TomTom, a small-time thief, was enjoying himself. The casino was packed tonight, but TomTom’s luck was in. The slot machine bell began to ring loudly and casino attendants crowded around him, patting him on the shoulder, congratulating him.

Suddenly, one of the attendants pushed him hard, making him lose his balance. Then the others began to do the same. “Hey, what’s the matter with you?” TomTom shouted, pushing back. “You’re all jealous!”

“Not jealous, angry, mfana!” said Jabu, holding TomTom’s waving arms. “Get up now and open that garage. I know what you’ve got in there and I want it.” Jabu pulled the thin, worn blankets off TomTom’s bed.

TomTom was awake now, and he realized he’d been dreaming of the casino. He curled up his exposed body and covered his head with his hands. He didn’t know where he was or what was happening to him, but he knew he didn’t like it.

Vuka! No time for hiding like a coward. Where is the key for the garage? It’s locked.” Jabu jabbed him in the side, his face in a scowl.

TomTom sat up, blinking slowly and looked around. His room was filled with silent, steady eyes. There seemed to be people everywhere. He thought their stares would suffocate him. He stammered, then he began to panic. He reached under his pillow for his gun.

“You want this tin thing?” Jabu asked, holding up the gun between his fingers. “Where is your cheek now, mfana? If you don’t open your garage now, you don’t even want to think about what will happen to you.”

TomTom scrambled up and tried to reach his clothes. People (he could make out about five) flung bits of his clothing at him, making him leap and jump to catch one sock, then a belt, his underpants and his shirt.

“I … I don’t know. S’true’s …” The words refused to come out of his mouth. “I … I only know there are people waiting. They just asked me to keep the car. That’s all I know. Please,” he was whispering now, “don’t hurt me. I will open the garage.”

MaLulu's Place 9

He dressed quickly and almost ran to open the garage. He recognized Zakes, who he had been asked to ‘take care of’. Zakes had come out of his workshop just as the crooks were trying to park John’s car in TomTom’s garage. Now in his confused state, TomTom was sure the other people in the room were thugs who had come to beat him up or kill him.

As the garage door opened, John gasped. His blue Ford Sierra, the bumper slightly bent, stood in the garage, with the boot open. Zuki’s and Chipa’s clothes lay strewn all over, but their bags were gone. MaLulu rushed forward and began to collect the clothes, but Jabu stopped her.

“Leave the clothes for now, MaLulu. First we must get help and then I have a pretty good idea where we can find Zuki and Chipa. Let’s go.”

“We can’t leave this one here,” bra Zakes said, talking about TomTom, who was just beginning to realize who his visitors were, and that some of them were women. Stella and Lulu’s mum! He’d never live it down if the other guys got to hear of this! He hung his head in shame when he thought about it. The others saw this and thought he was sorry about his actions.

“I’ve phoned the police,” said Jabu. “I was sure we would find the car here. They said they would send someone to come and take TomTom away to question him. Look, here they come now so we can go.”

“Go where?” asked Stella.

“To the mine,” replied Jabu.

“But there’s nothing and no one there, Jabu, are you totally mad?” Stella exclaimed, looking hard at him. Had Lulu’s amagwinya affected his head?

“Trust me on this one, Stella. It’s been staring me in the face all this time. Anyway, we don’t have much time, it’s past midnight already. Do you think your car will get us there, bra Zakes?”

“No problem,” said Zakes. Then he stopped, “But I think we should let Noni, MaChipa and Lulu know where we’re going in case something happens to us.”

“Good idea,” said Stella. “I’ll call MaChipa from your house while you get the car.”