, she makes soothing sounds to tell her man what a mighty warrior he had been. It’s a game as old as the world…

Gertruida was, in retrospect, the one who acted most rationally. When Katie ran full tilt into her, it was Gertruida who lifted the trembling woman into her arms and went back inside. She barely glanced over to where Vetfaan was busy practicing advanced dentistry on The Man with a small table, as she looked around, found a cupboard in the corridor and discovered a gown and slippers.

***

Report in The Cape Argus.

In a well-planned operation, members of the South African Police Service apprehended a number of suspects in Cape Town yesterday in connection with an international human trafficking syndicate. Unconfirmed reports suggest that several people employed at Cape Town International Airport were involved, as well as a senior police officer. 

A spokesman for SAPS did not confirm or deny that their investigations might now concentrate on certain individuals in the Middle East and China. However, it was stated that Interpol is now involved as well.

The minister of police issued a short statement, praising the prompt action of a constable who was responsible for the breakthrough.

Meanwhile, the condition of one of the suspects remain critical but stable in Groote Schuur Hospital. This man apparently tried to escape, but managed to run into a speeding bus. The bus driver could not be contacted.

***

“Uuuuuh…” Vetfaan rubs he cracked rib as he reaches for his beer.

They’re back in Rolbos, where Katie is recovering under Mevrou’s loving care. Gertjie Viljoen gladly accepted Gertruida’s invitation to visit; he’s out in the veld, photographing butterflies.

“Well,” Boggel sighs, “at least she wasn’t… You know? Raped…”

“Boggel, that’s a typical stupid remark people use these days. At least I wasn’t killed. Or: It’s only worldly goods, at least they didn’t hurt you. I’m not fighting with you, Boggel, but it pisses me off.This remark is so unlike Gertruida that even Vetfaan stops groaning. “It’s as if we’ve come to accept crime as being okay, as long as our lives are spared.

“You know what? That’s bullshit!” She’s so agitated and angry that she ignores the box of tissues Boggel produces. Bugger it! She can cry if she wants to! “People do to you what you allow them to. If we continue to have this submissive victim-syndrome, we’ll just keep on saying stupid things like that. And if we continue to vote for a corrupt government, we deserve every criminal act perpetrated by thieves, poachers, smugglers, murderers and…rapists.” The last word is hissed with so much venom that an eerie silence fills Boggel’s Place.

“There, there, Gertruida…” Oudoom gets up to take Gertruida in his arms. “The meek shall inherit…”

Between the sobs, Gertruida shakes her head. No…she doesn’t believe that any more.

“Take me home, Dominee, please. I’m so tired.”

The group at the bar watches as Oudoom leads Gertruida towards her cottage. They’ve never seen her like this before.

“Uuuh…” Vetfaan directs everybody’s attention back to his bruised body. Like men are wont to do, he likes being the center of attention.

“Oh you poor man…” Fanny’s eyes have a mischievous glint as she smiles at Vetfaan. “Sooo brave…”

She gets a brilliant smile from the burly man.

“I was thinking of spoiling you a bit tonight, Fanie…you know?” She runs a playful finger over the stubble on his chin. “But with you in so much pain, we’ll have to postpone it for a few weeks. Just to allow you to recover.”

The brilliant smile gets replaced with the pained look of a man waving a Western Province flag at Newlands.

***

In the months to come, Miss Katie Malone will write a book on the effects of psychological rape – not only about herself, but also involving a whole nation. The title – Silent Suffering – will be read by many, understood by few, and it’s contents regarded as brilliant literature.  Sadly, it won’t change the way people think or act. It’s become a habit – a self-destructive, self-defeatist attitude that makes us insensitive to suffering – as long as it happens to somebody else…

One good day, we will see
Arising a strand of smoke
Over the far horizon on the sea
And then the ship appears
And then the ship is white
It enters into the port, it rumbles its salute.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Horizon. The space or line where the sky meets the earth.

Sometimes, the horizon defines the end of vision – we can’t see beyond it.  How often do we then decide the horizon is too far, the obstacles too large and the distance too far…and then stop dreaming about what lies beyond?

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The limiting factor isn’t that thin line between the earth and the sky. We simply can’t see beyond the line because our dreams are too small.

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But…should we dare to take that dream-path to explore the end of our vision, the hardship of the journey can be harrowing.

33

For the brave, however, this serves as encouragement. For somewhere, somehow, the landscape must change and the horizon has to fulfill its promise.

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And then, only then, can our dreams become a reality to live in. There is great peace in that knowledge…

d

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 5)

CIMG6483Manie Schoeman lets out an extremely unman-like scream as the bits of his Marantz music centre slices into his back, causing a sound even the state-of-the-art speakers could never reproduce. Vetfaan stands off to one side, but only after Gertjie  has lowered his not inconsiderable bulk onto the unfortunate customs officer’s chest. The scream quite naturally peters out to become a strangled gasp.

“I…can’t…breathe…!” Manie’s arms flop around helplessly.

“Tell us about Katie! Now!”

“I’m just a spotter. That’s all! I didn’t do anything…”

***

Fanny makes notes while Manie does his best to confess, while Gertjie sits with a cherubic smile on his battered prisoner. Yes he tipped them off. Them? The man known as Contact, the man who pays him to be a spotter. And then…? The Contact leads the woman to the Transporters. “And then…? The victim is delivered to the Man…at The Warehouse.

“Now, Mister Schoeman, where is The Warehouse?”

Silence.

Vetfaan walks over to the well-stocked bar, where he selects a bottle of 21-year-old Chivas Regal. Returning the the hapless Manie, he positions the bottle exactly above his head before letting go. The crunch of the bottle against the nose of The Spotter makes everybody flinch.

“No…! Please!!”

***

Miss Katie Malone wraps the blanket tightly around her body. She’s sitting right next to the door of her windowless room, waiting… As far as her abductors are concerned, the pills would have induced a deep sleep again, rendering her harmless. Her only hope and her only weapon is surprise. She knows her chances for escape must be rated as near-zero – but this is all she’s got. The alternative is to wait for the inevitable; whatever that might turn out to be. She has no doubt that it’ll involve a lot of unpleasantries…

The Caretaker arrives after what seemed to be ages and ages. Acting on the new orders to keep their captive healthy and well-fed, she’s carrying a tray on which a McDonalds burger and a glass of milk is balanced. She guides the tray carefully on the one hand while she unlocks the door.

Two things happen almost simultaneously: The Caretaker notices that her prisoner isn’t curled up against the far wall, where she usually sleeps and…she trips over the extended leg of Miss Katie Malone. Instinct forces her to try to balance the tray while she stumbles, but that only causes her to be more off-balance. Katie watches as the woman pitches forward, glass and hamburger arching through the air…and can’t help flinching when her warden cracks her head on the hard concrete floor.

Moving with surprising speed, she gets out of the room, slams the door and turns the key.

*** 

The Man – known by many other names, but likes to go under the handle of Freddy – Freddy-the-Fence or Freddy Fingers. The former relates to his business as middleman (for any type of contraband, from rhino horn to false banknotes) while the latter refers to his favourite amputation game, played with people who’ve shown less than the expected enthusiasm for his schemes.

He’s just replaced the receiver after concluding the transaction with the sheik; a most lucrative undertaking even if he must say so himself. Yes, he’ll dress her up nicely. The sheik will attend a meeting of oil suppliers with the Minister of Energy next week, which means his private jet will be parked at Cape Town’s airport for two whole days. Smuggling the doped woman aboard will be an easy task.

Twelve million! Wow! With that money he can buy a villa on the Transkei coast and disappear off the radar forever!

Smiling happily, he marches off to the holding cell. Best make sure the woman is taken care of properly…

***

“Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Gertjie makes it sound as if it is the most natural thing to ask.

“No..will..you..please..get off…my..chest?”

Sighing with obvious reluctance, Gertjie scrambles to his feet. Casting around for something to tie his prisoner up, he settles for the electric cord of the broken music centre.

“You sure about that address?” Vetfaan has a bottle of 50-year old Port in his and, again strategically and very squarely above the broken nose.

“Y-yes. I swear.”

“Now…you do anything foolish, and you’ll regret it.” There’s no mistaking Vetfaan’s threat. “I’ll personally come back to dismember you. And that, my dear chap, is an unintended pun.”

***

“Fanie?” Fanny glances over at her husband, on the back seat of Gerjie’s minibus. “I’ve never seen you like that.”

That much is true. Vetfaan has a reputation of being a bit of a softie.

“I’m sorry. I think I lost it a bit back there. When I realised he was making money by helping others to abduct innocent civilians – female civilians, nogal – something just snapped.” He seems crestfallen when his eyes meet hers. “I’m sorry, Love…”

Much to his surprise, she leans over to peck a kiss on his cheek. “You ape-man, you! I’m the one to apologise. When the Chivas broke his nose, I wanted to cheer!”

Gertruida leans over from the front seat to fix them with a stern stare.

“If you two lovebirds can leave the necking for later, we can try to concentrate on the job at hand. We have a name – Freddy – and an address in Camps Bay. We assume that Katie is held there. I suggest we go there directly to assess the situation. Going to the police now, will involve a lot of questions, forms and bureaucratic red tape. My thinking is that every minute she spends with that crowd, will simply amplify the trauma she’s enduring. Maybe we can drop Vetfaan and Gertjie there to watch the place while Fanny and I do the police report?”

Gertjie nods, causing a little tidal wave of double chins to run up and down the front of his throat.

***

Miss Katie Malone almost made it to freedom. Almost. She didn’t care if she only had a blanket to cover her body, didn’t worry about anything..the only thought racing through her mind, was to escape, escape, escape…!

A window! An open window! There!

She could see the window overlooks a veranda of sorts. Surely there’ll be a garden? A gate? A street leading to freedom?  The blanket prevents her from getting through the window easily. Grunting in frustration, she pulls it off and throws it through the open window,

“Bloody hell!” The shout freezes her in mid-action. “Where do you think you’re going!” White hot anger colours the words. “I’ll teach you!”

Galvanised into action, she tries to get through the window…but the heavy hand on her shoulder yanks her back. Suddenly, she doesn’t care any more. She can’t escape. Like Lady Jane Grey at the hands of Mary, she has to accept her life isn’t even worth screaming for any longer..

For a fleeting moment, she regretted every love she ever experienced; for from now on, her life would be one of forced smiles and faked moments of pleasure…

What can I say
there’s an empty where your love
filled my life and I know.
That a part of you will always be
a part of me.

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 4)

Katie Malone grabs the blanket that was thrown at her, killing the automatic impulse to say thank you. Even before the door slams shut again, she’s gathered the blanket around her shivering body, tucking in a bit below her to fashion a crude cushion.

The drugs have started wearing off but the headache is the worst she’s ever had. The one word loops around in her mind all the time: Why?

By now she’s calmed down somewhat and started piecing the puzzle together. She’s a lone traveller in a foreign country. Did the man in the Customs booth have anything to do with this? No matter, she was stupid to follow that guy with the Passenger Services nametag. And…quite obviously…she’s been abducted for some horrible reason.

Her first fear had been that they – whoever they are –  wanted to molest her. Apparently not – or they’re not in a hurry to do so. Anyway, they seem to have taken care that she came to no great harm, which is why she had that caretaker in the beginning. And then that…that terrifying photo-session.

There can only be two reasons: kidnapping for ransom – or abduction for an even more ominous reason. The ransom-idea doesn’t make sense at all; her family aren’t that important, are they? But abduction…and she’s read about human trafficking, of course…and that only happens to other people, for goodness sakes!

Think, Katie, think!

The door opens again, this time admitting the ‘caretaker’ woman who kept her company in the beginning.

“Time for your medicine, sweetie. Come on now, be a good girl?”

To argue would be senseless – another beating will follow.. Katie holds out her hand to receive the four pills. Popping them into her mouth, she accepts the glass of water and drinks deeply.

“Now that was really good. Sleep well, my lovely.”

When the door clicks shut, Katie fishes the pills out from below her tongue. For a second – just a second – she allows a cold anger to wash through her mind. Then, in a helpless gesture of defiance, she throws the pills as hard as she can against the far wall.

***

“This is it,” Gertruida whispers as she points to the name below the doorbell. “Manie Schoeman.

They travelled from the airport in Gertjie’s minibus, making record time as the Obelix-like figure of the driver sped through the backstreets, avoiding the traffic. They have no real plan: anything this Schoeman can tell them, might point them in some sort of direction.

It’s only after the third – rather long – ring that the door opens. Manie Schoeman, dishevelled and dressed in only his boxers, peers at them with sleepy eyes.

“What the hell do you want? I’ve just come from nightshift, dammit! I swear, if you guys are from the Jehovah’s again, I’ll call the bloody police.”

“Mister Schoeman, we’re not trying to convince you to go to heaven. We’re trying to save a girl from going to hell. May we come in for a minute?” Gertruida’s tone is friendly but firm, allowing Manie no excuse to close his door.

IMG_2604The interior of the flat (it’s more like a penthouse) creates the impression of understated luxury. The state-of-the-art Marantz music centre catches Fanny’s eye immediately, while Vetfaan notices the neat and well-stocked bar. The one wall is almost completely hidden behind the shelves of DVD’s.

“What is this about?” Manie sits down wearily on one of the plush easy chairs, rubs his eyes and yawns.

“My, my…” Gertruida walks over to a painting. “Is that a Tretchikoff?”

“What. Do. You. Want?”

“”Okay, I’ll get right to the point. You are, as far as we know, the last person to have seen a certain Miss Katie Malone, passenger on the BOAC flight from London yesterday. You stamped her passport. We’d like to know if you can tell us anything about her?”

“I stamp passports, Lady, I’m not paid to remember faces and names.”

Gertruida is taken aback by the man’s attitude. He doesn’t ask why they want to know, whether they’re investigating a murder or something, or even what Katie looked like. She glances over at Gertjie, who returns an imperceptible nod.

“Listen,” the fat man wheezes, “we’re not here to cause trouble. We’re just a bunch of friends looking for somebody.” He spreads his arms wide in a gesture of innocence. “Come on, buddy, help us out here. You want to go back to sleep and we want to be out of here. Now think…can you remember this woman?” He holds out the photograph Fanny gave him.

The old Gertjie magic…Gertruida hides a smile. Gertjie can make a brick talk by being sweet.

Manie studies the photograph for a second. Vetfaan, standing to one side, sees the pulse quicken in the man’s neck.

“Yeah…yeah. I suppose I stamped her passport. But that’s all. We don’t go in for lengthy conversations with travellers. So that’s all I know.”

***

People often assume the inhabitants of Rolbos are a bit backward – even stupid. City-folk like to judge people by the way the dress, the way the talk and the way they act. Then, also, the impression of the way the hair is done, or the nails are painted, play a major role in deciding whether an individual is worthy of your respect.

One can understand why Mister Manie Jakobus Schoeman dismissed the four people in his sumptuous lounge as being…let’s say…artless or clueless or dense or even dumb. After all, he is used to the upper echelons of society who travel the world in their wild chase for money, power or pleasure. Now, confronted by Vetfaan (ancient boots, khaki pants, old shirt), Gertruida (wild hair, glasses, unpainted nails), Fanny (plain PEP-store jeans, plastic sandals and a white T-shirt) and Gertjie (basically a blob of fat covered with liver spots), Manie is ready to show them the door.

But…one must never ignore the value of critical observation. This is a natural instinct that develops in people who live in the Kalahari – they learn to observe man and animal with equal care. When one lives a lonely and isolated life, interacting with other living beings becomes an expression of respect – and survival. The smooth forehead of yesterday may have a little frown today. The happy smile may be a bit forced. An unexpected sigh tells a story. When one lives in harmony with your surroundings, these signs often determine the conversation to follow.

People living in wide open spaces also learn to be acutely aware of their surroundings. The veld, the sky, the weather, the way animals react to your and each other’s presence – these are but a few signals that get analysed constantly. It is no wonder then, that the visitors to Manie’s penthouse looked at the man, looked at his surroundings, and decided something didn’t quite fit in with the lifestyle of the immigration and customs officer.

Curiosity

Curiosity

After all, when tracking an animal, the best way of surprising it, is to out-think your prey. Veld people are sometimes better at analysing, computing and assessing circumstances and conditions than even NASA’s team of scientists controlling Curiosity on Mars. Well, maybe not all veld-people. Maybe it’s unique to Rolbos – it doesn’t matter – but they all reach the same conclusion at the same time, and it shows…

***

Fanny immediately noticed the narrowing of the eyes when the photograph was shown. Vetfaan picked up the quickening of the pulse – and Gertruida was near enough to Manie to notice the subtle flaring of the nostrils.

Vetfaan is the first to react.

“You’re lying, aren’t you?”

Manie looks up at the burly man towering over him, swallows hard and shakes his head.

“Look, we’re desperate for any information. Desperate! You understand that? I think you know something and you don’t want to tell us. Why?

Manie’s only answer is another shake of the head, his tongue suddenly dry and thick.

Vetfaan’s next move surprises everybody else in the room. He walks up to the expensive music center, lifts it with ease, and drops it on the floor. Plastic and various components shatter the silence as Manie jumps up instinctively to rush towards Vetfaan.

Had he asked Gertruida, she would have told him that was a stupid move. Vetfaan grabs Manie by his throat, lifts him clear off the ground, and in a move that’ll impress the world’s best wrestlers, smashes him down on the broken machine.

“Now, let me rephrase the question…”

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 3)

sunbeamsillhouettewebIt’s cold. Dark.

The floor beneath her naked body is hard – concrete-like. When the harsh light is switched on, she tries to sit up, but her muscles don’t respond like they usually do.

“I…I’m thirsty.” She struggles to form the words; her tongue feels like sandpaper and the headache pounds away in her skull so loudly that she can barely hear herself.

“Get up!” There’s no sympathy in the sharp command.

“I…I can’t.”

Then a thousand stars explode in her mind as the hand strikes her cheek.

***

“Listen, we have to do something. The police have issued a request that the public must be on the lookout for her and her photograph was featured in the TV news. However, if she had been abducted, her kidnappers aren’t going to parade her about on the Waterfront. They’ll keep her where nobody will see her. So, splashing her picture all over the media is just going to make things worse: the perpetrators will be extra careful now.”

“I agree, Gertruida. I think we must go to Cape Town to see what we can find out.” Vetfaan has a determined look as he pushes back his empty glass. “I think we must leave now.”

“But Fanie, where will we look? Cape Town is such a huge place.” Fanny likes it when Vetfaan takes charge of things, but this time…

There are a few reasons why Boggel’s Place is sometimes more successful at solving problems than Oudoom’s church. Of course Boggel serves Cactus Jack and a variety of other social lubricants; but the most important reason is that discussions here are open and frank – and everybody has the right to chip in. Oudoom acknowledges this, which is why he is a regular customer. He says that the message of Love and Faith should not be restricted to Sunday sermons alone.

“Listen,” Oudoom holds up a hand to silence the chaotic discussions taking place. “You know what St James wrote, don’t you? He said faith isn’t enough. He stated that faith should be visible in your actions. It’s what you do that counts, not just you saying the right words. So Vetfaan’s remark is valid. We have to do something…”

As far as sermons go, this is maybe one of Oudoom’s shortest – but it tips the scale of debate there and then.

***

“Turn to me!”

Miss Katie Malone stands, doubled-up, against the wall. Even with her eyes closed, she can’t shut out the sharp light the man directs at her. She can hear a camera clicking away.

“Why are you doing this? What have I done to you?” She has to overcome her nausea and fear  as she struggles to stand upright. The taste of blood inside her mouth reminds her of the power of the man and adds a tinge of hysteria to her voice..

She gets a guffaw as an answer. “It’s not what you did to me, young lady. It’s what you’re going to do for me. Har! Now stand straight, and take your hands away. I want these photographs to be perfect. Come on! Or do you want me to convince you again?”

***

Under normal circumstances, our thoughts and actions are governed by a logic we base on past experiences. We say things and do things because we judge them to be appropriate under the current situation.

Katie Malone, like all other victims under these circumstances, has no point of reference. The fear and panic inside her are overwhelming and she has to fight her instincts to remain rational. She knows, however, that she must somehow find it in herself to be calm – it is her only chance to survive this ordeal.

Now, alone, cold, hungry and parched, she somehow finds her thoughts straying back to the novel she wrote. Mary, the daughter of King Henry VIII, had been a strong-willed and obstinate young lady. When the throne seemed lost to her, she rallied the men of East Anglia to dethrone Lady Jane Grey who ruled England for only nine days. Although her life was characterised with a certain ruthlessness, earning her the name of Bloody Mary, she fought for her beliefs and her faith.

The thought is strangely comforting. Katie Malone is not going to give up…

***

The three of them catch the early-morning flight from Upington to Cape Town. Fanny, Vetfaan and Gertruida were voted the best candidates for the job and now they have to find a way to discover what had happened to Katie Malone.

“This place gives me the creeps.” Vetfaan shivers involuntary while he watches the masses of people milling around in the airport. “I’d hate to stay in Cape Town. I even miss Vrede…”

“You can become sentimental later, Vetfaan. We can’t waste time now.” Gertruida scans the faces of the people around them. Where is Gertjie Viljoen? He promised to be here…

***

Gertruida – who knows everything – has a network of old friends and colleagues second to none. During her time in National Intelligenceshe and Gertjie had to create a list of potential enemies of the state (as they were called then). What it meant was: they had to investigate the backgrounds of individuals, assess their political convictions, and report suspicious actions. Gertruida’s end of the bargain was to type the voluminous reports Gertjie had drawn up. His ability to ferret out details was quite astounding. People quite naturally told him anything he wanted to know – he seemed such a harmless creature. His approach was open and friendly…and he was a good listener. It usually only took an evening in the local pub to get the background he needed for the files. He used to call their section  the Gertjie-and-Gerty Squad, GG’S for short.

Gertjie is a retired professor of political science now, living quietly in an old-age home in Wellington, where he spends his time photographing butterflies. He was overjoyed to hear from Gertruida and spent a good thirty minutes with her on the phone.

Gertruida almost doesn’t recognise him. The dapper, middle-aged man with the steely-blue eyes and the athletic body has changed into a rotund blob; bald and covered with liver spots.

“Gerty!” He wheezes his greeting and almost trips as he carries his massive weight across the floor at an amazing speed.

“Gertjie?” She recovers in time to receive the bear hug. “My, you look good…”

“Trust an old spy to lie, eh?” He rubs a hand over the impressive paunch. “It’s good to see you.”

They exchange a few pleasantries before Gertruida steers him towards the purpose of their visit.

“Yes, i dug around a little bit like you asked me. Know the woman in charge of the duty rosters here at the airport. A daughter of an old flame.” Gertjie smiles wryly as he wheezes his short sentences. “There were nine Customs officers on duty when Miss Malone’s plane landed. The computer that registered her passport was manned by one M J Schoeman, an employee of the government for thirteen years. Impeccable record. Lives in Seaview Flats, number 3. That’s in Groenpunt. Unmarried, rumoured to have an affair with the wife of Colonel McBride, a senior policeman. Drives a new Polo, silver-grey. So far, that’s what I’ve got.”

When Gertruida praises his efforts, Gertjie’s smile threatens to dislodge his ears.

“Well, that’s the last person who had any contact with her – at least: the last one we know of. I suggest we pay the man a visit.”

***

Isolated in her dark, cold, room, Miss Katie Malone prays quietly. Please – please! – let this be a dream? Only one thing remains now – maybe two: faith and her desire to survive… Love, hope and faith…except there is no love here…

Fight the fear, Katie… FIGHT!

***

In his office, the big man tries to sound casual while he’s talking to the sheik. Oh yes, the photographs were taken today… No, she’s not harmed, not at all… Twelve million Rands? For her? Yes, he’ll think about it. He’ll call back tomorrow.

I can get more in Japan, the big man lies, knowing the sheik isn’t fooled.

He replaces the receiver thoughtfully. Just goes to show: there’s no accounting for taste…imagine the sheik taking a fancy in her…? Whistling happily, he fetches a blanket from the cupboard in the corridor. He’s just got twelve million reasons to keep her warm and healthy…

The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 2)

outside_view_(copy)Miss Katie Malone hesitates for a moment. She’s just gone through Customs, and isn’t quite sure where to go now. Domestic Departures? Probably…

She has a bit of a start when a soft finger taps her on the shoulder.

“I believe you’re on your way to Upington?”

Katie looks up at the tall individual, noting the smart blue suit, matching tie and the nametag. A. Makoena – Passenger Services. Broad shoulders, brilliant smile. Friendly face.

“Er…yes, I am.”

“I’m sorry, Miss, your flight has been delayed.”

“Oh…” She doesn’t know what to say.”When…when is the flight due now?”

“Technical problems, Miss. Not sure how long it will take. However, if you wish, I can escort you to the VIP lounge, where you can wait. The flight will be announced within the next few hours. I’m sure.”

Katie Malone, new and alone in Africa, used to the way things are done back home, doesn’t suspect a thing. Nodding her thanks, she follows the big man through the departure hall allowing him to carry her heavy suitcase. Wow! And I thought Africa is a wild and scary place…

***

The transition from eager naivety to shocked terror takes place within a matter of seconds. When the man leads her through a side door (It’s a shortcut, Miss, much faster this way) she doesn’t see the shadowy figure behind her. It’s only when the sponge soaked in desflurane is clamped across her nose and mouth by a strong hand, that panic sets in. The pungent smell makes her want to cough, scream, fight back – but her rapidly diminishing consciousness only registers undiluted fear as she feels herself sinking to the floor.

It’s over in a minute. The two men drag her to another door, where a third man helps them bundle her into the back of a minibus.

“Go! Go!” An impatient hand slaps the roof of the vehicle.

Bearing the official Airports Company logo, the minibus passes through the security barrier without the attendant even looking up.

***

“I don’t understand it. She landed in Cape Town, went through Customs…and then  – nothing.” Gertruida puts down the phone with a worried frown. “Maybe she simply got lost…?”

“I don’t believe that. She came from Heathrow, which is infinitely bigger and more complex than Cape Town’s airport. She may be naive, but she’s not stupid. She promised to phone as soon as she landed – and she didn’t…”

“Well, I’ve got them paging for her at the airport now, so maybe we’ll know more soon. We’ll just have to wait.”

***

Waking up is the hardest thing she’s ever done. Her eyelids feel like they weigh a ton while her brain still reels from the overdose of anaesthetic. At first she thought it was night time, but gradually she realised she had to open her eyes to see.

Clothes? Where are her clothes?

Naked…

The horror of the situation dawns slowly as she desperately tries to make sense of her surroundings. Then she remembers the rough hand over her face…the sponge…the foul smell. And then the logic: she’s been kidnapped. Abducted. Taken against her will…

Where? Where is she? Why…what… Oh, God….

“Gee, I’m glad you woke up, Miss.” The voice is as unexpected as her new surroundings. Still, it is a kind voice, a soft voice, a female voice – a voice conveying…kindness? “Now, Miss, don’t you worry. You’re safe for now. Unfortunately, we had to take your clothes away. We don’t want you to think of…going away…shall we say? If you behave yourself, things will improve.”

Katie becomes aware of the cold concrete beneath her.

“What are you doing to me?” The edge of hysteria hovers in her tone as she fights to remain calm. “Why…”

“Don’t ask questions. Anyway, I don’t know answers. I’m a caretaker, that’s all. My job is to see you don’t harm yourself. Are you thirsty?”

“Y-yes…”

“Here.”

She feels rather than sees the glass, takes it gratefully and swallows eagerly. Only afterwards the bitter taste hits her and she gags. Before she can object, the darkness comes swarming back.

***

“This isn’t happening,” Gertruida slams down the phone behind the counter in Boggel’s Place. When it became obvious that Katie Malone wasn’t on any scheduled flight to Upington, they returned to Rolbos to await further developments. “Nobody knows anything. They found a suitcase with her flight number on outside Cape Town, with a few copies of her book inside. The nametag says it belongs to K Malone, which is pretty conclusive. The police say yes, they’ve opened a docket, but it doesn’t seem as if they’re doing much else.”

“Do you think she was…hijacked?”

“Kidnapped, Fanny, kidnapped. I just don’t know why. Is she from a rich family?”

“Not really. The Malones are pretty much middle-of-the-road people – comfortable but not wealthy. And it’s not as if they are politically active or anything like that.”

Mevrou lets out a protracted sigh. “Human trafficking, Gertruida. It’s the world’s number one criminal sport these days. Take a woman, a child, a youth…and sell them to the highest bidder. There’s a lot of money to be made…” 

“What? You can’t be serious!” Kleinpiet  can’t imagine such things happening in modern times.

“Sorry Kleinpiet, she is.” Gertruida adopts her lecture-tone. “On average, very six hours, every day, the police receive a report of a missing child in this country – and almost 60% fall in to the 13 – 18 year age group. That’s 1460 cases per year – but that’s only the official figure. What about youths disappearing from the far-flung rural areas? The most common race group? White.

“When it gets to adults, the figure is more difficult to define. People disappear for all kinds of reasons: some even try to evade tax that way; others have all kinds of personal reasons to drop below the social radar.  I read one report that about 500,000 Americans go missing every year – permanently. Of course, when taking into account that raped women are also abducted, then the abduction/kidnapping situation becomes horrifying.

“And in Europe, 270,000 persons are victims of human trafficking every year – generating an income of 21 billion Pounds for the traffickers. That’s so many zeros, I can’t even begin to think of what it translates to in Rands. Now…add China, Bangkok  Vietnam, and the Arabian countries. Go figure…” She takes a deep breath before continuing.

“In Africa the situation is probably worse. People stay in isolated places with little or no contact with the authorities. When a child doesn’t come home at night, there’s no way of telling whether he’s lost his way, decided to visit the family in the next kraal, decided to run away, been eaten by some beast, struck by a snake…or abducted. Witchdoctors use the bodies of children in their concoctions. Some children are sold simply because the family can’t feed them. There is no way of even guessing what the statistics in Africa are like.”

“Oh for goodness’ sakes!” Vetfaan stares at his empty glass. “This is so bloody depressing! But…what has this got to do with Katie Malone?”

“Work it out, Vetfaan. The woman clears Customs, then doesn’t board her flight. The suitcase they found…. If only the luggage was stolen, she would have contacted us. But no – not a word. I have a bad feeling about this.”

***

The big man stares down at the sleeping body of Miss Katie Malone. She’s no beauty, but the right age and fairly attractive. Dress her up nicely, add some makeup, get the hair done… Yes, she’ll do. 

But first they must re-educate her. Get her into the right frame of mind. Change this miserable woman with her fighting rebellious attitude to a docile, submissive creature. It’ll only be a short while before she’ll be begging to please him.

They’re all the same…