Authors: Vicki Delany
Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #International Mystery & Crime, #Police Procedural, #Thrillers, #Crime, #FIC022080, #FIC022020, #FIC031010
Â Â Â Â Â GOOD
Copyright Â© 2014 Vicki Delany
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Delany, Vicki, 1951-, author
Juba good / Vicki Delany.
Issued in print and electronic formats.
978-1-4598-0491-3 (pdf ).-
I. Title. II. Series: Rapid reads
82 2014Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
813'.6Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
First published in the United States, 2014
Library of Congress Control Number: 2013956420
Summary: RCMP Sergeant Ray Robertson, nearing the end of his year-long UN mission in Juba, South Sudan, struggles to find a serial killer. (
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I jumped out of the way of a speeding boda boda and tripped over a pregnant goat. The driver of the scooter yelled at me. I gave him a hand gesture in return. Not a good idea, in this town, at this time of night. But I'd had a rotten day and was in a matching mood.
The goat I ignored. It was not a good idea to interfere with her. She was worth money.
Juba, South Sudan. April. The dry season. The air red with dust blowing down from the desert to the north. Choking dust. Getting into everything. Me, coughing up my lungs half the night.
At six foot three, I'm considered a big guy back home in Canada. Here, in a group of locals, I'm about average. Some of these guysâheck, some of the womenâmust be close to seven feet. Damn good-looking women though.
My name's Ray Robertson. In Canada, I'm an RCMP officer. In South Sudan, I'm with the UN. Our role is to be trainers, mentors and advisers. Help the new country of South Sudan build a modern police force.
I've been in the country eleven and a half months. Just over two weeks to go. First thing I'm going to do when I check into my hotel in Nairobi is have a bath. A long hot bath. Get all that red dirt out of my lily-white skin. Jenny gets in the next morning. We're going to Mombasa. A fancy hotel. A week on the beach. Sex and warm water and clean sand. More sex. Heaven.
I climbed into the police truck. I'd recently begun working with John Deng. He was a good guy, Deng. From the Dinka tribe, so about as tall and thin as a lamppost. He didn't say much, but what he did say was worth listening to.
His phone rang. Deng spoke into it, a couple of short words I didn't catch. He hung up and turned to me. His eyes and teeth were very white in the dark.
“Another dead woman,” he said.
Deng put the truck into gear and we pulled into the traffic. Think you've seen traffic chaos? Come to Juba. The city's mostly dirt roads. Uncovered manholes, open drainage ditches and piles of rubble. Potholes you could lose a family in. Trucks, 4x4s, cars, boda bodas, pedestrians, goats, chickens and the occasional small child. Every one of them fighting for space, jostling to push another inch through the crowds. The roads have no street signs and few traffic signs. Which no one pays attention to anyway.
We drove toward the river. The White Nile. The goal of Burton, Speke, Baker, the great Victorian explorers. The river's wide here, moving fast. It's not white for sure. More the color of warm American beer. Full of twigs and branches and whole trees trapped in the current. Plus a lot of other things that I don't want to think much about.
The old settlement's called Juba Town. Disintegrating white buildings, cracked and broken sidewalks, mountains of rubbish. A crumbling blue mosque in a dusty square. Small shops selling anything and everything alongside outdoor markets hawking goods.
In daytime, the streets are crowded. Soldiers in green camouflage uniforms. Police in blue camo. Adults going about their business. Bare-bottomed babies. Schoolchildren with scrubbed faces, clean uniforms and wide, friendly smiles. Honking horns, shouting men, chatting women, music and laughter.
Now, at night, all was quiet. A handful of fires burned in trash piles that had spilled into the streets. Men sat in circles drinking beer. Women watched from open doorways. Above, thick clouds blocked moon and stars.
A water station had been built close to the river. Blue water trucks lined up there during the day to get safe water. The street was a mess of deep puddles, red mud, rocks, ruts and trash. Not as good as some, better than most.
Deng stopped our truck at the bend. Where the road turned sharply to run parallel to the river. He left the vehicle lights on and we got out. I pulled my flashlight out of my belt. Flashlight and a night stick. That's all I carried. No weapon. This was a training mission, remember. I was here to observe. To offer comments and helpful ideas when needed.
A year without the Glock, and I still felt like I had a giant hole in my side.
Deng carried an AK-47. He was former army, SPLAâSudan People's Liberation Army. At first a band of guerillas, fighting for independence from Sudan. Now the army of South Sudan. He'd spent his time in the bush during the war, doing things I couldn't imagine. Things I didn't want to imagine. The long and brutal civil war had made these people hard. Some of them didn't handle it too well. Deng did. He had a quick smile and a hearty laugh. He wanted to be a good police officer. I'd asked him once if he had a wife and children. A mask settled over his face. He yelled at the driver of a scooter who hadn't come at all close to us. I never asked again.
The woman was lying at the side of the road, up against a concrete wall. Her skin was as black as midnight. Blacker. An earring made of red glass hung from her right ear. A short tight black dress and red stilettos were clues to her occupation. Another dead hooker in the dusty red streets of Juba.
This was the fourth. If she was a hooker. If the same person had been responsible. The fourth in three weeks.
Deng snarled at the security guard who'd found her. The man quickly stepped back. He knew his place.
I used my Maglite to illuminate the scene. A white ribbon was wrapped around her neck. Wrapped very tightly around her neck. As white and pure as the snow on Kokanee Glacier in midwinter. Same as the others.
“What do you see?” I asked Deng. That's the training part of my job.
“A white ribbon.”
“Do we have a serial killer here, Ray?”
“I'm beginning to think we do.”
Forensic rules of evidence tend to be a bit wobbly in South Sudan. We wouldn't be joined by a crew of techs in hairnets and white booties. No police tape. No fingertip search of the vicinity. No lab analysis. No
samples taken. No databases checked for similar cases. The body would be carted away and that would be the end of that.
Deng and I did what we could to examine the scene.
It looked as if she'd been taken by surprise. Strangled with the white ribbon. Left where she fell. No defensive wounds on her hands or arms. No signs of sexual activity.
Deng crouched down. “What does the ribbon mean?” He reached out one hand and ran his fingers over it very lightly.
“I don't know. It means something to him. He might not even know what. Sometimes they leave a sign. Sometimes they take trophies.”
“Yeah. I don't see anything missing here. Serial killers usually have a signature. His is the white ribbon.”
Deng shook his head. When you've seen so much death and dying, it's hard to believe someone would do it forâ¦fun?
At a guessâand it would never be more than a guessâshe'd been dead about two hours. Not many bugs yet. No rigor mortis.
I'd once tried to explain rigor mortis to Deng and his colleagues. They'd nodded very politely. I'd felt like a total fool. These guys had seen more dead bodies than any undertaker in Vancouver. They knew the process of decay, thank you very much.
Sometimes they could be so goddamned polite. Why didn't they just tell me to shut the hell up? Suggest we take the time allocated for the lecture to go for a beer?
Deng and I shone our flashlights around the area. I made notes in my notebook. And then we left. What else could we do? The carcass would be loaded into the back of a van and that would be the end of her.
The bend in the road was close to Notos. A good bar with a great Indian kitchen. I suggested we stop in for a drink. Deng looked surprised. We UN advisors told them drinking on the job was a bad thing. I winked and said it was all part of the job.
Which wasn't a lie.
Notos was a popular spot. Aid workers and foreign government staffers hung out there. They might have seen something. The rest of the road was made up of tin shacks and cardboard houses. Plus a few of the traditional mud and grass huts called tukuls. No one there would help the police.
The fire in the pizza oven blazed. Spices filled the air. The bar hopped with good jazz.
The restaurant was full. I nodded to a couple of Canadian embassy staff. We went to the bar. I ordered two orange Fantas. Deng tried not to look too terribly disappointed.
The bartender was named Shirley. A knockout in a neat white shirt and black pants, with short-cropped black hair. She passed the bottles over with a soft smile. The smile was directed not at me but at Deng. He didn't seem to notice.
“Busy tonight,” I said.
“Some trouble out on the street earlier. A couple of hours ago. Maybe around nine. Did you hear anything, Shirley?”
She glanced at Deng from under her eyelashes.
He said, “Did you?”
“Can't hear anything over the noise in here.”
“Did anyone go out for a break, maybe? Smoke. Get some air?”
A silent shake of her head. She slid down to the end of the bar to take an order.
That's the problem with policing here. You don't know what experiences people have had. In Canada, we get suspicious if someone avoids police questions. Most people want to be helpful. Whether they have anything to be helpful about or not. But here, with the trauma some of these people have experienced?
Maybe they're as guilty as sin.
Maybe they don't much care.
Maybe they've seen men in uniform slaughter whole families.
You just don't know.