1 Friday, July 4 14H32 Nancy tugged at the container. Her diminutive frame coupled with a bad ankle made it almost impossible to lift the fuel, let alone carry it up the stairs. There was already some spillage on the floor, but no-one was at home to mind. Young Kyle glanced at her valiant attempts for a second but immediately refocused his attention on the mission at hand, taking apart his newly acquired action man figurine. “What am I rushing for; I have all the time in the world.” Nancy sedately sat on the first step, reached into her pockets and pulled out a cigarette .She put it to her nose and the alluring aroma of the tobacco made her crave to light up .From her jacket pocket she pulled out a box of safety matches, lit the ever popular cancer stick and laid back letting the smoke fill her lungs and take away her worries. Kyle was a bit to busy to let his sisters uncharacteristic behavior thwart his mission. With great dexterity he took apart the figurine. The multitude of wires roused up his curiosity even further and nothing was going to take his attention away. Nancy glanced at her brother, only six years old and an immense zest for life. “Kyle “, Nancy whispered, “I love you. “ Kyle was startled for a second but did not respond Nancy was almost through with the cigarette and rushed up the stairs to discard the butt. The second floor hallway was her fathers pride and joy. He single handedly transformed it into an Elizabethan mosaic. At the end of the hallway stood Nancy’s ultimate enemy, a full length mirror. For the first time she approached the mirror. The cigarette butt in her hand made her look at what she always despised a whore on the street. She intently looked at herself. Eighteen years old, but looking almost thirty. Her dark skin, which was not looked upon favorably by the Indian community, was now dry and looking as her mother always referred to as “ snoekfish”. The skin lighteners really damaged her skin and she knew she was the only one to blame for that. Why had God been so unkind to her? No feature on her face was in proportion and yes she had to have the famous Indian huge proboscis. Nancy stepped into the toilet, yet another accomplishment by her gifted father. The tiles imported from India depicted Indians gods and goddesses. Taking a shower always made Nancy uncomfortable .Eyes seem to be always staring at her, watching her undress, ogling at her body. Nancy found herself being momentarily transfixed on one of the depictions and seemed to be lost in thought. The doorbell chimed and without further hesitation she discarded the butt into the toilet and flushed away the evidence of her rebellious teenage years. “Why had everything in this home have to be so darn extravagant “Nancy sighed, “Coming “. The impatient visitor depressed the switch once more, the theme song from “ Kuch kuch hota hai “once again filled the entire house. “ God , I hate that song “ Nancy said to herself . As she steadily descended the flight of stairs , the doorbell chimed once more . The image of these flawless Indian heroines , romping around in their colorful saris , seductively gazing into the eyes of the hero made her even more depressed . She really hated those movies. “Do not press the doorbell again , Nancy shouted , as she undid the bolts , the three system locking mechanism and finally the chain . The unwelcomed visitor smiled as the door opened. Nancy immediately looked over his shoulder to see the security gate still closed. “How did you get in here ?” Nancy demanded. The old man was the classic case of a vagabond. The brown dusty overcoat hid his demeanor , his tattered hat covered his eyes. “What do you want?” Nancy rudely asked. The stranger put out his hands and in a pleading tone asked for something to eat. Nancy broke out into a smile for the first time that day. The stranger’s hands were clean as if the he had just had a manicure. Nancy unlocked the trelli-door breaking the first rule of the house: Never open the door to strangers. This was Nancy’s opportunity, the man looked frail but she was certain that he could carry the container upstairs and alleviate the predicament she found herself in. “Take this upstairs and I will fix you something to eat”. This was the first time Nancy had power over another human being. She liked being in charge. Without hesitation the stranger picked up the container and effortlessly hoisted it up the stairs. Nancy went to the fridge, took out the previous days curry and haphazardly dumped it into a packet. The grandfather clock chimed three times. “Three o clock. “ Kyle shouted ecstatically and immediately ran into the adjoining room . Nancy could hear the cacophony of noises and applause from the afternoon cartoon television. The distinct sound of the upstairs toilet echoed through the hall. Despite the volume of the surround sound that accentuated Daffy Duck’s voice , Nancy was convinced that the bathroom was being used. She galloped up the stairs and forcefully pushed opened the bathroom door only to find that the stranger wasn’t an occupant of that room . The acrid smell of the fuel over-powered the normally orange citrus odour that lingered in the bathroom. “What did that fool do” Nancy furiously yelled. The container was on its side and the bathroom towels were scattered over the floor. The fuel was discarded into the tub. Nancy was in a fit of rage but before she could turn around she felt an almost feminine touch over the nape of her neck. She felt a surge of adrenaline pulsate through her entire body. She clenched her fists and was about to retaliate when the warm hand reached over and barbarically grabbed her throat. She was whisked around and came face to face with her assailant . His hat no longer obscured the details that made him seem harmless. The eyes of a cold and ruthless killer stared down at the struggling teenager. “Nancy” , he whispered , “It is time. “ The powerful hand gripped her throat with immense force making it impossible for Nancy to scream out. She was like a young antelope in the grip of a mighty and ravenous lion. The stranger maneuvered her body as if she were a raggedy doll and immersed her into the fuel. Nancy could feel the sting in her eyes. She shut them tight and prayed for the pain to disappear but the intensity of the pain swept over her entire body. She felt the stranger let go of the throat and she forcefully opened her eyes. The pain that swept over her body was not only the fuel. She was on fire. The scream that followed was like a banshee on flight. Desperate attempts to douse the flame only worsened her plight. Like a lobster put to death in a cauldron of boiling water , there was no escaping her situation. Despite the torturous pain she had to protect Kyle. As she stepped out of the bathroom, young Kyle was in front of her staring in disbelief as Nancy slumped to the floor. Friday ,July 4 , 14H05 Gregory could take it no longer. The drive was a nightmare and a colic baby only added to his frustration. Rahul had not stopped crying for the last hour and between the crying and Julia’s desperate attempts to calm him down, traffic was a night-mare. There was no second guessing his wife, he had to get home. Gregory looked into his rear view mirror only to see an impatient taxi driver beckoning him to move out of the way. “This is just my day,” Gregory snapped. Gregory unwound his window, which required the effort of both hands, and used the most common of hand signals on South African roads. The taxi driver most definitely caught sight of a muscle bound arm and proceeded with a course of action that had his best and safest interests in mind. “Buzz of you rodent”. Gregory’s foul mood and bad vibes made Rahul complain even louder than before. “Calm down “, Julia interrupted, “You’re upsetting Rahul.” Gregory turned his attention to his wife’s sweaty and flustered face. “This is affecting her as much as me,” he thought, “don’t be so hard on her”. “Listen, honey “Gregory said in an affectionate tone, “Let’s just go home and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing”. Rahul seemed to be in agreement for he gazed upon his dad and sort of smiled. The last ten kilometers seemed to be bliss. Gregory thought of turning the car around and heading back into town, but he knew Rahul needed to be home. Julia’s alarm went off, “Three ’o’ clock and just in time for Rahul’s next feed “Julia said. As the beaten up Passat entered the driveway Gregory peered over the bonnet and skillfully maneuvered the car between two Ficus trees. Julia nervously uttered “ You never going to believe this honey , Rahul is out of powdered milk , that was one of our items on the shopping list”. “This is not the time to joke “. “I’m being serious “. “Tell you what, you go to the pharmacy down the road , Rahul and I need to spend some father son time anyway” “Are you sure Greg” “Take the wallet and could you please get me some head-ache tablets,” Gregory pleaded. Julia hopped over to the drivers seat and with even greater skill , reversed the car out of the driveway. She could see the two men in her life being entertained by the birds that had nested on the Ficus trees. “Lets go in buddy , “ Gregory said in a baby voice. Rahul seemed to know that he was alone with his father and gurgled with pleasure. “Son , what you need is a good bath , you are starting to smell worse than me .” Gregory fished out the house keys from his jeans pocket put it into the keyhole and tried not to allow the kitchen door to creak open . That sound always disturbed Rahul , but Rahul’s good mood was not to be dampened by anything. Gregory ,as habit had it, put the keys on the kitchen counter and not on the key-rack . Locking the door after in him was not something Gregory took seriously. It would take somebody really brave or stupid to try to enter this safe haven and especially when he was at home. Gregory’s normal routine , whenever he got home was to turn on the stereo and fill the house with a medley of classical music. Mozart’s piano concerto filled the house and Gregory almost immediately felt the ache in his head subside. “Now for the promised bath sonny “ Gregory’s massive arm must have been a bit to comfortable for Rahul was already visiting Rip Van Winkle. “Never mind buddy , the bath can wait.” Gregory was always proud of the attachment he and his son shared , but when Rahul got into his moods and when the colic was too much to handle he was always looked for Julia. Gregory settled Rahul in the cot and covered him with the blanket handmade by Grandma Sara. “I would love to join you buddy , Gregory tiredly said. “Gregory.” A voice whispered. Gregory was taken aback . Surely Mozart never had lyrics to his masterpieces. The almost ghostlike whisper was heard again and Gregory scolded himself for being so jumpy. “Julia , is that you.” Gregory ran to the kitchen door which was closed. He turned the handle but it was locked. Gregory searched for the keys on the counter but the keys had mysteriously vanished . This is what Julia had warned him so many times about . In case of an emergency always leave the keys on the key-rack. Gregory wasn’t an absent minded person , he never made it past high school but he knew he had a mind as sharp as a samurai sword. “What is taking Julia so long” Gregory thought. Gregory sprinted past the kitchen counter and almost slipped on the Africotta tiled floor. Racing into the third room down the passage he saw Rahul still fast asleep, nestled between two rose embellished pillows and his favorite blanket. Gregory checked the master bedroom and the guest bedroom but all seemed to be in order. His gun was in the safe but for the life of him he could not recall where the safe keys were hidden. He had always thought that if a situation of danger ever came to himself and his family that he would be able to handle it with courage . Gregory now knew that this was not the case , he had to get a grip on the situation. A palsy of fear swept over his entire being and his brow was sweat laden. He stealthily made his way back to the kitchen, pulled the drawer and pulled out the biggest knife he could find. During his gangster days he was very adept in using a knife , but Gregory preferred a fire-arm. A dismal silence crept over the entire house. Even the sparrows that teemed the ficus trees went dead quiet. Some one had turned off the CD player. Gregory held the kitchen knife and guardedly approached the dining room. He could sense that the threat was in that room. “Julia , you scared the crap out of me,” Gregory said with great relief , “I never heard the car .” Julia motioned her husband to sit alongside her as she coquettishly lazed on the sofa. With her palm on his leg she seductively caressed the inside of his thigh. She moved closer to him and nibbled on the lobe of his ear. “Gregory , it is time .“ “Sure honey , anytime you ready.” Gregory moaned. Her hand slid up to his neck and grabbed with such might that Gregory was instantly pulled out of his trance like state. He stared into the cold eyes of a killer , straight out of a horror movie. Gregory hurtled and tried to fight of his attacker but to no avail. The inhuman strength of his assailant was overpowering and Gregory was at the mercy of this maniac. He felt the cold blade slice into his stomach sending painful twangs that resonated outwards as the blade was forced upwards. Julia took the liberty of parking the car on the driveway. As she snatched the packet , she noticed the kitchen door wide open .”Gregory , when will you ever learn ?” Friday , JULY 4 , 15 h 10 “Rebecca, Rebecca Nair, doctor will see you now. Rebecca nervously put down the Cosmopolitan magazine and braced herself for the news she was about to receive. She reluctantly made her way into the doctor’s room. The waiting room was filled with almost to term mother’s to be and Rebecca prayed that the doctor’s news will not have her frequently sitting here. Rebecca had just turned 28 and regarded herself to be in the prime of her life. “Not now God, oh please not now” Rebecca braced herself and almost inaudibly tapped at the door only to hear a pleasant voice inviting her in. Doctor Frankton remained glued to his computer screen and gestured for her to sit down. Rebecca gratefully obliged. “Sorry for the delay Miss Nair” Doctor Frankton said without looking up. “Please call me Rebecca , doctor” “Okay Rebecca, let us have a look at your file”. Doctor Frankton looked up for the first time and gazed into the face of a beautiful and elegant young lady. It was only yesterday that he had seen her but with the hectic schedule he could not recall why. His face lighted up when he finally made the connection. “Rebecca, yes the test results are back from the lab, “ Doctor Frankton mused over the results as if he were trying to analyze the blood work. “Oh come on, positive or negative “Rebecca thought. “Your husband is sure going to be happy”, Doctor Frankton uttered nonchalantly, “Rebecca, you are definitely pregnant” “My husband “, Rebecca thought,” I didn’t even get his name”. Rebecca shut the door on her way out, furious with herself for letting such a thing happen to her. Without looking at the receptionist she made her way to the exit. Her newly acquired BMW stood out in the parking bay, she slumped into the drivers seat, and momentarily lazed on the tilted seat. “What am I going to do?” Rebecca opened her hand bag, fishing out some change to pay for the undercover parking. “Well REbby, all of these luxuries will soon have to go.” With her hands still shaking from her new predicament, she slowly put the key into the ignition and tried to start her car. The BMW sputtered momentarily and then the hum of the engine filled the parking garage. “Well, baby I do not know how I am going to continue to pay for you.” A tap on the window startled Rebecca to the extent that she let go of the clutch while still in gear and the BMW died down. She turned to see a beggar with his hands outstretched .As this was not an uncommon practice, Rebecca pretentiously smiled and took out her wallet. “Now here is someone in a worse situation.” She unwound the window a little, and let the coins fall to the floor. Rebecca did not hear the distinct clatter of the coins hitting the floor but whatever happened to them was the problem the beggar had to deal with. Rebecca returned her gaze to the beggar as she saw him raising his arm and smashing the window. Her natural instinct took control of her as she covered her face and almost recoiled into the fetal position. The bloodstained hands with the almost feminine manicure gripped Rebecca by the throat. She had never before felt such tremendous pressure around her neck, she tried to scream but the clamped hand restricted her from doing so. Cold eyes gazed upon her and the stranger coarsely said, “Rebecca, it is time.” Rebecca could see the eyes of a demon in the form of a man. The strangers eyes never left her gaze, until Rebecca could feel the grip loosen. The beggar now focused on her tummy and furiously screamed. “Time for you, but not for him. I will be back “ Rebecca felt the surge of oxygen run through her body as she quickly regained her composure. She looked around the sequestered parking lot but the beggar was not there. 2 Saturday , July 5 : 05H30 Dale was up before his alarm could go off. As with his normal routine he switched on his cellular phone and perused it a while checking for any missed calls or messages. He was always glad when he was not the recipient of any calls or messages, that could only mean that it would be a normal day at the station. He soporifically arose from his slumber haven stretching his body and rubbing his face trying to rid himself of the sleepy feeling. He continued with his morning routine which involved fifty press-ups followed by fifty situps. He never really enjoyed the exercise but knew he had to do something to remain fit. He was proud of his physique and ruggedly good looks. His physique proved to be an eyecatcher especially when he was down at the beach . Dale eyed himself out in front of a large mirror. His left breast muscle seemed always smaller than his right and his six-pack seemed a bit skew too. “ We all have to have flaws ,” he said to himself. Dale hopped into the shower together with his toothbrush and toothpaste. Some thought of it as being unhygienic but it saved him time. The water had to be as cold as he could manage. He vigorously rubbed his body with the palm of his hands as if shining a new car with burnishing cream. This habit was a trait that he had learnt from his father. “To get the creative juices flowing, start your day with a cold shower.” Dale recalled his father’s words. When he felt rejuvenated enough he stepped out of the shower and haphazardly smeared lotion over his entire body. He had laid his clothes out the night before and in a matter of minutes he was ready. Dale always enjoyed his mornings to be relaxed. He could have had an extra half an hour’s sleep but that would mean rushing in the morning. A rushed morning to him meant a rushed day. The theme music from “Knight rider” echoed through the hall as Dale reluctantly answered his phone. The call line identity feature revealed that the office was on the line. As if not wanting to take the call, he tardily picked up the phone. “Good morning, Mary,” Dale answered politely. “There nothing good about the morning, never is and never will be,” Mary replied in her usual sarcastic tone. “What did I do to deserve a call from you, Mary?” “Listen Dale, Captain Hook wants you to report in immediately. Something is up and please do not ask me to go into the details.” “Put on the pot of coffee, Mary, be right there.” This was the one part of his job that infuriated Dale. His time was important to him but work paid the bills. Dale holstered his weapon, grabbed his keys and was on his way for what he considered to be a busy day. It was remarkably hot for a winters morning and the once accident damaged police vehicle had no air-conditioner. Dale unwound the windows and enjoyed the cool breeze as he drove off. On the up side at least he would not be caught in traffic. Even though Glendee was a reasonably small town, traffic could get quite irritating at times and especially when , as Dale considered them , the older generation used the roads. Half an hour later Dale pulled into the station. His designated parking bay was already taken by Captain Hook’s silver Mercedes so Dale simply pulled into the nearest available bay. He looked at the small building they called the station. It once housed a Chinese restaurant but is now what the Captain calls it, a home from home. Glendee never really needed a big squad and this building comfortably housed the entire squad, which was in total fifteen people. Dale could see Mary through the glass doors. Her unconcerned manner emanated from her posture but Dale knew deep down that she had a special place in her heart for him. “Morning, to you,” Dale said in a flirtatious voice. “Morning Dale, Hook is in his office” Mary stared as Dale walked past her. Mary always thought that with his good looks he should have been a model and not in the force. Dale had always been friendly to her but unfortunately friends were all they could be. His mother would freak out if he had brought an older white girl home with him. Dale confidently made his way into the Captains office, still concerned as to what the situation could be. Captain Smit sat at his desk with his face contorted as if looking down with utter disgust. With spectacles at the tip of his nose and his round belly taking up every inch of the chair, he motioned for Dale to sit. Seated directly ahead of Smit sat Dale’s adversary, or so he would have liked to think. Veronica sat crossed legged with an intense look on her face and didn’t even show any acknowledgement of Dale. Dale who wasn’t to be outdone reciprocated the same mannerisms. “Dale, Dale, Dale, we have a situation” Smit said with an exasperated look on his face. Dale had never seen the Captain showing much emotion before, so this had to be really serious. “Take a look at this,” Smit commanded , “What do you make of it.” Captain Smit handed Dale two photographs. Dale felt the hair on his neck rise up to full salute as he glared down on the pictures. The grotesque scenes depicted in these pictures caused Dale to grab a hold of his stomach. “Wh … whoo are th .. these ppeopple, “ Dale stuttered. “Photograph on your left. Nancy Saur , eighteen years old , found burnt to death in her home. Reported in at 15h30 yesterday by her brother. Claims that the sister opened the door and let an old man in. Not much in terms of a description , except he was old ,filthy and he smelled bad. She was dipped in petrol and then set alight. No signs of forced entry. Mr Saur is in the hospital with his son. The boy is pretty shaken up. “ “You could have done such a horrible thing,” Dale interrupted. “ Photograph on your right. Gregory Sitheldeen , Thirty four years old , Reported in at 15H35 by his wife. Claims she left him to run some errands and found him like that when she returned. His one year old son was with him , but unharmed. Both bodies are in the mortuary.” Dale was certainly taken aback by what he had just heard . Glendee had the usual domestic fights and the normal run in with bar-room brawls and drunken driving but this was totally what this town had never seen before. He studied the pictures for a few more seconds and then slowly left them on the table. “I guess you want some answers,” mustered Dale. “You damn right I want some answers Dale,” Smit retaliated, “ the scenes are untouched , go find me some answers. I’ve already briefed Veronica .Dale you handle the young girl , Veronica is going to look into the death of the Mister Sitheldeen .” Dale took the photographs, inserted them into the files and briskly left the office. Now he definitely needed that coffee. Mary jumped at the opportunity to offer Dale some coffee and followed him into the kitchen. “Dale , you are the best we have , I know you would sort this out,” Mary said. Dale sat down with the steaming cup of Frisco and pondered on where he should start. He opened up the docket once more , this time turning the photos around. On his pad he wrote down the addresses of the victim. He however knew that his first stop would be to the mortuary. Veronica would be there anyway and Clemens would surely be in doing the postmortem. “Anything else exciting while I was away, Mary?” Dale asked uninterestedly. “Well nothing to top what you have just heard.” “ Duty calls.” Dale said as he put the coffee on the table. “ Oh yes ,” Mary quickly croaked as if trying to delay his departure,” Some woman reported an attempted robbery in the parking garage down at the medical centre. Said the perpetrator really scared the crap out of here. Lady by the name of Rebecca Nair” “Say again.” “Rebecca Nair.” “Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time.” Dale’s mind went racing back to his last year at school. They were acquaintances or maybe a little more than that , Dale could not be sure what exactly the situation with Rebecca and himself was. She sure sent out mixed signals and when he joined the force he had completely lost track of her. “Might be interesting to pay her a visit.” Dale slyly thought. “Got an address for me ,Mary” “Sure thing , got the report on my desk.” Mary handed Dale the information he requested and Dale meticulously folded the paper and put it into his pocket. Dale made his way to the adjacent building which housed Glendee’s mortuary. The stench of death was the predominant reason why he always disliked coming in. Just as he had guessed, Veronica was there , already reading the autopsy report. “Must have been an early morning for you, Clemens.” Dale said as he moved closer to the bodies. “More like a late night.” Clemens answered as if seeking a pat on the back for sheer dedication to his job. “What can you tell me about the girl?” The two bodies were covered up in the government supplied white sheeting and Dale was sure not going to request them being uncovered. He stood as far away as possible and noticed Veronica doing the same. “Is this bothering the ice –princess as much as me?” Dale thought. His train of thought was interrupted when Veronica dropped the reports as she stood there momentarily transfixed by the horrific condition of the young girl. Clemens had ,as Dale figured, intentionally pulled the sheeting revealing the burnt remains of Nancy. Veronica quickly regained her composure and motioned for Dale to step outside. Dale was surprised at his reaction to seeing young Nancy lying there, her body blackened by the burns and the absence of lips highlighting her teeth. He had not even flinched, but he was sure not going to push it. Veronica was waiting behind close doors so Dale excused himself from the autopsy room only to find Veronica throwing up in the thrash receptacle. Her long blonde hair concealed her actions and Dale patiently waited until she was through. “Are you okay?” Dale asked sympathetically. “I thought I would be fine,” she answered, “Dale I am going to be honest with you. I don’t think I would be able to handle this case.” Dale felt a sense of relief for he shared the same sentiments but there was no way in hell he was going to admit it. “I am no good at this,” Veronica conceded,” I’ll tell the captain to put someone else on it. “Hold on a second,” Dale quickly interrupted,” lets talk this through.” “I’ve made up my mind, Dale; let this become some-one else’s problem.” Dale felt a sudden swelling in his stomach as he reached over and put his hand on Veronica’s shoulder. He could not fathom the reason why he was being nice to here and why he wanted her to handle the case. An observer might think that he wanted her to try doing some real police work just to prove that he was better. Dale was not even sure that he would be able to handle the case . “Here’s a plan Veronica, lets do the initial investigations on both cases together and the captain will never have to know.” Dale hoped that she would agree and when she turned to him her sparkling blue eyes gave him the affirmation he needed. “So what do you say Veronica Krige, are we partners or not?” Veronica wiped her eyes with the cuffs of her shirt, hugged Dale and said,” come on we have work to do.” Veronica led the way into the autopsy room, picked up the reports which were still lying on the floor. “Back for more,” Clemens laughed, “now who’s first.” Dale felt it proper that he take the initiative to find out the sordid details. “Please, Clemens, don’t tell me things I would never understand. Give me something that would help.” Clemens adjusted his collar as if in the preparation for a national address. “The young girl as you see is of small stature. Incinerant used was definitely high octane leaded petrol. What it was doing in the house, I have no idea. Her stomach was filled with this stuff so when she burned it was both ways. There were contusions around the neck area which was not from the burns. As you can see the neck and head are not as bad as the rest of the body. This girl was murdered.” Clemens reported as though he had rehearsed it. “We are not experts here, “said Dale, “that’s what we already know.” “What about the man? Veronica interrupted. “Bet the prime suspect is the wife, eh Ronnie” Clemens questioned. “Just stick to what will help us, Clemens.” “Murder weapon, one large knife. This guy was literally carved up. No alcohol or drugs found in his system so whoever did this had to be really strong, and when I say strong they had to take down a guy of this size.” Clemens exclaimed as he pulled the white sheeting revealing the massive wounds on the victim. “Guess the wife is off the hook.” “Remarkable thing though, this guy has severe wounds around the neck. Seen a gorilla do this to a man. That sort of force inflicts this type of damage.” “Who-ever did this is definitely an animal.” Veronica blurted aggressively. “That will do, Clemens, “Dale quickly said , “Call us if you have anything new. Veronica we have a crime scene to visit.” 3 Veronica must have been trying to make up for what transpired earlier for she led the way out into the parking bay and triumphantly stood at the drivers side door waiting for Dale to hand over the keys. “I’m assuming you want to drive.” Dale said as he tossed over the keys. The van let out a thunderous roar which was owing to the accelerator being depressed a little more than it should have been and after a few jerky starts they were on the way. “Thirty five Dahlia Street and make it snappy.” Dale joked. All Dale received for his quirky remark was a quick side-wards glance and sudden braking as Veronica halted at a red traffic light. Approximately two micro-seconds after the traffic light turned green, Veronica sped of again as if testing the capabilities of the van. As she approached another red traffic light, she pressed on the brake causing Dale to move forward steadying himself with his hands. “For God’s sake woman, get me there alive.” Dale growled. Dahlia street housed some of the best homes in Glendee. Only the rich could afford to own homes in this street. Every house was a double storey with at least three garages and gardens that looked like they were pruned and maintained every single day. “Thirty-one, thirty-three, ah thirty-five.” Veronica murmured under her breath. The red police tape hung on the tremendously huge gate posing as a deterrent for any visitors wishing to pass on the condolences to the family. Veronica park close enough to the intercom and depressed the button. “Nobody is at home Veronica .”Dale said condescendingly as he opened his door and pushed the huge gate open. Veronica drove in and was out of the van before Dale could reach her. “This is not a house , it’s a mansion.” Dale said. Dale could not help but notice the security measures Mr Saur had taken to keep his family safe but unfortunately it was not enough. Dale tried the front door and as expected it was open. The stench of burnt flesh still emanated from the house. “Are you sure no one else interfered with the scene.” Veronica said. “Only the medics, from what I’ve been told,” Dale responded. “This is a beautiful house.” Dale cautiously stepped inside as if expecting the murderer to be waiting for their arrival. The room was extraordinarily warm as the two investigators perused over the contents. Veronica picked up a photograph which was displayed on the mantle. “Looks like mom is missing,” she said. “She’s dead,”Dale blurted out. “There was no mention of the mother, Dale.” “Let me tell you something of the Indian culture, Veronica, mothers don’t leave their children and besides that, the photograph on the wall with the plastic wreath around it shows that ,that woman is dead.” “Oh, excuse me. By the way Dale did you bring the finger print kit?” It’s still in the van , check around I’ll fetch it.” Dale took in a deep breath as he exited the house , letting the fresh oxygenated air fill his lungs. The stench in the house was becoming a little too much for him to bear and he was glad that he had forgotten to take the kit with him. As he was walking to the car he cursed. “Damn , I touched the door-knob.” Dale was always careful in following protocol but he did not put on his latex gloves. “I hope Veronica is not touching everything she sees.” Dale rushed to the van which remained unlocked , pulled out the kit and reached into his glove compartment fishing out two unused latex gloves. He rushed back into the house and called out to Veronica. “I’m upstairs Dale. This is where it all happened.” Don’t touch anything ,I’ll be right up.” Dale rushed up the stair-case , climbing three steps with each stride and when he reached the top Veronica was holding a rather large container. “You are messing up the evidence. ”Dale said as he held up the latex gloves. Veronica didn’t reply as she held up her hands boasting that she already had a pair on. “Smart girl.” Veronica dropped the container on the floor , took a step away and folded her arms as if telepathically telling Dale to test for fingerprints. As Dale meticulously dusted for fingerprints Veronica stepped into the bathroom. “Dale , come in here.” Dale suddenly felt as if he were the junior officer , always coming to the beck and call of his companion. He however obliged. “It all happened here, Dale. She must have really suffered” Dale played the scene in his mind and was literally shaken back to reality by Veronica. “Will you look at these tiles, “ Veronica said in disbelief as she stared at the drawings on the walls ,”this family must be involved in some cult or something.” “It’s not a cult , majority of the Indian population worship them.” Dale responded. As Dale continued to dust for the finger prints he said, “Take that one for instance.” Dale pointed at the one of the sketches. “Dale, please don’t tell me you worship a monkey.” “That’s Hanuman; he is supposed to be a symbol of strength and loyalty. Not to go into too much of detail but he was sent to get some healing herbs from the mountains for a dying friend and when he could not find it he simply picked up the whole mountain and brought it to his friend. The sketch in the centre is of Krishna. “Like the Hare Krishna’s.” Veronica interrupted. “Something like that.” The sketch in the centre made Veronica cringe a little. The depiction was of a lady wearing what seemed like a tiger skin outfit with disheveled hair and eyes rolling with intoxication. Her fang like teeth and lolling tongue was dripping with blood. And what made the picture even scarier was the necklace made out of human skulls that was draped around her neck. She had four arms, two of which held several heads while the other two held a dagger and a sword. “And what about this one?” Veronica asked reluctantly. “That’s Kali; she represents the realities of life and death.” Dale answered with great confidence. “And you pray to her.” Veronica asked carefully. “I grew up in a Hindu home but to tell you the truth I don’t believe in much of it.” “Well I believe in only one God, Jesus Christ.” “Don’t know much about him either. This is all done. There’s definitely two sets of finger-prints here. The container has the best prints.” Dale said as if attempting to change the topic. Veronica was pleased to leave the bathroom as they headed for the bedrooms. It was quite easy to spot Nancy’s room. The room was painted in a dull grey that certainly was the total opposite to the rest of the house. A small desk stood in the corner of the room, on top of which stood a rather impressive computer. The room did not boast the extravagance of the hall that led to the room. Pages of unfinished crosswords were clumsily spread out on the bed and posters of Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and Kiss were stuck on the walls. “Veronica, what exactly are we doing in here.” “Somebody must have really hated her to do this. This room might have a clue as to the identity of that person.” “Let’s just talk to her father; the brother might be the key to solving this. Anyway I think we got him.” Dale said as he held up the fingerprints.” Dale led the way out of the house not bothering to close the door and this time he stood at the driver’s door with arms outstretched as Veronica tossed over the keys. 4 Dale was a cautious driver which seemed to irritate Veronica as he kept to the speed limit coming to complete stops at every stop sign. He reached over to the glove compartment and took out the police reports removing the page that contained the address of the male victim. It was almost midday and Dale felt the pangs of hunger in his stomach. He dared not mention it to Veronica and decided to wait till later. The drive took them to the poorer part of Glendee where portholes infested the roads. The ride had now become a bumpier one and Dale slowed down even more. It took him twenty five minutes cover fifteen kilometers but on the up side they quickly found the road they where looking for. “Number thirty three. Ah there it is.” Dale exclaimed. A beaten up Passat was already parked on the driveway and Dale parked closely behind it. “Nobody is supposed to be here.” Veronica uttered angrily. Veronica and Dale almost simultaneously jumped out of the van and approached the car. It was unlocked and the driver’s side window was half open. The baby seat in the back confirmed Dale’s suspicion that it belonged to the deceased. “Where do you think the wife and the baby are, Dale?” “No clue.” The neighborhood was quite except for the occasional neighbor passing the house trying to get a glimpse of what was happening. Dale tried to open the front door but it was locked. “Let’s try the back door.” The back door in this house was actually a side door and as Dale depressed the handle, the creak of the hinges echoed through the house. “Hello is anyone in here,” Veronica called out. “This is the police.” “Well all seems quite on the western front,” Dale said. The house had the fresh smell of blood in it and Veronica left the door opened. The house had the standard three bedrooms and as they walked into the passage Dale saw the blood stained carpets in the dining room. “Over there, Veronica.” Not to repeat the mistake of the morning Dale put on his latex gloves and accidentally stung his hands in the process. He cursed from the pain which startled Veronica. “What the hell are you up to, Dale, you trying to give me a heart attack?” The carpet in the dining room was soaked in blood. A large stain was on the sofa and specks of blood stuck on to the curtain. The dreariness of the room was further accentuated by the drawn curtains which allowed only a little of the sunlight through. Dale reached up and opened one of the curtains. “Let’s shed a little light on the subject,” he joked. “Dust for prints, Dale.” “You dust for prints, I’ll have a look around,” Dale said. Dale felt uneasy in the dining room and started to check out the rest of the house. He always felt uncomfortable when he perused through somebody’s personal belongings but this had to be done. As he moved through the passage he noticed a drop of blood on the floor. “How did you get here,” he whispered. Three tiles away another drop of blood caught his eye. “Where are you leading me?” Dale followed the trail which led to the baby’s room. He scanned the floor but no blood was visible. It was times like these that Dale hated the smallness of Glendee’s police department. They were on a ridiculously small budget and investigative high tech equipment was hard to come by. “Guess I’ll have to solve this the old fashioned way.” Dale stepped into the room. Stuffed teddy bears hung from the ceiling and over the cot hung a cute musical toy. A box over-laden with toys stood in the corner. Dale tried not to be childish but he stepped to the cot and depressed the tiny button on the musical toy. A pleasant and relaxing sound emanated from the box. As Dale hummed to the tune he noticed another drop of blood on the baby’s pillow in the cot. The music stopped and Dale slowly picked up the pillow. Semiconcealed by the sheet was the murder weapon: one large knife. Dale picked up the knife , inserted it in a plastic bag and closed the door on his way out. “Veronica , check this for prints. I found it in the baby’s room in the cot. Looks like the wife is back on the suspect list.” Veronica laid the knife on the coffee table and proceeded to dust for prints. “Now there’s a good set. This killer wants to get caught ,Dale . He , oh sorry she left all the evidence we need.” “Com’on let’s get these to Clemens , He can match up the prints while we get something to eat. As Dale and Veronica left the house a mob was waiting at the gate all asking the same question : “Have you caught him yet?” Dale felt like a celebrity as he drove out. He was bludgeoned with questions as he turned the van and headed for the station. There seemed to be an urgent desperation for Dale to get to the station for he showed no signs of cautionary measures as he drove the van. One thing prevalent in this small town was the influence a mob had on getting things done. Veronica stared out of the side window as if perplexed by an unsolvable conundrum. Dale was suddenly not in the mood to engage in any conversation but the muddiness of the whole mornings events caused him to break the deafening silence that prevailed in the van. “What say we get something to eat?” “Clemens will be waiting, give him the prints to analyse.” “Sure thing, Captain.” Dale reluctantly agreed. Dale pulled into the station and was flabbergasted to see that not even one of the parking bays was vacant. “What in the world is going on here? The Christmas party is six months away.” “What do you expect, Dale, two murders in one afternoon? Everyone wants to know what’s going on. Even I would want to know if my life is in jeopardy with murderers out there.” Dale could see Mary through the glass door. She had an exasperated look one her face and was fervently trying to calm down the town folk . Whatever explanation she was concocting was sure not hitting its mark. Dale had an urge to rescue her from the tumultuous array of unanswerable questions but heeded to the recommendation of Veronica to enter through the side door. In any event as Dale thought it was Captain Hook’s responsibility to calm every one down and to decide what aspects of the case could or should become public knowledge. The precarious location of the side door was the only reason why it was rarely used and both Dale and Veronica arduously made their way into the station. Dale felt an immediate crave for a hot cup of coffee but that would mean passing through the crowd negating their purpose of entering through the side door. The captain’s door was ajar and Clemens sat comfortably in the captain’s chair. “Thought you two would never get back,” Clemens said as if he had taken up the position of the ‘Big Kahuna’. “Need names to go with these.” Veronica reported as he thrust out the fingerprints. “Get right on it.” Even though the station was not equipped with state of the art equipment, Clemens was quite proud of the computer system used to analyse finger prints. He recalled using it once to get the telephone number of one of the woman who captured his fancy at a wedding ceremony. The deviousness of his actions landed him up in great trouble for he ended up marrying that blonde. Captain Smit with his impeccable skills of manipulation somehow had managed to assuage the crowd who were slowly leaving the station. Dale knew that they would be cornered by the captain into giving an update on their findings but he prayed not until he had indulged in his cup of coffee. Dale slipped into the kitchen but as soon as he picked up his coffee mug he heard the distinct grunt of Captain Smit. “Bring the coffee into the office.” Smit irritably interrupted. Dale hurriedly made his cup of coffee and proceeded to the captain’s office. He was not the least bit surprised to find Veronica already seated at the desk. Dale could not help but feel that Veronica intentionally tried to make him seem inept when ever they were in the presence of the captain. “Let’s have it.” Smit said incoherently. “Excuse me.” Dale replied almost immediately. “What have you got to show me?” Dale felt rather foolish and to compound his mistake Veronica started reporting back to Smit. “Well, sir, we’ve found some good sets of fingerprints at the scene. Clemens is busy putting some names to those prints. We were just on our way out to question the immediate family. I’ll get their whereabouts from Mary.” “This takes priority, Dale, I need answers, the town needs answers.” Dale dared not take a sip of his coffee in the fear of slurping and upsetting Smit even further. “Clemens must have made up a match by now. Check the prints.” Smit announced with great authority. Clemens disposition could at sometimes be rather infuriating to anyone and this was the day that Dale felt that way. He was seated with textbook posture in front of the computer handling the mouse as if were one of his extremities. Dale could not help but to notice that something was bothering Clemens. “Come up with anything.” Dale asked breaking the eerie silence of the room. “Let me show you something” Clemens replied as he reached over for the prints. Clemens laid the two sets of fingerprints on the table. “This much I don’t need technology to tell me. Check out the thumb print of the girl’s murder, now check this one. Any of you make the connection.” Dale seized this opportunity to get one over Veronica and even though he could not see any connection he immediately replied,” They are the same.” “Your observation skills really impress me. Dale.” Clemens held a magnifying glass to the prints and moved slightly so Dale could see the enlarged version of the prints. “Now Dale impress me even further, what do you see?” Dale squinted his eyes and frowned a bit as if really scrutinizing the prints. “The lines are running both vertically and horizontally making up a grid.” Clemens reported.” What we got here is something else.” Veronica who was still quite throughout the proceedings took a step forward and further examined the prints. “Well Dale, I think our two cases have now become one. We are after the same killer. Clemens have you analysed any of the other prints, I think we’ve got good prints of the other fingers.” “Take a seat my dear; I was just about to recommend the same thing.” Veronica took a seat next to Clemens and pulled uncomfortably close to him. She could get the distinct smell of “Old Spice” , it reminded her of her father. Dale looked around for another chair but deemed it unnecessary so he just stood behind Clemens. Clemens had the prints scanned and simply prompted the print of the forefinger on to the computer screen. He was working so fast that Dale never quite saw what Clemens was doing. The search icon was depressed and Dale saw the word “searching” on the top of the screen. “How long does this take.” Dale asked. Dale felt as if he had spoken to himself because neither one of his two colleagues answered him. As he straightened himself up and stretched his arms the computer screen stopped. “Game, set and that’s a match.” Clemens said. “Get up a photo so I can see what that lunatic looks like.” Veronica said rather enthusiastically. In a matter of seconds an image appeared on the screen with further details popping up slowly underneath it. “This guy looks old,” Veronica commented. The image on the screen showed a balding man of Indian decent who anyone might have guessed to be in his late fifties. “ Name : Venkat Nair , born October 17 , 1901. That can’t be right, this guy should be around one hundred and six years old now, “Clemens said in a tone that suggested disappointment. As he further read “ Died August 23, 1954. “ “You must have done something wrong, Clemens, “Dale suggested. “This is the profile I’m getting with those prints.” “Well, try again. There’s no way that I am going to tell Captain Hook that we are searching for a killer who died before I was born.” Dale said impatiently. “Try running the prints of the middle finger, if that’s not too much to ask.” Clemens no longer sat with the confidence and posture that he displayed when Dale entered into the room. He now slouched a bit and carefully loaded the next set of prints into the computer. Dale seized this as an opportunity to dart out of the room and into the kitchen. This was his chance to get a cup of coffee. His hunger pangs had increased tremendously and he felt himself becoming light-headed. Mary saw Dale rush into the kitchen and shouted from her reception desk. “We’re out of coffee, Dale. I’m going to get some soon. “ “Could things get any worse,” Dale muttered. Dale hurriedly made his way back to the ops room hoping that his vital presence was not missed. As he stepped into the room Veronica turned to him and by the contortion of her facial muscles Dale knew that she was the bearer of more bad news. “You’re not going to believe this, Dale, “Veronica said, “We’ve come up with another suspect.” The picture on the screen revealed yet another male of Indian decent with a full frock of hair and a neatly trimmed goatee. Clemens who was responsible for all the feedback continued, “Name Albert Saur, born February 16, 1899, died August 23, 1954. Do you think I’ve made a mistake again, Dale?” “I think this is the most insane thing I ever heard,” Dale replied. “Try the ring finger, Clemens,” Veronica suggested. Clemens called up the prints of the ring finger and worked slowly depressing the icons only after he glanced at Dale as if seeking permission to continue. The computer analysed the prints with the same speed as the others and a few seconds later an image of yet another Indian male popped up on the screen. “Your relatives seemed to be popping up on the screen, Dale, “Veronica teased. “That’s not funny.” “Name Pooben Sitheldeen, born March 12, 1906, died August 23, 1954” Clemens said interrupting their conversation. “This is just damn outrageous,” Dale shouted as he held up his hands in disgust, “We are searching for a ghost or maybe four ghosts. Clemens analyse the prints of the little finger.” “Well the way things are going, it’s going to be a dead Indian male.” “Just do it.” “Okay, okay.” Clemens called up the last set of prints and pressed the search icon. Dale waited patiently hoping that he could have a decent lead on the killer. In the box where the photograph would have normally appeared the words: NO MATCH FOUND took its place. “What does that mean?” Dale asked. “There no match to these prints.” “I know that, but why?” “You know why, Dale, not everyone had their prints taken, not everyone has an identity document.” “It’s crucial that we get a name to those prints. Is there anything you can do?” I’ll see what I can do, Dale,” Clemens replied. Clemens printed a copy of the identikits that he had just obtained and handed them over to Veronica. The last half an hour had taken their seemingly simple case and had now transformed it into what seemed like an unsolvable one. Dale felt disheartened at this sudden turn of events and the only solace he had was that Veronica felt the same. The inexplicable results of the analysis of the prints had dampened Dale’s spirits. “Veronica, “Dale said, “Let’s go over these identikits in the kitchen over a cup of coffee.” The urn was on and to Dale’s disappointment Mary had not kept to her word so tea would have to suffice. Veronica neatly laid the three documents on the table. “Dale, this is not possible. I concur with Clemens, we are after the same killer but these prints are something else. Can someone duplicate prints and leave them at a scene.” “That’s possible but where will he get them from, these people are long dead.” “Okay, let’s look at this from another angle, what these three people have in common.” “They’re all dead.” “No, no, I mean they’re all of Indian decent and so were our victims. There was an uncomfortable silence that lasted only a few seconds until Veronica called out, “Check this out Dale, all three of them died on the same day: August 23, 1954. “ “You’ve got to be kidding.” “There it is, August 23, 1954. Our victims were both murdered yesterday.” Dale took a slurp of his hot tea and felt a blissful relief in his throat. “Veronica, to tell you the truth I think that someone is really messing around with us.” “I think this will lead us somewhere: Venkat Nair, Albert Saur, Pooben Sitheldeen, what have you guys got in common.” Dale almost spilled some of his tea on to the floor when Veronica announced each name. He picked up the documents lying on the table to make sure that she had pronounced the names correctly. Dale felt his blood suddenly rush through his body and responded to a very surprised Veronica. “The last two names Albert Saur and Pooben Sitheldeen, our two victims share the same last names, Nancy Saur and Sitheldeen , ah there it is Gregory Sitheldeen. Now I think we are on to something.” “What about Venkat Nair.” “At this time, no idea where he fits into this picture.” The water in the urn reached its maximum boiling point and the bubbling of the water seemed to have attracted another coffee addict. This time Captain Smit waltzed into the kitchen. Without even looking up Dale closed the file and took a long sip of his now cold tea. “Any developments from Clemens, “ Smit asked as he reached under the kitchen counter and pulled out a small tin of coffee. “Nothing concrete, “ Dale answered almost immediately , “ but we are working on it.” Dale was surprised that Veronica had not impulsively uttered any information regarding their recent findings. He did not want to engage in conversation with the captain any longer for fear that Veronica ,given her behaviour of the past, would say something that he at this moment did not want to reveal. Dale casually arose from his comfortable chair and slyly hinted for Veronica to do the same. Much to his satisfaction she caught on and they cautiously made their way to the reception desk. “Mary , I’m told that you can tell us where to find the immediate families of the victims,” Veronica said. Mary who was busy rummaging through some old files looked up and handed Dale an envelope. “It’s all there,” she said. On their way out Veronica commented , “ I don’t think she likes me much.” “Well , Veronica , you yourself do not come out as being a likeable person.” “What is that supposed to mean?” “Forget I said anything. Let’s go.” As they were walking to the van Dale took a peak at the addresses given to him. “Julia Sitheldeen , staying with family , 12 Aloe Street . Mister Saur is supposedly still at the hospital. Who do you want to question first?” “The wife , I suppose . Give Saur a little more time with his son.” “Bless you lady , Chick-city is on the way there , I could sure use a burger.” As Dale drove of he felt his pocket just to confirm that he had carried his wallet. He sped of like a bat out of hell and used any shortcut possible to get to chick-city before his stomach acids started to consume the lining of his tummy. As Dale pulled into the parking lot of chick-city his sensitive and highly defined olfactory organs got the aroma of the ever popular fried chicken . His hunger pangs became subsequently more pronounced as he sprang out of the van , not bothering to offer Veronica anything. “Dale , do you think they serve fish here.” “It’s chicken city , love , not Atlantis.” Veronica smiled as if she had understood the wit behind that remark but Dale thought of it as being unlikely. The two strolled into chickcity and immediately stared up towards the ceiling checking out the menu. When Dale returned his gaze to the cashier he was greeted by the coquettish smile of a Barbie look-alike . He seized the opportunity and returned the smile. With his elbows on the counter he asked if she could recommend something that would fill up his insatiable appetite. “Why don’t you have the burger,” Veronica interrupted , “better make that two.” The waitress could take a hint and the flirtatious smile withered away as she took the order. Dale just stood there in dismay as his opportunity faded into oblivion. Back in the van Dale devoured his burger and washed it down with an ice cold can of soda. He felt energy being replenished into his body just like a video game character after consuming a power-up. It had been a busy day thus far and time constraints for accomplishing his set out tasks for the day had been mean. Dale looked up the address once again and started the van. Veronica, even though she was petite, had finished her burger in record time and was slowly sipping on her soda. In the same hurriedness that the van pulled in, it drove of. Even though the town was small, Dale knew that some streets were hard to find but as luck would have it he by accident turned into Aloe Street. “Twelve Aloe Street, there it is Dale. You know what sad Dale, ten years ago yards never needed to be fenced. Take a look at this house, the fencing and that preposterously large gate makes it look more a prison rather than a home. It’s truly sad.” In the centre of the mammoth gate glared a colourful “BEWARE OF THE DOG” sign. Dale hooted and up to the gate ran a Maltese poodle barking at the visitors. Dale hooted again but there were no signs of any activity , onlt that of the irritating poodle making a racket. Dale emerged from the van and used the small entrance gate to enter the yard. Veronica had never seen somebody run into the van as fast as Dale with a snarling rotweiller at his heels. “You want to try hooting again,” she mockingly suggested. The front door opened and somebody called the dogs away. They must have been highly trained dogs because they heeded to the call straight-away and Dale certainly thought so, they must have manipulated him into coming into the yard before springing the trap on him. The young lady shouted from inside, “What do you want.” “Com’on lady, you can see this is a police vehicle, open up,” Dale said softly. “We need to speak to Julia Sitheldeen, may we come in,” Veronica screamed. The large electronic gate opened and Dale drove the van inside. He cautiously exited and walked briskly to the opened door. Inside they were greeted by the young lady and asked to take a seat. Julia appeared from the passage and introduced herself. Her eyes were sunken into their sockets and her nose was blistered red. “Where’s my husband, officers? “she ruefully asked. “He’s still at the morgue, the coroner should release the body by the morning maam, “Dale replied. “I should have never left him alone, please tell me you caught the bastard that did this.” “It’s just a matter of time maam; we need to ask you a few questions.” Dale could see how painful this was for Julia and had to be careful in the way he asked his questions. “How’s the baby doing?” “He’s fine, a little distressed but nothing a good dose of panado syrup couldn’t sort out.” You told one of our associates that you left your husband and son at home and went out for a while; approximately how long were they alone.” “Couldn’t have been for than half an hour.” “Did your husband have any enemies, somebody who could have done this to him?” “No. no Gregory was a good person, “Julia sobbed, “everyone liked him. If only you had met him...” Veronica reached into the envelope she carried in and pulled out the photograph of Pooben Sitheldeen. “Julia, I want you to help us, do you recognize this man” Veronica asked as she handed over the photograph. “Can’t say that I do, who is he?” “His name is Pooben Sitheldeen, a relative perhaps.” Julia scrutinized the photograph a bit harder. “I know Gregory’s dad and this guy bears a good resemblance to him, perhaps an uncle.” Julia got up from the couch and took the photograph into the room. Dale could hear that she was conversing with someone that sounded old. The language was definitely Hindi and Dale who was familiar to the language made no sense of the conversation. When Julia returned, she passed the photograph to Veronica. “It’s Gregory’s grandfather.” she said. A fully fledged hospital was never in the plans of Glendee but the town boasted quite an impressive medical centre that took care of the town’s medical needs. As this was the only medical service available the folk of Glendee always referred to it as the hospital. The only available parking was at the ground floor and Dale who never paid for parking was forced to use it. The parking lot without appropriate illumination made it an awful task of parking the van but after considering that it was a marked vehicle, Dale parked over two bays. “Lucky you didn’t have to parallel park,” Veronica joked. The stairs led them up to a small office with the word RECEPTION painted on the back wall. The massive size of the sign made the office look small but at least it made the buxom receptionist look two sizes smaller. Veronica led the way forward and conversed with the receptionist, “We’re here to see Mister Saur, his son was brought in yesterday.” “It’s sad to see such terrible things happen to good people, “the receptionist said, “Mister Saur had some urgent business to attend to, said he’d be back first thing tomorrow morning.” Dale could not be sure if he was disappointed with Mister Saur absence, but he was glad that there would be no more surprises in the case, at least for today. Veronica left her mobile number with the receptionist with strict instructions that she be contacted the moment Mister Saur returned. The drive back to the station marked the day Dale knew that he was going to have the moment his cell phone rang in the morning. He could not get to grips with all that transpired and he felt that he needed a time out. He dropped Veronica at the station and without even bothering to go inside he drove home. Living alone had its advantages but Dale in the last few months had that alone feeling that he seldom felt but the onset of the emotion began the moment he stepped out of the van. As Dale opened his door he threw the van keys on the kitchen counter, put on the kettle and pulled out a canister of the expensive coffee he kept for special occasions. He emptied his pockets onto the kitchen table and found the piece of paper Mary had given him earlier. “I completely forgot about you, “he whispered. Ridden with the sickening emptiness of the house Dale with a smug look on his face blended in with ease. He contemplated going out just to lift his spirits but a Saturday night out in this small town proved time and time again to be an exercise of futility. Dale could smell the strong aroma of the coffee beans as he sipped the delicacy. He opened up the crumpled paper with the address on it. Rebecca Nair, 1C Toucan Place. Dale pondered over whether he should pay Rebecca a visit. He knew that his visit would not be work related but at least he could pretend that it was. As the last sip of his coffee went down his throat he made up his mind to go. Dale lifted himself from the stupor he was in and headed to the shower. A hot shower combined with pleasant smelling shower gel brought back the smile to his face. Dale looked at the time – five thirty. “Six, should a convenient time, “he thought. Dale locked his door on his way out at precisely six’ o ‘clock. He felt refreshed, revived and ready to take on the night. The town was relatively quite at this time of the day and Dale headed to the area called Silver City. He knew that Toucan Place was a street in this area. His night driving was not what it used to be but Dale was sure not going to let anyone know that he battled to drive at night. At around six thirty, Dale found his destination. He parked in front of a cosy sanctuary that boasted a bewildering array of lighting. Dale cautious of his earlier experience checked around for any signs of a resident canine and proceeded into the yard. He gleefully made his way to the door and rang the doorbell. He heard the tapping of sandals on a wooden floor and announced, “My name is Dale Moodley, I’m from the police department, just following up on a report of mugging.” The door opened and there stood Rebecca, just as beautiful as Dale remembered her. “It took you a long time to respond,” she imperiously said. The security gate was opened and in the light of the passage Rebecca, to Dale’s relief , recognized him. His visit had not gone according to plan because Rebecca asked nothing personal and said nothing about herself. Dale knew ways in which to make a lady warm up to him but he could see that Rebecca was distressed and opted for the more apt approached to get the information he wanted. “Is your husband at home?” “No, I’m not married.” Dale felt like soaring like an eagle, that’s what he wanted to hear. “Could you tell me what happened?” “I thought you would have got the guy by now. Everything was in my report.” “I’ll be handling this case now, could you give me the details.” “I was in the underground parking at the medical centre,” she said, “that maniac attacked me there.” Dale remembered the poor lighting in that parking. “I thought he was a harmless beggar. He broke my window and started to strangle me.” Dale had forgotten the reason he was there and started focusing on her story. “Did he say anything? “ Dale concernedly asked. “That’s the amazing part. He knew my name. He said it is time. He was strong and I couldn’t do anything. Then all of a sudden he looked at my stomach, I’m pregnant by the way, and said it is time for you but not for him. I think he was talking about my baby. He let go of me and disappeared. Dale had heard the word “pregnant” but he was not about to go there. “Did you get a look at him, any description that will make it easy for us? “His eyes, those eyes I would never forget, there were cold. He was going to kill me, I just know it. His grip was tight but his hands were ice cold. He was going to kill me, I tell you. He was not going to stop. He..” Dale understood her ramblings and calmed her down a bit. “Did you get a look at his face.” “Only for a moment , he was black, I mean of African descent. “ Dale remembered Mister Saur’s son reporting that a beggar entered his home. “Could this be the same guy.” Dale thought. The way his day was going Dale did not have to be convinced that he was dealing with the same lunatic. “Did he touch anything.” Dale said hoping to get some prints. “Apart from my throat , I don’t think so.” Dale excused himself saying that there was something he had to fetch from the van but all he wanted to do was to call Veronica. He did not have her number stored on his phone but remembered her leaving the mobile number in the glove compartment of the van. Her number was written on the manila envelope that Clemens had given them. Dale stored the number on his phone and was about to press the call button when the contents of the envelope fell to the floor. The photographs captured earlier fell facing upwards as Dale picked them up one by one . The last one caught his attention. In bold writing the name above the photograph read Venkat Nair. “Could this be , he thought , “ lets give it a try.” Dale took the photograph in with him , sat down on the sofa, and stared Rebecca in the eyes. He felt sorry for her. “Rebecca , can you tell me who this is?,” Dale asked as he handed her the photograph. “It’s my grandfather from my father’s side . He’s dead. What has he got to do with this.” A grandfather clock chimed seven times down the hallway. The first chime startled Dale .He looked down at his watch which showed five minutes before seven. “Your clock’s running a bit fast”, he said. Dale did not want to tell her about the fingerprints and the other victims. “Are you staying with anyone , a friend , a boyfriend perhaps.” “No I stay alone.” “Can you not ask someone to spend the night with you.” “Do you think he is going to come back,” Rebecca sobbed. Dale could not be sure , he had to get everything in perspective first. Dale left his mobile number with her , “ If there’s anything you need , give me a call.” That was going to be his planned exit line , but now it was much more serious. He waited until she had locked up , got into the van and drove of. Dale recalled Veronica’s number on his phone and pressed the dial button. It took eight rings before he heard the familiar voice say hello. “Hi Veronica , its Dale.” “You sound at least half human on the phone.” “No time for wise-cracks, Veronica. I think I’ve come across a survivor of our maniacs schemes.” Where are you?” “At home Dale, where else would I be? “Meet me in fifteen minutes at Curie’s Diner,” Dale said as he hung up not waiting for a response. It took Dale about five minutes to get to Curie’s Diner. He was well known at the diner and often had dinner there. Home cooked meals were the promise every evening and without a doubt Dale enjoyed the food. He knew Veronica would never be there soon so he decided to order a meal. “Aunty Rani, what the special today? “ Dale asked. “Its mutton breyani, with salad, “aunty Rani responded, “with my secret ingredients.” Dale ordered a plate. He was just about to take his first bite when someone tapped him on the shoulder. “Somebody might think this is a date,” Veronica said as she sat next to him. “Try some Veronica, you’ll love in. It’s on me.” “Well don’t mind if I do.” “You’re right it does look like we’re here for pleasure,” Dale said as he took out the envelope laying its contents onto the table. Dale told her about Rebecca’s close encounter. “And the most amazing thing, this man is her grandfather.” Dale said as he pointed to Venkat Nair. “This town is swarming with vagrants. It’ll take a lot of man hours to bring each one in.” “Veronica...” “Dale call me Ronnie, this is our first date after all.” “Ronnie, think about it, anyone can put on a disguise but how do you take prints of the dead and lay them at a crime scene. I think we were avoiding this conversation the entire day. If there ways of doing that, then our killer has sure to be making some sort of statement. There’s got to be some sort of connection here.” “Okay, let’s run it through again. Victim number one Nancy Saur. Still getting details on that one. Victim number two: Gregory Sitheldeen, one of the prints found belonged to his grandfather, Pooben Sitheldeen. Then there’s the girl you found Rebecca Nair, whose grandfather turns out to be Venkat Nair. The third finger print analysis belonged to Albert Saur, let me guess Nancy’s grandfather.” “I’m telling you Ronnie, there’s something not right here.” “Dale, we are going to meet Mister Saur in the morning, maybe he can give us more information.” Veronica shoved her empty plate to the center of the table, “My complements to the chef.” Dale sat there uneasily as Veronica walked out. He thought of phoning Clemens to find out if he had any luck with the last set of prints but knew that Clemens would not answer his phone. He once again looked at the three photographs, “What part do you three play here?” 4 Veronica was the first to arrive at the police station that Sunday morning. Mary who always opened up was not there as yet so Veronica stayed in her car just admiring the lovely morning. She had the same Sunday morning routine for years, get up early, have a good breakfast and enjoy the Sunday morning worship service at the local church. As far back as she could remember she had only missed one other Sunday morning service but that could not be helped. She was in hospital that day fighting to stay alive. Even though it was three years ago, she recalled that part of her life as if it were yesterday. As Veronica gazed at the rising sun she could not help but think how her life was suddenly filled with purpose. It was a Sunday evening when she had a craving for some ice-cream. The nearest shop was a mere two kilometers from home and like a child desperate for a taste of dairy ingenuity she opted to walk to the shop. As she savored the taste of the chocolate covered vanilla cream she heard the screeching of tyres but it was too late to do anything. Someone had rammed her onto the ground hitting her head on the macadamized road. She had fallen into a coma and was diagnosed as being brain dead. She could not understand how the doctor’s arrived at that conclusion for she could hear everything that was being said. She could see everyone that was around her even though her eyes were widely shut. She had convinced herself that probably her other senses were so heightened that she could visualize everyone around her. She felt as though she were hovering over her limp body watching all that came to see her. She was alive and well even though she could not respond to anyone. Rebecca had heard prayers go up to the heavens above , she heard deals being made with God but she knew that God’s will , will be done. It was on that Sunday when she first missed Church that the doctors were going to turn down the life support. The doctor’s had told her family that she would be gone within the hour but when the first two hours had passed the doctor’s surprise turned to astonishment. Four hours after the machines were turned off; Veronica opened her eyes and said something. According to her Pastor who was present with her for most of the time, she said “He wants me to do something. At the Church service the following Sunday Veronica was sitting in the front pew giving her testimony of how she was saved by her glorious Lord. Her Pastors sermon stuck in her head ,” You must have faith , faith in the power of Jesus Christ is the key to overcoming any obstacle.” Veronica watched as the sun shone brighter to mark the start of yet another day. To this day she was not sure why she was sent back. She prayed every morning to God to show her what her purpose in life is but to this day she could not pin point what is was. As she had suspected Dale was always the first to arrive at work. She could not wait to see his surprised look when he saw that it was not the case today. Dale parked the van opposite her and stubbornly stayed rooted to his seat. Veronica got out of her car, activated the central locking and alarm system, and went over to Dale. She jumped in besides him. “Well Sheer-luck Holmes, found any more clues,” she sarcastically uttered. Did Mister Saur contact you?” “No Dale, not as yet.” “Let’s get down to the medical center; we can talk to the boy while we wait. Veronica seemed to be the chatty one and although Dale was unresponsive she continued to talk. “My dad told me that he once won a fishing competition at the Glendee dam. First prize was a week’s stay in Glendee; second prize was two weeks in Glendee.” Dale smiled for the first time that morning, not because he had found her joke humourous, but it was in the way she said it. As Dale turned the corner, he saw a black Mercedes with the license plate SAUR 1 parked in front of the entrance. “Looks like mister Saur does not want us to talk to him,” Dale said. The receptionist watched as Dale and Veronica walked in and without a greeting said “Third room down the passage on your left.” Dale was expecting to see a well dressed man who carried himself with great authority showing no signs of weakness. The opposite was true; Mister Saur was clad in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He was lovingly caressing his son’s hair as the duo entered. Mister Saur looked upon the visitors, “Losing a wife is one of the most painful things a husband has to endure but losing a child is the worst thing a father has to deal with. She was my little princess.” “How’s your son doing, Mr. Saur?” Dale asked “Call me Japs and he’s doing fine. I don’t think he fully comprehends what had transpired. He was a baby when his mother passed away and now this. The questions will come soon enough. How am I going to tell him that I wasn’t there to protect his sister . I can’t comprehend how anyone would do a thing like this. I’ve seen her, officers”. Mr Saur paused for a moment. “ When can I get my baby back?. I haven’t started on any funeral arrangements as yet - . Tell me officers, how can I help?” “We’re following up on some good leads, an arrest is imminent,” Veronica lied. Dale pulled out the photograph of Albert Saur, “Do you recognize this man?” Japs took the photograph from Dale. “I haven’t even thought of this man in years, officers. Albert Saur, he was my father. He stopped being my father a long time before he died. Let me tell you something officers, I am a rich man , a good man and I owe it all to Albert Saur,I made a vow years ago , never to be like him. What has he got to do with my daughter’s murder?” “Can you tell us more about him, how did he die? “To tell you the truth, officers, he was a good for nothing man. The day he died was the day the world became a better place. My mom is still alive; she could answer your questions. Mister Saur handed them the address. Dale did not want to bother the grief stricken man any further , he touched the boy’s head and left. Nil Desperadum was an old age home. Dale could not understand how children leave their parents in places like these. As Dale drove in he heard the laughter of the folk living there filling the air. It seemed like a warm, cosy place to live in. As they walked in they were greeted by all. Dale was really impressed with the atmosphere of happiness that surrounded the home. He was flattered when one of the old ladies pinched his behind as she passed them. Veronica introduced herself to the receptionist and requested to see Mrs. Saur. They were led up to a small but quaint room. Mrs. Saur was sitting up on her bed. “Officers, I was expecting you, you are about fifty years too late.” Dale did not know what she meant but expected senility had caught up on her. As Dale could see either no one told her about Nancy or she just did not understand or was in denial of the whole murder. “Mrs. Saur, we are here about your husband.” “He’s dead you know, murdered years ago,” gasped Mrs. Saur, you want to know him, give me the box on top of the closet.” Dale looked in the closet and found a tin box, he handed over the dusty box, wiping his now dusty fingers on his pants. Mrs. Saur opened the box and pulled out an envelope. She hesitantly handed Dale the envelope. “Read that, then you would know my husband. I found it only after he was murdered. If you have any other questions I am willing to help you. I gave that man the best years of my life. ” Dale opened the hand written letter and read it together with Veronica. My name is Albert, Albert Saur and this transcript serves as a confession, a confession for a crime I committed years ago. A crime, were justice never prevailed. I am making my confession, not to be pardoned but to clear my conscience and to see that justice is done. I have three accomplices each one of which is dead-set on not revealing the truth of what transpired that faithful night. To anyone reading this, I am really sorry for my part in this tragedy. I am now forty five years old and not to old to pay retribution for my wrong-doings. To this day I curse the first moment I set my eyes on Therese. Yes, she had the single most beautiful face that I had ever set my eyes upon and a body that could turn heads but she was also the source of my troubles.. It seemed strange that she so quickly acknowledged my advances and even stranger when she suggested that we go out to dinner. The romance blossomed and I felt like the luckiest man alive but who knew what was in store for me. I was only twenty years old at that time and working for a white farmer cutting sugar cane and what I loved about Therese was the fact that my means of getting an income never bothered her. I laid out my heart to her, I told her my dreams, my fears and what I got in return was an invitation to visit her family. Things were really looking up for me, that could have only meant our relationship was going on to the next level. I remember very clearly that is was a Friday night when I went over to Therese’s home. I received my weekly wage earlier that day and squandered it all on getting new clothes and some very expensive aftershave and not forgetting a bottle of wine. Therese opened up the door and immediately stared down at the bottle of wine which I clutched so tightly. I still remember the look of disdain in her eyes as she said “You shouldn’t have brought that.” Like a vampire getting a whiff of some fresh blood a young lad about my age swooped down and grabbed the bottle out of my hand. “I like you already,” he laughed. I was introduced to Therese’s mom and at that time I had no idea whether I should call her mom or aunty. She had a nervous look in her eyes but at that time I thought it might have been the uncouth behaviour of her son and it was just the embarrassment that made her look that way. “Venkat, come and meet Albert, Therese called out. I still cringe at the sound of that name. “Mister Nair , come here.” I can write down every word that was uttered that night but as the kids say nowadays “cut to the chase.” When Venkat appeared he was holding half a bottle of wine and no glass. At that instant I arrived at two conclusions, he was drinking straight from the bottle and he had an alcohol problem. That night was not about getting to know and bond with Therese’s family; it turned out to be a night of listening to tall tales concocted by Venkat. I guess Therese was so used to this that she actually thought I was enjoying myself of which later on I lied by commenting on a very pleasant evening. Little did I know that Venkat would be a bad influence upon my life, an influence that I never really welcomed. The Saturday that followed was the one Saturday in the last three months that I was of from work and as luck would have it, it was the day that I met my other two accomplices. I was literally forced by Therese to join Venkat and his friends for a fishing trip. I did not know the first thing about fishing and would have preferred spending the day with Therese. Venkat picked me up at around four thirty in the morning and the front seat was reserved for me. The back seat was occupied by two young men who were covered under a blanket. I was introduced to them and yet again two names that I never want to hear again, Pooben Sitheldeen and Sarinda Kooben. We all were about the same age, give or take a couple of years but they seemed to be in a different category. Where I was a bit mature and looking for ways I could improve my life, they were like teenagers looking out for a good time. The topic of conversation for the entire day was “get rich quick schemes” of which my superior intellect always thwarted their ideas. Even though they were rambling with obscene ideas I had to admire the extent they were prepared to go to get hold of cash. The desire for a better life is in everyone’s mind and a better life starts with money and lots of it. I remember Pooben asking the wage of a canecutter; it was then that I realized cutting sugar cane would never get me to where I want to go. Venkat who seemed to be the dominant personality among the grouped hinted at his friends to stay quite while he engaged in conversation with me. This as I recall started the whole downward spiral in my life. “Who owns the fields?” “Master Louw, he’s a good man.” “Must be a rich man.” “He lives comfortably.” “Any children.” “Ya, two of them, twins, must be around eight years old.” At that moment I felt that I had divulged too much of information but it all seemed like harmless chit-chat. Little did I know that Venkat’s twisted mind was already concocting some heinous plan using my information as a base point. During the next two months I began spending more time with Venkat and his comrades. It always seemed difficult to comprehend how three guys who were unemployed always had money to spend on drinks and party’s. It all came clear to me when I was invited on one of their night escapades. It was one of those nights when the rain came down in torrents and engulfed any available light. The four of us were once again sitting in the car, with me occupying the front passenger seat as it was now the custom, driving around aimlessly or so I thought. Venkat drove into the sugar cane fields and suddenly stopped. The three of them got out, stepped into the fields and in a matter of seconds re-appeared. Venkat had in his possession a large plastic bag. He walked with it, opened the door and tossed it on my lap. “That’s our meal ticket, he said.” He casually drove back into town, stopped at a dilapidated house, ran into the house with the plastic packet and emerged holding a manila envelope. Venkat opened the envelope in the car which was bulging with cash; he took out around five hundred rands and stuffed the rest into the envelope. In a matter of minutes we were back in the sugar cane fields and this time the envelope was placed in a packet and left in the fields. “We’re runners, “ Venkat said. “You won’t be running much when you are in jail,” I thought. I remember warning Venkat, “ Marijuana is a bad deal.” But I had to admit five hundred rands for half an hours work, was a sure good deal. In the weeks that followed , as circumstance would have it , I become a bit more involved in the drug business. As this marks my confession the one thing I did not do was to be a user of the drugs. With the extra cash I was able to treat Therese to the things she deserved but as human nature would have it , the money was not enough. The dreary plan was put into place on yet another one of our fishing trips. Venkat who was high on the joint that he had just relished had suddenly gotten into a communication frenzy, “ Guys you know what can take us out of this rat-hole we’re in , KIDNAPPING. I’ve seen it done on TV. Let’s kidnap some kid and ask for a huge ransom, nothing could be easier” . I found myself actually listening to his idea , as long as no one got hurt it seemed like an easy task and the money we could get would certainly make living much more comfortable. “That farmer boss of yours , Albert , he’s rich and his kids are young, lets take one of them .” I at first did not agree but upon further thought , it would be easy , the kids do pretty much what they want on the farm and abducting one of them would be easy. That afternoon the plan was put in place . The ransom as Venkat had decided would be fifty thousand rands. The whole plan was to unfold on the following Friday , a day were wages are paid and the farm was relatively quite. We were to transport the child to Pooben’s outhouse where his old mother would be none the wiser. After receiving my weekly wages I spoke to Claudette , the older of the twins , “ Your father wants you to go to the dam , “ I lied. I watched as the innocent girl ran happily to the dam thinking that this was the day when she could have a swim. My part was done . Venkat , Pooben and Sarinda were to do the rest. The ransom note that I had written was to be dropped at the dam where it would surely be found. We had thought of everything , where the money was to dropped of , who would drop the ransom of and we stressed non involvement from the police. I went over to Pooben’s place later that afternoon , everything had gone as planned. Not a single thought of apathy crossed my mind , the only focus I had was on the money we were to receive the next day. As usual the next morning I was at work at six’ o’clock . We were only a skeleton staff that day and farmer Louw called up a meeting. I just knew what he was about to say. “Yesterday my daughter was kidnapped and whoever took her really means business. I want to get her back but I need a volunteer.” He never really said it that way but that was the crux of his announcement. This was my cue , according to our plan , to volunteer. I quickly raised my hand and was given the task , which was already mine, of delivering the ransom. As night fell I clutched onto the bag that contained my dreams , jumped into farmer Louw’s van and headed out into the plantations. It was a quick switch and I was back with the girl an hour later. I was deemed a hero that night and embarrassingly I played my part like an Oscar winner. It was the first time that I was embraced by a white woman and given so many praises as Mrs. Louw kept topping up my wine glass. I had done well and to further enhance the glorious day , young Claudette who was very traumatized by the entire experience never remembered my lie to her earlier that day. We manipulated a rich , uneducated farmer who would soon forget about this nasty experience. The family was re-united and I could not wait to get back to the guys. As we had discussed earlier we would all meet at Venkat’s house. Venkat, Pooben and Sarinda had broad smiles on their faces that not even the strongest tornado could wipe out. The next two minutes were filled with hugs and cheers as we celebrated our newly acquired wealth. Fifty thousand rands split four ways was indeed a huge sum of money and discussions ensued on how each was going to spend his share of the loot. It was about three ‘o ‘clock in the afternoon when an unfamiliar knock on the door threw us out of our jubilee. As with any criminal, negative thoughts flooded my mind. Venkat strolled over to the door and opened it. At that precise moment I could not hide my surprise, it was Sipho: one of the guys that worked on Mister Louw’s farm. He did not hesitate and looked me directly in the eye and said “I know what you guys did.” My heart sank to the lowest part of my being as I tried to convince him that he was surely wrong. When the word, police, came to be part of our conversation Venkat stopped denying the truth of our involvement in the kidnapping. “I want a share in the money,” Sipho mentioned. As usual Venkat took the lead role in the decision making. “The money is not here,” he said, “meet us at seven ‘o ‘clock tonight and I’ll give you your share.” I could not believe how our luck had just changed but left everything to be handled by Venkat. He was the one you could handle rough situations like this. Money could sure change people, Sipho was back at the house at exactly seven ‘o ‘clock. He was never on time a single day for work and here he was sitting in the house with a smug look on his face. How I wished that I could make him just disappear. We all jumped into the car with Sipho sitting in my place. “We are going into the sugar cane fields “, Venkat announced, “The money is safely hidden there.” I could not believe that up to this point I never enquired about where the money was stashed. It was now dark and the faulty headlights of the car did not reveal much. Conversation in the car came to a standstill as we each eagerly waited for this night to draw to a conclusion. It was an unusually long drive into the cane fields. The car came into a halt and we all got out. Venkat, Pooben and Sarinda went to the boot suggesting that they needed a shovel. It was too late for me to intervene on their plans as I saw Venkat raise the shovel over his head and bring it viciously down on Sipho’s head. The gang seemed suddenly possessed as each one raised a weapon from the boot and began to mercilessly beat Sipho. Pooben had with him a five pound hammer which literally crushed Sipho’s skull. They cursed him as his limp body lay there pulverized by the force of their blows. At that moment the clouds seemed to open up as rain pelted our sweaty faces. The ground was soft from all the recent rains which made it easy for us to dig a deep grave to hide the evidence that could have detrimentally affected our lives. I cannot recall the exact location of the grave but this all definitely happened. The next day I collected my money and left, leaving behind a heartbroken Therese. To this day Sipho haunts my dreams. Once again I am sorry for my part in his death and will pay any price to make things right. Albert Saur. “This is the key, Ronnie. This is all somehow connected. These bastards killed a man and they got away with it.” “Who is Sarinda Kooben?” “I bet that’s who the last set of prints belongs to.” “He always spoke about it, “Mrs. Saur intervened, said Sipho is coming back. Those dreams made him insane, not that he wasn’t a lunatic to start of with but he was afraid, he was very afraid. He got what he deserved.” “How did your husband die, Mrs. Saur,” Veronica asked. “Please, don’t call him my husband. He used to always say that something or someone is coming to get him. I would have murdered him myself, on several occasions, but somebody beat me to it.” “How did he die,” Veronica repeated. “They found his body down by the railway tracks. He was smashed to pieces by a train. His hands and legs were still tied to the tracks. Good thing to, the remains fitted into a box so I didn’t have to spend much on a coffin. Odd thing though his middle finger on both hands were sawn of. I guess the killer wanted a trophy.” “Our murderer is exacting his revenge on the family members, one by one. Must be a relative of their victim and the missing finger must have been preserved to be used again, “Veronica said. “Ronnie, you are not going to like my theory but here goes. Suppose Sipho did come back, killed Albert and is now after the grandchildren. I know this sounds ludicrous but I’ve heard of stories like this before. Clemens can check up on Sarinda Kooben and the cause of death for the others. We are dealing with something supernatural here.” 5 Rebecca did not get much sleep and woke up feeling groggy. She felt an uncomfortable pain around her neck that even a touch made her cringe in pain. She stood on her bed and opened up the curtains. The iridescent clouds looking like mother of pearl filled the skies. She could not get anyone to stay with her and felt disheartened at the friends she thought she had. She could not take the feeling of despair any longer and reached for the phone speed dialing her mom. Rebecca who always wanted to prove her independence to her mother felt very foolish to put this burden on her mother’s lap but she had no other option. “Hello, mom, yes its Rebbie. How are you? Rebecca tried as far as possible to tone down the incident but she knew how her mother would react. “Get dressed baby, I’m coming to pick you up.” The phone went dead. Rebecca had a shower and then got dressed. She kept thinking, “When am I going to tell mom that I’m pregnant.” As she was drying her hair, the doorbell rang. She could hear her mother, “Open up, it’s me.” As Rebecca’s mom, Rachel, entered she said “Pack your bags, you coming home.” Rebecca had this quarrel on numerous occasions, “I am home.” she thought, but this was not the day to argue. Rachel helped her daughter get a few things together and helped her into the car. “Where’s dad?” Rebecca asked. “I’m going to pick him up; he’s getting a few things from the store.” Rebecca saw her father at the entrance of the store; he was carrying a rather large packet. He jumped in the back put his loving hands on his daughter’s shoulder, “Are you okay, angel.” Rebecca had just to peek at the packet. It was filled with fruits, half a litre of milk and a coco-nut. She immediately knew what her mother was up to. “No. mom, please tell me you didn’t.” “It’s for your own good Rebbie.” The drive took them up signal hill and Rebecca could not hide her frustration any longer. “If I knew you were going to do this, I would have never told you about the attack.” “You’ve got bad wind, child.” “Don’t say it like that, it sounds crude.” “Okay, bad luck, is that better? Pundit Neru can help you.” Rachel turned of into a dirt road and drove a few kilometers until she parked the car under the shade of a sycamore tree. “Com’on darling, Pundit is waiting for us.” Rebecca had recalled that she once before visited Pundit Neru, but that was more to do with her father. Even though she was young she did recall that her mother brought her father here so that the pundit would cure him of his alcohol problem. The thing she, at her tender age, found extremely strange was that other than the fruits and coconuts they were also asked to bring a bottle of hard liquor. Little did her mother know that Pudit Neru with the help of her father finished drinking that bottle way before the prayer was over . Now that she was the centre of attraction made her feel more uncomfortable and the more she thought about it the more she didn’t want to be there. The family were greeted by an old man sporting as Rebecca called it a modern day dhoti. “Do you think that’s Donna Karan,” Rebecca teased. “Don’t be so rude, darling.” Just as they had done on their previous visit, shoes were left in the car and the three of them accompanied Pundit Neru barefoot into the temple. Rebecca with her dainty feet felt the rough tufts of grass poke her feet but she knew better than to complain. The captivating aroma of burning incense sticks filled the insides of the temple. Rebecca wondered if anybody had come here to have their asthma cured, she was eager to ask but she didn’t want to offend the pundit. The ceremony had started and Rebecca quietly questioned her mother, “Does he know what he is praying for?” Pundit Neru took the coco-nut and with one fierce thrust split the fruit into two spilling the sweet nectar onto the temple floor. He lit three more incense sticks and continued to pray .Even though Rebecca understood Hindi, the dialect and speed at which he was saying it made it incomprehensible. It was then that he paused, “You are now blessed my child, I have taken all your bad luck away.” “That’s it, “Rebecca said gladly. “There’s one more thing I want you to do, “said Neru, “there are forces out there that are even more powerful. Do you believe in Blackmagic? It exists but it takes a special person to rid yourselves of it.” “Oh, for goodness sakes, mom. Don’t tell me you are going to believe everything he says. Let’s go.” pleaded Rebecca. That remark invited a menacingly stare from Neru as he continued, “I know a man, he has done some work for me in the past. If you really want to rid yourself of any future bad luck I recommend he come to your home, cleanse it and you of any evil spirits. Don’t worry Mrs. Nair, he is very discreet. “How much is this whole thing going to cost?” Mr. Nair raised an eyebrow. “Well it is a bit expensive, say about two thousand rands.” “Make the arrangements.” Rachel said with finality. Back in the car Rebecca was infuriated with her parent’s foolishness. “How much did you pay him, dad.” “Five hundred rands.” “Five hundred rands for what. Three incense sticks and a few words of prayer .You even threw in the fruits. You old people and your beliefs. Now you are going to spend another two thousand rands getting someone else to do the same thing.” Rebecca caught her mother’s reprehensible stare through the rearview mirror. It was the same stare that scared discipline into her during her younger days. “Okay, mom, do whatever you want.” The drive home was filled with a noisy silence as Rebecca played in her head the numerous occasions her mother annoyed her. If she closed her eyes she could visualize and hear her mother reprimanding her for something and if she opened her eyes he could not help but look at her mom occupying the front seat. She really loved her mother a lot but at times they could never see eye to eye. Two woman in the same house , she remembered an expression like that, they started a war years ago, at first it was waged for her fathers affection and then it was for everything else. Rebecca was glad that they were on their way to her father’s house and as they passed the familiar street she could not help but recollect the joyous summer days she spent playing on those roads with her friends. Those were the days when worries were little and friends were everything. The indicator light flickered as the car turned into the drive-way. Rebecca had not visited in months and she could see the grass had really had time to develop and sprout voraciously over the paved driveway. She had expected her mother to comment about it but was surprised that she didn’t. A rusted out pale yellow van pulled up behind them. “Now, who in the world is visiting us,” Rachel asked not expecting her husband to reply. “Maybe it’s your expensive pundit.” The van door opened and out stepped two gentlemen sporting the traditional Zulu attire. They slowly approached. Rebecca’s father jumped out of the car and introduced himself. “I know who you are, “said the one with the huge traditional hat over his head, “Pundit Neru sent me over, said you needed my help.” Rachel quickly jumped out the car and invited the men inside , not that she was trying to be hospitable but to make sure that none of the neighbours had the chance to see what was going on. They all sat in the dining room waiting to get the conversation started and when Rebecca saw that each was waiting for the other to start, she initiated first contact. “Are you a witch-doctor?” “No, young lady, that is such an out dated title, “the visitor responded with impeccable enunciation, “We prefer the title traditional healer. My name is Cedrick Nxumalo and this is my assistant Thozo Khoza. “ Rebecca introduced her family to him.” What is it that you are going to do?” “I’m going to protect you, protect you from the dark forces out there.” “The only dark force in my life is the men I meet,” Rebecca thought. “Let’s get started, “Cedrick announced, “but first I would like to be paid. Two thousand rands.” Rebecca wanted all of this insanity to be over and did not comment when her mother handed over the money. Rebecca tried to observe as the ritual had begun. Cedrick took them outside, broke a branch covered in leaves from her mother’s prized garden, and began hysterically shaking it walking round the house chanting in a language that was incomprehensible to Rebecca. Much to Rachel’s anguish some of the neighbours drew open their curtains to be observers of this ritual. The shaking of the branches which supposedly warded of evil spirits was done in every room of the house. Cedrick returned to the dining room and motioned for Rebecca to sit next to him. Out of his bag he pulled out a small blade. The edges were rusted out a bit.” “What are you going to do with that,” Rebecca cried out. “I need a little of your blood.” “Stop,” Rachel shouted. Rebecca was glad to hear her mother’s voice, “The old lady has finally come to her senses,” Rebecca thought. “Use this new blade,” Rachel said. Cedrick, with the new blade in his hand, parted Rebecca’s hair and made a small but painful incision on her scalp. Rebecca winced in pain. He undid the top button of her shirt and made a slightly larger incision on her chest. The blood trickled out but none was taken. “Where is your place of worship?” Cedrick asked. He was led to the back yard. Thozo who fetched a spade from the van was back and handed it to Cedrick to started digging right where Rachel’s holy stones were placed. As the hole got deeper the family just stood there in bewildering silence. The moist ground provided the ease to easily manipulate the hole and Cedrick with his bare hands reached into it pulling out something which he held clenched in his palms. He took it over to the tap and allowed the cool running water to wash away the dirt. Rebecca took a step forward. It was a small pouch bulging at its seams. “This is the source,” Cedrick said. “What’s inside?” Rachel asked. The bag was placed on the ground as Cedrick carefully pulled at the drawstrings and emptied the contents onto the floor. “Rebecca almost chocked on her own vomit. A decapitated rodent’s head with a little of its unrecognizable guts lay on the floor. Cedrick sifted through the worm infested guts and pulled out a small metallic object. He rinsed it with the water and showed it to Rebecca. “Any of you recognize this? he asked. Cedrick held up a gold earring which was immediately recognized by Rachel. “It’s mine,” she said, “but how did it get in there?” Cedrick put the contents of the pouch into his pocket, washed his hand and said, “It is now over, this house is cleansed, you are cleansed.” Rebecca knew all of this was impossible and could have kicked herself for not being more observant. Cedrick picked up his belongings and left. “You can thank me later,” Rachel said as she went back into the house. 6 Veronica recognized two out of every three cars that they passed on their way back into town. These were the regulars at her Church and they were all returning home from what must have been a good service. It was then that an idea sprang up in her mind, “Turn of here Dale,” she motioned. Dale followed her directions without questions and soon found himself driving into a Church. “Wait here, Dale, give me a few seconds.” Veronica wasn’t joking and after a few seconds she was back, “Let’s go Dale, we can use Pastor’s office.” “Use his office, for what?” “We are going to do a little searching for ourselves.” They were greeted at the door by a timid old lady, “Hi, Ronnie, “she said, “missed you at service today.” Dale had guessed that this was the pastor’s wife and raised a hand in his greeting. He was hugged by her and given a warm greeting, “Nice to have you with us, Brother.” “He’s not Christian, “Veronica interrupted. “Well we can wait, can’t we?” Dale could not be sure as to what she meant by that remark. “Pastor has said that we could use his computer,” Veronica said, “got some research that needs to be carried out.” Veronica sat behind a huge oak desk that seemed to be as old as the church. Dale grabbed a seat behind her and watched as she logged on . The internet seemed all to confusing to Dale and he just observed in amazement as Veronica used it. “While helping Pastors daughter with a school project I stumbled upon something very interesting , “ she said , “ Glendee has an official site on the web. What’s more amazing is that the local newspaper has every edition ever printed on this site. Ah , there it is .” “You’re right , that is amazing I didn’t even know we had a local newspaper.” “My grandfather started this newspaper back in 1950 , Dale.” “ Now what , Ronnie , you going to read every article .” “Watch this .” Rebecca typed in “ Venkat Nair” and depressed the search icon . The computer was surely working as Dale saw the green blocks rapidly light up. One of the articles in a November 1954 edition was highlighted. Veronica zoomed in and read out the caption. Fishing trip turned nasty. This was the same photograph that was in the van. They read further: The body of Venkat Nair , 53 , was fished out of Hattings Dam yesterday afternoon. Family and friends concur that he was on one of his weekly fishing expeditions. Dale read further down: His forefingers on both hand s were chopped of or probably eaten by the eels. Police are investigating. “Print this out Ronnie.” The colour copier jerked to a start and spewed out a copy faded at the ends. “This will have to do.” Veronica scrolled down a bit . “I can bet this months salary that I am going to find another interesting article in this paper.” Veronica kept on scrolling until she stopped at another article . The caption read : Strange killings shock town. Dale perused the article trying to sort out the necessary bits. “Pooben Sitheldeen , 54 , found hanging from the rafters.His hands were pulverized to a pulp. No suspects thus far. Police are investigating. Veronica went through the entire paper but could not find any stories about Albert Saur or Sarinda Kooben. “We know what happened to Albert, “Dale said impatiently , “ do a search on Sarinda. I’m curious to know who this guy is or as we know now , was.” Veronica typed in the name and as before the green blocks were being lit up. Much to Dale’s dissatisfaction the results were not found. “This is our mystery guy,” Veronica said. The knock on the study door startled Veronica as she jerked her head backwards sending a fiery piercing pain down her spine. “Sorry to startle you, “pastor Bill said, “found what you were looking for.” Veronica held the back of her neck, greeting her pastor once again. “Come now, Ronnie, let’s get that sorted out.” As Veronica left the room Dale seized the opportunity to do a little research of his own. He had quickly learnt what needed to be done and he slowly typed in: “ghosts and demons”. The web page revealed itself slowly which had Dale tapping on the CPU in an attempt to hurry the search along. With his ears slightly turned towards the door and his eyes fixed unto the screen Dale started to read the little information that popped up on the screen. “WHAT ARE GHOSTS?” “When a person dies only his physical body ceases to exist. His subtle body continues to exist and moves on to the other regions of the universe. The subtle body comprises of the following: The Supracausal body or the subtle ego – the feeling that we separate from God. The Causal body or the intellect – our decision making process and reasoning ability. The Soul – The God within each of us. The mental body or mind – Our feelings emotions and desires. The Vital body – sustaining energy of the body. The Physical body – comprising of the five senses, tissue, blood and organs.” “What in the world are they talking about,” Dale whispered, “can’t they just give me what I want.” “That’s an interesting topic “said a voice from behind, “what’s your take on it.” Pastor Bill sat next to Dale and introductions were made. “Ronnie tells me that you are assigned to the recent murder cases. Not that I want you to divulge any sensitive information but have you got any suspects.” Veronica was gone a long while and Dale concluded that she must have told her pastor about the case. He remembered something about Pastor’s not divulging information given to them , something to do with an oath. “Sorry , I’m not sure what I should call you,” Dale said. “Pastor, will do.” Dale could not help himself . The man seated beside him had a certain gentleness and warmth about him and besides that Dale knew that he would get a better understanding if he spoke to the pastor. Dale revealed to him all the necessary details about the case . He then proceeded with his theory. “I think we are dealing with something that is not human.” Dale said. “There is a war raging, Dale, between good and evil. As a Christian I can tell you that demons do exist. They move around the earth seeking who they can devour. Don’t get me wrong Dale, they cannot physically harm you but they try to influence your life, basically bringing you to bring forth sin into your life. Remember demons were the angels that fell from God’s grace. You need to visit me some time Dale, I sense that you have potential that you are unaware of.” “How do you get rid of these demons?” “We can caste out a demon that inhabits a person’s body, letting it loose to find another host.” “I know that, Pastor, I have watched “ movie, . Dale recollected how the evil spirits were removed from the young girl’s body. “But , how do you get rid of a demon so that it no longer roams the earth.” The book of Revelation , tell us that this war will end when our Lord , Jesus Christ , comes down to earth , no longer as the lamb but as a warrior and defeats Satan and his army. He will then banish him into the deepest and darkest of all pits.” “So what I am gathering is that when a person dies , he cannot become a demon.” “That I cannot say for sure , but in my opinion it is not probable.” Pastor Bill immediately saw that Dale was looking for something that would allow him to build up on his case. “However , Dale , I did a bit of research on this subject during my bible school days. When a person dies , he is judged by God . But this is where I have to warn you , only believers make it that far. Based upon God’s judgment , the soul proceeds to the afterlife. Like we are both aware of, this world is filled with many sick and cruel people: murderers , rapists , paedophiles , scum of the earth. Some people are so bent on evil , you might think that they are Satan’s offspring. To go with your theory , Dale , when such a person dies their spirit roams the earth just looking to do more evil. Some scholars say that they are trying to get themselves into Satan’s army. “ “But aren’t they supposed to be the slaves of Satan?” Dale enquiringly asked. “That’s true , but some have managed to beat Satan at his own game, momentarily I may add.” “So how do I send this spirit to where he belongs.” Pastor Bill hesitated for a moment , looking up at the ceiling. Dale focused on his stare for his gaze seemed to be penetrating the roof looking up into the Heavens. “You need to find that out for yourself , Dale.” “Is there anything else you want to talk to me about, Dale?” “I don’t think so; we’ll definitely get to the bottom of this.” “That’s not what I am talking about. I feel that something weighs heavy on you, if you talk about it I’m sure it will help.” Dale seemed to be confused at the turn of the conversation. “Maybe I’m not the happiest person on the planet but nothing is bothering me,” Dale thought. Veronica barged in with a look of discontent in her eyes. Dale then knew that she had not discussed the case with Pastor Bill. “We can talk later, Dale.” Pastor Bill said as he sensed the tension in the room. Back in the van Dale was filled with a sense of guilt. He always thought that Veronica would be the one to talk her mouth of and here he was guilty of doing what he thought she would do. “Do you like him?” Veronica asked “Well he seems like a man any one would like.” “Don’t be so disappointed Dale, Pastor Bill has that effect on people. I’ve found myself telling him secrets even though I tried not to. He’s a man of God and he has a great talent of being a good listener. I guess that’s what makes him a great pastor.” “Where to now?” Dale looked at his watch. Let’s get something to eat, my choice and my treat. “You won’t see me turning up an offer like that Ronnie. Where to?” Dale ate every bit of the pie, sucking his fingers as if to savor the taste for a while longer. “That was by far the best pie I have ever tasted, Ronnie, and mark my words I have tasted many pies.” “Glad you enjoyed it.” The little Bistro episodically had a customer enter, pick up their food which was most likely ordered telephonically, and leave. Dale didn’t think it was a place where very many people actually sat in and started feeling a little uncomfortable. The Bistro reminded him of a diner he had watched in the movies, the bell tied to the door alerted the owner of customers but Dale thought of it as quite annoying. As Dale sipped on his strong coffee, the bell rang out again. Mrs. Labuschagne, the owner, who Dale thought of as a timid old lady who wouldn’t harm a fly hysterically yelled out, “Get out of here, we don’t serve your kind.” Dale turned around only to get a back view of the recipient of further curses. Dale, not wanting to offend Veronica and Mrs. Labuschagne, turned back and took the final sip of his beverage. A kitchen utensil clanking on the floor brought Dale’s attention back to the visitor. The dirt ridden trench coat and the big hat obscured the view of the vagrant as he stood there with outstretched arms. The man turned to Dale and hissed “Daaale”. Veronica, who suddenly appeared to have catlike instinct and agility, jumped to her feet un-holstering her weapon and pointing it at the vagrant. With agility surpassing that of Veronica the vagrant jumped back, opened the door and ran out into the street. Even though Dale hesitated he was after the man, running at full velocity. The man seemed old but to Dale’s astonishment, the old man kept on running and at times seemed to be running faster. Dale felt the encapsulating burn in his chest, his muscles ached but he kept on going. The old man ran down an alley and as soon as Dale reached the alley, he had lost his assailant. “Where the hell could you have gone.” Dale bent down, hands on his knees, trying you breathe and resuscitate his aching muscles when he was grabbed from behind and turned around. The swift motion of grabbing Dale from behind, spinning him in the air and grabbing his throat left Dale with little chance of fighting back. The old man yanked Dale closer to him. Dale smelt his malodorous breath but could not say anything. “Your time will come, Dale.” The sound of a single gunshot echoed through the alley as Dale was released. As he fell to the ground his hands automatically went for his gun. His holster was empty. Veronica came running towards Dale, “I definitely shot him Dale, right in the head.” Dale took a few seconds to get his bearings right and expected to see the body of the man in the alley.” “Where is he?” Veronica looked around but the only evidence she could find was the hat left behind by the vagrant. Using the tip of her fingers she carefully picked it up ,” He’s gone .” Dale dusted himself of and scanned the area. “That guy had the strength of a bear, Ronnie.” “He called you by your name, Dale, any idea who it was.” “I think we both know who it was. What did he want with me? He told me that my time will come, Ronnie. We’ve got an even bigger problem; I think I dropped my weapon while chasing him.” “I was right behind you Dale, if that had happened; I would have seen it fall to the ground. Maybe it’s somewhere around here.” Veronica did a quick scan of the area but there was no possible place that a gun could be concealed and especially when it accidentally falls from a holster. “Do you think he took it, Ronnie?” “What would he do with a gun?” Dale started to make his way back to the bistro with Veronica very close to him. To a passerby they could pass of as lovers as they walked side by side whispering to each other. “This is something we would have to keep to ourselves, Ronnie. Nobody is going to believe this. “ “But what about dispensing my weapon,”came back the reply,”I would have to report it.” “Hold that of for a while. Do you think we are in over out heads? I mean how can we all of a sudden become targets.” “The way things looked, Dale, he was after you and not me. “The closer we get to solve this case, the more dangerous it becomes.” Dale said. “What now Dale.” “Lets call it a day, I need to get home.” After Dale had dropped Veronica of at the station, he was on his way home. Driving through town on a Sunday afternoon was pleasurable with only the occasional motorist on the road. Dale had his arm out of the window and was driving considerably slower than the allowed speed limit. Just over the next robot Dale looked upon a small crowd of drunks. The local tavern was buzzing with excitement as Dale came to a complete stop just in front of the entrance. Even though nothing illegal was going on majority of the crowd dispersed, some went into the tavern while others walked away. Dale left the van on the road and proceeded into the tavern. The stench of beer filled the room. To Dale it seemed that he was not only getting the foul stench of old beer but also the vitriolic smell of urine. He walked up to the counter with the owner protected behind a steel mesh. Dale was greeted by the well dressed owner and immediately smelled the alluring aroma of the rum and maple tobacco that emanated from his pipe. “What can I do for you, officer,” he said, “nothing illegal going on here.” “Give me a bottle of whiskey,” Back in the van, Dale put the bottle of whisky on the seat and drove of .He could see in his rear-view window that the crowd had reassembled. As Dale entered his apartment he put the bottle on the kitchen sink and took out a glass from the cabinet. Dale was not much of a drinker, but he poured himself almost half a glass of whisky. With one quick gulp he downed the alcohol and then poured himself another. He could not savour the taste of the alcohol so he downed this one with the same ease as the previous. In a matter of minutes Dale could feel the tension in his body fade away. This was accompanied by a light-headed feeling and an urge to close his eyes. Dale slumped down onto his bed and allowed the alcohol to take control over his body. Dale was soon in a deep sleep; much induced by the rate in which he had imbibed the whisky. He could feel himself floating into a cascading waterfall that sent sensations of pleasure through his body. He could see Veronica at the bottom of the waterfall, bare-chested, rubbing her hands across her hair beckoning him to come to her. He could see the eagles soaring through the deep blue sky boasting of their everlasting freedom. Just as a viewer would change the television channel the waterfall scene had ended just as fast as it had begun. Dale found himself in a room. The smell of anaesthetic permeated from the room. The recently polished tiled floors allowed him to see his own reflection as he momentarily looked around. It was a hospital room, not adequately illuminated but enough for him to be comfortable with. Dale walked towards the bed which had the curtains drawn. He pulled open the curtain only to find Rebecca lying there, with blood covering the white sheets. Dale woke up sweating all over. 6 With Cedrick and his accomplice gone, Rebecca was in no mood to talk to anyone. She went into the kitchen to get something to eat. The doorbell rang as Rachel went to answer. Nosy neighbours irritated Rebecca but she felt good knowing that her mother would have to do some explaining. Despite trying to be better than her mother, Rebecca knew that in one aspect she would never be better than Rachel and that was in the kitchen. Rachel already had the chicken curry on the stove. The table was laid out with salads and the roti. As Rebecca took her first bite, she held her stomach and grimaced in pain. The pain had momentarily gone away but was soon back stronger than ever. Rebecca had thought that the pain could not get any worse but that was just what had happened. She fell to the floor, clutching the tummy in the hope that the pain would subside. In the midst of her pain she felt her fathers safe hands pick her up. Just as he had always taken all past discomfort away, the pain had gone away the moment he had lifted her up. “Dad, “she said,”something is wrong, take me to the hospital.” In the car, the pain had returned. Rachel was rubbing her tummy as her father drove. “What have you done to her, Rachel “he screamed, “you and your superstitions.” At the medical center Rebecca was put into a wheelchair and wheeled up to reception. The receptionist handed Mr. Nair the necessary forms and immediately asked him who the family doctor was. At that point Rebecca intervened. “Call Dr. Frankton.” “But Dr. Frankton is a gynaecologist, “Rachel said as she put her hands over her mouth and finally made the connection. Rebecca was taken into one of the rooms. Two hours later Rachel spotted Dr. Frankton leaving the medical centre. As like any concerned mother she yelled out to him and ran towards him. “What’s wrong with my daughter?” “She had some complications. We had to terminate her pregnancy. She’s awake; you can go and see her. “ Rachel rushed into the room and held her daughter’s hand. “You should have told me, Rebbie.” “Not now mom,” Rebecca cried,” leave me alone.” “She has to rest,” commented a nurse that had just come into the room,” she is in safe hands now; let us take care of her.” Rachel sensed that she was not wanted and decided to give Rebecca some time before giving her the third degree. “I’ll wait outside “was all she could muster. “Now dear, “said the nurse,” don’t worry I’m sure that you and your husband could try again.” Rebecca could not fathom why she felt a sense of loss. After all she did not want to have a baby in the first place. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on happier times. Still groggy from the medication Rebecca felt a hand on her thigh. She did not open her eyes expecting it to be her mother coming to offer some unwanted advice. She felt the hand moving up her thigh and finally resting on her stomach. She opened her eyes only to meet the stare of the old man who attacked her in the parking garage. “What do you want from me?” “I want you, Rebecca.” She tried to scream but his hand was over her throat making it impossible for her to scream out. In his other hand he held a scalpel. Rebecca could hear some commotion outside her room. She heard a male voice screaming:”Rebecca, Rebecca Nair, which room is she in “Rebecca could feel the blade tearing open the stomach as she fell into an everlasting sleep. As Dale had dreamt, he was in a hospital room. The curtains were drawn and as Dale opened them up he saw Rebecca lying there, eyes gazing into eternity. Blood still flowed out of her lifeless body and it seemed that part of her intestines flowed out to. On her chest laid Dale’s fire-arm. 7 On this particular Monday morning Dale was all of his routine. He had gotten up late and was feeling the after effects of over-drinking. Of all days captain Smit wanted to see him first thing in the morning. The cold shower did not do much in terms of ridding him of an unwelcome head-ache and he was further delayed by a phone call from his mother. “How’s my boy doing?” “Got anybody special in your life?” “Are you getting enough to eat?” Dale had come to an understanding that those three questions were what he had to put up with each time he spoke to his mother. The conversation took a turn for the worse. “I’m coming to visit you this evening, dear. Don’t worry about cooking anything. I’m your mother, I will sort that out.” Dale as with numerous other occasions could not say no. He got dressed and left for work. As Dale pulled up to the station he was greeted by Captain Smit who was enjoying his morning smoke. Without further conversation Smit ushered Dale into his office. Veronica sat there crossed legged and Dale could not help but stare at her breasts. “I must stop doing that.” He took a seat close to her. Veronica reached over and put her hand on top of his as if to comfort him for what they expected Smit to do to them. “Dale, I sent you out to get me some answers. Now we have a dead girl on our hands and your gun found at the crime scene. Don’t worry Dale, you know that I am a fair man, I will give you a few minutes to gather your thoughts and maybe then you can explain to me what is going on.” Dale unbecomingly looked onto Veronica seeking her approval. She nodded. Veronica added in bits of their theories as Dale went through the entire experience leaving out the dream he had .Captain Smit merely nodded as the duo put forward their case. “So you are telling me that it was this Silas that attacked you, Dale” “Sipho, and yes sir I truly believe that it was him.” “To tell you the truth, “Smit announced, “I don’t belief in anything I cannot see for myself but now my gut instinct tells me to believe you. Use all the resources we have but come up with proof, Dale. Good solid proof, nothing circumstantial.” As Dale rose to his feet Smit further added,” Keep this quite. “ In the kitchen Veronica without even asking made Dale a cup of coffee. That was just what he needed to kick some life back into his bones. As Dale sipped on his coffee, Mary walked in and was a bit disappointed that Dale already had a cup of coffee in his hands. “Dale, I could not help overhearing your conversation with the captain, “Mary said, “and I believe you.” “You shouldn’t have been anywhere close to the captains office especially when you know that there is a meeting going on, “Veronica cattishly replied. “I was talking to Dale,” Mary fought back. “In any event, Dale, I believe you and maybe I can help.” “Please continue,” Dale said. “You know that I am a widow, my husband died seven years ago.” “Did he commit suicide,” Veronica said under her breath. Mary ignored that statement and further elaborated,” He was killed in a boating accident. Anyway some colleagues of mine persuaded me to visit a lady who had the ability to speak to the dead. Honestly, Dale I was able to speak to him. It had to be him. He even pointed me out to a piece of jewelry he had bought for me that was locked away in a safety deposit box.” “At this point I will take whatever help I can get. Do you have an address for me Mary?” Mary, as she had rehearsed it, reached into her pocket and handed Dale a piece of paper with the address on it. “You know statistics show that most of these people are charlatans ,”Veronica interrupted, “ and those that can supposedly do it wouldn’t want to go under any scientific experiment.” Dale knew that Veronica opposed this option only because it had come from Mary but did not want to delve into their war at this time. The address Dale was given led them to the outskirts of town. Finding the place was difficult but through the help of the locals and Veronica’s impeccable navigational abilities they soon drove up the driveway of their intended visit. The door was opened up by a white lady in her mid forties. She adorned the traditional dress of gypsies or that was at least what Dale had thought. “Hi madam Fare, my name is Veronica; a colleague of ours said that you will be able to help us.” “Come in, come in, have a seat.” There were no chairs in the room but as soon as Madam Fare took a seat on a beanie bag, Veronica and Dale followed suit. From the adjoining room a younger lady appeared and sat down next to Dale. “What can I do for you?” “We are investigating a murder case and if possible we would like to make some headway in the case.” “I don’t think I could help you with that but maybe I can steer you in the right direction. It will cost you a thousand rands.” Veronica was about to object but Dale quickly agreed. The younger lady excused herself and was back with a board which she placed on the floor. The four of them then sat around the board. Dale looked at the board thinking of it as some sort of game. The words YES and NO were imprinted at the top followed by the letters of the alphabets. Madam Fare put a flat stone, which had a circular opening in the middle of it, on the board. “What kind of game is this,” Dale asked. “It’s no game, “Veronica answered, “It’s a Ouija board.” “Who would you like to contact?’ asked Madam Fare. Rebecca Nair was the first name that came to Dales lips. The two women started to chant out the name of Rebecca Nair but the younger one stopped as soon as madam Fare started shaking uncontrollably. With only her hand and that of Dale’s on the stone , it began to move around and stopped on the letter X. Madam Fare quickly asked ,” Who is this?” The stone did not move.” Is that you, Rebecca? The stone moved slowly over the board and came to a rest. Dale looked and through the hole he could see the word NO. The stone continued to move only stopping for a second and then moving over to the next letter. Veronica wrote down whatever she saw. D A N G E R . S T O P H I M The stone laid there motionless as Dale asked,”Stop who?” D A L E S O N “Who are you?” repeated Dale S K At that moment Madam Fare started to shake as if she were having a seizure. “There’s someone else coming, I can feel his evil.” The stone flew out of Dale’s hand and broke to pieces as it landed on to the floor. “You better go now, “Madam Fare suggested. Dale rose to his feet and pulled out his wallet. “Never mind that,” madam fare said, “this one’s on the house. As they were driving of the younger of the two ladies said “Well Joysie you were very convincing, Meryl Streep has just been put to shame. How did you do it?” “It wasn’t me.” As Dale headed back to the station Veronica looked at the notes she was making. “According to this, you are to be stopped or someone by the name of Daleson.” “That was creepy.” admitted Dale. “Okay for argument sake, let’s say that all this was real. What does this mean, “asked Veronica. “Danger, with my name next to it means that I am in great danger.” “We already know that, Dale.” “The last word, what do you think he was trying to say.” “Ski, skunk, skate-board, skeleton, it could be anything.” “What if he were signing off? “ Dale asked impatiently, “like initials of a name.” The both spoke at the same time, “Sarinda Kooben : S K” 8 Getting back to roads familiar to Dale proved to be an arduous task as he kept on taking wrong turn after wrong turn. “You can’t remember how we came here, Dale, can you?” Despite talking to the dead Dale handled her remark without becoming angry, “Just enjoying the scenery.” To avoid any more meetings with Smit they had decided to stop at the station and let him know of their latest findings. Veronica kept looking at her notes while Dale was lost in thought. “Look at you, Dale, on Friday you couldn’t even work with her but now you can’t do without her. What has gotten into you? Focus on the case Dale, stay focused… Boy, she’s got a great pair of …” Dale immediately slammed on his brakes as he saw a young cow just in front of him. He knew that he would never bring the van to a stop so he released his brake pedal and quickly depressed the accelerator maneuvering the van past the cow that never flinched or moved.. “Damn these animals,” he shouted. “Quick thinking , partner,” Veronica responded. Being brought back to reality so abruptly caused Dale turned his head towards Veronica. “Ronnie , can I ask you something.” “Sure thing.” You know where I stand regarding these murders and Sipho. I can’t quite read you. Most of the time you agree with me but sometimes it comes of as you don’t believe all of the things that are going on. For example , you never really believed that Madam Fare could speak to the dead.” “Don’t get me wrong , I was brought up to believe in certain things and to disregard others. Considering what’s happening here , I have to come to terms with it all first. Mark my words Dale , my mind is open to anything supernatural and be rest assured I will support you in all your theories.” Dale could not help but feel that she had softened up to him but the extent of which he did not know. “Dale , we need to check with Clemens , maybe he has some new information for us. Knowing him he must have started the autopsy on the last victim yesterday. I don’t have a clue why he would do that but at least he might have come up with some leads we can use.” “ Ronnie, you never asked me about the reason why I was at the hospital yesterday and how I knew that Rebecca was in danger.” “I figured that you would tell me , and Dale be wary , you call her Rebecca as if you knew her well.” “That’s just it , I did know her well . I used to be romantically involved with her. “ Dale noticed a sudden change in Veronica’s facial expression when he had mentioned his romantic fling with Rebecca. “I took a little nap after work ,“ Dale continued but leaving out the alcohol bit , “ and I had a vision of her body in the hospital bed. It was then that I went to see her. With all of this demon, ghost crap going around I think I saw the future.” Dale , at that point ,recalled his vision of seeing Veronica swimming naked as the water spumed over her lustrous hair, this made him smile shyly to himself. “You’ll tell me the truth soon enough, Dale.” “What we need to do is to find out more about Sarinda Kooben. He came out to warn us but we don’t know a thing about him. “ Dale slammed on the brakes, again causing Veronica to violently move forward. She expected to see another cow on the road but ahead of her was a twenty four hour garage. Dale got out of the van and hastily made his way to the entrance. “Get me a soda too,” Veronica yelled. Dale exited from the shop entrance of the garage carrying a rather large book. He placed the book on bonnet and began paging through it. “Oh yes, Dale, that’s smart: a directory. But I think Satan has a cell phone. “ Dale would have normally responded with a quirky remark himself but he remained fixated on the directory. The pages were being turned so fast that the ends of the book were coming slightly apart. “K k k k ko ko “ Dale mumbled. “There it is Kooben. Look Ronnie there’s two Koobens listed and a bet one of them should be related to Sarinda. “That’s quite an old directory you got there, what makes you sure that we can find these people but Dale I have to give you credit for thinking of it , I surely did not.” “That’s the beauty of it, I checked the directory at the station, and I could not find any Koobens. This garage looks old enough, that’s why I thought I could find an old directory here. If these Kooben’s have moved, the neighbours will be able to tell us something.” Dale urged on. The van’s rear wheels spun around a few times as Dale pressed on the accelerator leaving behind a fresh set of tarnishing on a road that had already had its fair share of wear and tear. Even though the air inside the van was hot and the air outside even hotter Dale pressed on without even breaking into a sweat.