Chapter Twenty-Four – The Capture on the Border
Pieter Erasmus sat in the driver’s seat of the car. What he was expecting outside, he did not know. Now was the time to put a puzzle together in his mind. Had Albertina Buthelezi had really seen a window in the hotel room high up above the world? If so, what was a window made of? That was an easy one to answer. All windows are made of glass. Alright, but why was a window there in the hotel room? Again, the answer seemed simple… to look through!
That is it! The apartheid government had developed some form of eye glass that would allow them to see the future. Perhaps Albertina Buthelezi wasn’t as crazy as he thought. Perhaps he was the crazy one.
“Can I please climb out of this cage?” yelled Lindiwe from the back of the vehicle.
“In a moment,” replied Pieter.
He looked around but could not see any form of a building, yet he was convinced that he was at the right place. His eyes caught sight of a tree to his right and next to it was a small stream.
Pieter climbed from the vehicle and put his hand on one of the fruits on the tree. He plucked it brought it over to the headlights of the vehicle. It was a yellow peach.
He smelt the fruit. All seemed good. Taking his chances, he took a small bite. The fruit was juicy and tasted delicious. The Lieutenant smiled. At least both he and Lindiwe would not die of hunger. Next, he made his way to the stream and dipped his hand into the water. It was too dark to see if there were any fish in the stream but that would be checked when the sun was up. He put down the peach and used his hands as a funnel to drink some of the water from. Yes, it was clean and pure. Great, there would be no dying of thirst either.
Pieter returned to the vehicle and let Lindiwe out of the back cage compartment.
“Finally,” she remarked.
The Lieutenant went to the front of the vehicle and something on the ground caught his eye. The vehicle’s headlights were shining on a patch of ground.
Footprints and fresh ones too, Erasmus!
Someone had been here recently and the footprints were heading down a pathway towards a mountainous area.
Pieter’s suspicions from the start were being vindicated. More people were interested in the laboratory than just Lindiwe and himself. This could mean that more people were interested in Mandela than Lindiwe and himself too!
The cop turned off the headlights and locked the vehicle doors. The rest of the mission would need to be done on foot.
As he headed towards the ascent with Lindiwe, he knew that he was about to experience a life changing chapter in his life. Would he make it back? That was another story. Judging by what he knew, people were playing for keeps. He thought of the South African national anthem – ons sal lewe, ons sal sterwe ons vir jou Suid-Afrika (we will live, we will die, us for you South Africa).
Pieter’s mind returned to his ‘glass and looking’ theory. Maybe, you have got things back to front, Erasmus. What? Back to front?
He began to think things through deeper. Back to front? Glass and Looking? What about Looking and Glass?
Pieter’s eyes lit up. That is it!
He remembered hearing Jaap Cornelius once mentioning the term ‘Looking Glass’ in the office, but he did not think twice about it as it had nothing to do with his daily job.
“Lindiwe, we need to be on the lookout for the ‘Looking Glass’, you know, the big window that Albertina Buthelezi spoke about?” said the cop.
“I thought that you believed that Albertina was crazy?” she said.
“Right now, the old lady is probably more level-headed than you and me put together,” he remarked.
“Come on, let’s go,” he said as he surged towards the uphill with a new spring in his step.
“What if we can’t find the Looking Glass?” asked Lindiwe.
“Then we settle for next best and find a place called ‘the Looking Glass’, replied the Lieutenant.
Pieter was a non-smoker but he remembered that he had a box of matches in the pocket of his police combat jacket.
This came in handy as he lit up a match every five hundred metres or so to make sure that they were still on the trail of the fresh footprints before them.
The task was not going to be an easy one, as they were about to find out. Three days passed by and the search was still on-going although confidence levels had dropped dramatically.
Ever since they had reached the top of the mountain three days back they had seen miles and miles of absolutely nothing and no sign of a human being. What gave Pieter hope was that the footprints of a person were still leading ahead of them.
“If we walk any further we need our passports to get into Mozambique,” joked Lindiwe.
“There is someone ahead of us, that I am sure of, and he would not have walked all this way for no reason,” replied the cop.
“Whoever he is must be as keen to find the laboratory site as we are.”
Fortunately, the stream that Pieter had spotted on the first night had wound its way around the mountain and was still next to them so they had a continuous supply of fresh water.
Fish was their staple diet after Pieter, a keen fisherman back home, had managed to catch a few, which he cooked on a fire, lit from the matches in his pocket.
Lindiwe sat down on a rock and wiped her brow with her right hand.
“I never thought that the journey would be this tough,” she said, as she stared out to the east. It was nearly midday and they were no closer to finding the mysterious ‘Looking Glass’ than when they first arrived.
Her eyes caught on to a bright light in the eastern direction and she drew Pieter’s attention to it.
“It looks like the sun is shining on a piece of glass over there,” she remarked.
“Do you think the ‘Looking Glass’ is over there?”
Pieter took one look at the bright light and knew exactly what it was. It had nothing to do with the sun and glass. Somebody was sending a Morse code to draw the attention of another party.
The cop had studied this at Police College and did his best to work out the dots from the dashes in the signal. As he worked out the signal, he wrote the notes down in a small notebook that he kept in his police jacket.
Lindiwe looked over his shoulder.
“Any ideas?” she asked.
“P is for Pieter, E is for Erasmus, L is for Lindiwe, B is for Buthelezi, L is for Looking, G is for Glass,” he explained.
“Someone out there knows we are here and after the ‘Looking Glass’.”
“What about the rest of the signal?” asked Lindiwe.
“The ‘KM after the number ‘10’ means the sender of the signal is 10 kilometres away from us and I am guessing the ‘W’ means the direction west,” he said.
“That means we are being watched,” she said.
“The ‘Looking Glass’ must be pretty important if someone or some people don’t want us to get to close to it,” he said.
“What now?” asked Lindiwe.
Pieter wiped his brow.
“I say we walk in the direction of where we saw the bright light,” commented the cop.
“What if it is a trap?” questioned Lindiwe.
“What have we got to lose?” asked Pieter in return.
By 4pm, the sun was beginning to lower itself and Pieter could see that his fitness was taking a bash. He had been quite surprised as to how fit Lindiwe really was as she showed no signs of tiring.
They set up camp for the night and Pieter cooked up his usual dish of fried fish on a fire. He could see Lindiwe’s eyes starting to close even as she was finishing her meal.
“Get some sleep,” said the Lieutenant.
“I suspect tomorrow is going to be a longer day than we both think.”
Pieter did his best to keep his eyes open for as long as possible, but eventually his body gave in and he drifted off to dreamland.
It seemed like he had just about closed his eyes when he was awakened by a loud noise.
The air was filled with a bright light from a helicopter which was trying to land near their camp site.
Pieter woke Lindiwe and they both did their best to escape from the area.
“Who are they?” asked Lindiwe, as she gasped for breath as the pair ran into the bushes.
“I don’t know, but let’s keep moving,” replied the Lieutenant.
Lindiwe, who was running just behind Pieter, could hear voices behind her. She battled to work out if the sound was getting closer or not.
“This way,” said Pieter, as he manoeuvred his body to the left. However, there was no response from Lindiwe. The cop turned around and saw the Lindiwe lying on the ground. She had tripped over a large rock and was battling to get back to her feet.
Pieter turned around and did his best to help the girl to a standing position, but before he could start running, he felt a powerful thud on the back of his skull. The Lieutenant collapsed to the ground and soon both Lindiwe and the unconscious Pieter were surrounded by armed men in military uniform.
Pieter’s lifeless body was slung over the shoulders of a large-frame rifleman, while Lindiwe walked with guards on each side of her. What was going on, thought Lindiwe. We are prisoners-of-war, but why?
The walk was not a long one. Soon Lindiwe could see a light ahead and she was ushered towards a large helicopter. Once aboard and seated, Pieter’s body was loaded next to her. Accompanied by five riflemen, the chopper was ready for take-off.
The helicopter was not alone. Two other choppers, although smaller in size, accompanied the ‘big bird’ as it took off.
Lindiwe did not dare ask any questions. She was the only black among a load of white presumably Afrikaner military men.
She had heard stories of such situations where the black person was never seen again. The apartheid regime would not worry too much if one black vanished off the face of the earth. There were another forty eight or million blacks in the country so one going missing would not be a train smash.
Lindiwe looked at Pieter who was mumbling from the pain. It seemed like he was coming to a state of consciousness.
“Pieter,” said Lindiwe, but the look from her captors let her know that she was not to speak any further.
It was close on thirty minutes before the helicopters landed. Lindiwe had no clue where she was, nor did she know why she was being held against her will and by whom.
She tried to get Pieter into an upright position on the seat but he kept collapsing from the hit on the back of his head.
Two of the armed military men helped Pieter from the helicopter and he was placed in a car. Lindiwe thought she was going into the same vehicle, but was led to another waiting car.
“Pieter!” she yelled in despair.
It would be another hour before Pieter regained his vision and thought pattern.
“Where am I?” he asked, as he found himself bound to a chair in an interrogation room.
“Don’t worry about that,” replied a uniformed man in a strong Afrikaans accent.
“Where is Lindiwe?” questioned the Lieutenant.
“Don’t worry about that either,” snapped the man in the room with him.
“I am a Lieutenant in the South African Police Force and I need answers!” yelled Pieter.
“Listen here, I am the one answering the questions and I would seriously consider complying if you want to see daylight again!” said the man in the room.
Pieter tried to pull himself free from the ropes that bound his arms to the chair but whoever had tied the knots had done a brilliant job.
“Lindiwe!” yelled the Lieutenant.
“She can’t hear you, but she is fine and will be fine as long as you toe the line,” said the man.
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