Chapter 18 – The Missing Man
“What do you mean you can’t find Erasmus?” fumed Colonel Jaap Cornelius over the phone to investigator Wayne Burgess.
“Your team was supposed to be keeping a close eye on the Lieutenant at the hospital. You can’t expect my team to do everything!”
Following the observing of the racial showdown and hand grenade blast in Pretoria, Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus had turned off his mobile phone and had removed his sim card from the device.
Jaap was in a state of panic. First Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr had gone missing during an explosion in the Vosloo Grill and now the special investigative unit were unable to keep an eye on the Lieutenant, who had been booked into a military hospital for treatment.
In not trusting the investigators, Jaap dialled Pieter’s mobile phone number, but as expected, the call went straight to the Lieutenant’s voicemail.
Jaap knew Pieter as well as he knew the back of his hand. He knew that his protégé had not disappeared into thin air as was the case with Lindiwe Jnr. The Colonel knew that Pieter had a strategy. The Lieutenant knew the cop set up and was as fed up with it as Jaap was. Afterall, it was Pieter who had initially agreed with Jaap to assassinate Nelson Mandela, but somewhere along the way, had a change of heart. Jaap put the blame of Pieter’s U-turn firmly on the shoulders of Lindiwe Jnr. If Pieter had done what he was supposed to have actioned, then South Africa could quite possibly still have been in the hands of the white minority. Civil war? What civil war? South Africa’s Apartheid regime would have still had the arms and ammunition to see off any onslaught. After all, the Apartheid military was rated as the best in Africa until 1994.
Jaap and his team needed to find Lindiwe Jnr or Pieter before the investigative unit did. The Colonel’s mind continued to run in overdrive. Was Pieter hiding Lindiwe Jnr or at worst, did the Lieutenant know where the girl was?
The Colonel puffed out his cheeks. Retirement from the police could not come sooner for him. He knew that Pieter was a schemer after-all, it was he, Jaap, who had taught him how to wheel and deal. Jaap knew the police force and the world of crime inside and out. He had always tried to live an honest life, but where did that get him. A policeman’s retirement package was not the largest on a good day. Anyway, he was better off than many of his white South African colleagues, who had descended into poverty since the arrival in power of the ANC in 1994.
The government’s Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy held a firm bias to correct the past, with many jobs going the way of the blacks, as opposed to the whites.
Many young white South Africans were eyeing a life abroad in feeling that there was no future for them left in their own country. Many of these talented youngsters were watching the corruption and lawlessness and felt that South Africa, was sliding closer and closer to being a banana republic.
Many believed that it was only Cape Town that was still able to be a 1st world part of the country. The Western Cape, in which Cape Town and the House of Parliament is situated, was the only province in the country that was not run by the ANC. The Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition, had unseated the ANC at the provincial elections a while back. However, the DA was struggling to make inroads into the black majority as their leadership mainly consisted of white people. The white vote in the Western Cape was not enough to keep the DA in power there, but another minority group in the form of the coloured people, had also decided that they had enough of the ANC.
Many coloured people felt that they had played a key role in the liberation struggle prior to the fall of Apartheid but were now seen by the rulers of the day as being ‘one shade to light’. The coloured people were the meat in the sandwich.
Previously under Apartheid, white was at the top, coloured in the middle and black at the bottom. When the sandwich flipped over, black went to the top, white to the bottom, but the coloured people were still stuck in the middle.
When a coloured sports person was chosen for a predominantly white national team, the government still saw the team as ‘lilywhite’. It seemed that the only time that the ANC was serious about the coloured people was when they wanted their vote at election time.
So, the coloured population, which resided mainly in the Western Cape, would hurt the ruling party where it pained most. They would vote for the DA and the ANC would struggle to win the Western Cape province. Not that the coloured people liked the DA, but it was just about choosing between the two devils, in political terms.
Many ANC stalwarts who had issues with their party would simply vote the same election after election. It was an ‘ANC til I die’ mindset. Nelson Mandela had brought a democracy to South Africa and they would support him forever and a day. The rulers had even gone as far as to brainwash the less educated voters that if they cast their ballot for the DA, then the official opposition would see to it that Apartheid would return to the country.
The fact that the vast majority had no jobs, or much-promised houses, seemed to count for little on election day. The ANC promised much, and their leaders were of the same skin colour as the masses.
With a population nearing 52 million by 2010, the most optimistic ANC supporter would struggle to believe that the party would be able to provide salaried jobs for nowhere near two thirds of the people, let alone more.
To many white South Africans like Colonel Jaap Cornelius, the country was going one way – down the drain!
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus’ eye sockets stretched to the maximum as he stared at a person across the street from the coffeeshop.
Lindiwe Jnr! He tried to force his way through the doorway and then on to a crowded pavement where onlookers and media people were watching the last moments of the clean
Dressed in a red top and blue denim jeans, a young black woman was about to walk across the street at the traffic light, while in conversation with two other young ladies.
There was something about this scene that seemed so real, thought Pieter. No, there was something about this scene that he had seen before.
The way the girl was dressed… the people around her… it was exactly what he had seen in a dream earlier in the week.
“Lindiwe!” shouted Pieter, as many of those on the pavement turned towards him to see what all the fuss was about.
The girl did not react but instead started to walk across the street.
“Lindiwe!” yelled the Lieutenant again.
The girl started to walk quicker, and Pieter reacted by upping his pace.
Pieter remembered the red dragons that he had seen in his dream. There was no sign of them and that was pleasing to him. He had no time to think of whether the dragons from the dream were demonic or whether they were a symbol of something else. All he remembered was that the dragons had been keen on ripping his parents and their house apart.
As Pieter tried to cross the busy street to get to the girl, the traffic light changed, and a taxi nearly wiped him off his feet.
The cop fell forward but managed to remain on his feet. When he looked up, the girl had disappeared. In a moment of frantic madness, Pieter charged across the street, forcing drivers of vehicles to hit the brakes and hoot at him.
Pieter did not care. He was a man on a mission. He looked up and down the street but there was no sign of the girl whom he thought was Lindiwe Jnr.
The Lieutenant had a clear view of up to two hundred metres to his left and right and unless the girl was an Olympic sprinter, there was no way that she could escape at such speed. However, the girl in the red top and jeans had vanished into thin air again.
“Lindiwe Jnr!” shouted an out-of-breath Pieter as he came to a halt some one hundred metres on the other side of the street.
He felt like he was losing his mind. Why was the girl not reacting to him when he called her name? he was adamant that the girl was Lindiwe Jnr. Something was seriously wrong here. Had the cops or some other third force drugged her into not knowing what her name was? Pieter was becoming more and more convinced that he was being played by people who knew him. He wasn’t a fan of being taken for a fool.
The cop sprinted fifty metres forward to the curb of the next street in the hope that he could spot the girl.
He shook his head. Nothing was making any sense. Pieter was quick on his feet, but the speed at which this girl had disappeared was frightening.
Pieter knew that his eyes were not playing tricks on him. He knew that the girl that he had seen was Lindiwe Buthelezi Jnr. He raised his left hand and pinched himself on his right upper arm. This time he was not dreaming. This was very real.
He placed his left hand into the left side pocket of his jeans and felt something small that felt like cardboard. It was the sim card from his mobile phone. He had earlier removed it from the device just incase the cops tried to trace it to find him.
How he wanted to phone Colonel Jaap Cornelius but right now he could not trust anyone.
Pieter returned to the area near the coffeeshop and noticed the two other women that the girl had been walking with.
“Good afternoon,” said the cop in his best English.
“I am looking to speak to the other lady who was with you a few moments ago. The young black lady, dressed in the red top and jeans.”
The two white women, both in their early twenties, looked startled at the man’s approach.
“Sir, I am not sure what you are talking about,” said the nearest woman to him. The other one nodded in agreement.
Pieter followed up.
“I saw you talking to the young black lady who then crossed the street,” he said.
The shorter of the two women, a blonde dressed in a green blouse, looked at Pieter as if he were crazy.
“My friend and I have just finished classes at the university and are on our way home,” she said.
“I don’t know which black woman you are referring too.”
Pieter ignored the blonde and turned his attention to the brunette, who was clutching a black sling bag, which presumably contained her university books.
“What are you studying at the university?” asked Pieter.
“What has that got to do with you?” quipped the woman abruptly.
Pieter flashed his police badge and the attitudes of both women changed for the better.
“Look, officer, we are not looking for any trouble, its just that we don’t know anything about this woman that you are talking about,” said the brunette, who identified herself as Claire Hogan.
“For the record, Deidre Haskins here and I are both studying accounting at the university. If there is anything else that we can help with, we will be glad too, otherwise we really need to go.”
There was something very mysterious about these two women. He had seen them passing some chit-chat with the black girl, but he couldn’t force them to tell him something that they were dead against doing.
For a moment, Pieter wondered if the two women were not paid actresses or had been planted on the scene to throw him off track. If so, who were they reporting in too?
“Look, madams, there is something going on here that could change the South Africa that we know, and I need to find that young black girl,” explained Pieter.
Claire looked at Deidre.
“Officer excuse me for asking but have you been drinking?” asked Claire.
How he wished that he could have answered in the affirmative.
“I have only been drinking coffee,” he said.
“I would appreciate your help in anything that you know about that black girl.”
Deidre wiped her long black hair away from her face. She was the more attractive of the two girls, but Pieter got a feeling that Claire may have believed that she was.
“Perhaps if you give us your number and we will contact you if we hear or see anything,” smiled Deidre.
Pieter shared his private mobile number with the two girls, since his police sim card was offline in his pocket.
Pieter noticed a police vehicle stopped at the far side of the street and one of the cops was looking in his direction. Had his cover been broken?
“Look, I need to go, but let’s stay in touch,” he said.
“Definitely,” grinned Deidre.
“Hopefully, we will have something stronger that coffee when we meet again.”
The girls giggled as they left.
“So, are you looking for a sugar daddy,” teased Claire, who thought that Pieter was out of earshot, but he caught on to every word.
Pieter gritted his teeth and headed off down a side alley. Before turning away, he glanced at the cop vehicle. The policeman in the front passenger seat was still staring his direction.
However, Pieter thought that if he had been spotted, the cops would have confronted him by now.
Once down the nearest alley, Pieter decided it was best to keep moving. He did not want to be apprehended by the men in the blue uniforms. He needed to get to the bottom of what was going on.
Why was Lindiwe Jnr ignoring him and running away? What about her two strange girlfriends? Claire and Deidre seemed like they had just dropped in from Planet Pluto. They seemed totally oblivious to the fact that a racial showdown plus a hand grenade explosion had taken place a few metres away from them about half an hour earlier.
Or was it Pieter Erasmus who was in his own world. He always felt that the world was wrong, and he was right, but he was beginning to think that perhaps the opposite was happening. Perhaps he was the odd one out. Pieter felt that something big was going down and he seemed to be the lost person on earth who was privy to it. Was he being watched by the cops? Is that why the policeman was staring at him? Were his employers one step ahead of his all the time? Pieter’s aggression levels were rising all the time. Again, it was a case of if he could not find Lindiwe Jnr, then why should he give a damn about the black majority and the New South Africa