“What’s happened?” Lazola asked, holding Pholisa by the shoulders and shaking her gently. She was in shock. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t move.
It had been a cry for help. Lelethu’s cry. And then the phone had gone dead.
Lazola took the phone from her and called Lelethu’s number.
Pholisa looked around her in a daze. The party was still pumping. But gone was the high she had been on a moment earlier, before the call. Gone was that soaring feeling she had had dancing in Lazola’s arms. Now she felt cold with fear.
“It’s dead,” Lazola said quietly.
Pholisa sank down and started sobbing. She had heard those screams before, that night of the rape. And now they came from her best friend’s phone. Lazola crouched down next to her and wrapped his arm around her.
“What happened, Pholisa? What did she say?”
“Help. She cried for help,” was all Pholisa could say.
“Where was she?”
Pholisa shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Think, Pholisa. Did she tell you anything that could help us?” He wiped away her tears, but it was no use – they just kept coming. “Look at me, Pholisa. We will find her, okay? We will find Lelethu,” he tried to console her.
“There is something …” Pholisa suddenly remembered. And she told Lazola about Lelethu wanting to go to the club to audition.
“What was the name of the club?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I can’t remember if she told me … I can’t …” She felt like the breath had been punched out of her.
“We’ll start at the party and ask around,” Lazola said, thinking quickly. “Come on, get up.” He helped her up and they went back inside.
While Lazola asked people at the party, Pholisa tried calling Lelethu again, but it went straight to voicemail. She started panicking. They were running out of time. Anything could be happening to Lelethu right now. She could be dead.
“I saw her talking on her cell when she was here earlier,” a girl told Lazola.
“Who was she talking to?” Pholisa asked quickly.
“Sorry, I have no idea.”
“She was going to a private party.” One of the girl’s friends had come up and joined them. “I heard her say private party … Hey, why don’t we go there? This place is getting boring …”
“She’s gone to the club, I know it!” Pholisa said. “They must be having a private party …”
She and Lazola were out on the street now.
“Where did she see the advert?”
“She had a strip, a piece torn out of a newspaper … we’ll never find it.”
“We have to try …”
Together they started to walk in the direction of Lelethu’s house. A group of kids was playing in the street, kicking a ball in the dark. It was much too late for them to be out, after midnight, but their parents were probably at the shebeen.
“Stop,” said Pholisa quickly. She stared at the kids playing ball.
“I remember now.” She turned to Lazola. “The name of the club.”
“What? What is it?”
And then Lazola was on the phone to his brother, Lwandile.
“It might be too late,” whispered Pholisa.
They were back at the party when Lwandile drove up.
“I’ll explain on the way,” Lazola said to his brother as they climbed in to Lwandile’s car and sped off. Lazola found the location of The Playground on the GPS on his brother’s phone.
“It’s Lelethu,” Lazola explained. “She’s in trouble.”
Lwandile drove like a maniac on the highway towards town. Luckily the roads were clear at this time of night. When they pulled up outside the club, it looked like it was closed. The sign over the door was not lit up. But the club across the road was still noisy, people spilling out onto the street, laughing and talking.
They tried the door. Locked and chained. Then Pholisa saw a light on upstairs.
“There must be another way in,” said Lazola. He was walking up the street away from the club. “Hey, there’s an alley back here!”
Pholisa ran to keep up with him. To the right there was a crumbling wall and an alley that ran behind the club. They climbed over the broken bricks. The alley was in complete darkness and they couldn’t see the end. Halfway down Lazola stopped and bent down to pick up something. He held it out in the palm of his hand.
“It’s from Lelethu’s cellphone,” said Pholisa, taking the purple pouch with the hearts from Lazola. “She’s been here.”
And then just a few metres further down they found the neon-green sneakers Lelethu loved to wear. And just a few metres beyond they found Lelethu’s body.
Pholisa’s knees buckled when she saw her friend lying there. Her jeans had been cut off her, and her face was bloody and swollen.
Tell us: Do you find the story believable? Why/why not?