He followed her into the house. When they entered the sitting room where a handful of people had gathered, they all became quiet. Zoey looked at her mother for help. Obviously the neighbours were uncomfortable with Kopano there, and he looked ready to flee himself.
Her mother stood up. “Kopano, thank you for coming,” she said, holding out her hand to him. “Maybe we can talk in the kitchen.”
The three sat down at the kitchen table and Zoey’s mother asked Kopano what he thought they could do to find Tendai.
“Try to think of anyone who has been around you lately. These sorts of abductions are usually preceded by surveillance. Maybe noticing a person, a stranger in a place you never expected, or seeing the person a few times in places you never saw them before. You’ll be surprised how much your subconscious picks up without you knowing.”
“The school said a woman collected him,” Zoey said.
“Yes, then maybe focus your mind on women, but not exclusively. Some people’s observations can be tainted by what they expect to see, not what they actually saw.”
“Do you mean maybe they expected to see Zoey so they saw her?” her mother asked.
“Yes, something like that,” Kopano said.
They talked a bit longer. Kopano assured them that it was likely Tendai would be found. Kidnapping were uncommon in Botswana. He might have just tried to walk home and got lost, he said. Zoey felt better after talking to him.
“I need to get going.” Kopano stood up. He wrote his number down in case they needed any help with the police. “I still have a few friends there.”
Zoey put Mickey on a leash. “Let me walk you home. Mickey needs to get out.”
Outside, they walked in quiet for a bit. “I’m sorry about the neighbours, about, you know, how they reacted,” Zoey said.
“You don’t need to be sorry. They reacted how most people do, how I likely would.”
They arrived at his house. Beemo barked at the window and Mickey suddenly made a dash for him and the leash was pulled out of Zoey’s hand. She ran up to the front veranda and bent down to grab the leash.
That was when she saw it—a gold star sticker on the floor next to the front door.
Kopano arrived just then. “Is everything alright?”
Zoey realised that she was still bent over, but she’d already picked up the leash. She needed to think quickly.
“No… actually,” she said, standing up. “Do you think I could get a drink of water?”
Kopano hesitated, but then smiled. “Sure.”
He unlocked the door and let her and Mickey pass before he entered. Beemo came running and in the chaos of the two dogs meeting, Zoey let go of the leash. She hoped Mickey would help her locate Tendai in the house. After that she had no plan.
“Wait here. I’ll go and get the water quickly. I’m sure your mother wouldn’t want you to delay,” Kopano said.
Zoey looked around the entryway. The house wasn’t tidy so it was hard to see clearly if Tendai had been here. She walked to the kitchen despite being told not too and on a tile near the fridge she saw a smear of blood on the floor. She calmed herself even though inside she was screaming. Kopano turned and looked at her and then followed her gaze to the floor tile with the blood.
“Oh that…I’m not the best housekeeper, as you can see. It fell from the meat I cooked for supper. I guess I didn’t clean it up properly.” He handed her the water and she steadied herself. She took a sip.
Just then she heard Mickey barking at the back of the house. Zoey threw the water glass with all of her might at Kopano and she ran to where Mickey was barking. She found him in front of a door, barking and scratching at it.
“Tendai! Tendai! Are you there?” she shouted, as she tried to open the locked door. She turned and Kopano was there. “Let him out! I know he’s in there!”
Kopano grabbed her and pulled her away from the door. “You know nothing. I thought you were my friend.”
“I’m not your friend! You monster!”
And then everything went black.
Tell us: Did you expect what just happened? Did you see the twist coming?