Bianca (# 7)

images (49)Vetfaan has never been comfortable around sick people and to see old Servaas in this condition, is just too much. Boggel knows this and does what he does best: he serves a round of drinks. he smiles at the grateful nods – but ignores the tied-up man in the corner. Boggel doesn’t like criminals all that much…

Bianca holds the clammy, cold hand of Servaas as she watches the infusion. Please God – let this old man live? He’s no part of my trouble – just an innocent bystander. Let him live,.. She’ll have to do something about this situation. And she’ll have to tell them everything…

“where’s Fanny? We need to give Servaas more fluids.” Bianca looks up at the worried faces. She doesn’t have to tell them Servaas is in a critical condition – they know that already.

“It’s here!” Fanny storms in with a steaming pot. “I did it – just like you said. Now what?”

iv-bag“Bring Ice, Boggel. Bring a lot.” The townsfolk watch in awe as Bianca snips the top of the empty vaculitre bag away and starts pouring the hot liquid into the empty bag. On her instruction, Boggel packs the infusion tube in ice to cool the fluid down before it enters the vein.

“Where did you learn to do all this, Bianca?” Even Gertruida is flabbergasted. She gets a hint of a smile as an answer.

For once, Boggel’s Place is deathly quiet. All of them – with the possible exception of their prisoner – watch for a sign, any sign, that Servaas may be improving.

***

Servaasie? Is it really you?

Yes, it is. It must be. He looks just like he did with his last visit. In Servaas’s mind, the young man stretches out his hand in greeting.

Hi Dad. I love you – you know that, don’t you? 

Yes, my son. Yes…

You have to go back, Dad. You have unfinished business. It isn’t time yet to leave. 

I love you, my son.

***

When Servaas’s eyes flutter open, they all cheer.

“I…I saw Servaasie…”

“Shhhh. You’ve been shot, Servaas, but you’re better now. Relax. We’re going to get you to a doctor.” Bianca puts a soothing hand on his brow and the old man manages a smile. “I’m so sorry, Servaas. So sorry….”

“Why…?” He doesn’t finish his question as the pain from the wound flares up when he tries to turn to her.

***

For a brief moment, Bianca is jolted back to the time directly after Tiny’s arrest.

“Look, young lady, you’re in deep trouble. The gang you’re connected with, has been involved in some pretty serious crime for a number of years. We can prove – in court, and we have a lot of evidence for this – that you are an accomplice, You’re going to rot in jail for a long time.”

She was frightened, and it showed. The general liked that.

“But there is a way out. I’ve prepared a CV and a life history. Tomorrow I’ll return and quiz you about this. Next week you’ll apply for work at the South West Africa Import and Export Company in Walvis Bay. And after that, you’ll feed me every scrap of information you can gather.

“Now: what’s it to be? The full force of the law…or a cushy job in Walvis Bay? Your choice.”

“Why? … Why are you doing this to me?” She was almost in tears.

“Fair question.” The general gave a very superficial description of the South West African Import and Export Company and its illegal activities, telling her that it is a front company for some very corrupt politicians and military personnel. “These men do not represent what South Africa is about, Miss. They’ve managed to create a situation where they justify poaching and personal enrichment – convinced that they’re helping the war against terror in this way. But, no matter how you look at it, it remains illegal, immoral and corrupt.”

They needed somebody on the inside – somebody who could find out exactly who is involved, what methods they use and where the contraband is going to. Most importantly, the general said, was that they find out who is on the receiving end of the ivory and rhino horn trade.

“We need to expose the entire network – not just a portion of it. We have to destroy the whole organisation, not just the local part of it…otherwise it’ll just continue to operate under a new guise. So we need a Trojan Horse – somebody they’d never suspect. Somebody intelligent enough to connect dots. And somebody who wouldn’t think of double-crossing us.” He stared at her pointedly. “Somebody who is used to the workings of a criminal mind…

“You know how to handle men. It’s a rare skill. In the time we’ve been following Tiny and his colleagues, we became aware what a wonderful asset you’d be. We need somebody like you… And remember, I’m with the good guys. This is your chance to change your life, Miss. You were on a path of self-destruction – and you know it. I’m offering you an opportunity to come clean. When this is over, you’d be a respected citizen once more, and not a trophy at the side of a crook.”

This much, Bianca realised at the time, was true. At the age of twenty-one, life was a party and tomorrow didn’t matter so much. But…she’d been thinking about her situation lately. What happens after Tiny? What awaits when she’s thirty or forty? And…Tiny couldn’t have children, wasn’t even able to… Where did it all leave her?

She agreed to cooperate and in the following week she received intensive training. Armed with a new ID, passport and a fake CV, she arrived at the import/export company’s offices ten days later.

***

“Hey, you guys!” Sergeant Dreyer closes the door behind him. “I’ve found some tracks in the dew, heading to Bokkop. I need a few men and Vrede to see if we can get the man who shot Servaas.” Dreyer doesn’t wait for an answer. He knows there’d be no shortage of volunteers. “Oudoom, here are the keys to the store room behind the police station. We can use that as our jail. Maybe you can take our prisoner there?”

“In that case, I’d like some company as well. We must get Servaas to Dr Welman in Upington. Precilla? Fanny?” Bianca meets Dreyer’s stare and for a brief moment the policeman feels a tingle of excitement.

 Gertruida says that we see the real people in times of crisis – that’s when the pretence of everyday life fades and we can’t hide behind a façade any more. She also maintains that it has something to do with pheromones and a host of invisible stimuli. Until you’ve seen somebody act under great stress, she says, you don’t know that person at all.

Servaas, Bianca, Dreyer, even Gertruida and the rest, discover the truth behind her statement that morning. It is crisis-time in Rolbos. This is not the time for grand-standing and egos. They will be tested to the full…

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