As he listened to Ninja, Johan realised he was feeling awe and admiration for the young man; it surprised him. He had come to the prison not knowing if he would get anything out of the young criminal, and here he was hanging on his every word, being drawn into a story and watching it unfold.

He was thinking how Ninja would make a very compelling character in one of the crime novellas he longed to write. Here was a character with charisma, intellect and bravery. Johan thought about how he had to put his dreams of being a writer on hold while he worked to pay the bills. He wondered what Ninja might say if their roles were reversed and Johan was the one who had to tell his story; he figured Ninja might label him a coward for not following through with his own dreams and aspirations and instead hiding behind bills that needed to be paid.

It was getting late and the warden came in to check if the interview would be done by 6pm, the cut off time. Johan assured him they would, but felt that he could spend days with Ninja and still not get enough of his stories.

The warden was a good man. He had been looking out for Ninja ever since Ninja first arrived in Mrova. He had known Ninja’s father before the drinking and gangster life took hold of him, from school days, and when he heard he had become a preacher and found his way back onto the straight and narrow, he wanted to help him out.

Johan asked for more bottled water and the warden gave him two bottles. Johan finished off his half-empty bottle then placed the two water bottles on the table between them. Ninja looked out of the window at the sun that was beginning to dip in the sky. They didn’t have much time left. He began to speak again.

“I started working for Bishop. We got a job on the mines. We would do a normal day’s labour but when sundown approached we put down the tools and met with our connection on the mines to get rough diamonds. We hid these in our clothing.

“On weekends we would go back home and sell the diamonds to the highest bidder, then go back to Lesotho to Kopano where the mines were located. But it was getting unsafe to keep all the cash that was coming in. That’s when Bishop had an idea. He persuaded my father that there were people he knew who had money to spare and wanted to donate to a good cause. He set up a fund in the name of my father’s church for all these ‘donations’. He even offered to manage this fund.

“Some of the ‘anonymous donations’ that started pouring in, Bishop gave to my father for the church … but the rest …” Ninja sighed.

“I would always give some money to my father, but I couldn’t give him enough to make him suspicious. My father never questioned the donations, he was just grateful that someone was helping his congregation and the community. He never thought even once that this could be dirty money.

“My father was glad I was doing so well on my own, and he appreciated the cash I brought back from the mines to the family. He figured I was working hard and staying away from trouble.

“I kept a clean appearance, I even found myself a lovely young Sotho lady by the name of Pulane and she made life good. I brought Pulane to South Africa to meet my father. We met with my father in Springs and they connected instantly. My father was certain she was the one for me and that pretty soon there would be church bells ringing and a young mouth to feed.

“Pulane, the love of my life, knew nothing of my diamond dealings, she saw the kind, determined young man with a good head resting on his shoulders that my father had brought me up to be. I worked hard to keep my diamond dealings away from my father and Pulane, but I couldn’t do it forever.

“Bishop and I kept the money rolling in for about three years. Over time I started to learn more about the connection Bishop had introduced me to. They were the scum of the earth; other than diamonds and marijuana, they also trafficked young girls.”

“I have to say I did not want to have anything to do with human trafficking and I came to despise Bishop and his connections. I respect women – my mother taught me very well. I wanted out when I found out, but it wasn’t easy. If I went to the police I would be a dead man. Then I found out something that changed everything …”

***

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