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Authors: Ian Patrick

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Death Dealing

BOOK: Death Dealing
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Text copyright © 2015 Ian Patrick


All Rights Reserved


This book is a work of fiction and except
in the case of historical fact any resemblance to any persons living or dead is


Cover designed by RGS




To my wife, my best critic and friend








is the final in a series of four connected but
stand-alone books. Each can be read as an independent self-contained volume. Or
they can be read in sequence or out of sequence as four related episodes in
which the central themes and major characters reappear in other episodes, the
intention being to provide an overall organic and cohesive narrative for the

The four individual volumes explore moral and ethical choices
made by police in their day-to-day confrontation with rampant and brutal crime
in contemporary South Africa. The texts are fictional but based on field
research and the author’s physical exploration of the local environment,
including actual locations where different events take place. Interviews were
conducted with detectives and forensics experts both currently active and
retired, and with local observers and participants, including victims of crime.
The action aims for authenticity and plausibility, and strives to be resonant
of conditions on the ground. The research included detective-guided tours of
front-line scenes in the war against crime, and of police facilities, protocols
and procedures. Actual events are reflected alongside fictive events, although
all characters are fictional.

In the thoroughly
absorbing task of writing this book and its predecessor volumes over a few
years, I owe an inestimable debt to many people. Some of them prefer to remain
anonymous. Others have graciously allowed me to name them. To all of them I
offer enormous thanks and gratitude.

First and foremost in the ranks of
people to whom I am grateful are my family. As much as I value reading, and
however indebted I am to the craftspeople of literature throughout history who
have instilled in me a love of words, I cannot find language that will
sufficiently express my gratitude to my wife and my two sons. They have
tolerated with great patience my frequent retreats into the silent joys of research
and creative writing.

The police
who took me into KwaMashu in April 2015 to study
some of his
work on the front line
as he described it, had no idea that he would be taking me into the teeth of a
dramatic xenophobic storm on that particular day.
allowed me to sit with him while we watched drug-dealers at work. He explained
in meticulous detail exactly what was going down before my eyes, and how the
team of children (for that’s what they were) played their individual roles in a
sophisticated series of drug trades. We watched as the various role-players
passed money and contraband on the street, as cars and motorcycles and
pedestrians slipped past the youthful traders and quick sleight-of-hand saw
packages and money being exchanged, unnoticed by most of the people passing in
the road.

After taking me to different locations to watch the kinds of
crime that permeate society on many street-corners, it was time for the
detective to return me to base. As he did so, we ran into a horde of people
caught in the throes of massive protest. Violent action hit the streets and the
country reeled in shock at what became media headlines for the following week
about xenophobic violence. The detective ensured that I was returned safely to
my base in Durban, and I wrote that night into the early hours of the morning,
trying to capture the flavour of what I had seen that day. I begged my
detective to allow me to identify him and thank him in print for his support,
but he declined. Nevertheless, although he felt more comfortable remaining
anonymous in this prefatory statement, he kindly allowed me to name after him
one of my characters
in the second of my four
volumes. I am pleased to pay homage to this extraordinarily helpful detective
in this way, and I thank him for his time, dedication, interest, and
unwavering commitment in the mammoth task of South African police work.

I am indebted to many
people for their willingness to correct my misconceptions, and to enable me to
adjust some of the nuances in my writing in the interest of ensuring more
authentic depiction of the day-to-day work of the police. Any remaining
mistakes are entirely mine.

I am grateful to Gerrit
Smit for very helpful detailed conversations about police procedure and
protocol. This ranged from day-to-day interactions among police both in the
field and in the station office, to procedures and protocols and actions and
behaviour at crime scenes. In particular he gave me wonderfully detailed
descriptions about the work of police divers (who feature briefly in the third
volume of this quartet).

My thanks go also to
Captain Saigal Singh. The enormous wealth of his experience as both a detective
and forensics specialist were particularly exciting for me, having studied
various courses on forensics and crime scene management in order more
accurately to write certain scenes. It was illuminating to have him hold up a
mirror of extraordinary reality to what I had until then only studied
academically. I gained valuable insights from his frank and honest conversation
about the emotional impact of their work on forensics investigators. His
uninhibited discussion of these matters made an indelible impression upon me. I
hope I have reflected his thoughts faithfully and honestly, particularly in this
final volume.

Penny Katz was helpful
beyond any call of duty. Apart from referring me to front-line detectives she
gave me insights into aspects of crime and policing that have proved enriching
beyond what I had imagined possible. To interview victims of crime, and to go
some small way toward understanding the pain and loss and trauma involved, has
greatly affected my approach to research and writing. My personal experience of
family trauma as a result of crime now plays only a background role in my writing,
but Penny allowed me insight into facets of this experience that I greatly

Some potential
interviewees chose to decline my requests for interviews, and of course I
entirely respect their choices in this regard. In one or two other cases, after
initial readiness to participate the contact went cold and emails and
phone-calls were simply ignored. I suspect that this was not unrelated to me
mentioning that I would also be covering police corruption in my work. But even
in those cases willing and helpful comments were received from people working
in the very same offices as those who ignored my calls and emails.

I extend grateful thanks, therefore, to many people, ranging
from police Brigadiers to Detectives and Constables both retired and currently
active, from victims of crime to forensic investigators, and from my family to
friends and colleagues. Many of them don’t know exactly how helpful they have
been to me even in brief communications or by referring me to other sources. Hennie
Heymans, a retired policeman in Pretoria, has done extraordinary work in
preserving the historical record on policing in South Africa, and he answered
my questions promptly and with extensive knowledge of the past.

For any shallowness, superficiality or mistakes that might
remain in my text, I apologise to these sources. I offer the excuse that the
act of writing transports me into realms of satisfaction and joy. Not a day
goes by during which I do not marvel at my good fortune in being able to create
characters both evil and understandable, or both fun-loving and deadly serious.
I live each day with them, exploring their thoughts and actions, enjoying their
deviousness, their energy, their witty remarks, their preconceptions and
multiple subjectivities, and the excitement of their lives. They frequently
surprise me. Where on earth do they find the things they say to each other? How
is it possible that these inventions of my imagination take over control of the
creative process, elbow me aside for a moment, and entice me down paths that I
had no intention of following? How is it possible that they can teach me so
many things about my own preconceptions?

I derive great pleasure from coaxing my characters out of the
shadows and refining and polishing them in an attempt to reflect authenticity
and plausibility. Some of them move me emotionally, and some of them are
devilishly evasive and lying villains. But they all fascinate me and I carry
them in my head even now, many months and in some cases years after they first
appeared at my fingertips. I want to know what makes them tick, and I want to
know their counterparts in real life.

I have gone out into the field many times to find out more
about my fictitious characters because I insist on plausibility and
authenticity in fiction. Otherwise how will we learn about our lives?

Ian Patrick, November


Thursday, 22.25.


ensuing discussion of local hijacking incidents and housebreaking and murder
and armed robbery and grievous bodily harm and rape and disembowelment seemed
to Ryder to provoke far more polite and gentle and rational conversation among
his guests than had the subject matter of crime fiction.


Death Dealing, Chapter 7



Two burly guards were not enough to
bring the screaming prisoner down the passage into the cell. He collapsed, shouting
and kicking, and clung to the railings as they tried to prise him off and drag
him to the gate. The warder cursed and called for another two men. He added,
almost as an after-thought:
and send a
needle and some of the stuff to calm him down

The guards couldn’t prise the man’s
fingers off the railings, so they sat on him and waited for the reinforcements.
It was a matter of only minutes before two more men arrived in the company of a
nurse. She was carrying her bag of goodies for troublesome prisoners.

‘I hope you have a double-dose in
there,’ the warder said. ‘This bastard is causing grief.’

‘Triple-dose,’ she replied. ‘They
told me it was Wakashe again. Or at least that’s one of the names he uses. Apparently
they finally recorded his name on the file as Mofokeng, but I know the guy from
this morning when he was still called Wakashe by one of the other prisoners who
seemed to know him well. He’s a sneaky bastard. He’s been screaming and
fighting all day since they brought him in. They handcuffed him to the fence
outside from the moment he arrived, while they processed the others, so that
they could hear themselves speak in the office. Then it took three men to bring
him in from outside and make him stand still while they fingerprinted him. He
was screaming that they had the wrong man and that it was the third time they
had taken his prints. We told him he was having prints for the third time
because his ten year sentence had just been changed to thirty years by order of
his tribal chief.’

‘And he believed you?’

‘Yes. Idiot.
For a
few seconds.
Time enough to get the prints done.’

Throughout this exchange the warder
watched as she opened her bag, took out the phials, prepared the syringe and
got ready for the injection.

‘We could see from the moment he
arrived that he was going to be trouble,’ she said. ‘I’ve been expecting this.
That’s why I’ve made it a triple. OK, guys. Get him into the cell.’

The two new guards wasted no time.
One of them carried a short piece of metal piping in his hand. He gave the
prisoner one chance only.

‘OK, Wakashe.
Or Mofokeng. Or whatever you call yourself today.
Are you going to let go now, or do you want your fingers smashed?’

The prisoner responded by whimpering
and adjusting his hands to make his grip on the railings even more secure. The warder
nodded and the guard responded by smashing the pipe over the prisoner’s right
hand, fracturing the second and third metacarpals. This immediately loosened his
grip on the railing with that hand. The horror of the blow and the excruciating
pain along with the piercing scream did not, however, lead to a loosening of
the left hand. The guard looked again at the warder, received the nod, and
immediately struck again. This time he broke the proximal phalanx in the left
index finger and the distal phalanx of the left thumb. The prisoner screamed
and let both hands fall to the ground. The man with the pipe then stamped on
the left hand, adding a crushed carpus to the damage, along with screams that
echoed down the corridor and burst into the holding area out front.

‘OK. That’s enough. Take him
through. Looks like he won’t be having dinner.’

The four guards obeyed the
instruction from the warder, dragged the man into the cell, and threw him onto
the bed. Two of them held him while the woman followed up promptly and thrust
the needle into him. She pumped in the full contents of the syringe.

They locked the cell door and the
four guards started walking back down the passageway, the man with the iron
pipe saying they had to get back to the east corridor to guard the dinner

‘Thanks, men,’ said the warder. ‘See
you later. Thanks very much,’ he added to the nurse. ‘Show only a single dose
in your report, OK?’

‘Of course,’ she replied, and
followed after the guards.

The warder then addressed the
prisoner, who was murmuring, weeping in agony, and trying to find some way of
positioning his mangled hands to alleviate the pain.

‘You’ll sleep it off. If you’re lucky
you might even have your hands set by the time you wake up. Idiot. When will
you guys learn? Next time, you obey me when I give you an order, and you won’t
get any bones broken. Next time we’ll use electricity on you. Understand? Then
you’ll have something to scream about, my friend.’

As the warder walked down the
passage he caught, momentarily, the gaze of one of the two prisoners in the
cell opposite the newly incarcerated man. It was only a very brief contact.
This was a prisoner whose gaze had unnerved the warder when the man first
arrived at the prison, and he now felt unnerved again. The guy’s eyes were
weird, the warder thought. He did not pause but walked on down to the gate.

Skhura Thabethe waited for the warder
to turn the corner before he spoke to his new neighbour across the passage.

‘Hey. You hear me? Hey!
. You hear me?’


The man uttered his response from the deepest wells of pain. He couldn’t even
focus on the direction of the voice that was addressing him.

‘You listen to me,

The injured man raised his head and
looked across. He saw two men in the cell opposite. He made eye contact with
Thabethe, and immediately went silent. These were the eyes of an evil man, he
thought, while shuddering in response to each of the agonising spasms from his
hands. This was what he imagined the devil to look like. The eyes were like…
what were they like? They were eyes that were not human. Red veins against a
dirty yellow that was supposed to be where the whites of the eyes were. Eyes bigger
than most eyes he had ever seen. And black in the centre.
black holes in the centre.
Holes that were like…
Empty black holes. Staring at him.

‘What are you saying?’ The man spoke
to Thabethe in Zulu, and Thabethe responded fluently in kind, although he had
often said to strangers that
was not his mother tongue.

‘Listen to me. Quietly. They’ll come
and take you to the hospital room, just down there.
tonight, maybe in the morning, early.
They’ll come for you. You want to
get out of this place? We can help you get out.’

The man was immediately on his
guard. Through the searing pain he thought of stories he had heard of prisoners
like this playing the newcomer, taking advantage of the naive new inmates and
ripping them off. But he was in too much pain to entertain a dialogue with this
man with the strange eyes. Whatever they had injected into him was beginning to
take hold. He felt himself drifting. He knew that whatever they had pumped into
his bloodstream was designed to put him down and out. He could feel the room

Before he passed out he registered
some of what the man with the eyes was telling him.
Be careful of the warder and the guards. They use electric shocks on
the prisoners in here. They drug the prisoners. Some prisoners have died. No
guard has ever been arrested for the murder of a prisoner. We have to get out,
or we’ll die in this place. When the builders finish the construction work
outside in the new sector they’ll take us back to the crowded cells. We’ll have
no chance there…

And he half-registered some other
strange things the man with the eyes was saying, about bicycles. No. Not
bicycles. What had the man with the fixed stare said to him? Not bicycles…wheelchairs.
There were three wheelchairs in the room where they fixed up the prisoners who
were hurt. One of the wheelchairs in there was broken. It had been there for

is also a spoke wrench on the windowsill

The man was asleep.

Thabethe stared at him. He wondered how
much information he had got through to the wounded prisoner before he had faded.
By the time the man passed out Thabethe had whispered to him across the
corridor that the nursing room was the only place where there was no guard on
duty. The nurse would clean him up, inject him, do whatever they did, but would
go in and out of the room doing her business and leave him alone.
In and out.
She would leave him all alone in the room for
minutes at a time. There was a chance, while she was out. He could get things
from inside that room while the nurse was out.

back with one spoke
, Thabethe had
said to him. One spoke from the broken wheelchair. One spoke was all that was
Put it down your trouser-leg. Try
and stick it there with sticking plaster or something. Get that one spoke for
me and I’ll get you and me, and this man here, all three of us, out of this

What were the chances? Thabethe
wondered whether this new guy was up to it. His hands were smashed. Maybe the
fight had gone out of him.

‘You think he’ll do it, Mgwazeni?’

I’m thinking maybe he’s too messed up, Skhura. We have to see.’

Thabethe nodded in agreement with

Nothing to do but



Ryder could never sleep on an
aircraft. It was usually dinner then a movie.
Then a whisky.
Then another movie.
Then, on this occasion, there
would be an attempt at reading some of the documents he had collected in Oxford
and London. In the early hours of the morning there would be another movie.
Eventually, he thought, there would emerge the merciful sounds of breakfast in
the galley. Which would mean one thing only to him. Coffee.

But that was all still a long way
ahead. They were somewhere over the Sahara, he reckoned. No. Maybe further
Johannesburg still more than six hours away.
Damn! Surely we’ve been flying for longer
than only four to five hours?
He couldn’t be bothered to check the screen yet
again for the moving map of his journey, and his seat on the aisle provided no access
to a window, which in any case at that altitude and in the dark would provide
no information about where they were.

Not yet ready for that next movie,
he retreated into memory. He replayed the last five days since he had left
Durban and flown off to England, at the request of Captain Nyawula.

Nyawula had been asked by the
Brigadier to take the trip to England himself, to link up with a few
specialists in crime and policing, and with a few academics in the field. In
order to satisfy the demands of a donor who had set up a fund to send top
Durban cops to England.
create productive links
Which was shorthand for
something can be done about crime in this region? What’s wrong with
our guys? They need to learn from people who know how to do it.
Brigadier, despite his irritation at the assumptions being made by the donor,
had thought it was a good opportunity, and he chose Nyawula’s team. Captain Nyawula
had in turn chosen Ryder, who had experience of the Thames Valley Police,
anyway, and good contacts in the region, and who could therefore probably get more
out of the visit than any of the other detectives on his team. The Brigadier
reported back to the donor that Detective Jeremy Ryder, one of their best men,
had been chosen for the visit and he would report back in due course.

Ryder had accepted.
Only five days
, Fiona had said, and he
could link up with some old friends, too. Friends from the time they had spent
in England together
…and it’ll be your
first real break in a few years from front line police work…and a break from
Durban, too
. She had been quite forceful. His wife could be very persuasive
at times. Ryder had accepted, reluctantly.

It had been a long time since he had
last spent more than forty-eight hours in England. The forty-eight hours had
been for a funeral in London two years ago. He had good memories of the years
spent before that in the United Kingdom. Not least of all the memorable day
shortly after their arrival there much more than a decade ago, when Fiona, to
test the system rather than for any other reason, had reported to her local
police station in Oxford the disappearance of a couple of potted plants from
the garden. She had been at pains to tell the cop at the station that she
wasn’t really concerned to get them back, and that she didn’t want any of them
to waste their time on such a trivial thing, but it was just that if this kind
of thing was happening more generally…

‘Not at all, ma’am,’ the officer had
responded. ‘We appreciate you alerting us to it. Every little crime could lead
to a bigger event so don’t hesitate to let us know. This is what we do.’

Fiona had appreciated his comment,
and had detected no sense of irony or sarcasm until she heard the officer’s
companion mutter, behind him.

‘You never know when you might be
dealing with some serial box-hedge thief.’

BOOK: Death Dealing
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