The Blame Game
Contributor
Written by
Jennifer Ward
February 2014
Contributor
Written by
Jennifer Ward
February 2014

6:49 PM

In Johannesburg, there are some places where you cannot murder.

The prestigious suburb of Houghton, where avenues are made glorious by ancient Jacarandas with their sprawling lilac canopies, is one of those places.

The suburb is secluded, quiet and the only squawking comes from that indigenous Johannesburg turkey, the ibis known to the locals as the Hadeda bird.

The suburb also adjoins the biggest zoo in Africa, and on a tranquil evening it is not unusual to hear the roar of a lion or the trumpeting of an elephant, right there, in the very heart of the City of Gold.

These bushland sounds afford much delight to most of the residents. For a few who reside down-wind, and are subjected to the aromas of the defecating and confined kings of the jungle, not so much.

It was the preferred suburb of the mining barons of the yesteryear, a haven where emerging dynasties took pains to distance themselves from the bourgeois turbulence, a consequence of the meteoric growth of what would become the country’s financial heartland.

Of course, there was the matter of the pesky natives.

This segregation of undreamed-of wealth and the mundane day to day grind, they achieved with aplomb by creating the plush northern suburbs with their serene, dappled avenues, an attractive and obvious herald that only Money could reside here, as clear a message to the middle classes and the ‘natives’ as the measured smoke from a wigwam.

Usually, the subtle intimidation of such wealth proved barrier enough.

Usually.

If not, in those early days where Gold was indeed everywhere, white policemen in blue uniforms could up the ante, if one felt the need of such a deterrent, but for the most part, the beautiful avenues themselves with their gated mansions made it abundantly clear that only a few, a precious white few, had any real business being there.

If one were invited for dinner in the infant days of the Union of South Africa, rain-maker outpost of his Majesty King George IV, the chances were one probably lived around the corner anyway, but one used the Rolls regardless. It showed good form.

Now, in 2017, these same suburbs had changed very little, save for a lot of the residents today were ‘black diamonds’, the black billionaires, so called because of their newly acquired wealth. Not to mention that nowadays, Houghton was the preferred suburb for quite a few black and Asian Cabinet Ministers, so any serious crime in arguably the continent’s most opulent suburb was, quite simply, not to be contemplated.

None of which meant anything to the four killers in the BMW.

It could be argued they were foreigners, hence the beauty of their immediate surrounds, and these unwritten niceties were lost on professional criminals. Two of the men, black and French-speaking, were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The third man, the driver of the luxurious car, was from South Africa’s bordering state, Mozambique. He spoke Portuguese and English fluently, and as such, some of the French he overheard actually made a little sense, but for the most part, their soft mumblings of the Congolese men were lost on him.

They were lost too, on the last man in the car, a slender white man, slouched low and languid in the passenger seat.

The white man was drinking in the tranquility of the suburb - he seemed much impressed with the splendour of the mansions. In the late evening’s fading light, the immaculate emerald verges in front of each mansion, the majestic high walls protecting the estates, the huge ornate gates, all was deserving of admiration.

The chatter from the back seat, such as it was, meant nothing to him. It was of no consequence now, the mission was in play.

All of the men had met for the first time a couple of days ago, and they took their orders from this whitey in the passenger seat. The saw he was ‘foreign’ English, not a real South African, but they understood English, and they certainly understood him plainly enough.

The two black men in the back seat sat grim-faced in the car, focused on the photographs of the family, especially the faces that had been circled with a thick marker pen. Bonte, the Mocambiqan driving, he too, had looked at the photographs, had committed the faces to memory. So these was their marks?

The one called Christ had given an involuntary start when the white man handed him the photographs.

Bonte and Severin had no reaction, but after Christ’s exclamation, they frowned at each other. These whiteys in the photographs, they were famous, perhaps? The identity of these people was of no consequence. For such money, one had no need of deliberation. Their mission was clear.

The white man appeared relaxed, his arm casually draped across the back of the driver’s seat. He was commending himself - it was a good choice, this 7-series BMW. Originally he had opted for an oldish VW Polo, Polos being ubiquitous in this country, but after two recce’s, he decided a Polo would simply draw attention. It might be considered ‘shabby,’ whereas the flashy BMW, such a car the street-guards at the boomed entrance would scarcely notice.

The street-guards had instructions were to check for ‘suspicious-looking’ characters, not to harass the local residents or their guests..

There were also CCTV cameras at the street corners, little mechanical wasps designed to deter the amateurs, but the car’s windows were heavily tinted, as was the norm in this country, and any scrutiny of the footage afterwards would surrender little information.

‘Heinrich’ nodded to himself. Yes, the BMW was a good move.

The street barrier was before them.

As anticipated, the street guards waved them through with a friendly smile. And they said the Irish were thick! The man known as Heinrich to the three other occupants of the car smirked briefly, then turned his mind to the anomaly of this mission. As an assassin, you carried out your mission with precision, excellence, and never any witnesses. There was a great deal of comfort knowing that when one left the scene, well, any ‘evidence’ was always conjecture. One never left live witnesses.

In this case his instructions were clear. Carry out the mission, but the circled faces were to live to see another day.

Therein lay the variable. These bastards could cock it all up in an instant. As it was, Heinrich was aware they were pointing to the woman with lewd laughter, he understood not a word, but their meaning was clear. Still, he had run through the plan with them, again and again, until he felt quite sure the money and rehearsals would be the handbrake and keep their blood-lust in check. And if it didn't - well, that’s what he was there for, the supreme eraser of any ‘mistakes’.

The big car rolled quietly though the avenues, the wheels of the car scattering purple blossoms, the Jacaranda offering their seasonal carpet of lilac to the men, a courtesy afforded to all who visited the most treed city in the world.

Really, it was quite beautiful here, Heinrich thought, certainly on a par with anything Ireland had to offer? The blurb in his tourist brochure said one of the old Prime Ministers, a chap called Smuts, arguably a visionary of his time, had ordered thousands of trees be planted in these up-market, “white” suburbs.

Of course, the southern suburbs, home to poorer migrants and even poorer Afrikaners, as well as the dust-bowls of the so-called ‘locations’ of the time, these suburbs were afforded no such largesse. The shanty-towns set aside by the apartheid regime ‘for the natives’ broiled under the South African sun, growing over the years from little dust-bowls to giant, sprawling suburbs, segmented by ethnic divides -and class. The new rainbow nation had brought a new emerging middle-class, complete with all the prejudices of middle classes all over the world.

Simply stated, snobbery had come to South Africa.

African foreigners, once lauded in the struggle against apartheid were now regarded as job-stealers and ‘upstarts’. As a result, xenophobia simmered in the township of Soweto, home to some two million residents, in size of inhabitants alone, on a par with its richer big sister, Johannesburg.

Foreign money poured into the country, and in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, money was embraced, colour-blind, eschewing the vanity of class.

The black men were oblivious to the tranquillity and allure of their surrounds. They lived in shanty-towns themselves, far shabbier than those here in South Africa, and the bounty of these dappled streets and huge mansions served only as a omnipresent reminder to them they were in unfamiliar terrain, and to be on their guard.

There was no envy in their hearts. They were committed to the mission ahead. Besides, the lioness does not envy the impala grazing foolishly in the tall grass.

They could see the white man from over the seas, the one who said to call him Heinrich, the suburb’s opulence was not lost on him. Of course, the whitey had cased the area beforehand. He knew the routes in and out - there was only one - and they were amused at how he chuckled when he explained to them the deluded inhabitants’ ideas of ‘security.’

Perhaps he should settle here, Heinrich mused. South Africa could be as good a base as any? Professionals never worked in their home locales, and he doubted he would ever be called upon to do another job like this in this country. This job was a one time thing. He looked around him with appreciation. Gorgeous first world country with some third world problems, that would have no bearing in his life. Fabulous airports, as good as any in Europe, in fact. He could be at work, anywhere in the world, in the wink of an eye. As for the police here, well, they were a joke, by all accounts.

Christ had something to ask; he touched Heinrich’s shoulder, then tapped his photo. “Is this Max Van der Sandt?”

Time to focus – the mansion was minutes away. Heinrich turned and faced the big African, his expression cool, appraising, “The one and only…”

Christ pondered. He was dressed in a very smart suit, and looked every inch the VIP he was supposed to be. He was more educated than the others, and was the obvious choice to be the ‘Minister.’ Christ was certainly worldlier than the others. He had recognised Max Van der Sandt, not a well-known face, certainly not even amongst the elite of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“You know him?” Heinrich asked, mildly surprised.

“I was a body-guard to Phillipo Mangoro. They met.”

“Ah.” Heinrich turned back to face the front, peering through the windscreen, apparently disinterested. In fact, he was mentally filing the name, Phillipo Mongoro. One never knew. He had asked for professionals mercenaries, and he in truth, he knew nothing more than the man’s supposed name, Christ, which in fact could be as real as Heinrich, but here was some intel…

Christ stared at the photographs. So this was his family? They were headed to his home? To do such a thing to these people, this was no small thing. It would have international repercussions. It explained a lot, the generous money beforehand, the money immediately after, the spoils promised in twelve months’ time…? It also explained why it was his old commander in the DRC had instructed him to respect this whitey, told him that his General had told him in turn, that this skinny white man, he was the supreme merchant of Death.

Christ was not afraid of death. He spat on death! But for such money, he had no hesitation. He shrugged and went back to committing his mark to memory. He wondered about the painting, this painting that was so important. It was to be the booty of the white man, but no one else in the car cared about that.

Paintings would not buy him luxurious cars and beautiful women.

Heinrich relaxed. For a moment there he thought Christ was going to try and re-negotiate, which would have been a shame. But, as it was, Christ would live to enjoy the spoils of his labour! His mind ran through the names, the faces, possible glitches? Check. Check. Check. - Everything was ticked.

He was prepared. In minutes, they would carry out the most daring crime of this new century. Hell, it could probably have more impact than the Twin Towers? He wondered if Copta had thought about that. Had the kingpin thought it all through?

It didn’t matter. His side of the business was in hand, of that he was sure.

Maybe time to retire after this? ‘Heinrich” looked at the high walls sliding past. Eight and ten foot bloody works of art, no question. He fancied himself as something of a connoisseur, and he wondered if the stone on some of the walls was from Glenborough quarries, from his very own Ireland, that creamy, chalky stone which only the bloody English could afford!

But mostly, he admired the gates.

Beautiful wrought iron heralds, with gilded motifs and pretentious ‘crests’, some as high as ten feet, swinging open to reveal perfectly manicured gardens and cobbled driveways. Heinrich was impressed. They knew a thing or two about privacy, these mining chaps and cabinet ministers. All the mansions were always set well back on the estates, the driveways always cradled by trees such as Oaks and Planes, and always of course, the magnificent Jacarandas.

Yet, all these great houses had one thing in common: Pathetic, really shitty security!

The setup was common enough;. guard-house at the gate, darkened glass, one or two blokes inside, sometimes even a woman, for Chrissakes. Smart-looking uniformed guards, bored and listless, behind tinted glass, glass which was never bullet-proofed. Theirs was to jump up to greet any visitor, as ill-trained a bunch as he ever saw.

Heinrich snorted. His old Granny could have kicked any of them to death with a mere hitching of her skirt! He knew about these things.

In his other life, he was a security expert, called upon by international clients to train private ‘armies’ all over the world. It fascinated him that here, in South Africa, these mega-tycoons paid a paltry wage to protect their multi-million dollar estates and their pampered arses.

The sheer stupidity of it. Ejuts.

He shrugged. Oh well, pay peanuts -get monkeys. The chefs, however, they were a different story apparently - everyone had a chef in these parts. A good chef made serious bucks here, go figure. Perhaps it was the South African way, have an excellent last meal, cooked by your very own personal chef, before you were dispatched by villains to meet your maker.

Tonight should be soft pickings. Admittedly, his target had ‘better’ security than most, the guard-house there actually had real bullet-proof glass, which was unusual. Still, it was mere lip service against his particular talents, or for that matter, the ‘skills’ of the car’s occupants.

Most of the estates had dogs. A German Shepard or two, perhaps a Rottweiler. Some St Bernard’s, Afghans, even ruddy Cocker Spaniels, for crying out loud!

A good dog. Now that was more of a deterrent than these hapless bastards, he thought.

Heinrich had a soft spot for dogs. He found it difficult to kill them, truth be told. Poor as they had been, he had always had a dog. All kids should have a pet, his Mam had said, it teaches kids responsibility. Also, it made up for when his Da’ was away, doing his IRA ‘business’.

The avenue had morphed into a cul de sac, and straight ahead loomed the Grand-Daddy of all gates, the ornate barrier to old money.

Twenty-three acres of prime real estate in the very heart of one of the richest cities in the world. Stables, squash courts, tennis courts, a polo field, indoor swimming pool, heli-pad, a view to heaven and back. Heinrich reflected the mining magnate business was nice work, if you could get it.

He saw the approaching gates with their gilded roses and ornate lion’s head handles and felt his mouth go dry, as it always did before a hit.

The driveway behind the gigantic gates seemed but an extension of the avenue, as if someone had grown peeved with sharing and declared, ‘Enough, the rest is mine.’

The Van der Sandt Estate.

Home to the wealthiest family in Africa.

6:51 PM

In her bedroom suite, Karina Van der Sandt was listening to Nanny Lizzie and trying not to show her impatience. She hoped her father in law, or Pappa, as they all called Max Van der Sandt, including his wife would be late for dinner.

But, she sighed, not likely.

She listened absently as the nanny told her of Evie's being 'difficult today' and ‘out of sorts.’ She put her hand to her daughter’s forehead to check the child’s temperature. Hmm…. Perhaps her four-year old was a little warm to the touch? More likely the child was picking up her mother's mood, her mother’s ‘unease’.

Her guilt.

Karina knew she was a bad wife, the worst kind one could have, in fact, but, she was a good mother. If Evie was going to be petulant and fractious, she ought to leave Evie with ‘her Lizzie’, then attend to the little girl after dinner. Pappa had little patience with children at the best of times, and Evie was unusually petulant this evening? The child might wail at the dinner table and that would peeve the old boy no end.

Karina hesitated. Her father-in-law’s ire meant less than nothing to her, when weighed up against her daughter’s well-being, yet… Ouma would have blamed it on 'something in her water...' Ouma’s water was always a harbinger of doom and gloom. Karina wondered; perhaps she should leave the child behind.

Fridays, an unwritten rule, Fridays were ‘grown-ups only’ nights at the dinner table.

Was it her damn guilt, or was she in fact a edgy because Evie could be getting sick, and of course, the question begged asking, if so, where the hell was she this afternoon?

In the end, probably to appease her own damn guilt, she dismissed ‘Nanny Lizzie', noticing how Lizzie’s caterpillar eyebrows were becoming one, a sure sign of disapproval.

Lizzie pursed her lips. Miss Karina had made up her mind to take the child in to dinner, and she knew her mistress well enough to know that was that! She gave up her protestations and scurried off. She could still catch the tail end of her soapie.

With Lizzie’s exit, Evie seemed to settle down, her victory assured about dinner. She clutched her mother's hand with a dimpled, gap-toothed grin that clearly said "I win!"

Mother and daughter turned towards the door. Karina gave a last perfunctory glance at her image in the huge gilded mirror near the door. She stopped short. In fact, she too, looked rather pale? Which, she supposed, was eminently better than looking rosy and flushed from an afternoon tryst.

She swept a wisp of dark glossy hair off her face and wondered for the umpteenth time, just how had this stupid, stupid “game” become so out of control. Her husband was not a bad man, she knew she still loved him, so what the hell was she playing at? Punishing him for being …busy?

As Ewald's bride, Karina had imagined filling this huge old house with children and laughter, but after the birth of Evie, her body had apparently ‘rebelled’, and the all the sons, the daughters she should have been birthing, there was simply no sign of them.

The many doctors they had seen had a lot - and nothing - to say. Summed up, it all amounted to the same thing; there was no physical reason. They had to be patient, and when the time was right...

There was no hurry, none at all, Ewald was all solace, not too bothered about the matter, and he was right of course. They were both young and healthy. Except, she was …lonely, God, how pathetic that sounded, growing more invisible by the day. Karina hoped that children,well, children might have stopped the puncture in her happiness?

Karina knew she had ‘sprung a leak’ of sorts, somewhere, somehow, the essence of what used to be Karina de Villiers was dribbling away, like one of the wine old vats on her father’s estate, leaving her shallow and spent. She had this fear that had stolen over her like the afternoon shadow, that soon there would only be fumes left, a mere hint of what used to be Karina de Villiers.

Karina had known ‘riches’ all her life, first as a barefoot child on their wine-estate nestling in the foothills of Wellington, then boarding-school days filled with ‘daring’ escapades and giggles. Finally an education at Edinburgh University, where she had met the cavalier Jack Van der Sandt, too cock-sure of himself to be her type, but thanks to Jack, she met his older brother, Ewald, a tall, heavy-set man with gentle ways, a rather solemn man with a keen sense of humour that came out to play when she was at his side. the man who was to become her husband.

Dear, serious Ewald, who loved her so much, yet he always said things like “You look gorgeous Darling, go on ahead, I'll catch up…”

Obediently, Karina went ‘on ahead’ but always aware of the vacuum at her side, that was never in her plans, in her bride’s dreams, and she wasn’t enjoying the re-write one bit.

Her sunny smile, which had once been so spontaneous, so constant that Ouma had given her haemorrhoid cream, "Vir die plooie," the old darling smiled, quite serious, thrusting the cream into Karina’s hand, then closing both her old hands firmly over her granddaughter’s.

Karina had giggled so, at the time, squeezed her Ouma in a bear-hug, loving how her Ouma had ‘no time for money spent on 'foolish things.'

Now Karina found her smiles were like cocktail umbrellas, in a frosted glass, without any function, save for being aesthetically pleasing. They had triggers such as "How do you do?" and, "How lovely your home is...”and lately, “Did you have a nice day?"

She fretted at first, would they not notice her smile didn't quite reach her eyes? Then one day, she couldn't quite remember when, it didn't seem to matter anymore.

Ewald, she discovered, was Duty personified, a steel unyielding track that kept the Van der Sandt train on course, leaving her like a country station that an express-train sometimes passed through.

Karina found herself a reluctant spearhead at these many, oh so many, social gatherings, until one day, someone slipped in besides her, matching her stride for stride, until she slowed down...

-And turned around to see.

Karina found herself falling from a marital tight-rope into a safety net that was simply a spider’s web, a web that had trapped her and trussed her into a cocoon from the first reckless moment. Women had affairs every day, perhaps that was true, but not Van der Sandt women. Karina knew what the truth could do to both families, the pain for her husband, her child, and she was quite convinced; if it ever came out; better to have died.

Hearts were foolish things. Had it not deceived her with Ewald, promising nothing but happiness, then leaving only this great void inside of her? But like a child at the fairground following brightly coloured balloons, Karina had been mesmerised by the bait, and followed.

At first, the laughter returned, secretive, hidden, but it was back. After all, she tried to justify to herself, the truth was she was not much more than a brood mare and a rather dismal one at that. Six years married, and no Van der Sandt son and heir, and given their pedestrian rate of copulation these days, who knew when she would ‘make good?’

The face in the mirror that stared solemnly back at her, was the face of a sophisticated, striking woman, jaw faintly too long to be quite beautiful, high, defined cheek bones that on bad days could make her look rather gaunt, eyes that were dark and striking, almost feline in their contour, dark hair a smooth, glossy bob falling conveniently forward at whim, to hide eyes that were once so unguarded, used to give so much away. Her mouth was too large for her own taste. She was unaware that men, on the other hand, saw lips that beckoned them like hovering secrets, tantalising secrets eager to be shared. There was a sensuality to Karina Van der Sandt nee de Villiers that was as perceptible - and as elusive - as her shadow. What added to her sensuality was that for the most part, she seemed quite oblivious to her own allure, and men fantasised about being the one to awaken her…

This evening, she stared hard at her image, wondering when it was that she had become invisible to Ewald, or had she just become needy?

It didn't matter, really. The truth was this ‘game’, the silly, crazy game had to end.

A tug on her hand broke her out of her reverie. Her eyes lit up as they rested on her daughter. For a moment, each stared at the other in the reflection of the mirror with undisguised affection.

Evie, her shining achievement. She squeezed her daughter's little hand gently.

Here was the reason to break it off. Evie adored her father, and no one could ever doubt he loved his child. Just as no one would ever doubt he loved her.

He was just …busy.

Now there was him, her first - and last - mistake.

Still, eyes that had become dull now sparkled and danced for him, he whose name shall never be spoken, lest they both turn into pillars of salt.

The Bible makes no place for adulterers and harlots, Ouma would have warned her with dire conviction.

In her cell-phone, she had named him "Salon", just in case anyone ever took notice of who might be calling. They both thought it very funny.

Karina bit her lip. Yes, salt she would be, toast even, if the truth ever surfaced. Certainly fodder of some description! Scandals had no place in the Van der Sandt dynasty. On Monday she would end it. It was insanity from the start, and not worth her marriage.

It was time to go down to dinner, Ewald was probably there already. It didn't do to keep Pappa waiting. She grimaced.

Ewald was so respectful, in that way.

She swept Evie up into her arms with cooing noises, pushing the child's button nose playfully with her finger, making a tooting sound. The child giggled and the familiar sound reassured her. No good being a paranoid mother and rushing off to paediatricians at every cut and turn. If the child was fractious and running a temperature tomorrow – well, then she would get the pead in. But in Karina’s opinion, all Evie needed was her Mommy, so to hell with the old man and his wretched ‘rules’ about noisy children.

At the top of the Great Stairway (as opposed to the Little Stairway, which led off to the kitchen and servant's quarters) some curious trepidation made her hesitate.

She stood still, ignoring the impatient bouncing of her daughter on her hip, trying to shrug off this unease. The majesty of the staircase had long since been lost on Karina and she stood a moment, not to admire its stateliness, nor to admire the magnificent portraits and paintings on the wooden panelling, but rather to ...gather herself?

For what, for God's sake?

It was the guilt, she decided. In spite of everything, she loved Ewald. Perhaps if she could just fall pregnant again… Things would change. She was playing with all their lives, and if she was honest, she was just playing.

She took a deep breath and began to descend the stairs.

God, how she had come to loathe these 'family' dinners.

18h53

Heinrich was prepared. Christ, Severin, and Bonto - they were all prepared. Twelve security officers in all, seven deployed to perimeter watch, amateurs all, ex-army, two at the main (and only) gate. Those two were ex- South African police, and if there was to be a glitch, it would likely start there, he thought. Another chap at the stables, another behind the servant’s quarters, and the last man, the Supervisor, a chap whose name was Pienaar, he would be in the CCTV control room, part of an outbuilding to the right of the kitchen. Heinrich had tracked the man for a couple of days, observing. There was nought to fear there, he concluded. Pienaar was a bloated, ruddy-faced chap who long gone soft. The man had been the Security Supervisor at the Van der Sandt Estate for 9 years. If Heinrich’s intel was good, around about now, Pienaar would be eating his grub before he left for home.

The meal was always sent at around 18h30 from the big kitchen and if the supervisor’s physique was any indication, the highlight of his day. Between mouthfuls of roast lamb, peas and mounds of mashed potatoes and gravy, or whatever the fuck was for supper, Pienaar should be watching the CCTV screens.

But Heinrich was prepared to bet the farm he wouldn’t be.

To help the car’s occupants, any action captured by the CCTV cameras at the main gate, it would be happening in a digital 3” x 3” segment of computer screen, a mini movie within a checker-board of another 15 mini-movies. So if Pienaar cottoned on to what was up, well, by that time he, Heinrich, would be in the doorway of the control room.

Thirty two CCTV cameras, his information said, all rolling, recording. Bullets in the hard drive would settle that matter.

The car purred to a stop outside the huge gates, but Bonte, driving, took care to keep the engine running. Bonte hooted impatiently, although there was no need to hoot. The guards had certainly seen them through the darkened glass. In the control room, the car would be clearly visible on the CCTV screens – the number of occupants would not, however, obscured by the tinted glass of the hired car.

But Heinrich had said to hoot, so Bonte hooted. It set the stage, as it were…

The door to the guard-house was opening and a young, slightly-built security officer stepped out. The man punched in a number at the pedestrian gate, then waited for a second. There was an audible click and he stepped through the gate. The gate had an electronic magnetic lock, designed to withstand a shunt of 430 kg. But Heinrich knew, cut the power cable to the lock and it would open like a department store on Sale Day.

He also hoped there would be no need for that.

He spoke softly to the others. “I’ll handle him” The officer was approaching, relaxed, some fifteen meters away. “Check your weapons while I go inside. We want to be in and out in under 5 minutes. Have a last look at the targets. Remember – you are only looking for the right people in these photographs. You all know your parts - leave the rest to me.” He twisted in his seat and glanced at them all in turn, his expression grim. “No harm, no harm, has to come to the others. Our instructions made that very clear. Job goes down right, or no more pay. Just… punishment.”

Each man understood anew, this job was either success -or death.

This white bastard would see to that.

“But, if servants or security get in the way, take them out!” Heinrich’s voice was measured, calm.

They nodded, they were ready. The adrenaline was already pumping in their veins, the lust was rising.

Heinrich felt his own gut churn. It always did at the beginning of a job. Nerves were good, especially on a job like this. Kept a man alive.

The security officer was three meters away..

One last warning; “No bloody fun with knives and women and shit. Clear?” He didn’t wait for an answer, there was no time. Not a trembling hand to be seen, Heinrich noted.

Good that, picking foreigners. The South Africans were too soft, life was too cushy here, even in the townships. All the men in this car had experienced warfare, seen atrocities, hell, probably committed the atrocities! The woman in the picture was a real looker, tempting for them he was sure, but for Heinrich, it was strictly all business.

One of the easier jobs too, although he had no doubt all hell would break loose after. Still, that’s why the man who called himself Copta had hired him. He was the best.

The security officer was almost upon the car.

Show-time.

18h 59

Ewald Van der Sandt was born to rule a dynasty.

He was 3rd generation Van der Sandt and he had known his destiny as surely as his brother seemingly still had no clue about his. The two brothers shared the same surname, the same vivid blue eyes that bespoke their Dutch heritage, but had little else in common. Ewald was just shy of being termed a ‘towering, man, he would have been an excellent rugby player if Pappa had consented, his skin fair and pale, so much like his father in his physique, whereas Jack had the olive colouring of his Italian mother, was lanky and tall, yet moved with an easy grace, like his mother. With blue eyes that could pin one to the wall, deep set in that appealing olive skin, Jack was born to be a ladies man. Jack teased Karina that the only reason she chose Ewald and not him was because he was prettier than her!

Karina would giggle and shrug dismissively, turn her eyes to her new fiancé, then husband.

Jack had no time for marriage and wives, he was obsessed with his polo, then his flying, at least for a while. Jack was like that, no toy commanded his attention for too long.

Ewald on the other hand, was serious, which strangers often mistook for cold, until they saw how adoringly his eyes watched his wife or child.

There was the big man’s Achilles heel. If the implacable and tough Ewald Van der Sandt had one weakness, that was his family.

There were twelve years between the brothers, so ‘brotherly bonding’ such cricket games and shared nights in the tree-house had never been an option. In fact, there was little that was ‘boyish’ in Ewald’s upbringing. There was the tree house, certainly, in the huge oak near the laundry, commissioned by Max when Ewald was four years old, quite daunting in its splendour.

The mine-carpenter who had built it had been eager to please, and indeed, Pappa Van der Sandt had fairly clucked in satisfaction when he saw the finished tree-house built for ‘his’ boy.

Ewald swayed above the earth, in his tree-house, occupied with magical distraction found in books, shrugging off the melancholy with hours spent reading books that took him away to foreign lands, living daring adventures. His boyhood was solitary, but two birthdays stood out in his memory, his tenth, where Pappa had given him Blue, a Labrador pup he would grow to love above all else, his best birthday present ever, and his fourteenth birthday.

He couldn't remember the gift, but on that day his father shoved the Daily Mail newspaper in front of him and demanded, “There boy, what do you think about that!”

It was of course, a rhetorical question. The article was about the future of mining in South Africa. Ewald read the story, made little sense of it, and sat back and listened to what his father had to say.

And so it began.

While Jack and his pals yelled and shrieked in the garden, Ewald found a steady stream of reading matter presented to him for his perusal, sometimes deliberately placed in his hands by his father, meaning Pappa expected an opinion.

Ewald would be called upon to discuss these matters with his father at evening cocktails, just as he had done with his father, Leo, years before him, in the very same room. Ewald offered his opinion, and whether Max agreed with him or not, it was difficult to dissuade Ewald once his mind was set. Max secretly loved it that the boy could ‘think independently, and more often than not, would not be cowed into agreement with his Pappa.

The newspapers had become law books, then contracts, then geographical reports, but the reading, the grooming, it never stopped.

All the while Jack played on. If he was resentful of Pappa’s singular attention to Ewald, it never showed.

And why should he be resentful, Ewald sighed? He was the fun Van der Sandt, while he Ewald, he was the ‘serious fish’, like his father.

True, the brothers’ played the odd game of squash, but Jack was always so clinical in his demolition of Ewald, that for Ewald a ‘brotherly’ game held little appeal. Sometimes it seemed to Ewald that beating his older brother at any contest was the only time Jack was ever serious!

Once, long ago, they used to play polo together, then Ewald became too busy, too immersed in the family business. He also hated how expendable Jack’s ponies were, he thought his brother a bit brutal, and Blue had taught him to love animals. Ewald’s liking for the sport waned, they were expanding in Australia and the USA, Central Africa.

There was simply no time.

Around that time, Jack too, grew bored with horses, and started to ride whores and other men’s wives.

Ewald had never fallen out of the tree-house and damaged precious Van der Sandt bones.

Jack did, twice.

Once a badly broken left ankle, once a broken right arm, with a mild case of concussion the second time.

Today, in the dining room, he had on a moon-boot, a consequence of yet another broken ankle when his horse tumbled in a gruelling chukka two weeks ago.

Mama had been livid when she saw the latest damage to ‘her boy’, raged at Jack and made empty threats about ‘getting rid of his ponies, off the estate’, which both Ewald and Jack knew was as empty a threat as a threat could be. On that day they had turned their attention to preparing drinks, and with their backs to their irate mother, winked at each other.

Pappa of course, had been chilly and disapproving about the accident, to Jack’s great glee. Sometimes Ewald thought Jack liked nothing better than to get under the old man’s skin.

“What good is a spare, if the spare is fucked!” he chortled after the old man’s retreating back. His girlfriend at the time, some or other German girl, and unusual for Jack, his dinner guest, she had tittered and gazed at him adoringly. Karina had smiled too, at his irreverence.

Even Ewald grinned at his brother’s impudence.

Jack was a spare, of course. Oh he had all the business degrees, that’s how he had met Karina, at Edinburgh University, he managed his Master’s degree with aplomb. To be honest. Jack probably understood the dynamics of corporate business as well as anyone, but he apparently lacked a passion for the Van der Sandt business.

One had to be serious in the Van der Sand Corporation, it was no game, and Jack was never serious. Once, long ago, Jack had spoken of becoming a pilot, but the old man had shut that down pretty fast. A few months ago, Jack was dispatched to the States to trouble-shoot the acquisition of new gold-fields in Colorado and South America, the goal being if Jack’s endeavours succeeded, it could potentially make up some four percent of the Van der Sandt Corporation, if the geographicals were correct.

Which Ewald doubted. But, if they were correct, it could had the potential to grow to ten percent. A few billion dollars, in simple terms.

The Silver Fox would be pleased, as Jack secretly dubbed Pappa Van der Sandt.

He was ‘Pappa’ to his boys in the confines of their many homes, but when strangers were about - a stranger being anyone who had no Van der Sandt blood in their veins - then he was always ‘Sir.’

Jack found it laughable, but didn’t dare challenge his father. He mocked the old man’s ways to his friends. Ewald over-heard him once and was disapproving, then he dismissed it. Pappa was always hard on Jack.

Ewald knew what Pappa thought of Jack’s friends, ever since Blue was found dead one terrible day, just two days before Ewald’s twenty-first birthday, a grand affair, months in the planning. Pappa had raged it had to be one of Jack’s ‘rubbish’ friends, it was only they who had free run of the estate, and the servants would never have done such a thing.

Jack was quiet and grim-faced, almost insolent, offering no defence.

Ewald had had to ‘smile’ on the night of his celebration, dismiss the gruesome death of his pet, pretend that everything was as it should be. Few guessed the extent of his sorrow, save perhaps for his parents, and of course, Jack.

Jack had shown a side to him Ewald hadn’t seen before. His brother was very distressed about the death of his brother’s dog, although he showed nothing but defiance to the old man.

Pappa said afterwards to Ewald he was proud of him, it was right to hide the pain, a man should keep such sorrows to himself.

That was when Pappa had stepped up the security, but of course, nothing ever happened after that. Once, when Jimbo was a pup, he had taken it upon himself to kill one of the family swans, but that was about as much excitement as the estate had seen in years. Pappa had ordered that the dead swan be tied around Jimbo’s neck for three days, a jarring sight, and to Ewald, quite cruel, yet sure enough, the Rottweiler had never killed another swan.

Deep down, Ewald knew Jack had always had the short end of the stick, but, it was a Van der Sandt stick, and he hoped, perhaps one day, when Jack stopped trying to piss off the old man…?

Stopped messing with women, settled down? Then it would be good to have a dedicated ally, the Van Der Sandt Corporation could do with Jack, Ewald knew he had flair and daring, and the mix would be a good one, when Jack finally saw fit to stop messing about…

Today Jack was the bearer of good news; news that would definitely please the old boy. The two brothers stood chatting at the drinks table, relaxed, the crushed lime-ice already prepared by Solomon, the family butler, who would doubtless be waiting on ‘Mr Boss’ and the Medem.

At the west end of the cavernous room, a few silver tureens were already set out on an elaborate Vietnamese server. The two maids who always served were absent, waiting to be summoned by the dinner bell.

Valencia came sweeping in, tall, her greying hair swept into her usual chignon. Elegant, always imposing.

Her husband though, was not with her.

Let's be friends

The Women Behind She Writes

519 articles
12 articles

Featured Members (7)

123 articles
392 articles
54 articles
60 articles

Featured Groups (7)

Trending Articles

Comments
No comments yet