Annette’s house looked quiet and undisturbed. Jade stopped outside the gate. Although the morning was bright and sunny and the road was deserted, she couldn’t help glancing nervously behind her. What if a gunman jumped out of the long grass and overpowered her, as swiftly as the caracal that had leapt on the little buck?

She didn’t get out of her car. She read the phone number on the estate agent’s sign and dialed it using her cell phone. First time around, the likeable Graham had sold this piece of land to Annette’s brother. Who had sold it the second time around? And who had bought it?

“I need to get some information,” she told the man, when he answered.

“Right. Right.” He cleared his throat with a dry, “ah” sound. “I’ll be happy to help you. If you’d like to pop round, I’m, ah, in the office for another hour. Then I’m out, selling houses.”

Her willing helper was a balding man wearing a suit and tie. A Range Rover was parked outside his office. Literature from the Freemasons lay on his desk. His handshake was warm and friendly and Jade soon discovered the throat-clearing was some kind of nervous habit. He couldn’t get through a sentence without doing it.

He didn’t know Annette Botha had died. His eyebrows rose in concern and he offered his condolences. Then Jade asked him about the property.

“Yes. Mrs. Botha’s land. I sold that for her. She was, ah, pleasantly surprised by how quickly it sold.”

“Who bought it?”

“A consortium. They bought some land nearby for devel-opment a while ago. When this came on the market they snapped it up. They were keen to, ah, start a second phase. An equestrian development, I believe.”

“What’s the name of the consortium?”

“Well, I suppose you’d call it Life Direct. An, ah, insur-ance company. They are the major investors. Although they’ve also got a black economic empowerment group on board with them, as all the large companies are obliged to do these days.”

A consortium. Not a renegade developer. Jade watched the man take the Freemason papers and throw them into the dustbin. His fingers were dotted with short white hairs and he was wearing a gold wedding band.

“Did Mrs. Botha sell it for a good price?” She was stabbing in the dark. She didn’t know what the right question would be. If there was a right question.

“Oh yes. Fair market value. Which is quite high. It’s a beau-tiful property. Idyllic location in a fast-growing area. Amazing, ah, potential.”

No point in pursuing that avenue, then. Annette’s death hadn’t had anything to do with the sale of her land. She couldn’t investigate a scenario that didn’t exist. But perhaps, while she was here, this man could help her get closer to locating White & Co.

The agent turned to his laser fax machine and removed a document from the out-tray. The wheels of his chair slid smoothly over the seamless wooden floor.

“Tell me more about property development in Johannes-burg,” she said.

He slid his chair back over to the desk. He looked amused.

“Property development? I always think that’s like the winter flu. At the moment there’s, ah, a lot of it going around. Such a demand for houses, you see, with the emerging black middle-class. The, ah, black diamonds, they call them. They all have to live somewhere.” He beamed at her. “And there-fore many of the white people, in turn, have to live some-where else. Hence the, ah, housing boom. And the economy is favorable at present. Extremely favorable.”

“What’s the market like?”

“South Africa is a developer’s dream. Especially since the end of apartheid. For most people with the, ah, capital to start up, it’s like winning the jackpot at Sun City.”


The agent’s cell phone rang and he glanced at the screen. If it had been a client, Jade was sure he would have taken the call. But he pressed the button to silence it. Probably his wife, she thought. Or the Freemasons.

“Compared to almost every other country, our market is wide open. Not controlled by the large international com-panies although of course, they’re doing their damnedest to, ah, take over again. You see, they all pulled out of the country during apartheid. When sanctions were imposed, and the going got tough.” He chuckled. “South Africa moved a lot faster than they did. Apartheid ended, Mandela came into power and the economy did a turnaround while all the building giants were still scratching their heads and won-dering if it was safe to go back in. So there was a lot of money to be made. Anyone with a truck and a building crew had a chance, really.” He folded his hands.

Jade thought of the pseudo-Tuscan gateways and high walls and guard-houses. She’d seen a lot of them around. 48 Forest Road, and many others. Every time she stopped at a traffic light, there seemed to be people handing out glossy bro-chures for developments with imposing names and detailed architect’s drawings and glowing descriptions.

“If you were a developer, how could you make the most money?” she asked.

He nodded, the flesh underneath his chin bobbing slowly up and down. “A very good question. Apart from building cheaply and taking shortcuts, which of course has legal rami-fications at a later stage, I’d say the key is getting hold of the right property, the right piece of land. Geographically sound, no legal issues. And in, ah, the right area. The developers I know tell me the same sad story every time. The properties they really want aren’t for sale. And unfortunately, when a developer comes knocking at the door, the owners usually add an extra zero to their asking price, which eats up a large portion of the, ah, profits. Sometimes properties become so expensive to obtain, the developer ends up suffering a loss.”

Jade braced herself for the dry throat-clearing she knew would follow. She wasn’t disappointed.

On impulse, she asked him, “Have you heard of a devel-oper called White & Co?”

He thought for a while. “I can’t say I have. As I told you, there are many, ah, fish in this particular sea.”

“How would I find them?”

“I couldn’t advise you on how to trace them.” He cleared his throat again. “Of course when they sell, or let their devel-opment out, they would have to use a registered estate agent. Like myself.” He opened his desk drawer and brought out a sheaf of papers. He sorted through them and then handed one to her. “Here’re the contact details for the, ah, estate agents board. They might be able to help you further.”

Jade got on the phone as soon as she was back in her car. She didn’t have a hands-free kit. If the traffic cops saw her, they could saddle her with a hefty fine. Right now, that was the least of her worries. She held the phone with her right hand and steered with her left. When she needed to change gear, she jammed her knee against the wheel. David would be so proud, she thought, if he could see her now.

She asked the woman at the estate agents board for the contact details of registered agent Garth Whiteley. After a short pause, the woman replied.

“We don’t have a registered agent of that name.”

Jade changed gear again, and checked her mirrors for any signs of blue and white Metro Traffic Police vehicles.

“You must have. There must be one of that name. Can you check again?”

“I’m looking at the list of agents right now,” the woman said. She didn’t sound too pleased about being doubted. “There’s no Mr. Whiteley on this list. I can assure you of that.”

Half an hour later, Jade parked under the lonely oak tree and walked across the road to the Tuscan housing complex built by the elusive White & Co. The security guard leaned out of his window. Jade asked if he would mind her questioning some of the residents while they were driving through the gate. Police work, she told him, fingers crossed behind her back.

He agreed, but said she mustn’t take too long. That was fine with her. She didn’t want to take too long, either. She was burning with impatience.

The first resident out of the gate was a red-haired woman driving a white Audi.

“Can I ask you a quick question, please?” Jade approached the car.

“No,” the woman replied rudely, before she sped off.

Jade raised her eyebrows. The rich were friendly folk, all right. She saw the security guard watching from the guard-house. He gave her a sympathetic shake of the head. Presum-ably, he dealt with people like this all day.

The next lady out of the gates didn’t know. Her husband handled those affairs and he was at work.

She got lucky with the third resident she asked. The woman pulled into the driveway and opened her window when Jade approached.

“Yes, I’m sure I can find that for you.” She nodded at the pas-senger door of her Jeep. “Hop inside. I’ll check in the house.” She tossed a towel onto the back seat to make room for Jade.

This lady had been to the gym. She was wearing a designer tracksuit top and shiny leggings. “Let’s go,” she said, turning the wheel with manicured fingers. Dark-haired, tanned and sporty-looking, she could have been Ellie’s sister.

Jade waited in her tiled living room. She put her hand down and touched the polished granite. It was warm. Under-floor heating, as she’d suspected.

“Here you go.” The woman hurried back with a document in her hand. Jade scanned the page expectantly, looking for the agent’s name. When she found it, she nearly fell over backwards onto the expensive floor. She blinked, and looked again. She hadn’t been expecting this.

The home had been sold by Mark Myers.

“Let me double-check this with you,” Jade said, when she could speak again. “You bought this home after it had been developed by White & Co?”

“Yes, that’s right. Mark showed it to us a couple of years ago. It was brand-new. Recently finished.”

“What was Mark like?”

“He was a lovely guy. A good salesman. Asked us lots of questions, made sure we were happy, the usual shebang.”

“What did he look like?”

She laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. Average height, not fat, not thin. Brown hair. Not bad looking. He had a nice smile.” She pulled a card out of a paper clip. “Here’s his card, if you want it.”

Jade thanked her and set off back to the estate’s imposing gatehouse. The cheap sale Mark had made to White & Co. had camouflaged the real deal. The money he’d sent to Bill Scott had been a smokescreen. Mark had been back again, cheerfully reselling houses on his wife Ellie’s estate for vast sums of money after her death. Was he one of the enemy?

The woman at the estate agents board didn’t sound too thrilled to hear from Jade again. Jade had to use all her charm to get what she wanted. When charm didn’t produce the results fast enough, she brought out the big guns.

“I think it would be easier if I came round to see you in person,” she said, firmly.

“No, no, that won’t be necessary.” The woman was galva-nized into action by the unpleasant prospect of having Jade leaning over her desk and breathing down her neck. “I’ll call you back in an hour with the information.”

Jade waited in her car, parked outside Oak Grove. She was safe enough there. The security guard was keeping an eye on her. She examined Mark’s business card and dialed the cell number printed there. It rang through to an automatically generated voicemail message. Mark wasn’t answering her call.

She tried David’s phone again. No reply. She didn’t know whether he was ignoring her or whether he was signing his letter of appointment at Home Affairs. She left him an urgent message. Then she started her car and headed for home.

Jade didn’t know whether luck or instinct made her decide to change her route on the way back. She was starting to feel exposed, arriving back at the cottage from the same direction every time. Whiteboy was on the loose in Jo’burg. She needed to be more careful.

Approaching from the other direction was difficult. She had to take a complicated route over deeply rutted sand roads fissured with erosion channels and drainage ditches. When she finally jolted round the last corner, she was glad she had taken the trouble.

A black Mercedes was parked outside her house, off the road, concealed in the deep shadows of a tree. The shiny, low-slung vehicle looked out of place on the country lane. It was parked facing away from her, its sleek hood pointing towards the road she usually approached from.

Jade couldn’t see a number-plate on the back of the car. She didn’t have her weapon with her. She would have to run.

She forced her small car to a stop and twisted the wheel as she threw it into reverse. She pulled out of the three-point turn and headed back the way she had come. Checking her mirror, she saw the Mercedes swing sideways, dust kicking out from under its heavy tires. The driver had seen her and he was coming after her.

Random Violence