The thing about Liar is what Vetfaan calls the “double-reverse chicken gambit”, the only thing in Rolbos that manages to confuse Gertruida. Vetfaan explains that you have to believe the unbelievable before discarding it as nonsense. Or vice versa. The trick is the ‘gambit’ – when to attack or withdraw. For instance: it’s like exonerating the presidency for all blame for Nkandla before finding them all guilty.
“It’s the same with Liar. It’s wrong to say his stories are untrue. He might apply some factual gymnastics to his tales, but they’re not necessarily lies – unless you don’t believe him.” This concept, he explains, makes it easy to understand why more than 60% of the voters chose the governing party during the last election. “But,” he hastens to add, “this is about to change. The second reverse of the double reverse is a slower phenomenon, it’ll only occur once the government starts telling the truth.”
This, of course, doesn’t help to explain why they all jumped on to the Land Rover as the ancient engine spluttered clouds of blue smoke down Voortrekker Weg. Maybe they were just bored, sitting around in Boggel’s Place all day long. Or perhaps they really cared about what happened to Liar. Probably they did the second reverse…?
“When last did he find a diamond?” Kleinpiet has to shout to be heard above the clatter of the straining engine.
“Oh, last year. He showed it to me.” Gertruida puts on her superior look. How she loves knowing things the others don’t! “A blue-white, this big.” She uses her fingers to indicate a large, marble-sized stone. “The purest I’ve ever seen. And several yellows, slightly larger but not as nice.”
“But having an uncut diamond in your possession is a crime! He can’t sell it? They’ll pop him into jail.”
“Not Liar, Vetfaan. He has a prospecting permit dating back to his father’s time. The old man used to prospect near the Orange River near Grootdrink, but somehow Liar convinced the authorities that he not only inherited the licence, but that it applies to the Kalahari as well. You know him: he probably lied his way to success. Point is: he’s a legit diamond prospector and so he has the right to sell his uncut diamonds to any of the world’s bourses that buy such stones. Apparently he sends over a packet once a year to Antwerp, using the contacts his father had built up after WW ll. The old man served in Egypt, where he met some chaps from the Netherlands. One thing led to another….old comrades, that sort of thing.”
“But then Liar must be a rich man?”
“Depends on whether you can believe him.” Gertruida shrugs and smiles quietly. “If he’s so rich, why is he still tramping the dunes?”
“Greed.” Boggel shouts above the noise, using his handkerchief to wipe the dust from his eyes. “It’s a disease: once diamond-fever gets you, it doesn’t let go. Liar will go on searching for diamonds until the end. He won’t – can’t – stop. There’ll always be the big one just around the corner – just like the gamblers in Oasis Casino.”
Vetfaan drives slowly, picking out Liar’s tracks in the loose sand. The Cessna is flying ahead, sometimes disappearing over the horizon before circling back.
“Liar has done it again,” Vetfaan says grimly as he watches the aeroplane flying to and fro. “He simply disappears…”
A few years ago, after Liar had bragged about a particularly large stone in Boggel’s Place, Sersant Dreyer tried to follow his tracks. They led straight into the desert for several miles – and then disappeared completely. Vetfaan remarked at the time that Liar must be an expert at anti-tracking, which made Dreyer blush under his deep tan, saying nobody can fool him that easily. Still: the fact remains that Liar’s secrets remained intact, allowing the group at the bar many hours of speculating about his whereabouts.
“This is it,” Dreyer points at the dry riverbed. “He leaves the sand, hops from boulder to boulder, and gets away without leaving a spoor.”
The group gets out stiffly, stretching legs as they watch the Cessna disappear towards Upington.
“The end of the road, chaps.” Kleinpiet sighs loudly. “We might as well give up.”
Gertruida goes harrumph!. It’s an ominous sign. She hates unanswered questions.
“Look, it’s late anyway. We’re not equipped to spend the night out here. I suggest we return to Rolbos and gear up for a proper expedition, then we can follow this man to wherever he is. Who’s in?”
“Follow his where, Gertruida? We have no idea where he might be! It’s useless…”
“Ah….you’ve stopped thinking again as usual, Vetfaan. Whether you join me or not, I’ll be back here tomorrow at first light….with Vrede.”
Of course! Vrede! Their very own town-dog with the superb nose!
The eastern sky has the faintest tinge of orange above the black horizon when the group gathers at the rocky riverbed. Vrede loves it out here – he’s done all the wheels on the ‘Rover, four bushes and one rock.
“Now, Vrede!” Boggel sits down next to the excited dog. “You remember Liar? That sweaty, stinky man that walked out this way? Well….you got to find him.” The dag lifts one ear as he listens to Boggel explaining the mission. “Oh…and if you find him, you’ll have a month’s worth of biltong waiting for you.”
Some people scoff at the thought that dogs understand humans. Boggel isn’t one of those. He knows Vrede would have picked up on ‘stinky man’ and ‘biltong’. He’s right, of course. The dog wags his tail, licks Boggel’s cheek and starts sniffing around. Not even a minute later, he gives an excited yelp.