Chapter Thirty-Eight – Out for the Count
The warden was in dreamland and Pieter and Lindiwe were on the move. Inside the maximum security prison cell area, Pearce Ellison was smiling from ear to ear. He had long since tucked away his sunglasses and was now in a corridor that was dark and doomed. Cometh the hour, cometh the man! Pearce Ellison’s name was going to go up in lights, or so he thought. Pearce was about to become Nelson Mandela’s new best friend!
As Acting Commissioner Mark van Pletzen and Pearce were led into the top security corridor where the prison cells were, the black political prisoners began to make a loud boo-ing sound. Any white man in a Correctional Services uniform was bad news in their eyes and they did not take long to realise that the African-American was not one of them.
“Hey, you sell out!” shouted one prisoner to Pearce.
“Do you know what a black man who is not in a prison cell is called? He is a token darkie!”
The other prisoners roared with laughter.
“Hey P.W.’s puppet!” shouted another prisoner at Pearce, in reference to State President Botha’s control of many black minds, who had surrendered all levels of open thinking to believe that Apartheid was their portion in life.
“As you can see, the prisoners are in good health and well fed,” said Mark van Pletzen to Pearce Ellison.
One of the prisoners overhead the remark and laughed hysterically.
“Well fed?” he mocked.
“A dog would pull their nose up at what we are given to eat!”
“Yes, and let’s not talk about the medical care!” screamed another prisoner, pointing at the bruising on his wrists.
Of course, the prisoner had received the injuries after being hit by a warden, after not working hard enough in the lime quarry.
Mark ignored the comments.
“These prisoners are better cared for than those in many other countries in the world,” motivated Mark to the lawyer, as he ushered Pearce towards Mandela’s prison cell.
The cell was not empty. Pearce noted the mat and cushion which made up Mandela’s bed. Also in the small cell, was a ballie which the prisoner used as a toilet. The small barrell had a lid on it and it was emptied out twice a day. There was also a small table inside the cell.
“I think the wardens have taken him to the office for your meeting,” explained Mark.
The boo-ing sound from the prisoners got even louder as Mark ushered Pearce out of the corridor. The trip to the prison cells was to show the lawyer that the jail conditions are not as bad as the international media made them out to be. Of course, the world press did not get to see first hand just how the conditions were, but were picking up bits and pieces from people who had seen the living conditions for prisoners on the island.
Meanwhile, back in the prison administration office, island prison boss, Vorster, had been hard at work to bring down Pearce’s dream.
As the Acting Commissioner and the lawyer walked out of the corridor that housed the prisoners, they were met with two heavily armed men.
“Waarnemende Kommasaris, jy en die prokereur moet saam met ons kom asseblief (Acting Commissioner, you and the lawyer must come with us, please),” said the one man, who held a rifle close to his body.
Pearce thought that the two security men were there to escourt the pair to the meeting room where they would meet Mandela. However, Mark knew better. These two armed individuals were not Correctional Services men, nor were they from the police. They seemed to be undercover agents who were placed on the island to ensure that everyone, including the wardens, were kept in check.
“Waar vat jy vir ons (where are you taking us)?” asked Mark.
“Dit is beter dat jy so min as moontlik weet (it is better that you know as little as possible),”answered the man holding the rifle.
Mark could sense that the pair were about to be taken from the island for a meeting at the government intelligence offices, where he would need to answer some serious questions as to why he allowed a foreign stranger to get close to Mandela.
The Acting Commissioner held a black belt in karate and was a pretty handy boxer in his younger days. Still as fit as a fiddle, Mark needed a way out of the situation. He needed a spiritual fighting partner. At the moment, the hopes of finding one seemed slim as he surveyed the empty corridor.
Then, it was as if God had answered his prayer.
Out of the blue, a world class rugby tackle from the side took down the man with the rifle, who had been walking at the rear.
The agent’s rifle fell to the ground as Pieter Erasmus used all of his strength in trying to pin the agent to the cement floor. The agent reached for his 9mm pistol on his hip, but three right hooks to the jaw from the Lieutenant left the man out cold.
The attack only took a few seconds, during which Mark sprung into action by providing a karate kick to the chest of the second agent. A wheezing sound could be heard from the man’s chest as he fell to the ground.
Mark grabbed the man’s pistol while Pieter took the rifle and a pistol off the other agent.
“Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus,” said Pieter, as he identified himself, before pointing to Lindiwe Buthelezi, who now stood next to him.
“Acting-Commissioner Mark van Pletzen,” replied Mark with a grin.
“What are you dying on the island?”
Pieter wiped the sweat from his brow.
“We are trying to save Mandela’s life,” explained Pieter.
“ Ditto,” said Pearce, as he stepped forward to join in on the chat.
“Let’s move the bodies out of the way before the wardens come,” said Pieter, and the four dragged the two agents into an area away from the main corridor.
“I haven’t got time to explain everything, but there are at least two people on this island who are on a mission to eliminate Mandela and we need to stop them,” explained Pieter.
Pearce nodded and Mark caught on. It was the threat to Mandela’s life that Pearce had feared, when the pair had spoken in the meeting at Polsmoor prison.
“Do you know the identity of the assassin or assassins?” asked Mark to Pieter.
“I caught a glimpse of a man trying to force the corridor safety door open, but I could not see his face,” said Pieter.
“He wore a grey top, with th grey hood covering his face. I think there may be more than one person involved.”
Mark looked at the human rights lawyer.
“He wasn’t happy to give us time with Mandela, but submitted to authority.”
Mark began to put his strategy together.
“We need to split up, Lindiwe, you stay with the Lieutenant, as you seem to work well together,” said the Acting-Commissioner.
“We will go to safeguard Mandela,” said Pieter.
“If we are not back by one hour from now then raise the alarm, but be carefully who you speak too, as we don’t know who is in on the plot.”
“Dirty cops,” remarked Pearce.
“Rather, dirty wardens,” replied Pieter.
“We are going to pay Vorster a visit,” said Mark, as he released the safety catch on the 9mm pistol in his right hand.
The four split into pairs and it wasn’t long before Pieter’s sharp shooting was required.
A warden spotted him from about fifty metres away and shouted out as he drew his pistol.
“Jy daar, staan stil of jy is vrek (you there, stand stil or you are dead)!”
Pieter pulled Lindiwe to the nearest wall and told her to stay low.
The warden had approached with pistol in the firing position. Pieter saw a Coca Cola can lying on the floor next to Lindiwe and the girl passed it to him.
He threw the can out into the open and the warden fired a shot at it. Pieter returned the compliment and fired one bullet from his pistol, into the right shoulder of the warden.
Clutching his shoulder, the warden fell forward, as he cried out in pain.
“This way!” commanded Pieter, as he pulled Lindiwe towards another corridor to their right.
Meanwhile, Vorster was becoming more worried as the minutes ticked by. Seated at his desk in his office, he had tried to get hold of Warden Cilliers on the two-way radio communications without any luck. Next, he tried to contact the Agent Van Zyl, who had held the rifle in stopping the Acting-Commissioner and Pearce, but there was no sign of him either.
Vorster stood up from his chair and took a 9mm pistol from the top draw of his desk. He was about to put some live ammunition in the gun’s chamber, when he received two unexpected guests.
“Vorster, I can seek that you were not expecting to see us,” said Acting-Commissioner Mark van Pletzen, with eyes raging.
Vorster looked pale.
“Tell us about your plan to have Mr Mandela executed,” ordered Mark, while Pearce Ellison kept an eye on the door area.
“I never had any intention of having Mandela killed,” remarked a shaky Vorster.
“Oh, but you were quite prepared to allow it to happen, not so?” questioned Mark.
Vorster was lost for words.
“You were the only one who knew that Pearce Ellison and I were going to speak with Mr Mandela, so you sent some of your heavies to stop us from doing that,” went on the Acting Commissioner.
With his 9mm pistol aimed at Vorster, Mark moved over to the desk, and in a flash, had the island prison chief handcuffed to his metal chair. He also relieved Vorster of his pistol, ammunition and two-way radio.
“I never liked you from the day I met you,” muttered Vorster to Mark.
“That is your democratic right,” quipped the Acting-Commissioner.
“Mark, we are about to have company,” said Pearce, stationed on guard near the half-closed office door.
Footsteps could be heard in the corridor and it was clearly that they were getting closer.
Mark positioned himself just wide of the door on the opposite side to Pearce, who was hidden by a cupboard.
Agent Van Zyl knocked on the door and stood in the doorway, rubbing his jaw.
“Daai ou is so sterk soos n bees, hy het my uitgeslaan (that guy is as strong as an ox, he knocked me out),” said van Zyl to Vorster.
The agent, standing was completely unaware that Vorster was chained to his desk.
“Soek oorals op die eiland, hulle moet iewers wees (check the whole island, they must be somewhere,” replied Vorster sternly.
“Moet ek nie Mandela se sel bekyk nie (must I not check Mandela’s cell)?” asked the agent.
“Nee, die ander manne staan wag daar, soek oorals op die eiland (no, the other guards are on duty there, check everywhere on the island),” replied Vorster.
“Reg so,” quipped the agent, as he turned and left.
Pieter shook his head and stared at Vorster.
“Why did you not tell the agent that we were here?” asked the Lieutenant.
Vorster narrowed his eyes.
“Does it matter?” he quipped rhetorically.
“You are to late to save Mandela anyway. I was not in on the plan from the start, but then I thought of just how nicely things could be for the Afrikaner if Mandela is eliminated. Sure, I might get fired because of his assassination on my watch, but we need to think about our families and where South Africa is ten years from now.”
Pearce Ellison went over to the desk and for once, lost his cool.
“Where we are ten years from now, did you say?” said the lawyer, as he held the handcuffed Vorster by the throat.
“I will tell you where you will be ten years from now. In the local cemetery. If Mandela gets eliminated, the blood will flow in this beautiful country, white blood, black blood, any time of blood.”
“I don’t mind dying, but I hope that you are the first to get taken out so I can watch it happen!” said Vorster, as he spat towards the lawyer.
Mark came over to break up the emotional ‘white vs black’ showdown. This was racist South Africa at its very best. He was used to seeing this situation in the prisons.
“You go to hell, Vorster!” shouted Pearce.
“If I go there too, then so be it, but I will take pleasure in seeing you roasting with the devil!”
Vorster laughed sarcastically.
“Leave it, Pearce, we need to go,” said Mark, as he pulled the human rights lawyer away from the island prison boss.
“Vorster, if anything happens, to Pearce Ellison, my other two colleagues or myself, hell will be mild compared to what will happen to you,” threatened Mark.
“Remember my face, van Pletzen, because it is the last time that you will ever see me!” shouted Vorster.
Mark loaded the pistol that he had taken from Vorster and gave it to Pearce.
“I don’t know how to shoot this,” said the lawyer.
“Well, you may have to do some on-the-job learning,” grinned Mark.
“It is simple. Take the safety catch off and aim just below the target. Try and keep the weapon as still as you can when you fire it.”
Pearce looked back at Vorster.
“Lucky you only gave this weapon to me now,” said the lawyer.
“I would have blown Vorster’s head off if I could have done so earlier. I can’t believe a person in a position of authority like Vorster can believe that black lives are so cheap.”
“Let’s get to Mr Mandela before the wrong people do,” said Mark, as the pair cautiously headed out of the door.
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