Authors: Caryl Ferey
“We're strict Adventists,” Wiese stated.
“You also used to be a top sportsman. With all the touring and the training, I don't suppose you saw much of your daughter as she was growing up.”
“I had her young, I agree, and I was very busy with my career, but since I retired from sport we've had time to get to know each other.”
“Your daughter must have had a close relationship with her mother,” Brian went on.
“She spoke to her more than to me, yes.”
That seemed straightforward enough.
“Nicole went out several times last week.”
“As I've said before, she was supposed to be revising with Judith.”
“If Nicole thought she needed an alibi to go out, I suppose it was because she knew what your reaction would be?”
“What would have happened, for instance, if she'd met young people from outside your social circle, coloreds, even blacks?”
Stewart Wiese was back on the rugby field, ready for a scrum. “Have you come here to call me a racist, or to find the bastard who killed my daughter?”
“Nicole had sexual intercourse on the night of the murder,” Brian said. “I'm trying to find out who with.”
“My daughter was raped and murdered.”
“We don't know yet if she was raped.” Brian lit another cigarette. “I'm sorry to go into detail, Mr. Wiese, but it sometimes happens that a woman's vagina becomes lubricated as a defense against the violence of rape. That doesn't make her a consenting victim.”
“Why do you say that?”
“My daughter was a virgin,” he said.
“I've been told there was a boy named Durandt.”
“That was just a flirtation. My wife and I talked about him last night. Nicole didn't love him. At least not enough to go on the pill.”
There were other kinds of contraception, especially with AIDS ravaging the country, but this was a slippery slope to go down, and Durandt had confirmed that they had never slept together.
“Did Nicole ever confide in your wife?” Brian resumed.
“Not about that.”
“About anything else?”
“We're a close family, lieutenant. What are you getting at?” His eyes were like chrome-plated marbles in the sun.
“We found a membership card for a video club in Nicole's cardigan,” Brian said. “According to the records, several pornographic films were rented using that card in the last few weeks.”
“The card belonged to Judith Botha, or so I heard!” He was becoming heated.
“Nicole used it.”
“Is that what Judith told you?”
“It wasn't Judith who put that card in Nicole's cardigan.”
Wiese was disconcerted. He didn't like the turn the conversation was taking, or the attitude of the cop who'd come to question him. “That doesn't mean my daughter rented that kind of film,” he said. “That's a horrible thing to say!”
“I spoke to Judith on the phone earlier. She claims she never rented any porn films.”
“She's lying!” Wiese yelled. “She's lying like she always lied, to Nils Botha and to me!”
Brian noddedâhe'd check later with the assistants at the video club.
“Did your daughter keep a diary or anything like that?” he asked.
“Not as far as I know.”
“Can I see her bedroom?”
Wiese had folded his trunk-like arms, as if mounting guard. “This way,” he said, opening the plate-glass window.
The rooms of the house were vast and filled with light. They climbed to the upper floor. Wiese walked noiselessly past the room where his wife was sleeping off their grief and pointed to the door at the end of the corridor. Nicole's room was that of a studious post-adolescent. A few photos of film stars above the desk, a computer, a stereo, a series of photo-booth pictures of her and her friend Judith in their school days, laughing and pulling faces, a bed covered with a neat quilt, shelves filled with books, Mandela's autobiography
A Long Way to Freedom
, a few South African and American detective novels, boxes, candlesticks, knickknacks. Brian opened the night table, found a jumble of letters, looked through them. Adolescent letters, dreams of love for the future. No name mentioned, except a certain Ben (Durandt), described as superficial, and more interested in Formula One than in finding a kindred soul. She had found someone else. Someone she had hidden from everyone.
Nicole's father was standing in the doorway, a silent sentinel. Apart from the blouse on the back of a rattan chair, everything had been carefully put away. The bathroom too was tidy, with makeup and beauty products stacked in front of the mirror. Brian searched the medicine cabinet: cotton wool, antiseptic, various oils. He opened the little locally made boxes on the shelf, the drawers in the chest, the shoe closet, all he found were expensive garments with empty pockets or female accessories whose use was a mystery. Nor was there anything under the mattress, the pillow, the cushions. Nicole didn't keep a diary. He switched on the computer on the desk, clicked on some of the icons.
“What are you looking for?” Wiese asked, standing behind him.
“A lead, believe it or not.”
Brian checked the e-mails, the messages sent, messages received, noted down the names and addresses, but didn't find anything specific. Nicole's life was hazy. He cleared his throat, closed his eyes to sweep away what he had seen, and opened them again after a while, as if new. He thought for a moment, then bent and looked at the computer tower. There was a thick layer of dust on the top. Finger marks were clearly visible.
He kneeled, took out his Swiss army knife, unscrewed the left side of the tower, and removed the metal panel. There was a little plastic bag next to the hard drive, containing a number of unusual objects: geisha balls, a mini-vibrator with rabbit ears to be connected to an iPod, condoms, edible body foam, a vibrating ring with a clitoris stimulator, women's power capsules, anal lubricating and anesthetizing spray, a whole array of state-of-the-art sex toys, all neatly wrapped.
Leaning over him like a dead tree, Wiese did not react immediately. He turned away his face and looked out at the swimming pool shimmering beyond the window. It was no useâhis shoulders started shaking, faster and faster.
ape Town was South Africa's showcase. Shaken by the murder of a well-known historian the year before, and shocked by the death of the reggae singer Lucky Duke, a living legend who had been involved in the anti-apartheid struggle, shot down by thugs in front of his children as he was taking them to see their uncle, the First National Bank had launched a huge anti-crime campaign, bringing together the private sector and the main opposition bodies.
This was a clear challenge to the government's passive attitude in the face of the country's chronic security situation. The argument that crime = poverty + unemployment didn't hold water anymore. In spite of what the president had said, crime wasn't “under control.” You just had to switch on the TV or open a newspaper to be aware of how widespread the problem was. The number of homicides may have dropped thirty percent since the ANC had come to power, but that was because the statistics took into account the inter-ethnic violence that had preceded the democratic elections, which had claimed thousands of lives. What was at stake now was quite different: how could the leading democracy in Africa be the most dangerous country in the world?
The potential economic gains were enormousâthere was talk of creating 125,000 jobs, if the homicide rate could be reduced by fifty per centâand the country, which at a time of globalization was experiencing the biggest growth in its history, needed foreign investors. Especially now, when South Africa was getting ready for the biggest media event on earth, the World Cup, due to take place in 2010âfour billion viewers for the final matches, a million supporters who had to be kept safe, all the TV coverage, the interviews. The whole world would be watching, and South Africa simply
afford the terrible image it had. Who wanted to invest in a country branded the world's most dangerous place? The financial backers had to be reassured at all costs. That was why the FNB had committed twenty-five million rand, raised from those who had signed its petition, to protest against the government's inaction and to mobilize opinion over what was happening to the very symbols of the country.
It wasn't the poor who attacked security guards with bazookas, it wasn't the unemployed who had killed the director of Business Against Crime the previous year. They were dealing with a wave of organized crime, gangs, small or large, linked to Mafias, gangs with sophisticated infrastructures similar to those of the Mob in the USA in the thirties. The police were corrupt, or even in collusion with the criminals, the justice system was ineffective, the government was doing nothing. Through the anti-crime campaign, the private sector wasn't attacking democracy but the men who were sitting on top of the powder kegâespecially the ANC.
Superintendent Karl KrÃ¼ge was sweating in his big leather armchair. He'd put on too much weight in the last few years. KrÃ¼ge had been running the SAP in Cape Town since the 1994 elections. It was his ambition and his duty to be remembered as the man who had been in place during the democratic transition. He would be retiring in two years and was pushing behind the scenes for Ali Neuman to succeed him. A young Zulu officer in charge of the police in a Xhosa province where the blacks were in the minority would demonstrate that there had been a small palace revolution, and would send a strong message in a country that was finding it hard to keep its promises. KrÃ¼ge knew Neuman, knew his history, his almost aristocratic disgust at the widespread corruption. His successor as the head of the SAP would be a highly competent black, not an unqualified Zulu. But media coverage of the murder wasn't helping things.
“Have you read the newspapers?”
“Some,” Neuman replied.
“They're all saying the same thing.”
“They all belong to the same people.”
“We're not here to discuss the concentration of power in the media,” KrÃ¼ge replied. “The whole lot of them will be coming down on our heads.”
The office looked out on Long Street and the African market. Neuman shrugged. “I'm not afraid of the storm.”
“Well, I am. I've just had the Attorney General on the phone. They need to be thrown a bone, and soon. Stewart Wiese has a lot of influence, and he's moving heaven and earth to get everyone on his side. The message is getting through, the public is in shock. You know how powerful symbols can be.”
Neuman, sitting there in his dark suit, nodded. The FNB was also one of the main sponsors of the Springboks, which explained the speed and virulence of the media campaign. Of course it was a paradox to see banks waging war on crime, when these same banks sustained tax havens and laundered dirty money, but Neuman knew that was an argument that carried no weight in an era of globalization.
“I'll be meeting the medical examiner in a while,” he said. “He should have the first results of the postmortem. Contrary to what Wiese said in his press conference, we're not sure his daughter was raped. What seems more likely is that she was trying to break free of what she felt were, let's say, the restrictions of her social class. Nicole went out without her parents knowing, and sometimes stayed out all night. Our prime suspect right now is a boy she'd been seeing for a while, and we're trying to track him down. I've put Epkeen and Fletcher on the case.”
“Fletcher's good,” KrÃ¼ge said. “But Epkeen. I'm really not sure about him.”
“He's my best detective.”
“He never comes in before eleven,” KrÃ¼ge remarked.
“He sometimes doesn't come in after eleven either,” Neuman said sarcastically.
“I don't like loose cannons like that.”
“I admit he's not very disciplined, but I have total confidence in him.”
Brian Epkeen had been “on the other side” during apartheid, he'd been in trouble with the police, and hadn't joined the force to follow procedure. He had come on board only because Neuman had gone looking for him. One day, he would blow up in their faces.
KrÃ¼ge sighed and massaged the back of his log-like neck. “On your head be it, captain,” he said by way of conclusion. “But I have no intention of ending my police career with a failure. Find me the suspect. Better than that, find me the killer.”
Neuman stood up and left.
Tembo was waiting for him at the Durham Road morgue.
Brian Epkeen had never dreamed of joining the police, even after Mandela was elected. It was meeting Neuman that had changed everything.
Like the ANC leader, Neuman had become a lawyerâdefending the rights of those who didn't have anyâbefore joining the SAP in Cape Town. The new South Africa was hungry for justice, and Neuman knew Epkeen by reputationânot many whites would have taken on the task of tracing militants who had disappeared. One of the two men had changed his name to escape the militias in the Bantustans, the other to escape a historical principle that had its roots in colonialism. Neuman believed in his destiny, and he could be persuasive. They were cut from the same cloth. Wanted the same country. In every other way, Brian was more or less the opposite of Neuman. He had no ambition, liked living it up, had broken a thousand times over with the world he'd grown up in. Neuman liked his energy, his strangely innocent despair, and above all the impetus that threw him into the arms of women, as if he only had to exist to be loved. Detached as he seemed, Brian was the rope above his void, his last bullet, the only man he could have talked to.
He never had.
They arrived at Dan's with flowers for Claire.
The couple lived in a little house in Kloof Nek, overlooking the city. Dan Fletcher shared their ideas on South African society, the way to improve it, the nature of the ties that bound them. The calamity that had struck his wife had set the seal on their pact.
Claire greeted them at the gate with a hug and a brave smile.
“How are you?” Neuman asked.
“Better than you two. You look like you've just come from a funeral!”
She had grown thinner, her peaches and cream complexion had grown paler with the chemo, but she was as pretty as ever. Her blonde wig suited her. They clung to her arm, joking as they asked about her healthâthey liked to keep things livelyâand followed her down the drive. Dan was waiting under the hollyhocks in the arbor, conforming to the ritual of a barbecue in the garden. The children greeted them excitedly.
They dined all together on the terrace, forgetting all about the possibility of a relapse, which would be shattering.
The glass of Pinot Claire had allowed herself was making her tipsy.
Brian opened another bottle. “I'm with a barmaid at the moment,” he said, by way of explanation.
“That's original. What's she like?”
“Come on!” Claire laughed. “Do you at least know her name?”
“Listen,” he cried, “it's difficult enough remembering my own!”
She laughed even more loudly, which was of course the intention. “But for the moment,” she said, “what with you, and Ali hiding his lady-love from us, I'm still the only girl here.”
“Yes,” Brian said. “That's what Ruby used to say when we went to a restaurant.”
Ali Neuman smiled along with them, putting on a good show, but the cracks in his fortifications were getting wider. He had never introduced Maia to his friends. No white ever entered the townshipsâthat was why he had chosen her. What would he have told them anyway? That he had picked up this poor girl on the street, like a garbage bag torn open by dogs, that she couldn't read or write, just paint a little on pieces of wood, that he kept a woman so that he could caress her whenever he liked, to satisfy his urges as a man or what remained of them, that Maia was a useful front, a social cover, a picture postcard? He would never introduce her to themânever.
A shadow loomed in the twilight. Neuman stood up to clear the table and stood for a moment under the trees, waiting for it to pass.
Brian was watching him from a distance, joking to distract attention, but he wasn't deceivedâlately, Ali had been acting very strangely.
In the garden, it was the hour of the catâtwo bastard tabbies that were pretending to tear each other to pieces. The children had put on their pajamas, and were watching the cats and stamping the ground with joy. At last the table was cleared, indicating that it was bedtime, but the kids wanted to stay up.
“Uncle Brian! Shall we fight? Come on! Uncle Brian!”
“I don't fight with gargoyles.”
“I'm Darth Vader!” Tom cried, flourishing a length of plastic.
Eve was also waving her arms ecstatically.
“You should stop sniffing the glue,” he advised them.
The kids didn't understand half of what he said to them, what mattered was the tone. After a while, they gave everyone a hug in turn, then followed their mother upstairs. As darkness fell, the garden was suddenly calm. Dan lit the candles in the storm lamps, and Neuman opened the file in progress. They soon forgot all about the balmy evening.
Nicole Wiese had been trying to escape, and they could understand herâat eighteen, she had wanted to see life, not its wrapping, however gilded. Judith Botha had acted as her cover, and had occasionally let her use her apartment. The forensics team had gone over that apartment with a fine-toothed comb, but the only prints they had found belonged to the two girls and young Deblink. Inquiries in the area hadn't turned up anything, nor had checking out the university in Observatory. Nicole only ever went there to fill in forms, confirming what her friend Judith had said.
Brian had followed up the sex-toy lead. Having found no trace of an Internet purchase on her computerâin any case, Nicole wouldn't have risked having such things delivered to her homeâhe had been all over the city's sex shops, until he had found the shop that had sold them to herâseveral purchases in the last three weeks. The assistant he had questioned, dressed in skintight latex, had a good memory for faces: there was no boy with Nicole. Brian had then paid a visit to the video club.
In Your Ass
Appointment with My Pussy
Fist Fucking in the Rain
. Nicole hadn't rented a film on Saturday night, but several in the last few weeks. The assistant remembered the girl (he had asked her for her identity card), but she had been alone.
Fortunately, Fletcher had had better luck.
“I went through Nicole's phone bills and bank account,” he said, consulting his notebook. “I have a list of phone numbers, but they haven't turned up anything yet. Her bank account shows she had regular expenses that more than covered her lifestyle, which was quite modest considering her family's standing. The card purchases were for clothes from downtown stores, student stationery, drinks at various bars in Observatory, that kind of thing. The last time she used her card was on Wednesday evening, at the Sundance. Sixty rand.”
“A club popular with students,” Brian said.
“Wednesday,” Dan went on. “The night Nicole didn't come back to Judith's to sleep. I checked the hotel registers, no trace of her name. So we don't know where she slept that night, or who with, but we do know she withdrew cash on the day of the murder, at eight in the evening. A thousand rand, from an ATM in Muizenberg, on the south coast of the peninsula. A thousand rand, that's quite a bit of money for a girl her age, especially as she usually only took out small amounts.”
“Is there much drug dealing at the Sundance?” Neuman asked.
“Not even coke,” Dan replied.
“Nicole was completely high when she was killed,” Neuman said.
He had just had the first postmortem report from Tembo. Nicole Wiese had died about one in the morning, in the botanical gardens, killed by blows from a hammer or similar objectâa club, an iron bar. Thirty-two points of impact, mostly concentrated on the face and skull. Lesions, hematomas, and multiple fractures, including the right humerus and three fingers. A fractured cranium. No fragments of skin under the nails, no sperm in the vagina. Contrary to her father's hasty statements, rape had not been establishedânor had there been anal relations. The only thing certain was that the girl was not a virgin at the time of her death. They had also found sea salt on her skin, grains of sand in her hair, and some unusual scratches on her arms and thorax, caused by barbed wire. The marks were recent.