Chapter one | Instant lust
First thing I saw was his big hands and wondered how they would feel on my naked body. I was staring at him as he kept moving his lips, it is called talking when it is associated with words, but I did not care about the words, I was just amused by the movement of his lower lip. “You do not seem like the type of woman who would come to an event like this.” He was right, I was not. I do not have much information to even have an opinion about politics. I just took a six-hour bus ride with no break to make it here on time, I thought it would be four hours like they stated on their site. I was supposed to have a breakfast meeting with Zoleka Mbuthu for final formalities of the hotel sale, but it has been over an hour, and she is out of reach. ‘Few more minutes’ I told myself as he asked me to come closer and join the conversation. He was not the handsome man I had ever seen, but the dark stubble on his face, combined with his black eyebrows, dark eyelashes, and short black hair made an irresistible combination, flashing red hazard to my heart.
He noticed I was either waiting for someone or I had to be somewhere, so he asked. “The hotel owner.” I replied, this is not even African time or being fashionably late, she made a good decision selling this hotel, no business will be successful lead by an adult with tendencies of a thirteen-year-old girl, but for a person who is not so good in making first impressions her hotel managed to level up to three stars. “So, what does a person who attends political events look like?” I turned to look at him, we stood shoulder to shoulder with each other, not touching, but close enough to feel his warmth and to realise that, even in my three-inch heels which were killing me at this point, he was a hell lot taller than me. “I am the next one to deliver a speech here, how about we have lunch together in an hour? That way I will have enough time to answer all your questions.” I was flattered, I have not even moved to my new house and already I have a date. “I do not think I will make it. I have a delivery to sign in.” My pots were still inside boxes labelled kitchen with a marker, lunch out really sounded like a save, but I also have to sleep later on, so my bed delivery was a priority.
“You do not have a child or boyfriend?” Our eyes looked into each other, he blinked and faked to pay attention on the person speaking. “…to sign for your delivery at home?” He prolonged the conversation, thirsty me thought it was a blatant and clever way of asking me if I was single. “No boyfriend, no child.” I spoke. “Come to Towanda meals when you get time, it’s my restaurant.” I took out my phone and wrote that down while I silently prayed that I find it on google maps when I need it. I tried calling Zoleka again before I left, she still did not pick up, so I left a message in the reception.
Finally, I was in my house, rented house. As messy as it was, all I really wanted was to take a nap, so I ordered pizza while I was waiting for my bed. My lawyer called, “I have great news.” Her and I were friends in high school, we lost contact in our tertiary life but managed to find each other again, she’s the one who is checking up on all the paperwork for me at a reasonable price. Before she could break the news, a knock on my door. “Please hold on.” I rushed to my purse and opened, it was not the pizza delivery nor the bed delivery, but a very young-looking lady in jeans and tucked in shirt, she had a gun, and a police badge. I froze for like a second with my eyes wide open, not a single blink when I realised it’s a police officer. First thing that came to my mind when I saw that badge was my father, I thought something bad happened to him. He is the only thing closest to family I have, except I never really had him, the first twenty years of my life he has been unknown, ghost, runaway dad, clueless dad, really the description changes from who is telling the story that I no longer cared why he wasn’t there, now he is in prison, six years left for him to be free, I do not bother checking up on him, but deep down I still care, I have always had.
“Excuse me miss, are you Azania Radebe?”
“May I come in? I am detective Mdoda.”
“Uhm… no, my house is not very welcoming at the moment.” There were boxes everywhere, I still had a lot of unpacking to do.
“You have a call?” She peaked at my phone after peaking inside my house when I did not invite her in. I placed the call on hold and paid attention to her.
“Someone was admitted in hospital from your hotel today, doctors are certain he had poison in his food, we suspect one of the waiters were involved, but we are not certain until we talk to him, for now we would please ask you to remain in town while we investigate.”
“Wait, my hotel?”
“According to these documents you took ownership from Zoleka Mbuthu today at eight, as in this morning, is that correct?”
Had Zoleka and I met, I would say yes, but I also cannot say no since the deal was paid off. “Thank you, detective I will stay in town, I have to attend that delivery truck, can I walk you out?” She gave me her contact details if I come across any information. After all my deliveries and a confirmation call from my lawyer that the hotel is finally mine, I did not know how to feel, I was happy at the same time confused and frustrated.
I went to Towanda meals first, I did not want to go to the hotel and introduce myself as the clueless owner who is under investigation, I already look underage judging by my height and weight for this position. I could really use his help finding out what happened.
’This is the definition of ugly, this place is unpleasant, very unattractive and offensive to the sense of beauty. Do people actually eat here?’ I asked myself as I step out of my car. When my mind pictured the same gentleman I was with in the morning as the owner of this place I just said it out loud “Ew!” My face naturally contorts into an expression of disgust. I seriously thought politicians cared about their image, why would he own such a dull place? “Good evening miss, would you like a table, or I should prepare a takeaway?” At least their service was not bad, I was overdressed for this place, and I could feel people turning their heads my direction as I moved. “No thank you, I would like to meet your boss.” The server pointed me to the counter where was a tired looking woman. “Hey, can I see your boss please?” She looked at me as if I were some alien, “excuse me ma’am!” Keen sighted she had a ring on, I actually wanted to ask her if I was in the wrong planet, but I came here to be a better new person. “I am the boss, can I help you with something?” When she said that I thought maybe she was the manager, so I emphasized the word boss and added with ‘‘the owner of this place!’’
“I am the owner of this place.”
“Okay.” I laughed a bit and changed the question. “I am looking for a very dark, very tall, a little handsome but charming politician. Do you know where I can find him?” Right there seemed like I stepped on someone’s toes, the server on my right cleared her throat lowered her face and took a slight glance at me and the lady I was talking to. “Go wipe those tables over there.” She ordered her to move out of sight. I took a step back, I did not want to be slapped or worse in front of all these people, I have had my fair share of embarrassment for the day. “He is not here, he is at the hospital.”
“Is he okay? What happened? Which hospital?”
“He is fine, his friend is admitted, and I have not heard what happened.”
“There is only one hospital in Towanda.”
I felt like this lady was wasting my time with her attitude, so I quickly ran off and google mapped my way to the hospital. I really need a GPS in my car if I am going to be driving a lot like this every single day.
Luckily, I found them standing by entrance, they were in a very hearted conversation, so I did not want to be that person interrupting them. I got closer to him and touched his shoulder to silently get his attention. We moved to the side away from everyone. “Twice in a day.” He said while doing that thing of looking at a person straight in the eyes while shaking my hand firmly, for a second longer than necessary. “I really need to talk to you. I was at your restaurant a second ago and they told me I will find you here.” A smile formed on me when I looked up to his face. “Remember this morning?” I tried keeping a straight face as I asked.
“How could I not?”
“Well, I was supposed to meet with the…”
“…owner of the hotel, yes.” He wanted me to speed up the conversation, I did disturb him from something, so I was not offended.
“Former owner. According to the papers and my lawyer I became the owner of that hotel exactly by eight today, so now that people are being poisoned and…” I forgot what I wanted to say, so I paused a bit before speaking again. “Now that the police are involved, I just want to know what happened and I figured you would tell me since you were there.”
“Nothing much really happened, my friends and I were enjoying our meal then one of them fell on the ground that is why we are here, let the police do their job, I have to go back if you don’t mind.” He took two steps and looked back again, “congratulations on your hotel.”
After the storm something was born on the fourth of July. “Happy birthday…” I wrote to him after I spent a good nine minutes on his online profile, there was really nothing much to see. He had hundred and forty-seven followers on Instagram, eight hundred and thirty friends on Facebook and a picture of him posing like a forty years old. “What do you want for your birthday? I am not buying you a PlayStation whatever number is out there…” I prolonged the conversation, he laughed admiring my humour, and all alone I smiled proud at my stalking skills.
My third yawn before sleep we were dating, that was the purpose of the entire conversation. I am embarrassed as to how happy I was, I was smiling a big adopted orphan smile like a teenage girl talking on the phone with my hair in a ponytail, the bubble above my head saying: I met a boy.
But I did. It was precisely 02:48 when I chose my own Adam.
Day three in Towanda, I received a text “good morning beautiful” it said. I typed good morning handsome and deleted, it did not sound right, I am not used to this, usually I would wake up feeling empty on the inside, heavy on the outside and glance up to the grandfather clock in the corner of my bedroom. I gritted my teeth in frustration trying to find the right words. I did not reply, instead I decided to go meet him. Marched to the bathroom to take a hot shower calming my shoulders and struggled to pick an outfit ‘a black dress? Nah’ Black hides millions of emotions, your feelings are never caught by anyone if they are covered in darkness.
Not that lady again standing by the counter, “good morning…” I faked a smile knowing very well she will not smile back at me. “Can I have whatever you are serving for breakfast please.” I was being a good person, usually I would go for scrambled eggs on whole-grain toast with sliced tomato or a spinach-broccoli-mushroom omelette. “Here is the table, can you wait for like two minutes.” One of the waitresses said. The table I was at was close to the counter, so I could hear the conversations as the ‘lady’ was speaking to other customers, I could actually say she is a great person. “Hey, can you call the male owner of this place while I wait for my order please.” Remember when I said the table was close to the counter? Here is what went down…
“Apparently miss red is not only ordering breakfast but your man too.”
“Stop being nosey and get back to work, does Sanele looks like he is on the menu?”
“Then tell me why he is not wearing his ring lately?”
“Hey Sara stop! Everyone in Towanda attended my wedding, the ring is just a jewellery.”
“Miss red is not from Towanda, and she was not at wedding. Just saying.”
I sat there for seven minutes before my omelette meal arrived. “Bring me coffee Sara, I’ll join her on this table.” Sara looked at me and went to the kitchen. “You bring light to this place, you should come more often.” He spoke, I did not want to say anything mean about the place, like the way the tables are so close to each other a person can’t get some privacy, or the smell of coffee that clung to the place that managed to make my inside scream in discomfort. I stole a second to look at his left hand, he had nothing, yet he had one ring on his right index finger. “Sanele right?” He nodded. “That ring.” He flipped his hand to give it a stare, “does it symbolise something or it is just an accessory?” He smiled and looked over the counter, which said a lot to me, so I did not even bother waiting for his response. “Your coffee is taking too long you will have one at the hotel.” We left.
It is a well-worn saying that you do not get a second chance at a first impression, that is why I made sure I look the part as miss red so said Sara. All heads turn to watch me as I walked past the entrance, I was beginning to like that. I have already summoned everyone to be at the reception via emails and texts, all the employees were there, from the cleaners, to receptionists, accountants to IT specialists, and chefs. They were seventy-three in total, nervously waiting for my speech. The sound of my shoes was the loudest, but I could still hear some whispers of “not another owner”, “it has only been few months since the last one”, “I will have to get my CV ready”, “do you think she had a hand in the recent incident?” … I stood there for a few minutes reading the room until everyone was quiet. “I hope everyone in here is a having a good morning, I am Miss Radebe the new owner of this hotel.” I looked at Sanele after introducing myself, I brought him along for moral support, he was calm and making himself a cup of coffee like it was a normal day in paradise. “Most of you have questions that I cannot answer currently like the incident which occurred few days back. Great news is that our citizen is recovering in hospital therefore we can let the police do their job while we also continue doing ours. Without any delay can we all get back to work, I believe our manager, surveillance officer and accountant are well aware of our meeting in an hour. Thank you.
“That was not so bad, but I could tell you were nervous.” Says a person who deliver speeches for a living, but that was just an assumption, so I asked. “What do you really do for a living?” Did he give me a straight answer? No, instead he said we will discuss it over lunch that I promised. “Thank you for coming along.” He tapped my right shoulder twice and left. ‘Really? Not even a hug.’
The meeting went as bad as I anticipated, the manager reported that no guests have checked in since yesterday, those who were inside checked out before time, online bookings were cancelled, and the police refuse for the dining area to be cleaned because it is a crime scene. As for the police I really think they are making this a huge deal when it is not. The accountant also showed me the decrease in numbers, the hotel was not in a good financial state even before the incident, but if things carry on like this for the next four weeks there is a huge possibility of the hotel facing financial distress. What annoyed me the most is that there was no footage that could have cleared us from this entire mess, it has been four days since the cameras are not working, and nobody bothered to check that until today morning.
A drive to the police station seemed like the next logic step, so I did that. When I got there, I asked to speak to detective Mdoda, they made me wait in some busy area for hours because I did not make an appointment, I did not know you need an appointment to get police services.
“Detective Mdoda! Good seeing you in your uniform.” She ignored that, I would have too, that bitch said detective using air quotes, office drama is everywhere I guess. She walked past me and went to the other guy detective, did anyone even tell her I am here? “The detective has to attend her husband’s memorial, should I book you an appointment for tomorrow?” After all the hours I spent here they are only telling me that now, some people can frustrate you. I took the diary and started writing my name under a long list of people. “The new owner of the hotel?” She interrupted me while I tried to book an appointment like she asked me to, my name was famous in the town of Towanda for all the wrong reasons, if it was a normal citizen who got poisoned the journalists wouldn’t even have found out about it. “I am certain Detective Mdoda can stop the entire memorial just to talk to you.” Well, I was only in the station to ask for permission to clean the dining hall, surprisingly I am that important. “Let me tell you something since I see you are new around here, Mr Mdoda was a very hard-working detective, unfortunately he died on the job, that is the risk we take when we wake up every morning, may his soul rest in peace, and to honour him they gave Mrs Mdoda the promotion to be the detective…” she laughed a bit after saying that and continued. “Unfortunately, Mrs Mdoda never solved even one case since then, now she is hoping for a big break just to prove herself with this hotel case.” I could tell Detective Mdoda was not the most liked person in this room, so I tried giving a neutral reply. “Solving the hotel case would be best for many of us, I wish her good stroke of luck.” I said, she laughed a bit again, I looked at her. “Being arrested is best for you?” Her question shocked me, I knew they were investigating the hotel not that I was the suspect in all of this. “Darling you are the number one suspect in that case, rumours have it that your sudden ownership has something to do with this incident, and to back up the suspicions you refused the detective to come inside your house, you know what that means right? You are hiding something.” I let go of the pen, I was not sure if pushing the cleaning of my dining space was a good idea anymore, next thing they will be saying I wanted to remove the evidence. “Pardon me there is something I do not seem to understand, if what you just told me is true then why are you telling me? Isn’t that information supposed to be classified?”
“Some of us work really hard here and no one seems to notice that, so I will never allow Mdoda to be handed everything on a silver platter just because she happened to lose the love of her life.” I now understood why she used air quotes when she said detective, I said my goodbyes and left. “I am Pfarelo by the way!”
Double checking the financial reports, I figured that my biggest expense will be the salaries, this hotel does not need so many employees. A knock, “I am busy!” I was looking at the list of employees and their curriculum vitae’s checking who will I cut out. “I am sorry to disturb miss Radebe I think you would want to see this.” The surveillance officer said as I was shown the footage of the incident. The dining hall camera was not working, but when you zoom in the camera footage from the left lobby you could get a clear vision of what happened and who was there. “Did anyone else besides you and I see this?”, “not yet miss Radebe, but I think it is in the best interests of the hotel to show it to the police.” “I appreciate your job, you have done well finding this footage, but what I do with it is up to me as the owner of this place.” We did not debate that any further as I had to go out of the office again. ‘He is not only a cheater but a killer too!’
It has been more than three hours since I have been in his restaurant hoping he would appear anytime soon, I tried his Instagram for the fifth time, I still do not understand why I do not have his numbers at this point. “Hey, I believe you are looking for Sanele again?” This time she was smiling and she looked like she had enough sleep.
“Yes, do you know when he will come back from wherever he went?”
She nodded. “But you can see him tonight at our house, I will cook supper. See you at seven?” I smiled as she gave me the address, it was four pm, meaning I had three hours to decide if I want to go there or not.
I went back to the office to finish my job. I took a decision that I will only need five people in the hospitality section, five in the culinary who will be working on day-to-day basis and others will be appointed only when there are events like weddings, corporate events and so forth. Five housekeeping staff, five securities, and the two ladies who were in charge of the management stays. That sum up to twenty-two employees who will be keeping their jobs, the rest of them will have to expect a letter of contract termination by this week. Seven has passed already, I had to rush out. “Hey, please draft a termination letter, we will discuss it in the morning because now I have to rush out, do me a favour, please keep it confidential.”
The doors were a thick, weighty metal. I knocked, waited, knocked three more times before he could open the door, their house is huge so they must be sitting far from the kitchen. I was really glad he opened the door and not his wife, I looked into his eyes, I expected to be more angry, disappointed or feel betrayed when I see him. But I was looking at him in a flattery manner, why is it that I find trouble attractive? We stood looking at each other. “What brings you here?” He was unsettled by my presence as he kept looking behind his back. “Your wife invited me, and I do owe you a visit so you can tell me what exactly you do for a living.” The conversation was cut short by the wife, “just in time, I am glad you could make it, come sit down, I will bring us some food.” I smiled and got inside the house, while walking on the corridor to the dining room I said to him, “I know that you were behind the poison incident that happened at my hotel.” After I said that I felt like the most stupid human being alive. I am sure even their eight months old daughter could sense the tension between Sanele and I during supper, it was only the four of us in the table. “I forgot to mention it that I do not eat pork, thank you though. I will only pour myself some wine.” Not that I did not eat pork, I did not trust that food, how could I really? Sanele ate few spoons and said he was full. The wife was busy talking about how she would love all her husband’s friends to feel at home, I sat there smiling and not uttering a word, as for him, he could not even pretend, he was so eager to have a private discussion with me. A tired sigh from him, at this moment he could only wonder what I am thinking, he took the last sip of his beer, the craving of something stronger was written in his eyes. I felt like the whole situation was embarrassing, so I started engaging in the conversation with the wife. “I recently just moved to this town some days are just lonely for me, being part of your family really sounds…” “Azania!” He interrupted me, I stopped talking and looked at him. “A word please, outside.” He stood up and lead the way to the gate.
“You came to me with this information there is obviously something in your mind.” I looked at him, ‘something in my mind. He just ruined my reputation before I could even introduce myself.’ I thought.
“I mean what do you want?” He asked, in a very calm voice, you could see it is not the first time he has to do something similar to this. Not that his tune gave him the right to anything more than he had, it did not feel like I had imagined, or like it sounded. I expected more from a man of his character, something tangible, a sensual trophy. Maybe next time if there will be next time. I stood there looking at him with a feeling I can only describe as dejected. No, that is not quite right. Not dejected, disappointed, a little bored maybe. He was a bad actor in a cheap play, trying to put my disappointment to one side and telling myself that he was not to blame. Things happen, just because.
“I don’t know, I just saw you on the footage and got angry to a point where I wanted to just come see you, I hoping to confront you or something.”
“Well, do you mind giving me that footage?”
“Not a chance. I might not know what to do now that does not mean I will not think about it. That stunt you and your friends pulled costed me money, people’s jobs, not to mention I am the number one suspect at the police station.” A teen girl walked in and left the gate open, she just passed us without greeting, I guess she took some of her mom’s attitude. “June! What did your mom say about leaving the gate opened?” She stopped and turned to us, “she is not my mom.” Then she walked to the house. “It’s okay, I’ll close it on my way out.” I spoke. “If things are that bad in your business, then partner up with me, I will help you financially, I owe you that much.”
“I want a brothel.”
“You want to sell human beings?”
“You kill them!” He was really the last person to judge my request.
“I did not kill anyone, those were ephedrine and some calcium channel blockers, enough to reduce their blood pressure so that they faint, not die. Look Azania if running a hotel bores you, sell cars, join estate agencies, open a boutique, I don’t know what your interests are, but I can help you with anything.”
“If I were to sell cars I would want to hijack, estate agency would go with money laundering, with a boutique maybe I would possess drugs, who knows? What do I have to lose? Now I want a brothel.”
“You are not bored, you have purpose issues. You are still young, start a family.”
“With whom? You? It does take two to tango.” Now I got to get closer and touched those shoulders, the wine in my system wished he would pick me up and we take a quick trip to the garage and explore the bonnet of his wife’s car, a white rover. I have never felt horny or loved in four years, my feelings were uncontrollable.
“You will get your brothel, once you come to me with a perfect plan of how you want it to work. Have a great night.”
Today is a holiday. A busy day for hotels excluding mine, I was the only busy one with sorting the notices and seeking legal advice from my lawyer before handing them out. I could just fire them as they were costing me money I did not have, but the last thing I need right now is going in and out of court for unfair dismissal. I decided to close the hotel and gave everyone a paid weekend at home, it was no use keeping it open. ‘How are you enjoying your holiday?’ A DM from Sanele, it has been a while since our last conversation, I mean two weeks long of silence. I asked him to come over.
“Impressive.” Said Sanele while eye scanning the last-minute business plan of the brothel. “Who is Kate?” He asked. Kate is a former sex worker, she has been in the street for over six years, self-selling, no pimp, less problems, I wanted to make her my manager. “And you went on and interviewed her in my absence though you want me to be part of this whole charade?”
“Do you really want me to remind you that you did not have to be part of this whole charade?”
“This might not be as easy as planned, when do you want to start operating?”
“As soon as possible.” After I said that he started calculating and went outside a bit, I think he was making phone calls. Yet as I fumble through my thought, I furrowed my eyebrows at the sound of a soft knocking. I made my way carefully to the door knowing Sanele is the only person I am expecting, but he would never knock.
“Detective Mdoda.” I faked a smile, in my eyes she was a huge distraction, again I did not invite her into my office, this time I was guilty, there were brothel business plans on top of the table, and that footage of the incident was paused on the screen of my computer.
“We did not manage to gather much evidence on your case, therefore I came to let you know that it is closed, and you may proceed using the dining area of your hotel, the statement will be issued to the press today. I am really sorry for the delay.” That was music to my ears, I could not wait to share the news with Sanele, whatever he was doing outside took longer than expected.
“The hotel case is closed.” I smiled joyously as I told him.
“I know. How are you going to keep the police from sniffing on the other side of your business?” He did not share the excitement of the news as I was hoping for, ever since we discussed being business partners he is less entertaining.
“How well do you know Pfarelo?” I asked in response to his question, he smirked at me then told me he does not want to be involved in any of this business as it is not good for his image, instead he transferred the estimated amount of the money I needed in exchange for the footage then left. I sat there missing him like he has been part of my life for decades, took my phone to look at that one picture of him posing like a forty-year-old but I was blocked, on all his social media accounts. I was heartbroken, ‘He had a wife, none of this was going to end well.’ I consoled myself.
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