He vaguely remembered his charge-office tirade. "My attorney." Mockingly.
"I'm not your attorney, Van Heerden." The ache in the swollen eye killed his laughter. "Why did you fetch me?"
Aggressively Kemp changed gears. "Fuck alone knows." Van Heerden turned his head and looked at the man behind the steering wheel. "You want something."
"You owe me."
"I owe you nothing."
Kemp drove, looking for the pub. "Which car is yours?" He pointed to the Corolla.
"I'll follow you. I have to get you clean and respectable."
He got out, walked across the road, and got into the Toyota. He found it difficult to unlock the door, his hand shaking. The engine stuttered, wheezed, and eventually fired. He drove to Koeberg Road, left past Killarney, onto the N7, wind suddenly sweeping rain across the road. Left to Morning Star and left again to the entrance to the smallholding, Kemp's imported American Ford behind him. He looked at the big house among the trees but turned off to the small whitewashed building and stopped.
Kemp stopped next to him, opening his window just a crack against the rain. "I'll wait for you."
First of all he showered, without pleasure, letting the hot water sluice over his body, his hands automatically soaping the narrow space between shoulder and chest and belly - just the soap, no washcloth, careful over the injured part of the ribs. Then, methodically, he washed the rest of himself, leaning his head against the wall for balance as he did first one foot, then the other, eventually turning off the taps and pulling the thin, overlaundered white towel from the rail. Sooner or later he would have to buy a new towel. He let the hot tap of the washbasin run, cupped his hands under the slow stream, and threw the water over the mirror to wash away the steam. He squeezed a dollop of shaving cream into his left hand, dipped the shaving brush into it, made it foam. He lathered his face.
The eye looked bad, red and puffy. Later it would be purplish blue. Most of the scab on his lip had been washed off. Only a thin line of dried blood remained.
He pulled the razor from the left ear downward, all the way across the skin, over the jawline into the neck, then started at the top again, without looking at himself. Pulled the skin of his jaw to tighten it around the mouth, then did the right side, rinsed the razor, cleaned the basin with hot water, dried off again. Brushed his hair. Had to clean the brush: it was clogged with black hair.
Had to buy new underpants. Had to buy new shirts. Had to buy new socks. Trousers and jacket still reasonable. Fuck the tie. The room was dark and cold. Rain against the windows at ten past eleven in the morning.
He walked out. Kemp opened the door of the 4x4.
There was a long silence that lasted as far as Milnerton.
"You want something."
"One of our assistants has started her own practice. She needs help."
"You owe her."
Kemp merely snorted. "What happened last night?"
"I was drunk."
"What happened last night that was different?"
From Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer. Copyright © 2000 by Deon Meyer. Translation copyright © 2000 by Madeleine van Biljon.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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