Jade skidded round the corner, feeling her tires slip on the dirt as she sped down the road. Flying over the rutted surface faster than she’d ever been down a dirt road before, she felt the car become airborne over the bigger bumps. She held the wheel tightly, keeping it straight, trying not to panic. Trying not to overcorrect or to brake too suddenly.

A black shape appeared in her rearview mirror. The Mer-cedes was in pursuit.

“Great,” Jade said through gritted teeth, gearing down to take another corner. The car slid sideways and kicked up a coarse shower of sand. For a heart-stopping moment she thought she was going to lose control. Then the car righted itself and she flattened her foot on the accelerator as she hurtled down a long straight stretch.

Looking behind, she could see the Mercedes was gaining. Hardly surprising. When two tons of finest German tech-nology was pitted against a generic, entry-level machine with an underpowered engine, what the hell else did she think was going to happen?

She needed her gun. She’d rather turn and fight than write herself off when her pursuer finally forced her into mis-judging a bend. And this surface was treacherous. Sharp stones, areas as dry as the desert and sand in drifts and hollows. Rat-tling over the road at a suicidal speed, she’d roll in an instant if one of her wheels hit a deep enough patch of the soft stuff.

It was easy enough for the heavier, stronger Mercedes. All the driver had to do to avoid losing control of his car was follow her exact path. She was sure her tracks were visible, even in the tan-colored clouds of dust that plumed out behind her wheels.

“Dammit, Robbie, why couldn’t you have brought the bloody gun with you to the restaurant?”

As if he had heard her words, the driver of the Mercedes started shooting. Jade heard the crack of the gun and ducked reflexively. She felt the car veer terrifyingly to the left as its wheels caught the edge of the sandbank on the side of the road.

“Shit. Bad idea.” Jade straightened up, her hands tight on the wheel as she fought to steer the car out of the skid. Inch by inch, the tires regained their grip on the road and she guided it back to the center. Glancing in her rearview mirror, she saw the driver was shooting from out of his open window. She could see his hand, pale-skinned, gripping the gun.

“Good. Go on, slow yourself down. Think you can shoot and drive and still keep up with me?” Jade forced herself to stay upright, although all her instincts screamed at her to get down when she heard another shot. On these rough roads, it would be a miracle if he put a bullet through her head or her tire. Especially if he was trying to steer while he aimed. She was putting herself at greater risk by ducking down and trying to avoid the bullets. Which, she thought, was probably what the driver behind her was hoping she would do.

Jade saw his arm disappear back into the car. He’d obvi-ously realized shooting was a waste of time. She still had all her tires and her window glass and she had gained a precious few meters of additional ground.

In another couple of seconds, the car behind her had made up the distance. Jade knew she didn’t have much time. Before she reached the next crossroads, she’d have to abandon the car and head for an open field. There, she would see if she could outrun a man with a gun.

The road curved to the left. This was the worst part of the route. Jade had nearly turned back when she’d been coming the other way a few minutes earlier. It was the section where steep speed bumps alternated with deep concrete drainage ditches. She remembered thinking that if she lived down this road, a four-wheel drive wouldn’t just have been optional. It would have been essential.

Now here she was, approaching the ditches at a speed that she was sure no four-wheel drive vehicle had ever attempted.

The little engine screamed in protest as Jade slammed the car into first gear. Sand shot from under the tires. The car dipped and twisted violently and Jade heard a metallic scrape as the transmission caught on the concrete rim of the first ditch. The car bounced upright again. She was through and still good to go.

As she ramped over the speed bump, hearing the transmis-sion take another round of battering, she glanced behind her. The Mercedes was having more trouble with the ditch than she expected. It was heavy and low-slung, unlike her high-riding vehicle. She heard a banging, scraping noise as the underside of the big vehicle caught the edge of the concrete.

“Ouch,” Jade said, wondering if a piece of the car’s expensive bodywork had been left behind on the road. She hoped so.

She thumped through the next ditch. The impact sent her flying skywards and her head collided painfully with the roof of the car.

When Jade opened her eyes, she thought she was halluci-nating. Two red security vans had pulled into the road ahead, blocking the junction. The drivers got out and stood behind the vehicles, facing the oncoming cars. Jade thought the men looked nervous.

She breathed out in relief as she scaled the final speed bump and skidded to a halt before she crashed into the impromptu security barrier. Behind her, the Mercedes swung sideways again, its hood buried in the roadside grass. The car reversed, turned, and sped off back the way it had come, engine howling. Again, Jade heard the sound of the car colliding with the edge of the steep ditch.

“Eina,” she said. “That must have done some damage.”

She staggered out of her car, knees weak and arms trem-bling. She felt as if she was floating towards the two guards. They had sturdy bulletproof vests strapped outside their shirts. One man was armed. The other carried a truncheon. The words “Tactical Security” were emblazoned in yellow on the sides of both vans.

The guards had a quick conversation. Then the man with the pistol climbed back into his van and set off in pursuit of the Mercedes.

The other guard hurried over to her.

“You OK?” he asked.

“Fine. Now that you’re here.” Jade shook his hand.

“Thank you.”

“Was it an attempted hijacking?”

She nodded, settling for the easier explanation. “Yes.”

“A resident reported reckless driving and gunshots. We were patrolling in a neighboring area.” The man looked pleased with himself to have arrived in time to prevent crime.

Private security. Jade took a deep, trembling breath. Every South African resident who could afford the monthly costs signed up for it. In return, the security firms patrolled their clients’ neighborhoods, looking out for suspicious vehicles and responding to calls from residents. In her headlong flight down the road, she hadn’t had time to notice the grassy plots and farm-style houses that lined the road. But somebody had seen her and called for help.

Jade decided against going back to her cottage. She thought of asking the security guard to accompany her, but the guard wouldn’t be able to wait around indefinitely. And the man in the Mercedes would know she was there, because he would see her car.

Where could she go? The lady from the estate agents board was calling back in half an hour. She needed to be somewhere safe, where she could speak to her calmly, and then get on the phone again to find out what the hell was going on.

Jade mulled it over. Then she nodded. She knew where she could go. She got back into her poor little car and headed west, checking her mirrors for any sign of the dark vehicle.

Annette’s house looked secure. From outside, she could see that the front door and gate were closed, just as she had left them. She couldn’t see any other vehicles on the road. The gate rattled open and rattled shut again behind her. Jade drove round the house, off the brick driveway and onto the grass that Piet had recently watered. He had wasted his time. The frost had turned the lawn a depressing shade of beige.

She parked the car and walked back round the house. Her car was invisible from the road. Nobody would know she was here.

She unlocked the front door and stepped inside, then turned and locked it again. The house was quiet. Jade breathed in and waited. It felt peaceful. Empty. She couldn’t sense the presence of another human being. Everything was in its place.

All the same, she walked round the house checking every cupboard, looking behind every door. The paint had dried on the wardrobe door in Annette’s bedroom. The design looked beautiful, even though she was sure Piet still had hours of work to do on it.

While she was checking the final room she heard her cell phone ring. She sprinted back to the lounge and pulled it out of her bag.

The woman’s crisp voice was loud in her ear. “Ms. de Jong? I have the information you’re looking for.”

Jade scrabbled in her bag for a pen. Paper was more of a problem. Her notebook was on top of the case file in her cottage. She dug in her pocket and pulled out the photocopy that David had given her. She could use the blank side of the page and write small.

“Mr. Mark Myers seems to be the official agent for a company called White & Co. All his sales were done through them. White & Co is owned by a Mr. Whiteley.”

“Yes?” Jade’s pen hovered over the page.

“I’m going to give you some names of their recent develop-ments in Johannesburg. To list the individual homes would be a waste of my time,” she said firmly.

“Thank you. I really appreciate your effort,” Jade said. She knew when to be humble.

The woman gave her a list of names and Jade wrote them down. Lake View Manor, Sandton Ridge, Fairway Lodge, Sun Valley Estate. Names that inspired the imagination. Names that would appeal to buyers seeking luxury and status.

Of course, she reminded herself, that didn’t mean the places weren’t horrid little houses with crumbling finishes and no room to swing a kitten. After all, you could call a place whatever you wanted. She’d have to wait and see for herself.

“Do you have contact numbers or any information about the sellers?” she asked.

“No, I do not. I suggest you contact the estates themselves. Or better still, deal with Mr. Myers directly. I don’t know why you didn’t think to do that in the first place.”

Jade heard a click in her ear as the woman replaced her receiver. She sincerely hoped she wouldn’t have to phone her again.

An hour later she’d obtained contact numbers for three of the estates. They were all located in Jo’burg’s northern suburbs. She decided to take a drive and speak to the man-agement in person. She would use Annette’s house as a base and return later in the evening. She felt safe there.


Whiteboy loved the thrill of the pursuit. He loved knowing that he was half a step behind the enemy, and gaining. In Angola, tracking down rebel forces, he recalled the exhilara-tion he’d felt as he’d got closer, and the hot, delicious triumph that had washed over him when the terrified men had real-ized that they were surrounded and outmaneuvered, that there was nowhere left to run.

His ultimate strategic success was when he duped his pur-suers into believing that they were doing the chasing. When they believed that they were gaining on him, while every step that they fought so hard for was taking them further into the trap that he had set.

He believed it was time to put a similar plan into opera-tion now.

The call that he had been waiting for finally came through. Cell phone reception in this area was up to shit, one of its few drawbacks.

“How are we doing?” he asked his trusted contact.

“Everything’s ready.”

“Plan A and plan B.”


“Plan A, we stay.” He looked out of the window. The house he was currently occupying was pleasant enough. It should be. After all, he had built it. They’d agreed it would be a smart idea to keep a couple of homes in reserve, so to speak, within each of their developments. And they were very useful. Nice anonymous buildings. Great security. Top-class privacy. Nobody to see him come and go once he was inside the tall walls.

Plan A would be first prize. He still had a lot to do here. Two new developments to complete. Another twenty million or so to pocket on each one. He wasn’t ready to go yet, but if he had to—well, it was all sorted.

Plan B was flawless. Across the border into Namibia. From there into Zimbabwe. And from there, a fake passport to take him out of the country to wherever he wanted to go. People were running away from that crackpot nation all the time.

Nobody would suspect a wealthy man on the run from a dangerous country. A tobacco farmer perhaps, resourceful enough to have got his money out with him, starting a new life somewhere more stable. He didn’t know where. America, perhaps. He had connections there who could get him a green card. He could retire early. He was wealthy enough to park on his chunky ass in a luxury mansion and watch cable TV until his brain rotted away. The problem was he liked to keep busy. Whiteboy had an excellent work ethic. However, he was the first to admit that the type of work he thrived on was not what the authorities had in mind when they issued green cards to foreigners.

“Plan A is what we aim for,” he told his trusted contact.

“Of course.”

“We’ll need to do it soon. It annoys me to have to duck and dive like this.”

A dry chuckle. “Not your style.”

“No,” snapped Whiteboy. It was all right for his contact. He wasn’t the one who had to look left, right and left again before reversing out of his damn garage, in case the Scorpions were jumping over his wall. He wasn’t sure if the cops were up to speed with the situation yet. He hoped that the emer-gency precautions his other contact had taken would have quashed the investigation before it had moved any further in his direction.

On the bright side, it wasn’t as if Whiteboy’s photograph was stuck up on the wall with a caption “Wanted Dead or Alive.”

As he had discovered, most white people in South Africa wore invisible blinkers that prevented them from being sus-picious of anyone the same color. It made his job laughably easy. Although he was probably not the most savory looking guy they’d ever seen, with his goddamn ugly skin they could tell a mile away that he was white. And that made them trust him, even on a dark night, even when they were alone.

All he had to do was pull over, climb out and stroll towards them, and every single one—so far—opened their window to talk to him. The next—and last—thing they’d see was the barrel of his gun. He owned three different Colts, not counting the one he had recently sacrificed in Diepsloot, a Z88 and two Berettas. All kept scrupulously clean and oiled, in prime firing condition. Unlike the average thug on the street, Whiteboy couldn’t afford to miss a shot. But he didn’t want the ballistics people linking up too many of the shoot-ings, if he ever lost one of his weapons. Better for everybody to think there were hordes of criminals out there, trying their hand at hijacking with an endless supply of guns. Well, that was no lie. There were.

Cell phones and wallets provided a useful excuse for a shooting. He changed his MO every time. Sometimes he broke gate motors in advance, other times he cable-tied them shut to get the owners out of the car and into the open. Occasion-ally he’d go for a completely different scenario, like a house robbery.

There was other stuff, too, that he had found helpful. One guy had half a kilogram of hash stashed in the cubbyhole of his BMW. Whiteboy had been careful to leave traces of it in the car when he removed it. As a result, the evidence gath-ered by the oh-so-slow police force had sent that particular investigation limping off in the wrong direction.

So he wasn’t too worried about hiding out. If he obeyed the traffic rules and didn’t get caught in any police roadblocks, he’d be fine. Till tonight. When they could get moving and end this goddamn problem once and for all. He hadn’t been able to get the girl earlier. Truth be told, he had been reluc-tant to kill her when capturing her would be so much more fun. He smiled, remembering the furious pursuit. His contact had been right. She was spunky. All the more to look forward to later.

Now she was in hiding, he supposed. There wasn’t time to flush her out or track her down from wherever she might be. But he wouldn’t need to. He had a foolproof plan in place for getting her to the party. Better, really, than his original strategy.

He smiled. More than one step ahead. That was the way to play it. He’d stay put until the afternoon. Then he had a few errands to run before the fun could start. He jingled his keys in his hand. It wouldn’t be long now before he climbed in his car and set off to pay a surprise visit to the broken-kneed Graham Hope.

Random Violence