Читать онлайн "Vortex" автора Бонд Ларри - RuLit - Страница 82

 
...
 
     



Выбрать главу
Загрузка...

“Yes. Perhaps you will.” It surprised her that even the thought of Henrik Kruger still hurt. Not because of anything he’d done.

Far from it. It was the memory of the anguish she’d caused him that was still painful. He’d been a good man, a kind man-just not the right man.

Not for her.

She watched Pakenham take the steps two at a time until he was out of sight. Then she turned to find the helpful Miss Cooke hovering nearsightedly at her shoulder.

It was time to buckle down to work.

Emily van der Heijden straightened her aching back and rubbed at weary, bloodshot eyes. The low, persistent hum and white glare of the morgue’s fluorescent lights had given her a pounding headache-a headache magnified by the hours spent combing through fading press clippings announcing births, store openings, and church outings. All the humdrum tedium that made news in the rural Transvaal.

So far she’d come up with nothing of any real use. The date of Erik

Muller’s birth, for instance. Something readily obtainable from public records. The fact that he was an only child. Unusual in an Afrikaner farm family, but not unheard of. Or the discovery that Muller’s father had died in a car wreck when Erik was seven. Again, nothing strange there.

Back in the early fifties the northern Transvaal’s roads had been rudimentary at best and accidents were common. At least the military expansion of recent decades had changed that. Now a web of multi lane superhighways crisscrossed the high veld, more superhighways than the rural towns and villages in the region needed. Some cynics suggested they were intended as alternate airstrips for jet fighters in case of war.

Some cynics were probably right.

Emily shook her head in exasperation. Her brain was wandering too far afield. Muller. Erik Muller. He was her target, her mission. She pushed the last yellowing scrap of newspaper aside and leaned backward, straining against the uncomfortable, straight-backed wooden chair.

“Miss van der Heijden?”

She opened her eyes.

Miss Cooke stood in front of her worktable, another pile of clippings clutched in eager hands. The librarian had proved an avid, enthusiastic helper. And one who seemed to possess an infallible, inexhaustible memory.

“I thought you might want to have a look through these. As background material for your project. ” Miss Cooke spread the handful of articles out across the table.

“None of them mentions the Muller boy by name. But they all deal with events in the same town and from around the time he and his mother were still living there. ” Her thin lips pursed in disapproval.

“There seem to have been some most unusual goings-on in that little place.”

Intrigued, Emily sat forward.

“Unusual, Miss Cooke? In what way?”

“See for yourself, Miss van der Heijden.” The librarian tapped the first clipping with a delicate, wrinkled finger.

Emily scanned the story quickly, reading only for the essentials. The details could come later. The minister of the Dutch Reformed Church in

Muller’s hometown had been defrocked for a series of what were referred to only as “shocking misbehaviors.” No specifics were provided.

And that meant the minister’s “misbehaviors” must have involved some kind of sexual misconduct. She felt the beginnings of a smile. Nothing made an old-style Afrikaner retreat into embarrassed silence and sanctimonious circumlocution faster than the barest hint of sex. Especially when it was a member of the clergy who’d gotten tangled up between the sheets.

She checked the month and year. Muller would have been about eleven.. Not much connection there. Still, the experience of seeing his family’s minister, the dominie, drummed out of the church must have made some impression on him.

She jotted a rough note to herself and moved on to the next item.

A murder! Now that was more interesting. A young black boy, Gabriel

Tswane, had been found dead in a field just outside Muller’s hometown.

Again, the details were sketchy, but Emily’s reading between the lines left her fairly convinced that the young man had been beaten to death.

The unbylined reporter hadn’t bothered to hide his own belief that Tswane had been murdered by “black bandits and cattle thieves,” but had also been forced to admit that the “police still had the case under investigation.”

Emily noticed the date. October 22. Less than two weeks after the dominie’s downfall. Was there a connection? If so, what kind of a connection?

She felt her temples pounding again and slid the article on top of her burgeoning pile for further study. Thirty-year-old mysteries and clerical misdeeds might make interesting reading, but they weren’t moving her any closer to uncovering information about Muller’s role-if any-in the Blue

Train massacre.

“Were the articles of any use, Miss van der Heijden?”

Emily looked up into the librarian’s anxious eyes and smiled.

“They were very helpful, Miss Cooke. Very much so.” She glanced at her watch.

“But perhaps we’d best move on to Meneer Muller’s early days in the security services. Have you been able to-” She stopped suddenly.

The thick stack of file folders the librarian plopped onto her desk answered her still-unasked question. Emily stifled a groan, converting it with tremendous difficulty into a simple, quiet sigh.

Who’d ever said a journalist’s life was glamorous?

SEPTEMBER 24-JOHANNESBURG

Shelby’s Olde English Pub wasn’t very old and it certainly wasn’t very

English. Its chrome fittings and hard plastic tables reminded Ian more of a slapdash, drink-on-the-run airport bar back in the States. But at least

Shelby’s had all the elements so essential to a private, conspiratorial meeting: it was dimly lit, smoke filled, noisy, and crowded.

The government’s new limits on the hours during which liquor could be served hadn’t cut South Africa’s alcohol consumption. They’d just forced people to drink their booze faster. A classic example of the law of unintended consequences, Ian thought sourly as he sipped the warm pint of beer in front of him.

He’d come here to play a hunch-a hunch backed by tidbits he’d picked up in an earlier, off-the-record conversation with the U.S. embassy’s CIA station chief.

“Political Counselor” Frank Price hadn’t confirmed his belief that South Africa’s security services had a high-ranking mole inside the ANC, but he had drawn Ian’s attention to an operation that seemed to indicate it just might: the surgically precise SADF commando raid into Zimbabwe back in May.

Although Price hadn’t been willing to say more than that, the mention of the attack on Gawamba had been enough to put Ian on what he hoped was the right track. He’d spent the several days since then arranging this meeting with a man he hoped could take him even further toward the truth.

The bar’s front door swung open, briefly admitting a swirl of fresh, cool evening air along with a new customer. Ian watched through narrowed eyes as the man, self-conscious in an unfamiliar civilian suit, made his way through the tangle of portly businessmen and loud, off-duty soldiers. The newcomer was looking for someone.

Ian waited until the man’s eyes focused on him and then tapped the empty place across the table.

Capt. Michael Henshaw, SADF, slid gingerly into the booth, sweat gleaming on his brow.

“Are we safe here? Were you followed?”

Ian shook his head impatiently. He’d taken a lot of precautions to dodge any kind of a tail-feeling spectacularly silly all the while.

First, Sam Knowles had bundled their driver and suspected informer,

Matthew Sibena, off on an all-day wild-goose chase across Johannesburg.

The two were supposed to be filming a whole new slew of background shots for use as filler in

news broadcasts. Ian only hoped Siberia didn’t know that the network’s files already held more footage of Johannesburg street scenes than could possibly be used in a dozen years.

     

 

2011 - 2018