Rough Diamonds

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Chapter 48

Jack Retief

Jack sped to the Botswana-South Africa border, but was held up in a queue of about six cars. In desperation, he asked the people around him: “Did a couple – about mid-20s - with a baby, a baby girl, came through here?”

One man responded: “There was nobody with a baby.”

“I’m Kate-Emily’s – the little girl’s father,” Jako said, rather loudly.

The people who were standing in the queue looked at him, like there was something wrong with him.

Another man said: “There was only one young couple. I saw them walk fast from the border post and get back in the car. They went through the border a few minutes ago.”

“Fuck!” Realising he’d cursed, he immediately apologised to the people waiting in the queue.

“I’m in a desperate hurry, I must move to the front.”

Another man who hadn’t heard what he’d said, injected: “Aren’t we all?” He gave Jack a scathing look.

Jack rapidly approached the man. By now, everybody in the queue was watching, and they hurriedly addressed the man:

“I’m the father. That couple kidnapped my daughter.”

A third man, upon hearing this, spoke to the second man, and said more forcefully than the second: “It’s fine with us. Come in here to the front of the queue.”

Jack made the border change to South Africa and raced at full speed.

He was miserable. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

He remembered in their teen years, Madelaine had seriously provoked him with the suggestion of sexual activity if he told her where he’d hid the diamonds. What would happen when Madelaine and her bloke got the uncut stones, which he was absolutely sure they wanted?

Jack wondered whether he would ever see his daughter again. Think positive, damn it! He told himself.

He was afraid to go to the police because the diamonds were uncut, which made them illegal.

Then Jack had an idea. I’m going close to Scallyclare, so I’ll retrieve them. It took some nerve to make a detour as he was afraid of what Madelaine was doing to his Kate-Emily, but he had no choice. He was certain that if he got the diamonds back, he could exchange them for his daughter.

But, what Jack would experience was no simple matter.

The cave was inaccessible by vehicle - even a Land-Rover. Jack stopped by a farmer with whom he had been at school. He knew he owned horses.

He galloped as fast as he could to the cave, dismounted and made sure that the horse was secured. While climbing to the cave, he stubbed his toe. The sweat was dripping into his eyes. Fuck this. It’s not easy, he thought.

He was finding it difficult to reach the cave mouth. The pungent aroma of the khakibos was overwhelming. The thought crossed his mind that the essence of the weed deterred fleas and ticks. Why did he have to think of that now?

Madeline’s threat was weighing heavily on his mind, and the imaginary words kept threatening to interrupt his hard slog up the hillside: “Bring me the diamonds, or Kate-Emily gets it!”

He focused back on the job at hand. There was certainly not as much of that bush here before. He was wondering how, as a young boy, he had walked to the cave.

Finally, he reached where he remembered the cave should have been. It was thick with undergrowth and the bush was hampering his progress.

It had been ten-odd years since they had left in the dead of night to make that ill-fated trip to Eshowe, and there had been no time to collect the diamonds. His father would have been furious if he had discovered that the children had kept them a secret. Jako thought his Dad would have wanted to sell them to pay his gambling debts.

Ten years since the fiery crash. It still hurts.

Back to the diamonds. The thought struck him that maybe they weren’t there any longer. Maybe the baboons or rock rabbits had fiddled with them.

He looked up to where the cave should have been. Now he was doubting himself. It looked very different from what he remembered - much more overgrown than in his memory.

He eventually found what looked like the mouth of the cave. Would he have fitted in there? Grabbing a handful of bush, he struggled to tear it away.

“Fuck this!” he cursed. Madelaine was to blame. He was struggling with the harshness of the overgrowth, but he was going to get the diamonds back. At least, if the baboons had left them alone. And the bats! They were as big as cats and they could have moved them or swallowed them and shat them out who knows where.

He remembered when he was a small boy that he had been scared shitless by the ghost of Robert. Maybe the eeriness of the dark hole in the ground made it feel sinister.

The cave mouth seemed impossibly small. He would have to squeeze through. It didn’t bother him that there was a risk of getting scratched by the bushes - as long as he could fit into the cave.

He removed the bush and sized up the opening. It’s going to be fucking tight.

I must make it... for Kate-Emily’s sake. He wriggled into position. Propping himself up awkwardly, he only just squeezed through, with one shoulder first and then the other. With a huge effort, he went into the slippery, murky blackness.

It’s fucking dark inside here! He had to adjust his eyes to the gloomy interior of the cave. Slipping in some bat shit (he could hazard a guess that’s what it was), he grabbed on to a rock to steady himself. That, too, was slimy.

“Now where are my diamonds?”, he groped in the semi-darkness.

His eyes readjusting, he glimpsed two of the shiny stones, out of the firing line of the bat shit. They were catching some of the dim light from the hole in the roof. The cloth had disintegrated, leaving them exposed, but they were far back in the hole. Only a small child could have placed them there. But, where was the third one?

Groping around the cave, he found a stick to reach the two precious jewels. Carefully he probed and reached for them, rolling them until he had them securely in his pocket.

He searched for the missing stone for what seemed like hours. It was a foot mark that led him to the diamond. It was glinting with a dull glow on the floor as it caught a lone stray ray of sunlight.

“Thank God!” He picked it up.

Wondering how Kate-Emily was bearing up, he backed himself into position to leave the cave. Fuck, he thought to himself, I’m going to battle my way out of here.

Propping himself on one arm and then other, he tried to work his way out.

“Shit, shit, fuck you Madelaine!” He still had to make his way down the steep slopes of the mountain to get to his horse.

“Fuck, this will take ages”.

He imagined the trauma Kate-Emily would be experiencing at the hands of the vicious Madelaine. She wouldn’t hesitate to remove each one by one of her fingers. It was turning into a fucking mess.

Trying to manoeuvre himself made it worse. He was stuck, doomed to waste away to nothing. He had no chance of surviving this mess. He was truly stuck in the cave.

Jack was stuck for what felt like eternity. The evening and the next day passed. Frustrated, he made continuous attempts to free himself, to no avail. He had found a trickle of water that seeped through the cave. It had kept his spirits up, but taken a toll on his stomach. He couldn’t hold back, and the cave smelt of shit – a smell he was forced to endure.

“I’ll have another fucking go,” he thought aloud.

Perhaps the effect of diarrhoea and the wait had made the difference. He had slimmed down enough to squeeze back through the hole.

The gloomy evening awaited. I must phone Christmas and get him to go see that bitch, Madelaine, he thought.

Anxiously he wondered if his horse had broken loose. He just didn’t need that now. Relieved, he found the horse was where he’d left him, although it was a bit hungry and thirsty and nervous.

Galloping as fast as he could, he covered the five kilometres and reached the Land Rover in the small, coal mining village. It wouldn’t start.


He looked for a vehicle to use but, seeing nothing he could put to work, he knocked on the door and the servant arrived within minutes. He hurriedly asked to use the phone.

There was nothing else to do. He had to phone Chris, who was in Eshowe. Luckily, he remembered his number.

The interminable waiting for Jack to be connected to Christmas seemed like hours.

“Christmas, I need your help,” he pleaded with his old friend.

He gave him the directions. It would take Chris at least an hour to reach that bitch, Madelaine.

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