Chapter Thirty-Nine – Taking the Bullet
Lieutenant Pieter Erasmus clicked open the safety catch on his 9mm pistol. His gut feeling was that he would be firing off another shot soon, and his instincts were seldom wrong. He stared down at his belt. The other pistol that he had taken off of one of the agents, was safely tucked away, but ready for action when needed. Pieter had been a hot shot shooter at police college. Never in his wildest dreams did he think that he would need to fire live ammunition at Apartheid law enforcement men who were up to no good.
Lindiwe too, was staring at the second pistol that was hooked on Pieter’s belt. Pieter glanced at the girl, and then handed the pistol to her.
“Put the safety catch off and then pull the trigger,” he whispered, as he gave her a quick lesson on how to fire the weapon.
Lindiwe lowered the pistol as she attempted to control the safety catch.
“Watch it, you are going to shoot yourself in the foot,” warned the Lieutenant, as he pushed the pistol up from the position that the girl had held it.
At that moment, there was a noise on the other side of the closed door leading to the passage to the prison cells, and Pieter and Lindiwe instantly had their pistols aimed at the target.
Pieter had already worked out that there were three wardens at the prison cells. Add on the assassin and at least one henchman, and there were not five persons that he needed to take care of.
“Hoof Vorster, ons is reg vir aksie (chief Vorster, we are ready for action),” said the man on the other side of the door, who was expecting the arrival of the island prison chief.
The door opened and the man, in his twenties
Pieter immediately recognised the face as one of the sidekicks of the General. This man had tried to drown him on the General’s orders when he was held captive in Natal.
The man’s face turned green when he saw Pieter.
“Wat is fout (what is wrong)?” asked the Lieutenant.
The man tried to pull the door closed, but Pieter threw himself at the man and forced him to the ground. With Pieter having dropped his pistol during the tussle, Lindiwe pointed her weapon at the two men, who were rolling over one another.
The General’s sidekick put a knee into Pieters ribs, and the Lieutenant winced in pain. While Pieter tried to pull himself to an upright position, the man reached for the Lieutenant’s pistol which lay on the floor.
The General’s accomplice gazed at Lindiwe, whose pistol was pointed directly at him.
“You won’t shoot,” said the man, as he got to his feet and put his hand toward’s Pieter’s pistol.
“Shoot!” shouted Pieter.
Lindiwe’s hands were sweating. She had never fired a gun before. She closed her eyes and pulled back the trigger on the pistol until a shot went off.
The man cried out in pain.
“You black bitch, you shot me in the nuts!” he said, as he lay on the floor in agony, with his blood flowing around him.
Pieter grinned as he picked his pistol up from the floor.
“Nice shooting,” said the Lieutenant.
“I didn’t mean to shoot him between the legs,” said an emotional Lindiwe.
“Relax, you did what you needed to do,” quipped Pieter, amid the cries from the man.
“Ek het hulp nodig, jy kan my nie hier los nie (I need help, you can’t leave me here),” said the wounded man, who gritted his teeth in an attempt to hold back the pain.
Pieter stepped wide of the man, took his pistol and headed off through the door.
Pieter was doing the mathematics as he and Lindiwe moved forward. Two wardens and a potential assassin down… that left one potential assassin and one warden.
The Lieutenant and the girl took cover behind two cabinets that stood in the corridor. Having heard the gunshot, two wardens rushed to down the alley, and through the open door, to find the wounded man on the floor. The wardens realised their mistake too late.
Pieter closed the door and turned the key that the injured man had inserted in the lock before walking through the doorway.
“Hy het ons fokken uitgesluit (he fucking locked us out)!” shouted one of the wardens, who was now stuck with his partner on the wrong side of the locked door.
Both wardens began to slam their fists on the door and scream their lungs out, which drowned the pains of agony from the man on the floor.
“Let’s go,” said Pieter, as he and Lindiwe began to jogged down the corridor.
The two wardens on the far side of the locked door used their two-way radios to inform their colleague near the prison cells as to what was happening.
The message could be heard loud and clear over the radios and the prisoners began to sing ‘Nkosi Sikelela I Afrika’, as they sensed that some person or people were coming their way to free them from the oppressor.
“Shut up, fokken (fucking) shut up!”shouted the warden.
The prisoners did not listen and the noise grew to deafening capacity, with the prisoners banging their metal coffee mugs against the iron barred window.
The warden got on to his radio and called for help. The wardens at the jetty, could not hear the message clearly, while the likes of Vorster, Cilliers, the two wardens at the door of the corridor, and the two agents, were not in a position to help.
“Kom ons waai en sluit die duur toe (come let’s go and lock the door),”suggeted the warden to Acting-Commissioner, Mark van Pletzen.
Mark shook his head.
They had come on this journey for human rights lawyer, Pearce Ellison, to have ten minutes with Nelson Mandela. A bunch of locked-up, chanting prisoners was not going to make Mark change his mind.
The light at the corridor entrance was bright enough for the warden to spot Pieter’s shadow. Instantly, the man in uniform drew his pistol and fired a shot, which went past the wall, about six centimetres away from Pieter’s nose.
“Moenie verder inkom nie, my mannekrag is oppad (don’t come inside, my manpower is on its way)!” yelled the warden, whose pistol hand was beginning to shake.
The warden was bluffing or at least hoping that some of his colleagues had heard his distress call over the two-way radio.
“Ek soek nie vir jou nie (I am not looking for you)!” yelled back the Lieutenant.
“Sit you wapen op die grond en staan by die duur met jou hande in die lug (put your weapon on the ground and step into the doorway with your hands in the air)!” ordered the warden.
Pieter signalled to Lindiwe to hold her position and be ready to fire if need be.
The Lieutenant put his pistol on to the floor and pushed it out into the open with his right foot. He then raised his hands and walked out. The warden stood ten metres away with his pistol aimed at Pieter.
He noted the presence of Mark van Pletzen and Pearce Ellison.
“Tronkbewaarder, gaan vandag probeer om Meneer Mandela te vermoor (Warden, someone will try to murder Mr Mandela here today),” explained Pieter.
The warden glared at Pieter.
“Ja, dis jy, jou vark (yes, its you, you pig),” he responded, as he clicked the safety catch on his pistol.
“Nee, dit is nie ek nie, maar daar is nog n persoon wat n probleem gaan wees (no, it is not me, but there is another person who is going to be a problem!” said Pieter.
The warden held the pistol in one hand, and clutched on to his two-way radio with the other.
“Hoof Vorster, ek het die man wat Mandela wou vermoor, kom in Hoof Vorster (Chief Vorster, I have got the man who wanted to murder Mandela), come in, Chief Vorster?”
Besides a crackling sound, there was no response.
“Lyk my jy is man aleen (looks like you are man alone),” said Pieter, and some of the prisoners giggled.
“Shut up, jy (you),” said the warden, to Pieter.
“As ek nou vir jou kon vrekskiet so ek (if I could shoot you dead right now, I would).”
Moment’s later, the sound of a shot was heard, and the bullet lodged in the chest of the warden, killing him instantly.
General Jan du Toit, the man with the conservative mindset who had interrogated Pieter while he was held captive in Natal, stepped out into the open five metres to the right of Pieter. He had his arm around the throat of Lindiwe Buthelezi, with his grip so tight that the girl was battling to breath.
“So, Erasmus, it looks like this is the end of the line,” said du Toit, as he waved his pistol across Mark van Pletzen, Pearce Ellison and then Pieter.
Mark van Pletzen recognised Jan du Toit from Correctional Services training courses that they were on together a few years back. Many people in the prisons set-up frowned when du Toit got transferred to a strictly confidential government department. It was thought that the fact that his father was the much-respected Brigadier Kobus du Toit, had something to do with it.
“Dit hoef nie so te wees nie (it doesn’t have to be this way),” said Mark, with his hands raised.
Du Toit shook his head.
“Jy weet nie hoe dit voel om jou beste te probeer en dan almal ignoreer jou want jy is Kobus du Toit se seun (you don’t know what it is like to do your best and to be ignored because you are the son of Kobus du Toit)!” yelled the General.
“Niks wat ek reggekry het was goedgenoeg in die ooe van my pa. En die res van julle wat agter my rug gelag het, oor hoe ek n Generaal geword het (Nothing I did was right in the eyes of my father. The rest of you just laughed behind my back, about how I became a General).”
“Wel, julle kan nou getuie wees hoe ek vir Mandela doodskiet en julle kan vir julle families die storie vertel van n man wat n goeie ding gedoen het namens die Afrikaners (well, you can now be witness as I shoot Mandela dead, and you can tell your families the story of what a good thing I did in the name of the Afrikaners),” went on du Toit, who began to cough.
“Tuberkolose (tuberculosis)?” asked Pieter.
The General looked at him.
“Long kanker, maar dit beteken niks in jou lewe nie (lung cancer, but it doesn’t mean much in your life),” quipped the General.
“Ek is jammer (I am sorry),” said Pieter.
“‘Sorry’se moer, ek het nie jou ‘sorry’ nodig nie (to hell with sorry, I don’t need your sorry)!” replied du Toit sternly.
The General then began to cough again and it looked for a moment as if his knees were going to give in underneath him.
“Loop, Erasmus, daar is genoeg in hierdie geweer om julle almal dood te maak (walk, Erasmus, there is enough in this gun to kill all of you),” said the General.
“Wanneer jy vir ons en vir Mandela dood gemaak het, wat dan (when you have killed us and Mandela, what then)?” asked Pieter.
The General tried to laugh but his ribs were too sore from all of the coughing.
“Dan vertel ek vir die polisie dat ek vir jou doodgeskiet het nadat jy vir Mandela doodgemaak het (then I will tell the police that I killed you after you killed Mandela),” answered the General
“Wat van all die gevanginaars wat alles sal sien (what about all the prisoners who would have seen everything)?” asked the Lieutenant.
Again, the General tried to laugh, without any luck.
“Wie gaan die hof glo? N Generaal of n klomp swart tronkvoels (who will the court believe? A General or a bunch of black jailbirds)?”
The prisoners nearest to du Toit bashed their coffee mugs against the door with anger.
The General went into another fit of coughing and leaned forward. Lindiwe took her chance and elbowed du Toit in the ribs, forcing him to drop the pistol. Mark van Pletzen and Pieter Erasmus were on to the General, pinning him to the ground, and relieving him of his weapon.
“So, jy will dit nou doen, Erasmus (so you want to do it, Erasmus),” asked the out-of-breath General.
“Jy will vir Mandela skiet (you want to shoot Mandela)?”
Pieter looked at the gun and then at Lindiwe.
“Nee, nie meer nie, daai dae is verby (no, not anymore, those days are over),” said the Lieutenant, as Mark handcuffed the General.
“Jy het Suid-Afrika uitverkoop vir generasies wat nog kom (you have sold South Africa out for generations to come)!” fumed du Toit.
Soon, about twenty armed Correctional Services wardens entered the area.
“Alles is in die hak, maar vat vir hierdie Generaal weg asseblief (everything is under control, but please take this General away),” ordered Mark.
“Wat van hierdie ou (wat about this guy)?” asked the nearest warden, as he indicated with his rifle towards Pieter.
Mark shook his head.
“Nee, dankietog vir hierdie man, ons het nog n kans vir vrede in hierdie land (no, thanks to this man, we still have a chance of peace in this land),” replied the Acting Commissioner.
“En wat van die swart meisie (and what about the black girl)?” asked another warden.
“Los haar uit, sy is ook deel van die rede dat ons land n toekoms het (leave her alone, she is also a part of the reason that our country has a future),” ordered Mark.
The warden didn’t understand.
“Ja, maar daar is ook n ander probleem (yes, but there is also another problem),” remarked the warden.
“Een van ons manne is hospitaal toe met n geweer skoot tussen die bene (one of our men is on his way to hospital with a gunshot wound between the legs),” explained the warden.
“Blykbaar die swart meisie het hom daar geskiet (apparently, the black girl shot him there).”
Mark wanted to laugh, but then managed to control himself and winked at the girl.
“Ons sal dit later uitsort (we will sort that out later),” said Mark to the warden.
The Acting Commissioner turned to Pearce Ellison.
“Mr Ellison, I believe we owe you something,” said Mark, as he led the contingent of the the human rights lawyer, the Lieutenant and the girl toward the prison cell which was home to Nelson Mandela.
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