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BOOK: Deon Meyer
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B
: He was a gofer.

 

 

w
: Gofer?

 

 

B
: Yes. For a car dealer in Somerset West.

 

 

w
: How do you know this?

 

 

B
: He told me.

 

 

w
: What kind of gofer?

 

 

B
: A gofer is a gofer. It means you do all the shit jobs that nobody else will.

 

 

w
: That’s all you know?

 

 

B
: Listen, I don’t need a man with a bloody degree to wash the motorbikes.

 

 

w
: And you trusted him with a key?

 

 

B
: Not the first day, I’m not a moron.

 

 

w
: But later on.

 

 

B
: Hell, he was here on the doorstep every morning when I arrived. Every bloody morning, never sick, never late, never cheeky. He worked— hell, that man can work. Last winter I told him he must open up, he can’t stand in the rain like that, he could sweep out and put the kettle on. By the time we arrive, the coffee is made— every fucking morning, the place shines like a new penny. You think you can trust someone. You think you know people….

 

 

Twice he was gofer at Killarney when the BMW Rider Academy was coaching well-off, middle-aged white men in the art of motorcycle riding, and now he regretted that he hadn’t paid attention, that he hadn’t absorbed all that knowledge.

 

 

He was riding through Du Toits Kloof Pass in the dark and he was aware that he was a caricature of how it should not be done. Riding jerkily, brakes and throttle and brakes and throttle and switching the light between bright and dim in a battle between good vision and the oncoming traffic, massive, snorting trucks avoiding the toll by using the long route and taking the sharp turns wide or chugging along at a snail’s pace ahead of him. He sweated inside the expensive, efficient biker suit, his body heat steaming up the shield with water vapor so that time and again he had to clip it open, always aware of the drop on the left side, the lights very far down below.

 

 

Brake, turn, brake, turn, ride, struggling and swearing to the highest point, and then the road swung abruptly east and the lights were gone. For the first time the darkness was complete and the road suddenly quiet, and he became aware of the tremendous tension in his torso, muscles like strung wires, and he pulled over to the side, stopped, yanked the helmet from his head, put the clutch in neutral, took his hands from the handlebars, and stretched, taking in a deep breath.

 

 

He must relax, he had to, he was tired already and there were hundreds of kilometers ahead. He had made progress. He had come this far, navigated half the pass in the dark. Despite his ham-fistedness, the monster bike was not impossible. It was being patient with him as though it were waiting for him to try a lighter touch.

 

 

Deep breaths, in and out, a certain satisfaction, he had reached this milestone, he was at the top. He had a story to tell Pakamile and Miriam. He wondered if she was asleep. The digital clock on the instrument panel said Miriam had laid out the boy’s school things, clothes, and lunch box. If he had been home, his lunch tin would have been packed, the house tidy, the sheets of their bed folded back, and she would have come and lay down with the wonderful smells of the oils and soaps of the bathroom, the alarm set for five o’clock, the light off and her breathing immediately deep and peaceful, the sleep of the innocent, the sleep of the worker.

 

 

Behind him he heard a lorry approaching the turn, and he stretched one last time, savoring the night air, clipped the shield down, and pulled away with the knowledge that he had at least mastered the throttle. He deliberately turned it open, felt the power beneath him, and then he was in the next turn and he concentrated on keeping his body relaxed, leaning into the turn as he did with the Benly carefully, unskilled, but a lot better, more comfortable, more natural, and he accelerated slowly out of the turn, aimed for the next, through the old tunnel, another curve and another, down, down to the valley of the Meulenaars River, down, fighting the urge to stiffen up, keeping himself loose and light, feeling the personality of the bike through his limbs, turn and straighten, over and over, joining up with the toll road, suddenly impossibly luxurious and three lanes wide, the curves wide— the relief was tremendous.

 

 

As he looked down at the speedo, it read 130. He smiled inside his helmet at the sensation and the amazing thing that he had accomplished.

 

 

 

9.

T
his is not what we were trained to do,” said Tiger Ma-zibuko over the cell phone. He was standing outside next to the runway. He could see his men through the window, they were still pumped after the action they had seen, they talked of nothing else, living it over in the finest detail on the way to the air force base, teasing one another, even him, begging their commander to let them all have a chance to shoot— why only Da Costa? Zwelitini said he was going to send a strongly worded letter to the Zulu king to complain that even in the country’s most elite unit there was racial discrimination— only the colonials were allowed to fire, the poor ol’ blacks could only watch— and the twelve roared with mirth, but Tiger Mazibuko did not.

 

 

“I know, Tiger, but it was very valuable.”

 

 

“We are not the SAPS. Give us something proper to do. Give us a challenge.”

 

 

“Does a man that can pick off beer bottles with an AK at two hundred meters sound like a challenge?”

 

 

“Only one man?”

 

 

“Unfortunately, just one, Tiger.”

 

 

“No, that doesn’t sound like a challenge.”

 

 

“Well, that’s the best I can do. Stand by for an Oryx from Twenty-third Squadron. We are going to pursue the fugitive; you will go on ahead and wait for him.”

 

 

His quietness displayed his disgruntlement.

 

 

When she realized what he was up to, her voice was angry. “If the challenge is not big enough for you, you can always go back to Tempe. I am sure I can find another alternative.”

 

 

“What do we know about this great shooter of beer bottles?”

 

 

“Too little. He might or might not have been MK, he was a sort of bodyguard for organized crime, and nowadays he is a gofer at a motorbike dealer.”

 

 

“Was he MK, or wasn’t he?”

 

 

“We are working on it, Tiger. We are working on it.”

 

 

* * *

Transcript of interview by A. J. M. Williams with Mrs. Miriam Nzululwazi, 23 October, 22:51,21 Govan Mbeki Avenue, Guguletu

 

 

w
: I represent the state, Mrs. Nzululwazi. I have a few questions about Mr. Thobela Mpayipheli and a Miss Monica Kleintjes.

 

 

N
: I don’t know her.

 

 

w
: But you do know Mr. Mpayipheli.

 

 

N
: Yes. He is a good man.

 

 

w
: How long have you known him?

 

 

N
: Two years.

 

 

w
: How did you meet?

 

 

N
: At my work.

 

 

w
: What work do you do, Mrs. Nzululwazi?

 

 

N
: I am a tea lady at Absa.

 

 

w
: Which branch of Absa?

 

 

N
: The Heerengracht.

 

 

w
: And how did you come to meet him?

 

 

N
: He was a client.

 

 

w
: Yes?

 

 

N
: He came to see one of the consultants and I brought him tea. When he was finished he came to look for me.

 

 

w
: And asked for a date?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: And you said yes.

 

 

N
: No. Only later.

 

 

w
: So he came back again, after the first time.

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: Why did you refuse him at first?

 

 

N
: I don’t understand why you wake me up to ask me questions like this.

 

 

w
: Mr. Mpayipheli is in trouble, Mrs. Nzululwazi, and you can help him by answering the questions.

 

 

N
: What kind of trouble?

 

 

w
: He unlawfully took an object that belongs to the state and—

 

 

N
: He took nothing. That woman gave it to him.

 

 

w
: Miss Kleintjes?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: Why did she give it to him?

 

 

N
: So that he could take it to her father.

 

 

w
: But why did she choose him to do this?

 

 

N
: He owes her father a favor.

 

 

w
: What kind of favor?

 

 

N
: I don’t know.

 

 

w
: He didn’t tell you?

 

 

N
: I didn’t ask.

 

 

w
: Do you and Mr. Mpayipheli live together?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: As man and wife?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: And you didn’t ask him why he was receiving stolen property and agreeing to take it to Lusaka?

 

 

N
: How do you know he is going to Lusaka?

 

 

w
: We know everything.

 

 

N
: If you know everything, why are you sitting here asking me questions in the middle of the night?

 

 

w
: Do you know what Mr. Mpayipheli was involved with before his present work?

 

 

N
: I thought you knew everything?

 

 

w
: Mrs. Nzululwazi, there are gaps in our knowledge. I have already apologized for disturbing you so late. As I have explained, it is an emergency and Mr. Mpayipheli is in big trouble. You can help us by filling in the gaps.

 

 

N
: I don’t know what he did.

 

 

w
: Did you know he worked for organized crime?

 

 

N
: I don’t want to know. He said he had another life, he said he did things that he wants to forget. In this country it wasn’t very hard. He would have told me if I had asked him. But I didn’t. He is a good man. There is love in this house. He is good to me and to my son. That is all I need to know.

 

 

w
: Do you know if he was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: Was he?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: Did he tell you that?

 

 

N
: In a way.

 

 

w
: Did you know where he served?

 

 

N
: He was in Tanzania and Angola and in Europe and Russia.

 

 

w
: Do you know when?

 

 

N
: That is all that I know.

 

 

w
: But he told you that as a member of MK he—

 

 

N
: No. He never told stories. I worked it out myself.

 

 

w
: What do you mean?

 

 

N
: Like when he talked to Pakamile about other countries.

 

 

w
: Pakamile is your son?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: And this is all you had to go on?

 

 

N
: Yes.

 

 

w
: He never actually said he was with MK?

 

 

N
: No.

 

 

[Silence— eight seconds]

 

 

w
: Mrs. Nzululwazi, the favor he owed Johnny Kleintjes …

 

 

N
: I have already told you I don’t know.

 

 

w
: You didn’t find it strange that Miss Kleintjes came in here and Mr. Mpayipheli immediately agrees to undertake a long and dangerous journey on her behalf?

 

 

N
: Why would it be dangerous to go to Lusaka?

 

 

w
: You are not aware of the data on the hard drive?

 

 

N
: What data?

 

 

w
BOOK: Deon Meyer
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