Authors: Caryl Ferey
“Let me remind you you're half blind.”
“You can't fool a mother so easily!”
She stood up on tiptoe in her gilded pumps and kissed her Zulu king.
He left her as night fell, his heart at the bottom of a well.
The drapes were drawn, and a slightly sickening smell of incense hung in the cramped backroom. The only light was a red spot. He was lying on the padded table, his arms bentâarms as hard as a tank, which the young woman was massaging with scented ointments.
“Relax,” she said.
She continued oiling his fine body, trying her damnedest to defragment the turmoil trapped beneath his skin, but new blocks kept appearing, which she dealt with uncomplaininglyâat least he had closed his eyes in the end. With expert circular motions, she kneaded the muscles of his shoulders, moved down to his lower back and buttocks, then came slowly up again, stretching his fleshy parts, tenderizing them in long lubricated caresses. At last, exhausted, the girl stopped her erotic game, contemplated her masterpiece, and disappeared behind the drapes.
He barely heard the steps approaching the tableâlight steps. A girl who couldn't weigh more than a hundred pounds. Had he seen her here before?
She set some metal objects down on the table and positioned herself over him.
The girl sorted through her instruments. The images followed one another behind his closed eyelids, images of death, of fire, of blows raining down on him as he lay spread-eagled, but his tears tonight were still on the wrong sideâthey were flowing inside him.
He wouldn't sleep. Or maybe he would. Either soon or never. With Maia, his last illusions had gone. He didn't want them anymore, except about Zina. She had bewitched himâher eyes like stars in the night, her animal grace, the powder and the coals beneath her feet, he loved everything, more than everything. He was stifling in his armor. His skin was worthless. He felt like an animal at the zoo. He was going around in circles, in his cage, like Tembo's rats.
The girl had picked up an object from the table, which she handled with almost clinical skill. On the edge of insomnia, he let himself be penetrated.
recious wood, colored concrete, aluminum bays, glass wallsâthe houses on the verdant hill of Llandudno were all the work of architects. Tony Montgomery had returned from Osaka by way of Tokyo and Dubai, cancelling the rest of his gala tourâEurope and the United States after Asiaâand cutting short the promotional campaign for his latest album (
A Love Forever
âthe record company hadn't overtaxed itself coming up with a name).
Montgomery was the kind of fifty-year-old you saw in men's magazines, led a VIP's life crisscrossing the global village, and had manicured hands that didn't know what to do with themselves this morning. Stevens, his bodyguard and chauffeur, had warned him that a police officer would be coming, a tall guy with unkempt hair the star barely listened to. Brian had found him by his swimming pool, draped in a silk kimono that went down as far as his tanned thighs. He seemed extremely confused. He had just come back from the morgue, where he had identified his daughter, and now, in a kind of macabre torpor, he was staring aimlessly at the ocean from the terrace of his villa. The fact that he hadn't seen Kate for four months was the finishing touch. Tony Montgomery didn't spend much time in South Africa, he was constantly away on world tours, which meant that they had hardly any acquaintances in common . . .
Brian dipped his hand into the pool to cool himself down a little, and got his notebook wet. He had questioned those closest to Kate: her aunt, a crazy woman in Prada, who was really out of it, Sylvia, an old junkie friend, the video crew, who knew nothing, neighbors who had seen nothing, other people who didn't give a damn.
“How come Kate's mother hasn't made an appearance?” he asked.
“She never did take any interest in her daughter.”
“All the same.”
“Helen's lived in London for years,” Montgomery said. “We separated when Kate was born.”
“And you kept custody?”
“With all your touring?” Brian said, feigning surprise.
“I wasn't well-known at the time.”
“What you're saying is that Kate was abandoned by her mother?”
“You could put it that way.”
He nodded. That explained a lot of things.
“Do you know if your daughter took drugs?”
“I assume Kate sometimes did a little coke for fun, like all these girls. Unfortunately, I'm not the best person to tell you anything about that.”
“What did you talk about?”
“Mainly her work. The designing was going well.”
He would have said the same thing about the banana trade.
“Did you introduce her to people?”
“No. Kate could get by without my help.”
“Do you have any girlfriends she might have confided in?”
“It's common knowledge that I'm gay.”
“Good for you. So you don't know anyone who can tell me anything about your daughter?”
“And did she ever talk to you about her boyfriends?”
“Kate was a bit shy about talking to me. I don't think she was very interested in boys.”
Brian lit a cigarette. “We think your daughter was the victim of a serial killer,” he said. “A Zulu who's probably part of a township gang. There are drugs involved. Someone must have served as a go-between, or an accomplice.”
“My daughter wasn't a criminal,” Montgomery said, “if that's what you're implying.”
“That's what Stewart Wiese said about his daughter. Do you know him?”
“Stewart Wiese? I met him once, years ago, after his team won the World Cup.”
The two young women didn't know each other, he'd already ascertained that.
“Any reason anyone might have had a grudge against you or Wiese?”
“Apart from the fact that we're well-known?”
“I want your opinion, not what the tabloids say.”
“No.” Montgomery shook his blow-dried hair. “They might resent my money, but not Kate. Kate's innocent. A completely normal young woman.”
“Your daughter spent time in a convalescent home,” Brian said. “Three months, according to her file. The first time at the age of sixteen, the second at eighteen.”
Some of the color returned to Montgomery's face. “That's ancient history,” he said.
“No, a rest cure.”
“Do you need that much rest when you're sixteen?”
“You know the kinds of things teenagers go through. But anyway, that's old news. And I don't see what all that has to do with my daughter's death.”
Montgomery was starting to lose his temper. He wasn't used to being talked to like this. He was surrounded by people who spent all day telling him how wonderful he was.
“Listen, Montgomery, I wasn't born yesterday,” Brian said. “Your daughter was twice treated in a specialist clinic, and at that age there aren't that many reasons. Either she was on drugs, or she had tried to kill herself. Or both. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but things weren't going so well for Kate. We found dozens of cuts on her body. She'd been regularly self-harming. Cutting, they call it. It's usually an attempt to reconnect with reality in order to avoid a complete mental breakdown.” Brian blew cigarette smoke in Montgomery's face. “So talk or I'll drown you in your golden pool.”
“Is there a problem, Mr. Montgomery?” Stevens asked.
“No, no.” His sigh was covered by the gurgling of the pool.
“Kate's mother was a talented actress, but a bit . . . peculiar. I think she'd realized that starting a family wasn't quite my thing, but Helen got pregnant and decided she wanted to keep the child, thinking that it would help her hold on to me. But then my career started to take off, and Helen moved to England, leaving me with the baby. That was her revenge. Kate tried to see her mother again when she was a teenager, but it didn't work out well.”
“So she started doing drugs,” Brian said. “She may have started again.”
“I don't know.”
“You had her put away after a suicide attempt, right?”
“It happened once,” Montgomery replied. “I didn't want it to happen again.”
“Why hide it?”
“That your daughter was a depressive ex-junkie.”
“After the rest cure, and the follow-up treatment, Kate recovered,” he said. “I don't see any point in making the whole thing public!”
“I'm trying to find out whether your daughter was easy prey,” Brian replied. “Someone lured her into a trap. Kate was vulnerable, and drugs seem the most obvious avenue to explore.”
Montgomery was nervously fingering his diamond signet ring. “Listen, lieutenant,” he said at last. “I may not always have been there, but I do know a few things about my daughter. Kate had a difficult childhood and adolescence, I tried to give her the best schools, things didn't always work out, but Kate was a fighter, and she put her life together again all by herself. She wasn't interested in drugs anymore. She wanted to live her life, that's all. She wanted to live, do you understand?”
“Yes, by cutting herself.”
Brian wasn't a great believer in chance, rather that different paths sometimes came together. He had just returned to headquarters after his interview with Montgomery when, emerging from her office like a mortar shell, Janet Helms literally fell into his arms.
“Did you get my message?”
He took a step back to get things straight. “No.”
“I've tracked down a vehicle that might match what you're looking for,” she said. “A Pinzgauer Steyr Puch four-by-four, the 712K model, filmed by the surveillance camera at a service station on the night of the murder.”
Fletcher's murder. Janet's round eyes were red from lack of sleep, but her sadness had given way to a kind of excitement. He followed her into the nearby office.
“The service station in question is on Baden Powell, the road that goes along False Bay to Pelikan Park,” she said, tapping on her computer keyboard. “At 3:12 in the morning. You can't see the driver's face behind the smoked windows, and the plates are illegible.”
Brian peered at the gray stripes on the screen. The bodywork was dark. All you could see were the driver's handsâclearly a white, or a colored.
“I've done some research,” Janet went on. “No Pinzgauer of that model has been reported stolen recently. I did find a similar four-by-four stolen in Natal province two months ago, and another in Jo'burg at the end of last year, but both were burned after being used in security van holdups. So I listed all the Pinzguaers in circulation.”
Baden Powell was about a mile from the house, easily reached by the track.
“What direction was the four-by-four going in when it was filmed?” Brian asked.
“West. In other words, toward Cape Town.”
And away from the townships.
“Are any of the owners Zulus?”
“No, I checked. If the color's correct, only three vehicles match the description. I called the rental companies concerned, but none of them rented out this model the day Dan was killed. As for private companies, only three use them. One is a travel company that organizes safaris, but the vehicle wasn't available during that week. The other two are a vineyard in the valley near Franschoek, which I can't get hold of, and ATD, a company providing security and private police. That might be worth taking a look at.”
Brian nodded. Janet Helms smelled of lilac.
Neuman didn't know who had informed the mediaâaccording to Tembo, half the force would sell the date of his death to the first person who asked, and the other half to whoever put an extra zero on the checkâbut the revelations surrounding Kate Montgomery's death, coming as they did in the middle of the anti-crime campaign, had a disastrous effect. The savagery of the crime, the rape, the taking of hair and nails, the tribal slogan engraved in letters of blood on the body of a young white womanâthe myth of “the Zulu” would be getting a lot of mileage in the editorial offices.
The largest ethnic group in sub-Saharan Africa, the Zulus had traumatized their era by massacring a British regiment
âbefore being killed themselves. Given the task of clearing the hostile territories, the Boer pioneers had fought the Zulus with equal ferocity before herding them into Bantustans during apartheid.
, we will kill you, was interpreted as a warning and a threat to the white population, a reminder of a kind of genocide, something coming from the sick mind of a killer.
The murders revived memories of a troubled past, which had been deliberately downplayed in the name of national reconciliation. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the relentless progress of globalization, and the exceptional personality of Mandela had prevailed over apartheid and internecine warsâeveryone remembered the ANC leader's assumption of power, when the Xhosa Mandela had raised the arms of his worst enemies, the Afrikaner De Klerk and the Zulu Buthelezi, as a sign of victory. Nicole Wiese and Kate Montgomery were the children of two symbols, the world champion of the first multiracial team and the voice of the rainbow nationâattacking them was quite simply unacceptable. Between the lines of the most conservative news reports, there was a veiled allusion to a historic fear: the rape of a white woman by a black man, that old fear in which biology and politics came together. The allegations of rape and corruption hanging over Jacob Zuma, the ANC's most populist leader, didn't help matters.
Neuman had just emerged from a stormy interview with KrÃ¼ge when he received Tembo's detailed report. The weapon that had killed Kate Montgomery could have been a pickax handle, a stick or a kind of club (splinters of wood were embedded in the victim's skull). No traces of sperm had been found, but there were traces of the new drug, which had put the young woman in a state of advanced stupor. She had been bound and gagged with adhesive tape. Everything was similar to the Nicole Wiese murder, apart from the strange mixture of herbs found sticking to Kate's hair.
, as Tembo had thought at first, but two plants,
, and one root,
. Made into a powder, they formed the basis of
, a Zulu pre-battle ritual narcotic.
could be inserted under the skin in the form of powder, or ground in the mouth, in order to be spat in the opponent's face. That was what had happened to Kate.
Neuman's eyes burned with a wicked light. By spitting on his victim, the madman had provided them with his DNA.
The electric room, the wall of sound roaring on the smoke-filled stage, interference like a screaming siren, images of massacre projected on metal sheets, Soweto '76, the riots of '85, '86, faces of hanged and tortured people, Zina sent into a trance by the drums, her great body steaming, her mad eyes that had been pursuing him all these nights.
“Be careful,” she said, seeing him waiting for her outside her dressing room, “or you're going to end up like poor Nicole.”
The 366 was the club on Long Street where the group was performing tonight. Zina had known that Neuman would come backâthey always came back.
“This isn't about Nicole anymore, it's about Kate,” he said. “Kate Montgomery. Hear about that?”
She breathed out in exasperation, opened the door of the dressing room, and let him in.
“Why are you talking to me about her?”
Zina grabbed a towel from the dressing table and wiped her sweat-drenched arms.
Neuman took a folded paper from his pocket. “I'd like you to take a look at this,” he said.
“What is it, a love letter?”
“No. A summary of the postmortem report.”