Jade couldn’t get hold of David on his cell. She couldn’t get hold of him on his landline either. And he wasn’t home. Not at his upstairs room next to her cottage, at any rate. Not by eight in the evening. Not by midnight, when she walked outside huddled in a jacket to check. The carport was empty and the window above the garage was dark. Which left only one logical place for him to be. And she didn’t want to think about that unpleasant possibility.

She was off the case. David was off the case. The investiga-tion was stalled. The evidence against Whiteboy had proved insubstantial and he’d been released. Jade was sure that by now he had vanished. She was willing to bet that the dilapi-dated house in Townview was as deserted tonight as David’s rented room.

A few minutes after one a.m. her phone beeped. She had a message.

“Jade.” Robbie’s voice was loud, and it hummed with stress. “I’m still hiding out. How could it all have gone sour like that? Call me when you can.”

She pressed the key to return the call. He answered imme-diately. From the background noise, Jade guessed he was drowning his sorrows in a bar somewhere.

“Where are you?” she asked.

“I’m lying low.”

“The cops raid late-night drinking establishments, you know.”

“Oh shut up, Jade. Stop jumping to conclusions about me. I’m in the Cat’s Pajamas. A twenty-four-hour restaurant.” He said the last word slowly as if to emphasize his respectability. “In Melville. West of the city. Come join me.”

Robbie sat at a corner table, his back to the wall. Jade looked around. At two in the morning, a twenty-four-hour restau-rant attracted an interesting variety of clientele. Some of the customers hunched over their whiskies and nachos looked like gangsters. Others reminded her of vampires risen from their coffins. Robbie had chosen his hideout well. He blended right in.

Jade sat down next to him. She wanted her back to the wall, too.

He pushed a glass over to her. Amber liquid sloshed around two ice cubes. “Whisky. For you.”

Jade cradled the glass in her hand and took a large gulp.

“I need my gun,” she said.

Robbie’s face twitched and his eyes darted from side to side. He looked shaken. Jade had trusted him. Had she been wrong?

“I’ll get it for you. I don’t have it on me now. Too risky. If they bust me and link the ballistics to that other shooting in Pretoria, I’m in deep shit.”

“Where’s Verna?”

“Home alone. The cops have been round twice. Once to the shop, once to our house. She’s telling them I’m out of town, that I left on a business trip yesterday morning.”

“What happened?” Jade put her glass down and leaned towards him.

Robbie leaned away. “I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you everything. But don’t get mad at me, all right? I’m warning you right now, you wouldn’t have done any different.”

Jade preempted his explanation. “Were you dumb enough to carry out a hit on him?”

Robbie looked at her, hurt. “It was money for jam, OK? I didn’t tell you because I knew you wouldn’t have liked it. But I was going to share the bucks with you when I was paid.”

Jade was absolutely certain he was lying. About sharing the payout with her, at any rate. “Really? Have you been paid?”

“Well, no. I mean, it’s all null and void now, isn’t it? The target’s still alive.”

They paused. A waitress was hovering at their table. She had a piercing in her lower lip and a huge metal crucifix around her neck. Jade thought she probably wore it to ward off vampires.

Robbie ordered nachos. After a brief scan of the menu, so did Jade.

“Did you know the cops would be there?” she asked when the waitress had gone.

“Honest to God, I had no idea it was a police setup.” Robbie stared at her, eyes steady and unblinking. Not that that meant anything. Once, on a nighttime game drive in the Kruger National Park, Jade had seen a caracal on the hunt look at a baby gemsbok much the same way. A moment later, it had sprung forward, claws bared, and seized the unsuspecting fawn.

“My contact told me the opposite,” Robbie continued. “He said Monday was the day to do it, no question.”

“Who approached you for the hit? Who was this trusty contact?”

“I don’t know.”

Jade buried her face in her hands. When she’d raised her head again, she took another large gulp of her drink. “Robbie. How can you not know?”

“We spoke on the phone. He told me government people wanted Viljoen out of the way because of political sensitivity. It made sense, seeing as how the new government are all blacks, and those workers were friends of their friends. Look, Jade, it sounded genuine as hell. I trusted him. And I’m a sus-picious guy.”

“You’re stupid.”

“I am not.”

“You were sold out. Your contact was an informer.”

“Well, maybe the guy got arrested for something else and had to make a deal.”

Robbie’s eyes widened as a large man wearing a collared shirt pushed through the crowds towards their table. The man lifted his head and regarded them for a long, slow moment. Then he pulled up a chair at the neighboring table and sat down. Robbie exhaled, a long, shaky breath.

“I can’t take this stress, Jade.”

“Then don’t take on dodgy jobs from people who tell you they have government contacts.”

Robbie slapped a hand against his chest. “I’m patriotic. I love the new government. I’d do anything to help them. They look after entrepreneurs like me. In the old days, it was so difficult to do business. Now it’s a pleasure. Pay off a few people, and there’s no more worries.”

The waitress returned with the nachos. Jade asked for a dish of chopped chili. She wondered who had sold Robbie out, and why. Was it somebody he’d screwed over in the past? She was sure there were more than a few of those. If you lined them up, the queue of people who’d got the short end of a deal with Robbie would probably stretch around the block. But that wasn’t her problem. He had got her into trouble. That was her problem. Right now, she couldn’t do anything about it.

“Viljoen didn’t kill my dad.”

“Huh?” Robbie pushed a nacho into his mouth with his fingers.

“He didn’t arrange the hit.”

“Who did, then?”

“I don’t know. But the Viljoen brothers weren’t sabotaging the case. The elder brother thought he had a God-given right to do what he wanted and stay out of jail.”

“So who was paying Jacobs, then? Who was sabotaging the case?”

Jade shook her head. The food was excellent. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was. She ladled chili onto another mouthful. “Perhaps we’re looking at it the wrong way round. Whoever sabotaged the case might have wanted to keep the brothers out of jail, so they could take their own revenge.”

Robbie frowned, considering her theory. “Could be.”

They ate in silence, listening to Led Zeppelin playing in the background.

“I was wrong,” Jade said, scraping the last piece of chili out of the bowl.

“No, I was wrong. I screwed things up for you. Sorry.”

Robbie took a wad of fifties out of his wallet and counted out four of them. Jade watched him with suspicion. Robbie didn’t do apologies. Why was he saying sorry now?

He sounded determined. “I’m going to do some scouting around, babe. I’ll find out who sold us out. Then I’ll put a few bullets into him. To say thank you very much, from both of us.

“Dinner’s on me, to make up for it.” He slid the notes under his empty glass. “You’re lucky. You can go home and sleep now. I’ve got to keep on ducking and diving till the heat’s off.”

Jade didn’t go straight home. She skirted Johannesburg city and drove through Turffontein, along the empty roads. She didn’t want to go there, but she had to know.

She stopped when she reached David’s house. The lights were off and the place was quiet. David’s unmarked was parked in the driveway behind Naisha’s car. Jade pulled over and watched the silent house for a long while before she drove away.

Now beyond the point of exhaustion, Jade found sleep was impossible. She gave up trying just before dawn. She moved her heater into the kitchen and put the kettle on. There were no books in the cottage. None she wanted to read, anyway. And no satellite TV. There was nothing for her to do except the one activity she wasn’t supposed to pursue any more. Working on the case.

She was so accustomed to doing it, she found it difficult not to. Out of habit she took her coffee to the table and turned the pages over, reviewing her notes, searching the evidence for anything they had missed.

She’d even drawn a timeline.

On the twenty-seventh of May, Annette had called Dean Grobbelaar, private investigator, to trace Ellie Myers. She had transferred an advance payment to him for his efforts. A week later, she’d mentioned to Piet that she thought she was being followed. On the seventh of June, she’d been murdered. And on the fourteenth, Dean Grobbelaar had been hacked to death with an axe.

Jade added two more dates to the timeline, right at the beginning. 22 February 2001. The date of Ellie’s murder. And a month or so later, Mark Myers had sent a check for the sale of his property to his father-in-law, and disappeared out of his life forever.

She frowned as she wrote the final entry. The sale of the property. They’d tried to trace Ellie Myers. But they hadn’t looked at the other side of the equation.

Who benefits? That was a question her father had always advised her to ask. Sometimes, he told her, it would be the only question she’d need to ask.

Mark Myers had sold the property for one million rand. A giveaway price. He was traumatized by the death of his wife, his pride wounded by the uncompromising attitude of his father-in-law. Perhaps he thought he had nothing to lose. That didn’t alter the fact that somebody had gained from the transaction.

Jade remembered David sitting at the table opposite her, telling her about the prices of the luxury homes at 48 Forest Road. How much had the developer made on that project? She knew David had said it was a mind-boggling sum.

So. Who did benefit from Ellie’s murder?

The person who bought the property from Mark.

At eight a.m. precisely, she phoned the cheerful lady in charge of the Oak Grove cluster development.

“The name and contact details of the developer? I’m sure we can give you that, dear.” The lady sounded bright and breezy, as if she had walked into the office after a healthy breakfast, a good coffee and a pleasant drive through easy traffic. Jade envied her.

“It was done by a company called White & Co.” She gave Jade the details. Phone number, fax number, postal and e-mail addresses.

When the woman said the name, Jade jumped. For a moment she thought the lady was going to say Whiteboy. Then she remembered the job they’d done in Pretoria. White & Co had been developing phase two of the luxury villas where Hirsch stayed. But now the two names seemed eerily similar. Could there be a connection? Was this Whiteboy’s venture?

“Who’s in charge there? Do you know?”

“I couldn’t say, dear. We dealt with the contractors, mostly. The company outsourced most of the work. Architecture, design, and of course we took over afterwards to do mainte-nance and upkeep. The only job White & Co did themselves was the subdivision and the property sales.”

Jade rang off and tried David again. His cell went straight through to voicemail. She didn’t leave a message. He could see her number on the screen. He’d answer if he wanted to.

Next, she tried the phone and fax numbers of White &Co. On both calls, she listened to a recorded message from Telkom telling her the number she had dialed did not exist.

The number might not exist. But perhaps the company still did. She paged through the file until she found Graham Hope’s business card. She hoped the friendly estate agent could advise her on how to find it.

Graham answered on the second ring. Jade explained what she needed.

“That’s a difficult question for so early in the day.” He also sounded keen and perky, full of energy in spite of having a dodgy knee. Perhaps everyone felt the same way this morn-ing. Except her.

“I was hoping it would be easy.”

“You see, what some developers do is set up shell companies.”

“And outsource all the labor?” Thanks to the cheerful lady she had spoken to earlier, Jade was well-informed about the industry’s usual business practices. At least, she hoped she sounded that way.

“Exactly. Then when the project is finished, they close the shell. That makes it more difficult for anybody to sue them afterwards, if problems crop up. Which they invariably do.”

“Oh,” Jade said, disappointed.

“I’ll have a look for you, ask around. Perhaps they’re still going.” He laughed. “Perhaps their phone lines have been stolen. Lines get stolen all the time these days, for the copper wire.”

While Jade was wondering who to call next, she heard a car on the road outside. Looking out of the window, she saw David’s unmarked rattling down the road. He skidded to a stop outside his automatic gate and waited for it to open.

Jade grabbed her keys and fumbled with the alarm code and the security door. Number pads and double locks were all very well for keeping the criminals at bay, but they weren’t designed for letting you out of your house in a hurry.

Finally, she yanked the door open, pressed the button for her gate and sprinted down the road after him. She slipped through his gate just before it closed.

David was already out of his car and up the stairs. He hadn’t seen her. He was probably rushing so he wouldn’t have to. She ran up after him. The wooden door at the top of the stairs was shut but unlocked. She opened it and stepped inside.

The room was empty. She could hear the sound of a shower behind an adjoining door. She sat down on the bed to wait, the duvet cold and smooth underneath her. There was a bricked-off annex on the other side of the room. She could just see the corner of a stove behind it. Opposite the bed was a desk. The wooden surface was bare apart from two objects: a framed photo of a young dark-haired boy and the brass paperweight in the shape of an eagle’s head that Jade had given David years ago.

The noise of the shower stopped. A minute later, he came out of the bathroom. He was stark naked. For some reason, Jade hadn’t expected that.

He stopped dead when he saw her and treated her to an icy scowl.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. His expression changed when he realized his state of vulnerability. He looked around for something to cover himself up. Nothing was immediately available in the tidy room. He started to turn back towards the bathroom for his towel. Then he shrugged and gave up on the idea. He walked over to the wardrobe and sorted through it, just as he might have done if she wasn’t there.

“You haven’t been returning my calls.”

“I haven’t got anything to say to you.” He tossed a pair of black trousers onto the bed.

“Well, thanks for hearing my side of the story.”

“Jade.” A white shirt landed on top of the trousers. “I don’t want to hear your side of the story. We’re both better off if I don’t know what you were doing there with a guy that Wil-liams tells me is a well-known gangster. Apparently a vehicle matching that description was seen at the scene of a double murder in Pretoria recently. And you lied to Williams, Jade.You lied to me too. You covered your ass. Don’t deny it. I know you too well for that.” He opened a wooden drawer inside the wardrobe and rummaged for underwear. “I’m in deep shit at the moment. My career’s as good as over. In a couple of days I’ll be officially out. I’m actually going for an interview this morning with Home Affairs. Naisha organized it for me yesterday.”

He threaded a leg into a pair of red underpants, lost his balance and hopped around frantically as he tried to get his other leg in. Jade could see he was cross that she had wit-nessed this undignified maneuver. If she hadn’t been on the point of tears, she would have laughed.

“Is there anything else you need?” he snapped.

She shook her head. “Not really. I’ll leave now, I think. Buzz the gate open for me, will you?”

“I can’t from up here. You’ll have to wait a minute.” He pulled on his shirt and trousers and knotted his tie. The bed creaked as he sat down to put on socks and shoes and creaked again as he stood up. He slung his jacket over his shoulder. A piece of paper fluttered to the ground from the inside pocket.

“You dropped something,” Jade said. She picked it up and looked at it. It was a photocopy of a list of handwritten names.

David’s mouth twisted. “That’s a copy of the fax that Bill Scott sent through yesterday. I was going to give it to you. Throw it away, will you? Together with the rest of your documentation.”

He pulled open the door. She put the folded paper in her pocket and walked down the stairs while he locked up. She heard his heavy tread behind her and then the gate rattled open.

Jade trudged back to her cottage. David passed her on the road, accelerating furiously. The way he was driving, she hoped he didn’t crash the unmarked before he had to return it to the station’s car pool.

Jade wasn’t on the case any more. But she couldn’t walk away from it. Not while Whiteboy was at large and Piet was in jail. And not while she didn’t have a clue why Annette Botha had wanted to trace Ellie Myers before she, too, was murdered outside her gate.

She felt naked without her gun, but for now there was no way of obtaining another weapon. She’d have to pressure Robbie to return her piece as soon as he could.

If he was intending to return it at all. If he didn’t have other plans for it, plans he wasn’t telling her. Who had offered money for Robbie to murder Viljoen? Or had he been hired by somebody else to misdirect her and lead her into the jaws of a police trap?

She grabbed her car keys and drove down the road at a speed rivaling David’s.

Random Violence