Jade’s cell phone woke her at five the next morning. It was dark outside and she could hear the chirps of the earliest birds above the insistent buzzing of her phone. She squinted at the screen, impossibly bright to her sleepy eyes, and recognized the number. It was David calling.

“Got a murder victim here, Jadey,” he said.

Jade turned on the bedside light, blinking as her vision adjusted to its glare. The events of the previous night seemed a lifetime away. Relieved she could focus on the case again, she ran through the list of possibilities.

“Dean Grobbelaar?”

“Well, we’ve still got to ID the body. But it matches his description. No shoes. A friend of Grobbelaar’s called in a missing person report yesterday. That poor bugger is standing by, waiting to take a look for us. It’s not a pretty sight, I’m told.”

“What happened? Where is he?”

“Out of town. In a wildlife sanctuary a couple of hours’ drive north of Jo’burg. I’m on my way to the scene now. Apparently he was tied to a tree and chopped up. With a panga or an axe, I’m guessing.”

Jade’s skin contracted into gooseflesh that had nothing to do with the temperature of the room. “That’s a terrible way to die. That’s just plain unnecessary.”

David gave the ghost of a laugh. “Why not shoot him and have done with it, you mean?”

“Well, yes.”

“I don’t know, Jadey. But chopping somebody to death is brutal. Unnecessary, as you say.”

“What do you want me to do, David?”

“I’ve got a forensic team checking out Dean’s office. I don’t know if they’ll find anything except ashes and soot, but why don’t you head over there and see if you can fill in the blanks?”

Jade hung up. She walked across to the bathroom and showered. By the time she’d finished the frosted glass in the window was glowing in the light of the rising sun and the birdsong was a cacophony.

She was on her way back to the bedroom, wrapped in her towel, when she heard a distinctive rattle. The security gate was being opened from the outside.

She froze, thinking of shootings and stabbings and people who used axes to chop people to death. She didn’t have her gun with her. It was still under the pillow. There was no time to run to the bedroom. The front door swung open and the alarm started beeping.

To Jade’s astonishment, a domestic servant in a pink uniform and frilly apron strolled into the kitchen, humming to herself. She pressed the keypad and turned off the alarm. She turned back again, and saw Jade standing in the corridor.

“Good morning,” she said, smiling broadly.

“Morning,” Jade said. She was sure it would take a few hours for her heart rate to return to normal.

The maid started clattering dishes in the sink. Still coasting on a wave of adrenaline, Jade returned to her bedroom. She pulled on jeans and a black jersey and holstered her gun. Secure, private, safe cottage? Hah. Wait till she got hold of David.

On the way to Grobbelaar’s office, Jade called the hospital to check on Yolandi. A doctor told her that she was conscious and recovering from her ordeal. “She has no memory of the break-in, I’m afraid,” he told her. “Very common after this type of head injury. Her daughter is here with her now. Just arrived from Canada.”

Jade was glad that Yolandi would recover, but sorry that she couldn’t identify her attacker. She wondered whether she had been assaulted by the same thugs who’d torched Dean’s office. Did the thugs have a real motive for their actions, she wondered, or were they just hired help, paid to carry out jobs that the boss preferred not to do?


The little shopping center was a hive of activity when she arrived. A police car was idling in the parking area. A cop stood in the sun outside the shop, notebook in hand. He was talking to a store assistant whom Jade didn’t recognize. She supposed this man had a genuine identity book. He had ditched his shop-keeping activities in favor of the more high-profile occupation of being interviewed by the police.

The east wing of the office block was scorched and destroyed. Grobbelaar’s office had been gutted. She didn’t know what the forensic team could possibly hope to find beyond the obvious evidence of arson.

Jade walked up the stairs, coughing as the foul smell caught in her throat. On the landing, she looked out and saw Grob-belaar’s car. Once again, the old Toyota was covered in a layer of frost. It seemed to be sagging on its worn tires.

Two forensic officers in protective gear were combing through the room, stepping carefully over fallen beams and piles of ash. The wooden filing cabinet was gone, reduced to a heap of charcoal. She’d never know what had been in the drawer marked “Pending.”

She greeted the officers. They didn’t need any help and Jade started to feel guilty all over again.

“Can I check out his car for you?” she asked. It might not be constructive, but at least it would give her something to do. Save them some valuable time, perhaps, and make up for adding to the workload of the South African police service through her actions the night before. They agreed. Armed with a pair of rubber gloves and a plastic evidence bag, she set off.

As she walked down the stairs, Jade tried to picture the scene that had taken place when Grobbelaar was abducted. He’d worked in his office on his own. He must have been grabbed after the store closed, when it was fully dark outside.

If Jade had wanted to snatch him, she would have done exactly what she thought his killer did. Waited till he was about to leave and then shoved a gun into his face as he was stepping out of the office. She recalled the position of the shoes. Ready to go.

She was sure it would have taken two people to do this job. She didn’t think Grobbelaar would have submitted to a lone attacker. He worked in a tough industry, probably had some kind of police or military background. Like the shaven-headed ex-cop friend of her father’s who ran spe-cialist courses in self-defense and bodyguarding and had given her an intensive month’s tuition before she’d taken her first job.

“Never allow yourself to be forced into a vehicle,” Jade remembered the hard-muscled man saying. “The best time to fight is before they take you away, so make the most of it. Fight dirty. Scream to draw attention to yourself. What-ever the hell you do, however poor the odds of success seem, they’re almost always going to be better than when the bad guys drag you out again after the ride.”

Physically, she imagined Grobbelaar had looked a lot like her self-defense instructor. So why had he given in to his kid-napper? Jade didn’t know. She could only assume he’d been outnumbered and surprised. In which case, it was likely that his attackers also had a police or military background.

She remembered Annette’s bullet wounds. Accurate, effective, placed to kill. Her shooter had skill and discipline. The same skill and discipline, perhaps, that had allowed someone to tie up, gag and disarm a big, tough private detec-tive without a struggle.

So, one person to keep the gun trained on him. Another to remove his shoes. Or perhaps they’d told him to take them off himself. Then they’d secured his hands behind him. Forced the sock into his mouth to prevent Grobbelaar from drawing any unwanted attention.

Grabbed his laptop, leaving the power cable. Taken his cell phone. He would have been barefoot, so he couldn’t do any damage with his feet. Not to them, or to whatever vehicle they took him away in. Then a quick march out of the door, down to the car. Into the back. Game over.

The private car park on the other side of the building was accessed through a metal door behind the stairwell. It was locked and Jade had to ask the shopkeeper for a key. The door clanged as she opened it. She walked in.

Here there was a security system of sorts in place. It was guarded by a fence and a gate, both topped with coils of razor wire. The gate was padlocked from the inside.

So, the people who’d taken Grobbelaar for a long ride in their car hadn’t been able to access his vehicle. Or hadn’t needed to.

She walked over to look at the Toyota. The frost on the windows had melted in places and she could make out the car’s interior. A dusty dashboard. Cracked leather seats. She was sure it would have been about as comfortable as a broken armchair.

There were two beige folders on the passenger seat. They looked just like the others she had seen in the filing cabinet upstairs. Jade leaned forward, the icy glass pressing against her nose, and held her breath so it wouldn’t steam up the window as she tried to get a closer look.

The top file had spidery writing scribbled on the edge.



Jade felt her heart start to pound with the familiar excite-ment of the chase. She straightened up and tried the car door. To her surprise it opened, creaking on unwilling hinges. Grobbelaar had obviously felt his car was adequately secured behind the razor wire and metal gate. Inside the car smelled musty, of old dust and cigarette smoke. There wasn’t even a radio. No wonder he didn’t bother to lock it. She reached across to the passenger seat and removed the file.

It was a thin folder. Thinner than Annette’s case file. There were only three pieces of paper inside.

The first was a printout of an e-mail written by Annette. It was short and to the point. “Dear Mr. Grobbelaar. Further to our phone call, I would like you to trace a woman called Ellie Myers. All I know is that in 1999, she lived in Bryanston and was married to a man called Mark. Please forward me your payment details and let me know when I can expect informa-tion. Many thanks, Annette Botha.”

This page was clipped to one of Grobbelaar’s ubiquitous client sheets. He had scribbled a couple of notes on it, but refrained from adding any lewd drawings.

The final page was a printout that looked as if it had been copied from an old voters’ roll. It contained a list of names, identity numbers and addresses, sorted by surname. Near the top, a strip of pink highlighter wavered across an entry labelled Myers, Eleanor R. Her identity number and address followed. 48 Forest Road, Bryanston, Johannesburg. Just below her entry was another slash of pink. This one illumi-nated the name of Myers, Mark J. He was a few years older than Eleanor and his address was the same. It looked as if Grobbelaar hadn’t closed this file yet. But at least Jade had something now. She had a place to start.

Grobbelaar’s burnt-out office was a world away from the tree-lined streets of Bryanston. As she drove north of Jo’burg, the highway became more crowded, the cars bigger and more expensive and the drivers increasingly aggressive. It took her more than half an hour to reach the exact place she wanted. She had to make a few extra turns and retrace her steps because part of the suburb had been barriered off and turned into a security-controlled area. By the time she’d found the correct street, Jade was cursing the rich.

This part of Bryanston was where the old money lived. The houses were graceful—what she could see of them, because they were set back from the road behind high walls, in treed gardens, with ivy covering the gateposts. Most of the houses had triple-stranded electric fencing on the tops of their moss-covered walls, a new addition. Others went a step further, with security cameras placed at intervals, and a guardhouse at the entrance. She wondered who lived behind those walls and how much it cost them every month to maintain their security systems.

Forest Road was lined with old oak trees whose branches met overhead. Jade drove through the tunnel of dappled shade looking for number 48.

It wasn’t there. She saw a number 46, and after it, a high Tuscan-style wall also topped with electric fencing. In con-trast to the others along the road, this wall looked new.

A guardhouse separated two massive gates. Problem was, the gates led into a large cluster complex. It was called Oak Grove, which was ironic seeing as the builders must have cut down the oak tree outside it in order to make room for the enormous gateposts that encroached onto the wide grassy verge. On the opposite side of the street, the last lonely oak stretched its branches across into naked sunshine.

Jade checked the piece of paper again. There hadn’t been any mention of a cluster home.

She parked in the shade of the lone tree and walked over to the guardhouse. A tinted window slid open and a uniformed guard appeared.

“Can I help you?” he asked.

“I’m looking for an Eleanor Myers. She lives here.” Jade looked at the expanse of tiled roofs that stretched into the dis-tance, like an artificial mountain range, on the other side of the wall. “Somewhere,” she added.

The guard consulted a clipboard, turned a page, and frowned. He moved across to the other side of the room and looked through a printed register. Jade watched him through the open window. Then, the entrance gates swung open and a white Jeep drove into the complex. She caught a glimpse of immaculate paving, low-fenced gardens and double-story houses. As the entrance gates closed, the exit gates swung open and a yellow Porsche drove out.

The guard returned to the window.

“I’m sorry, madam. We do not have an Ellie Myers on our list. Or an Eleanor. Do you know what number she’s in?”

“No, I don’t. Do you have a Mark Myers living there?”

He consulted the list again. “Nobody of that name either.”

Jade looked up at him. She was beginning to feel out of place, standing there getting more negative responses than someone selling encyclopedias. Another car drove out of the gates. A Land Rover. The woman driving glanced suspiciously at Jade. What was she doing, distracting security like that?

“How many houses are in here?” she called up to the guard.


Jade sighed. It would take her a week to ask thirty-three different people if they knew Ellie. “Is there an admin office I could phone?”

He passed down a business card to her.

“Thank you,” she said.

“It’s a pleasure.” He slid the window closed and the sun flashed off the tinted glass.

She phoned the office while she was sitting in the car. It was warmer than her cottage. Perhaps she could rent a space under the oak tree and bring the case file along here every day.

A woman answered on the third ring. She sounded brisk and efficient, and Jade found herself wondering whether Annette would have had a similar telephone manner.

She introduced herself and explained that she was assisting the police with an investigation.

“I’m glad someone is,” the woman said. “It seems to me they need all the help they can get.”

“I’m trying to trace an Eleanor Myers. She lives at Oak Grove. Or did. Perhaps she sold up and moved away.”

Jade heard the tapping of computer keys. She cranked her seat back and stretched her legs forward, jiggling the clutch pedal with her foot.

“No, dear. She’s not on our current system, and we’ve had very few people move on. This estate is new, you see.”

“And before that? Who did the land belong to?”

“It would have been a free-standing house, like all the others. Let me see if I can make a phone call for you and find out. Can you hold on for me, dear, or would you like to call back?”

“I’ll hold, thanks.” Jade revised her ideas about the woman’s similarity to Annette. From what she had heard of her, she couldn’t imagine Annette calling anybody “dear.”

She listened to the one-sided conversation. This was going to cost her in airtime. She hoped the results would be worth it.

Eventually the woman came back on the line. She sounded resigned.

“I’m sorry, dear. I’ve done my best, but we don’t have any-thing that I can put my hands on right now for you. We only took over the administration of the estate when the units were fully sold, so we don’t have access to previous records. But I’ll keep my eyes open for you, and ask around,” she said, as if Jade had all the time in the world.

For the sake of thoroughness, Jade walked down the road, ringing doorbells and shouting into crackly intercom systems. Perhaps a neighbor would know what had happened to Ellie Myers. But none of the residents were willing to come out from the safety of their secluded houses. At all of the homes whose bells she rang, the domestic servant claimed that the madam was not home. After the sixth attempt, she called it a day. She phoned David but he didn’t answer, so she left a frus-trated message for him.

On her way home, she stopped at a center called Country Lane. She’d passed it on the way out and thought it looked like a good spot for lunch. The shops had twee wrought iron signs and big green awnings. She walked along the pavement in their shade. She passed a travel shop and a saddlers, a gift shop and a place that sold tie-dyed hippie-style clothing. Across the way she could see a second-hand books and music store. Jade thought it would be a fun place to spend a relaxing couple of hours on a weekend. So far, since she’d been in South Africa, she hadn’t had a relaxing couple of hours. Or a weekend, because she’d been working every day.

Viljoen would be released tomorrow. She might not have a weekend in the country at all, if things went wrong. If they went seriously wrong, she might never see a weekend again. Did Viljoen know she was back? Who were his contacts? Who had been watching her?

As she sat down at a restaurant called The Coffee Bean, she heard somebody call out a friendly hello. Graham Hope, the estate agent she’d met at Piet’s house, was powering towards her on his crutches.

“Well, fancy meeting you here. I was going to grab a bite and then go and see my specialist for some therapy on this wretched knee.” He looked hopefully at the empty chair opposite Jade.

“Have a seat,” Jade said.

“You’re sure you don’t mind?”

“Not at all,” she lied. She was preoccupied with finding Ellie Myers and annoyed with her lack of progress on the case. Her father had never been good company when he was bogged down in an investigation, and Jade realized she had inherited this trait. She wanted to eat in brooding silence and then go home and bang her head against the wall until a new theory fell out. She sighed. Perhaps the company would do her good.

Graham’s crutches clattered to the ground as he carefully lowered himself into the chair opposite. “Dammit,” he said. “You can’t believe how unwieldy these things are. I can’t wait till this cast comes off.”

Jade ordered a mug of house blend, and a tuna salad. Graham opted for a cappuccino and a bacon omelette.

“So what have you been up to?” he asked.

Jade gave him a brief, carefully edited summary of the last couple of days.

“The detective disappeared?” Graham’s blue eyes widened. Jade wondered whether he was really concerned about prop-erty prices in northern Jo’burg, or whether he was a gossip who loved to hear bad news firsthand. If so, had his arrival here been a lucky coincidence? Or had he been following her, looking for a chance to hear more?

“That’s right.” She wasn’t going to tell him that Grobbe-laar had almost certainly been murdered. She didn’t want to trigger a selling frenzy among his distressed clients.

“You deal with this kind of situation every day? Missing people, dead bodies, murder suspects?”


Graham bit his lip. “Don’t you find it affects you at some level?”

Jade shrugged. “I’m sure it does. But I’m used to it. My father was a police detective. When I was little, there’d always be somebody on the phone when he was at home, discussing a case. I grew up hearing him ask where the body was, what evidence to look for.”

“Now that’s an unusual upbringing. And your mother? Where was she during all this?”

Jade looked away. “I never knew my mother.”

Graham frowned. “Why?”

“She died when I was very young. When we lived in Rich-ard’s Bay.”

“Yes, I know it. Beautiful place.”

Jade didn’t remember it. She’d been too young. She’d never been back and her father had never talked about it. He said the place had too many bad memories and it was best forgotten.

“It’s on the edge of the malaria belt. There was a very wet summer the year I was born, and they had an outbreak in the town. She got cerebral malaria and fell into a coma. She died the same day, Dad said.”

“Goodness. How dreadful.” Graham stirred sugar into his coffee.

“She chose my name, though. It was the stone in her engagement ring. Dad couldn’t afford anything more expen-sive. Diamonds have to be set in gold, and a ring like that was way beyond his pay grade. So he bought her a piece of jade set in silver.”

“That’s a lovely story. I thought you were named for the color of your eyes. I suppose that was just a lucky coincidence. Did you inherit the ring?”

She smiled. “It’s still with my mother. Dad decided to leave it on her ring finger.”

Graham put his cup down, reached across the table and squeezed her hand. Jade was conscious of the softness of his skin and the heat radiating from his palm. Was it a gesture of comfort? Or something else? He’d mentioned a wife last time they’d spoken and she’d seen the glint of gold on the third finger of his left hand. He was married. She hoped he was simply trying to be kind.

His touch didn’t comfort her. It made her feel lonely, made her wonder how David’s hand would feel if he did the same to her. Probably, his long fingers would be calloused and hard from years of handling a gun. And how would it make her feel if he touched her like that one day?

Graham withdrew his hand as the waitress arrived with their food.

She’d also brought a wire basket with four hot sauces in bottles ranging in color from pale green to deep fiery orange. Jade chose the orange bottle and poured a pool of the sauce on her plate. She speared a sliver of tuna with her fork and dunked it in the hot sauce. Graham watched her in amazement.

“You’re not going to put that in your mouth, are you? That’s Bandito’s Habanero Sauce. It’s the hottest one they make. You see that little white label on the side of the bottle? That’s the heat strength indicator. Ten out of ten.”

“Where else would I put it?” Jade chewed and swallowed.

Graham produced a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his forehead. He laughed in disbelief.

“Just watching you do that makes me feel sweaty. How on earth can you stomach food that hot?”

She shrugged. “It’s hereditary, I suppose. My dad used to eat fresh chilis with every meal. He’d hold them by the stem and bite into them as if they were fruit. He always maintained fiery food kept you healthy.”

Jade cut a slice of tomato. Graham Hope was surprisingly easy to talk to. She’d have to watch herself. She didn’t want to be charmed into accidentally giving away any unnecessary details of the case.

Graham stared at Jade as she swiped the tomato through the hot sauce.

“Each to their own, I suppose. Anyway, I was thinking about Annette.” He forked a piece of bacon into his mouth.

“What were you thinking?”

“I had a client years ago. A wealthy woman. She would have been even richer, except her husband had a gambling problem. Her ex-husband to be more accurate, because she eventually divorced him.”

“And what happened?”

“She was hijacked. The robbers took her along with them in the car and shot her later. The police found out, in due course, that the husband had taken out a one million rand life insurance policy in her name a year previously. Just before the divorce went through. The hijacking was arranged. He’d hired a gang to do it.”

The waitress was hovering. Jade ordered a bottle of water.

“You’re implying that Piet might have something to do with Annette’s death.”

“No, no. I’m not implying anything.”

“Piet is under investigation, as he told you. Spouses, or ex-spouses, always are. They’ll find out whether any poli-cies were taken out in his wife’s name. And check his bank records. Look for any suspicious transactions.” Jade dotted more habanero sauce onto her lettuce. “Hired killers charge nice big, round numbers for their jobs. So people generally pay them in nice big, round amounts. That’s what the police look for.” She put the lid on the bottle and replaced it in the wire rack. “In any case, Annette didn’t use the detective to investigate her husband. She was trying to trace a woman.”

“Good heavens.” Graham shook his head. “Well, if I ever hire a killer, I’ll be sure to add on a few odd rands and cents to his price, to avoid suspicion.” He glanced at her.

“I’m joking, of course. But I am serious about Piet. I’m an excellent judge of character, Jade. Be careful of him. There’s something about that man I don’t trust.”

Random Violence