Chapter 41 (The WRITING’S on the wall)
Judge Rodney Gust hands trembled as he read the old, crumpled pink note. He knew exactly what it said. He, after all, wrote it. It was accompanied by another note. He noticed the small, white envelope immediately because it was marked “URGENT” and addressed to him personally.
Someone must have delivered it by hand for there was no stamp anywhere. The housekeeper said she took all the post from the letterbox this morning and placed it on his desk as per usual.
The note simply read:
She could’ve been somebody’s wife.
You ended that dream.
Now it’s your turn.
The pink note he knew by heart, but still read it through a few times.
He knew what it was about.
He thought that terrible history was water under the bridge. Over and done with. He felt a little pang of fear. Remorse shudder through his body.
Thirty-five years ago!
He was so young.
He gave a little sigh and let his head down in his hands.
It wasn’t supposed to happen like that. He never ever thought of hurting her.
She wasn’t supposed to wake up.
Lately, he didn’t think about it as much as he did back then. However, sometimes, when he closed his eyes, he could still see the fear and sadness in those blue eyes.
Those beautiful, beautiful blue eyes he loved so much.
That lovely face he wanted to caress.
It was all brought back so vividly and so harshly with just these few words.
For only a little while she was his to do with what he wanted. He must admit there was a little bit of revenge in the mix. She phoned him. The rejection was done softly, but harshly. How could he do this to Rita? Why do it at all? And why now when he knew she was in love with Burger?
He pretended that it was not such a big thing, that she should not over-react. But the status quo was changed forever. He knew when he send the gift – one way or another - it would change things as it stood between them. All of them. He didn’t care. He was totally hypnotized by his powerful love for her!
When they got there, all were out of it, as Krugertjie had predicted. High as kites and in dreamland from alcohol and Rohypnol or “Roofies” – as Krugertjie called it at the time. Back then he didn’t even know about the drugs or there effect. Thirty-five years on it will be known as a date-rape drug.
They had it all planned out to a tee. The prank to out-prank all other pranks. The mother of all pranks! And the best part would be, none would be the wiser about the culprits. The trick was to get them all asleep and then stage the guys and girls in different - not so very innocent – poses, with someone else’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Martin, the boring sap, and Burger were going to be their water-tight alibi. The two of them would’ve sworn to the fact that Ned and Rodney were at the dorm when the deed was done. They were all supposed to be back at the dorm. That was the plan. He knew Martin and Burger well. They would’ve been in bed, sleeping, by the time the three of them would perform their masterpiece. They (Ned, Krugertjie and him) would’ve enjoyed every moment of the embarrassment they’re going to cause with their hair-raising scheme. Maybe a little blackmail for a few minor favours weren’t out of the question.
The prank to outdone all other pranks. That was all it was supposed to be.
But it turned horrible wrong!
For one, Burger changed his mind at the last moment to stay on and get cosy with the girl who rejected him the day before. He was angry and drunk, of course he was. So, while Ned and Krugertjie did their devil’s work in the hall, he went looking, and found, his specific targets in a warm embrace, sleeping off the effects of the Roofies and liquor close to the riverbank. They were a little out of the way, hidden by some vegetation, most probably to do much more than just cuddle and kiss.
And that was sadly the moment he lost it. He would show them both!
It was as silent as a graveyard along the riverbank. Just a smattering of lights spitting out yellow circles of colour on the footpath going down to the river. A slight breeze moved the branches in a silhouetted dance.
Just him and her and his uncontrollable urge to satisfy and humiliate and none would be the wiser.
Up to this day he doesn’t know what went wrong.
Why she opened her eyes and say his name.
But she did.
She begged him to stop in a drugged-up, hazy voice.
Started to cried, slow deep sobs, and put a heavy hand out to Burger, who was lying out of it next to them.
By that time he was beyond stopping or caring.
And then she suddenly said: ‘Rodney, why, why, why?’
He knew he was in trouble then. His figuratively saw his future break like glass hitting granite tiles.
He wanted to shut her up, pretend she didn’t say his name.
His hands went from her breasts to her neck and he could feel his fingers tightening slowly, but firmly, around her slender neck.
Her body started a fatigued fight for air and survival and it savagely aroused him even more. By the time he reached the crescendo, her attempts got slower and slower until she went limp.
He remembered staring breathlessly down at her after his heartrate normalised and his body calmed down. He got up slowly and pulled the dress down a little. The cheap red-bead necklace string had broken and bobbles were strewn all around her like drops of blood.
She looked like an angel – her blue, diamond eyes were still tear-filled and staring up to the heavens.
Then it hit him!
He had to retrieve the pin and the note! She said she would bring it along. She wanted to give it back to him.
A thousand thoughts ran through his mind.
He had to clean up!
Rodney Gust was back in that horrible moment. He remembered trying to think reasonable, even in the mist and midst of a murder. The murder he had committed. He wiped down the semen on her legs with Steenkamp’s shirt ends. He then pressed Burger’s hands around her neck and went to retrieve the pin. He found Rita on the floor of the bedroom. He searched and luckily found it in the first bag he opened. He felt compelled to put Rita on a bed. He moved the duvet to one side and lay her down. The note, however, he couldn’t find anywhere. He cleaned himself up in the bathroom, took the guest towel and a bin-bag, wiped down the door handle, overnight bag and any place he thought to have touched. He headed carefully back to the murder-scene with the bag and towel. Nobody was around. He could see some toned down lights in the hall through the bushes and trees, but not a sound came to his ears. The other two were hopefully still busy with their devil’s work. They knew he went to find Minke and Rita. Agreed to meet up again in an hour’s time, or if someone showed up for some reason. He put the evidence it in the boot of the car and went to find Ned and Krugertjie. Only forty minutes had passed, but it felt like a lifetime. They were still busy with their “scenic” photography.
On his insistence they left earlier than planned.
By Sunday-lunch everyone knew about the murder. Inevitable it reached Ned Dunn and Neill Kruger. The gruesome murder allegedly committed by Steenkamp.
However, they knew! As soon as they heard the news, they knew!
They never spoke about it, ever. But he knew the two of them knew in their heart of hearts. He could see it in the way they avoided his eyes, his presence, if at all possible. By the way they shrink when he came into a room where they were present.
Ned drank himself into an early grave while Neill Kruger went in and out of psychiatric-care two or three times a year, as he was at the moment. His family disguised it as “overseas trips”. Depression was riding him naked. He knew all this because he kept tags on both of them. After Ned’s death just on Neill Kruger. Followed his every move thoroughly and his career in law enforcement allowed him to do so very easily.
Krugertjie was a chemist and so was his wife. They had money so they could afford the cover-story of him going overseas on business every time his depression got the better of him. Neill’s wife knew he’s got quite severe depression since their marriage – but the reason why, he would never share with her.
Don’t know if he’d spill the beans about all this to his psychiatrist. Lucky for him psychiatrist are like priest, everything confidential. Krugertjie knew better than to mention names! But now he wasn’t so sure! This crumpled pink note and the accusing words that accompanied it told him that somewhere, someone knew about it, too!
He sat back in his chair and looked at his hands shaking.
‘Monty, did you send out that emails and SMS’s yet?’
Deric came steaming into the incident room.
‘I was waiting for you to give the go-ahead, Boss, but I will do it immediately.’ Monty said a little disconcerted. Fingers at the ready above the keyboard, ‘I thought you want to give it the once over before-’
‘Don’t!’ Deric said sharp, and then, ‘Sorry, I’m shouting.’
Deric wiped the invisible sweat off his brow and gave Monty a big grin.
‘Wow!’ Monty said as he also wiped the proverbial sweat off his brow, mimicking Deric, ‘Whew! That was close! By the way, why are we relieved? What’s going on?’
Jim came into the room with a yawn, ‘This Saturday-working is getting me down.’ He stopped and looked at the two, ‘Why are you looking like you just missed the pot?’
Deric smiled relieved.
‘Luckily, this time we just made it!’ He smiled at Monty, ’the shit hit the pot and just missed the floor.’ They both laughed. Monty still not knowing what the hell just happened.
‘Come guys, let’s get some coffee and I’ll fill you in on the rather astonishing enlightenments of Mrs Rita le Roux. And the way my thinking is working.’
‘Oh, God, FC that could take all day!’ Jim said in his humoristic, laconic way, ‘I mean the thinking thing!’
‘You gotto know when to hold it, know when to fold it, know when to walk away know when to run…’ The Gambler sang through Deric’s head as he led them out to the kitchenette.