The assassin watches the spinning vehicle disappear in a cloud of dust before closing the cap of the scope on his Lapua. He knows his shot went true.
How many times has he done this? And every time it gets a bit easier. Accommodate the speed of the vehicle, the ambient temperature, the time of day, humidity, wind….and that instinctive feeling that he must aim there. Just there. Steady. Squeeze the trigger ever so gently. Know…
His is a rare gift – and one he gets well paid for. Balancing the rifle in his grip, he sets off on a loping run towards the place where he’s left his vehicle. Time to get out. His friend, the tracker , will have to sort himself out. They both know the rules of this game…
The group in the bar doesn’t hear the shot, of course. The ultra-efficient Titan SS silencer sorted out the sound. In the unnatural silence prevailing in the bar, only Vrede picks up the sonic effect of the 250 gram bullet travelling at 3000 feet per second. He sits up abruptly, growling at the evil in that almost-imperceptible shock wave.
Then the sound of the vehicle’s horn reaches Boggel’s place. Long. Drawn-out. Persistent.
“That’s my Land Rover!” Kleinpiet jumps up, upsetting his beer. “Something is wrong.”
Boggel’s Place is renowned for it’s debates. What carburettor is best for Vetfaan’s tractor? Which year was the driest? Who is worse: Mugabe or Zuma? What percentage of the vote will the ANC lose in the 2014 election? Given a juicy subject, the townsfolk can discuss a subject for hours at end.
But not this time.
When Kleinpiet jumps up, they all follow his determined jog down Voortrekker Weg. There, clear for all to see, a cloud of dust is visible on the road just outside town.
“No! No-no-no-no…!” Kleinpiet’s agonised shouts spur them on as they rush towards the crash site.
The Land Rover, still upright, stands slewed at the edge of the road. Kleinpiet is first on the scene, skids to a halt, and yanks open the driver’s door. For a moment he can’t make sense it all.
Precilla sits, slumped forward, her head resting on the steering wheel. When he lifts her head, the hooter stops. The apparently lifeless body of Bianca is crammed in the footwell on the passenger side. The only sound comes from the back. It’s a muffled ‘Owww!‘ from Servaas, who’s slipped from the seat.
“Precilla! Precilla!” Kleinpiet doesn’t know what to do, frozen in panic.
“Wait.” Gertruida pushes him to one side. “Let me have a look.”
Vetfaan helps her to lift Precilla from the vehicle and to lie her down in the shade next to it.
“She’s breathing…” Gertruida feels for a pulse. “And she’s going to be allright.”
Kleinpiet kneels next to her. “What..what happened?”
By now Boggel and Oudoom is busy on the other side of the Land Rover. Getting Bianca out proves the rather difficult, but they manage.
“Let’s get her out of the sun – help me drag her to Precilla’s side.” Boggel waits for Oudoom to get a good grip on Bianca’s arm before they combine efforts to move the woman.
“What about me?” Servaas’s plaintive voice seems unnaturally hard.
Gertruida looks up sharply. “Are you hurt?”
“No. Yes. Well, I’m okay, I think.”
“Well then, get out, you bloody old fool. We’re busy.”
Precilla coughs, opens her eyes and stares at the bystanders in total confusion.
“Shhh…you’re okay, Precilla.”
“But….but… Bianca! The glass broke. What happened?”
“We were shot at…” Bianca sits up, shakes her head. “Shot at. That’s what.”
Sergeant Dreyer figures it out. “Look, this is the trajectory.” He points to the hole in the head rest. “The shooter missed the back of Bianca’s head with a mere inch. The bullet travelled through the head rest, over Servaas, and exited through the window over there.” He points to the other broken window. “You ladies were travelling along, only affording him a moving target. Sure, he missed, but he sure as nuts can shoot.”
Vetfaan holds up a hand to silence the policeman. “Listen…”
They all hear it. The grinding of a starter,…yhow-yhow-yhow…carries towards them on the slight breeze.
“It’s that bastard! He’s gone back to his vehicle! He’s getting away!” Kleinpiet. “We have to stop him.”
“Relax, Kleinpiet.” Boggel smiles for the first time today. “He won’t get far. I borrowed the distributor cap. Thought it might fit Vetfaan’s tractor.”
How does news travel in the desert? Western cultures will never understand the way nomadic people seem to have some sort of connection with distant relatives and friends. If Grandpa dies, the rest of the tribe instinctively returns home. When a baby is born, relatives arrive for the feast. They have no telephones, no radio…and yet…
So…how on earth did !Ka know about the threat to Rolbos? Coincidence? Fate? Or this inexplicable ability of the San people to understand Life and Nature better than the most skilled scientist? When Fanny first arrived in Rolbos, she and !Ka developed a mutual respect and friendship; and true to his culture, !Ka will never ignore a friend in need.
Later, much later, when Vetfaan asks !Ka why he walked to Rolbos on that day, at that time, exactly then – !Ka simply smiles and shrugs. “I had to,”
So now, on this day, at this time, exactly now, !Ka watches the man with the long gun get out of his vehicle to open the bonnet. !Ka doesn’t know the man, but the muscles in his strong legs contract – like they always do when danger is near. He settles down behind one of the stubby bushes to watch.
The man peers under the bonnet. The man curses loudly. The man stands still for a while. Then, slinging the rather large gun over his shoulder, he starts walking towards town.
Now, !Ka will tell you: there are many ways of walking. People can amble, shuffle, step, wander, march, rove, roam, hike, traipse, tread, patrol, scout, tiptoe, stamp. stagger, plod, trudge, trundle, pace, stride, glide, swagger, strut, or simply move on. Each word implies a certain way of placing one foot in front of the other, and each one has a message.
This man is stalking. He’s got a gun and he’s using every available cover to shield the town from seeing him. !Ka reads the message as clearly as he does the spoor of a duiker.
!Ka has seen enough. Moving silently, he takes one of his special arrows from the quiver, slots it into the rawhide bow string, and takes careful aim. Just like the assassin did, he’s taken into consideration the time of day, the wind, the movement of his prey.
The arrow flies in the perfect arc to hit the man in the exposed skin on the back of his neck.
Disregarding the stream of curses from the man, !Ka settles down behind a rock to wait.
It won’t be long now…