Whiteboy was frustrated. His huge, airy house felt like a prison. Despite the bright windows and high ceilings and open-plan design, the interior was becoming claustrophobic. He was impatient. He wanted action. He needed the hot, brutal adrenaline-rush that was a perfect stress-reliever.

Whiteboy hadn’t killed anything since the private detec-tive, other than a couple of unseasonal mosquitos that he’d crushed after he’d caught them biting his arm. That was because of the damn fountain. Mosquitos weren’t supposed to be able to breed in moving water, but somehow they were breeding there. He was certain of it.

When he felt this way, he was usually able to get rid of his tension by going out clubbing and picking up girls. The right type of girls. He liked them young and innocent, but susceptible to his own particular form of charm. He’d go back to their place, or book into a motel. Never to his place. He didn’t want them knowing too much, in case there were repercussions down the line. Out of their minds on alcohol and cocaine, they were ready and willing to party the night away in the style that Whiteboy particularly enjoyed. He didn’t care if they cried with shame and pain when they came down in the morning. He’d had his fun and would simply walk away.

Tonight, he didn’t want to go clubbing because he was worried about the current situation. It was volatile, with too many variables. They needed to get it under control, and fast.

His contact had told him the girl was a looker. A spunky chick. Cheeky, with attitude. Whiteboy hadn’t seen her up close, but he trusted his friend’s opinion on her looks. And he knew she was daring. He’d seen her reverse into some guy’s car and burst his airbag. The incident had amused him intensely.

A spunky chick sounded fun. He wondered if she’d struggle, scream, try to bite him when the time came. He hoped so. At the moment, he was so wound up the only way he was able to keep himself in check was by fantasizing about how he’d get his money’s worth with her later on. He hoped he’d have the opportunity before he killed her. Just before would be his preference.

He was relieved when his other contact called back and gave him the go-ahead for a mission that he, Whiteboy, had suggested a while back.

“It’s time for some misdirection,” the contact said. “Let’s do it.”

“About bloody time,” Whiteboy snapped. He didn’t like to be ordered around by third parties. He operated best as an individual. He was a good leader, but nobody who knew him would call him a team player, that was for sure. In fact, most teams wouldn’t dare to conduct the operations that Whiteboy handled on his own.

He got into his car, taking with him the Colt .45, carefully wiped, and the Z88, which fired 9mm rounds. The Z88 was a police-issue weapon, a local copy of the Beretta that had come onto the market at around the same time apartheid was ending. He’d chosen it for a reason. When the gun was first manufactured locally, they’d had endless problems with mis-firing and other technical failures. Many of the faulty weapons found their way into criminal hands. They worked well enough most of the time, since their primary role was to scare people shitless. And if they fired once in a while, that was usually enough for your average dumb township criminal.

Whiteboy’s Z88 had never failed him. But he always believed in creating a plausible scenario. He thought ahead. That was what separated him from the rest of the rabble. So in the townships, he would use a typical township gun.

He headed out onto the highway in time to ride the last wave of the evening rush hour. Where to go? Soweto would be easiest, but he was worried about the police presence there. The place had been awash with cops and private security vehi-cles the last time he’d driven through. It was as well policed as Sandton. Good news for the residents, bad news for him. Alexandra was also too civilized these days. The township had lost its violent edge. He would have to look further afield. An area where there was gang activity and recent unrest. Preferably a place where even the police were nervous and stayed away from the trouble spots.

He turned the car onto the highway heading north, deci-sion made. The informal settlement of Diepsloot was the perfect location. There had been riots there recently. Taxi wars. Innocent commuters caught in the crossfire, leading to more violence and unrest.

Twenty minutes later, Whiteboy pulled off the highway and followed a stream of taxis up the main road. Past the neon sign for the Indaba hotel, which he was sure once had some sort of a reputation as a brothel. Pity he’d never had the chance to go there before it turned respectable. Past the turnoff for Dainfern, the swanky high-security golf estate. Whiteboy had no interest in that. The land was already devel-oped. There was no opportunity there for him. And in any case, he hated golf. It was a pointless waste of time.

Whiteboy drove down a short, steep dip in the road and up the other side. He wondered if this was the diep sloot—the deep ditch the informal settlement had been named after. The road curved sharply and a taxi with a headlight missing veered into his path. He pounded his horn and the taxi driver corrected his steering, swerving the other way. Whiteboy seldom had a problem with taxis. He thought the drivers instinctively understood that they shouldn’t try their luck with him.

He shifted his weight in the seat and turned the heater down. He slowed at a traffic light. This was Diepsloot. On his left. A dark, smoky labyrinth of tin shacks and cardboard walls and the shells of cars. From the smell of it, the resi-dents weren’t only burning wood to keep warm. They were burning anything they could lay their hands on, from garbage to car tires. A few houses had electric light, but their power was stolen, channeled down from the main lines via illegal cables. Every so often, he knew, some power thief would hit the headlines by getting fried when trying that trick.

Taxis bumped off the tarmac and stopped and started in an endless rhythm, floods of passengers emerging from the doors, hunched and hurried.

He saw two prostitutes standing at the traffic light. Their short, brightly colored skirts revealed brown chunky legs, and their arms were wrapped around their bodies for warmth.

“OK,” Whiteboy said to himself. “Where does a white man go to find trouble in this place?”

He took a short drive through the township itself, bumping over the shocking roads that were more like dried-up river-beds than anything else. People stared at the tinted windows of his car with awe or resentment, depending on how they felt about the unusual sight of a brand-new Merc in their poverty-stricken world. Adrenaline hummed through his veins like electricity through a wire. He paused when he reached a shebeen, haphazardly built from concrete blocks and topped with a sloping tin roof. He could hear whoops and yells coming from the interior and the heavy bass thud-ding of some sort of music. Garage, hip-hop, R&B. It all sounded the same to him. The after-work party was well under way.

He shook his head. He didn’t like these roads. A quick getaway would be impossible. He was positive he would find groups of tsotsis patrolling the surrounding roads, on the hunt for victims. He’d spent long enough in Diepsloot. He’d had his cultural experience for the day. It was time to get out.

Whiteboy found what he wanted at an intersection just beyond the township. A traffic light had been put up there; he didn’t remember it being there the last time he’d been in the area. There was a good chance that someone would be waiting for an unwary driver as the roads grew darker and more lonely.

He drove for another ten minutes, choosing a wide circular route that took him around the area and back to the inter-section. On the way he pulled over. He had two props in the cubbyhole of his car he was sure would be useful. One was a silky floral skirt. He’d found it at the house of one of the girls who’d provided him with a good night’s entertainment and taken it away as a parting present.

Whiteboy opened the driver’s door and let the skirt swing out into the road. Then he closed the door again. Now the section of trapped fabric would flap and flutter in the slip-stream as he was driving along. Anybody who saw it would assume that a woman had slammed her long skirt in the car door as she’d climbed inside.

The second item was a fancy hairpiece: a pink band with long blond nylon “hair” stitched onto it. Put it on, and you had an instant hairstyle. He couldn’t remember where he’d got that from.

He stretched it over his wide head. The nylon felt itchy and uncomfortable against his neck. Hopefully he wouldn’t need to wear it for long.

Deception. His favorite strategy, one he had used many times in the past. Dupe the enemy into believing you are vulnerable.

He moved off again, going slowly, keeping his driver’s window half open because he wanted them to see him, and because he didn’t want to go home with a smashed window. He slipped an unlit cigarette between his lips and held his cell phone in his right hand, sandwiched against his ear.

Whiteboy steered with the heel of his other hand, which also held the loaded Z88. He wasn’t taking any chances. Some of these savages would shoot before they were even within shouting distance. But the kind of person he was hoping to target would want to get close enough to capture his victim alive.

Being a decoy was always a risk, but Whiteboy specialized in setting up situations where he—or his contact—played the role of a weak, harmless innocent. In spite of the danger, there was no better way to get the confidence of the people he wanted to trap.

He got lucky on his second circuit of the area. He approached the traffic light behind another car, an old Ford truck with a flickering taillight that had pulled in front of him a while back. From a distance, he saw the light was green. The Ford was in no hurry. It dawdled towards the light, and eased to a stop as it turned orange, and then red.

Whiteboy smiled. He felt intensely alive. He drew in a deep breath, inhaling the pervasive sooty stench of the township ahead, listening to the crickets in the roadside grasses and the sputtering engine of the car in front.

The Ford rolled back a slow half-meter. Now he was trapped. He couldn’t pull out to the side of it and get away. Excellent. He clicked the safety off the Z88 and scanned the half-section of open window out of the corner of his eye. He dropped the cell phone under his seat.

Quicker than he could blink, they were there. Swift hands reached into the window, shoved his shoulder sideways, found the handle and yanked the door open.

Two guys. Young, black, vicious. A Beretta was jammed into his face as they snatched at him again, intending to drag him out of the car.

“You white bitch. Get out, you bitch,” he heard one say.

Whiteboy raised his right hand as if in panic or surrender. His hand pushed the gun upwards, out of range. The move was easy, and it looked natural because they had the weapon far too close. Why didn’t these fools go get some tactical training? They were hopeless amateurs.

There was no time to waste. The guy with the gun grabbed his shoulder again. His upper body filled Whiteboy’s vision, blocking his escape from the vehicle.

Whiteboy swivelled the barrel of the Z88 towards him and fired, left-handed, across the bulk of his midriff.

The explosion was deafening in the confined space of the car. The guy sagged backwards and collapsed. Whiteboy heard the thud of his weapon hitting the tarmac. The sharp tang of gunpowder filled the car.

His friend froze for a second. Then realization kicked in. He ducked low, straightened up, and ran for it. The door of the Ford opened and he dived inside. The engine screamed in protest as the Ford careered away, backfiring, sparks shooting from the trailing exhaust pipe.

Whiteboy pushed the driver’s door open wider. The man he’d shot had fallen face-up, hands outstretched. Blood was still welling from his chest. Without emergency medical help, he’d be dead in a couple of minutes. Whiteboy scanned the dark, empty road. It was unfortunate, but he didn’t foresee emergency medical help arriving in such a tight timeframe.

His full lips curved in a small smile when he noticed the man’s weapon was missing. His friend must have retrieved the Beretta when he ducked down before his desperate run for safety. That was good thinking under pressure. A gutsy move. He admired it. He’d like to have that guy work for him, doing the grunt jobs like burglary and arson. Not this asshole, though.

Whiteboy lit his cigarette with the car’s lighter and took a deep, satisfied draw. Then he pulled on a pair of gloves. He took the Colt .45 from his car and picked up the man’s right hand, which was already a dead weight. He arranged his fingers around the grip of the gun. For good measure, he picked up the man’s left hand and planted a few more smudgy fingerprints on the barrel. Then he let the arms of his would-be hijacker fall to the ground. The gun thudded down next to him.

He scanned the road again. Far in the distance, he saw the twinkle of approaching headlights. He would have to move fast.

The man was wearing torn and dirty jeans and a cheap puffer jacket that he must have bought at a discount store. Whiteboy sympathized. It wasn’t easy to make crime pay. Not everyone could do it. You needed a unique blend of ruthless-ness and intelligence. He believed true criminals were born, not made.

The jeans and jacket both had pockets. He went to work. The inner pocket of the jacket was already soaked with blood, but that wasn’t a problem. It would add authenticity to the evidence.

He whipped off the rubber gloves and flung them into the passenger well. He stubbed the cigarette out in his car’s ashtray. He wasn’t an idiot. He would never leave trace evi-dence at a scene. He was in his car and accelerating away by the time the approaching headlights rounded the bend.


Jade knew she’d have to speak to David again at some stage. When she could face the idea. She’d come to terms with the fact that David wasn’t her hero any more. He wasn’t the older, more experienced idol he had been ten years ago. He was a man dealing with his own messy and complicated personal life, and it was bad luck for her that she’d become caught up in it. She had to accept that. After all, they were investigating a case together. Her father had always emphasized that the case must come first, whether she was working with people she liked, people she hated, or people who she felt had let her down.

So Jade put the case first.

She drove out to Annette’s house. She wanted to see Piet again, find out if there were any other pieces of information he’d simply forgotten to share with her. Jade felt sorry for him. He had lost the woman who was close to him. More than that, he had lost his much-cherished dream of being able to make things right with her again.

Sometimes, Jade knew, losing your dreams could be worse than losing your reality.

“There’s a lot I’d tell your mother, if she had her time over,” her father had said on one of the rare occasions he had spoken about his wife. “Such a lot I wished I’d said. Don’t be shy, Jade, when you need to tell somebody you love them, or you’ll regret it one day.”

She thought about those words as she was driving. She had tried to tell David how she felt, and it had backfired on her. David had other issues to deal with. He’d lost his heart to another woman. Or rather, as Jade saw it, to a conniving bitch who’d probably only fallen pregnant in the first place in order to entrap him.


Piet wandered out of the house wearing a paint-spattered tracksuit and his ancient sandals. He buzzed her inside, keys in one hand, brush in the other. The circles under his eyes looked darker than ever and his hair stood on end in a wild, tangled bush.

“Jade. It’s good to see you. Is there any news?”

“Nothing concrete yet.” She climbed out of the car. “But we’ve been working non-stop. We’re pursuing a few prom-ising leads.”

Piet was too naïve to realize this meant no progress had been made.

“That’s great. Come in.”

Jade followed him into the master bedroom, where sheets of newspaper covered the carpet. A stepladder stood on the newspaper and a tray of paint and an artist’s palette were bal-anced on what looked like a clotheshorse. Piet had outlined an intricate pattern of leaves and flowers on the wardrobe door and now he was filling it in.

“I have to do something to distract myself from this busi-ness.” He took a heavy step onto the bottom rung of the ladder. “My wife has been murdered. And now the police are prying into everything. My bank statements. My insurance policies. Nothing is private any more. They’re still making out like I’m guilty.” He set the brush down and twisted round on the ladder. His eyebrows spiked in all directions and he had a smudge of green on his nose. “I don’t want Annette’s money. I’ve already decided I’m going to donate it to charity. To the Animal Anti-Cruelty League, because I feel guilty about giving away her dogs.

“So I don’t know why they’re doing this.” He turned back to his work. “I mean, I’ve been cooperating with them for more than a week. Are they getting impatient because they haven’t found a suspect yet?”

The bed had been stripped of linen. Jade perched on the edge of bare mattress, patterned in blue and white. “Not at all. But they can’t clear you immediately, either. Bank state-ments and insurance policies take a while to obtain. It’s all routine, Piet. You needn’t worry.”

She watched as he swept his brush across the palette. He dabbed paint onto a leaf, adding more green to an area already dark green. He withdrew the brush and leaned backwards, evaluating the result with his head on one side. Jade could see no discernible difference. But then, she wasn’t the artist.

“Tell me about Annette,” Jade said.

Piet looked over his shoulder at her. “But I told you already what she was like.”

“Tell me again. Why was she so private?”

He dabbed the brush in the paint again, his movements prac-ticed and confident. He looked contented and sure of himself when he was painting. As if this was a world he understood, one where nobody killed or threatened or lied.

“She had to rely on herself from an early age.” Piet dabbed, inspected, and dabbed again. “Her parents died before I met her. Cancer. They were chain smokers, both of them. Annette never touched cigarettes. She hated that I smoked. That was another problem between us.”

“So she had no family except her brother?”

“No family apart from him. Family was important to her because she had so little. She loved her brother. And even when we divorced, she kept in touch with me.”

“You two never had children?” Since seeing Naisha and the boy she now realized was Kevin, Jade had decided she needed to ask these questions upfront, so the answers couldn’t come back to bite her later.

Piet shook his head. “Annette couldn’t. She had women’s problems. Endometriosis, I think they called it.”

“And her brother?” Jade was thinking about the two golf trophies on the wall unit. Now they were packed away with everything else.

Piet shrugged. “Adrian was married and divorced. Many years ago. No kids.” His face pulled down into mournful lines. Jade wondered whether Piet had wanted children.

“What was his wife’s name?”

“Tracy. I don’t remember her maiden name. She lives in Ireland now.” He looked over his shoulder again, apologeti-cally. “Not Ellie. I don’t know who Ellie was. Annette never said anything about an Ellie.”

Jade’s cell phone rang. She jumped. She couldn’t help it. She scanned the incoming number and her stomach knotted. It was David calling. She didn’t want to speak to him, but the case came first.

“Hi,” she said.

“Jade. Where are you?” David’s voice thrummed with tension.

“I’m with Piet, discussing a couple of things.”

“Shit,” he muttered.


“Just move away from him, OK? Get somewhere private. I need an urgent word.”

Jade stood up. “Sorry, Piet. Emergency call.”

He nodded without turning away from his painting.

She went into the garden and looked at the view again. Yellow grass, blue sky, wooden fences, red brick barn.

“Are you there?” David asked.

“Of course I’m here.” Control yourself, she thought. Be nice. Don’t snap.

“Officer Moloi has just come into my office with evidence relating to Annette Botha’s case.”

“Go on.” Jade walked down the hill towards the horse barn, feeling the long grass brush against her knees.

“The Diepsloot patrol unit found a body just outside the informal settlement last night. A gangster, shot dead in the road. He had a thousand rand in his pocket, which, amazingly, didn’t disappear before we came along, a Colt .45firearm, and a business card belonging to one Piet Botha. The weapon’s already at ballistics for test-firing, to see if it’s the same .45 used to murder Annette.” He paused. “I’ve got a car on the way. We’re arresting Piet and bringing him in for questioning.”

Jade walked through the wood-framed doorway into the horse barn. The roof was high and large windows flooded the place with light. The barn was divided into roomy stalls. Down its center was a wide corridor paved with a rubberized material. It was springy underfoot. She stepped along it, her footsteps soundless.

“Jade? Are you there?”

“That can’t be right. I just don’t think Piet could have arranged that. He can hardly organize for the gate to be opened when somebody arrives.”

“The evidence contradicts that. We have to bring him in.”

“David, he’s not acting guilty. I don’t believe he’s a liar. He’s just a sad little man who’s missing his wife. And he’s terrified of going to jail. I’m going to feel like Judas if I know you’re coming for him and I don’t say anything.”

“Please stay there, Jade. You can tell him, if you like. Maybe he has an explanation.” David sounded unconvinced.

Jade turned and walked back along the rubber matting. It was smooth and still looked brand-new. Then it dawned on her that the barn didn’t smell of horse. There was no manure. No flies. The concrete floors were clean and unstained. No traces of straw, or whatever horses ate. Horses had never lived here. The barn was an empty shell.

“I’ll tell him,” she agreed reluctantly. “Maybe there’s a reason for it. Personally, I think someone’s setting him up.”

She went back up to the house with leaden feet.

Piet stumbled off his ladder when she told him the news. He collapsed on the bed, buried his face in his hands and started to sob.

“Jade, I don’t believe this. How can it be? This is a bad dream. I’m living in a nightmare.” He looked up at her, his furrowed face streaked with tears and paint. “How can a gangster have my business card?”

“Piet, we have to try and think clearly here. The sooner the police have an explanation, the sooner you’ll be out of custody. Did you have your wallet snatched at any stage? Was there a burglary at your house?”

Jade looked at him, hoping against hope that something plausible had happened. How had his card ended up in the clutches of a township tsotsi? She needed to think for him, because she could see Piet wasn’t capable of coherent thought at the moment.

He shook his head. “No burglary.”

“You’ve been giving your business cards out to all the press who’ve been round to get your story. Perhaps the guy got hold of your card that way.”

“Perhaps.” Piet blew his nose. Jade saw that his hands were shaking. “How can we tell?”

“The detectives will have to follow up. In the meantime, you need to get ready to go. The patrol vehicle is on its way.”

Piet looked at her, wild hope in his eyes. “Jade, I’ve had an idea. I’m going to make a run for it. Now, in the Golf. I’m going to escape them. Will you cover for me?”

“No, Piet, please don’t do that. Or you’ll be in worse trouble.” Jade grasped his shoulders. “We’ll sort this out as quickly as we can. In the meantime, put the lids on your paints and get yourself a warm jacket. Not an expensive one. Something old. It might be chilly in those cells.”

“Will I be locked up with other people?”

She nodded. “There’s usually three or four in each holding cell.”

Piet’s knees quivered and he slumped back onto the bed. “I’m going to be anally raped, I know it. They’re going to beat me up. Please don’t let them take me, Jade.”

She walked over to the mural and carefully moved the clotheshorse aside. Piet had a few clothes in the cupboard. She chose a thick hooded jacket with old paint stains on its front. Nobody would fight him for that, she hoped. She found a pair of socks on a shelf and took those as well. She pushed Piet’s arms through the sleeves, feeling as if she was dressing a child for school. He put his socks on and tightened the Velcro on his rafters.

“I need to go to the bathroom.” He shuffled away, arms wrapped round his body.

When he returned, the car was honking at the gate.

“Will you lock up, Jade?” he asked. “Will you take care of everything till I get back?”

“Of course,” she reassured him. “Call me as soon as you’re out, too, and I’ll pick you up.”

“They’re not going to handcuff me, are they?”

“Shouldn’t think so,” she said. But she was wrong. The arresting officers were new and keen and weren’t prepared to bend the rules. Suspects under arrest had to be cuffed. Piet stared in horror, tears welling in his eyes as the officer fas-tened the metal bracelets around his wrists. He looked small and alone in the back of the police car as it turned out of the driveway and disappeared down the road.

Random Violence