05:36: a girl runs up the steep slope of Lions Head. The sound of
her running shoes urgent on the broad footpaths gravel.
At this moment, as the suns rays pick her out like a searchlight against the mountain, she is the image of carefree grace. Seen from behind, her dark plait bounces against the little rucksack. Her neck is deeply tanned against the powder blue of her T-shirt. There is energy in the rhythmic stride of her long legs in denim shorts. She personifies athletic youth vigorous, healthy, focused. Until she stops and looks back over her left shoulder. Then the illusion disintegrates. There is anxiety in her face. And utter exhaustion.
She does not see the impressive beauty of the city in the rising suns soft light. Her frightened eyes search wildly for movement in the tall fynbos shrubbery behind her. She knows they are there, but not how near. Her breath races from exertion, shock and fear. It is adrenaline, the fearsome urge to live, that drives her to run again, to keep going, despite her aching legs, the burning in her chest, the fatigue of a night without sleep and the disorientation of a strange city, a foreign country and an impenetrable continent.
Ahead of her the path forks. Instinct spurs her to the right, higher, closer to the Lions rocky dome. She doesnt think, there is no plan. She runs blindly, her arms the pistons of a machine, driving her on.
Detective Inspector Benny Griessel was asleep.
He dreamed he was driving a huge tanker on a downhill stretch of the N1 between Parow and Plattekloof. Too fast and not quite in control. When his cell phone rang, the first shrill note was enough to draw him back to reality with a fleeting feeling of relief. He opened his eyes and checked the radio clock. It was 05:37. He swung his feet off the single bed, dream forgotten. For an instant he perched motionless on the edge, like a man hovering on a cliff. Then he stood up and stumbled to the door, down the wooden stairs to the living room below, to where he had left his phone last night. His hair was unkempt, too long between trims. He wore only a pair of faded rugby shorts. His single thought was that a call at this time of the morning could only be bad news.
He didnt recognise the number on the phones small screen.
Griessel, his voice betrayed him, hoarse with the first word of the day.
Hey, Benny, its Vusi. Sorry to wake you.
He struggled to focus, his mind fuzzy. Thats OK.
Weve got a . . . body.
St Martini, the Lutheran church up in Long Street.
In the church?
No, shes lying outside.
Ill be there now.
He ended the call and ran a hand through his hair.
She, Inspector Vusumuzi Ndabeni had said.
Probably just a bergie. Another tramp who had drunk too much of something or other. He put the phone down beside his brand new second-hand laptop.
He turned, still half asleep, and bashed his shin against the front wheel of the bicycle leaning against his pawnshop sofa. He grabbed it before it toppled. Then he went back upstairs. The bicycle was a vague reminder of his financial difficulties, but he didnt want to dwell on that now.
In the bedroom he took off his shorts and the musky scent of sex drifted up from his midriff.
The knowledge of good and evil suddenly weighed heavily on him. Along with the events of the previous night, it squeezed the last remaining drowsiness from his brain. Whatever had possessed him?
He tossed the shorts in an accusatory arc onto the bed and walked through to the bathroom.
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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