Chapter 51 (DO OR NOT TO DO…)
Sheffield slowly closed the report. Funnily enough we are living in the so-called paperless era, but still, we feel the need for paper. Everything about this case will be stored on disc or memory stick, however, there will also be a copy in print as well. Maybe in ten, twenty years from now things will be different, but for now, the feeling of something on paper was rather substantial. It was soothing to him in any case. Maybe he’s really getting old or rather is old already, but the thought of a totally paperless era makes him uneasy!
He didn’t immediately look at Deric. He stared out the window whilst tapping his fingers against the file. He wasn’t so much thinking of the report as he was thinking about the first day he saw this rather attractive, easily embarrassed, young guy with his friendly but determined demeanour. He can recall the sad, grey eyes and the melancholy that shone in those eyes. No broad smile or dimple cheek could hide the hurt. Their first impression of each other was a mutual sort of liking. They, the two most of unlikely of souls, for he, Brooke, was a womaniser of the first degree and Deric had just lost his wife to cancer. However, they developed an immediate mutual respect for each ever since that very first meeting. It had, up to now, not faltered. They had some hotly debated discussions and a few disagreements but never ever did they disrespect each other. He remembered that Deric never once, as far as his knew, took part in the (back then) hot gossip about Sheffield’s marriage-ruining affair with Mandy or about Natasha, his ex, who was dead-set on ruining him financially. She nearly succeeded, but for the riches of his second wife, Mandy. He sees his son often enough, but the two girls hated his guts nearly as much as Natasha. Deric turned out to be one of the better decisions he made. He also had the pleasure of watching him developed into an excellent investigator and well-healed human being at the hands of his lovely wife, Mae Routan. When they had sticky cases, like the murder of Grace Woods, they never failed to come to some kind of agreement about the media, the evidence, or how to handle it when they’re up a creek.
He reminiscing was broken by a quick knock on the door. It consequently opened without anyone’s acknowledgement perse and Patricia Mabone entered with two cups of coffee.
She put it down, smiled at Deric and said, ‘Compliments from Latisha.’
‘Yes, yes, tell Sgt Jacobs she’ll know as soon as we’re finished in here. And tell her to take her ear away from the door!’ Sheffield’s voice went down an octave as he addressed the door, ‘Remind her I’m still in charge around here.’ Sheffield said not really offended and patted down his left shirt pocket where his cigarettes used to be before he stopped smoking. He actually gave up that bad habit a long time ago. It was really one of his favourite things to do alongside his habitual admiration for a beautiful female. Like Latisha put it so eloquently: “Salivating after every ass, like Pavlov’s dog.” Mandy can take it, or so she says. Maybe she’s pretending because of her own, flirting habits and personality. Who knows?
Why is everything joyful and fun bad for you, or a sin?
Life needs to be lived!
He realised that he was intently looking at Deric who was sipping his coffee with a little uneasiness and some embarrassment.
‘Whose decision was this?’ He waved his hand at the report.
‘Mine – all mine. There’s not a syllable that’s not my decision alone! I’ve decided this on my own. The rest of the team known only since this morning. I’ve told them just before I brought this in.’
‘Okay, so you’re telling me not even your bosom-buddy Jim had any influence or input. Latisha, Monty or even Mae - nothing?’
‘Oh, of course they had their opinions, but the report and the content is my decision and mine alone.’ Deric said with a steady voice.
Suddenly Sheffield gave a broad smile, ‘Then it shall stay between us, but if you’re the reason I lose my pension…’
Deric felt relieved.
‘We owe her that, don’t you think?’ He said a little hesitantly. He never thought that he would ever hold any evidence back about anything!
‘Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. However, all the evidence in the world can’t harm her, so why the secrecy?’ Sheffield wanted to know.
’I don’t want to give Manny Pereira a shimmer of hope to get the case thrown out. Or paint Brenda Blignaut as a monster. I think the real monster, in the form of Rodney Gust, got away with his secrets and sins for long enough. He’s mainly the reason she’d did what she’d did.’ Deric said softly. He held his hands up immediately, ‘I’m not saying what she did was the right thing to do but…’
Sheffield stared into the younger man’s face for a long time.
‘Okay, let’s give the law and law-enforcement a change to redeem itself of its gross negligence and assumptions in 1980 and let the real murderer stand up and be counted, but…’
Deric knew there was going to be a “BUT”.
’This all,’ Sheffield swept his hand from side to side like a metal-detector over the report, ’stays between us - and by us I mean only those who know. Those who worked on the case from the very beginning - and…’
Deric didn’t think there would be an “AND” to be added.
’I want separate reports about ALL the co-called “Ice-Cream Club’s” activities since 1990, case number and file. It will be kept by me, under lock and key, until such time I leave office, or someone starts to sniff about some of the cold cases. Agreed?’
Deric stood up and put a hand out to Brooke Sheffield, ‘Agreed, and thank you, sir.’
’Well, our “loophole” would be that it had nothing to do with the Gust case. Which is not a lie, if this ever comes to light. Any inquiries about any of these cases must be run by you and me – inform the team. Now it’s your work to get your people to take a vow of silence like damn priests. I don’t want to read a distorted version of all this in some “I’ve been abducted by aliens” gossip magazine. IS THAT CLEAR?’
‘Clear as crystal, sir.’
Deric started for the door whilst Sheffield tapped his lip with a pen that he had had momentarily in his mouth ala cigarette, ‘who else, except us, that is, knows about Brenda Blignaut and her gang of vigilantes?’
’Sir, the only one I can think off is maybe Patsy Semper and her lawyer. We can deal with her, although it would mean that she gets literally away with murder again.’
‘Well, you win some, you lose some.’ Sheffield said.
‘They don’t know about the other cases, sir. I mean they know we know about Benjamin Javid’s death. This elusive kidnapper. Which of course, she at first denied existed but up to now he was a shadow, ala Cape Town. Regardless of the artist sketch doing the rounds, no-one seem to recognise him. More than that, there’s not a shred of evidence that he’d even exist. Her friend, Suzie, said the man she’d described was nothing like the one she was supposed to have the blind date with. So that’s one crazy, mix-up story going on there. Patsy Semper is not enthusiastic about the whole going-to-trial business. She thinks her former “crimes” might come to bite her in the ass. I, for one, think that case is going nowhere, but the fridge.’
Sheffield nodded absentmindedly and waved Deric out the door with a, ‘Okay then…’
’There’s still the Chuba Jackson case – I mean the fact that it is still ongoing. We can tie it in with the “Ice-Cream Club” by Brenda Blignaut’s own admittance. I, on the other hand, am the only witness to her words…’
‘What words?’ Sheffield said.
‘Her words in the…’
‘Offbach, it’s a rhetorical question! Don’t explain!’
Deric’s ears turned red, ‘It’s an impossibility for Brenda Blignaut to have done that. Who would I convince of such a thing? Who’s to blame for the actual murder, well, your guess is as good as mine. Nobody’s been arrested thus far. Again, NO evidence. His case did lead us to Conrad Camphor, whose death was – up to now – considered as an accident…’
‘Oh, just get the hell out!’ Sheffield roared, ‘I’ll handle it, IF anything comes up! And I’ll personally strangle the one responsible for attracting attention to any of these cases! Is that clear? If, and only IF anyone requested some info we’ll discuss it further! Understood?’
Deric decision to put only the evidence regarding Rodney Gust and the death of Minke Blignaut in the Gust-report was a popular one with his team.
‘Well,’ Latisha said with glee, ’at last a little common sense prevails. If little teenage- and child-monsters, who has a rap-sheet the length of my arm by the time they hit eighteen, can get away with “sealed evidence” because of their age, we can get a killer AND save a grieving mother’s reputation by a little “sealed evidence” ourselves.’ She inverted with green and white fingernails.
‘Actually,’ Danny said, ‘we are not concealing anything, are we? Those who asked shall be given – the evidence is available, not so?’
‘Everyone, I want your lips to be sealed - Not even in glee, Latisha, will you share any of this!’ Deric said seriously.
‘I promise you, this time, this big mouth,’ she zipped it figuratively, ‘is sealed like a clay-oxen’s ass!’
Deric felt a little pang of guilt because he mostly believed in the letter of the law. In this case he felt the law had let three people badly down. Minke Blignaut, Burger Steenkamp and Brenda Blignaut. It allowed an influential man to use it to his advantage for thirty-five years. Just maybe, for once, they owe the victims! As is, Rodney Gust got away with Culpable Homicide. He could easily serve only 5 – 10 years. Even less if his prestigious life, friends and position and all that is taken into account at the trial.
Burger Steenkamp got a full pardon back in 1990 but he was punished in more ways than one. To get rid of the stigma of “murderer” he had to leave his own country behind and had to start afresh somewhere else. He even felt the need to adopt his wife’s surname. Somehow, somewhere there had to be a little payback. The law is by no means perfect and flawless – as Brenda Blignaut pointed out - he knew he should add “but it’s all we have” however, for once in his life he didn’t feel like it.
So, now it was fingers crossed no-one inquires after any of the cases until such time the trial of Rodney Gust was done and dusted - or never.
Well, justice came to Rodney Gust in the form of the media, and his prestige and esteem were shattered already. However, but it claimed another two souls, his wife and daughter. Deric felt for them.
Deric was sure they’d all their ducks in a row regarding the murder of Minke Blignaut. The real murderer was in custody – at last. Actually, he was out on bail, by virtue of his golden tongue lawyer, friends in high places. At least, until the trial. Luckily the presiding Judge saw it fit to keep Rodney Gust’s passport.
Besides Deric and his little guilt-trip the gang was in high spirits and as per usual. When they tied up a sticky case like this, they had some fast foods and some non-alcoholic drink to celebrate – at least at work.
Today was no different.
Each was sitting with a large cheese-burger, chips and a paper-cup filled with cappuccino.
‘Okay,’ Jim said as he licks the sauce off the side of his mouth and cleaned his hands on a paper napkin, ’now the announcement that you all are dreading. I have to deliver it nonetheless, otherwise it will be “Bye-bye Jim” when I get home. I really don’t want to be the next big case you guys have to crack.’
They knew he was exaggerating when it comes to his wife. She was tiny – barely five feet and maybe weighing in at forty-five kilos – but her tenacity and personality make her seem larger than life. They also knew Jim loved this little packet of dynamite to bits but, as always, he pretended that he was the most henpecked husband in the world and that she was scarier than hell.
‘Sunday’s the “BIG BRAAI” and nobody’s off the hook. Like before, your own meat and whatever drinks you fancy, Josie will see to the rest. And, keep this in mind, only a serious emergency like hospitalisation will be an excuse. If you’re bleeding she’ll provide a plaster or tourniquet depending on how serious the injury. Otherwise…’ His index finger made a cutting movement over his throat.
‘I’ve already talked to Josie and we’ve made our own arrangements regarding salads, thank you very much.’ Latisha said smugly, ’So much for your death-threat announcement then, but you better warn this lot about the boss, ne.’
His face fell with disappointment.
‘Latisha!’ He gave her a stern look. ’I thought I could leave that as a surprise. Damn! Seeing ‘Tisha is so eager to let the cat out the bag and ruin everything – Sheffield and Mandy will be joining us Sunday.’
‘And Natasha?’ Monty chewed slower and slower in anticipation. She would most certainly attend the “Braai” - as it was known.
’Oh, she’ll be there. But has no qualms about it “oh yea of little faith”. She has a new fella at her side. Quite well-off and sort of handsome, or so I was informed. I think she would like to show him off. And not only to us,’ He whispered as he kept an eye out for the boss. ’No, let me rephrase that, most definitely not to us. Definitely to the boss and his boss, Mandy - if you know what I mean...’ Jim said and made big eyes at them, ‘She wants to make sure Supt knows she’s had moved on.’ He scratched his head, ‘Anyhow, I think that’s how Josie explained it.’ Jim winked at them, ’me, myself, I’m just the “braaier”, the waiter, the messenger, ’he counted it off on his fingers, ‘and your friend, so don’t misuse me!’ He made another cut-throat movement.
‘This is going to be interesting!’ Danny said with a smile.
’Oh, yes, it will be. And I think we can look forward to some other surprises too.’ Jim said tongue in cheek looking intently at his shoes.
‘What’s going on that I don’t know off?’ Latisha asked hands on hips.
‘Don’t ask me, I really don’t know.’ Jim said as he shrugged his shoulders and looked at Deric with an innocent face.
‘Why are you looking at me, I have nothing.’
‘Well…maybe somebody has something.’ Jim shrugged.
‘Wouldn’t miss this for the world!’ Monty said after looking intently at Jim and Deric before tucking into his hamburger.