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Authors: Vernon W. Baumann

Daddy Long Legs

BOOK: Daddy Long Legs
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DADDY LONG LEGS

 

A Novel by Vernon W. Baumann

Copyright (c) 2013 by Vernon William Baumann

All rights reserved.  No part of this book may be used, reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law, or in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

 

Although Hope is based on an actual place (as are all the surrounding towns), the people and circumstances are entirely fictitious. I apologise to anyone I may have inadvertently offended. All the characters (unless otherwise stated or previously arranged) are likewise fictitious in nature and any resemblance to persons, alive or dead, is purely co-incidental.

 

Cover design: The Paper Corporation / Shutterstock

 

As always, this novel is dedicated to my wife, Rouxlien.

This has always been your book.

Now it’s finally ours.

Acknowledgements

I want to thank our Holy Father, my Creator and Source of inspiration. God. Thank you for everything. Thank you for this book. To you all praise be due. I want to thank my wife, Rouxlien, for being the main drive behind this novel. You’ve been waiting so long for this story. Finally here it is. I want to thank the Stander family from Luckhoff for their patience, interest and encouragement. I appreciate it. I want to thank my dear friend Wayne Myburgh for his input and participation. Thank you, as always, for your ideas. This time ... just review the damn book please!! Also, a sincere thanks to my good friend Shaun Young for lending an ever present ear. I will miss you bud. Big time. Thanks to Linda Sparks for her encouragement, suggestions and editing. I always appreciate your input. I want to give special thanks to the policemen and officers of the Hopetown police station. Thank you for entertaining a stranger’s strange questions. Finally, I want to thank all those who take the time, effort and money to buy this novel. I hope you enjoy it!

 

One

 

On twenty September, 1984, a very odd nursery rhyme appeared in the classifieds section of the
Hope
Gazette
– a weekly newspaper published by Johan and Susan Volkers in a little Northern Cape town by the same name.

It was a beautiful cloudless Thursday in the town of Hope and spring was slowly awakening from a particularly cold winter slumber. With temperatures climbing steadily, the numerous cattle farmers in the surrounding areas were preparing for calving season while the region’s maize and grain growers were watching recently planted crops with keen interest. The various forecasts for the coming summer were all positive and optimistic, and for a town that largely depended on the prosperity of the surrounding farmers, it was good news all around. It was little wonder then that the week of the twentieth found most in the small Northern Cape town of Hope in good spirits. Gert Kiepersol, son of a prosperous local businessman, even chose this particular week to ask the hand of Maryna Bruwer in marriage. Being a small town, it was a widely celebrated event and featured prominently in the very edition of the
Hope Gazette
mentioned above. Yes. Despite the growing political turmoil, there was every reason to suspect that good times were ahead.

Who could possibly have guessed that the summer of ’84 would turn out to be the bleakest and most dreadful in living memory?

Looking back, it’s surprising that not more people realised the ultimate significance of the bizarre little limerick that appeared in the
Hope Gazette
during that fateful week. In all truth, most readers didn’t even notice it at all. It featured, rather unobtrusively, in the WANTED section of the classifieds. Making use of the budget option, the twisted little poem appeared in Times New Roman, point 9, had no headline and featured no bold type-faced words. The obvious child-like slant of the limerick may also have served to make readers of the
Hope Gazette
overlook it. However, employing the faultless efficacy of hindsight, we may now consider it a glaring oversight that no-one had immediately linked the limerick to the terrible events of the day before. After all, it’s not every day that a nine-year old boy disappears without a trace from a small town in rural South Africa.

Amongst the handful of people that did notice the strange entry in the classifieds section of the
Hope Gazette
was Mavis Vorster. She was immediately critical and dismissive.
Someone
at the
Gazette
had obviously dropped the ball.
Again!
The
Hope Gazette
was hardly a bastion of journalism but Mavis’s reaction was
not
due to a concern over newspaper standards. Some months before, Susan Volkers had published a less than complimentary review of Mavis’s new diner. Some would say that the negative review was in no small part due to Mavis’s blatant flirtation with Susan Volkers’s husband, Johan.
You gotta love small town South Africa.

Jaco van der Merwe, yet another reader who specifically noted the entry, was equally dismissive upon seeing the limerick. But for other reasons. In a mind racked by rancour and recrimination, for him the apparent slip-up in the
Gazette
was just another sign of the deteriorating political situation in the country.

In an effort to “democratise” the Apartheid regime, P.W. Botha, beleaguered South African Prime Minister, had introduced the Tri-cameral Parliament some months before. An attempt to bring Coloured and Indian voters into the Whites-only system, the doomed system had been heavily boycotted. Despite resistance, earlier in that September of 1984, the system had been “voted” into the South African constitution nonetheless. Although Ronald Reagan would veto U.N. sanctions against South Africa less than a week later – according to his policy of Constructive Engagement –
Bittereinders (
political
die-hards) like Van der Merwe knew that White minority rule was at an end. It was this kind of bitterness that made Van der Merwe see every little thing in the light of the white-knuckle politics of “Total Onslaught” South Africa. Even a disturbed children’s poem that pointed to a very sick mind.

This is what Mavis Vorster and Jaco Van der Merwe saw on the morning of the twentieth of September, 1984, on page 19 of the
Hope Gazette
:

 

Hush, little Paulie, don't say a word,
Daddy’s going to give you a little hurt.
And if that little hurt don’t bleed

Daddy's going to make you
choke on his seed.
 

The previous day, Paul Walters had been snatched in broad daylight and plunged into a sordid world of darkness. The killer had written a poem to commemorate the event. About a week later, “little Paulie’s” mangled and violated body would be found a few kilometres outside of town. The terrible reign of Daddy Long Legs had begun. Hope would never be the same again.

 

 

Two

 

‘Okay, so picture this ...’ Ed Jones looked nervously at the two senior creatives sitting before him in the spacious Sandton office. Behind them, a large French window afforded a view of a shaded courtyard teeming with lush vegetation. The junior copywriter looked down at the tattered piece of paper in his sweaty hands.

‘Uh-huh?’ Kyle Devlin was lying back on his plush leather swivel-chair, feet on his desk staring up at the ceiling. He nodded at Ed, motioning for him to continue. Somewhere a phone was ringing.

‘I thought this was a radio ad,’ said Thabo Mofokeng, senior art director and long-time creative partner of Kyle. In the glass-panelled studio visible through the open door of the large office, someone gave a piercing scream. It was followed by a round of raucous laughter. Kyle leaned forward and gave his art director a withering look. He motioned once again for the young creative to resume.

‘Carry on, Ed. Don’t worry about Thabo here. He’s black.’ Kyle winked at the junior copywriter.

Tall, confident, and possessed with a disarming attractiveness, Kyle Devlin leaned back and rubbed his hand across the short bristles of his brush cut. Dressed in a Diesel t-shirt and Levi’s jeans, Kyle was the very picture of advertising success; a creative director in charge of his own division. And barely into his thirties.

‘Um, okay.’ The young copywriter looked uncertainly at his two superiors and resumed reading from a tattered piece of paper. When he finished reading his radio advert, Ed placed the paper on his lap with shaky hands. Kyle folded his hands into a triangle beneath his chin and stared at the ceiling nodding slowly. Thabo sighed expansively.

‘May I, your worship?’

‘Of course, hon.’ Kyle winked at the slim and lanky black man seated at his table with a gigantic toy crayon between his legs. A paper plane whizzed past the open door. In the studio outside, two creatives were busy wrestling on a designer couch.

Thabo continued. ‘Dude, it lacks a bit of ...
oomph
, you know?’ He gesticulated dramatically. ‘It needs a little
je ne sais quoi
...’ Kyle rolled his eyes at his art director’s theatricality. ‘A little
chutzpah
,’ Thabo said, throwing his hands into the air.

‘Yes,’ Kyle said after a moment, shaking his head, ‘Rabbi Mofokeng is correct.’ Thabo chuckled. ‘But at the same time, it’s just retail radio, man, so don’t over complicate it. No need to re-invent the wheel on this one.’ Kyle paused. ‘You know what a Creative Director of mine told me years ago? He said “Kyle, some clients just aren’t worth it. Sometimes you just gotta take the money and run.” And this is one of those clients. Okay?’

‘Okay,’ Ed said, slowly nodding.

‘What’s the deal again?’ Kyle asked.

‘Uh ...’ Ed looked down at the advertising brief, attached to his ad print-out. ‘Take out a cell phone contract and get a free TV.’

‘Okay, what about this? Start off with an announcement like “Warning! This deal is only suitable for sensible viewers” ... and then straight into the deal. Piece o’ cake. You got it?’

Ed thought for a moment. ‘Wow. Cool. That’s a nice idea,’ Ed said genuinely impressed.

‘Of course it is,
bra
. That’s why they pay me the big money. Now finish this stuff and get cracking on that L’orient Cosmetics brief. Now
that
shit will win you a
Loerie
, my main man.’

Ed stood up re-invigorated. “
Schweet
. Thanks, Kyle.’ He nodded at Thabo and exited.

‘Ah, the folly of youth,’ Thabo said with
faux
philosophical wistfulness.

‘Think fast, junior!’ Kyle said lobbing a rugby ball at his art director. Thabo reached for the ball but it bounced against his outstretched hands. And slammed neatly into the shocked face of Derek Lategan, Client Service Director.

‘Holy shit! Are you guys insane?’ Derek asked flailing wildly.

‘Chips! It’s a suit.’ Kyle ducked behind his desk screaming like a girl. Thabo took exaggerated slow motion strides towards Derek. Peering out from under his desk, Kyle mimicked the soundtrack of
Chariots of Fire.
The prancing art director flung himself onto the unimpressed agency executive, bringing both of them crashing onto the couch flanking the doorway. He made exaggerated sexual motions with his pelvis, flinging a hand into the air, cowboy-style.

‘Yeah, baby, yeah.’

‘Oh, for God’s sake ... really,’ Derek said with mild irritation. ‘You wouldn’t say the two of you were in your thirties.’

Kyle emerged from his desk laughing. ‘Hey, Lategan. How’s our favourite suit doing on this fine morning?’ Kyle’s tone was not patronising but genuine. Although a stiff, formal type – the ideal client service executive – Derek was one of Kyle’s most treasured allies in the fluctuating world of agency politics.

Thabo dug in the top pocket of Derek’s
Hugo Boss
suit and extracted a packet of Dunhill cigarettes. ‘Hey
baas (
boss
)
, can I bum a smoke?’ He took out a cigarette without waiting for an answer.

‘Well, I was a lot better until I entered the
frikking
psychiatric ward,’ Derek said snatching the pack of cigarettes from Thabo.

‘So,
bru
, what brings you to our little corner of the world?’ Kyle spurted the rich liquid into a Styrofoam cup. He clicked two pills into the steaming brew and handed the cup and a wooden stirrer to the client service director.

‘That
stratcom
meeting for Kamayota is on, man. Tomorrow, eleven o’ clock.’
Stratcom
was agency speak for strategic communications. An important meeting in which the marketing strategy of a particular brand is formulated for an entire financial year.

‘Oh for God’s sake, Derek, man.’ Kyle spun around and slammed his hands down on the table. Kyle turned to face Derek. ‘Dude, this is bullshit. I don’t have time for this ... this
kak
!’Kyle threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. He spun around and eyed Derek ominously. ‘It’s Charles, isn’t it?’

Derek Lategan sighed laboriously. ‘Yep. He insists.’

Charles Baker. Managing Director at the Sandton branch of Davis Corke; rising star in the agency ... and all-round prick, at least in the eyes of the majority of the creatives. Charles Baker was the true epitome of the advertising executive – patronising and obsequious in equal measure whenever the situation required it. He was a true wheeler and dealer with a Masters degree in backstabbing and manipulation. Whenever Kyle thought of Charles he always remembered something Billy Rosehill – a former creative director at the Corke – used to say: ‘Kyle, my son, this is the only industry in which shit floats to the top.’

The enmity between Kyle and Baker had a long history. During a particularly strenuous pitch for a new client’s business, Kyle had opposed Baker concerning the strategic direction of the brand. It had been a vitriolic clash. Kyle’s arguments had won the day, and even though his proposed strategy eventually won them the business, Baker never forgave Kyle for his public opposition. And the humiliation Kyle had dished out to him. The natural dislike between the two men had grown from there into something approaching simmering hatred.

‘Ah, screw him, man. Screw him.’ Kyle got to his feet. ‘These meetings are bullshit. Hours of tedious
kak
(shit) with a bunch of agency wankers blowing hot steam out of their asses trying to prove how bright and educated they are.’ He sat down next to Derek sighing in resignation. ‘Whatever. It’s not as if the opinions of a creative director matters upstairs, is it now?’

‘Come now, old man,’ Derek said slapping Kyle on the knee. ‘You should know by now us suits only keep you creative types around for the window dressing ... and to spice up agency parties.’ Derek paused. ‘Besides, client’s gonna be there. And you know the brass balls upstairs. They’re never going to miss an opportunity to bend for client.’

‘Aha.’ Kyle pointed at Derek in triumph. ‘Spoken like a true creative. It’s not too late. We can still save you, man.’

Derek chuckled absently. ‘Okay, let me be out of here,’ he said. He straightened his suit. ‘You two dregs coming to the party tonight?’ Amongst many things, the Corke was famous in the local industry for its parties. Every conceivable excuse was employed to host yet another legendary Davis Corke hoe-down. In this case it was the annual Spring party – one of the year’s biggest events.

‘Hey, if we didn’t come it wouldn’t be a party,’ Thabo said.

‘Shame,’ Derek said smiling, ‘it’s good to have some value, isn’t it?’

‘Dammit, don’t we just love this guy,’ Thabo said to Kyle.

‘Yeah, you and my wife’s lawyer,’ Derek replied sourly.

‘Ouch.’ Kyle said, looking at his old friend with sympathy. ‘How’s that going, man?’

‘There are some things I just don’t discuss in polite company. Let’s leave it at that.’

‘Damn, I can imagine.’ Kyle shook his head. He thought of Angelique, his wife. ‘I’m just glad I’m not going through something like that.’

It was a statement that would come back to haunt Kyle.

‘Yeah. See you guys later.’ Derek disappeared through the door.

There was silence as both stared at the empty door frame. ‘Bummer,’ Thabo said.

Kyle sighed. ‘Sure is.’

Thabo looked at his
Diesel
watch. ‘Come, let’s get this party started.’

Kyle stood for a moment, in thought. ‘Ok wait. Let me just phone Angelique and tell her I’m going to be late.’ Kyle selected a contact on his cell phone and dialled. There was no answer. After a moment he killed the call, frowning. ‘I hope they’ve broken out the hard tack. I’m gonna need a strong drink, that’s for sure.’

Like most agencies in South Africa, the Corke had its own in-house bar that opened every day after five. Beers and ciders free on weekdays, hard tack
gratis
on Fridays and special occasions. Today was definitely a special occasion.

Kyle followed Thabo through the open door of their office. Next door, Lindsey – Kyle’s P.A. – was busy typing furiously. The sounds of 94.7 FM floated across the empty space. ‘You coming, Linds?’ Kyle asked. The pretty twenty-something girl smiled and held up her palm and extended fingers, indicating five minutes. Kyle gave her a thumbs up.

Kyle and Lindsey had been together almost as long as he and Thabo. Through good times and hard times, their relationship had grown into something far deeper than a mere professional association. In the dog-eat-dog world of advertising, Lindsey was the third point of the triad that assured Kyle’s department’s success. Kyle and Thabo had themselves been in a creative partnership for almost five years. In ad agencies, the creative work is usually done by a team consisting of a copywriter and art director. Successful teams often stay together for years. In the same way, when Kyle was offered the position of creative director at Davis Corke a few years back, Thabo was a part of the package and made the move with him.


Schweet
,’ Kyle said, beaming.

Kyle and Thabo passed Lindsey’s office and ambled towards the staircase that would take them down to ground level where the bar was located. Festive noises drifted from below. Next to them, an elevator pinged and opened up. A tall black youth stepped out of the elevator interior. It was Sibusiso, a young art director from another department. He threw his hands up to the air and affected a falsetto.

‘Yo
w’zuuuup
,
Niggaaaaa
.’ He greeted Thabo with an elaborate series of handshakes. As the highest ranking black creative in the agency, Thabo was somewhat of a hero to the younger black creatives. ‘Hey Kyle, what’s up?’

‘Howzit dude.’

‘Hey Thabo, you wanna?’ Sibusiso swiped his forefinger under his nose throwing his head back. It was the universal sign for
schnarf
...
blow
...
icing
... cocaine. The Vitamin C that powered the agency engine. The powder that fuelled the high-octane lives of people in an impossibly demanding industry. It was also the same stuff that caused some of the industry’s most spectacular meltdowns.

‘Dude, now you’re talking,’ Thabo said with enthusiasm. He looked at Kyle. ‘You gonna join us,
bro
?’

Kyle shook his head. He had learned a long time ago to steer clear of the industry’s single biggest vice. ‘You kids go enjoy yourself.’

‘Catch up with you later,’ Thabo said walking with Sibusiso to the bathrooms.

Kyle carried on down the elaborate staircase. The building had once housed a firm of powerhouse attorneys and everything in the architecture and layout affirmed this. Several agency staff passed him on the staircase, most greeting him with fondness. With more than a few he exchanged jovialities and friendly words. The party mood in the agency was building to a fever pitch. Oh yeah, baby. It was going to be another legendary Corke soireé.

At the bottom of the staircase, Kyle passed the sweeping reception desk. He had met up with a girl from media planning, and they were skipping towards the bar area, arm in arm. Someone called his name. He turned around and saw Luz, the luscious Davis Corke receptionist, holding a phone in her hand. She motioned for him. ‘Hi Kyle. I’ve been trying to reach you in your office. I’ve got a call for you. Do you want to take it upstairs?’

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