Before she could reply, Robbie pulled away from the curb and drove in silence, threading his way through the narrow winding roads, following a tortuous route that Jade couldn’t memorize. She’d told him no. He hadn’t accepted her answer. What was she going to do? Jump out of a moving car and try to find her way in late-night Pretoria with no phone and no money, and only an illegal gun for help?

She waited, watching the road, forcing herself to stay relaxed, stay cool, and not betray her rising anxiousness. After a while, Robbie began to talk.

“So this guy’s got a daughter. Sixteen years old, pretty girl, good grades. No problems till she goes to a nightclub and some asshole pushes a few grams of coke up her nose and takes her to a motel for a night of fun.”

Robbie glanced at a street sign and turned onto a main road.

“So now daddy’s little princess is hooked. Instead of writing her Matric exams she’s coke-whoring in Hillbrow, shacked up with a bunch of Nigerians. Then she climbs the ladder, meets a bigger supplier, moves in. He feeds her drugs, lets his friends play with her.” He accelerated through a traffic light as it turned red. Jade didn’t recognize any of the street signs, but she had a feeling they were heading south. Back towards the wealthy side of Pretoria.

“So all’s well and good for her. Except one day,” Robbie snapped his fingers, “something clicks in Princess’s head and she runs away. Back home to Daddy, skinny as an Auschwitz prisoner and pregnant. So he gets her into rehab, sorts out the baby problem, and decides he’s going after the main man. Princess agrees to testify, the police make an arrest, and every-one’s looking forward to a day in court.”

“Then what happened?” Jade asked, although with a sinking heart, she knew.

Robbie grinned, without warmth. “What do you think? Princess is home alone one afternoon, and there’s a break-in. She gets five bullets in the chest. No key witness and, sur-prise, surprise, no case. There was a problem with it. Seems one of your friends in the police service didn’t follow correct protocol so the file got trashed.”

Jade watched the streetlights flicker over the windshield. Who’d been paid to quash the case? She swallowed, trying to keep a check on her mounting anger.

“So Daddy hired you?” she asked.

Robbie shook his head. “Daddy’s dead.”

Jade shivered. She’d been convinced that she wouldn’t change her mind, regardless of threats or blackmail, although she’d been expecting both from Robbie. She was back for one reason, to take care of Viljoen. That was where it began and ended. Her burden of guilt weighed heavy enough already.

But the part of her that screamed with triumphant glee a decade ago, as she watched her victim slump onto the side-walk, justice finally done, shouted in outrage now. What had happened to this girl was wrong and foul and vicious. And she could help avenge it.

Robbie’s latest mission echoed Jade’s own past. Was that why he’d known he could rely on her to help?


“There’s a problem with the Viljoen case,” her father had told her when she arrived home one night during a February heatwave to find him hunched at his little desk surrounded by sheaves of papers and notes.

He rubbed his eyes and closed his notebook. Two beetles buzzed and banged around the lamp, casting crazed shadows onto the wall.

“Probably won’t sleep tonight at all.” When he looked at her, she saw the deep rings under his eyes. His lean face was lined with stress and his dull skin emphasized the grayness of his hair. At fifty-five, her father looked a decade older when he was worried or tired.

“Anything I can do?” she asked. She was familiar with the Viljoen case. She had flown to the little town of Redcliff, north of Warmbaths, in a mosquito-sized airplane along with her father, to help him with the initial investigation.

The Viljoen brothers were farmers and right-wing extrem-ists, desperate to fly the Afrikaner flag and overthrow the incipient threat of black empowerment. They had a history of violent treatment and intimidation of their African staff. One day, finding equipment missing from the shed, they had accused two of the workers at random and summarily fired them on the spot.

Poor and shabbily dressed, the workers spoke very little Afrikaans. But they understood enough to know that their jobs were in jeopardy. Using the unfamiliar language of their employers, they attempted to defend themselves in halting and trembling speech. All they wanted to do was explain. But their defense became their sentence. The burly farmers were outraged that anyone would dare to question their judgment, especially two lowly black workers.

The older Viljoen was a giant of a man with massive shoul-ders, a square beard and a mane of silver hair. His temper was legendary. He grabbed the offenders and bludgeoned them to the ground in a frenzy of rage. At first, his brother tried to stop him, but the older man shouted at him and hit him in the face with his rifle butt. Bleeding from the injury, the younger brother buckled down and helped him tie the workers’ legs together and fasten the ropes to the truck.

Viljoen senior then drove across the property to the fenced-off series of ponds where the brothers were experimenting with their latest money-making scheme, crocodile farming.

Behind the truck, the men shouted in anguish as their bodies were ripped raw and their heads and chests battered by the stony road.

Their wives and children ran behind. The women screamed and begged, holding out their hands as they tried to keep pace with the cloud of dust and the dreadful thudding of the bodies in its center.

At the crocodile enclosure, the Viljoens pushed open the gate that led to the biggest pond, the one where the adult breeders were kept. The three bulls and five females were sunning themselves on the opposite bank. Alerted by the noise of the gate, the crocodiles moved to the water’s edge and launched themselves into its fetid depths.

Barking out instructions to his brother, Viljoen senior slashed through the ropes, and the two men dragged the workers, semiconscious and bleeding, through the gate and dumped them on a heavily stained concrete ledge. As the ripples grew larger and small waves began lapping against the edge of the pond, the brothers headed back outside and waited to see what was going to happen, rifles ready, just in case.

The biggest of the crocodiles reached the ledge first. It gave one of the weakly struggling workers an experimental shove and then clamped its jaws around a leg.

The pond was a churning mass of crimson by the time the families arrived, panicked and breathless, a couple of minutes later. One man had already been torn apart by four of the thrashing beasts. The other worker was trying to pull himself forward along the concrete ledge, clutching at the fence and screaming for help. But as the families watched, another levi-athan surged out of the pond, tore him away from the metal rails and dragged him down under the water.

One of the wives ran forward, shrieking in anguish, her skirt flapping, to try and fight her way into the enclosure. She never reached the gate. The elder brother raised his rifle and shot her in the chest. She was dead before her husband finally drowned.

Before any whispers about this atrocity could reach sur-rounding farms, the Viljoen brothers fired all their workers, threatening them with a brutal fate if any of them dared to speak about what had happened. All the same, over time, word filtered out. Tracing and interviewing the witnesses was a lengthy process, because many of them were too terrified to say anything at all.


Commissioner de Jong had never been worried about race, gender or any other factors that differentiated one suspect or witness from another. He was only concerned with the dogged pursuit of the truth. Gradually, his dour patience and kind manner reaped results and the Viljoen brothers were taken into custody and formally charged with murder.

But now there were problems with the case. Standing in their little house on that hot February night, Jade was trou-bled by her father’s words.

“What problems?” He might not be allowed to tell her, but if she never asked, she’d never know.

“Sabotage. Two important reports are missing. Other evi-dence has also disappeared.”

“Any suspects?” Jade pulled her T-shirt outwards to let some air circulate around her body. The house was stiflingly hot.

For a while, she didn’t know if he was going to answer. Other than the persistent trilling of the crickets outside, there was only silence.

Then he shook his head. “I can’t tell you, Jadey. It’s confi-dential. One way or another, it’s my job on the line. This is a high-profile case. If anything goes wrong, I take the fall and then I’m out. I’ve got to get the investigation back on track and prosecute the person responsible for the sabotage.”

“Do you know who it is?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

“Will you be able to fix it in time?”

“I’m preparing everything tonight. Jacobs is driving me to John Vorster Square police station early tomorrow. We’ll meet the prosecutor. Finalize details. Implement damage control.”

Jade knew Jacobs, the Redcliff chief of police. He’d spent a couple of weeks in Jo’burg, working on the case with her father, and she’d been forced into his company more often than she’d have preferred. He was a pudgy man with bronze skin, a man whose racist attitude was at odds, she felt, with the history behind his shock of tight, black, curly hair. He made Jade feel uneasy. She didn’t like the way he watched her. And she didn’t like the way he touched her when her father wasn’t around, his big hands cupping the flesh of her arm or waist, hot and greasy against her skin.

“Can I do anything to help?” Jade repeated.

Her father smiled. “You can bring me another coffee.”

Coffee made, she turned back to look at him as she closed her bedroom door. He was bent over his work again, the mug steaming on his desk. His leather briefcase, soft and worn from years of use, rested against his chair.

It was the last time she would see her father alive.


“What happened to Daddy?” Jade asked. The hoarseness of her voice surprised her. She coughed and swallowed.

Robbie’s reply was slow and deliberate. His eyes didn’t leave her face.

“The next day, Daddy died in a car accident.”

Jade’s breath stalled in her chest. She stared at him word-lessly. Her heart hammered as memories came flooding back. She barely heard his next words.

“Mummy hired me,” he said. “She’s gone to England and she’s not coming back. But she wants him dead. She’s paid good money for it. Doesn’t know I’d do something like that for free, as a favor to society.” Robbie rubbed his hands together as he waited for the traffic light to change. “So. I’m asking you one last time. You in?”

Random Violence