While they watched black smoke belching from the building, the shopkeeper told Jade that yes, he had seen another vehicle arrive shortly before he heard the gunshots. The car had driven past the shop and parked in the corner.

“A black Mercedes, with dark windows,” he said. He couldn’t tell her what model it was and he hadn’t seen any number plates. He thought perhaps the car had no plates. When she told him the police were on their way, the shop-keeper closed his business for the day and left.

“I am from Zimbabwe,” he told her, slightly shamefaced. “My identity document, it is not original. If the police find me here, they will arrest me and send me back home.”

Jade couldn’t argue with his logic. She wasn’t about to hand the man over to the cops after his intervention had saved her life. She wished him well and watched him walk down the road, glancing back at the smoldering office as if he couldn’t believe what had happened.


In its tranquil country setting, Annette’s house seemed a world away from the fiery crime scene she had left behind. She’d had to stop on the way to buy some new shoes. The old ones stank of gas and gave her the uncomfortable feeling that a carelessly dropped cigarette butt would turn her into a human torch.

She was greeted by silence when she arrived at the gate. A brand-new white Lexus was parked next to the little Golf she remembered seeing there previously. Another car, towing a trailer, was turning to leave. The trailer had a logo painted on the side: Animal Anti-Cruelty League.

Piet was talking to the driver. When he saw her, he fumbled in his pockets for the gate key. Jade watched him pat each pocket with increasing alarm until he turned and saw he’d left the keys on the hood of the Golf. He hurried over and retrieved them. This time all he had to do was press a remote control and the motor whirred into action.

“I had it fixed today. The gate man came here earlier on,” Piet said after she’d got out of her car. He looked calmer than when she had last seen him. “The lady from the Star news-paper was here yesterday. I feel I’m making real progress.” He squeezed her arm. “Oh, and she passed my number on to a restaurant. I’ve just had a commission to do a wall painting for them.”

Jade sighed. Piet’s newly discovered celebrity status was an unwelcome development.

“And the dogs?”

“They’re in the trailer. They’re going to a woman who lives on a smallholding north of here. I couldn’t keep them, Jade. They didn’t respect me. I’ve been bitten twice. I was worried they would turn on me as a pack.”

“Who else is here?” Jade glanced at the Lexus.

“Oh. A guy called Graham Hope just arrived. He’s the person who originally sold this land to Annette’s brother. He told me he read about her death in the papers.” He nodded proudly. Jade could see how delighted he was by the power of the press coverage he had received.

Piet gestured to the door. “Go on inside. I’ll be with you just now. I just have to sign some documents for the dogs.”

Graham struggled to his feet when she entered, propping himself up on a pair of crutches. He was a little taller than her, brown-haired, with twinkling blue eyes. His handshake was warm, like his smile. He lowered himself back onto the couch and Jade sat down opposite him, in the same hard chair as last time.

Graham’s right leg was in some kind of a medical cast, with metal struts and Velcro straps holding it in position.

“Good to meet you, Jade,” he said. “Excuse my leg. I had an operation on my knee a while ago. I’ve only recently started driving again.” He winked. “Automatic transmission only.” He laid the crutches down on the floor. “Piet was telling me you’re the investigator on the case. Are you a policewoman?”

She shook her head. “Private investigation.”

He nodded. “I’m glad you’re helping out. Poor Piet doesn’t seem to be functioning well at all. Can’t say I would be either, if my wife was murdered outside our home.” He shifted posi-tion. The cast made it impossible for him to sit back on the cushions. He perched on the edge with his leg stretched out in front of him.

“Have you met Piet before?” Jade asked.

Graham shook his head. “This is the first time. I sold this property to Annette’s brother Adrian. That was a good few years ago. One of my first sales. When he bought this place, it was nothing but empty veldt. Not so much as an outbuilding on it.”

“He certainly improved it.”

Graham nodded. “That’s true. It’s a beautiful piece of land. Have you seen what he did out back? There’s a horse barn, acres of pole fencing, a dam. All well maintained. And this is an up-and-coming area. The new north, some people say. That’s partly why I’m here now, but I’ll explain more about that later.”

He looked up as Piet walked back inside. “Hey there, Mr. Botha. Sorry about the obstacle in the middle of the floor.”

Piet stepped over Graham’s outstretched leg, sat down, and patted his pockets again. This time, his search was suc-cessful. He found his cigarettes and Graham stretched over and passed him a lighter.

Piet inhaled deeply. He held his breath for a long time before the smoke began to seep out of his nostrils. “So what can we do for you, Mr. Hope?” he asked.

Graham shifted his weight. Jade thought he looked uneasy.

“I wanted to pay my respects. Say how sorry I am this hap-pened. I don’t want to intrude on your grief. If I can help in any way, let me know.” He paused. Jade was sure he was going to say more and, after a while, he did.

“I’ve been working in this area for a long time now,” he said. “When something like this happens, a crime that makes newspaper headlines, people start to worry.” He glanced at the folded paper on the table. “I’m out and about every day. I share the news and I hear people talking. At the moment, they’re talking about what happened here, at Plot 4.”

He sighed, and continued. “This sounds terrible. I’m not a gossipmonger. I’m not one of those people who stop and stare at an accident scene. But I’d like to know if there’s any further information available on what happened. My clients are anxious, and that makes me anxious too. Crime affects property prices. It causes panic sales. That affects me and the residents in the area.” Graham stopped talking and produced a pack of cigarettes from his own pocket. “I’ll light up too, if you don’t mind.”

Piet’s cigarette already had a long section of ash on its end. He looked down at the table. No ashtray.

He tilted it upright, so the ash wouldn’t fall off the end, and held it between thumb and finger. Then he hurried off in search of an ashtray, with his other hand cupped underneath for safety.

“He seems disturbed,” Graham murmured, turning to Jade.

“Yes. Although I think he’s always like this,” she whispered. “Artistic.”

“Ah.” Graham nodded slowly. “That would explain it.”

Piet returned carrying an ashtray and looking relieved. He put the ashtray on the pile of business cards. It tilted and his cigarette fell out. He grabbed it while Jade straightened the ashtray.

“The police are still looking into it,” Piet said. “They haven’t made any arrests yet. I’m still under investigation myself.” He stubbed out his cigarette. “But they think it’s a hijacking. Like the newspapers said.” He sighed. “The criminals could be anywhere by now. That’s why I’m angry the investigation is taking so long. The more time that passes, the more chance they have to disappear.”

Graham nodded. His smile had vanished. “That’s bad news for you, my friend. Bad news for me, too. If an arrest was made, people would feel more secure.” He reached into an inside pocket and took out a silver business card holder. He gave a card to Piet and another to Jade. Piet handed him one of his cards in turn.

“Please call me if you hear anything further,” Graham said. “The sooner we can spread the good news that there’s been progress, the better.”

When Graham had left, Piet walked round to the back of the house. Jade could see that his spate of visitors had inter-rupted a gardening session. A trowel, fork, shears and a pair of gloves lay by one of the untidy flowerbeds. He pulled a water sprinkler across to another bed, put the gloves back on and squatted down on the dry grass. For a while, all she heard was the thunking sound of the trowel in the earth. Jade looked out over the garden fence, towards the dark shape of the horse barn and the fields that stretched away to the horizon like a golden eiderdown.

“I can’t stand it that Annette’s been taken from me, Jade.” He looked up at her. “Living without her was torture. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it when I go back to Cape Town. After we divorced, I used to spend hours wondering where she was going and what she was doing. Whether she was OK or not.”

A weed landed at Jade’s feet with a little thump, spraying soil over her new shoes.

“Is that why you had her followed?” she asked.

Piet dropped the trowel and swiveled round to stare up at her.

The frozen expression on his face told her all she needed to know.

“Followed? Who told you that?” Piet struggled to his feet, dusting soil off his jeans. He glanced at her, biting his lip, and then looked away.

“Never mind who told me. It’s true, though, isn’t it?”

“Well, I mean …” He shook his head. “I didn’t think it mattered.”

“Piet.” Jade stared down at the little man in exasperation. “You don’t think anything matters. You didn’t tell the police about Annette contacting a private detective, either.”

“Yes, but that was different. I forgot about it.”

“And you forgot about following her, too?”

“No, no.” Piet’s head swiveled from side to side, as if looking for the cavalry coming to rescue him. “I didn’t forget about that. Like I said, I didn’t think it was …” He searched for the word and found it. “Relevant.” He snapped his fingers. “That’s it. I didn’t think it was relevant.”

“The police are going to think it’s extremely relevant.”

Piet looked at her, anguish in his eyes.

“That detective already said I was a suspect. I’m terrified of being falsely accused. Like the way it happens on TV. I don’t want the police to arrest me, Jade. What if I get put in prison for something I didn’t do? If you tell them this, they might think I’m guilty.”

His voice had risen to a shout. He glared at her, breathing hard. “If I’d thought it was important, I’d have said so. I nearly told you about it when you were here the first time. Then I thought to myself it would confuse everyone if I started telling people about something that happened in—in January last year.”

Now it was Jade’s turn to look surprised.

“Last year?”

“Yes. In January.”

“Not more recently?”


“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Jade watched him, waiting for him to explain further. But Piet turned away and stared at the sprinkler. It spattered on the leaves, the droplets sparkling in the sun. He walked over to it and dragged it sideways.

“Come inside,” Jade said. “Let’s have a cup of tea, and you can tell me all about it.”

Without Graham Hope’s cheerful presence and clumsy cast, Jade realized how quiet and empty the house had become. The wall unit was bare of everything except the photograph of Piet and Annette. The ticking clock had been packed away. Jade didn’t think she would miss it, but she did. It had been a sound, something to intrude on the heavy blanket of silence. In Jade’s experience there was always an oppressive stillness in a place where someone had recently died.

She made two cups of tea and sat down on the couch next to Piet.

“OK. Let’s start at the beginning. I need you to tell me exactly what happened.”

Piet took his cup and blew onto the surface before he sipped it. He put the cup down. The clinking sound it made when it touched the saucer seemed as loud as a drum roll.

“Well …” he started.

“Carry on.”

“Oh hell. It’s an embarrassing story, you know.”

Jade wouldn’t have thought it was possible for somebody so deeply tanned to blush, but he was doing a pretty good job of it. He looked up at the ceiling, glanced over at the photo, and then turned his attention back to her.

“Like I said, it was more than a year ago now. I asked my buddy here in Jo’burg if he’d keep an eye on Annette and find out if she was seeing anybody else.” He cleared his throat. “It’s stupid, I know. I wanted to try again with her. We’d been in contact but I had no idea—she could be so difficult to talk to. Especially about something like that.”

“So you didn’t want to ask her?”

He shook his head. “I—when I moved down to Cape Town I started seeing a lady there, for a couple of months. It didn’t work out. But I never told Annette about it. Didn’t want her to know that I’d failed, I suppose.” He glanced at her again. “What could I do, Jade? I couldn’t ask her. And I couldn’t just fly up to Jo’burg. What if I found her living with another man? Then I’d be mad as hell.

“So I thought it would be better to find out for sure. My buddy knew what to do. He’s an insurance assessor. He’s fol-lowed people to see if they’re faking claims.”

Piet took out his cigarette packet again. With Graham gone, she didn’t know how he was going to light up. She wasn’t surprised when he placed the cigarette between his lips and promptly forgot about it again.

“Annette found him out, didn’t she?”

Piet laughed. “She busted him after about two days. She marched right up to his car and banged on his window. Asked him what he thought he was doing. She must have thought he was a stalker. She gave him such a fright. He told me he nearly peed his pants. Then she phoned me and told me I was stupid, she said I should just have asked her, and she would have told me.” He slapped his forehead in a frustrated gesture.

“Why didn’t you mention it to the police?”

He shook his head.

“Why would I? I didn’t think that my friend following her so long ago would mean anything to anybody now. It was just me being stupid. Like she said.”

“Did you have her followed again, more recently?”

Now, Jade thought, Piet looked as uneasy as Graham had done earlier. He twined his gnarled fingers together and chewed the filter of his cigarette nervously.

“Annette phoned me last week. Just a couple of days before she died. She asked what was happening. She wanted to know if I’d got somebody else to bother her again. I said no. I said she must be imagining things.”

Jade wasn’t sure if she believed him. “You’re telling me that you only had her followed once?”

“Just the once. And I found out what I needed to know. You can phone my friend now and ask him. I’ll give you his number. He’ll tell you I’m correct.” He patted his pockets again, as if his cell phone or address book might have miracu-lously appeared there.

Jade scrutinized Piet closely. Was he lying?

“Annette was pretty sure she was being followed the first time it happened,” she said gently. “And she was right. She was being followed.”

“She was a sharp lady.”

“Then why would you tell her that she was imagining things if she thought she was being followed again? Surely she’d proved she had an instinct for it.”

Piet thought for a while. Then he shook his head in a small, defeated motion.

“Jade, I don’t know. I thought maybe she was scared of moving. Worried she was making the right decision. I’m like that when I get stressed. My mind plays tricks on me. I imagine the worst.” He picked his cup up again. His hand was trembling. Tiny ripples scudded across the surface of his tea. “I just didn’t want anything to get in the way of us. So I tried to reassure her.” He sighed. “But I was wrong. I should have worried. I should have told her to be careful.”

He put the cup down again without drinking.

Jade shook her head. “How could you have known? You weren’t there.”

“That’s what I keep telling myself. What happened to her, Jade? Hiring detectives, being followed. What had she got herself into? Why didn’t she tell me about it?”

“That’s what we need to find out.”

Piet didn’t reply. He sat hunched over his tea. Jade was sure he was racked with guilt over his misguided advice to Annette. She couldn’t give him any further comfort. Reason and logic were poor weapons against the assault of those ter-rible words, “If only.”

“Did Annette have any staff?” Jade asked him, in a soft voice. “A domestic worker, a gardener, anyone who visited the house regularly?”

Piet shook his head.

“That was the first thing the police asked me. They said domestics always know what’s going on. But she did her own housework. Her own gardening. She was house-proud. And she didn’t like having strangers around her. She’d get the neighbors to help her with grass cutting and firebreaks out in the fields. Not often. A couple of times a year, I think.”

“Any repairs to the house? Building? Recent deliveries or installations?”

“None that I know of.”

“Where did she keep her accounts?”

Piet climbed slowly to his feet. “I’ll show you.”

Jade guessed that Annette’s accounts system would be neat and tidy. Even so, she was unprepared for the rigor-ously ordered ranks of files that Piet unpacked from one of the boxes. The woman had covered every file in brown paper and plastic as if they were schoolbooks. She stared in awe.

She helped Piet carry the files back into the lounge. He put them on the coffee table and she paged through the most recent one. It was up to date. Annette must have done filing the day before she died. Each month was separated by a plastic divider. Bank statements, phone bills, water and lights accounts. Sundry expenses. If she ran a business, she would’ve liked Annette to control the accounts department, that was for sure.

The section for June wasn’t complete. The bank state-ments were missing. She supposed they arrived at the end of the month. But some bills and sundry expenses were there. There was an invoice for a car service. Jade checked the details. It was for the vehicle parked outside the house. Other bills for groceries, dog food, gas, hardware. Annette lived modestly. No expensive purchases at hairdressers or clothing stores, even though she could have afforded them. Her bank balance was healthy. Much healthier than Jade could ever expect her own to be. Annette’s current account stood at six figures, and Jade was sure there was more money stashed away in invest-ment funds.

She flicked through the payments for May. Then she stopped. She noticed a plain sheet of paper, a printout from an Internet transaction. Neatly filed like all the others. It had been made to the personal account of D. Grobbelaar.

She was willing to bet that this was money Annette had paid Dean Grobbelaar for some form of investigation work.

Jade checked the amount. Seven hundred rand.

She frowned. Grobbelaar might be cheap, but that payment wasn’t high enough to justify spending hours and days waiting around in a car, trying to spot somebody who was following her. Jade had done counter-surveillance herself, on occasion. It was difficult work. The hours were backbreaking and it was mindlessly boring. And at the same time, every long minute was potentially fraught with danger, because people who were following other people weren’t too pleased if they noticed somebody was trying to catch them out.

Jade reckoned this amount would probably have bought Annette a half-day of investigation work, at best. What had she hired him to do?

She went through May again. Then she looked through the entire file to see if any other payments had been made. There were none. This was the only money Annette had paid to Grobbelaar. Seven hundred rand. A few hours of his time.

Jade looked more closely at the paper. She’d noticed some-thing else. As a reference, Annette hadn’t put her own name, she’d used “Ellie Myers.”

“Do you know anyone called Ellie Myers?” she asked Piet. He was hovering anxiously over her shoulder, breathing smoke down her neck. He had found a way to light his cigarette. The strange burning smell wafting through from the kitchen made her think he must have used the toaster.

He looked at her blankly. “No. Why?”

“I’ve found a payment here. I’m pretty sure it was made to the detective her work colleague recommended. But the reference says Ellie Myers.”

“I don’t know an Ellie.” Now Piet was frowning, too. Jade could see he was upset all over again, because he hadn’t been able to share that piece of Annette’s past with her either.

Annette wasn’t very trusting. Could she have used a pseu-donym? Then she looked at the paper again and answered her own silent question. No, no, of course not. Her account name appears here. He would have seen that. Pointless using a pseudonym as a reference on an Internet transfer. So who the hell is Ellie Myers?

Then she had another idea. She turned to Piet. “Did Annette have a computer at home?”

He shook his head. “No. I e-mailed her at her work address.”

Jade remembered the desk opposite Yolandi’s. Clean, shiny, and bare. Perhaps the company had reallocated Annette’s computer.

Or perhaps not. Maybe it had simply been put away some-where, or gone to the IT department for reformatting. In which case, there was a chance it might still have correspond-ence stored on it. If she used the Internet for the transfer to Grobbelaar, they might have communicated via e-mail. A naturally suspicious woman like Annette would probably keep a record of her dealings with a dodgy detective.

“I’ll be back later,” she told Piet. “Take care, without the dogs around.”

“I will,” he said. “I’ve booked into the City Lodge tonight. I don’t feel safe here any more. I feel as if I’m being watched.”

Jade checked over her shoulder as she drove out of the gate. She saw only the empty road and the parched grass nodding in the wind. All the same, as she pulled away and left the lonely house behind her, she wondered with an uneasy chill whether somebody was watching her go.

Random Violence