Sbu collected Song from her house. He explained the situation to her as they walked to the address that Mandla had written for him on one of the napkins from the Manhattan Café. Ithuba zigzagged ahead of them, sniffing the ground.
“I don’t know if I can take on another job right now,” said Song. “I’m finding it hard enough working part-time for the film company while I’m meant to be doing my homework.”
“Will you at least hear him out?” asked Sbu.
“Okay,” said Song. “I try to keep an open mind.”
The address Mandla had given Sbu was for the last building of a row of old houses. It was built in the middle of an unfenced patch of dusty ground, which was scattered with broken bottles and patches of dry grass. There was a big crack down one wall, and the windows were boarded up. Big patches of plaster were missing and the brickwork was exposed. The wall facing the street was covered with tags. The front door was old wood, and it looked like it had been kicked in more than once. It was exactly the kind of place that Sbu and his friends would have targeted to cover in graffiti murals, inside and out, if they’d known about it.
The only new thing on the building was a new security gate across the door. Sbu reached through it and knocked on the wooden door behind it. The wood was damp and spongy.
“Are you sure this is the place?” asked Song.
There were footsteps from inside, and Mandla opened the door.
“There you are! I was worried you weren’t coming,” he said jovially.
Ithuba ran behind Song’s legs and started barking.
“Ithuba! Shh!” she said, picking her up.
“It’s all right,” said Mandla. He unlocked the security gate, and Sbu introduced Song to his uncle.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Mandla. “Come in, please.”
Song tied Ithuba’s lead to the security gate outside, and Mandla showed them through the house. It wasn’t as bad inside as Sbu had feared: the ceiling was blackened in patches, but the walls and floor were freshly scrubbed, and everything smelled of disinfectant.
“This place has potential, don’t you think?” said Mandla. “I just need to fix the wall and the roof. And it cost nothing to buy. It was a bargain. I’m good at bargains. It’s my job to take things that other people don’t want, fix them up, and show people what they’re really worth.”
He showed them into a room with wooden trellis tables set up against the wall. They were covered in cardboard boxes full of lamps, stereos, tennis rackets and old DVD boxes.
“Second-hand goods. I’m getting them ready for resale,” said Mandla.
At the back of the room was a door with a deadbolt on it. It looked newly installed. At first Sbu thought that the door lead back outside, but Mandla slid back the bolt and opened it into a small room, just bigger than a cupboard, with shelves full of laptops, hard drives, and other pieces of computer equipment.
“This is where I keep all the expensive stuff,” said Mandla. “I don’t want to be robbed, do I?”
He laughed and took a laptop from one of the shelves. He put it down on the desk in the main room.
“If you can get this working, I’d be happy to pay you R200. I get about five of these a week, so if you’d like, you could be making… let me see… R4000 a month?”
Song raised her eyebrows. It was more than she was making on the film set.
“What do you say?” said Mandla. He handed her a screwdriver. “Do you want to give it a try?”
Image: RicardoSEP, CC-BY-NC-SA
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Have you ever been offered something that seems too good to be true? What was it?