Authors: Ian Patrick
Text copyright © 2015 Ian Patrick
All Rights Reserved
This book is a work of fiction and except
in the case of historical fact any resemblance to any persons living or dead is
Cover designed by RGS
To my brother, gunned down in front of
his family. Just before dinner.
OTHER BOOKS BY IAN PATRICK
TABLE OF CONTENTS
thriller is the second in a series of four stand-alone books. Each can be read
as an independent self-contained volume. Or they can be read in sequence or out
of sequence as four related episodes in which the central themes and major
characters reappear in other episodes, the intention being to provide an
overall organic and cohesive narrative for the quartet.
The four individual volumes explore
moral and ethical choices made by police in their day-to-day confrontation with
rampant and brutal crime in contemporary South Africa. The texts are fictional
but based on field research and the author’s physical exploration of the local
environment, including actual locations where different events take place.
Interviews were conducted with detectives and forensics experts both currently
active and retired, and with local observers and participants, including
victims of crime. The action aims for authenticity and plausibility, and
strives to be resonant of conditions on the ground. The research included detective-guided
tours of front-line scenes in the war against crime, and of police facilities,
protocols and procedures. Actual events are reflected alongside fictive events,
although all characters are fictional.
In the thoroughly absorbing task of
writing this book and its related volumes during the course of a few years, I
owe an inestimable debt to many people. Some of them prefer to remain
anonymous. Others have graciously allowed me to name them. To all of them I
offer enormous thanks and gratitude.
First and foremost in the ranks of
people to whom I am grateful are my family. As much as I value reading, and
however indebted I am to the craftspeople of literature throughout history who
have instilled in me a love of words, I cannot find language that will sufficiently
express my gratitude to my wife and my two sons. They have tolerated with great
patience my frequent retreats into the silent joys of research and creative
The detective who took me into
KwaMashu in April 2015 to study some of his
on the front line
, as he described it, had no idea that he would be taking
me into the teeth of a dramatic xenophobic storm on that particular day.
He allowed me to sit with him while
we watched drug-dealers at work. He explained in meticulous detail exactly what
was going down before my eyes, and how the team of children (for that’s what
they were) played their individual roles in a sophisticated series of drug
trades. We watched as the various role-players passed money and contraband on
the street, as cars and motorcycles and pedestrians slipped past the youthful
traders and quick sleight-of-hand saw packages and money being exchanged,
unnoticed by most of the people passing in the road.
After taking me to different
locations to watch the kinds of crime that permeate society on many
street-corners, it was time for the detective to return me to base. As he did
so, we ran into a horde of people caught in the throes of massive action and protest.
Violent action hit the streets and the country reeled in shock at what became
media headlines for the following week about xenophobic violence. The detective
ensured that I was returned safely to my base in Durban, and I wrote that night
into the early hours of the morning, trying to capture the
of what I had seen that day. I begged my detective to allow me to identify him
and thank him for his work, but he declined. Nevertheless, although he felt
more comfortable remaining anonymous in this prefatory statement, he kindly
allowed me to re-name after him one of my characters who appears in this
I am pleased
to pay homage to this extraordinarily helpful detective in this way, and I
thank him for his time, dedication, interest, and
unwavering commitment in the mammoth task of South
African police work.
I am indebted to so many people for
their willingness to correct my misconceptions, and to enable me to adjust some
of the nuances in my writing in the interest of ensuring more authentic depiction
of the day-to-day work of the police. Any remaining mistakes are entirely mine.
I am grateful to Gerrit Smit for very
helpful detailed conversations about police procedure and protocol. This ranged
from day-to-day interactions among police both in the field and in the station
office, to procedures and protocols and actions and
at crime scenes. In particular he gave me wonderfully detailed descriptions
about the work of police divers (who feature primarily in the next volume).
My thanks go also to Captain Saigal
Singh. The enormous wealth of his experience as both a detective and a
forensics specialist were particularly exciting for me, having studied various
courses on forensics and crime scene management. Having him hold up a mirror of
extraordinary reality to what I had until then only studied academically, was
Penny Katz was helpful beyond any
call of duty. Apart from referring me to front-line detectives she gave me
insights into aspects of crime and policing that have proved enriching beyond
what I had imagined possible. To interview victims of crime, and to go some
small way toward understanding the pain and loss and trauma involved, has
greatly affected my approach to research and writing. My personal experience of
family trauma as a result of crime plays only a background role in my writing,
but Penny allowed me insight into facets of this experience that I greatly
Some potential interviewees chose to
decline my requests for interviews, and of course I entirely respect their
choices in this regard. In one or two other cases, after initial readiness to
participate the contact went cold and emails and phone-calls were simply
ignored. I suspect that this was not unrelated to me mentioning that I would
also be covering police corruption in my work. But even in those cases willing
and helpful comments were received from people working in the very same offices
as those who ignored my calls and emails.
I extend grateful thanks to many,
ranging from police Brigadiers to Detectives and Constables both retired and
currently active, from victims of crime to forensic investigators, and from
family to friends and colleagues. Many of them don’t know how helpful they have
been to me even in brief communications or by referring me to other sources. Hennie
Heymans, a retired policeman in Pretoria, has done extraordinary work in
preserving the historical record on policing in South Africa. He answered
questions promptly with extensive knowledge of the past.
For any shallowness, superficiality
or mistakes that might remain in my text, I
to these sources. I can only offer the excuse that the act of writing
transports me into realms of satisfaction and joy. Not a day goes by during
which I do not marvel at my good fortune in being able to create characters
both evil and understandable. I live each day with them, exploring their
thoughts and actions, enjoying their deviousness, their energy, their
joyfulness, and the excitement of their lives.
I derive great pleasure from coaxing
my characters out of the shadows and refining and polishing them in an attempt
to reflect authenticity and plausibility. Some of them move me emotionally, and
some of them are devilishly evasive and lying villains. But they all fascinate
me and I still carry them in my head. I want to know what makes them tick, and
I want to know their counterparts in real life. I have gone out into the field
to find my fictitious characters because I insist on plausibility and
authenticity in fiction. Otherwise how will we learn about our lives?
Ian Patrick, August 2015
There is a rough and functional road
that runs from KwaDukuza to the N2, from where one can turn north to Richards
Bay or south toward Durban. The hills on either side of the R74 are
grass-covered, hardly rolling, more brown than green, and covered in bracken,
and they are unlikely to prompt in the observer any spontaneous lyrical
singing. The grassland is thin and eroded. Once flourishing streams are now dry
and rocky pathways. Too many cows and goats have fed unsupervised, and too many
random fires have been started here. There is little care in these hills, and
over many years people and land have been neglected.
The Zulu name
originally used to describe the area, meant, roughly,
the lost person
. In 1873 European
settlers thrust that name aside and called their settlement
The surveyor-general of colonial Natal. But in 2006 the town reverted to a
version of its original name.
Place of the lost person.
On any given day along this
particular stretch of the R74, halfway between the R102 and the N2, one might
find a teenager or a twenty-something, sometimes alone, sometimes with a
friend, sitting on the side of the road or up on one of the slopes. Apparently
lost, watching passing vehicles. Watching life pass by. Not infrequently, such
a person or persons might draw deep into their lungs the pungent fumes of
or some other mix of herbs and
chemicals, as they watch the sun set, and the world go by.
There was no forlorn crying of birds
this evening as the day ticked toward 6.00 pm. There was the frequent growl of
traffic and the occasional thud of
pothole. In the distance, on a clearer day, one might have glimpsed the warm
waters of the Indian Ocean to the east. On such a day, to the west, one might
have seen hill after hill, and beyond and behind the hills, all the way to the
starker beauty of the Drakensberg.
On this particular day, as dusk crept
in, there was no such view for Jessica and Nobuhle Mkhize, twin sisters aged
nineteen, experimenting with the drug about which they had heard so much. A
drug they had also once or twice heard their father mention, but which they had
never previously seen. Until this day. They giggled as they drew the foul
concoction into their lungs, and coughed and wheezed as their senses became
The sun had given up trying to warm
the R74 and hid in shame behind the hills as the sisters saw the red Mazda 323
approach from the west and pull up some eighty
opposite them, on the sand just off the verge.
The two outer wheels were still on the
road, requiring any cars travelling in the same direction to slow down and
exercise care before passing by. Three men left the vehicle without locking it,
and left the hazard lights flashing as they entered the bush close to the
as a stream, let alone the gushing river it once was.
The sisters joked with each other
about the looks of the three men. One very plump, the driver, who waddled like
a duck, would be just the right kind of guy for Nobuhle, said her teasing
He’s got fancy shoes. Must have
money. A good husband, perhaps
. Nobuhle slapped Jessica lightly on the
wrist and retorted that both the very tall skinny one and the furtive one, the
one who got out of the back of the car, who definitely looked like a
, both of them would make fine
husbands for her.
The two young women chortled, greatly
amused, and drew more fumes into their lungs as they watched from across the
road, seated up on the hill facing northward, unseen by the three men. Who
appeared to be waiting, concealed in the bush.
The preliminary police report spanned
no more than a couple of pages. Constable Lindiwe Xana was based at the Folweni
police station when she died in the bush near KwaDukuza. The report indicated
that she had been struck by seven bullets, all probably 9mm, probably from
three different weapons. The bullet that entered just above her left eye had
most likely been the one that had been fatal. The report also stated that
Lindiwe had been sexually assaulted by two different men. There was a high
probability that the blood patterns, body position, clothing and other
indicators were suggestive of sexual violation after death, and not before.
Cst. Xana, aged twenty-six, highly
regarded at Folweni and winner of two SAPS merit awards, was unmarried at the
time of her death. She had been
with three friends, all of them
women police constables, two of them from Isipingo SAPS and one from Durban
Central, all returning from a family celebration in KwaDukuza. They had
travelled together in a 4-door cream-
When they saw a red Mazda 323 parked dangerously on the side of the
road, on the R74 halfway from KwaDukuza to the N2, they had stopped, apparently
to see if they could provide assistance.
to two witnesses, identified as
Jessica and Nobuhle Mkhize, twin sisters
on a hill on the opposite side of the road, before the two policewomen in the
front of the car could remove their seatbelts three men suddenly rushed forward
from the bush on the edge of the road and opened fire on them. The two
constables in front, one of them a student constable, were killed instantly,
each with three bullets to the head.
constable next to Lindiwe Xana in the back seat managed to open her door and
run six or seven paces into the road before she was gunned down by all three of
the assailants firing shots across the road at her. The preliminary report
described eleven bullets in her body, six of them in her back and the others in
legs and arms. This constable’s action, coupled with the skidding of a passing
car travelling west to east, with a loud hooting and squealing of brakes, had
given Lindiwe Xana a few seconds during which she managed to open her door and
run into the bush. As she did so, the driver of the passing car, trying to
avoid the fleeing constable in the middle of the road while at the same time
sustaining a fatal bullet wound to the left temple, somersaulted the car which
then shuddered to a rest, upside down, off the verge on the opposite side of
three of the assailants then ran after Lindiwe Xana. The report indicated that
they caught her some twenty
into the bush. The
first responders, in their preliminary scene investigation, suggested that that
was where they pumped the seven bullets into her.
to the two witnesses, various cars began pulling up to investigate what
appeared to them to be an accident. Meanwhile the three men emerged from the
bushes after some three or four minutes, got into the red Mazda, and sped off
in the direction of the N2. Whether they had then turned south to Durban or
north to Richards Bay or had driven straight on to Blythedale and the Indian
Ocean was unknown.
identity of the deceased driver of the overturned car was unknown.
with an attached note stating that formal autopsy, forensics and ballistics
reports would follow in due course, this preliminary report would be delivered
to the desk of Captain Sibongiseni Nyawula in Durban Central on Monday morning.
The reason given in the note was that at the present time there was no
available resource in KwaDukuza SAPS nor in any other nearby station to pick up
this case. Besides, the student constable in question had been based in
Nyawula’s unit. Her name was Sinethemba Ngobeni. She died at age twenty.
name Sinethemba is translatable as
The three men in the red Mazda tore
down the road toward the sea. They turned neither north nor south onto the N2.
They drove straight over it, on toward Blythedale and the ocean. They kept
going until the R74 became Umvoti Street. They went as far as Umvoti would
allow them, then they turned right around the traffic circle and down the road
known simply as
They travelled as far as they could until
the high-security fences and walls and gates of luxury homes converged into a
cul de sac
and kept them from going any
They turned, retraced their route a
short distance, then parked the car as far off the road as they could, under
dark overhanging foliage. They got out, locked the car, and headed across one
of the last remaining underdeveloped plots for the beach, and then into the
bush. Luxury homes behind them, and the sea before them. This is where they
would stay until the dark enveloped them and the anticipated police sirens
finally faded away into the night.
Thirty paces into the thick bush, as
they pushed through the foliage they did not notice the man sitting alone,
quietly. He sat with his back against a tree, facing a gap in the thick
vegetation that allowed him to look at the crashing surf little more than a
away. The man remained still. Only his
eyes moved as he watched them thrust noisily through the bush, passing directly
in front of him.
Skhura Thabethe sat, frozen, the
joint clasped lightly between
thumb and two fingers as he watched the three men pass by without seeing him.
The purple knots of the blood vessels in each of his eyes seemed more inflamed
than usual, with the fumes of the joint drifting up across his face.
His pupils were unnaturally large. If
any of the three men had turned to look at him they might have deduced that
they were in the presence of evil.
They did not see him. They crashed on
into the bush.