Durban CBD streets are congested. It’s Saturday afternoon. People are minding their business, each the main character in their story. But in a few minutes, one man will unite all these people in one horrible experience.
A black AMG Mercedes Benz S-Class parks on the side of the crowded street. A chubby man in his late fifties emerges carrying a gym bag. He locks the car with the press of a button and walks away. He is in a white short sleeved shirt, blue jeans and designer sneakers. His watch looks as fancy as you’d expect from a man who drives such a car.
The man heads down the street. The concern and desperation he wears on his face can be seen by anyone who bothers to look. This is Lindiwe’s dad and he is here to drop the ransom money with the hope that his daughter will be finally freed.
He quickly answers when his phone rings. “Hel . . . Hello.”
“Remember what I told you?” Zothani says. He is on the side of the pavement, leaning on the wall of one of the buildings down the street.
“Yes,” says Lindiwe’s dad.
“This,” Lindiwe’s dad swallows and starts again. “This is my last chance, if there are police with me again, you will kill her.”
“Are there police with you?” Zothani looks around.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I swear on my daughter’s life.”
Zothani looks across the street to a boy dressed in dirty clothes. The boy is about thirteen and looks like he hasn’t bathed in months. He nods to the boy. The boy nods back and walks towards the man with the gym bag.
“Drop the bag at the robot and return to your car,” Zothani says to the man.
“What about my daughter?”
“Your daughter will be freed once I’m sure there are no cops following me. She is safe. I’ll give you directions of where she is as soon as I’m satisfied I’m not being followed.”
“Okay. Please don’t harm her. I did as you asked. Please!”
But Zothani has dropped the call. Lindiwe’s dad gets to the robot, puts the bag down and heads back to his car.
The boy picks up the bag, hangs it on his shoulder and heads back towards Zothani. All this time, Zothani is scanning the place for any hint of cops. He sees none.
The boy drops the bag in the rubbish bin next to Zothani. Zothani drops a R200 note as if by mistake. The kid picks up the money and disappears into a nearby alley.
Zothani picks up the bag and walks briskly to the Opel Zafira parked on the next street.
“We good?” Rasta says as Zothani gets in.
“Yes, let’s go!”
They check their mirrors often as they inch on in city traffic. After a few tense minutes Zothani starts to smiles – he is satisfied that they are not being followed. He is about to call Lindiwe’s dad and give him directions of where to find her when sirens start blaring. They glance at the mirrors and see police cars – with blue lights flashing – inching on behind them in traffic. They also make out police officers following on foot on both pavements.
“Cops! They are on to us! Punch it!” Zothani screams at Rasta.
Rasta shoves the car in traffic. Police officers have their guns drawn but can’t shoot because there are too many civilians on the street. Zothani spots other police officers approaching up ahead.
“Turn into the next street!” says Zothani.
Rasta shoves the car onto the pavement. He hits a few people who are too slow to get out of the way and enters another street. Car hooters blare non-stop because they are facing oncoming traffic. Rasta weaves between cars until he gets onto another street. They glance at the mirrors – no cops. But sirens are definitely coming closer.
“Stop!” says Zothani.
“What!?” says Rasta.
Zothani shoves his notebook in the gym bag with the money. He pulls handbrake, bringing the car to a screeching halt.
He looks Rasta dead in his confused eyes. “Go, Rasta! I’ll handle this. Give Zothani my notebook and half the money!”
Tell us: what will Zothani do?