Growing up

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Chapter Fifteen

By this time Mongi and Chumani have passed out, one of the guys suggests that Nandi must call a cab for them. She takes the suggestion and calls a cab. They wake up before the cab arrives so there is no need for someone to accompany them to res. We all go outside to wait for the cab. When the cab arrives, Nandi pays the driver and asks him to take the girls to Melodi residence. Right after they leave I feel dizzy. I tell Nandi that I need to sit down and that I don’t feel too well. I remember that I didn’t get time to eat all day and drinking booze in an empty stomach is never a clever idea.

I can feel that I am going to throw up so I run inside and go to the lady’s bathroom. I throw up in the sink; it looks so disgusting that it makes me throw up even more. After about 5 minutes I clean myself up and slowly walk to where I left Nandi and her friends standing. She runs to me and asks if I am okay. When I am about to respond hunger kicks in and I fall to the ground. I here Nandi saying: “Oh, not again!‘’ The guys carry me to the back of their car where one of the guys says that I must be hungry. Nandi went to get me something to eat. She returns with milkshake, McDonalds burger and chips. I eat like I have never seen food in my life and after that I feel better and sleepy. Just as I fall asleep I hear one of the guys asking if I am asleep. The other one says yes I am long gone; I must be dreaming now.

One guy is on the back seat with me and the other one is at the front with Nandi. Just like you know I love news, them asking if I am asleep makes me curious and washes the drowsiness away, but I lay still pretending to be asleep. The guy in front speaks really soft and says: “Miss N, one of our guys was arrested, he was here to deliver. I don’t know what went wrong. I think he was set up but his silver briefcase was not found. I know for a fact he had it with him when he came here. I need you to find the briefcase. Here is a picture of our guy that was arrested. I need you to find everything you can on him. I want to know where he went and who he met when he was here. We have to find the silver briefcase before it lands in wrong hands or to the cops.”

“Why are you staring at that picture? Do you recognise him?” he continuous. “I am not sure but he looks familiar,” Nandi replies. “No, take your time and look very close, I want you to do a clean job here, I know Mr B will not talk and I am just worried about the briefcase. If it lands in the wrong place we are all screwed. That briefcase also has the list of every member and every target. Find the briefcase ASAP and take out any witness. We don’t want any trouble Miss N,” says the guy. “I’ll do my best, Sir.” I don’t hear much after that, I pass out.

The following day I wake up with a massive headache. If this is how a hang-over feels like then I curse alcohol. I will never drink again. There is no joy in being drunk, throwing up and waking up feeling like crap. I heard that milk cures hang-over, so I go to my fridge and take out a litre full cream milk. I drink the entire litre without taking a break and then I take pain killers and go back to bed. In my sleep I dream about last night’s events and suddenly the two guys, Nandi and their conversation kicks in my mind. It kicks every little hang over and sleepy fibre of my body, I wake up and feel fresh - like I was not tired and drowsy just 5 minutes ago! I guess that’s what fear does to its victim!

They talked about the silver briefcase - the one we buried. Ever heard of deepest shit? This is it! I wish we had taken the damn briefcase to the police. I think of taking it to Nandi but I remember just before I passed out the other guy said Nandi must ‘take out’ all the witnesses.

From the movies I watch and books I read, taking out a person has only one meaning - killing! This whole situation is messed up and complicated. Wait, before I go any further, how does Nandipha fit into this mess? Does this mean she is also smuggling drugs and does whatever dirty work they do? But how come she didn’t know Babalo? So Nandipha is a cleaner; she gets involved when one of the members has messed up. So she is like a fixer! This explains why she is so rich but is not working, has no parents and how she is able to take care of her brothers and of herself. So this is what she meant when she said she is a hustler.

I wake Mongikazi. I have to tell her everything! She is so sleepy and the time is ticking. While still shaking Mongikazi, my phone rings and I look at the screen. It’s Nandi! What the fuck does she want at this time? I am tempted not to pick up but I then remember that I have to stay calm and collected, I don’t want her to find out that I heard more than enough from her conversation and her so-called friends. I answer and pretend to be totally sleepy.

“Mmmmm?”

“It’s 12:10. Wake up doll,” she says.

“Mmmmm.”

“Jesus, Are you okay?”

“I am sl sl sleepiiiiiiing.”

“I have to talk to you, tell me when you are awake okay? Okay? I need you to call me back, ok? It’s a matter of life or death.”

“What is it?”

“It can’t be discussed over the phone.”

She concludes and hangs up the phone. It’s life or death? This must be about Babalo! I wonder if she is going to start asking me about the briefcase.

Plan B: I take an ice cube and put it on Mongi’s cheek. She yells: “What the fuck?”

“Keep it down!” I say with my hand on my lips.

“Don’t you dare tell me to keep it down. What’s wrong with you?” she asks, angrily.

“You need to keep it down, Mongi. Look, drink this. (I give her a glass of milk) It will make you feel better and then we can talk.”

After drinking the whole glass of milk, she says: “I feel alive, but I need to wash my face and brush my teeth. I feel dirty.”

“Mongi, you need to wake up. We are under attack; you can’t go out of this room or she will know that we are awake.” I exaggerate.

“Hold on? You said what? We are under attack?”

“This is serious, so pull yourself together.”

“You are serious, aren’t you?

“Like hell I am!”

She moves and makes room for me on her bed. “Ok, I am all yours. Sit. Tell me everything. What’s up?”

“Do you remember anything about last night?”

“Yes, why?”

“Do you remember Nandi’s friends?”

“Of course I do, how can I forget?

“Perfect. After you left, I threw up and passed out. They took me to the back of their car and they thought I was sleeping, but I wasn’t. I heard every word they said.

Mongi sits up and looks me in the eyes. “Alright, I’m listening.”

“I need you to listen very carefully. I heard the guys telling Nandipha that one of their guys has been arrested but the police didn’t find the silver briefcase. So they instructed Nandi to find the briefcase and take out all the witnesses. I don’t know if it’s me going crazy but connect the dots Mongikazi.”

“Shit I pray this isn’t what I think it is.”

“I pray you are not thinking what I am thinking.”

“Ok, let’s connect the dots. Do you think by ‘one of their guys’ they were referring to Babalo? And how does Nandi fit in all this equation? Does that mean she is also involved in drugs smuggling? Oh no! This can’t be true, Vee!” she says with her mouth wide open, clutching her head.

“I wish it wasn’t but I am afraid it is! I heard them with my own ears.”

“It all makes sense! If she doesn’t have a sugar daddy, she is definitely a criminal mind master. It explains the Gucci, Timberland, House of Darion clothes and the damn expensive hair.”

“You are right, but what’s important right now is that she has a gun on our heads. The question is what are we to do?

“We give her the bloody briefcase and move on with our lives!”

“This means you were not listening to me. We can’t give her the briefcase. We can’t let her know that we know about her drug smuggling job; we can’t tell her about the briefcase because her boss told her to wipe all witnesses. In case you haven’t noticed we are the damn witnesses.”

“Ok this is more complicated than I thought! So what do you have in mind?”

“I say we act dumb. We act like we know nothing about the briefcase and when she asks about Babalo we tell her that I was his girlfriend in primary school and you are his ex-girlfriend. Catch my drift?”

“All clear. Nandi is obviously no fool, so we have to be careful.”

“Very true. Most importantly, we don’t ever talk about the briefcase again. Nandi is going to be watching us and she will have eyes and ears all over.”

“Got it.”

After planning everything that we are going to say to Nandipha, I give her a call telling her that she can come over as we are awake now. She shouts that she is at the door! I panic but I have to keep my cool otherwise I will kiss this life good bye and leave my little Vuyo.

I get up and open the door for her. She comes in and greets us. Afterwards we talk about this and that; nothing serious. After about 5 minutes, she looks at me and says: “Have you seen today’s newspaper?”

“Nope, we just woke up,” I respond, already guessing what’s in the newspaper. She takes out the newspaper from her bag and flashes it in my face. “I couldn’t believe this! In fact, I still can’t believe it,” she says, still holding the paper. Mongi walks to my bed to see the paper. “What is it?” Mongi asks.

Its Babalo. His arrest made the headlines. I don’t know how to react to the paper because this is already old news and from my facial expression I am sure Nandipha has picked up that I am familiar with the news. “Oh, he made the headlines? Poor Balo! I saw him in on television news yesterday.” I say, carelessly.

“Oh my God, it’s terrible! I couldn’t help but notice that this is the same guy that we met last week! The one that was by your side when you fainted and had to go to hospital. How do you know him? Oh, the poor man going to jail as young and handsome as he is!”

Nandipha’s acting is pathetic. How I wish she could just drop it. Well, I know exactly what this chick is trying to do: it’s clear to me that she is going on with her dirty plans: she is not on our side. It is good that I am step or two ahead of her. She doesn’t know that I know so I play along. “He was my first boyfriend in primary school. It’s bad, but that’s what you get for getting involved with the wrong people,” I say, going to the fridge to some water. Mongi just looks at me and walks back to her side of the room.

“So you knew that he smuggles drugs?”

“No, why?” I reply, putting the water on the table and going back to my bed.

Nandi sits next to me and looks at me from the corner of her eye. “No, you just sounded like you knew he was involved with the wrong people.”

“No man, I didn’t. My mother is a lawyer I would have thrown him behind bars a long time ago if I knew. For your information, Balo went to the Western Cape in high school and that was before he started with drugs. I didn’t see him for years.”

“Poor thing. This explains why you fainted when you saw his face!”

“Something like that!” All this time Mongi is on her phone; she is bored to death. She hates pretending but she has no choice.

“When was the last time you saw him? I heard that his briefcase is lost. Don’t you know where it is? I mean, you went to his hotelroom after you were discharged from the hospital. Do you know how dangerous it is to hide evidence?”

Mongi jumps in and says: “Oh hold it right there! Why are you so interested in Babalo all of a sudden? The worst part is that you are interested in his arrest more than you are interested in how Aviwe knows the dude! And where do you find out that his briefcase is missing? I just read the entire article. Never in the news article do they mention a lost briefcase and, yes, I also watched the news. They didn’t say a single word about the briefcase. Where did you get that from?”

With a little shock in her face Nandipha says: “Oh! Are you being defensive or offended? Or both?

“Why would I be? Just answer the damn question, Nandipha! Stop trying to be clever!”

“I was just trying to give my friend moral support; shoot me for caring.”

“Oh, right, so asking 21 question is moral support? I get it now!”

“What is your problem? What have I done?” Nandipha tries to manipulate the situation.

“Nothing. Forgive me for being rude; I just see nothing interesting about talking and asking a lot of questions about a drug smuggler! He is not worth our time. When did you come back last night?”

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