Chapter 57 (Green-eyed MONSTER?)
In August of 2014 Judge Rodney Gust trial started. He was charged with Culpable Homicide for the murder of Minke Blignaut in 1980. To the surprise of all and the utter dismay of his lawyer, he pleaded guilty with no contest, leaving a stunned media and public-masochists – as Deric called those who filled the court seats out of pure curiosity - with not a lot to show for their efforts.
Judge Amos Bawanga and Judge Hendrik Van der Merwe were the presiding Judges over the case that was held in chamber. They had to decide on a sentence. The reports had been looked over, the evidence reviewed and after much deliberation they delivered their verdict which was read out to the media. Judge Rodney Gust appeared one day only in court.
Rodney Gust was found guilty (by his own admittance) of the murder of Minke Blignaut back in November of 1980. The verdict came with a recommendation that he should be treated with mercy, seeing that he was young at the time – 22 years of age – and that it wasn’t a pre-meditated murder. His exemplary life since the murder and the honourable work he’d done when he became Judge were also taken in account. They concluded that he was of good character and had shown remorse over this murder by confessing. (HA! Ala Latisha Jacobs) Furthermore, Rodney Gust was a family man and had served the community well. Although the nature of the crime was violent and led to Minke Blignaut’s death, he was NOT likely to be a repeat offender. Therefore, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment with the option of parole after two.
Mirna De Wet Gust was there to lend support. The media zoomed in on and focussed on their shattered lives, as they always do. He was taken to prison and she handled it with: “No comment”.
Maybe Brenda Blignaut would have been outraged by the sentence, maybe not. Maybe this was exactly what she would’ve wanted. Rodney Gust was exposed and his life thrown into total turmoil. His family was nearly ripped apart and he was shamed and named before all. Maybe she did get the justice after all.
Deric knew that pleading guilty with no contest was not so much out of remorse was firstly not to involve his daughter and secondly to get away with a much lighter sentence. After all, he wasn’t a Judge for years for nothing. It could’ve become a lengthy trial if he hadn’t done what he did. The photos of Kimberley Gust could certainly have been leaked, or shown to the court if anyone had a slip of the tongue. He didn’t want that! He also spared Neill Kruger, who was in busy with his own sort of “prison-sentence”, from the witness stand.
Latisha gave air to her displeasure at this short, lenient sentence, but not too loudly. Overall they were silently satisfied. It spared a lot of people a lot of pain. The “Ice-Cream Club”-activities were spared total exposing.
‘Thank you, thank you, Captain Offbach, I’m so glad that neither I, nor my husband had to testify. His sentence is very lenient considering what Minke and Burger had been through, but seeing what he had to give up, it’s maybe punishment enough.’ Rita le Roux said relieved. ‘I don’t know… there’s so much water under the bridge since the murder. I mean I would’ve gladly flown there to put that man away and cleared Burger’s good name in public, but all’s well that ends well. Up to this moment I don’t know if Burger knows - maybe he does and kept silent to spare me, as I did him. We think if we don’t talk about any of this it doesn’t exist. Now however, I will and I must tell him. Let him know that the real killer was at last caught and it was over. Once and for all. I think this time around it will be more of a healing than an opening of wounds, if you know what I mean.’
‘Well, as it turned out Rodney Gust do have some integrity after all, even if it’s too little too late.’ Deric said, ‘I just thought I’d let you know that you’re feeling and hunch were correct. Fill in gaps where necessary. However, you, and might I add, Brenda Blignaut, had nailed it. I think you’re husband had earned the right to know. All I’m saying-’
‘I think the children too.’ She looked a little absentminded before she spoke again, ‘Captain Offbach, I wonder if I could impose on you by letting him contact you – I mean if he wants to know more about all of this.’
’Well, that’s the least I can do.’
‘Does Martin know? Did you talk to him?’ She wanted to know.
‘Yes, he does, He was sort of part of all this. I’m going to see him personally by appointment. He is quite a busy man.’
‘That’s Martin.’ She smiled, ‘…wait Captain Offbach, my daughter just came in from her gym-class. You know Gerta, the one who was on holiday in South Africa. The one I was so upset about when you called me the first time. Remember? I would like you to meet her, seeing that I’m going to spill the beans to all of them in any case just as soon as Burger and Steen comes home. I even going to open a bottle of Bubbly!’ she leaned back in her chair and hollered, ‘Gerta, sweetie, come in here a moment, please.’
Deric heard a voice said “Hi mom” and a girl with short, dark hair leaned in to give her mom a kiss on the cheek.
‘I want you to meet a very special man…’
The girl looked at the screen.
Her eyes were green with unusual brown spots!
The Cherry-haired girl!
Except, there was no trace of the red hair.
‘This is Captain Offbach and this…’ Rita le Roux said with a little pride, ‘is my daughter Gerta.’
Gerta le Roux smiled at the screen.
‘Captain Offbach, you know you look vaguely familiar. As if I know you from somewhere. I just can’t put my finger on it.’ She smiled at him.
’Funny you should say that. I had that same déjà vu when I saw you just now.’
Rita le Roux looked perplexed.
‘And why would my mom think you to be so special?’ Gerta le Roux asked innocently.
‘Oh, I think it had to do with the guilty man I just put away. But, I must admit, I’d a lot of help! However, she’ll tell you all about that.’
‘Now, now, Captain, remember, don’t sell yourself short!’ Rita said then smiled up to Gerta ‘Sweetie, I’ll tell all of you what happened. Just waiting for the family to be all around the table for dinner.’ She looked back at Deric.
‘Thank you for everything, Captain, I, we will be forever grateful. Goodbye and good luck.’ Rita said before signing off.
Tonight Rita le Roux will be performing before an informed audience, or at least, one of them knew the story better than Deric or Rita did.
Just as Deric prepare to leave for home the front desk called to tell him there’s someone to see him.
‘Can’t it wait till morning?’ He asked a little irritated.
‘He said he won’t take up much of your time, and to tell you it is Clem Hastings.’
‘Clem!’ A smile spread over his face, ‘Send him on up.’
He hadn’t seen Clement Hastings for more than six months now.
A light knock on his open door, and Clem Hastings appeared. His pony-tailed hair cut in a short, but stylish cut, otherwise he looked just the same. Black jeans, Cats (clean) and a black shirt. The triangular-cut diamond still shone in one earlobe. Still an attractive, rugged man. Deric thought he also recognised the dark shadows in his eyes. That of a man who’d lost someone he loved. As if the colour of his eyes had a deeper shade of blue. He wondered if his had a lighter shade these days. He said his final goodbyes to Judy and he is now drunkenly in love with Mae. However, like Burger Steenkamp and Clement Hastings, the deep pain will come and go vividly in those unguarded moments. He prides himself on his uncanny ability to recognise a fellow-sufferer. Wasn’t sure if it was a talent or a curse.
The two men greeted each other like long lost friends before they sat down.
‘This is not official, I hope.’ Deric asked with lightness in his voice.
‘It sort of is, but not that official!’ Hastings jested back with a gleam in the eye.
‘Don’t tell me you’re getting married!’
‘No, no, not there yet. Still misses Grace.’ He said as a shadow momentarily crossed his face, ‘No, but I do bring good tidings though, in a somewhat different vein. Remember Grace always urged Nicky and me to have Maddie’s paintings evaluated? Well, we at last did so about three months ago and…’ He held out a card.
Deric immediately recognised the picture of Grace Woods on the front. It was the one little autistic Maddie Hastings drew over and over and, in some way, had led them to Grace – or what was left of her. It was an invitation to the first showing of the artist Maddie Hastings on Friday 14 September 2014 in the Framè-Gallery.
The show was dedicated to Grace Woods!
‘Nicky and I really want you and your people to come to the gala-evening if at all possible. You’re all welcome to bring a companion along. We really feel you all should share this with us.’ He said tentatively.
Deric had a lump in his throat and had to swallow a few times before answering, ‘I’ll let you know by tomorrow how many will attend, but me and Mae will come for certain.’
‘Thank you!’ He said simply.
‘Yes, and I’ve got good news as well. We’re going to have a baby in a month or two.’
Clement Hastings grinned an evenly white smile, ‘Well done, Captain, when you get on a roll you do not take prisoners, do you?’ He jumped up and shook Deric’s hand, ‘so we’ll see you and you’re lovely wife for sure. The Woods’ will also be there – in fact it was June Woods’s idea to put Grace on the cover. Super strong lady that!’
They talked for nearly half an hour before Hastings gathered his things.
‘Thanks again for everything you’ve done for me, for us. See you at the opening!’
Not a bad day at all, Deric thought again, as he watched Clement Hastings walked to the elevator.
He found his phantom redhead, and he will be part of another little girl’s future - even if she might never know.