The next day I found Mr Wang sitting behind the cash register as if nothing was wrong.
“Good morning, Lola. Did everything go alright yesterday?’ he asked.
“Sure, everything went fine. And you?”
He looked out of the window then back at me. “Me? Yes, yes, everything went fine.”
“And you got back OK?”
“Back? Back from where? PI Lola Molefi, don’t start your funny business on me. The shoes are dusty; I think you can start with those.”
He turned back to the window, looking out at the passers-by. Our conversation was over. I picked up the feather duster to start dusting the clean shoes just as Bonang and Jomo arrived together, laughing about something.
“Jomo, get the keys. We need to go somewhere,” Mr Wang said.
I looked at the clock. It was only just eight and this was a Wednesday. Wednesday they left the shop at 8:17 a.m. to pass by Peter Pieman’s to get a fresh baked chicken pie for tea. Then they went to the bank, arriving just after 8:30 a.m. Where would they be off to at 8:05 a.m.?
Jomo looked at me as he followed Mr Wang out of the shop. Bonang smiled nervously at the till.
Once they were gone I dropped my feather duster and went to the window.
“I was thinking last night that Mr Wang might be in the Chinese mafia. They’re big you know,” Bonang said.
“Sure they are,” I said, watching the car drive off. I turned back to her. “What does a farm in Nokeng have to do with the Chinese mafia?”
“Maybe Mr Wang is the link between the Chinese mafia and the Afrikaner mafia.”
“I’ve never heard of the Afrikaner mafia.”
“It might be a new thing, an idea from Mr Wang even. He might be the king pin.”
Bonang’s imagination made her a poor candidate for private investigator. On many occasions throughout The Handbook T.S. Lanchaster advises potential private investigators to consider the likely scenarios first. Perhaps Mr Wang is buying the farm. Maybe he wanted some fresh milk. Perhaps he was trying to cure himself of his fear of cows. But why did he tell Jomo to leave him there? That made me think he was hiding his motive. What did Mr Wang want at that farm that he wanted to keep secret from Jomo?
Before we could talk further, I was surprised to see Jomo pull up outside. Before the car even stopped completely, Mr Wang got out. He carried a box about half the size of a shoe box, wrapped tightly in brown paper. He burst through the door and headed straight for his office.
Jomo ran in behind him. “What about the bank?”
“No bank today.”
“And your Wednesday chicken pie?”
Mr Wang slammed the office door behind him, clicked the lock into place and pulled the curtains on the window that looked into the shop.
Everything was getting very curious.
That night, though it was a school night, Amogelang and I were going to the fashion show at Martie Jaanke’s House of Style. Bonang was in the fashion show and we couldn’t miss it.
“I’ll be back at nine to pick you up,” Dad said and then he drove off.
As we walked up to Ms Jaanke’s hall, which was really a converted double garage, Jomo ran up to us.
“Any news on the secret life of Mr Wang?” he asked.
“What’s that about?” Amogelang said. “You said you’d tell me if you had a new case.”
“Everything’s been moving a bit fast, sorry. I haven’t had time to tell you.”
I’d been thinking of nothing else all day except for Mr Wang. Jomo had told me that when they went out they drove straight to the courier’s office to collect the mysterious parcel. That was strange since the courier knew The Good Lucky Shop and often delivered packages right to our doorstep. What was so important in that package that Mr Wang needed to go and collect it himself? It was small, but it must have contained something very valuable. Could Mr Wang be … selling drugs?
I didn’t like where my mind was going and I certainly was not going to share my ideas with Jomo, not yet. A good PI operates on facts and evidence. I needed more facts, more evidence.
“Let’s not talk about the case tonight. It’s Bonang’s night. Let’s just enjoy it,” I said.
We entered the half-filled hall and, despite the lingering scent of car oil, Ms Jaanke had done a lovely job decorating. The walls were draped with white silky cloth and chains of flowers. At the front was a stage with a runway jutting out the entire two-car garage length. Chairs for the audience were dispersed on each side of the runway. The lighting was dim, but I could see a spotlight was set up. It looked a bit like a spotlight used for hunting but I was sure it would work fine. Soft music played in the background as people took their seats.
By the time Ms Jaanke climbed onto the stage, the hall was nearly full. She was a tiny woman, short and thin, with an accompanying tiny, squeaky voice. She was not that old, barely thirty I guessed, but she seemed much older. She lived alone in her tiny house attached to her hall where her school operated. She normally had a class of about five students. Some graduated and headed off to Joburg or Cape Town to pursue serious modelling, while others, such as Jon Venter, were perennials. He was past his prime modelling age, nearly forty now, but he stuck to it. You had to give him that – he stuck to it.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. You are indeed in for a treat tonight. My models have been working hard and they have some cutting edge fashion to show you tonight. Welcome and enjoy!”
The first one out on stage, appearing from behind a curtain at the back, was Leah Warona. I glanced at Jomo from the corner of my eye. He was playing with his cellphone.
Leah wore a dress made of aluminium foil. On her head was something that looked a bit like a salad with pieces of corrugated iron standing in for the lettuce and red painted screws scattered around like cherry tomatoes.
Jomo stood up. “It’s roasting in here. They’re selling drinks outside; I’ll go and get some for us.”
He disappeared, and I felt sorry for him. He was a lovely young man, so responsible and caring. His unrequited love for Leah must be a heavy burden to carry.
Jomo returned with our drinks just as Jon Venter left the stage to mixed applause. He’d been wearing bits of dog fur glued to his body.
Amogelang stood up. “I brought Solution 14. I’m going to sneak out back and see if I can test it on Jon to remove that dog hair.”
Suddenly the music changed to a loud rock song. According to the programme, Bonang was next. I was immediately nervous. Bonang is beautiful. She has the perfect figure for modelling. She has passion for it. But one thing is missing – grace. She is genetically wired to be accident prone.
This was the fourth fashion show she’d been in. In the first she stepped on her dress and the entire thing tore and fell to the floor, leaving her naked on stage. The second, Ms Jaanke had decorated the hall with candles, giving it a beautiful moody feel. Bonang tripped into the candelabra, knocking it into the curtains, which set on fire. The fire brigade had to be called. In the last show, Bonang tripped over the cable for the sound system, somehow pushing the volume to full blast and causing the audience to rush out in an attempt to preserve their hearing.
Bonang emerged from behind the curtain and I became nervous. She wore a floor-length, dark purple gown. Her hair was piled on her head and sprinkled with tiny crystals that glistened in the spotlight.
“She looks beautiful,” Jomo said.
She pranced all the way to the end of the runway without incident and my nerves calmed. She turned quickly, flashing a fierce model face to the crowd, and stamped back to the stage. It was happening! Bonang was going to do this without incident!
At the stage she turned, and just when I was sure we were safe and clear, it happened. The flowing purple fabric caught on the edge of the stage and she stumbled. Before I could do anything, Jomo dashed to the front and caught Bonang in his arms.
He smiled down at her, while she smiled up at him.
I think they were happy no-one was hurt. I know I was.
Tell us what you think: What might be in the box Mr Wang collected?