Authors: Casey Christie
Unexpectedly the vehicle actually slowed down and the rear passenger window lowered and a cruel and twisted laughing face appeared. It was the unmistakable face of a man known throughout South Africa and Johannesburg and more particularly Norwood as uSathane, the isiZulu word for Devil.
Though in shock, not only at seeing the disfigured and seemingly shifting face of the man, but by actually seeing the notorious crime lord in person, Sergeant Night steadied himself enough to train his weapon on uSathane and he squeezed the trigger, slowly with focus and intent. And “CLICK”, nothing - the worst sound a policeman in South Africa, or any operator anywhere in the world, could ever hear his weapon make during a gun battle.
A failure to fire.
uSathane seemed to enjoy this and started to laugh even harder. He then stopped laughing looked directly into the eyes of Sergeant Night and said “Nye usuku ngi bulala wena kahle umlungu!” -- Zulu for “Another day I will kill you slowly white man.”
With that, real time seemed to return to Sergeant Night’s senses and the two vehicles carrying uSathane and his men disappeared down Louis Botha Avenue towards Alexandra Township.
The gunfight was far from over yet as the suiciders had commenced their kamikaze attack on the Yankee and Norwood police officers, the Yankee boys bearing the brunt of the four man onslaught.
Sergeant Snyman was a veteran of the Johannesburg Flying Squad and knew how to handle himself in a fire fight. Unfortunately Provincial Headquarters had decided to place two rookies in the vehicles under Sergeant Snyman’s command that day. Headquarters’ thinking was to throw the rookies in the deep end so that they learnt quickly. Sergeant Snyman now wondered if he could get them out alive.
The suiciders had rounded on the two Yankee vehicles and were directing all their fire at them. Sergeant Snyman had carefully positioned himself behind the front right wheel and engine block of his vehicle along with his driver as had his more experienced officers behind their vehicle. All were pinned down by the incoming AK rounds but weren’t too worried as they knew Sergeant Night and his men would flank their enemy.
The rookies however were both taking cover behind the open back doors of their vehicles and were attempting to take on the suiciders with their 9MM pistols. The first greenhorn didn’t even manage to get a single shot off before he took multiple rounds blasting holes through his face. He dropped to the floor without a whimper.
By this time Constable Stanislov had moved position, taken a better sniping situation by lying flat on the roof of a people carrier parked inside the lot and had managed to acquire the head of one of the suiciders in his sights. He took a half breath and squeezed the trigger, slowly with focus and intent, this time double tapping his enemy. He didn’t see the rounds make impact but he did notice a small spray of red that formed a cloud above the suicider’s head; it hung there for a second and then fell to the ground as did the suicider, dead.
The death of the armed criminal drew the attention of the remaining three suiciders and they turned in the direction from which the fatal bullets had come. This stopped the hail of fire long enough for Sergeant Snyman to lift his head and shotgun over his vehicle and take aim at one of the suiciders, firing then pumping, firing then pumping, firing then pumping three rounds of ammunition into his enemy. His rounds hit their target starting at the legs, blowing one of them clean off and with every new round Sergeant Snyman fired higher on the suicider’s body, hitting the chest and then finally the head, granting the suicider’s wish and killing him.
This drew the concentrated attention of the remaining two suiciders and they once again started to fire at the Yankee vehicles and Sergeant Snyman and his men.
Sergeant Night had used his time in the fire fight well. While his colleagues exchanged rounds with the suiciders he had made his way close enough for a kill shot with his 9MM after jettisoning his shotgun following its failure to fire. He flanked the two men who were now fully focused on the Yankee vehicles. He came within a few metres and sighted one of the suiciders with his Vector. He performed the “Mozambique drill” with deadly precision - two to the chest and one to the head. The man fell face first, lifeless, to the ground.
Constable Shaka had been busy too, he had silently made his way towards the suiciders, tactically weaving his way through parked vehicles and using them as cover until he got close enough.
Before Sergeant Night could eliminate the last standing suicider who was still firing at Sergeant Snyman and his men and hadn’t noticed Sergeant Night, Constable Shaka came charging past him roaring an ancient Zulu battle cry and brandishing his “Assegai”.
By the time the suicider realised what was happening it was too late for him. Constable Shaka rounded on him, grabbed him by the throat with his left hand, lifted him clean off the ground and thrust his killing knife into the suicider’s heart from under his rib cage, slaying him instantly.
“Wouldn’t it have been easier just to shoot him?” asked Sergeant Snyman while getting up from behind his police vehicle.
Constable Shaka didn’t answer. He removed his “Assegai” from the now limp body of the suicider, let it slump and fall and silently walked towards the bank’s entrance. He knew what he was going to find and so did his colleagues.
Civilians caught up in the robbery were already filtering out of the bank. Some were annoyed and fuming and spitting insults at the police officers for allowing this to happen to them. Others were heavily traumatised and crying.
Sergeant Night ordered the crews of November Whisky 14 and 21 to set up a check point at the exit to the bank and to collect all of the contact details of the victims of the robbery and to take sample fingerprints from everyone at the scene. Sergeant Night knew from previous experience that criminals often stayed behind after a robbery had gone bad and posed as innocent civilians – although this time he highly doubted it with “the Devil” being involved. It would have been too risky for the criminals to survive.
“Control, November Whisky 50” said Sergeant Night over the police radio.
“Send your message November Whisky 50.”
“I need an ambulance at the Metropolitan Bank. I also need the mortuary van, detectives, fingerprints, photographers and trauma counsellors. Please also alert provincial command and send the duty officer. I have at least four dead bank robbers here.”
“Any injured police, November Whisky?” asked the Controller cautiously.
“Stand by, Control.”
“Snyman, any of your boys hurt?” asked Sergeant Night.
“Yes. One of the rookies. He is dead. Shot in the face.”
“And the other rook?” inquired Sergeant Night.
“He is fine. Just upset. And… wet.”
Sergeant Night understood “wet” as that he had pissed himself.
“Control, November Whisky 50. One officer fatally wounded. He is one of Sergeant Snyman’s men. He will call you over the phone with details so that you may have the next of kin informed.”
“Roger that, my crew is standing by to take the call. And what of Metro Ten Sergeant?”
“Stand by Control we are going in to the bank now.”
Sergeant Night, Constable Shaka and Stanislov entered the bank, Constable Stanislov most cautiously keeping over-watch, looking out for an ambush. The front foyer of the bank was almost empty apart from a mother and child huddled in the corner. Weeping. Moving towards the tellers they found more people. A young couple slowly got off the floor and greeted them.
“Thank you officers” they said in barely a whisper and moved off to the exit.
An elderly man stood and faced Constable Shaka and said: “Since you blacks took over the country look at what has become of it. The wild west where people are killed for their shoes and banks are robbed at will.”
Sergeant Night interjected sharply and said: “Not now old man, hold your bitterness and hatred and leave us.”
The old man tried once more to speak but Sergeant Night gave him a withering look as only he could. The old man understood the message and left quietly.
Sergeant Night and Constable Shaka went behind the cashiers’ desks leaving Constable Stanislov outside to keep guard. They approached the bank’s safe where the bank staff were huddled. The bank tellers and manager didn’t say a word. The manager slowly raised his hand and pointed inside to the huge walk-in safe.
They entered and looked up.
The crew of Metro Ten were hanging dead from the roof. Their arms and legs had been cut off and the limbs were lying on the floor beneath them. Sergeant Night read the name tags as Peace Officer Richard Ndlovu and Peace Officer Henry Shaka. The floor was awash with the blood which had drained from the mutilated bodies.
“The leader, he used a Panga, he tortured them,” said the bank manager, his voice traumatised. “I heard him tell his men to lure them in so that they could cut them up into pieces. We saw them pull right up to the front door of the bank with blue lights on. The leader said that they must be new cops. He laughed and said they must be a gift for him.”
Constable Shaka took his large knife and began to cut his brother down.
Sergeant Night realised that this was against best practice and that his friend was contaminating a murder scene but he was not going to stop him. Constable Shaka took his brother’s limbless body and lay on the bloody floor resting his back on the wall while holding his dead brother. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t cry. His pain was beyond tears. His body was incapable of showing its sadness. Sergeant Night knew that his best friend’s soul was in agony.
Sergeant Night took Constable Shaka’s radio from him and left him in the safe. Closing the door but not locking it, he instructed the bank staff and manager not to go in and not to let anybody else in until the forensics team and detectives arrived.
“Control, November Whisky 50.”
“Send November Whisky 50.”
“The crew of Metro Ten are no more.”
“Roger that Sergeant. I will inform their radio Control and their superiors and have them notify next of kin.”
“Metro Peace Officer Henry Shaka’s only kin already knows, Control.”
“Oh my God” said the radio voice, momentarily losing emotional Control.
“I am so sorry Mike, I am so sorry.” said Lisa van der Westhuizen, the sweet voice of radio Control.
Mike and Lisa knew each other well. In fact they had been seeing each other on and off for over two years. Sergeant Night had asked her out on a date over the police radio after taking a liking to her voice, the angelic voice that seemed so caring and compassionate to him – a rash move for which he received a disciplinary hearing over the misuse of police equipment. Thankfully General Arosi was the chair of the committee and actually found the incident quite romantic. Sergeant Night got off with a verbal warning and a dinner date with one of the most intriguing girls he had ever known.
“Any word on the duty officer, Control?” inquired Sergeant Night.
“Yes. General Arosi is coming down himself. He left when the call came through. He should be with you shortly.”
Just then Sergeant Night heard the unmistakable deep voice of General Amos Arosi from behind him.
“Mike, this looks and feels a bad one. Are you all right my friend?”
Sergeant Night turned, stood to attention and saluted his General.
“How many times have I told you not to salute me Mike. You are a dear friend of mine and it is not necessary.”
“With all due respect General, it is necessary. I am on duty and you are my commander.”
Sergeant Night continued: “This was an absolute cluster fuck! Having the Metro Units allowed on our radio channel has just led to another two of them being tortured and killed!”
“Well it’s not our fault the ‘Peace Officers’ aren’t trained well enough. After all, their mandate is to write tickets not to respond to Alpha calls. From day one I have opposed the decision to allow them to respond to the more serious stuff. You know this full well but the Commissioner himself pushed for it. He thinks why should only his men die in this war on crime in the new South Africa. And I almost agree with him.”
The General pushed on, his voice intensifying: “Did you know that we are currently losing an officer once every five days across the country? And I am losing one of my men once every three days here in Johannesburg. Do you have any idea what that is like? Two funerals a week I must attend. Two families a week I have to explain why their son or daughter is dead. In fact I am glad the Metro units are involved. Perhaps they can catch a few of the bullets that my officers would have taken. I am sick of it…”
Sergeant Night interrupted the General.
“One of those Metro officers was Henry, Zulu’s brother.”
“Oh no. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. The Metro commanders are supposed to give us duty rosters so we know who is on shift and where. If I had known Henry was posted to Norwood I would have redeployed him somewhere safer as I have done in the past. I am so sorry Mike. I didn’t know. Where is Daniel now?”
“He is in the bank’s safe with his brother’s body. The bastards cut their arms and legs off and hung them from the roof.”
“My God” uttered the General.
“It was ‘the Devil’ himself General. I saw him as he left the bank.”
“uSathane? Are you sure Mike? Why would he accompany his men on a bank job?? … Anyway we can discuss the matter later. Let’s get this crime scene sorted out and let’s look after Daniel.”
The detectives had arrived along with the photographers, fingerprint specialists and crime scene experts. The lead detective was Detective Warrant Officer Sipho Mnisi. Sergeant Night was happy about this as he had worked with D/I Mnisi in the past and knew he almost always secured a conviction.
D/I Mnisi was effective in performing his duties yet not very personable. He was a tall thin man of fair complexion, almost always in a tired looking grey suit and wore a small thin moustache. He unmistakably had an ancestor among the San Tribe of the African desert. From a proud tradition of hunter-gatherers he was now gathering evidence and hunting criminals.