Lebo touches the wound on the back of her head and brings the fingers before her eyes to see. There is still fresh blood. She looks at her arms; there are deep scratches from the thorn bush on which she fell blindly. Tears drip down her cheeks.
When they recaptured her she had thought, numb with terror, that they would now cut off her ear, but Pinky had persuaded John to pull out a chunk of hair instead. “If we get the money she will be free to go. Why damage her now? The hair is enough…”
Lebo remembers the torchlights coming closer as she lay in the thorn bush. She remembers the feel of a strong hand gripping around her wrist and tugging her out of the bush. The thorns pulled at her flesh viciously as the man yanked her from the branches. She screamed. The light beamed on her face and blinded her momentarily.
A hot slap stung across her face. “Hey you little fool! What do you think you were doing? Running away?” It was Davida. “Now keep quiet!”
“You got her?” said another voice, getting closer, too.
“Yes John. We will have to chain you to the bed now.”
Davida and John angrily kicked and slapped her. She cried out, but they beat her all the more.
“Shut up, idiot!” Davida shouted.
The men negotiated their way back to the house in the darkness and cold. Davida was pulling Lebo along, as she hobbled after him.
“Please, people. I need to be reunited with my family,” she wept. “My father and mother are dying a painful death because you have kidnapped me.”
“I said to keep quiet,” Davida reminded her.
They got to the house and found Pinky standing at the door. They whisked Lebo into the same room she had been before.
John produced his huge knife, grabbed hold of Lebo. The steel blade was ready behind her ear when Pinky came in and stopped him. He hesitated, then viciously ripped a chunk of her hair out instead, and a piece of skin came with it.
Lebo screamed in agony, nearly fainting.
Davida rushed out and returned with a chain and padlock. He chained her one leg onto the bed. The chain felt rusty and cold round her ankle.
“Now you will not be able to run away,” said Davida. “And when your father sees this he will certainly run to meet us on the bridge.” He smiled as he shook the clump of hair.
Lebo weeps bitterly in pain and fear and despair. How could she have thought of escaping, she chastises herself? They are right – there is nowhere to go. She has lost all hope already.
She lies on the bed. The day is hot and the chain cuts into her. Time passes slowly. She listens to them talking next door, laughing.
“So Pinky, what are you going to do with your share, which will be R666 000?” asks John. “Mr Seema has called to say he will definitely meet us at ‘drop point’ with the money.”
“When I first laid my eyes on that child, I smelled my money,” Davida marvels. “Even now as I am saying this, my nostrils are filled with the smell of money.”
They are drinking. Lebo can hear the clink of glasses.
“I am going to renovate my kitchen and upgrade some of the furniture in my house.” It’s Pinky now. “If I can get around R600 000, I will rejoice.”
“I need a big car, though,” John reveals. “No-one will drive as big and expensive car as mine in our village. You all will see. People will respect me when they see me driving in that big car, you’ll see.”
“You forget,” says Pinky. “Nobody will see you in your village because we can’t ever go back to your village. We have to make new lives across the border. Did you not see the news, you idiot? They know who we are.”
John speaks: “We will get rich. That’s if we get the money. If only the drop point is not crawling with cops.”
“We will find out later,” says Davida.
“Did you give the child food?” Pinky asks Davida now. Both are just outside the room now.
“Don’t be stupid. We don’t even have food for ourselves.”
“You will need to go into the village and get some supplies.”
“I thought John was properly prepared for this…”
“He’s too busy thinking about the money.”
“OK,” she answers. “I will drive to the village then.”
Lebo turns her head and watches out of the window as Pinky gets into the car and drives off, back along the long farm road.
Lebo hasn’t spoken to her father since that first night of her kidnapping. She tries to imagine the police driving along the tar, stopping at the village store, turning off on this farm road. She tries to imagine her father’s face and her mother’s as well, both weeping for her.
She tries to think of good things: of her playing at the local park with her friends, Lufuno and Tshilidzi.
She thinks of the evening when they went to the town hall where the Talent Show was in full swing. How they enjoyed the evening; particularly when Lufuno was announced as Makhado’s best young dancer. They all rose and congratulated her, hugging her and kissing her on the cheek.
The moment Pinky stops the car she sees the posters. They are stuck up in the window of the supermarket. She puts on her shades and walks slowly towards the window, looking around her to see if someone is watching.
It’s them: pictures of their faces. Criminals. “This is me, and John, and Davida,” she says to herself. She even reads the words written on each of the pictures, “Wanted for kidnapping.”
And there, next to them is picture of Lebo. Lebo’s close-up picture with bold, printed words below it. She read the words:
Have you seen this girl?
Lebogang Seema, aged 14, was kidnapped on 7 March.
Anyone with information on the case urgently contact the nearest police station.
She turns and walks as fast as she can, back to the car. She doesn’t turn to look back at the posters; she gets in and starts the engine. She sees more posters on the trees in the parking lot.
As she pulls out onto the tar road, the shopowner picks up the telephone to call the police. He has seen her. He knows exactly who she is and he watches as she turns right onto the tar and speeds off.
Tell us what you think: What is Pinky feeling about the situation she has got herself into?