Excerpt of Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer
(Page 1 of 3)
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He awoke abruptly out of an alcohol-sodden sleep, the pain in
his ribs his first conscious sensation. Then the swollen eye and upper
lip, the antiseptic, musty smell of the cell, the sour odor of his body,
the salty taste of blood and old beer in his mouth. And the relief.
Jigsaw pieces of the previous evening floated into his mind. The
provocation, the annoyed faces, the anger - such normal, predictable
motherfuckers, such decent, conventional pillars of the community.
He remained motionless, on the side that wasn't painful, the hangover
throbbing like a disease through his body.
Footsteps in the corridor outside, a key turning in the lock of the
gray steel door, the grating of metal slicing through his head. Then the
uniform stood there.
"Your attorney's here," the policeman said. Slowly he turned on the
bed. Opened one eye. "Come." A voice devoid of respect.
"I don't have an attorney." His voice sounded far away. The policeman
took a step, hooked a hand into the back of his collar, pulled him
upright. "Come on."
The pain in his ribs. He stumbled through the cell door, down the
paved passage to the charge office.
The uniform walked ahead, used a key to indicate the way to the small
parade room. He entered with difficulty, hurting. Kemp sat there, his
briefcase next to him, a frown on his face. He sat down in a dark blue
chair, his head in his hands. He heard the policeman close the door
behind him and walk away.
"You're trash, Van Heerden," said Kemp. He didn't respond.
"What are you doing with your life?" "What does it matter?" His
swollen lip lisped the s. Kemp's frown deepened. He shook his head.
"They didn't even bother to lay a charge."
He wanted to indulge in the relief, the lessening of the pressure,
but it eluded him. Kemp. Where the fuck did Kemp come from?
"Even dentists know shit when they see it. Jesus, Van Heerden, what's
with you? You're pissing your life away. Dentists? How drunk do you have
to be to take on five dentists?"
"Two were GPs." Kemp took in Van Heerden's appearance. Then the
attorney got up, a big man, clean and neat in a sports jacket and gray
slacks, the neutral colors of the tie a perfect match. "Where's your
He rose to his feet slowly, the world tilting slightly. "At the bar."
Kemp opened the door and walked out. "Come on, then."
Van Heerden followed him into the charge office. A sergeant pushed
his possessions over the counter, a plastic bag containing his slender
wallet and his keys. He took it without making eye contact.
"I'm taking him away," said Kemp. "He'll be back."
The day was cold. The wind knifed through his thin jacket and he
resisted the impulse to pull it closer around his body. Kemp climbed
into his large 4x4, leaned across, and unlocked the passenger door.
Slowly Van Heerden walked around the vehicle, climbed in, closed the
door, and leaned his head against it. Kemp pulled off.
"Which bar?" "The Sports Pub, opposite Panarotti's."
"What happened?" "Why did you fetch me?"
"Because you told the entire Table View police station that I would
sue them and the dentists for everything ranging from assault to
From Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer. Copyright © 2000 by Deon Meyer.
Translation copyright © 2000 by Madeleine van Biljon.