She had always thought of herself as a good Christian girl. But it was the thought of her brother that changed her mind. She had prayed for university fees for him – perhaps this offer was the answer to her prayer. So she would take the money and keep quiet. But from now they must play clean. She was not just going to be their little black figurehead. If her name was in this company, then so was she.
She made her way to Mr van Staden’s cottage to tell him. It was so dark that she could hardly see the path, and sometimes her red high heels, bought to celebrate her new status as business woman, sank into the soft soil. The silence unnerved her. No loud music, no shouting, laughing, fighting. Just the quiet whoosh of the automatic sprinklers. And then some eerie animal cry in the distance. Thank goodness for the fence around the little cottages. She lifted her hand to knock but then heard the raised voices inside.
“She was the tea girl, for god’s sake. Why did you not know she had done f***ing accountancy at school? Didn’t you do any fucking investigation on her?”
“Pa! You were the one who asked her. You liked her long African surname, remember? And don’t forget that name got us the tender.”
‘You don’t understand the crisis, you moron. That tender’s worth nothing if she blows the whistle.”
There was a pause. Then the man’s voice lowered and she had to listen hard to hear him. “Dirk offered to help. That’s why I chose here for the meeting. Just in case we had to call on him.”
The son gasped. “No, Pa. His men are killers.”
‘Listen, boyjtie, it’s either that or a free holiday at Pollsmoor. I’ll tell Dirk to send his guy tonight to her room, number four. Make it look like a burglary gone wrong. ”
She walked back to her cottage, her heart thudding. It felt like a bad Saturday night movie on TV1. Panic surged through her body, and the dark space stretching around her felt like the highest, thickest walls ever built. She had no car, could not drive. There was no safe place to hide. No-one would hear her scream.
A night wind rose, and the numbers on the cottage doors clattered. She put her hand up to quieten her number four. She felt it loose on its hook, and she slipped it off into her hand. And then she had her idea.
When she got back to her cottage later she pulled the bed across the door, made herself some tea and sat on the chair, waiting. At three in the morning she heard a muffled shout, and then running footsteps fading away. Only then did she doze off.
The next morning there was a commotion. She quickly dressed and came out, finding Frikkie outside his father’s room, his face pale.
“What’s happened?” she asked.
“My father – he’s been murdered. He’s dead.”
The other white man, Dirk, was in the office, shouting furiously down the telephone. When he saw her he stopped for a moment, and then turned away, shouting even louder.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “Why would anyone want to kill him?” She looked at the half-open door and he followed her gaze to the number four hanging there. His mouth slackenened in shock.
“It’s just the two of us in the business now, “ she said. “We’d better look after each other. Be terrible if anything more went wrong.”
And she went back to her room, her high heels tapping firmly on the path.