Jade lay sprawled on the grass with Whiteboy standing above her. She still couldn’t see his face, not even when he dropped down onto one knee and placed a hand on her arm. She heard him breathe and smelt the faint odor of old cigarette smoke as he bent forward.

Systematically, he began to rip away her clothing.

She struggled with the strength of despair, knowing that however hard she fought she had no chance against his power and bulk. That he was enjoying the chase as much as he would savor the kill. That David was a short distance away, hearing every movement, listening to every sound.

He ripped off her jacket, squeezing and groping her, snig-gering in a way that made her want to spit in his face. He held her down with one meaty hand while he tore open the buttons of her jeans, yanked her shoes off and tugged the jeans down her legs.

Jade resisted every step of the way. She pushed his hands away and bent her knees. She kicked and thrashed and tried to bite, hearing the panting and sobbing of her own breath in the stillness. Whiteboy pushed her backwards until her head jammed against a large rocky outcrop. His strong arms over-powered her. His fingers bruised her thighs. Jade clamped her legs together. The denim bunched around her ankles and Whiteboy snickered again, using both his hands to tug the jeans off. Jade windmilled her arms in the surrounding grass, hoping to find a sharp stick or a stone that she could fight him with.

Her fingers closed around something better.

A discarded beer bottle made from heavy glass. Tossed into the bushes by one of the pedestrians, the poor people, the ones who walked alongside the roads. Faceless, nameless, unseen and unnoticed by the drivers staring ahead in their big fast cars.

Tossed into the grass by somebody who had inadvertently given her the chance to save her life.

Thank you, Jade thought.

She grasped the slim smooth head of the bottle like a life-line. She had one chance and she would have to take it imme-diately, because if Whiteboy got hold of her arms again there was no way she’d get free. Jade raised the bottle and brought it down with all the force she could muster, onto the rock behind her.

Glass shattered around her head and she saw Whiteboy’s shadowy form whipping towards her again. Jade sat up and thrust the jagged-edged weapon into the darkness like a spear, guided by the sound of his rough breathing.

She felt the glass slice through his flesh, felt cartilage and tendons rip and tear as the razor-sharp edges slashed them apart.

She’d stabbed the broken bottle directly into his throat.

Whiteboy made a final desperate grab for her. His fingers closed around her neck and squeezed. Jade felt the blood pound in her head. She gagged, struggling. Then his grasp grew weaker and his fingers slipped away. She felt, rather than saw, the blood pouring from his severed arteries. He folded onto the ground. His final breath gurgled in his lungs. He twitched, and was still.

Jade took a deep breath. He was dead. She felt weak with relief. But David and Piet were still in danger. She had to help them fast. With trembling hands, she felt around for her shoes and slipped them on. Whiteboy was on top of her jeans, so she would have to do without them.

Jade remembered Whiteboy’s strategy. Deception and surprise.

She grabbed the branch of a tree and swung it violently back and forth a few times to mimic a struggle, feeling a rain of dry leaves falling around her. Then she screamed.

She picked up one of the pieces of broken glass from the rock and crawled out of the undergrowth onto the road. She screamed again, choking, gagging, begging him not to strangle her. Then she cut the scream short, and kept quiet, praying that the noise hadn’t put David and Piet at further risk.

Jade crept back towards the clearing, trying to stay in the shadows on the other side of the path, because her legs were so damn pale they would show up like flares if there was any light around.

Keeping silent. Moving carefully and slowly. Trying to keep her burning impatience under control. Trying not to let herself worry about everything that could still go wrong.

She heard Piet cry “Bastard” and then the sound of a boot hitting a skull. She edged forward, feeling the grass slowly yield to her shifting weight. Poor Piet.

Silence again. Now she was behind her car. It was lighter in the clearing. She would have to be very careful.

“Whitey?” Mark called. “Hope he hasn’t gone to sleep,” he said in a conversational tone. “It’s not easy to keep him awake after he’s had a good time.” He called again, louder. “Whiteboy?”

Jade crept a few steps further. Now she was behind the black Mercedes. Mark wasn’t looking in her direction. He was staring ahead at the bushes near the road, wondering what had happened to his friend.

She saw him move forward cautiously. He took the gun with him, but he didn’t take David or Piet. He walked through the grass, stepping slowly. He held his cell phone up and used the light of the screen to see where he was going.

Jade hoped he would take a little while to find the corpse in the long grass using only a cell phone. As soon as he had stepped into the undergrowth, she sprinted across the clearing to David and Piet.

David stared at her as if she had returned from the dead, his eyes wide and his jaw slack with shock. Half undressed, with a bloodstained shirt and grass in her hair, she thought she probably looked as if she had.

She crouched down beside them and used the glass shard to cut through the cable ties. She freed David first, then Piet. They sat up, rubbing their wrists and ankles.

“Dead,” she whispered to Piet. “The guy who killed your wife.”

Piet leaned forward. His knotted fingers closed around her hand and held it gently for a moment.

“Whitey?” they heard Mark call.

David jerked his thumb. “Over to the car,” he whispered. “Better cover.”

Jade had to help him walk; he’d hurt his ankle so badly he couldn’t bear any weight on it at all. They had almost reached the car when they heard Mark shout, “Shit.”

Footsteps pounded back through the undergrowth towards them.

She was sure she would find a gun in the Mercedes. But there was no time to look. The three of them huddled together behind the dark, gleaming bulk of the car. Jade heard Mark run into the clearing. Then his footsteps stopped abruptly. She imagined him staring, astounded, at the place where his prisoners had been.

Jade heard the beeping of his phone, and saw the dancing shadow of the screen through the tinted glass of the car. Mark was hunting with his cell phone again. He wasn’t as bright as Whiteboy, she thought, but even so it wouldn’t take long for him to realize he could search far more efficiently if he used the car’s headlights. He was armed, and ready to use his weapon. She was half-naked, David was half-lame, and Piet looked half-stunned. Could they overpower him before he fired a shot?

They didn’t have a chance to find out. Jade heard the rumble of a car approaching on the road. She saw the beam of headlights, and above them, the reassuring signal of a bright blue light.

The car drove past the gap in the trees. It skidded to a stop and she heard it reverse. Then the headlights swung towards them and tires crunched as the vehicle stopped behind Jade’s hired car.

She glanced at Piet and David. Their expressions were as blank as her own, lit up in shadowy white and blue. Across the clearing, she saw Mark Myers spin round and aim his gun at the vehicle.

The driver opened the car door.

“Put the gun down,” Jade heard him say. “I won the South African police pistol-shooting championships five years in a row and I haven’t gone a day without practicing since. So if you’re looking for a shootout, forget it.”

The voice belonged to Williams.

Jade and David glanced at each other and stood up. Jade brushed the soil off her bare knees. Beside her, Piet struggled to his feet.

Mark bent down and lowered his gun to the ground.

“That’s better,” Williams said. “Now put your hands in the air. You’re under arrest.”

He turned to David. “Superintendent, I thought I sus-pended you from duties.”

“I can explain everything, Commissioner.”

“I’m sure you can. But your explanation will have to wait. There’s a pair of handcuffs in the trunk of the car. Get them out and then let’s get this gentleman in a situation where he can’t cause any damage.”

Jade helped David stagger over to the police vehicle. Wil-liams opened the trunk and David rummaged inside.

“There’s everything here except the bloody cuffs,” he said, pushing aside reflective jackets and kit bags and traffic cones. Jade bent across and helped him search. She wondered how Williams had known where they were. She’d have to ask him when Mark had been restrained. The sooner this was over, the sooner they could go home. The adrenaline had ebbed out of her. She felt as weak as a kitten. She wanted to sleep for a hundred years. Where were the damn cuffs?

Jade was reaching under a pile of papers when she heard a sound. A small sound, like a puppy might make if it was left outside the door in the cold. She straightened up to look.

“David,” she whispered.

Williams had grabbed Piet in a headlock. His service pistol was pushed against the defenseless man’s temple.

Williams nodded to Mark. Jade saw he had picked up his gun again.

“Go ahead. I’ll take this one. You take the others.”

The police commissioner stared at Jade, his eyes bright in the gleam of the headlights.

Piet looked strangely calm in Williams’s grip, and as Jade watched him she suddenly knew what he was thinking. His wife’s killer had died. He was finally at peace. He could face his own fate.

She watched Williams’s finger tighten on the trigger, and as she heard the deafening crack of the shot she closed her eyes.

Random Violence