There were pelicans on the lagoon opposite the golf course. They were feeding, undisturbed by the rain.
"They were so full of their fucking four-by-fours."
"So you assaulted them?" "The fat one hit me first." "Why?"
He turned his head away. "I don't understand you." He made a noise in his throat.
"You can make a living. But you have such a shitty opinion of yourself . . ."
Paarden Island's industries moved past. "What happened?"
Van Heerden looked at the rain, fine drops scurrying across the windshield. He took a deep breath, a sigh for the uselessness of it all. "You can tell a man his four-by-four isn't going to make his prick any larger and he pretends to be deaf. But drag in his wife . . ."
For a brief moment he felt the hate again, the relief, the moment of release of the previous evening: the five middle-aged men, their faces contorted with rage, the blows, the kicks that rained down on him until the three bartenders managed to separate them.
They didn't speak again until Kemp stopped in front of a building on the Foreshore.
"Third floor. Beneke, Olivier, and Partners. Tell Beneke I sent you."
He nodded and opened the door, got out. Kemp looked thoughtfully at him.
Then he closed the door and walked into the building.
He slumped in the chair, lack of respect evident in his posture. She had asked him to sit down. "Kemp sent me," was all he had said. She had nodded, glanced at the injured eye and lip, and ignored them.
"I believe that you and I can help each other, Mr. van Heerden." She tucked her skirt under her as she sat down.
Mister. And the attempt at common ground. He knew this approach. But he said nothing. He looked at her. Wondered from whom she had inherited the nose and the mouth. The large eyes and the small ears. The genetic dice had fallen in strange places for her, leaving her on the edge of beauty.
She had folded her hands on the desk, the fingers neatly interlaced. "Mr. Kemp told me you have experience of investigative work but are not in permanent employ at the moment. I need the help of a good investigator." Norman Vincent Peale. She spoke smoothly and easily. He suspected that she was clever. He suspected she would take longer to unnerve than the average female.
She opened a drawer, took out a file. "Did Kemp tell you I was trash?"
Her hands hesitated briefly. She gave him a stiff smile. "Mr. van Heerden, your personality doesn't interest me. Your personal life doesn't interest me. This is a business proposition. I'm offering you a temporary job opportunity for a professional fee."
So fucking controlled. As if she knew everything. As if her cell phone and her degree were the only defense she needed.
"How old are you?" "Thirty," she said without hesitation.
He looked at her third finger, left hand. It was bare.
"Are you available, Mr. van Heerden?" "It depends on what you want."
From Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer. Copyright © 2000 by Deon Meyer. Translation copyright © 2000 by Madeleine van Biljon.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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