The Ice-Cream Club

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Chapter 56 (Mystery GIRL)

The guard at the boom wasn’t on duty Saturday night. But after some questions about strangers he told them that Mr and Mrs Potgieter had a flat that they rent out on a short term basis. They usually let the gate know if someone was renting the flat – who and for how long. As it is, someone was staying there at the moment. Although there were three boom-gates inside the semi-private suburb and only two exits, they were not checking ID’s of those who enter – besides, all the houses had their own security gates and systems. Guests enter – unlike the estates – without any ID or license numbers or even signing in.

A bald, seventy-something man opened the gate and door after a show of badges and considerable explanations over an intercom. He was quite reluctant even to consider opening up the little “flat-let”. It was occupied by a guest and he respects her privacy.

Deric needed all his tact to persuade the old guy to just go knock on the door. He did so with some grumbling and impatience. Jim and Deric tagged along without saying a word. They moved through a small garden attached to the main house before going under an overgrown arch through a wooden gate. He unlocked the wooden gate and knocked on the backdoor. Deric could scarcely see the main house hidden amongst shrubbery. It was literally like two different properties.

Jan Potgieter, - as he introduced himself - knocked three or four times in a sort of Morse-code SOS way. There was no answer.

They went round to the front and it seemed they had moved into some fairyland with a gurgling fountain, LED lights that must make this tiny garden look like heaven in the dark and an abundance of colourful, overgrown plants. There was even enough space for a garden bench. On the far side a short gravel path lead up to a garage.

After some more (short, short, short, long, long, long) knocking, he unlocked the door with some disgruntled noises.

‘She rented it for a two month period from January to the end of February.’ He said as he looked around expecting her to leap out from somewhere.

He scratched his head, ‘She paid up front. Lovely girl. Must be out at the moment.’

‘This one?’ Deric held the picture up and pointed to the redhead.

‘No, no, this girl has got long blonde hair and blue eyes. I’d even say she’s taller.’

There were no sign of life.

On the little dining-table they found the key alongside a small typed note:

“Something came up, had to leave. What a lovely, little place. Thanks for the hospitality!”

The place inside was immaculate.

‘You say you never seen her face-to-face. I mean after you had given her the key?’

‘No, our guest’s business is their own, not ours. And as you can see, the cottage got its own garage and electric gate – even separate alarms. We saw her only from time to time, and by seeing her, I mean saw her car going out or coming in. But, that’s it,’ the old man sniffed loudly and then blow his nose with a sound that would make a bull-frog horny, ‘this is our extra income, me and the wife’s. Mostly business-men coming here. What their business are, we don’t asked.’ He said while wiping his nose three or four times more with his hanky, ‘some we know well from frequent visits, and others we don’t know from Adam. It’s a short-term rental service and we’re not that inquisitive after we’ve been paid. Never had any reason to.’

‘Did you ask some ID or anything like that?’

‘Yes of course, got a copy. She signed for the key and wrote down her name and license-plate. Which we verified – I mean the number, for the gate, just in case, you know.’

Deric suppressed a smile. Not too nosy, but cautious nonetheless.

‘Can we see it?’

The old man was still grumbling, but obliged anyhow. He locked up the cottage and they followed him back to the main house.

‘And then they still wonder why they get murdered in their beds.’ Jim whispered to Deric as the old man waddled back inside.

The picture was unfamiliar.

Yolanda Nicole Truter.

It turned out to be another red herring. The car was a rental which had been returned to the company. It had been cleaned in the meantime. No-one could remember the red-headed girl in the picture. The renter’s ID-photo confirmed her to be blonde, and according to Monty and his snooping, she was a Yolanda Nicole Truter. A thirty-year old single mom who worked at a medical clinic for the aged The Highlands, Cape Town. She worked there for the past four years, with not even an outstanding parking ticket to her name. A model citizen!

All were seated in the incident room the last week of February, including Mae and Brooke Sheffield. This time Doc Hargraves joined them. They went over the Gust-evidence. Again! Just to make sure their bases were a hundred percent covered.

‘Are we okay now? No more ghosts to chase?’ Sheffield asked a little teasingly after the fruitless search for the red-haired girl.

‘Well, at least we can say we followed every lead. I mean, if any of this come to light.’ Jim said very protective, for he already gave Deric stick about the phantom girl.

’And OR Tambo? Any significant person or persons there since that Saturday night. Like this elusive red-herring, I mean ruby-head or cherry?’ Sheffield wanted to know tongue in cheek.

‘Cherry…’ Deric mumbled a little embarrassed.

’Well, we’re still looking through the CCTV surveillance tapes copies which they so gracefully supplied us with – Saturday through Monday, 29th to 31st of January – but up to now – no, nothing. However, it’s a hell of a task.’ Monty answered.

‘Lots of cute girls, boss, but not our redhead. Maybe our Captain here cannot, for the life of him, understand how he’d been outwitted by a snotnose girl and a dead, old lady.’ Jim smiled.

‘Don’t you wonder who she is? The connection between her and Brenda Blignaut? How the hell she knew about Prinsloo’s party and who took her to the party? Well, I want to know!’ Deric asked a little embarrassed.

‘No,’ Jim said firmly, ‘because for one, I have neither met this red-head or the old lady. Secondly, they’ve handed us a killer on a plate with not a lot more harm done than a drugged, painted girl. Frankly, the less I know about her, the less I could testify too on the stand. I don’t want to know!’

Which evoked loud applause from Latisha, ‘Take a bow, take a bow, Lieu Cruse!’

‘At least we’ve done what we can.’ Deric said briskly.

‘Everyone happy with this? No other crimes committed along the Gust murder-highway? Except for his daughter been “date-doped” - If I can call it that?’ Sheffield wanted to know as he pointed to the file and the evidence material.

All nodded.

Lawyers can find a loophole in a concrete lion’s den, but Gust was as close to loophole-free Deric had ever seen. This was about a murder that happened thirty-five years ago. If he was going to implicate anyone else in the incident regarding his daughter (and his connection to Brenda Blignaut) he will have to put her on the stand. Gust himself insisted that Kimberley should not be a witness for or against the accused. Neill Kruger turned state witness to avoid prosecution. He looked even more relieved about the burden that had been lifted than Gust. Rita le Roux still didn’t know all. Deric was happy to let them get on with their lives. However, he said that he’d fill her in on all the details as soon as the Gust trial was behind them. The media went wild with speculation shortly after the news got out. They also had to do with the bare minimum until the trial. Mirna de Wet and her daughter was not available for interviews and those in the know kept it to themselves.

‘Okay then,’ Sheffield said dramatically, ‘I declare that this will be the end to the search for the ghost-girl, however cute.’ He looked at the picture again and smiled at Deric, ‘we cannot prove that she’d done anything to anyone. Everything for the trial is spot-on and Gust confession sealed the deal, I think.’

There was a collateral sigh of relieve.

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