The man called ‘Uncle’ appeared just as the dogs were able to force themselves through the opening in the gate.
Ayanda had squeezed her eyes shut, and clenched her tight fists against her cheeks. A scream was beginning to rise in her throat.
“Pasha! Sasha! Heel to me! Heel to me!” It was the man’s voice.
Ayanda opened her eyes to see the dogs retreating, going to the man. He slipped his fingers through the dogs’ collars.
“No need to be frightened,” he said, friendly and smiling. “Come in! Come in! You must be Sandra’s friend. You’re just as pretty as she is. What a pair of beauties you are. Come on in.”
“No,” said Mandla sharply to Ayanda. Then softly, so that only she could hear: “If I’m not out in five minutes go and fetch help. Or the police. I don’t know why they are not here already.”
“Ayanda,” said Mandla, walking past her into the grounds. “You stay here. And wait. Remember what I told you.”
Ayanda stood still, confused. The gate shut between her and Mandla with the tall pale man with his two snarling dogs.
“Not today,” said Mandla, moving quickly to the man. “This girl’s not coming in today. She’s too scared of the dogs.”
Mandla and the man called ‘Uncle’ disappeared around the back of the house, to the back door of the flat.
A moment later Ayanda saw Sandra coming running towards her. She heard Mandla’s voice shouting after her: “Run Sandra, run!”
“I am here! I am here!” shouted Ayanda, in response to Sandra’s frantic cries.
Sandra and Ayanda were still on different sides of the locked gate. Sandra looked back towards where she was hoping Mandla would appear.
A moment before, Mandla had opened the flat door and come inside with the ‘Uncle’ and the dogs.
Once inside Mandla had said, “Let me take Sandra to where Ayanda can see her. Then maybe Ayanda won’t be so afraid to come in.” The ‘Uncle’ had agreed.
Confused, but silent, Sandra had gone outside with Mandla, who had then suddenly pushed her and told her to “Run!”
Now, the two girls looked back towards the flat. Then they both screamed in terror when, instead of Mandla, they saw the two dogs, running around the corner at full speed, towards Sandra.
Sandra stood still, paralysed by fear, as the dogs sprinted towards her. Then she screamed.
“Sasha! Pasha! Heel!” It was Mandla’s voice.
The two dogs stopped in their tracks.
Mandla came running towards Sandra. The two dogs turned suddenly to run and leap around him, wagging their tails and barking.
Mandla pressed the remote control, which he had in his hand, to open the gate. He stroked the dogs. “These two were the only friends I ever had in this place,” he said.
As soon as the gate opened Sandra ran to Ayanda. She flew into her arms, hugging her.
“Where’s the ‘Uncle’?” asked Sandra after a moment.
“As he set the dogs on you I turned and punched him,” said Mandla, stroking the dogs. “He’s lying on the lawn.”
Tell us what you think: What is Mandla going to tell the police? What has Mandla been doing for the last three years?