Later that night Zakes eased the car to a stop outside MaLulu’s, and Jabu stepped out. “Will you come in for one drink, bra Zakes? Why don’t you go and park the car at home and by the time you come back, the drinks will be ready.”
“You know I don’t usually have a drink before I’ve done some work, and today I’ve done nothing, thanks to you. But I think I will join you for a couple – get me my usual.”
By the time Zakes had parked the car, said hello to Noni and walked to MaLulu’s, Jabu had secured them a cosy corner in the bustling backyard. Jabu was in deep conversation with Jojo, the man who knew all about houses and decoration.
“Buti Jabu! Here!” Lulu stood close to him, shyly holding out two cold dumpies. “Mama says you and bra Zakes can have a drink on the house. Is … there anything else you’d like? I’ve … just made amagwinya, and there’s polony and achaar in the fridge. Two each?”
Zakes’s stomach was still full of pap and oxtail, and he knew Jabu’s was too. But he could sense that Jabu would make some room for those amagwinya if it killed him. This was no ordinary vetkoek, he could tell.
“Siyabonga Lulu, that would be so nice. I’ve heard a lot about those amagwinya of yours … so light and fluffy …” Jabu was smiling.
“So light and fluffy, hey?” The voice startled Jabu and he turned around to see Stella eyeing him coldly. “That’s what I thought you said about my amagwinya, Jabu.” She leant forward so her lips almost touched his face, “Just last night, I think.”
Lulu blushed and stepped away from Jabu quickly. “Oh, no, I was just meaning …” She decided against finishing her sentence and picked up the empties around her and fled towards the kitchen. Stella watched her go but said nothing. Instead she greeted Zakes warmly and settled down between the two men.
“I knew I’d find you here, Jabu. This place has too many attractions! I’m happy that now at least bra Zakes is here to keep an eye on you. Listen, I just heard from John’s wife, MaChipa, that Zuki and Chipa are being kept in the area, but that those crooks want to see bra John tomorrow night to see whether he’s going to pay or not.”
Jabu looked at Stella as she talked. In many ways he really found her very attractive. She was not tall, but she looked after herself well and took pride in her dark, thick hair and smooth features. Her skin was like rich chocolate and her large, dark, intelligent eyes and firm lips made her whole face full of life. Tonight, she had come straight from work and was wearing an orange outfit that really suited her. Jabu dreamt about marrying someone with a good mind like Stella’s, but how could he, if he didn’t have a job?
“So, what did Jojo have to say, Jabu?” Zakes was opening his second bottle and he and Stella were looking at Jabu with interest. Stella had got herself a cider and was sipping it slowly.
“He says the same thing – that the boys are being held here in the township but no one knows where. Also, he said the tsotsis have threatened to break the boys’ legs or even kill them if bra John doesn’t talk to them quickly. Like Stella says, they’re going to meet him tomorrow night. I think we should make a plan to be there, bra Zakes.”
“But we can’t just turn up and hope that our ugly faces will scare them off,” said Zakes. “We need a plan of action. Do you have one?”
“Sort of,” said Jabu, eyeing Stella. “Stella, can you find out exactly when and where they want to meet bra John? Then I can talk to a few guys I know to find out if there’s been anything they’ve noticed or any strange things happening. There’s a person for every square centimetre of this place. If those boys are still in the area they’ll be found.”
Stella nodded. “Ja, I can do that. I’ll let you know as soon as I see MaChipa tomorrow morning. Let’s meet at my place at about six tomorrow evening. You too, bra Zakes.”
She looked at her watch. “Talking of the time, I have to work tomorrow – I’m off to sleep. Coming, Jabu?”
“Mmm!” Jabu gulped the last mouthful and hurried through to the kitchen to return the empties. Lulu was alone washing the dishes in a bowl. She looked up and smiled at Jabu, all her earlier awkwardness gone. “Two ciders to take away please, Lulu”, Jabu said. “Put it on my tab.”
Lulu put two ciders in a bag. “See you tomorrow, Jabu? I’ll be making some more amagwinya at about five. Must I keep some for you?”
“Mmm!” Jabu nodded, darting out of the kitchen as quickly as he could, hoping Stella hadn’t heard.
The patrons at MaLulu’s were beginning to thin out as Jabu and Stella left the house. A few birds still sang in the trees above their heads. “You know what would go really nicely with my cider, Jabu?” asked Stella, a small smile on her lips. “Some fresh amagwinya with polony and achaar.”