A single-lane main road, clogged with traffic, separated the grounds of Leeuwkop Prison from the large, semi-rural suburb where Jade passed a group of horses and riders as she took a shortcut through the back roads.

She drove slowly past the horses, listening to the clop-ping of their hooves on the tarmac. If she lived in this area, she could get a horse. There were plenty of places to keep it. She supposed that she’d need to learn how to look after it. There was feeding involved, grooming, the regular replace-ment of those metal shoes. It sounded like a lot of work, thinking about it. She supposed there were establishments where she could pay to have all that done for her. Livery yards or riding schools. She’d seen a few signs for stables along the way. They could teach her how to ride the horse too. That would be an advantage.

The leather of the horses’ saddles and bridles gleamed. The riders were kitted out in tall leather boots and jodhpurs. Big padded helmets with air vents. They wore gloves and carried whips. There was a lot of equipment involved in riding, that was for sure. Even without the cost of the horse, it would be expensive to start up. Too much of an outlay for her. She moved back to the left-hand side of the road again. Perhaps owning a horse was too ambitious. But she could start with a cat, or a little dog.

She parked halfway down a side road, next to a security boom that was wide open and unmanned, and got out of the car. She was wearing tracksuit pants and trainers and a sporty-looking jacket that concealed her gun. She didn’t think anybody would look twice at a woman out on a morning walk on the sandy track alongside the main road.

Jade had read that Leeuwkop Prison was built 40 years ago. The surrounding area must have looked very different then. She was sure that road had seldom seen cars back in those days and that the properties in the area must have been regarded as cheap farmland rather than sought-after semi-rural real estate.


By the time the Viljoen brothers’ trial started, Jade had already left the country. But she read about it, and she saw pictures of the two brothers in the newspapers. Older pictures of them at their farm and more recent pictures of the two standing in the dock. The elder brother looked like a Voortrekker leader, with his square silver beard and stern expression. The younger Viljoen had a mustache and was shorter, more anxious, less sure of himself. He told the judge he had followed his elder brother’s lead. That he always had since he was young.

The judge sentenced the elder brother to life imprison-ment. As befitted a dangerous criminal, he was sent to the maximum security section at Leeuwkop. The younger brother was found guilty as an accomplice to murder and was sentenced to fifteen years, in the medium-security section of the same prison. After the day they were sentenced, the brothers never saw each other again.

Soon after the brothers were incarcerated, gang violence broke out in the maximum security section. The 28s had caused the trouble. They were a powerful gang, renowned for their tradition of taking “boyfriends” through force and coercion. They’d clashed with the relatively new Big Five gang, whose members were infamous for being prison informers.

Jade never knew whether Viljoen senior had been involved with the 28s or the Big Five, whether he was simply collateral damage, or whether somebody wanted him dead. After the violence had been brought under control by the prison authorities, it was reported that he was one of the four fatalities.

The younger brother had his term reduced to ten years for good behavior. Jade had read that he was a model prisoner. In the extensive grounds surrounding Leeuwkop inmates grew the bulk of the fresh produce used in prisons around the country. Viljoen junior had assisted enormously with the innovation of new farming methods and had been respon-sible for a substantial increase in productivity. In his own unlikely way, he would be leaving prison a hero.


Jade watched the entrance to Leeuwkop. It was quiet. She took in the face-brick gateposts, the guardhouse with a security boom and the few cars driving in and out. She couldn’t see a huge contingent of militant right-wingers gathered to welcome their idol out of prison. She couldn’t see anyone at all. Except for Robbie, cruising through the traffic in a white Volkswagen Golf. He honked, and waved at her. Traffic was so slow she was walking faster than he could drive. She jogged over to the passenger side and climbed in.

“Undercover today,” he said. “I don’t want bullet holes in the Beemer’s bodywork.” He laughed. The interior smelled faintly of cigarette smoke and the fabric of the seats was worn. Jade wondered whose car he was driving. He didn’t bring up what had happened between them the previous night.

Robbie parked the car by the side of the road opposite the prison. Traffic was still thick. Taxis stopped at the intersec-tion, discharged passengers, and pulled away. Hawkers sold fruit and vegetables under fabric gazebos anchored into the dusty ground. Jade could see dented apples and blackening bananas and what looked like fruit salad in Tupperware con-tainers, their lids damp with condensation.

Groups of people were waiting on the roadside, looking for gaps in the slow-moving traffic so that they could cross the road.

“We’re not exactly going to stick out like a sore thumb in this chaos,” Robbie remarked. “Want a piece of biltong?” He rummaged in a plastic bag on the dashboard. “This stuff’s the real McCoy. Got it from a place in the Natal Midlands. Went down last week to get a couple of vehicles. Those cattle, they taste better than anywhere else in the country. Steak, biltong, it doesn’t matter what the hell you do with those cows, you can’t do it badly. Meat’s in a class of its own.”

Jade shook her head. She wasn’t hungry, which was unusual for her. Partly because she lost her appetite whenever she wondered why David had pulled away from her, in silence, in the darkness of the early hours. And partly because she was apprehensive about seeing Viljoen again.

She wondered what cars Robbie had brought back. Stolen luxury vehicles, that was her guess. Robbie didn’t go in for hijacking, or at least, he hadn’t ten years ago. He’d once told her that his principles were too high. Robbie’s principles, she had learned, were governed by standards that nobody else could hope to understand.

“He’s out any minute now, hey?” He poked her in the ribs.

“Eight thirty, they said the bus arrives.”

They watched the road. Jade saw an elderly white Mazda turn off the main road and drive up to the prison gates. The car stopped, reversed, and parked outside the boom.

“Bet that’s his transport.” Robbie shoved another handful of biltong into his mouth. “Fanatics obviously have less of a budget these days. Or it could be someone else looking to take him out, quicker than us.” He laughed. “Don’t think much of their getaway car, though.”

Jade tensed. She could see the prison bus. It approached the gates slowly, as if the driver was reluctant to let his passenger reach them and walk out a free man. The guard raised the boom and the bus drove through and parked in the turning area outside the prison.

The driver strolled over to the guard at the gate. They had a brief discussion. Then the passengers stepped down onto the tarmac.

One black man, one white man. Business wasn’t brisk in the departures area of Leeuwkop this morning. The black man looked confused, a teenager who was probably still flabbergasted that the system had landed him in jail. Jade wondered if he’d been a gang member. Or was now. She didn’t think he could have committed a serious crime. Not if he was already being paroled.

Behind him was Viljoen.

She’d imagined he would be tall and strong, like his brother had been. Perhaps ten years ago he was. But prison had clearly aged him. He was a frail husk of a man. The wind tugged at his faded garments, threatening to pick him up and blow him away. His mustache was now gray and straggly and the hair on his head white and stringy.

“Hell’s bells,” Robbie said. “You didn’t tell me he was a pensioner. We don’t have to worry about putting a bullet into him. He’ll probably keel over from old age before he reaches his mom’s place.”

Jade wondered if he could feel her rage like heat, radiating through the tinted glass of the back window. He had killed her father, as sure as if he’d fired the gun himself. The Viljoen brothers had paid Jacobs, and Jacobs had taken the money and engineered her father’s death so that nobody would think it had been more than a tragic car accident. Except Jade. Because her father’s briefcase was missing.

That had been her first warning. Investigating further, she discovered from the paramedics that the seat belt mechanism on the passenger’s side of the car had been jammed closed, trapping her father in the car. Even if he’d seen the truck hurtling down the hill towards him, he would have been unable to escape.

The single witness to the accident said the beige car had stopped, for no discernible reason, in the middle of the cross-roads. Engine failure, perhaps. The driver, Jacobs, had climbed out of the car and walked round to the hood. Then the approaching truck had blasted its horn and Jacobs had run for it, diving out of the way as it smashed into the stalled vehicle.

Jacobs confirmed this story, although Jade suspected he would have confirmed reports that aliens had beamed the truck down and landed it on the police unmarked, had a witness volunteered the information.

Afterwards, the police told her that the truck had been stolen from a nearby transport company. A fence was broken open in the night and the vehicle hotwired. She asked if they had found the driver. They said they hadn’t. She asked if he’d left any evidence in the cab. They said they were working on it, but Jade knew from listening to her father that meant they didn’t have any evidence at all.

The witness observed that Jacobs seemed distressed after the accident occurred. He’d run back to the car and half-climbed inside to try and rescue his colleague. Jade guessed he’d been making sure her father was dead, and collecting the briefcase. In the chaos that followed it would have been easy to dispose of. In all probability, the truck driver had taken it with him when he disappeared from the scene.

In her state of shock, her deductions had been hazy, her reactions slow. When Jacobs came for her that night, she real-ized almost too late that she was right. He was prepared to go to any lengths to complete his deadly contract.

Robbie glanced sideways. “Stop looking like that.”

“I’m not looking at you.”

“I know that. But your expression’s making me shit myself. I’ve seen mercenaries gunning down the enemy in the Congo looking less pissed off than you do.”

Jade tried to relax. “When were you in the Congo, Robbie?”

Robbie winked at her. “I’ve been a lot of places in the last while. Some you don’t want to know about.”

Viljoen and the black prisoner reached the car. The black man opened the door and helped Viljoen inside. He bent stiffly, fumbling his way forward into the passenger seat. The younger prisoner closed the passenger door and got into the back of the car. What was Viljoen, a committed racist, jailed for the brutal murder of three black farm employees, doing in a vehicle with a black ex-convict?

“What the hell?” Robbie frowned. “Was this the slowest kidnapping I’ve ever seen? Or did your friend just agree to share his car with a darkie?”

Jade shook her head. “I can’t believe it either.”

“Where’s his welcome committee? Where’s the gang of Voortrekkers with their rifles and swastikas and pointy white hats?”

“The hat-wearers were the Ku Klux Klan, Robbie.”

“Whatever. You get my drift.”

The Mazda pulled out into the traffic. Robbie waited for another few cars to go past and then followed.

Viljoen’s lift drove at a steady pace. Jade could sense Rob-bie’s frustration. He was itching to go faster—Robbie lived for speed. To compensate, he alternated between biting his nails and beating his fingers on the dashboard of his car in a manic rhythm that he kept up all the way to Pretoria. Jade knew there was no point in asking him to stop, but the sound was so irritating that she began to consider other alternatives. Like knocking him on the head with the butt of her gun and taking the wheel herself.

They followed the same route that Robbie had used when he’d taken Jade to northern Pretoria. When they turned off the highway, the car in front of Robbie stopped at a red light, allowing the Mazda to gain a lead. With some catching up to do, Robbie finally left his dashboard alone.

They turned down the road where Viljoen’s mother lived. Robbie’s information had been correct. In the daylight, she saw the street name painted in faded black letters on the curb. Springbok Laan. They rounded the corner in time to see Viljoen being helped out of the car. Jade stared ahead, puzzled. The driver of the Mazda was also black.

Robbie was also surprised. “Holy shit. What’s going on here? He got a lift from a darkie, too! The car was there to take the young guy home. They just dropped Viljoen off.”

The driver took the old man’s arm, steadying him as he stepped up onto the pavement. Jade stared. Viljoen’s pallid skin drooped in bulldog folds. His faded shirt hung on his body. He nodded his thanks to the driver and shook his hand. His sagging face stretched into a smile as he shook the hand of the young prisoner. The two black men got back into the car and Viljoen walked down the short driveway to where the lady in the wheelchair was waiting at the front door. Jade looked back as Robbie drove past. She saw Viljoen lean forward and embrace his mother. She thought the old lady might have been crying, but then their car rounded the bend and she could no longer see the house.

Jade turned on her cell phone as soon as she got back home. She’d reluctantly agreed to let Robbie watch the old man’s movements over the next couple of days. Not that Robbie’s offer had been reluctant; he’d suggested it and practically twisted Jade’s arm to make sure it happened.

Robbie’s attitude made Jade deeply uneasy. Why was he so anxious to see Viljoen get what he deserved? She wondered whether he’d done a deal with somebody in order to profit from his death. She’d realized from bitter experience that Robbie was still taking money for hits. She remembered what he’d said in the car. “Guy like that, they’re gonna be queuing up to shoot him when he’s out. I heard that some of the government ministers had relations in those areas long ago. Poor relations. Black people. Working for sadists like him.”

Had Robbie found somebody prepared to pay him a few thousand rand to see their own form of justice done? She wouldn’t put it past him. But she didn’t want other people involved, because then they might find out what she had done.

Viljoen didn’t look like a dangerous man. Perhaps prison had changed him. Seeing him with his frail and helpless old mother, she’d felt pity for both of them. Perhaps his elder brother was the one who’d wanted to sabotage the case because he had more to lose. But then why was somebody watching her house, headlights off, the first night she’d come back?

The beeping of her phone interrupted her thoughts. She had a message from David. Listening to his voice made her remember his arms around her and his hands touching her hair. She smiled and called him back.

David didn’t sound gentle or comforting. His voice was sharp and frustrated.

“Your friend Ellie Myers,” he said.

“What’s happening with her?”

“She’s bloody deceased.”

David’s voice crackled. The connection made it sound like he was in outer Siberia.

“What? Deceased as of when?”

“Deceased as of five years ago. Just before her property was sold. I don’t know what happened.”

“And Mark Myers?”

“He’s not deceased. That’s all we know. He’s not deceased and he clearly isn’t living at his recorded residential address. So we can’t find him.”

“No other information on him?”

“Well, he hasn’t emigrated. Officially, at least. But I’m beginning to wonder what the hell happened five years ago.”

“Something did, that’s for sure,” Jade said.

“Yeah. Now we’re coming along like the guys who missed the party. The trail’s going to be stone-cold now.” The line crackled again. She thought David was probably walking round his office, pacing from wall to wall like a caged tiger. She remembered he used to do that when things were going badly.

“Home Affairs couldn’t find a record of Mark’s parents, either,” he continued. “Not that I think Home Affairs is capable of finding its backside with both hands at the best of times.”

“How about Ellie’s parents?”

“My team’s looking for them now. But I’m not holding my breath.”

“David. Do you sometimes feel like there’s a dead end every direction you turn?”

“Yes, Jade. Surprisingly enough, that’s exactly how I feel right now.” He tried to say something else, but his voice broke up and the line went dead. Jade didn’t call him back. David hadn’t sounded in the mood for further conversation.

Random Violence