Olivia Cameron regretted giving Charlie the possible link to Elizabeth through the hospital – at least then. Charlie’s erection had gone down like a deflated balloon. When he heard what she had to say, he leapt out of the shower like a cat on hot bricks.
Hurriedly drying himself down, he looked as if he was a man on a mission. Clothes that a few moments previously had been torn off and impatiently dropped onto the bathroom floor were thrown back on in a hurry.
She turned off the shower. “What’s up with you?”
“Sorry, I must go to the police station. I think you have just given me the best lead yet.”
“I’m sorry, too,” she said, turning the shower back on.
After he had left she thought, thank God that she had again suggested something that Charlie considered worth following up: He didn’t have the biggest brains in the world, didn’t Charlie Gambon – none at all really if you tried to measure them against his body and the rest of that magnificent tackle with which he had been endowed. She knew that as long as she was able to do his thinking for him he would remain grateful for something a little more than the frolics they enjoyed in bed.
Charlie needed her brains if there was to be any hope of his getting noticed and promoted. And she needed him to get noticed and get promoted every bit much as he did. The fun in bed came for free but, on an inspector’s salary, they sure as hell weren’t going to have so much fun out of bed – not the sort of high flying social stuff to which Olivia aspired. Charlie was tough and he was cruel – and those were the only reasons he had got as far in the police as he had. Only he simply didn’t have too much brain.
His boss might have refused him a warrant to arrest Anulka on a murder charge; but although catching copulating couples contravening the Immorality Acts wasn’t exactly cloak and dagger stuff it was a start. Bunting was also a Boer; and hadn’t the man told Charlie that there were lots of Boers who would whoop for joy to read of a mixed race couple caught flouting the law and put away by the courts.
As for Charlie Gambon, having whittled down a few likely Elizabeth Smiths at police headquarters, he was driving furiously across Pretoria towards Constantia Park, the first of the three most likely addresses that he had selected where he might track down his Elizabeth Smith. He knew he had another card: Olivia had reminded him that the lady for whom he was looking had once been in a mental institution. If all three leads drew a blank then he would have turn his attention to the loony bins – but in Pretoria there were more of those than you could shake a stick at.
He was going it alone: Not having a warrant might be okay in a hick community like Tembisa but here in the middle of Pretoria he couldn’t afford to have his blackjacks trampling all over the place, drawing attention to themselves and to him, without having a warrant.
He stopped in front of the first of his addresses but didn’t bother to get out of the Land Rover. With the brushwood end of a besom broom an elderly white woman was beating hell out of her black garden boy who, Gambon guessed, had to have dug up a clump of her prize Amaryllis bulbs to deserve such wrath.
“Hit him with the handle, Lady,” he shouted through the open nearside window. “He’ll more likely remember not to do it again if it hurts.” The lady looked up and, seeing she was being addressed by a policeman gave him a wry grin; but the distraction was sufficient for the garden boy to scamper to safety around the back of the house.
At his second choice, Willow Park Manor, an Elizabeth Smith lived on the third floor of a block of flats. It was a fairly prestigious looking place – not too swanky but all the same it was smart: Definitely the sort of place where his Elizabeth Smith might live. He got out and pressed the entry-phone buzzer. The lady, whichever Elizabeth Smith she may be, was not going to let him come up on trust even though he told her he was a police officer. “I’ll come down,” she told him over the answer-phone.
When she came to the door to the entrance lobby she had taken the precaution of bringing the concierge with her. He was a beefy, dark skinned Zulu, who looked at the lady, questioning whether he was to let this man in. Gambon flashed his ID and she nodded. He could already see that she wasn’t ‘his’ Elizabeth Smith – younger than the one that, as Olivia had reminded him, he had a run in with down at Cameron’s bungalow at Ochatingi. She looked too much like an upwardly mobile young lawyer. He prepared to excuse himself.
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Inspector” the lady said. “If I should ever happen to bump into your Elizabeth Smith, is there anything I should tell her?”
Nosy parker – mind your own fucking business, Gambon was thinking. All the same trying to be civil he said: “You can tell her that the Police believe her life is in danger because she was a witness in a murder case brought against some tsotsis a few years back and we have learned that gang want revenge.”
That wasn’t a bad story: He might use it again if he was forced to go round the mental hospitals. There, he knew there would be difficulties about all the confidentiality stuff even if he had a warrant.
In the event, the lady was no lawyer – she was a sub-editor on the South African Mail and Guardian, and she remembered the case. “Mainly,” she told him, “because of the coincidence that one of the victims was another Elizabeth Smith…
“It all happened at a farm outside Upington in the Northern Cape, didn’t it? As I remember it, the tsotsis killed both the husband and a Dutch girl, the sister in law. I was in court when sentence was passed and I remember the Dutch girl’s bereaved husband going ballistic. He had to be removed from the court. Quite a scene, he made; and several police officers were needed to eject him: He was, I recollect, some sort of manager out at the Ochatingi Mine…”
Too much information – Gambon had a job to assimilate it all. But he was certain that they were talking about the same Elizabeth Smith and he latched firmly on to the bit about Upington in the Northern Cape: If the third of his addresses yielded nothing, he had a feeling that he might next have to plan a trip to Upington.
That same evening, back at the mine manager’s bungalow, Evan Cameron was trying to decide the best course of action to take.
Lestunga the Zulu guard was worried, and he had come to the door wishing to talk to the Makulu Baas: Lestunga had a friend who was concierge at a block of flats in Pretoria’s Willow Park Manor. Lestunga had received a call from said friend. It was a social call mainly, but his friend couldn’t help recalling the coincidence of a visit to the flats earlier in the day by an inspector in the South African Police. The Inspector had told them that he was looking for one Elizabeth Smith whose life was in danger…
Wasn’t it a coincidence, his friend had remarked, that the Mrs Smith for whom the policeman was looking had a brother who had been employed at the Ochatingi mine – and did Lestunga know him?
“Murena,” Lestunga told Don, “the lady, Mrs Smith who live in my friend’s apartment block, she’s a newspaper editor. She tell the policeman she remember the happening well; and she tell the Inspector where it all take place.”
Then Lestunga added, “My friend think Inspector’s story all made up. He not wanting to find Mrs Smith to do her a favour: my friend thinks he want for something bad…
“After I put telephone down I am thinking. I think that it not Mrs Smith the Inspector wants – but maybe the Bantu girl. Remember, Murena, girl who leave the compound with Mrs Smith and Masser Don Steiger?
“The Inspector man a bladdy Boer, Murena, not liking black people and white people all fucking together…”
So Gambon now knew where Don and Anulka were heading. The problem was that Evan Cameron didn’t. He asked Lestunga, “Can you remember where it was, this place of which the lady was speaking?” Lestunga couldn’t remember; but perhaps his friend could. Asking Cameron if he could use the telephone, he called his friend, who couldn’t remember the name of the place either – only that it was somewhere in the Northern Cape.
The Northern Cape, Cameron knew, was a great, wide-open and very desolate place.
“Ask him again,” Evan said. But, no, the concierge couldn’t remember the name. In desperation Evan pulled out an atlas of South Africa. The North Cape wasn’t exactly overpopulated with towns and cities. He read them out and Lestunga repeated them over the phone: “Springbok? De Aar? Kimberley?” And then, at Upington, he struck gold. Yes – that was the name that the Editor had given the Inspector.
Evan Cameron had a lead. But what could he do now?
At least Elizabeth Smith should know where her own farm was. But, when he picked up the telephone book, there were umpteen Elizabeth Smiths and no clue as to which was the one he needed to trace. Then it occurred to him that Elizabeth Smith might have been named as Don’s next of kin in the Company’s files. Good thinking, Evan – although, in the frame of mind that Don Steiger had been in after his wife had been killed he might just as easily have put down a gorilla for his next of kin.
But – olé – there it was: On an index card, there was Elizabeth’s full name, address and telephone number; and sitting down in front of the telephone he dialled the number. The phone just rang and rang; and when he tried again later in the day it was the same.
Gambon now had a lead to Upington; and it was in the area around Upington that Don and Anulka were hiding. Even now the pyromaniac might be heading that way himself, intent on finding the farmhouse and burning it down, heedless of who was inside. Worse, Gambon would probably rather hope that Don and Anulka were inside. He was a Boer who bigotry would cause him to stop at nothing. Hadn’t he orchestrated burning down that shack in Ochatingi whilst the occupants were asleep?
Olivia had told him Gambon was trying to make a name for himself in the police. And he hated blacks. It all added up – not mathematically, mind – but on the balance of probabilities it did. The more he thought about it, the more he knew he had to warn them.
But he had to find them first.
And assuming he could find them, what could Don and Anulka do about it anyway? Their choice would be running or staying and fighting. If they ran, then they could look forward to spending the rest of their lives as fugitives.
And if Don stayed and fought? He was tough: But was he a match for Gambon after so many dissolute years and with a leg still healing? Before Evan Cameron had even suspected that Olivia was being knocked off by Gambon she had mentioned that the Inspector was himself something pretty big in police boxing circles. And anyway, Gambon would probably be carrying a gun – in which case resistance could bring an early foreclosure every bit a final as being trapped in a burning farmhouse or even being dropped through the gallows floor.
He knew it was a more than messages that Don would need – but what could he do to help? For an instant the ludicrous idea of kidnapping Olivia crossed his mind: Would a hysterical call from her as he held a gun to her head and threatened dire retribution unless Gambon backed off do the trick? But the idea of kidnapping ones own wife, even if she was as near as dammit an ex, was just silly. Anyway, Olivia probably had no more idea exactly Gambon was or how to make contact with him than he – and if Inspector Gambon really wanted to do something to further his own ends, he didn’t think the prospect of Evan threatening to tear Olivia apart limb by limb, throwing her to the lions, was likely to deter him. Anyway it wasn’t quite Evan Cameron’s way of doing things.
No: He knew he had to enlist reinforcements – and they would have to catch Charlie Gambon stepping right outside the bounds of the law and bring him in.
But where would he get these reinforcements? He knew that Don had a Zulu boxing coach who sounded a pretty tough nut – but the man owed nothing to either Don or Anulka, and there was no reason for him to volunteer his services when there was a risk of being shot at.
He couldn’t take Lestunga with him: He was still employed by the Company at the compound – and the only firearm that Lestunga had ever fired was his pre-war Lee Enfield .303. That would hardly be a match for any weapon, official or unofficial, being carried by Gambon.
Baffled by where he could go to summons help, the prospect of Don nominating a gorilla as his next of kin came into his head. That word ‘gorilla’ was going round and round in his mind: Gorilla? Gorilla?
Then it came to him in a flash: “Guerrilla, for God’s sake!”
He recalled that Piet McOobo was the guerrilla who the blacks now revered as a hero. And Anulka had told them that Piet was the father of her child. True, the boy hadn’t actually been too conscientious about discharging his paternal duties – but surely he would he respond to a request for help knowing that the lives of both Anulka and his son were in danger?
Reaching Piet was the only way to find out. But where was he going find him?
He crossed the hall, entered the kitchen and went over to the window that Olivia hated – the one that looked down over the sprawl that was Ochatingi. Looking down on the slum he knew that if he was ever going to find this elusive rebel, then Ochatingi was the place he had begin.