Zip puts on the gloves and examines the diary. “Look at this,” she says, and runs a finger along the internal binding of the diary. “A page was torn out. And look here.” They can all see where the pen marks have pressed into the next page.

Thando gently feels the page. He says, “Quick Azipho! Get me a pencil.”

Zip scours her shack and eventually finds one. All three huddle around the diary. Brice and Azipho watch as Thando lightly shades the page of the diary with the pencil. Zikhona’s last entry slowly comes to life. When Thando is done they take a step back, stare down at the scribble.

“Can anyone read this?” asks Zip.

“Zikhona wrote in this handwriting when she was in a hurry,” says Thando.

The first line is clear. “There are girls in …” reads Thando.

The next line is harder to read.

“I think that word is ‘arbou’” says Brice.

Thando shades at the beginning and end of this word again.

“Harbour!” all three say together.

“The next word is c.o.n.t.a.i.,” spells out Thando.

Zip takes the pencil and shades.

“It says ‘container’!” says Brice.

In the line below there is a number: 34089LX.

Thando says, “Zikhona was saying, there are girls in a container at the harbour! And the number?”

“Maybe she saw that number in a picture or video when she picked up Spokes’ phone by mistake,” says Zip.

“It could be a ship’s container number,” says Brice.

“Zikhona thought it was important enough to write it down in a hurry,” says Thando.

“And Spokes and Trevor then wanted her dead and her diary destroyed,” says Brice.

Thando turns to Azipho, “Send this information to Detective Mtolo in Mowbray.”

She sends the information and there is a sense of urgency in Azipho’s voice as she says, “Guys, ‘Girls in a container at the harbour’ sounds like people smuggling. We have to try stop it. We need to go there right now because cops take their own time.”

“I have a car,” says Brice.

All three run to Brice’s house, jump into his car and head to the harbour. On the way Zip gets a call from Detective Mtolo. She confirms that it is a container number.

“The container is still in the harbour. I am heading there with a unit,” says Detective Mtolo.

Thando, Brice and Zip arrive at the harbour and run to the containers. The police are already there and they are held back behind yellow crime scene tape. They watch from a distance as the police surround a container and its doors are cut open with ‘Jaws of life’ equipment. In seconds the police are bringing out many girls; girls looking shell shocked. Some of them look no older than twelve.

“Spokes gave us the address of the main smuggler, Trevor,” says Detective Mtolo when she gets to Zip, Brice and Thando. “Another unit is going there as we speak. The problem is we need someone who can identify Trevor. I don’t trust Spokes.”

“I can identify him. I have seen him before,” says Brice.

In Detective Mtolo’s squad car they head to a house in Camps Bay. Numerous police officers are inside this mansion, collecting evidence.

“Wait here,” says Detective Mtolo.

Thando, Zip and Brice can see Detective Mtolo talking to another policeman who looks to be in charge of this raid. They can tell from her reactions to what the other cop tells her that she is disappointed.

Detective Mtolo shakes her head as she walks back to the car. “When they got here Trevor was gone. He left in a hurry. The smell of cigar smoke is still in the house. The ice cubes in his whisky shot have not completely melted. We just missed him.”

The detective looks at their disappointed faces and says, “Cheer up guys! You saved the futures of thirty-four girls today. We will get Trevor, I promise you.”

Zip points to Thando and says, “His sister Zikhona saved those thirty-four lives.”

Thando nods. He smiles and says, “Zikhona was always brave.”

The three head back to the township. Brice kills the engine of his car outside Thando’s house on Paradise Road. They look at each other and acknowledge their good work with fist bumps.

Thando watches the car until it takes a right at the corner of Paradise and Heaven Road to drop off Zip. He tiptoes into the house, opens the door to Nandi’s room. His sister is asleep.

“Nandi,” says Thando.

Nandi opens her eyes. She says, “Yes, Thando?”

“We found one of Zikhona’s killers. There is a police manhunt for the other killer. He will be caught soon.”

Nandi jumps from the bed to hug her brother. “Thank you Thando, my brother.”

* * * * *

A cold morning breeze whistles down Paradise Road. Thando stirs the porridge bubbling wildly in a pot. He stands outside Nandi’s room.

“Wake up, Nandi,” he says. “Time for school”


Tell us what you think: What does the very last part of this story tell us about how Thando has changed?

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