Tag Archives: intelligence

Bianca (# 12)

download (5)“Reinforcements?” Oudoom peers through the window to watch the three  black BMW’s raising a plume of dust on the road from Grootdrink.

“Well, I did inform my superiors,” a dubious Sergeant Dreyer shakes his head, “but they weren’t very helpful.”

“That,” Gertruida says because she knows everything, “is a rescue party for our two uninvited guests. I’ll bet we’re going to be astonished in the next few minutes.”

She doesn’t say it, but her mind flits back to her time when she was deeply involved with National Intelligence. The approaching vehicles may mean one of two things: either they represent some clandestine government department…or the men in those BMW’s belong to the smuggling gang. Either way, they have to protect Bianca. Those men will want more than just the two prisoners…

“Bianca! You have to hide! Now! Whatever these men men are, I think they may want to talk to you as well. And I have a feeling…”

Boggel is the first to react. He steers Bianca to the shack at the back where he stores the supplies.

“Shhh…not a word, Bianca. We’ll handle this.”

***

men-in-black-4-on-the-cards-1367783149-9524If the Rolbossers had any knowledge of recent movies, they might have laughed when the new arrivals in town alighted from their vehicles after stopping in Voortrekker Weg, These men could have stepped from the set of Men in Black. The suits, the dark glasses, the burly frames…even the expressionless faces with the straight-line lips – and the black ties, of course.

The one (the leader?) pushes open the door to Boggel’s Place with a gloved hand.

“Who’s in charge here?” The voice reminds Vetfaan of the thorny bushes on his farm.

“And who are you?” Gerttruida gets up, smiles sweetly and introduces herself.

“I am from the Federated Anti-crime Research Taskforce and these are my colleagues from the Consolidated Regional Anti-poaching Protocol. We understand you have two criminals here.”

“Oh, my! I’ve never heard of you?” Gertruida seems genuinely interested. “You must be very…discreet? Never heard or seen in public?”

“People in our line of work have to be invisible, Madam.”  If the man had any idea that Gertruida was poking fund at the acronyms, he showed no sign of it. “I have here a warrant for the arrest of two men. I believe you have them in custody?”

“And how, may I ask, do you know this?”

“Some policeman reported it as such, Madam. Now please hand them over.”

“But I don’t know who you are, Mister. You could be from African Rhino Smuggling Enterprises, for all I know. Have you any proof of identity? Any official documentation?”

“Listen, woman, I have no time for this. I get my orders from the presidency. You can phone the spokesman – here is the number.”

“You mean, Mac…” Gertruida doesn’t get to finish the name. The man interrupts her with a loud cough.

“Please, Madam. No names. There are ears everywhere!” He glances around as if looking for bugging devices. “But yes, that’s the man.”

“But…” Gertruida can be extremely sweet when she wants to, “he’s a habitual liar, you know that. When that man wishes you a good day, you know you can expect a cyclone.”

There is the faintest twitch – upward – of the man’s mouth corners. It may be his best effort at smiling.

“The men…?” His eyebrows raise above the rim of the dark glasses.

***

The Rolbossers have no real choice in the matter. The warrant seems real enough, and the leader of the men gave Sergeant Dreyer an official receipt for the two prisoners. Dreyer was extremely upset when his phone call to headquarters ended in a sharp rebuke – Sergeant, you either comply and follow orders, or you will be dishonourably discharged. Is that clear? 

The Man in Black ignores Dreyer’s pained look. “Keep the receipt on file. If anybody makes enquiries, I want to know about it immediately. That’s the number there.” He points at the document.

The man hesitates, watching how the two prisoners are led to the waiting vehicles.

“I believe a woman arrived here two days ago. Where is she?”

“Oh, that harlot? That hussy?” Gertruida’s disapproval is written all over her face. “I’ll tell you: she tried to seduce one of the elders of our church! Can you believe that? A man of morals, an upstanding…member…of our community. We don’t welcome such people in our town. You’ll only find good, honest people here –  I can guarantee you that.” When you’re in trouble, Gertruida always says, you stick to the truth.

“Well, I’ll remind you it is an offence to harbour a criminal. If she should ever return, I want to be informed immediately.”

And then, without even saying thank you or goodbye, the men get in the vehicles and roar off.

***

“Will somebody please tell me what just happened?” Mevrou’s hand trembles as she lifts the shot glass to her lips. The last two days have made her reconsider: old Noah certainly did the world a favour by fermenting those grapes! And he is in the Bible, isn’t he?

“The government just rescued their two agents, that’s what.” Gertruida glances over at Bianca for support and gets a nod. “Those men were hired hands, just like this team that visited us were. All governments employ such people: they do the dirty jobs and get paid to be invisible. Sure – the President will know about them, and his spokesperson will be informed – but they’ll never, never acknowledge such allegations in public. Like the Arms Scandal and Guptagate, they’ll just keep on lying, hoping the issue will fade away.”

“But who is behind all this, Gertruida? If the president is lying, he must have a very good reason to do so?”

“Ag, Mevrou,” Gertruida sighs, slumps forwards om her arms. “it’s the way of the world. Think about it: who wants Africa? It’s riddled with poverty, disease, wars…and minerals. Gold, iron, coal, diamonds, platinum, uranium…you name it, and it’s all here. Now, who’s building roads, bridges and railroads? The Chinese, that’s who. To be the world’s strongest economy, China needs to produce the luxuries the West wants.

“Work it out: the West represents the consumers, the East produces the goodies. And in the middle, Africa is being stripped of her riches to supply in these demands. It’s no secret that China will be the new America. Sadly, the US of A has pushed the self-destruct button when they became too complacent, too wealthy and too strong. Their strength became their weakness and this weakness is eroding their society from within.

“So…what’s the weak point? The economy. He who controls the purse, controls the world. China isn’t involved in Africa to help the poor, struggling countries on the continent. They’re here to plunder.”

Mevrou still looks confused.

“You want to know why the president will lie? Money, that’s why. Nkandla is the little bit of the iceberg you can see. Below the surface, there’s a whole lot more. And so he becomes a puppet, a willing co-worker to enrich himself.

“Think about it: when last did you hear the president say something about poaching? Or smuggling? Anything at all about farm murders? No, he’ll talk about land reform to keep the masses happy. He’ll talk about Black economic empowerment, because that’s what his comrades want to hear. It keeps him in power, just like Mugabe did in Zimbabwe. This country, Mevrou, isn’t being tun on moral values. It’s being run by money. That’s why 83% of the population agree: the police are corrupt. I’m sorry, Sergeant Dreyer, but that’s the view out there. You and a number of your colleagues may be on the straight and narrow, but a whole lot of policemen aren’t.”

“I agree…” Bianca, quietly sipping her beer, has listened to Gertruida’s lecture. “I’ve seen it in Uganda, It is terribly sad.” She pauses, as she looks down at her hands. “And now I’m a marked woman. They won’t rest until they find me…and the lists.”

This time, Fanny surprises everybody by getting off her chair to announce her plan.

“Let me suggest something…”

In this whole world there’s nobody as lonely as she
There’s nowhere to go and there’s nowhere that she’d rather be….

Gertruida’s Journey (# 6)

In the world of spies, information is the ultimate currency; with it you can buy anything from anybody – even your enemies. Taking that into consideration, The Boss must be one of the wealthiest men in South Africa. His files contain sensitive details of all past and most present prominent men and women in the country; the details of who is indebted to who – and why. Well-hidden sexual affairs, corrupt business deals, bribes paid to astute politicians and and officials – they are all there. He can tell you the details of the Helderberg disaster as easily as he can unravel the association of the Guptas with the President. He knows what happened to Winnie’s Soccer Club and what Stompie did wrong. The list is endless.

During the last two decades, he converted these documents and proof into electronic form. Many hours of scanning and copying and pasting resulted in the Endgame Chronicles – a large file in the laptop resting on the seat beside him. The information is there, at the touch of a button, at his disposal.

That’s what he’s just done. Touched a button, got the details on a shady character called Mister Taxi. National Intelligence has been looking for him for a long time, believing him to be the instigator of many of the strikes that has burdened the economy for so long. Mister Taxi, it seems, controls some of the Labour Union’s bosses by helping them to syphon off – and launder – sums of money the members pay to belong to the unions. This is the big fish he had to trade to get Gertruida’s address in the little town in the Northern Cape.

It had been a humiliating experience. The new generation of spies know that The Boss is almost a spent force. Yes he has information, and yes, that makes him untouchable. But a lot of his bargaining power has  drained away due to his age, coupled by the fact that more and more of the people he controlled over the years are either dead or slipping quietly into extremes of old age, The Boss is now tolerated rather than feared by the intelligence community of today. He just doesn’t have the influence he had thirty years ago.

And that’s why they laughed at him when he started looking for Gertruida. Sure, they know where the woman is – what can he offer in exchange? The horse-trading was one-sided and complicated. In the end he offered one of his best pieces of intelligence in exchange for the address of a woman.

The Boss fumes when he thinks of it. In the old days he would have sorted out the problem with a variety of underhand methods (mostly lethal) – but now he has to play the game with a new set of rules. Well, as soon as he’s sorted out Paul Harrison, he’ll just have to get back to tonight’s situation. These young whipper-snappers must be taught a lesson.

He’ll reach Rolbos tomorrow, assess the situation, and get his men to take care of Harrison. He takes another sip from the flask he clamps between his legs. It’s going to be a long night of hard driving…

***

Gertruida looks up as the tall man enters Boggel’s Place. She recognises him immediately.

“Paul!”

The group in the bar turns as one to face the newcomer. Middle-aged and greying at the temples, there can be no doubt he’s the most handsome man in the room. His piercing blue eyes linger for a second on every face, taking in the details and storing it for future reference. His white teeth are visible between the slightly parted lips of his uncertain smile, contrasting sharply with the deep tan.

“Hello Gerty.” Two words; yet they convey kindness, a long friendship and deep respect.

Gertruida introduces everybody, giving a snippet of information about each one. Paul’s handshake is firm and his response to each individual is the same: pleased to meet you… Later they’ll all agree that they felt uncomfortable – his penetrating gaze seemed to penetrate their minds, fathoming the inner being of each of them (as Oudoom managed to put their feeling into words).

Introductions over, Paul accepts the beer Boggel pushes over the counter.

“You’ve been telling them about me,” Paul says as he turns his attention to Gertruida. “And us. That might have been a mistake.”

“No, Paul. This town is different. Your coming here poses a danger to all of us and I thought it only fair they should know what is going on. From what you said, I gathered it was necessary. The need-to-know situation here is not something you’d be accustomed to – or even understand. But maybe…maybe you should tell them what you told me on the telephone. Then you can decide for yourself.”

Paul lets his head sink into his cupped hands.  “Gerty, are you sure?”

“Yes. Ask them.”

Vetfaan is the one to speak for all of them when he says: “Listen Paul, Rolbos is a small town. That doesn’t make us insignificant or stupid. Gertruida has told us about your past. We accept that. But if your coming here is somehow a danger to her, it’s a danger to all of us. And don’t you for one moment think we’d turn our backs on her. Never! So relax, have another beer, and tell us what this is all about.”

For a brief second, Pauls uncertain smile is replaced with a look of relief. This is unusual…but then again, he has always trusted Gertruida.

“Okay. I’ll give you an outline. No details, just a sketch.” He draws a deep breath before continuing. “Gertruida and I parted ways soon after the final negotiations to hand over power to the ANC succeeded. She had to leave Pretoria in a hurry. Her role as a double agent had become known and both the ANC and the Right Wing would have loved to talk to her. Both sides felt cheated and wanted her to appear on the Truth and Reconciliation  Commission. But over and above the lies we sold to both sides, we also had damning evidence about atrocities on both side – even implicating the people who were intimately involved in the Commission.

“So we talked about it. She came here. I went overseas – because I had many contacts there.”

Paul takes a long sip from his glass, his eyes once again scanning his audience before coming to a conclusion.

“I’ll trust you, but you must trust me. I worked for Oxfam. That was my cover. I supplied information to the CIA in America, to the French and to Britain. I worked in Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Syria. Name a war zone, and I was there.

“But then the request came to find out more about somebody known as The Boss. Of course I know the man – he was our greatest problem in the 80’s. What I didn’t know was that he had held on to sensitive information about people who, over the years, climbed their own ambitious little ladders. He has information that’ll topple the government of South Africa, Over the past few years, the ANC  has been working on a law to suppress sensitive information; a law that’ll make it a crime to publish information that might harm the government, specifically. The reason: The Boss. He knows too much, and they don’t know what he plans to do with his knowledge.  How many copies of his data exist? Where? Will it be released in the event of an untimely death? In New York? Beijing? Moscow? So they let him live but wanted to kill his information.”

Paul now accepts the Cactus Boggel has poured.

“But there are some people in Washington that are worried. They’ve got the knack to get international affairs botched up. Think of Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussien’s weapons of mass destruction, Egypt…and now Syria. So they started looking at the strategic value of South Africa – and the alarm bells went off. The labour unrests, strikes, Marikana, Fochville, farm murders…they see the Mandela dream slowly but surely disappearing into the murky mists of bad governance. They needed The Boss’ files, and they needed it urgently.

“That was my job.

“And when I got my hands on it, I realised I had to hide. Your government is as keen to erase those files as the international players are to get them. And because I hacked into his computer, I became the hunted one…and somebody with an extremely uncertain future.

“There was only one person I could think of to help me. That’s why I came here…”

By now, Boggel has several bottles of Cactus Jack open. They’re in for a long night…

Gertruida’s Journey (# 5)

14Gertruida squares her shoulders. This story must be told and she’s the one to do it. She empties her glass before going on.

“I didn’t know what to do… I played the part of courier for the ANC and Paul, but at the same time National Intelligence was using me as a source of information. They wanted me to tell them everything I knew about Paul Harrison, who his handler was, what he knew – and whether he could be turned into a double agent, as well. They knew about him being gay and wanted to use it against him. In those days, being homosexual was still considered to be a source of shame – especially in South Africa, where churches controlled the way people lived and thought. “

Gertruida accepts the beer Boggel offers: talking about her past is not easy…

The old Capitol Thetre, Pretoria

The old Capitol Theatre, Pretoria

“I was young and unsure. When Paul delivered the next batch of documents, I slipped him a note, asking him to meet me the next day at the Capitol Theatre. I’d be in the back row, I said. By then I was pretty sure my flat was bugged and my telephone tapped.”

Kleinpiet remembers how one of his liberal friends simply disappeared in the 80’s. He had been extremely critical about the way the secret police detained and tortured people, and had been rather vocal about it. Rumour had it that he was detained, but nobody knew anything. Or rather: if anybody knew what happened, he or she was too scared to say anything. Society had been bludgeoned into quiet acceptance: either you agreed with the government , or you faced the often brutal consequences. The country was riddled with spies and informers; you could trust nobody.

“I remember it was one of Stallone’s Rocky movies. Paul sneaked in to sit next to me, and I told him about Ferdinand. What must I do, I asked? Should I leave the country? Follow him to London?

“He said that it  would be stupid to abandon my studies in my final year. No, he said, this was a golden opportunity. He could feed the Nationalist government anything he wanted – especially if it was untrue. Fight disinformation with more disinformation, he said.

“And that’s how I became the middleman in one of the most ridiculous situations one can imagine. The ANC fed lies to the Nationalists, who fed lies back to the ANC.  Everything got inflated: South Africa’s oil reserves, the size of the army, the ease of circumventing all the boycotts and embargoes.  The ANC, in turn, bragged about the massive and unlimited support they received form Russia.

“And then Ferdinand changed tactics. By that time we got…involved…with each other. It was almost a type of Stockholm Syndrome – I felt sorry that somebody with such a keen mind, should be slaving under such brutal masters. Oh, I was young and naïve, a young student caught up in a game even the seasoned politicians and diplomats managed to botch up in the end. Anyway, Ferdinand said the disinformation I fed to Paul, would be even more believable if I worked for National Intelligence. With my degree in Political Science, my job would be a legitimate appointment, with the rest of my activities a complete secret.

“Paul welcomed the move. You see, I never lied to Paul. I had told him everything. He argued that the more the Nationalists were inflating their capabilities, the better. Feed the lies to the government in exile in London, he said, and let them spread it amongst the other international intelligence organisations – who’d inform their governments, of course. That way, the UK, USA and other countries will understand that the ANC needs more support against the overwhelming power of Pretoria. At the same time, it’ll encourage the world to condemn Apartheid and force the South African government to consider a more diplomatic approach.

“Although I gleaned some intelligence through my association with Ferdinand –  and during the course of my work – I mostly  used a lot of creative license to manufacture the information Paul carried back to London. Paul and I actually had a lot of fun thinking up false reports on how good things are going in London and Pretoria. Let’s play them off against each other, Paul said, and make them realise they must stop the war. He said it was like the situation between Russia and America: the more the one believed the other to be untouchable, the less sense it made to fight.

“It was a game of bluff and counter-bluff. P W Botha knew how the war on the border sapped the already weakening economy of the country – and took note of the inflated reports Ferdinand delivered. If Russia and China pledged unlimited support for the ANC, Botha knew he was fighting a losing battle.

“And so, my role as double agent had at least one positive aspect to it: it helped sway the Nationalists to rethink their aggressive attitude.”

***

The Boss flips through the file on his desk. Paul Harrison –  the man who hoodwinked them all. Throughout his career, The Boss had always been careful to verify the information that was channelled to him, and Ferdinand Fourie used to be one of his most trusted agents. Now, with the hindsight only time can bring, The Boss has to admit: Harrison had played him for a fool. When he advised FW de Klerk to negotiate peace with the terrorists of the  ANC, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapsing. Even the ANC was in serious financial trouble.

The opposing sides in the struggle were like two tired boxers in the final round. If one of them could have landed a telling blow – one single, solid punch – the war would have ended right then and there. South Africa had the troops, the fighting power and the ability….

No matter that the Nationalists could not afford to continue the fight – the other side was even worse off! If he knew then what he knows now, he’d have told FW to escalate their efforts – and they would have won the war. But…Paul Harrison! One man managed to derail the whole situation. FW convinced his cabinet that the ANC was stronger than ever, based solely on the lies Harrison made them believe.

If it weren’t for Harrison, South Africa would still the happy place it had been before the Nationalist government had to hand over power to the deceiving and dishonest ANC. The Boss clenches his fist. Well, he can’t change history – but he can take revenge!

oxfamThat’s why The Boss spent twenty years looking for Paul. Twenty years! And Harrison knew he was a hunted man and managed to evade The Boss’ clutches for two decades. Harrison, it seemed, drifted into Oxfam, and has travelled extensively to render help to less fortunate communities. The Boss had to wait patiently; but finally got lucky when Paul returned to South Africa to attend the funeral of an uncle.

The tow ex-agents traced Paul to a flat in Sunnyside, planning to abduct him the following morning. After that they’d deliver the man to his house on the outskirts of Pretoria. Here, he’d humiliate the ANC’s liar, and take his time in starving and torturing the man to death.

Oh, he’d been so excited…the exquisite pleasure of seeing a victim squirm and beg for mercy! How many times didn’t he do that in the old days; prolonging the agony of death in his well-rehearsed repertoire of primitive torture. Yes, he’ll start with the nails – it always the nails – perfect to get the victim in the right frame of mind.

And now the man has escaped!

The Boss flips through the file. Ferdinand Fourie is dead. Paul Harrison is on the run. Now…who was that woman who acted as a go-between? She must be somewhere? She might have a lot to answer for, as well…

***

“This is Rolbos?” Paul Harrison takes in the few buildings and the small church. “You sure?”

The lorry driver laughs, showing the bare guns that once held teeth.

“Yep, sure is. If you’re looking for somebody, you’d better wander over there. See the sign? Boggel’s Place? They’ll all be there, I bet you!”

Paul hesitates before pushing the door open. A woman is speaking inside. Yes…he recognises that voice.

Judge, Judged.

download (2)1986/7

They all lived together in that house on Church Street, Pretoria, in the year Berlin’s Take My Breath Away made it big on the charts. Ferdinand Fourie, dashingly handsome, often joked with the two other men that they won’t be famous one day. We’re the ones who’ll help free South Africa, he’d say, but we operate behind the scenes. Nobody knows much about us, not even our bosses – the Bureau Of State Security. And they operate almost independently from National Intelligence, who in turn shares nothing with Military Intelligence. I doubt if even the President knows about us.

There was more truth in his statement than even Ferdinand believed. They were a specialised unit, investigating the motives of various governments who supported the struggle against terrorists. Over time, it became clear that several of these played both sides against the middle. The CIA, for instance, first supported Buthelezi, then switched to the ANC; while all the time assuring Pretoria of their  loyalty. This too, seemed to be true of the British government and their secret services.

Their task was massive. Kobus Gericke was the legal expert, who scrutinised the international accords, contracts and contacts. Ferdinand acted as a spy, an undercover man, who gathered information. The third member of the group, Herman Pretorius, was the military expert; it was his task to assess the impact of arms supply to the (then) enemy. Between the three of them, they gathered and analysed information that determined the government’s strategic planning.

There were other groups as well, of course. These cells had no way of knowing what the others were doing. The reasoning behind the approach can be found in the lack of trust that characterised the period: everybody was spying on everybody. Nobody trusted nobody. Disinformation and propaganda distorted the truth to such a degree, that all facts had to be checked and checked again. It was the rather paranoid government’s insurance policy against fraudulent information and double agents.

It was Gericke who stumbled across the plan to ferry rocket fuel to South Africa with a civilian passenger flight. Although it has happened before – with arms imports form Israel – the potential of carrying a much more dangerous substance on a commercial flight, made him sit up and take notice. He was worried. If he – operating in isolation as a small cell from a non-descript house in Church Street – could find suggestions that the government was side-stepping the arms embargo in this fashion, other agencies will also have some knowledge of it.

He checked the facts with Herman Pretorius.

“Ammonium perchloride? Impossible! That stuff is highly flammable and extremely dangerous. As far as I know, we make it ourselves. Use it at the testing grounds at De Hoop, on the Cape coast.” Gericke remembers to this day, the pause as Pretorius mulled the idea around. “Mind you, there have been shortages. The guys shoot off rockets faster at the testing grounds than we can supply the fuel…and there have been rumours of a search for external suppliers. Korea came up in one discussion.”

The legal implications of such an operation were vast. If something went wrong, or if it became known, the government would have hell to pay. The international outcry would negate any goodwill from foreign sources and public opinion would crucify South Africa. SAA would be refused permission to land anywhere.

Gericke called in Ferdinand. It was late at night and Gericke has just returned from the State Theatre, where he attended some opera with a date. Although he felt bad about calling his colleague – they had so little time to relax – he knew they had to move fast.

Their discussion was a short one. Ferdinand was to leave for Hong Kong to sniff around; find out anything about arms smuggling to South Africa.

***

What Gericke didn’t know then – and only found out later – was the double role Ferdinand was playing by secretly supplying the ANC with (some of) the information he gathered. When their agent made contact with him in Hong Kong, he confirmed they already know about the plan – the CIA informed them. And, they said, they’ll deal with it. He was to spend a few days lounging around in his hotel room, then return home.

That’s exactly what he did. And it was in that hotel room he watched in horror as the crash of the Helderberg became world news. TV anchormen ascribed the disaster as a freak, caused by lightning, or even sabotage by terrorists; but Ferdinand knew…

***

 In Pretoria, Gericke welcomed Ferdinand with less enthusiasm than normal. How was it possible for a man of his abilities not to have found anything – while there were so many questions about the  extremely strange fate of the Helderberg? He had sent Herman off to make enquiries, and some of the emerging facts worried him. Was it possible Ferdinand knew too much? Or that he had links with the opposition? Or that he was being controlled by foreign agents?

Ferdinand might be a problem, he decided. Instead of accusing him outright, and letting the opposition know they had been exposed, Gericke arranged for Ferdinand to be taken out of the picture by transferring him to another department. Maybe that tipped off the opposition, but he’ll never be sure.

Not surprisingly,  Ferdinand disappeared before his transfer. The official version was that he was recruited by National Intelligence to work overseas, but everybody who knew how things worked, understood what had happened.

***

2012

Judge takes off his shoes, letting them fall one by one. It’s been the most pleasant of evenings and Gertruida had been the most entertaining and gracious of hostesses. They had fun, that’s for sure.

But…

Ferdinand mentioned Gertruida in the past, when they were sitting around, talking man-things around a braai on the occasional evening they relaxed a little.  He’ll have to tell Gertruida that one day. He’ll also tell her what a shock it was to realise she is the Gertruida who featured in those chats. And that Ferdinand died…

Judge Gericke is an influential man. His knowledge of international affairs and his many contacts with politicians  ensured his appointment as judge in the early 90’s, after National Intelligence basically stopped functioning. The unbanning of the ANC made many operatives redundant and he was appointed to the bench as a reward for his loyal work as one of the last actions of the National government.  He kept a low profile, making sure his rulings were politically correct and avoided stepping on toes. He was a marked man, and he knew it. When the opportunity arose to retire, he grabbed at it.

Now, just when he thought he outstripped the past, he has seen the small picture of Ferdinand Fourie on the mantelpiece in Gertruida’s cottage. Ferdinand, the double agent who went to live in England. Oh they traced him, all right, but by then everything changed and it would have been stupid to do anything about the defection. However, the old-boy club kept tabs on things – they used to meet once or twice a year to talk of the old times. It was at one of these meetings he learnt what had become of his old comrade, the one that sat in the hotel while the Helderberg went up in flames. Dying like that…A fitting end, he thought at the time.

How ironic, he thinks as he slips into bed, that he should meet Gertruida here. He came to Rolbos to find his son, got a few surprises and was at the point of leaving, when he met Gertruida.

Sleep comes with leaded feet to those with a heavy conscience. It stomps on the wooden floor of remembering when the eyelids droop. It’ll march, arms swinging and boots crashing on the pavement, while sleep watches on uncomfortably from the spiked seat of yesterday’s actions. In itself, is bad enough; but it’s the prospect of telling the truth that strikes up the brass band that’ll really scare  slumber away.

No, he decides, it’s fate that threw them together. It is a way of erasing the past and starting afresh. Surely they wouldn’t have met if it served only to punish him? Did the Law of Life demand sacrifice for all things done in the past? Surely not? Surely he is entitled to some happiness? He tries hard to believe the thought, knowing it’ll be impossible to do so. If he told Gertruida he had been at least partially responsible for Ferdinand’s disappearance, she’d never forgive him.

The little soldiers of guilt pick up speed as they do a quick-march across the pages of his mind, singing with gusto and saluting with laughter as they trample the dreams of the future.

Judge Kobus Gericke has been found guilty by his own conscience. The sentence is clear. He gets up with a sigh to put the kettle on.