“I’m home!” I shouted into the kitchen. My mother, home from her job at the Council, shouted back, “Hi Lola!”

I went to my room, took The Private Investigator’s Handbook by T.S. Lanchaster from my bookshelf and lay on my bed. I wasn’t sure there was anything to investigate regarding Mr Wang’s strange actions just yet, but I wanted to brush up on the things to keep a watch for.

When a person’s behaviour suddenly changes there has to be a reason. If a happy person is suddenly angry, there is a reason. If a person starts to hide letters or talk in whispers on the phone, it is likely there is something they do not want others to know about. It doesn’t mean that they are your perpetrator. It doesn’t mean the secret is anything of consequence, but a good detective pays attention to such people. If there is more odd behaviour, a good private investigator will find the reason behind the behavioural change and quite often that will lead to the solving of the case. The key is to pay very close attention.”

I closed the book and rested it on my chest. There was no case; it was only Mr Wang acting oddly. But I would follow T.S.’s advice: I would pay closer attention. This might be the beginning of something serious.

It was all very curious, though. What on earth would Mr Wang be doing at a farm on the edge of Nokeng? He was not a fan of dirt and soil and dust, and the cows that roamed the village scared him. Farms were full of both soil and cows. What did he need so badly at that farm?

Just then my sister came into the room. Amogelang is a ten-year-old genius. She’s going to be the most famous chemist in South Africa, after she grows up a bit. She’s already discovered a chemical – she calls it Amo 57 – that can remove gum from dog’s fur. She’s applied for the patent. Our dog, Thula, lost all her fur on two occasions during the experimental stages in the development of Amo 57. Thula’s fine, but she doesn’t like Amogelang too much anymore, and growls when people chew gum near her.

“New case?” Amogelang said, looking at The Handbook lying on my chest.

“Maybe. We’ll see.”

Amogelang was still in her school uniform. She carried her books in front of her, her hands clasped around them. She went to her bed and bent over, her books tipped out of her circle of arms, but her hands remained clasped in front of her.

“Do you think you can give me some help?” Amogelang asked.

“Still working on the instant super-glue antidote?”

“Yep. This one failed, again. I have some acetone in the pocket of my book bag.”

“Why didn’t Ann help you before you left school?” Ann was Amogelang’s friend who lived next door.

“I glued her fingers together twice today and neither Solution 7 nor Solution 8 unglued them. But in my defence, I was sure Solution 8 was going to work. I think I’m off by just a fraction – success is near. But Ann wouldn’t listen. One of her fingers was bleeding and she had to go to the clinic. I told her I would acknowledge her in my scientific paper, but she didn’t seem to appreciate that.”

I rubbed the acetone on Amogelang’s fingers with a cloth and very slowly they came apart.

“So what’s the new case about?”

“Nothing yet. When I know, I’ll let you in.” The last of her fingers came apart. “All done!”

Amogelang wiggled her fingers in the air. “Good. Call me in the lab when dinner’s ready.”

The lab was the shed behind the house. She collected her book bag and disappeared.

I thought more about Mr Wang. If I was to look at him clearly, in general, he was quite a mysterious man. None of us knew much about him. We never met this brother he allegedly visited in Joburg each year. Who’s to say there was even a brother? Mr Wang had appeared in Nokeng six years before and opened The Good Lucky Shop. He wasn’t from China, but didn’t like answering questions about where exactly he was from. He seemed to have a lot of money, but never had expensive things. He lived in a tiny one-bedroomed house, alone, save for Chairman Meow, a very mean, very fat tabby cat. Where did all of his money go?

Mr Wang was a slave to habit, but now suddenly he throws all of that out the window. And he never rode in anyone else’s car – he was scared to death of other people’s driving. How did he get back to Nokeng from that mysterious farm?

Now that this had happened, I started to see questions in every corner. I’d been working for the man for two years, meanwhile solving other complicated cases, and here was all this mystery right under my nose.

Who was this secretive Mr Wang really and what was he up to?


Tell us: What do you think of Amogelang, Lola’s sister?