Griessel lifted the toilet lid angrily, aimed and peed.
Suddenly she was on the tar of Signal Hill Road and spotted the woman and dog a hundred metres to the left. Her mouth shaped a cry, two words, but her voice was lost in the rasping of her breath.
She ran towards the woman and her dog. It was big, a Ridgeback.
The woman looked about sixty, white, with a large pink sun hat, a walking stick and a small bag on her back.
The dog was unsettled now. Maybe it smelled her fear, sensed the panic inside her. Her soles slapped on the tar as she slowed. She stopped three metres from them.
Help me, said the girl. Her accent was strong.
Whats wrong? There was concern in the womans eyes. She stepped back. The dog growled and strained on the lead, to get closer to the girl.
Theyre going to kill me.
The woman looked around in fear. But theres nobody.
The girl looked over her shoulder. Theyre coming.
Then she took the measure of the woman and dog and knew they wouldnt make any difference. Not here on the open slope of the mountain. Not against them. She would put them all in danger.
Call the police. Please. Just call the police, she said and ran again, slowly at first, her body reluctant. The dog lunged forward and barked once. The woman pulled back on the lead.
Please, she said and jogged, feet dragging, down the tar road towards Table Mountain. Just call the police.
She looked back once, about seventy paces on. The woman was still standing there bewildered, frozen to the spot.
Benny Griessel flushed the toilet and wondered why he hadnt seen last night coming. He hadnt gone looking for it, it had just happened. Jissis, he shouldnt feel so guilty, he was only human after all.
But he was married.
If you could call it a marriage. Separate beds, separate tables and separate homes. Damn it all, Anna couldnt have everything. She couldnt throw him out of his own house and expect him to support two households, expect him to be sober for six fucking months, and celibate on top of that.
At least he was sober. One hundred and fifty-six days now. More than five months of struggling against the bottle, day after day, hour after hour, till now.
God, Anna must never hear about last night. Not now. Less than a month before his term of exile was served, the punishment for his drinking. If Anna found out, he was fucked, all the struggle and suffering for nothing.
He sighed and stood in front of the mirrored cabinet to brush his teeth. Had a good look at himself. Greying at the temples, wrinkles at the corner of his eyes, the Slavic features. He had never been much of an oil painting.
He opened the cabinet and took out toothbrush and toothpaste.
Whatever had she seen in him, that Bella? There had been a moment last night when he wondered if she was sleeping with him because she felt sorry for him, but he had been too aroused, too bloody grateful for her soft voice and big breasts and her mouth, jissis, that mouth, he had a thing about mouths, thats where the trouble had started. No. It had begun with Lize Beekman, but like Anna would believe that?
Benny Griessel brushed his teeth hurriedly and urgently. Then he jumped under the shower and opened the taps on full, so he could wash all the accusing scents from his body.
It wasnt a bergie. Griessels heart skipped a beat as he climbed over the spiked railings of the church wall and saw the girl lying there. The running shoes, khaki shorts, orange camisole and the shape of her arms and legs told him she was young. She reminded him of his daughter.
Excerpted from Thirteen Hours by Deon Meyer. Copyright © 2010 by Deon Meyer. Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Monthly Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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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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