Months had passed since the funeral of the old man and the subsequent fiery debate in the NG Church between the warring parties. Broad had flown away and people had gone back to their small lives in a big place.
Oom Karel had been interred into a simple grave, the way he had wanted to go; not in a cemetery with a marble headstone and bouquets, but out in the deep bush with living shrubs and wildlife for company.
Even Dominee Gert had evolved; his sermons now trumpeted how God Himself had privately disclosed that this technology, revealing as it would the magnificence of His Creation in their very town; marked them out as his favorite flock in all the world.
And it was then, in the settled dust of a town once more at peace with itself, that the need to lodge a Heritage Claim had found its belated way into Bennie Pieterson’s cluttered office. In the weeks since it was whispered to him that Oom Karel had this important matter on his mind just before he died, Bennie began to weigh the situation. The more he thought about it, the better the idea became; it was just the kind of social victory he needed in order to win his way back into active politics.
By the time the idea had reached him, the broken telephone of rumour had already shed all connections between the initiative and the Dominee, its architect. It had also become much more ambitious; taking aim way beyond Heritage and, seeking a full Land Claim.
Armed with this ignorance, he’d begun his inquiries that very day.
And a few days later the threatening call had come; a Texan drawl startling him awake just after midnight, the caller suggesting that he drop all ideas relating to Claims of any kind. The voice was laced with threat and cancerous in its details—intricate and deadly details of both his private life and, more corrosively, the situation that had hoofed him off into the political wilderness that could never be allowed to reach the media.
Pieterson had tossed through the long night, eventually giving up on sleep and trudging under the burden of peril and decisions to be made, out along his favorite pre-dawn beat. The meander through deserted streets took him down to the grove of willow on the banks of the town’s dry reservoir. There he stood under that timeless pale rash of the Milky Way overhead, weighing the odds and the threat. The wind was up and the tendrils of the trees lashed in the pale of a streetlight, tinted to yellow by a decade and more of dead insects that lined its glass bowl.
The longer he stood, the more the gusts of the wind became a mournful dirge through the branches. Its sound slid deep within him, probing… seeking… ferreting out the ancestral parts of him; the ingrained KhoiSan that coursed his veins—the legacy of the Bushmen that were in his Coloured heritage, their eons of shuffling and chanting around fires, begging the ancestors. It was like this windsong under these stars and in this place, rising over a billion nights that had gone before, now echoing back through the wind.
He listened to the song, trying to discern its voice and meaning, straining for its advice, but the tangle of too many saying too much drowned itself out.
Then, plaited into the wind’s haunting lament, came a long low rumble of discontent in the tinder dry reeds where the water had receded, and Bennie’s skin crawled—it said nothing, but it had the cavernous drone and throaty rumble of the long dead Constable interred in the graveyard not far away. It was a trick of his mind, Bennie knew it, but it was enough to snap him out of the hypnotic stupor of exhaustion and worry, and he turned his back on it and trudged home again.
Later that day, the haunting intone so like Andre’s voice had nagged and rolled relentlessly onward in his mind, repeating itself until he reached for his phone and out to the son of the departed man.
“Bennie…?” JJ’s voice betrayed the puzzlement he’d felt when he’d seen the name appear on his ringing mobile phone. He’d had limited dealings with Pieterson early on during the planning phase of the clinic and had forgotten that he had the number still saved.
They spoke some pleasantries before Bennie came to his point; “…this Broad character, my broer… I heard you keep tabs on him. He’s a Texan, hey?”
JJ answered all that Bennie asked, and added; “I know he’s in the country at the moment,” a tone of deep concern in his voice. “Don’t screw with this guy, Bennie… he’s really bad news.”
Bennie made his inquiries and learned that Broad’s jet was due at Carnarvon’s airstrip the next morning. Further inquiries revealed that a helicopter was already standing by to take the jet’s occupants on a sightseeing adventure over the dull and nondescript desert scrub.
The next day, Bennie sat in his car out on the national road and watched the chopper with a square contraption and radar-style dish slung below its belly as it clattered it’s way out and off into the distance.
He watched till the machine was a dot and then nothing in the sky. The wind was still up, singing a pennywhistle note in the key of the ancestors on the barbed wire fence that divided the newly re-surfaced road from the ancient land.
Tall thunderheads, like the phalanx of foreign invaders in centuries past, began to march once more abreast, steadily forward, and salvos of thunder began to reverberate off the surrounding mountains.
Bennie turned the engine over and drove slowly back to town, pondering who the occupants had been, what the heavy load of technology slung below the beast might be, and what their persistent business was.
The next morning’s front page news report only hinted at the possibilities: “FATAL KAROO CRASH: Chopper Struck by Lightening—Oil Tycoon Dies...”
> THE END <
* The Debate? See Epilogue…