MaLulu shivered. The early morning temperature was freezing and she was not normally up at this time of the morning to feel it. Stella on the other hand was used to it, she started work at six most days.

MaLulu worried about her beloved son and nephew. Were Zuki and Chipa safe? Would Zuki be back in time for the weekend football game on TV that he was so looking forward to? Had they been hurt? Would they come back alive? She pushed the last thought from her mind and tried to listen to what Jabu was saying.

The four of them stood around him on the road to the old gold mine and dumps. They had parked some way down the road so they did not make a noise by roaring up the driveway in Zakes’s old ‘banger’.

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“So, this is the plan,” Jabu said, rubbing his hands together to keep warm. “First we check the house. That’s the only building that still has windows, doors and working lights. If I’m right, when those men overheard the tsotsis saying they were “going to the gold”, they meant the boys, their passport to gold, were here at the mine. Where better to hide their gold than at a disused gold mine? My guess is that they’ve got the boys here, in this house. Bra Zakes and I will go in first. Bra John will follow a few paces behind us, while you two, MaLulu and Stella, will keep a lookout for any visitors. Stella – I know you can give a wicked whistle. If you see anyone coming, let us hear your whistle tonight.”

Jabu and bra Zakes crept towards the house. As they got nearer, they could see that there were some lights on in the house, but no cars parked outside. Jabu made a sign for Zakes to follow him to the side entrance. As they reached the door, they heard voices coming towards them from the other side of the door.

“Quick,” Jabu whispered, “behind this pillar.” They threw themselves behind the pillar just as the door opened and two men came out. The men closed the door firmly and walked down the road towards the township. Jabu hoped that Stella and MaLulu were out of sight.

Jabu and Zakes went up to the door, and Zakes tried it. It wasn’t locked. John came out of the shadows where he had been hiding and went in with them.

The passage was dark and narrow and at first none of them could see where they were going. Slowly, their eyes became used to the dark and they moved along the passage quietly, listening. Silence.

“Anybody here?” Zakes called out in a low voice. They heard a noise. “Anybody there?” he called again. This time they heard a slight sound from one of the rooms at the end of the long passage.

They walked along quietly, one after the other, listening all the time. John opened the door of the room they’d heard the noise coming from and stopped. His eyes opened wider, first in surprise and then in relief and pleasure.

In the small room were Zuki and Chipa, with their legs tied together. Next to them was a small pot of cold beans, and in the corner, a chamber pot.

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John rushed forward and gathered the boys in his arms, hugging them and kissing their foreheads and hair. They smiled, a little confused, but very happy to see people they knew.

“Papa!” “Malume!” Chipa and Zuki spoke at once. “Please take us home, these men have been threatening us all the time. They’ve just left and they said they’re coming back to break our legs and kill us!

We must get out of here fast!” Chipa shouted.

“We shall do just that,” Jabu said. “Let’s move before those men decide to come back.” He couldn’t finish his sentence properly because Stella’s famous two-finger whistle pierced the air. “Out! Now!” he ordered. “That’s Stella telling us that those guys are coming back. Cut them loose, bra John, and let’s move. We’ll have to go out through another door.”

“I saw one when we were coming down the passage,” said Zakes. “Come this way.”

Stella and MaLulu were running towards the house to make sure that the men had heard their warning. They saw their group burst out of a side door just as the three tsotsis entered by another.

There was no time to lose. MaLulu tried to hug the boys while they were running towards Zakes’s car which seemed miles away. “They will find out any moment that the boys are gone. They’ll be mad enough to kill,” panted Jabu. “We’ll have to run faster. The car can’t be far now.”

“There it is!” said Stella, who was running in front. “Who’s got the key?”

Zakes ran past her to open the car door. They piled in and Zakes threw the keys to Jabu. “You drive, Jabu, I’m no good at this sort of thing.”

Jabu wanted to disagree but there was no time. He could hear footsteps coming towards them very fast. He jumped into the driver’s seat, started the car, and took off, spinning the wheels as he went. MaLulu and Stella hung on to each other and the children as the car lurched and bumped along the road.

The sun had not come up and the tall trees on either side of the road made it difficult to see clearly. Suddenly, the car hit something in the road. With a loud bang, it stopped. They heard the air from one of the tyres come out in a puff, like a tired old lady sighing.

“We’ll just have to get out and run,” said John. He put out one foot, but brought it back very quickly when a shot rang out. “Duck! They’re shooting at us,” he cried, covering Chipa’s body with his own. “Yo, we’ll never make it!”

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MaLulu didn’t blink. She’d seen a lot in her time. She stayed sitting up in the car, while the others squeezed themselves into any small space they could find. So she was the only one who saw the police cars speeding towards them, blue sirens flashing. Everyone else was sure the sound came from the tsotsis following them.

It was only as the sirens got louder and the shots still did not hit their car that Jabu realized what was happening. He opened the door and saw a very large, shiny boot … it was Commissioner Maphiri’s!

“Nice work, Jabu. We only found you because Lulu told us where her mother had gone. Did you find the children all by yourselves?” He looked at Jabu with more respect than he had the last time they had met.

Jabu mumbled something as he and the others tumbled out of the car and looked around them. Three police cars with their doors open were parked at funny angles. Police were everywhere, most of them holding semi- automatic rifles. Three men, Jabu recognized two from the house, were in handcuffs against a tree. The pink of the new dawn and the flashing blue and red sirens made him think of the time he once went to a funfair in the city a long time ago.

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“Yes,” Jabu said finally, but Commissioner Maphiri was taking charge of the operation and did not hear him. The three tsotsis were bundled into a police car, the commissioner gave a few quick orders and the car sped away.

Maphiri turned to look at Zakes’s car and glanced at the wheel.

“It looks like your wheel hit a big rock. Our work is done here, so I think we can give you all a lift back home and collect the car later. I’d love some coffee.”

He stopped and smiled. “MaLulu, do you serve coffee at your place? Maybe the police can ignore a rule today and have coffee at your house?”

MaLulu beamed. She didn’t need to be asked twice.