Dean Grobbelaar had a hoarse, grainy voice. It sounded as if he had been chain smoking for decades. Jade couldn’t ask him if he had though, because he wasn’t answering his land-line or his cell phone. Each time she phoned, she got the same rasping growl of his voicemail. She left yet another message asking him to call her back. She’d just have to wait.

Jade clenched her fists in frustration. She didn’t want to wait. There was too much to do. She wanted to have this investigation finalized as soon as possible. Preferably before Viljoen was released from prison.

Thinking of Viljoen made her even more restless. She decided not to go back to the icy cottage. Instead, she drove to a shooting range for an hour of practice.


Her father taught her to shoot the day she turned thir-teen. It was a rite of passage. When he’d turned thirteen, his father had taken him shooting for the first time. Jade was his only child. He’d told her he didn’t see why he should make an exception for her just because she was a girl. Besides, Jade played football and took judo lessons and fought with the other kids in the area, just as she would have done if she’d been a boy. Maybe more, because being a cop’s daughter in a poor neighborhood wasn’t easy. Jade was as tough as any boy, and he wasn’t going to treat her any differently when it came to her first shooting lesson. Not when she was looking forward to it, pestering him about it every day.

That very morning he took her to a shooting range in Upington, where they were based for a few weeks. It was a place where daily temperatures regularly broke the forty-degree barrier and the distant mountains shimmered in the waves of heat. Her dad’s service pistol was boiling hot from the short trip in the car. The heat baked her feet in their thin sandals and billowed up from the ground onto her bare legs. Her baseball cap shielded her eyes from the worst of the glare, which meant she was able to see the owner of the range glow-ering down at her.

“How old is this child?”

“She’s thirteen today,” her father replied proudly.

“Well, she’s too young to be shooting on my range,” the owner said. “Fourteen years and over, that’s the rules here. I don’t want the police on my back, thank you very much.”

Commissioner de Jong didn’t tell the owner he was, in fact, the police. And he wasn’t discouraged. His daughter was going to have a shooting lesson for her birthday. They’d set their minds on it.

They ended up at a game reserve on the outskirts of the Kalahari desert. The game ranger there was an old friend of her father. Jade knew that because he called her father Rooinek and her father called him Doppies.

Doppies led Jade onto their range, which was just a long dirt track sloping down into a valley and up the other side.

He stopped to point out a large bird with rusty-red feathers on its head. It was perched in a wizened-looking tree.

“Do you know what bird that is?”

Jade shook her head. “No, sir.” She wasn’t going to call him Doppies.

“Red-necked falcon. We don’t often get them here. They like those camelthorn trees.”

Jade took another look. It looked just like any other bird to her.

“Come on,” her father said. “Enough about birds. Let’s get on to what we came here for.”

“She can have a go with this.” Doppies passed what he called an elephant rifle to her father. Jade looked at it in amazement. It was almost as tall as she was.

“It’s not an elephant rifle,” Jade’s father corrected him, shaking his head at the folly of a man who could think that species of birds were more important than types of gun. “That’s what he tells the ignorant tourists,” he said to her. “This is a Musgrave 30-06. Locally-made barrel. If you’re shooting lighter bullets at targets far away, you’ll kill a small buck with it easily. Close up, with heavier ammo, you’ll get a kudu or a gemsbok. I know people who’ve taken lions down with them at close-range. Now then, this one’s a bolt-action. What does that mean?”

“It means you operate it by hand.” Jade had swotted up on her gun knowledge in preparation for her big day.

“And is it more accurate than a pump-action shotgun?”

“Yes, it is. And it’s more powerful.”

“Good girl.”

Doppies watched this exchange. He muttered some-thing that Jade thought sounded like “Jesus Christ help the child.”

Her father showed her how to lie prone on the dusty track. Doppies put his jacket over a ridge on the ground and rested the barrel of the gun on it. Jade hefted the gun in her hands, her left elbow wedged into the ground for support. She pressed the butt of the gun against her cheek.

“If you do that, you’ll break your jaw,” the ranger told her, pushing the gun away from her face. “These guns have a massive recoil. Hold it against your shoulder, or you’ll be sorry.”

Jade didn’t want to break her jaw. Her nervousness and the weight of the gun made her arms start to shake. She looked through the telescopic sight. Far, far away through the milky glass, she could see a Coke can propped upright on the ground. It was on the track on the other side of the valley. It was so distant that if she took her eye away from the sight, she couldn’t see it at all.

The can seemed to be circling in a large orbit that took it way outside the crosshairs of the sight. She knew the can wasn’t moving. Her trembling arms were causing the rifle to circle. If it moved like that, there was no way she would hit her target.

Jade took a deep breath and steadied the rifle. She stared at the target and tried to calm her nerves. The circles became smaller. She pulled back on the trigger, feeling resistance. Now she thought it was ready to fire.

She focused on the target. It still moved in tiny circles. There was nothing she could do about that. She didn’t have the strength or experience to hold the big gun still. But she could judge the circles. The crosshairs moved in a pattern. Up, around and down. Up, around and down. As they came down, they passed straight over the blurry outline of the can.

As the hairs came down, Jade squeezed the trigger.

The gun exploded in her arms and bucked against her shoulder, thrusting her backwards along the dirt. She clutched the barrel and closed her eyes against the dust.

Doppies took the rifle from her. “Well done, my girl. Well done. Let’s go and see if that Coke can took any damage.”

She could sense he was humoring her. But she didn’t care. The proud smile her father gave her was enough. She had tried. She’d dared to do it.

They walked down the path, all the way to the bottom of the valley. Then they walked up the other side.

The ranger started looking anxious. He couldn’t see the can in the dirt ahead of them. He shaded his eyes and peered into the distance. He shook his head. He knew where he had put the can. There was no point in walking any further. Then he looked over at the grass on the left-hand side of the track. Jade looked, too. A glint of red and white caught her eye.

Doppies picked up the can. The impact of the bullet had flung it off the track and into the grass. There was a hole directly through its middle. The bullet had pierced it twice. Once on the way in and once on the way out. He held it up and shook his head in disbelief. The sun flashed at Jade through the double hole her bullet had made.

“Keep shooting like that, you’re going to be a dangerous woman when you’re older,” Doppies said, stunned.

And Jade kept shooting like that. Straight enough to beat her father’s score when they practiced together. Accurate enough to win the provincial combat pistol-shooting cham-pionships three years in a row.

Since then, she’d never gone more than a few weeks without practicing, because that was another rule of her father’s.

The practice range she chose while she waited for Dean Grobbelaar to return her call was owned by one of Robbie’s contacts. He was a no-questions type of guy, which suited Jade fine. She didn’t want a friendly type who would engage her in conversation, request a copy of her identification, ask where she was from and where she’d got that handsome gun. Rob-bie’s friend was the exact opposite. He actually looked pissed off to see a customer, as disoriented as if he had just surfaced from a heavy freebasing session. He had dark shadows under his eyes, and wore a string vest that defied the cold and showed off his substantial belly.

She reloaded with lead-tipped ammo and spent an hour firing off a hundred rounds, ducking and diving, sprinting and crouching. She clicked fresh magazines into place on the run, double-tapping the metal targets and hearing them clang onto the uneven ground as they fell. On every target, she pictured Viljoen’s face. When she spun and fired, she imagined him behind her. Would she be fast enough when the time came?

By the end, she was sweating under her long-sleeved shirt. Her hands and arms were sore from the gun’s recoil and her ears rang despite the protective earmuffs.

She got back to her car to find that Grobbelaar still hadn’t returned her call. Just what kind of an investigator was he?

She thumbed the last of the lead-tipped bullets out of her gun’s chamber and inserted a magazine of copper-jackets. Real targets needed penetration and stopping power, not loud noise and surface splatter. Especially real targets that stopped their car outside her house in the middle of the night, engine idling and lights off.

She shivered as she thought about that nighttime surveil-lance. How had Viljoen known she was back in the country less than twenty-four hours after her flight had landed? While he was locked up in prison, serving the last few days of a ten-year sentence which he surely wouldn’t want to jeopardize.

There were only two possibilities. Either Viljoen had uncanny instincts and a network of contacts second to none. Or she was wrong and somebody else was watching her. If so, she had no idea who it could be.


She’d been home for about half an hour when she heard honking at the gate. It was David, in an unmarked vehicle, on his way home from work. He wound the window down and shouted at her.

“You don’t have a bloody doorbell! The only way I can get your attention is to honk.”

Jade could see his breath fogging in the cold. She pressed the button on the remote control and opened the gate.

“You could have phoned,” she said as he got out of the car and slammed the door.

“Bloody airtime. Costs a bomb. It’ll bankrupt me.”

David’s large presence and angry mood filled the small kitchen.

“Tough day?” she asked.

“I’ve come round to see if yours was as crap as mine.” He slumped down onto a chair. It creaked ominously under his weight.

“I thought you were here to scrounge dinner.”

“That too. Same as always. And a beer if you have one. We can talk about the case afterwards. I’m too damn hungry and thirsty right now.” He glanced around the cottage, and looked at her. His mouth twitched in a smile. “Feels like we last did this yesterday,” he said. “You, me and your dad. All around the table in that tiny bloody house. Those were the good times, Jadey.”

She put a beer in front of him and poured herself a glass of wine. She’d gone shopping on the way home and the fridge and cupboard were now stocked with an optimistic selection of healthy food. Vegetables, lentils, brown rice, chicken breasts. That would have to stay where it was for now.

Jade took two giant pepperoni pizzas out of the oven. She knew that when David said he’d be round to discuss the case that evening it was a thinly disguised request for junk food and beer. Cop food, he called it. He was addicted. She had never seen him eat anything healthy.

He grabbed the biggest piece of pizza and crammed it into his mouth. The cheese stretched into long strands that snapped halfway and coiled around his chin.

He started talking before he had swallowed. “If you’d stayed here, we’d have made a good team. Remember. We were going to open the first ever multi-racial, bisexual detec-tive agency in South Africa.”

“Not bisexual. Multi-gender. There’s an important differ-ence,” Jade corrected him.

“Whatever. We had it all planned.”

She nodded. “I remember.” Planned was an exaggeration. But they had talked about it. It had been a dream for her. Perhaps it had been a dream for him too.

She’d ordered a small tub of chopped chili with the pizzas. She spooned a large pile of the oily green substance onto her slice.

“We’d be making a fortune now,” David said. “Easy work. Cheating husbands and debt dodgers. Good money. None of these politics. All I’ve been dealing with today is red tape and paperwork. The whole bloody day.”

“We could still do it.”

David lifted the beer bottle to his lips. He put it down again, empty, a minute later. He wiped a hand across his mouth, looking glum. “We wouldn’t be the first any more.”

Jade took another beer out of the fridge and passed it to him. She watched his hands as he took the bottle. They were surprisingly elegant, with long fingers and short, neat nails that shone against his dark skin.

“Every year, I tell myself this is my last in the police service,” he said. “Then I think to myself, if I leave, who the hell else is going to get the job done? It’s not like we don’t have the numbers. We do. But nobody’s halfway competent. That’s the problem. Case files, evidence, reports go missing all the time.” He rubbed his chin with the back of his hand.

“There is a paper napkin. There, by your knife.”

“Oh.” David looked at it suspiciously, as if it was a piece of evi-dence that didn’t match a crime scene. “You see, Jade, transfor-mation is good and necessary. Don’t get me wrong.” He glanced up and saw her frowning. “Transformation. Getting more black people into the workplace. In places where white people used to have nice cushy protected jobs. The police service, for instance.”


“But it’s been too much, too soon. Most of the officers with knowledge and experience were told thank you and goodbye. Or they got their backs up because of all the changes and left. Either way, they never had a chance to pass on their skills. So now we’ve got a crowd of semi-educated and inexperienced workers trying to do some bloody demanding jobs. They’re not coping. You want to know what the police suicide rate is right now? If anyone in my team doesn’t pitch up for work, I phone them straight away to check they haven’t shot them-selves with their service pistol.”

Jade started on her third piece of pizza. She was matching David slice for slice, but she wasn’t confident about this situ-ation continuing much longer. For one thing, the chili was almost finished.

“You can’t help it if your staff are inexperienced. You’re doing the best that can be done. You always have.”

“Tell that to Commissioner Williams.”

“Is he still on your back?”

David shook his head. “Jade, I don’t know what the hell this guy has against me. He’s making me believe I can’t do the bloody job.”

Jade frowned. Williams had been a competent investigator, according to her father. Perhaps he was a poor manager, pro-moted past his level of skill. Then she had another idea. “You mentioned transformation. Could he have an issue with race? He’s an old-school white Afrikaner. He’s been in that position ever since my dad died. Perhaps he’s angry he’s got a non-white guy working below him now.”

“Yes. I’d say that also. It would be my first thought. Except the last superintendent was a colored man, and he didn’t have a problem with him.”

“The one who had a heart attack?”

He nodded, taking another slice. “The one who left things in a complete bloody mess.”

“Maybe he was good at blaming his inefficiency on other people.”

“If so, I’d better start learning how to do that in a hurry.”

“David.” Jade leaned towards him. She wanted to touch his arm, squeeze his shoulder. Hug him. Do something com-forting. She wasn’t great with physical contact. Never had been. And she was worried that he would interpret it the wrong way. Or rather, if she was honest with herself, the right way.

David was like an older brother, friend and protector com-bined. She’d liked him ever since the first time he smiled at her. A few months after that, when her father was out of town, David had come round for supper and they’d shared a couple of bottles of wine. They talked, with increasing inco-herence, about life and love and everything in between. She’d told him how hard it had been to grow up as a policeman’s daughter in a rough neighborhood. “Pig’s kid” was what the other children had called her when her father wasn’t around. When things had been really bad, she’d taken a knife with her to school, just in case.

In return, David had told her about his childhood. It had been difficult for him, too. He had an Indian father who lived in Durban and a white mother who lived in Port Eliza-beth. When he was old enough to understand, his mother explained that she’d divorced his father when David was very young. It took him a few more years to work out that she’d lied to him, and that although she’d given him his father’s last name, his parents had never been married. He told Jade he was illogically ashamed about this for many years. And he had never fit in. Not with the white people, not with the Indian community. He was a half-breed, an outcast. Bloody lonely, he’d told her. Just like her.

When David had finally staggered out of the house that night, after kissing her on the cheek and cracking his head against the door lintel, Jade had realized that she was hope-lessly in love with him. But what could she do about it? He worked under her dad. She could imagine how difficult it would have been for him to confess to stern Commissioner de Jong that he had romantic feelings for his daughter.

Worse still, perhaps he’d never felt anything for her beyond simple friendship. So she’d bitten her tongue and said nothing.

Now, looking at him across the pizza boxes in the little cottage, all her old shyness returned in an unwelcome rush. It was ridiculous, when she thought about it. After all, she had suffered her share of rejection since then. Taken it and doled it out. Mended her heart and moved on. But David was different. He made her feel like an awkward teenager again, not somebody who’d been involved with other men in other countries. She didn’t want to think about having him look her in the eye and explain with uncharacteristic and humili-ating gentleness that he’d never felt the same way about her.

So she leaned towards him without touching him and said, “You know you’re not inefficient. You’re a details man. And a fantastic cop. Ten years ago you were the best investigator in the whole precinct. Everyone knew you’d be promoted fast and that you’d do the best job. Why should anything have changed?”

David’s face softened and he stretched out his hand across the table.

Jade sat immobile, her heart racing. Perhaps he did feel exactly the same way about her. She waited for his hand to touch hers, imagining how his fingers would feel laced through her own for the very first time.

It never reached her. He pulled her pizza box towards him and lifted out a slice.

“You don’t mind sharing, do you, Jadey? These things are bloody tiny. A whole one gone and I’m still hungry.”

“Of course I don’t mind.” Jade resisted the temptation to run outside and howl like an abandoned dog. Instead she got up and poured herself another large glass of wine. She felt she deserved it.

After David had eaten the last piece of pizza, they started dis-cussing the case.

He told her they’d found no prints on the gate motor. The lid of the motor had been levered off from outside the gate and two fuses had been broken. The gate had been effectively disabled. He strongly suspected that Annette’s killer had jimmied the motor a day or two earlier, so that she would have to get out of her car when she arrived home.

“Makes it much easier to hijack a vehicle if the owner isn’t in it,” he said. Jade moved her chair closer to the heater. David slung his arm over it and put his feet up on the table. She could have reached out and touched his legs. Put her hand on them. But she didn’t. They sat together in silence.

She couldn’t hear any cars on the bumpy road outside. Only the muted beep of the electric fence power supply.

That didn’t mean she felt safe. Jade never felt safe. Not in cottages, not in hotels. It was laughably easy to gain access to a hotel room. She’d done it before when she needed to. A plausible story at the reception desk, a swift bribe slipped to the right person. Or better still, a hurried entry into the room as the turndown service was being done, with an apology to a chambermaid who wouldn’t think twice about it. Jade never opened a hotel room door without wondering if somebody was inside, waiting for her.

The cottage was more difficult to penetrate. But it was still possible in spite of the reassuring electric fence. She’d seen gaps under the palisade fencing where people could crawl through. Then her attackers would have the advantage. They could break in or they could wait for her to step out of the front door.

Forcing back the troubling thoughts, she told David about her day.

He frowned. “So Annette’s work colleague claims her husband had her followed? That doesn’t sound good. What’s your impression of Piet?”

Jade thought that over for a moment. “Before I spoke to Yolandi, he wasn’t my first choice of suspect.”

“Why not?”

She struggled to find the words to describe the weathered little man. “Not because of motive. He benefits from her death. More because he’s so unworldly. I feel sorry for him. He can’t control Annette’s dogs. I can’t imagine him being able to deal with a Pekingese. He couldn’t manage to light a cigarette while I was talking to him. He got distracted and then just gave up on the job. If he’d arranged a successful hit, which would surprise me, there’s no way he could do it without leaving evidence behind. That’s my first impression of him, anyway.”

“Let’s find out what he’s up to, then. But if the evidence points any further towards him, I’m going to have to bring him in and ask him some tough questions. Maybe handcuffs and a night in a cell will get the truth out of him.”

“I’ll talk to the private detective tomorrow. See if Annette contacted him, and why.” Jade stood up. She bent the empty pizza boxes in half and pushed them into the dustbin.

David took his feet off the table and rocked forward on the chair. “Yell if you need anything. Thanks for supper, and all that.” He got up and walked towards the door. She followed him, but he stopped suddenly and turned back to her. They were so close they were almost touching. He gazed down at her.

“You know, Jade, it’s bloody cold in here.”

“Yes. I know.”

He turned and left, closing the door quietly behind him.

Random Violence