Rough Diamonds

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Chapter 36

Jako Retief

Jako was also facing a barrage of questions but he didn’t feel the need to answer them. “I’m bushed,” he groaned.

His sleep was troubled. The nightmare began with Mum, Dad and Mike still alive, but then toppling into the fire. He woke with a start and looked around, only to see slumbering shapes surrounding him. He tried to go back to sleep, but it took ages. He slept in fits and starts, tossing and turning. He was eventually startled by the sound of the early morning bell.

Jako saw with shock Kate as if she hadn’t slept at all. She didn’t look well. She had deteriorated overnight.

It was only their second day there, but the first signs of trouble had already appeared. Jako suspected Mr Labuschagne. He received confirmation.

“Mr Labuschagne was feeling me up,” Kate said.

“What?” an incredulous Jako responded.

“He put his hand on my bottom and felt it there.”

“I’ll sort him out,” Jako said angrily.

Kate was undecided. She looked confused. The accident that had claimed the lives of their parents and Mike had only been the day before

Jako wanted to go after Labuschagne, but Kate stopped him.

“I feel really unwell, Jako.”

“What did he do to you?” queried Jako.

“After the… ” she paused. Kate had trouble saying the word. “ ...accident, I felt funny all over.”

Jako felt for Kate. She was being abused and he could see immediately what strain she was enduring.

“What kind of funny?”

“I don’t know. It hurts all over.”

“Have they given you something to fix it?”


“Have you told them?”

“I did, but they didn’t do anything about it.”

Jako was worried. He was going to take matters into his own hands. Bugger the consequences.

He went to see the “nurse”. No one knew what she was really doing in that position. She was a plump, short woman in her 50s, with an evil-looking face and grey hair.

“My sister’s not feeling well. Could you give her something to take?” Jako asked grumpily.

The nurse stared back. She took a while to answer. It was shocking. “We don’t have anything to treat the symptoms.”

“What are the symptoms?” Jako enquired.

“A high fever.”

Jako didn’t believe the nurse. With that, Jako knew what he had to do. Later that afternoon, when the unpleasant bitch was gone, he crept into the infirmary, but he didn’t know where to start. Just then, he heard the nurse return.

“What are you doing here? I’ll have you charged and arrested.”

Jako did not know what to do. This woman had denied Kate treatment for her ailments. He decided to give in. The woman (Jako didn’t even know her name yet), took him to the headmaster’s office.

Jako heard her say: “I found him stealing. I knew he was up to no good.”

Jako protested: “I was looking for... ”

Equally fast, the woman interrupted him. “I tell you, he’s a liar.”

Mr Labuschagne nodded in agreement.

Just then, there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Mr Labuschagne said.

It was the girl who’d kindly helped out Kate with the clothes. “You’d better come quickly. Kate’s collapsed!” she shouted.

Jako ran to Kate, following the girl in her late teens and ignoring the cries to stop from both the woman and Mr Labuschagne.

“Oh no,” he cried out. Quickly gathering Kate in his arms, he held her.

“Oh, no, Kate.” He could see that she was having trouble breathing. He tried to help her by telling everybody to give them room. “Where’s the doctor, where’s the fucking doctor?”

Kate was very still. “Oh no, Kate,” wailed Jako. He felt for her pulse. It was erratic.

“Kate, speak to me!” He could still hear her faint breathing.

“There must be somebody here who knows what’s going on,” he pleaded.

He tried again to feel for her pulse. Nothing. Jako was beside himself.

“Where’s somebody?” He stifled a sob and thought: I must be strong. There was absolutely no pulse. He knew he was losing her.

Finally, she convulsed and Kate breathed what seemed to be her last breath.

“Kate! Kate! It’s Jako, can you hear me?” He was frantic.

Jako put his hands on Kate’s chest and pushed to help her breath again. “One, release; two, release; three, release; four, release; five, release; six, release... ” He continued for more than a minute.

Jako sensed the pummelling was desperate and having no effect at all. He gave up. He held her tightly and cried his heart out.

“Kate... Kate... ” He accepted that she had taken her last breath more than two minutes before.

When he stopped crying, he began to suspect that “they” had given her drugs, to which she had had a reaction. Or that it was an overdose. He continued to hold the dead Kate in his arms. Jako resolved to fight to find the cause of his sister’s death.

“I don’t know what to do... ” Jako aimed the question at nobody in particular.

The girl in her late teens was always at his side. Through the tears, he cried: “Please, can you help me?”

He looked around at the shocked faces that had gathered. He looked directly at the girl in her late teens. “I don’t know what your name is. I’m Jako.”


He could see that she was equally stunned by what had happened.

Cynthia said: “Mr Labuschagne, could you help?”

Labuschagne just stood there, like he didn’t know what to do. Eventually, he spoke. “Carry her to… ”

Jako saw that he was thinking.

“...the girl’s dormitory,” he stated.

Jako saw the shocked and offended looks of both the girls and the boys.

“Just until we can call the undertakers,” he finished off.

The word “undertakers” sent shivers down Jako’s spine. It brought home the finality of Kate’s death. He broke down again as it struck him that he’d lost his whole family.

He bent down, lifted Kate and headed to the girl’s dormitory. Sue went with him.

“Where shall I put... ” Jako was struggling with what to call Kate. Finally, he decided on: “Kate.”

Cynthia answered: “There’s an unmade-up bed there.”

Later that afternoon, the undertakers arrived. Jako accepted their sympathies. They left the urine Kate had left on the bed, without cleaning up.

After they took Kate away, Jako was at a loss. The following few days were the loneliest he had ever experienced. He’d lost his whole family. Fuck. Kate as well.

The morning after her death, there was a telephone call from the undertakers. They needed to know how Jako was going to pay for the burial or cremation arrangements.

They spoke about cremation. The thought that Kate should be reduced to... He couldn’t bear thinking about it.

Jako had not been asked this question before. He thought cremation was instant and that Kate would be reduced to ashes, but that burial was forever. But, that begged the question: Kate buried under piles of earth... he couldn’t handle that.

“Can I call you back?”

“We can give you half an hour,” the undertaker said.

It was the most difficult issue to resolve. By the time the half hour was up, Jako had made a decision. He went to ask Labuschagne whether he could use the phone again.

“Don’t take too long,” Labuschagne answered curtly.

Jako got through to the undertakers, to a different person.

“I’ve made my decision: I’d like her... ” he was battling to say the word... “cremated.”

“We’ll see to that. Again, my condolences.”

“What does it cost?” Jako insisted.

“We’ll take care of it and we can sort that out later.”

Jako didn’t like the sound of that. He felt he should take a firm stand. “I need to know that right now.”

The voice at the other end of the line said: “I’ll have to get back to you on that. May I give you a call tomorrow?”

“First thing,” Jako insisted.

Very early the next morning, the distressing events continued. “There are some police officers to see you,” Mr Labuschagne warned. “I’ve spoken to them already.”

“What about?”

“You’ll see.” Labuschagne said in a sinister manner.

Jako feared the worst. He wondered what that bastard had discussed with them.

He went to where the police officers were waiting and studied them. There were two of them – both men, standing, waiting. They were in their 40s, Jako guessed. The one was stocky and blonde and the other was tall and had dark, unruly hair.

The one with the dark hair exuded the air of a natural leader. He stepped forward aggressively.

Jako thought quickly. “I have to go to the toilet.” This would be his excuse to make a break for freedom.

“Don’t be long,” Mr Labuschagne cautioned.

Jako knew that the time had come to leave this God-forsaken place. He went past the toilets, casually strolling, looking for a way out, hoping that no one was watching him. There was no way out from there, so he decided to go back to the toilets. He opened the door.

“Come on, boy,” Mr Labuschagne shouted. Jako could hear the frustration in his voice. “Where the hell are you?”

It was time to run.

He forced the toilet window open and squeezed out.

He started running, then broke into a sprint, hoping that no one, least of all Mr Labuschagne and the officers, had seen him.

Moments later, he heard the commotion behind him. He carried on running into the forest, until he was sure they would battle to find him. He ran as fast as he could until he was well away from the orphanage.

The thought invaded his mind: I may miss Kate’s service! “Fuck, what a fuck up!”

That was the real start of Jako’s troubles.

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