The Ice-Cream Club

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Chapter 29 (MARTIN van der Westhuizen)

Doctor Martin van der Westhuizen pulled his green cap from his head as the short, chubby nurse untied his scrubs and bundled it all under her arm. She waited till he pulled the covers from his feet before disappearing behind a silver door with the scrubs.

‘Gentlemen, sorry to keep you waiting, we’ve experienced a little difficulty during the last operation and then I had to deal with the family first,’ he started to walk down the hall to the elevators and motioned them to follow him, ‘what can I do for you?’

‘Nobody died, I hope.’ Danny said nervously.

‘No, nothing like that - not this time, anyway.’ He gave a wry smile.

They entered the elevator and he pressed four before leaning against the railing facing them. He was around five-eleven, blonde hair with lots of silver sprinklings and pale blue eyes. He had a good built, lean and a little muscular - the signs of a strict keep-fit routine (or very good genes) were obvious.

Before Deric could say anything the door pinged on floor three and a few more hospital personnel entered. The doctor greeted them with a nod and proceeded to talk to – presumably another doctor – about arteries and bleeding and such.

The door pinged at four and they got off and followed Doctor Van der Westhuizen down another wide corridor. Offices on one side, glass on the other, from there they could look down on the comings and goings of the hospital beneath them. He opened the door to no 415 and entered.

His waiting room, Deric presumed.

A few green, plastic plants were placed strategically in corners, and a print of Paris hang from the main wall. A muted TV high up in the corner, which was totally ignored by all in the waiting room, showed advances in the medical fields, singing the praises of some medical aids in between advertisements for new medicines and such. Quite a few patients were paging, not so patiently, through three year old magazines. Some put the magazines down as he entered and nodded in his direction, as if that would move them up the waiting list. They were obviously tired of waiting.

At least one room that lives up to its appropriate name: Waiting Room!

Deric got a sudden jolt of guilt as he realized that they would hold up proceedings even longer and that the waiting in the waiting room will get even more intolerable.

He knew all about that, too.

Dr van der Westhuizen leaned over the front desk and said, ‘Lizzie, hold for ten minutes, and some coffee will do nicely, if you don’t mind.’

The pony-tailed blonde said ‘Yes, doctor’ and walked off with a curvy hip-swing to a door at the back and left it to the older receptionist to inform the patients that they’ll have to hang in there for a bit longer.

They entered his quite large and airy consultation-office with the usual equipment in one corner and an ebony-grained desk and cupboards in the middle section.

The Doctor pointed to two chairs in front of his desk as he put on a white jacket before settling down in a comfortable leather chair behind it.

‘So, gentlemen?’ he said quizzical.

Deric took the lead.

‘Doctor Van der Westhuizen, it’s about the Minke Blignaut murder back in 1980. We’re tracking down witnesses-’

‘Now? After thirty-five years? The case still open? Do you have new leads?’ He leaned forward and placed his elbows on the desk.

’I’m sorry, but you know all about confidentiality and all that. I can’t give you a lot of details, but something new did come up, so we’re now revisiting witnesses to see if this information is reliable or relevant.’ Deric didn’t really know how to put it in words without spilling all the beans.

The doctor leaned back while estimating Deric and Danny, ’If you’ve read the case properly you would’ve noticed that there were only two witnesses for the defence and that I was one of them.’

The curvy blonde entered and placed a tray before the doctor.

‘Can I bring you gentlemen something to drink?’ She smiled and two dimples adorned her cheeks.

Deric and Danny smiled back and said nearly in unison, ‘No, thank you, we’re fine.’

She left.

’Yes, doctor, we’re aware of the fact that you and a Ned Dunn were the only witnesses that testify for the accused.’

‘And were proven right, even if took ten years! Let me tell you something, Inspector-’

‘Captain Offbach.’

‘…Captain Offbach, that man was a genius and the medical-science lost a great mind.’

‘Steenkamp?’ Deric inquired.

‘Yes, Burger Steenkamp.’

He took a sip of his black coffee and clicked with his fingers against the mug.

‘He’s my best friend as well.’ He said softly.

‘Do you know where he is at the moment, Doctor?’ Danny asked a little hesitantly at first but his voice got stronger as he finished the question.

Doctor Martin van der Westhuizen turned his head thirty degrees, looked at them with narrowed eyes, and said with a harsh voice, ‘Why, so you can crucify him once more?’

‘No, Doctor,’ Danny said strongly now, ‘we just want to verify certain facts with the people who attended the party that fateful night, that’s all.’

‘You see Doctor,’ Deric decided to level a bit, ’we’re in procession of a letter that assured us that in thirty days – which now have been whittle down to ten or less by now, if our calculations had been done right – a person will die. It is closely connected to the Minke Blignaut murder. That’s why we’d like to establish the whereabouts of all the – shall we call them participants - back then.’

The Doctor was intrigued, but Deric wasn’t prepared to say anything more. He leaned so far back in his leather chair, Deric was afraid he was going to fall heads-over-heels. He came back just as quickly and looked them straight in the eye, one at a time.

’I will give you some information, Inspector Offbach, Burger and his family are living in Canada for the past…ooh…twenty-odd years. He’d never set foot in South Africa since 1994 except for the funerals respectively of his father and mother. I’ve seen him about - the funerals included - six times in the last twenty years – that is me and my wife visiting them in Canada. Luckily, my wife doesn’t have a cookin’ clue about all this, she was but sixteen at the time – quite some years younger than me – so we’ve never talked about all this, ever.’

‘I take it Mister Steenkamp didn’t become a doctor then?’ Danny asked, ready with his pencil to jot it down.

’No, no, he did legal-degree, in prison, by the way. Became, might I add, a very good lawyer. Canada’s been good to him…them.’ He said as if he was rehearsing lines for a play.

‘It’s not the country that has to be hold at fault, Doctor, it’s people, always people’ Deric said a little theatrical himself before he went on, ’Doctor, you’ve said luckily your wife doesn’t know about all this, does his wife knows?’ Deric asked curious.

Doctor Martin van der Westhuizen sat upright. His eyebrows raised in question marks.

‘You tell me you don’t know?’ He really looked surprised, ’Then, let me give you somewhat surprising information - he’s married to Rita le Roux.’

‘Rita?’ Deric mimicked.

‘Rita le Roux.’ He said, the half-smirk back on his face.

‘Like in Rita le Roux, Minke Blignaut’s best friend,’ Deric said credulously, ’like in that Rita, the one who was the most vicious in her witness-statement against Steenkamp - that Rita.’

That Rita!’ He said smugly and leaned again dangerously far back in his chair.

Deric stared at the man.

Now that was news!

‘If it hadn’t been, if it hadn’t been for love…’ the steel-guitar twanged through his head.

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