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Thirteen Hours

Deon Meyer

Table of Contents

05:36-07:00

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

07:02-08:13

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

08:13-09:03

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

09:04-10:09

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

10:10-11:02

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

11:03-12:00

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

12:00-12:56

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

12:57-14:01

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

14:02-15:10

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

15:12-16:14

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

16:41-17:46

Chapter 47

17:47-18:36

Chapter 48

18:37-19:51

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

05:36-07:00

Chapter 1

05:36: a girl runs up the steep slope of Lion's Head. The sound of her running shoes urgent on the broad footpath's gravel.

At this moment, as the sun's rays pick her out like a searchlight against the mountain, she is the image of carefree grace. Seen from behind, her dark plait bounces against the little rucksack. Her neck is deeply tanned against the powder blue of her T-shirt. There is energy in the rhythmic stride of her long legs in denim shorts. She personifies athletic youth - vigorous, healthy, focused.

Until she stops and looks back over her left shoulder. Then the illusion disintegrates. There is anxiety in her face. And utter exhaustion.

She does not see the impressive beauty of the city in the rising sun's soft light. Her frightened eyes search wildly for movement in the tall fynbos shrubbery behind her. She knows they are there, but not how near. Her breath races - from exertion, shock and fear. It is adrenaline, the fearsome urge to live, that drives her to run again, to keep going, despite her aching legs, the burning in her chest, the fatigue of a night without sleep and the disorientation of a strange city, a foreign country and an impenetrable continent.

Ahead of her the path forks. Instinct spurs her to the right, higher, closer to the Lion's rocky dome. She doesn't think, there is no plan. She runs blindly, her arms the pistons of a machine, driving her on.

Detective Inspector Benny Griessel was asleep.

He dreamed he was driving a huge tanker on a downhill stretch of the N1 between Parow and Plattekloof. Too fast and not quite in control. When his cell phone rang, the first shrill note was enough to draw him back to reality with a fleeting feeling of relief. He opened his eyes and checked the radio clock. It was 05:37.

He swung his feet off the single bed, dream forgotten. For an instant he perched motionless on the edge, like a man hovering on a cliff. Then he stood up and stumbled to the door, down the wooden stairs to the living room below, to where he had left his phone last night. His hair was unkempt, too long between trims. He wore only a pair of faded rugby shorts. His single thought was that a call at this time of the morning could only be bad news.

He didn't recognise the number on the phone's small screen.

'Griessel,' his voice betrayed him, hoarse with the first word of the day.

'Hey, Benny, it's Vusi. Sorry to wake you.'

He struggled to focus, his mind fuzzy. 'That's OK.'

'We've got a ... body.'

'Where?'

'St Martini, the Lutheran church up in Long Street.'

'In the church?'

'No, she's lying outside.'

'I'll be there now.'

He ended the call and ran a hand through his hair.

She, Inspector Vusumuzi Ndabeni had said.

Probably just a bergie. Another tramp who had drunk too much of something or other. He put the phone down beside his brand new second-hand laptop.

He turned, still half asleep, and bashed his shin against the front wheel of the bicycle leaning against his pawnshop sofa. He grabbed it before it toppled. Then he went back upstairs. The bicycle was a vague reminder of his financial difficulties, but he didn't want to dwell on that now.

In the bedroom he took off his shorts and the musky scent of sex drifted up from his midriff.

Fuck.

The knowledge of good and evil suddenly weighed heavily on him. Along with the events of the previous night, it squeezed the last remaining drowsiness from his brain. Whatever had possessed him?

He tossed the shorts in an accusatory arc onto the bed and walked through to the bathroom.

Griessel lifted the toilet lid angrily, aimed and peed.

Suddenly she was on the tar of Signal Hill Road and spotted the woman and dog a hundred metres to the left. Her mouth shaped a cry, two words, but her voice was lost in the rasping of her breath.

She ran towards the woman and her dog. It was big, a Ridgeback. The woman looked about sixty, white, with a large pink sun hat, a walking stick and a small bag on her back.

The dog was unsettled now. Maybe it smelled her fear, sensed the panic inside her. Her soles slapped on the tar as she slowed. She stopped three metres from them.

'Help me,' said the girl. Her accent was strong.

'What's wrong?' There was concern in the woman's eyes. She stepped back. The dog growled and strained on the lead, to get closer to the girl.

'They're going to kill me.'

The woman looked around in fear. 'But there's nobody.'

The girl looked over her shoulder. 'They're coming.'

Then she took the measure of the woman and dog and knew they wouldn't make any difference. Not here on the open slope of the mountain. Not against them. She would put them all in danger.

'Call the police. Please. Just call the police,' she said and ran again, slowly at first, her body reluctant. The dog lunged forward and barked once. The woman pulled back on the lead.

'But why?'

'Please,' she said and jogged, feet dragging, down the tar road towards Table Mountain. 'Just call the police.'

She looked back once, about seventy paces on. The woman was still standing there bewildered, frozen to the spot.

Benny Griessel flushed the toilet and wondered why he hadn't seen last night coming. He hadn't gone looking for it, it had just happened. Jissis, he shouldn't feel so guilty, he was only human after all.

But he was married.

If you could call it a marriage. Separate beds, separate tables and separate homes. Damn it all, Anna couldn't have everything. She couldn't throw him out of his own house and expect him to support two households, expect him to be sober for six fucking months, and celibate on top of that.

At least he was sober. One hundred and fifty-six days now. More than five months of struggling against the bottle, day after day, hour after hour, till now.

God, Anna must never hear about last night. Not now. Less than a month before his term of exile was served, the punishment for his drinking. If Anna found out, he was fucked, all the struggle and suffering for nothing.

     

 

2011 - 2015

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