Her parents were overjoyed to see her again. The money she had sent back from Europe helped to improve their circumstances significantly: the two old people now lived in a modest retirement village near Stellenbosch. Although her father still couldn’t survive without the oxygen cylinder next to his bed, they were having the best times of their lives.
“It’s so nice of you to spend your holiday with us,” her mother said on that fateful day after she’d unpacked her suitcase. They were sitting around her father’s bed, happy to be reunited. “This is not a much, but compared to what we had in the past, it’s a mansion.”
Fiona smiled brightly. Yes, she’d become used to so much more: the luxury hotels, the gourmet meals, the flashy limousines…but this was home, this was where she belonged.
“You know, Mom,” Fiona remarked as she stirred her rooibos tea, “I owe it all to you…and Dad, of course.” She hastily added her father, not wanting to hurt his feelings – but the two old people knew she was just being polite. It was her mother’s hard work that kept them from bankruptcy during her childhood years. And it was her mother who had taught her the wonder of music and song.
“O, Fiona, you’re such a liar! I didn’t do much, you had all those melodies inside you even before you were born. Singing was your destiny.”
“I remember,” the memory caused a smile to play around Fiona’s full lips, “how you taught me to sing the old Afrikaner songs. You loved those, didn’t you? But you always insisted that I pay my respects to the music and the song. The words and the melody had to be spot on, otherwise you told me to start all over again.”
The two women share a light-hearted chuckle as Fiona sings a few lines from ‘O, Boereplaas’. That used to be their favourite a long, long time ago.
And then, like Life so often does, the beauty of the moment was shattered as the two masked men appeared in the doorway.
Gertruida puts down the telephone, with a sigh. Apparently oblivious of the rest of Rolbos waiting to hear whether she had any news, she signals Boggel to serve another beer.
“Did you find out anything?” Fanny leans forward in anticipation.
“Yes…and no.” She pauses as she gathers her thoughts. “The man who brought her here was from Barnard, Fourie and Botha, the law firm in the Cape that pays her rent. That much was easy. Ouma also confirmed that the rent is paid by this firm; that’s why I phoned them first.
“But that’s where I run into a brick wall. Privileged information. Client confidentiality. Professional ethics.” Gertruida sighs. “Typical. They don’t care what condition she is in, as long as she’s alive and living at Ouma’s. For them she is simply a bill to pay. If she’s breathing and staying at a certain place; and if the rent is paid, their job is done. No compassion.”
“But the money must come from somewhere, Gertruida. No self-respecting lawyer is going to fork out money for charity. There must be a fund taking care of Fiona.” Of them all, Sammie must be the most astute businessman; he understands cashflow.
“The banks are worse than the lawyers, Sammie. They won’t tell us anything either – even if we knew where the account is held.”
“That may be true, Kleinpiet. But I have a nephew in Cape Town. If anybody can ferret information out of any bank, Hymie can do it. He’s a consultant for Sanlam, the life insurers.” Sammie tells them about Hymie’s job. “You see, there’s a lot of fraud going on. People take out life-insurance policies and then fake their deaths. Or – Mr A takes out a policy on the life of Mr B, who then obliges by dying a month or two later. Murder, suicide, abduction…you name it and you’ll find it crossing Hymie’s desk. So…it is in the best interests of the banks and the insurers to grant someone like Hymie access to their records. You won’t believe the millions involved with these scams.”
“Great idea, Sammie.” Sersant Dreyer lifts his glass in acknowledgement. “I’ll phone Spy Snyman. We go back a long time: we were stationed in the Caprivi during the Border War. Nowadays he runs a small private investigation company in Cape Town. He can maybe find out more about Mrs Basson’s past.”
“Yes, that’s great. And I…” Precilla blushes as she glances over at Kleinpiet, “I had a …friend …while I was studying. He ran the student newspaper and later joined The Cape Argus as a reporter. Great investigative journalist. Paul Scribbles.” Seeing Kleinpiet’s reaction, she quickly adds: “I haven’t had contact with him in years, but I’m sure he’ll help…”
Please don’t hurt us, her mother said. The one man laughed, told her to open the safe.
What safe, her mother asked. The man walked over to her and punched her in the face. The sound of knuckles breaking the old woman’s nose, was sickening. Her father tried to get up, but another blow flattened the frail old man.
The safe, the man said again. His companion moved over to the bed to lay a knife against her father’s throat. Despite the blood streaming from her mother’s nose, she cried No! and stumbled towards the bed.
For a while Fiona stood rooted to the spot, too shocked to move. Then with a strangled cry, she rushed towards the man who kept on asking for them to show them the safe. She knew her parents had no safe – in fact, they had very few valuable possessions. The blatant brutality of the men scared her, causing an adrenaline surge that smothered logic. She had to protect her parents!
With her fist pulled back and murder in her eyes, Fiona got to within a yard of the criminal. He calmly stepped aside, pivoted on his one leg, and delivered a blow to her throat. She went down like a bag of flour.
“Now we can only wait,” Gertruida says. “One of our contacts will certainly unearth something.”
“I’m going back to Fiona. Sitting here doing nothing isn’t going to help – it’s frustrating, to say the least. You guys wait for some news while I go talk to her.” Fanny gets up to go. When Vetfaan wants to join her, Fanny shakes her head. “No – wait with the rest, Fanie.” Her tone is kind, soft – but commanding. “Sometimes a one-on-one is more effective. I’ll phone from Ouma’s if I manage anything.”
Fiona Basson doesn’t look up when Fanny enters the rondawel. She doesn’t care. Her life ended the day her parents died.