Authors: Casey Christie
They made quick time back to Johannesburg although Night drove considerably slower than on the way there and arrived at Lisa’s parents’ place in Kensington. Night had dropped Lisa and Wamba off and had said his goodbyes when, as he was pulling out of their driveway and into the street as the gate was closing behind him, he noticed distressed baby chicks in front of his vehicle. He stopped the car, leaving the engine running, surveyed the street on either side for any potential threats and got out. He knelt down to see two day-old baby chicks had fallen to the ground from their nest in a hollow of a tree just outside and to the right of Lisa’s automated gate. The mother was fluttering about hysterically near the nest. She was a Grey Lourie or Grey Go-Away-bird with a black beak and striking pink mouth.
“Ag shame man” said Lisa from behind the barred gate with Wamba by her side, standing on his hind legs with his two front paws balancing on the gate. “They must have been blown out of their nest by the storm last night. What are you going to do Mike?”
“I will put them back in with their mother.”
“Be careful not to get your scent on the babes or she will reject them.”
Night found a couple of large leaves nearby which he used to carefully place the hatchlings back into the hollow of the tree while the mother flew aggressively around his head, mock dive-bombing him.
“That should do it. Not much else we can do for them now.”
Night leaned through the bars and gave Lisa a final kiss goodbye and Wamba a pat on the head.
“Sweet little birds in there, I noticed that they had fallen out this afternoon. I didn’t see a reason to put them back in the nest though” said a voice from across the road.
Night and Lisa looked up and saw through the palisade fencing fronting the road, their white haired neighbour Mrs Grey standing within her premises with her gardening gloves on and a pair of horticultural shears in her hands. Mrs Grey was the street’s official busybody. She meddled in everybody’s business and had once threatened to poison the trees in Lisa’s garden via a lethal injection because they were not indigenous to the country. Lisa and her parents were civil enough to the old woman but never made a point of seeing her.
“Good afternoon Mrs Grey” said Night politely.
“Ah, good afternoon officer Night. All is well I trust.”
“Fine thank you.”
“As I was saying. I think it may have been a waste of your time reuniting those little birds with their mother, although a gallant effort, officer.”
“And why is that Mrs Grey?”
“Well because of her you see” she said, pointing to a black Moggie cat sat just outside of her gate on the pavement gazing quietly over at where Night had just carefully placed the young birds.
“You see she has had her eye on that nest and its occupants for some while now.” A wicked smile curled up the sides of her wrinkled face. “I think she has been biding her time, waiting for the chicks to hatch. It won’t be long now until she, well shall we say, makes her move.”
Lisa let out a barely audible gasp and swore quietly under her breath.
“Well Mrs Grey then perhaps it is your cat who may have wasted her time and perhaps you should dissuade the feline from her predatory endeavour” said Night.
Mrs Grey laughed a witching laugh that made Night feel sick, though he never showed it.
“And how, pray tell, officer Night would I do that? She would only be acting on animal instinct after all and, speaking legally now, the tree in which the bird family is situated is on public property and I cannot be held responsible for what takes place there, as I am sure you would agree.” She smiled while meeting Night’s gaze with a look that said “Check Mate”.
“I suppose you are right Mrs Grey. I agree that we can’t be held responsible for what our pets get up to on public property” said Night, who turned away to look at Lisa.
A confused Mrs Grey said. “Am I missing something officer. Why then did you say that I should dissuade my little Moggie from her intent?”
“Well, because Mrs Grey, my Boerboel, our Wamba here” -- Night put a hand on the head of the giant dog who was standing nearly six feet tall while balanced on his hind legs next to Lisa “has had an eye on your little Moggie for quite some time now as well. And I too feel he has been biding his time, though Lisa and I have chastised him in the past for his ill intent towards your loyal pet, alas you have persuaded me otherwise. He is only an animal after all.”
Mrs Grey gave the slightest nod and turned and disappeared inside her house leaving her gardening work unfinished without saying another word. The black cat - with the timing of a seasoned comedian - stood up, turned around and slipped through the bars of the palisade fencing and sat once more - now safely within her mistress’s private property.
Night and Lisa laughed happily for a few moments.
“I can’t believe that evil cow, Mike. How can people think like that and take joy in it, they are defenceless little birds.”
“It is the world we live in Lisa. Don’t worry about it though as nature has a way of balancing things out. Leave Wamba here at the front of the house for a while so that he can keep watch over our little friends. It won’t be long until they can fly and then they will be okay. Anyway I must be off now as I want to get a good night’s rest before the meeting with my client tomorrow. Are you sure your dad will give you a lift in to work tonight?”
“Yeah babe, he likes dropping me off. He says it’s the only time he gets to be with me alone and we have a nice chat in the car. I will ask one of the Yankee vehicles to give me a lift home.”
“OK my girl, any problems just give me a call.”
Night had a particularly good rest, as he knew that on these assignments sleep was often lost. The next morning he arrived at the address stipulated to him by General Arosi through the promised text message.
He was 45 minutes early. He wanted to survey the house, the street it was on and evaluate its positioning and outward security posture and any stand-alone risk factors that he may find. The house was in the wealthy suburb of Sandown situated within Africa’s richest area of Sandton. The property had six foot white walls with electric fencing on the top, as did all the other houses on the street. There was one pedestrian door within the wall and a large and heavy automated vehicle gate. Two CCTV cameras were visible from the road, one on either side of the barrier pointing in each other’s direction in a downward angle at the street. There was an intercom and camera next to the automated gate and a buzzer on the civilian door. So far the physical security of the house looked okay. Night drove around the block a number of times, taking pictures with his Blackberry Smartphone as he did so. He also noted down all the vehicles and their number plates on the street that contained his possibly new client’s home. He hadn’t accepted the task yet.
General Arosi pulled up 25 minutes later. He was alone, driving himself in his privately owned black 3 series BMW with tinted windows. He pulled in behind Night and left his own vehicle and approached the SS’s passenger side door, which Night opened, and got in.
“How are you Mike?” and put his hand on Night’s arm which was resting on the centre console.
“I am good thanks General. The time at the Vaal was nice. Thank you for the use of the chalet.”
“No problem my friend, that’s what it is there for and I hardly have the opportunity to make use of it myself. Lisa was glowing when I saw her briefly this morning at Radio Control before she booked off duty. She looked happy.” The General turned in his seat and looked more closely at Night. “In fact she was glowing in pretty much the same manner as you do now” he said grinning broadly at Night.
“Ja, like I said, it was very nice General thank you.” Night blushed slightly and wanted the General to change the subject.
“Okay Mike, I’ll brief you quickly… or as quickly as I can, on what I already know and then we will run it through again in front of the client. She wants to size you up.”
“I’m sure she does, why wouldn’t she?”
“Have you spoken to Stanislov? Is he interested?”
“Yes, he is available from tomorrow and is in if I am in. He couldn’t make it today as he had other ‘business’ to attend to.”
“Okay, great. The story goes something like this. She lives here with her only child, an 18–year-old boy in his final year at high school, his name is Andrew.”
Night pulled out a pocket book and was taking notes.
“She is a widow, her husband was killed three years ago on their farm out in Lanseria, near the airport. He was killed in his jeep after detaining a suspect he found trespassing on the farm. The boy was with him in the vehicle when it happened but for some reason the suspect didn’t shoot him, we believe the gun jammed, we can think of no other reason why he would have left him alive. The reason we are here now is that the final hearing of the court case, the murder trial, is scheduled to take place tomorrow and Thursday at the Johannesburg High Court. The boy is the prosecution’s key and only eye witness. Any questions so far?”
“Yes. What is the client’s name? And what is the name of the high school Andrew attends and is she the principal or is Andrew?”
“Her name is Annabel Bergman, and prefers to be called Anne. The boy attends King David High in Victory Park. They are both to be protected, that’s why you will need a second man – who will look after the boy while he attends school. Anything else?”
“So then I presume the reason we are here is that there is a threat against the boy’s life and the mother as well, for pursuing the case, probably being made by the suspect himself who is out of jail and free as he was given bail?”
“No, though this would usually be the case, wouldn’t it. Except here the mother has a considerable amount of money and was able to… have bail denied. The threats on their life are, apparently, being made by his brother and friends of the murder suspect, having being paid to do so.”
“You sound sceptical, this surprises me as I thought the Intel would have been solid since you said this is a high risk gig?”
“It is a high risk engagement but not necessarily due to the Intelligence on the case alone. Here is where it gets murky. We are not the consultants on this case, well I am not. I have been brought onto the scene by a friend of mine through her former bodyguard, Yossi Shishler, I think you know him?”
“Yeah, former Israeli Special Forces –he runs his own operation out of Houghton?”
“Correct, well he has had to leave the country for a while on business and he called a friend of mine, a Major he used to work with in the SA Army, asking if he had anyone in mind that could take over his duties. The Major called me and I naturally got in touch with you.”
“So until recently she has had full time protection then, with Yossi?”
“Not until recently, he stopped looking after her about a year ago, after things settled down but matters have heated up again as we near the court case.”
“Okay, so who is the P.O.C. then?”
“Technically the point of contact is her private investigator, a man named Hendrik Van Tonder but I have been able to circumvent him in the communication process.”
“Ah the former BOSS man you told me about on the phone? From the old lot.”
“Ja Mike he was something to do with the South African Bureau of State Security or as you say BOSS.”
The South African Bureau of State Security is the English translation of the original Afrikaans version of the name - Buro vir Staatsveiligheid. The English language Press -- regarded by the racist nationalist regime as their deadly enemy-- seized upon this ham-fisted public relations blunder by joyfully plastering BOSS all over their headlines. The Bureau’s job was to monitor national security and was later replaced by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in 1980.
“I fucking hate spies!” Night said with remarkable contempt in his voice.
“So do I Mike. And this one is as bad as they come. I met him briefly a week ago here at the house when I came to see Annabel. He didn’t like the fact that I had seen him and it looked very much to me as though he was feeding the fear into Annabel. The poor woman is a wreck, mainly because of him.”
“I am beginning to understand. So we don’t trust his Int then?”
“No, not all of it at least. I am certain a lot of it is bullshit to keep him employed. He also, apparently has got a man on the inside with the suspect’s friends, living, apparently, in a shack within the same informal settlement near Lanseria with the supposed hit men.”
“Well then I don’t blame Anne for being shit scared if she is being fed this kind of information. Can she be persuaded to disengage the services of this spy?”
“No she is under his thumb. I tried to enlighten her to the ways of these people but she wouldn’t have it, she nearly kicked me out the house for even suggesting she get rid of him.”
“That’s what these fucks do, they brainwash people with their bullshit and fear.”
They sat in silence for a short while, both contemplating their own detestation of government spies.
“Okay so we can’t trust his information but can we rule out an attempted hit?”
“No not entirely but we both know it’s unlikely as this suspect is doubtful to be in a position to put a hit out on anyone. I read the case file. The suspect is a nobody, I even forgot his name.”
“That’s very professional of you General!”
“Ja Mike I know but it’s this damn BOSS fucker that’s been dominating my thoughts on this contract. I will get the case file across to you this evening and you can memorise the suspect’s name.”
“If that’s it shall we go in then, we are five minutes early but it’s better than to be late.”
“No Mike, that’s not it” said the General half smiling, eyes raised.
Night said nothing but looked at the General poker faced and waited for him to continue.
“There is also another court case coming up in a month. It’s about ownership of the farm. And the farm is estimated to be worth around 25 million Rand.”
“This keeps on getting better. Now we are raising the stakes and the risk factor soars.”