A full moon lit the way. I pressed hard on the accelerator pedal. The bag with the loot was on the passenger seat.
There was some relief because the blaze that engulfed the white double cab disappeared from the rear-view mirror before the police got to the scene.
Anxiety took over.
Flashbacks of what had just happened played over and over in my mind. My hands shook on the steering wheel. It was only then that I realized that the grey double cab did not have a license disc and was probably stolen.
“These damn crooks! ” I cursed over and over.
I glanced at the rear-view mirror often. I rolled down the windows. I was so anxious that every sound that came in nearly gave me a heart attack. I drove in this state for two hours. It proved to be too much when I approached a single lane bridge. The river running under the bridge glistened to the shine of the moon.
With the gym bag strapped firmly to my chest I put the car in neutral, got out and disengaged the handbrake. I watched from the banks of the river as the car rolled into the water. It submerged quickly. I took off on foot.
After hours of walking I saw lights in a school in the distance. I walked to the school and tiptoed to the teacher cottages at the back. I snatched a hoodie, T-shirts and track pants from the clothesline. I changed into the track pants and hoodie and put the T-shirts covering the money in the gym bag. I walked all night. I came up to a bus stop as the first orange light of morning appeared in the sky. A bus arrived soon after. It was going to Kokstad. I got in.
In Kokstad I took another bus to Port Edward. I booked into a room in a shabby building on the outskirts. I couldn’t sleep. I counted the money in the gym bag for hours. Thoughts of Linda and Owethu and a montage of death and guns and blood fought for attention in my mind. The cash amounted to R385 600.
I took a bath and waited for sunset. I went to a taxi rank as soon as it got dark. I bought airtime vouchers for all cellphone networks and loitered around. I scanned the crowd for a friendly face and soon found it. A young man, drunk out of his mind, bought a cigarette and smiled at me. I waited for him to light it.
“Do you have another cigarette?” I said.
“No, this is the last one. But we can share it,” he said as he staggered in front of me.
I bought him a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the tuck shop. He beamed a drunken smile.
“Bru, help me out here,” I said. “I need to make a call but I lost my cellphone. I have airtime vouchers. It will be a quick call.”
“No problem,” he said.
I dialled Linda’s number.
“It’s me,” I said when she answered.
She let out a sob, “Where are you? There’s a rumour going around that Mdu and Padlock are dead! I was so worried because Mdu left with you.”
“Stop crying, baby. I’m fine. Have the police contacted you?’
“No. Where are you? Spha, what’s going on?”
“Just listen, Linda. Don’t speak. You will–”
“What’s going on, Spha?”
“Listen! Tomorrow I will deposit money into your account. Pack all your clothes. Do you hear me Linda?”
“Pack clothes? What are you talking about, Spha?”
“Listen! Pack all your clothes and all of Owethu’s clothes. You will go to Durban station and take a taxi to Kokstad. I’ll meet you at the Kokstad taxi rank. Send your banking details to this number right now!”
“Linda, just do as I say, please. We are going to start a new life. I need you here with me.”
“But I don’t have airtime to send my banking details.”
“Get a pen.”
I heard her breath heavy as she looked for a pen. Owethu giggled in the background. She took down the voucher number.
As soon as I dropped the call I got the message on the cellphone. I wrote down her account number on my arm and called her again.
“I got it, baby,” I said. “Bring our IDs and Owethu’s birth certificate. And Linda.”
“Please make sure you destroy your cellphone, and mine which is still there at home, as soon as you get the deposit notification message from the bank.”
Early the next morning I took a taxi back to Kokstad. I waited at a distance from the rank. I wanted to run to Linda and Owethu as soon as I saw them get out of the taxi, but I waited. I had to make sure they were not being followed. I watched Linda look around until she lost all hope, then I waited some more. When she began to sob I crept up next to her, my cap low on my face.
“It’s me, baby,” I said. “Don’t make a scene, don’t even hug me. Just get up with Owethu and follow me.”
She strapped Owethu to her chest while I picked up their bags. Linda was right on my heels as we disappeared into the crowd.
In my head all I could hear was, ‘We’ve got a second chance at life,’ over and over.
I squeezed Linda’s hand, smiled at Owethu. She giggled back.
Tell us what you think: If Spha had been caught, and you were the judge, what would be reasons to give him a light sentence? In other words what are ‘mitigating factors’ to bear in mind in his case?