Chapter 5 (FINGERPRINT from the grave)
‘What? How did she know?’ Doc Hargraves looked just as flabbergasted as Deric did when Brenda Blignaut utter those words to him.
Mae, Latisha and Doc stared at him incredulously.
‘Exactly her words,’ Deric said, ’“Did you find Chuba Jackson” and “Do you like ice-cream”. And this girl…’ Deric snapped his fingers, ’this…Mila Jordan heard it, too. I mean not the ice-cream bit or the Chuba Jackson words, but about the “thirty days to save a life and find a killer”. I don’t know whose life? I don’t know thirty days from when? I don’t know who killed whom, I don’t know anything. And then she died on me! I hoped it was some kind of delirium…however-’
‘She couldn’t possible had killed Chuba Jackson,’ Doc Hargraves interrupted, scratching his chin, or rather, chins.
‘No, but she does, or did know, he was murdered and she said “we had done it”.’
‘Maybe she knew something was going to happen to him, but she couldn’t have physically killed him herself,’ Doc kept rubbing his chin, left to right – right to left. ‘Nobody could’ve known at the time of his daring escape and that he wasn’t in jail. Maybe…only those… (scratch, scratch)… could it have been arranged? If the police weren’t able to find him, how did she know about him, or, at least, how the killer…killers know (scratch-scratch), ‘…you think all this were planned, I mean his miraculous escape. Did he walk right into a trap?’
‘It’s the only plausible explanation.’ Latisha said, ‘talk about elaborate planning.’
Deric suddenly remembered the reason he came here for, ‘Doc, tell me about all this evidence you found at the Jackson crime-scene, it must certainly be tied in with this whole bizarre business.’
Doc wasn’t a man to rush into anything. He picked up the phone and asked Inge for a fresh pot of tea and four cups. If you visit Doc, you get tea, water, or nothing. He opened his laptop and start pressing buttons. Doc was heavyset when Deric first met him; and oldish guy who seemed to have no neck – he still looked exactly the same. His voice, however, was almost always a surprise. A beautiful, high-pitched female-like sound – not irritating - more bone-china, fragile; one could listen to him all day long. And to top it all off, he was an interesting character. So, despite his unexciting looks, people enjoyed his company immensely.
Inge – somewhere in her early forties - wriggled in with a pot of steaming hot tea, four cups and cookies. She inquired if she should pour, but Mae said not to bother. Inge wriggled out again.
‘Doc, how many times a day does Supt visit?’ Latisha asked as she stared after Inge. They all smiled. Everyone knows about Lt-Col Sheffield’s eye for a beautiful woman and Inge’s wriggle surely turns heads. ‘I would kill for a walk like that!’ Latisha added more flavour as she uttered one of her favourite saying “I would kill for…”
‘Oh, not that often, but when he comes, he usually drinks a lot of tea.’ Doc said with a wink.
‘As I understood from Tim, Chuba Jackson was drugged?’ Deric said impatiently as Mae got up and start pouring the tea.
‘Yes, I think he was fast asleep while been fastened to that martyr’s table. But, I can tell you, he woke up in time for the grand finale, which, one could argue, he had the best seat in the house for.’
Doc ate a cookie with gusto before dusting his fingers against his white coat and opened a folder.
‘Right, here we are. Cause of death, as you may know by now, is he went into septic shock caused by the slow blood loss of the opened-up veins and well, by the lack of a better name, as this is a first for me, the cleansing or shortening of the penis – which, I can assure you was very, very painful.’
‘What was used, Doc?’
‘Plain ole toilet bleach - Domestos,’ he paged through the file as if he was seeing it for the first time, ‘but the pain and the blood loss cause the blood vessels to dilate and his blood-pressure became so low that not enough blood was pushed through, and of course not enough oxygen to reach the vital tissue. He died a painful death, of that I can assure you. He was meant to suffer! Then, of course, we’ve found the forty different hairs at the crime scene – randomly strewn - and that lone fingerprint. Still testing hairs, not nearly finished.’
Doc took another bite from a chocolate-chip and dipped the rest in his tea. How he can eat anything fifteen minutes after pulling intestines from a human body was beyond Deric.
‘We’ve found that seven – hairs, that is – isn’t human; three dog; three cats’ and two made of nylon, like a doll or a wig, one blonde and one red.’
‘Any human hair so far?’ Deric inquired.
‘Yes, around ten or so, but, remember, hair is only really useful if the root’s still attached. All these hairs seemed to be perfect off-cuts – you know like you would find in a barbershop or hairdresser. The murderer or murderers knew exactly how to keep us busy.’
‘And the fingerprint?’
‘Oh, yes, most interestingly, we’ve match the fingerprint just before you came…’ he tinkered with the laptop on his desk, ‘hmm…interesting; very interesting.’ He said as if talking to himself, ‘it’s that of a Conrad Camphor.’
‘Any address? Where does he live?’ Latisha asked excitedly, ‘I want to shake his hand!’ She looked defiantly at Deric.
He didn’t look at her, but said, ’Simmer down, Latisha. None of us are too keen on putting this specific killer of a killer behind bars, but, it’s what we do, right or wrong.’
‘Well, if you’re murderer is this…’ Doc intervened and moved his glasses up and then down again as if to make sure of his facts, ‘…Conrad Camphor, you’ll have a tough time, no, let me rephrase it, an impossible task to put him behind bars.’ Doc grinned.
’Why? ’Deric wanted to know.
‘His address is Pretoria-West graveyard, don’t know the headstone number, but he took up residence six years ago. He had been autopsied by a colleague of mine.’
‘What?’ He’s dead in 2007?’ Deric frowned. ‘How the hell did his fingerprint ended up on a crime-scene that’s only a few days old?’
‘Now that’s the intriguing question!’ Doc looked like a child staring at presents on Christmas morning, ’these people, killers, criminals or whatever, they surely are imaginative, aren’t they? Interesting case, very interesting case…’ Doc murmured.
With Doc still in awe of the “whoever’s imagination” – Deric’s phone went in a “Walk the line…” euphoria.
‘Captain Offbach.’ As he listens his face grew astonished, ‘…her daughter? Yeah? That really is a co-incidence or, maybe not. But now I can understand…yes…to Jackson, yes, but that’s thirty-something years ago! Still, it’s one piece of a very, very large, fuzzy puzzle. Thanks Monty, will be there in a few minutes.’ Deric ended the call and looked at the others, ‘Don’t know what this particular picture on the box looks like, or even if all the pieces are in the box, but still a piece is a piece, even if it’s like lighting a candle in the Cango-caves.’
‘Monty?’ Mae asked rhetorical.
’Yes, he made a, sort of, connection between Brenda Blignaut and Chuba Jackson.
’In 1980, Minke Blignaut, Brenda Blignaut’s twenty-one year old daughter (only child) was raped and murdered at the venue where she held her 21st party. The murderer was apprehended shortly afterwards and, even though concrete evidence was scarce, eyewitnesses put him at the scene and he was found with his hands or hand still wrapped around her neck. “Character-witnesses” buried him. He certainly had opportunity, however, motive was a little daunting. He was, according to those who knew him, a little arrogant and “played the scene” like one student apparently opinionated dramatically in court,’ Monty said, rolling his eyes even more dramatically, ’He knew – don’t know if it’s in the Biblical sense or not - a lot of ladies, as confirmed by quite a few under oath at the trial. According to one female student “He thought he was God’s gift and didn’t take no for an answer” thus, sealing the poor guy’s fate. With no other suspect on hand and all the witness accounts, the judge had no other option but to sentence this Burger Steenkamp to twenty-five years’ - no parole. Then in 1988 - or there about - DNA came to the evidence table and in 1990 Steenkamp was proven innocent via DNA.’ Monty turned towards Deric, ‘The real killer wasn’t found up to this day.’
‘Where were these DNA samples?’ Mae wanted to know as Monty gave her a kiss on the cheek and a hug. She made the journey back to the office with Deric and Latisha.
‘Semen on his shirt, her panty, some even on the dress. Enough back then to put Steenkamp away, and enough in 1990 to save his hide. None to match it too, however.’ Monty said with a smile, totally delighted to see Mae, ‘This feel like the old days.’ He gave another glimmering smile in her direction.
‘The old days, its only eleven months ago!’ Deric said with a smile.
‘Feels like a lifetime.’ Monty pouted like a seven-year-old.
‘So,’ Latisha murmured, ‘they have the DNA, but no-one to match it to.’
‘A mother would ponder this always,’ Mae said, ‘I know I would, I mean if the rapist and killer of my child is still out there somewhere. And, even if it can’t be Chuba Jackson who raped and killed her daughter, she would obviously hate anyone and everyone involved in such a horrible crime. In Jackson’s case, crimes. I mean, I despised the man, and I’m not even in Brenda Blignaut’s boots, or, for that matter, in any of the other victims’ families.’
‘There!’ Latisha put her hands on her hips, ’At last, someone who’s with me. Not some “above-such-feelings” cute little Captain who tells me about “the law this” and “the law that” as if this is a normal case!’
’I never said I don’t have feelings about “this”,’ Deric made inverted commas with his fingers, ‘or, as a matter of fact, any rapists or murderers, it’s just that we have to keep to the letter of the law for all and everyone – beast or no beast.’
‘I know, I know,’ she put her hands up as if surrendering, just to point one fire-engine red fingernail at Deric seconds later, ‘but, to look for the killer of a monster-killer like Jackson just doesn’t sound right, does it!’