Rough Diamonds

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Chapter 91

James Roderick

He felt a firm hand on his shoulder when he entered the passage to the toilets. Roderick noticed the policeman was holding his arm as far away as possible. He was angry with himself for soiling his pants.

“Officer, I need a change of underwear as well as a pair of pants.”

The officer escorted Roderick to the parked vehicle that was waiting to drive him back to the prison. “You’ll have to get back to the Eshowe jail before you can change.”

Back in the jail, Roderick could see that he was garnering a lot of negative attention from the inmates and officers alike.

He felt absolutely alone in the world.

The next day, Roderick was ushered through the door back to the court. He noticed the gallery staring at him. He was sure that everybody was thinking about the ‘fouling’ incident.

He rose, along with the prosecution, defence and gallery, as Judge Riebeek entered the court.

Roderick noticed Abercrombie staring at him with a look of pity. He felt ashamed to be on exhibit in front of dozens of people who realised what he had done. He thought to himself: I feel miserable and I regret murdering Madelaine.

Roderick watched as Abercrombie got to his feet. How long could he keep lying? He remembered the words of the oath: “ ...the whole truth and nothing but the truth... ”

“I’d like to subpoena Kate-Emily Retief to appear in camera, your worship,” Roderick heard Abercrombie say. “She’s waiting outside in the company of her foster parents, Mr and Mrs Thomson.”

Judge Riebeek instructed: “Clear the court.”

Roderick could hear the groans and moans of the public as they shuffled their way out the court doors. He wondered what the girl planned to say. He watched as she was helped into the witness stand, hand in hand with her foster father. She let go, and Roderick saw the two exchange encouraging words. She positioned herself to face the barrage of questions.

He estimated she was not yet five, and she had an unruly tangle of brown or black hair (he couldn’t tell the colour in the subdued courtroom lighting).

Abercrombie spoke: “Kate-Emily, my name is Clyde Abercrombie. I’d like you to answer some questions. Are you ready?”

Roderick saw Kate-Emily look him square in the eyes. She calmly said: “Yes.”

“Do you have the bracelet that your great-grandparents gave to you?”

“No.” The small child seemed determined.

“No? What do you mean? How did you come to own the bracelet?”

“My late aunt left it for me as a gift.”

“You used the word ‘late’. What happened to your aunt?”

Roderick saw that Kate-Emily looked unprepared for that question. He was astounded by the answer she gave.

“She died in the orphanage. My aunt had to put up with all sorts of crap when... ”

Judge Riebeek stepped in. “Young lady, don’t use those sorts of words in court. Thinking about it, outside of court, too.”

Kate-Emily looked the judge in the eye, unflinching. “... when she wasn’t given medicine at that place.”

“What’s ‘that’ place?” Abercrombie queried.

“The orphanage,” Kate-Emily replied.

“Could you show the court your bracelet?”

Kate-Emily held out her arm and displayed the bracelet hanging loosely from her left wrist.

“Let’s move on.

“What happened to your grandparents?”

Judge Riebeek stated: “That’s not the type of question you should ask of a young lady. Strike it off the records, stenographer.”

“I’m done with Kate-Emily. No further questions, your worship.”

Roderick watched Abercrombie take his seat.

Oosthuizen rose. “You say that your late aunt left it you?”

Roderick saw the child tilt her head in a nod of agreement.

“Please speak up,” Oosthuizen insisted.

“Yes.” Roderick noticed that the child stared straight into Oosthuizen’s eyes.

“How do we know that you got the bracelet from your aunt through your great-grandparents?”

Roderick saw the girl look down at the bracelet.

“Here’s my late aunt’s name on it.” She held up her wrist for the court to see, but Roderick knew the engraving was less than a five millimetres wide.

Oosthuizen asked: “Could you take it off and pass it to me, please?”

Kate-Emily seemed ready to defy Oosthuizen.

Judge Riebeek said: “You can take the bracelet off.”

She used her left hand to unclip the clasp and the bracelet fell into the outstretched palm of her left hand.

“Please give it to the court orderly to hold up to show everyone,” Oosthuizen said.

“Let the court’s stenographer record show what is engraved on this bracelet from Kate-Emily. It says ‘Kate-Emily’. Did you say you’d got it from your late aunt?”

“Yes.” She followed up with a stare at Oosthuizen.

Roderick listened as Oosthuizen finished questioning the child. Then Oosthuizen sat down.

Next, Abercrombie stood. “I’d like to call Dr Swanepoel to the witness stand.”

An icy shiver coursed along Roderick’s spine.

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