Chapter 11 (LAST WILL and testament)
The last days of the 2013 sped by. The festive season brought the usual suspects to police-stations. Drunken drivers who sped and crashed into something or someone (in South-Africa roads are war-zones and even more so over the festive season). There were the always present domestic violence - abusing of spouses, children or family and an the old favourite, engaging in a “difference of opinion” with an even more intoxicated neighbour, or brother or whoever is at hand, which often led to the ole knife-fight or boxing- match. Then, don’t forget the odd office-party turning into an orgy and the occasional bar-fights.
Festivities turned - on more than one occasion – violent. “Festive” apparently, all over the world, but especially in South Africa, meant the consuming of alcohol by the mega litres and behaving like cavemen! What is it with people and Christmas and New Year anyway? And why does a good time always imply alcohol and stupidity?
And then there were the usual all-year-rounds: Drug-dealers, drug-users, assaults, housebreaking, armed assaults and murders.
‘Amazingly,’ Deric made his thoughts verbal to himself, for he was alone in his office, ‘there were - up to now - only two murders in the jurisdiction.’
Both, thankfully, had enough witnesses to make early arrests possible. But still, it’s sad. In a wink of an eye, two men, in the so-called “Holiday Spirit”, changed their lives forever by killing, respectively, their girlfriend and brother-in-law. The first one was out of pure jealousy and the second a family dispute.
But now at last, they were back at the station and it was quiet. Deric felt the need for caffeine. He was a self-acknowledged caffeine-slave who didn’t seek help (joke)! He was thankful for the boost each day.
Good coffee, mind you! And thankfully their station had invested in a good coffee-machine. He only drank one cup early this morning as he came into the office, and even though the day was hot as hell he felt the need for coffee.
Some learned people say it’s bad for you.
Not as bad as alcohol, he thought, and it only affects my body, not everyone around me.
“Who wants to live forever…?”
One thing is for certain: You will die of something!
Outside the hot sun made way for ominous dark clouds and a manic wind. Deric could hear the thunder rolling in, closer and closer until a mighty crack announced the arrival of a late afternoon Highveld thunderstorm. He stood by the window and watched the light-show.
At first, only a few fat raindrops plopped down on the tarmac, but then, the wind, thunder and rain got into the festive mood and produced wonderful, but scary music for at least fifteen minutes before a strong, sturdy, but calmed, rain fell.
Deric was this year on “Festive duty” as they call it round the office. Last year he was on his honeymoon. He can’t believe they were married a year already. And what a year! It went by in a wink of an eye. Maybe he was a goose, or is it a swan? Whatever, he was a one-woman-man, and he loved married life. Despite Jim’s playful warnings about mother-in-law’s and pushy wives and Latisha’s warning about cute little children turning into devils in disguise when the “teenage-monster” invaded their bodies, Deric enjoyed all of it up to now. Well, it is only a year, but he was still happy as a pig in mud! Before Mae and Nathan, he had he’s share of misery. He was once one of “them”, meaning those who lost a loved one, but now he was one of “us” again – if that made any sense. He can also talk about everyday nonsense like mother-in-law’s (which he cannot complain about), grumpy wives and children (which was his guardian angels to him up to now). Before the happiness came back to him, he could tell everyone about the newest technology in cancer treatments, or what chemo does to the body, or holding your wife’s head as she threw up heavily and doesn’t seem to have the strength to hold up her own head. Or, worst of all, see death in her eyes. But no-one wants to talk about stuff like that, it makes them feel uncomfortable and selfish.
Deric knew he can be a wallower at times, that’s what life made him. But this morning, before leaving for work, he really felt emotional experiencing Christmas for the first time, in a long time, through the eyes of a child. Deric was as giddy as Nathan about the presents, although he knew exactly what were in them. Except, of course, two from Mae and Nathan to him. It was a wondrous moment, and for the first time in a long, long time he wished he hadn’t had to work on Christmas day.
It never bothered him before.
It was quiet at the moment. Except for a few uniform-guys downstairs, the place seemed lifeless on the first floor. Usually he would relish in it, but not today, he wanted to get home so badly.
Deric looked at his watch.
Still an hour to go.
Outside the rain was heavy and like a wall. Even the lonely tree in the parking lot seemed mysterious and mystic.
Deric poured himself another cup of Java and retreated to his desk.
‘Do some paperwork, Offbach,’ he said out loud to the wall opposite him which could do with a lick of paint. His eyes fell on two envelopes in the “In-tray” on his desk. It wasn’t there earlier this afternoon. He phoned down and the on-duty desk sergeant was told it was a delivery by courier late yesterday when Deric went home. The desk sergeant apologised profusely for the delay. He had locked it in the cupboard and forgot all about it until late this afternoon.
‘No, reason for panic, sergeant, I wasn’t expecting anything.’ Deric answered intrigued and placed the phone down slowly.
He picked up the smaller envelope.
It stated: BANDS, BOUWER &ROSE in the left corner. A law-firm in Johannesburg, he read into the address at the top of the page. It contained a letterhead-note from the firm. Must have something to do with some or other case that he worked on. However, it was a strange time for a delivery and why not send it via email. Everything is techno these days.
He unfurls the small note.
The top stated the usual addresses and formalities. Then his eye caught the heading:
WITH REGARD TO: THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF BRENDA BLIGNAUT
‘Oh. My’ G…’ he uttered as he started to read the letter.
CAPTAIN F. C. OFFBACH
The following content was left in our care on behalf of Me Brenda Blignaut. The Will stated that in the event of her death, this, as well as the contents of the accompanied envelope, must be delivered to you within six weeks of her death, or at least, before the 1st of January 2014.
Although that is the only instruction regarding the large envelope, we will try to be of assistance, if at all possible.
Deric didn’t finish the rest. He immediately looked at the large envelope sitting in the tray. His name was weakly written on the front with a fountain pen – didn’t know they still exist – and it simply stated: Captain Deric Offbach and the precinct in Pretoria.
Deric instinctively knew this had to do with her last words she’d spoken to him. Maybe the name of the victim cum suspect?
No, that would be too easy.
She would’ve told him and stated the name earlier.
Well, maybe she died before doing so.
He was nearly too scared to open the envelope.
He was far too curious not to open the envelope.
Deric donned his gloves before doing so.
He stared at the contents on his desk. He was careful not to touch anything without gloves. He placed a piece of blue plastic on his desk before carefully took the envelope by one corner and give it a gentle shake. Only one item dropped out. It was a memory stick shaped in an ice-cream cone with pink topping and wafer complete.
Monty would be thrill to bits.
Deric peeked inside. A few papers were stuck to the inside.
Should he wait till Wednesday? Latisha would still be on holiday for a week, but Jim and Monty will be back, so would Sheffield. He stared at the memory stick and envelope as if a Black Mamba invaded his desk.
Deric went to find more plastic bags and covers. He can’t wait. Someone’s life may depend on it. And, hard to admit to, he was as curious as a woman about new neighbours. Deric pulled the paper carefully out. It was a letter addressed to him, written by, most probably, the same hand that had written his name on the envelope.
Dear Captain Offbach,
Would you mind if I call you Deric? Well, I wouldn’t know, would I? And it doesn’t really matter. You see, at the end of this journey, you and I will be connected forever – maybe not fondly, but still.
No doubt by now you would’ve figured out that there’s a connection between me and the death of six people since 1992.
‘Six people!’ Deric said out loud, ‘we still short one, or maybe Plats is number six.’
I would not bore you with my history as, again, if you are the detective I think you, you should know all that by now.
Some people - you and I, for example - are not blessed with the smoothest of rides in life. In a wink of an eye, my whole life and existence was lost.
She knew about me, about Judy?
He read on.
I could cope with Joshua’s - my husband – death. Although, at the time it felt as if I’ve lost him too soon but, we had a full life and a beautiful marriage. He died suddenly; a heart attack. No suffering. I think the problem for all of us is not if we’re going to die (which is a given) but how we’re going to die. And then, of course, when. Minke, my daughter, was Joshua’s princess and my LIFE. After Joshua’s death she meant even more to me. She was my reason to carry on with life. Captain, the saying goes: children are not supposed to die before their parents. How true! Not by cancer nor accident, and definitely not at the hands of a murderer. But my beautiful Minke had died in the most horrific way! Raped and strangled. I’ll never be convinced, and believed me, some people tried their very best to convince me, that her murder was the BIG PLAN from a HIGHER HAND for her or me. That the day she was born, her destiny was to be raped and murdered at the tender age of 21! Sorry, but I can’t swallow that.
What was the purpose?
Was I supposed to become a better person after that?
Was I supposed to forgive and forget?
Get on with my life?
I may come across pessimistic, cynical and bitter (I’m afraid I cannot deny it) I am, or was - after all, I’m dead by the time you read this.
Sorry, my bitter humour again.
Maybe I wasn’t made of the right stuff. Maybe I was just not strong enough, or whatever shit people want to make you believe you should be at the worst possible time of your miserable existence. I would and could never live her death down. Her young life and future were stolen from her. Not only did I lose my family in one fell swoop, but any prospects of descendants, of grandchildren, of a future. My bloodline, and that of Joshua, was wiped out with one blow.
I was left with nothing but a few dear friends who pulled me through hell. I’m still not sure if I should be thankful or rueful towards them. I was, unlike you, far too old to start again. Besides, I didn’t feel like starting again. My life was practically over, so why was I still alive?
By the way, it took you a while but I’m glad you got on with your life.
‘How the hell did she know, or more to the point, what doesn’t she know?’ Deric said out loud.
He read on.
Well, after a few futile attempts to end my own, sad existence, I’ve found a sad goal in life and sort of carried on with what was left with it. At least, I had the knowledge back then, that her murderer would spent his life in jail - not a comfort, just the knowledge.
Then the news ten years on: Burger Steenkamp was not the killer! The killer was still at large. Burger Steenkamp’s had spent ten brutal years in jail for something he didn’t do. His parents had to go through the same sort of hell as I did. At least they’ve got him back or maybe just a piece of him. I cannot think for the life of me that anyone can be the same person when you had spent ten years in jail. Not only ten years in jail, but ten years knowing that you’re innocent. That must change a person!
Of course I pestered the hell out of the police. At first I was soothed that they’ll do anything possible to apprehend the murderer, however, as the months and years rolled by her case became a cold case, and, according to them, there was absolutely “No other avenues to pursue at the moment”. It would be apparently by pure luck if they somehow could match the DNA against the real killer’s. A change in a million! Not impossible, but nearly improbable.
That was the day I’ve, or rather we’ve, decided to become the judge, jury and executioner of those “who we deemed got away with murder and laughed in the face of family and Justice”. I didn’t do it lightly. Neither did I go on a rampage. Every case that was brought before me, or again us, was measured and weighed. In the last twenty odd years only one mistake was made in haste by a member of the “Ice-Cream Club” Since then there was careful consideration.
‘Well, bless my soul, Monty will be thrilled!’ Deric thought, ‘they call themselves the “Ice-Cream Club!”’
I know all the arguments about “Let the Law take its course” and “People cannot take the law into their own hands” and “Leave it to the police, people cannot be vigilantes” and blah, blah, blah. You’re certainly familiar with each and every one of the hackneyed sayings, because I’m sure you’d use some of them yourself in some of your cases. Sadly, the law is not perfect and not infallible. The police and the law must have a bigger responsibility towards us, the riff-raff, the collateral damaged, or whatever the hell we are in this crime-war. Maybe the term “Dead man/woman walking” would be a better description for those heartbroken loved-ones left behind in the wake of murder and mayhem then for murderers on death-row. That’s if there’s still a death row somewhere in this world.
Also, to me, it saddening to see the sympathy and empathy we have with convicted criminals. Instead of their despair why not clinically set out the despair of their victims.
Who is speaking for the murdered?
The law, sadly, let good people down far too often.
I thought about the whole prospect for two long years before I (we) made a decision.
Oh, I know you know I didn’t act alone. However, even though it always had to be a unanimous decision made by the “founder-members” of the club - after thorough deliberation, of course - the “Death penalties” had been executed by different executioners in each and every case. It was a pact we’ve made, and even you, whom I must admit I have the greatest respect for, especially since the Sienna Moore case, would have a hard time to even theorise about the people who had a hand in all of this.
You can blame me!
Why are we called the “Ice-Cream Club”, you may well ask? It demonstrates the frustration of the victims. And by the “victims” I do not mean the people who physically died, I’m talking about the family and friends and loved ones left behind. Those captured in the inferno of hell on earth. We saw murderers get lesser sentences all the time. Sometimes the oddest sentences were given that only the “learned-folks” understood. That’s what they say to soothe the “dumb ones” like me, for instance, if such a sentence, even indeed if there was one, were given. Those intelligible in the law always pretend that there’s a good reason for thus-and-thus sentences and that the “lowly people down there” do not have the insights into the LAW to understand such highly insights. It’s like religious people telling you that IT’s not for you to know or even ask unsuitable and uncomfortable questions. They don’t want to be bothered with, or cannot give a satisfactory answer, so they cover it all up with high and mighty words that in reality means NOTHING! The law, it seems, is not formulated for the victims, it’s formulated to serve the criminals – especially those with money and regard.
Back to my point.
“ICE-CREAM” actually stands for “I SCREAM”, the scream of despair from the desolated; the forgotten. No-one really hears, or cares about it, unless it’s YOU that’s affected. No-one sees the withering, mangled souls of the living-dead left behind in their harrowing sad reverie.
Each of the six (hopefully soon to be seven) doomed souls, those who thought they can play God with other people’s lives without any regrets or consequences, had US to reckon with. WE played God with their lives. You can call it revenge, barbaric or whatever the hell you want. I call it REAL justice.
Been a police officer, you of all people should know, Captain Offbach, that lady Justice is not only blindfolded while weighing the evidence, she’s also holding a sword. And seeing that God, Himself, has apparently abandoned “this” co-called human race, someone must speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. We spoke for battered babies and children, murdered parents, elderly citizens, innocent youths and savagely raped women. We spoke for those who had to stood by and watch with sadness how their loved ones lives were measured and found wanting in the eyes of the perpetrators and the law – we stood for them, if only for but a fraction.
Good people cannot sit idly by and watch bad people break every rule of humanity while nothing is done.
I know about the whole forgive and forget bit. Personally, I think it’s a load of crap. I can promise you that I’ve read and studied the Bible like no other scholar had done before. I couldn’t, for the life of me, found a word, a sentence or a phrase that even come close to explain the “WHY” of the endurance of cruelty some people had to suffer in this life at the hand of others.
At least, the doomed six – as I call them, knew exactly why they were chosen to die.
I have one regret, however. My only regret is that I will not be around for number seven.
I must be boring you with all of this, but believe me, Captain, I could fill a ream of paper and still had no idea of the oddity and madness of mankind – that includes me and mine.
I will let you in on a secret. There were more than thirty people on our “Justice- list”. Just goes to show to what lengths people will go to revenge their loved-ones. We’ve weighed them all in OUR courtroom. Six had been deemed worthy of the death penalty. So, as you can see, it wasn’t done lightly. I presume you’ve found the six by now.
Number seven awaits – I must be getting soft in my old age, but I’m giving you, and this murderer, a sporting chance. All jurors of the “Ice-Cream Club” are dead and cannot be held accountable, as law-enforcement always states so high and mightily if they’ve fucked-up. Even if you, by some miracle, found out who each and every one of my fellow jurors were by name, they cannot be held accountable, for all are passed worldly judgement. I’m the only one left, so I’ve came up with my own - let’s call it - little game, named: “Thirty Days to Save a Useless Life”. More about this on the memory stick – I want to talk to you face to face, so to speak, like a voice from the grave.
Please, make no mistake about the seriousness of this person’s sentence. It will be come to pass one way or another if you fail to decipher the clues.
Deric pulled the second A4 paper out of the envelope. He looked down at what seemed to be a crossword puzzle.
What the hell?
He looked out the window at the rain still coming down.
“Rain and Tears…”