Wednesday, July 15, 2015

What Tendai Huchu Can Teach Us



The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician is the second novel from Zimbabwean author Tendai Huchu. His first novel, The Hairdresser of Harare was a big success, but his new book is something all together different. 

It is set in Edinburgh Scotland and revolves around the lives of three Zimbabwean men trying to make a new life there as immigrants. The Magistrate is an older man who left his position in Zimbabwe as a respected magistrate to live in Scotland where his wife works as a nurse. At the beginning of the book he is unemployed, spending his days keeping their house clean and caring for their teenage daughter. Later he is forced to take a job as a temporary nursing assistant in a care home for the elderly. Both positions leave him feeling useless and lost. 

The Maestro works in a grocery store, at least at the beginning of the book, but then slowly he loses touch with reality. He stops going to work, deciding he wants to spend his time at home reading his books. But eventually even that is too much and he leaves his home and moves about as a homeless person in Edinburgh lost in his thoughts. 

The Mathematician is perhaps the most well-adjusted of the three, likely because he comes from a wealthy family that cushions his life in Scotland. He is working on his PhD in economics and spends most of his time with his girlfriend and his flat mates. 

The three storylines might work well alone, but are made more by being woven expertly into and through each other. The writing is beautiful, in places stunning. The descriptions of Edinburgh are from the pen of someone who loves that city and it can’t help but show through his words. There are many books about Africans in the diaspora, many books that appear similar after a while, but not this one. This one stands apart. 

Within the circle of African writers there is often the discussion about who do you write for. There is the feeling that the authors who are most successful in Europe and the United States are authors who write books not well suited to people in their home countries and the reverse-  books that are accepted in their home countries are often not the type wanted by overseas readers and publishers. This discussion and the resulting angst it causes African writers is not to be taken lightly. Is it okay to write a book for overseas eyes that discounts the local readers? And why must these issues weigh heavier on African writers? 

This book gets the balance spot on in my opinion. Huchu’s Magistrate has a love for Zimbabwean music and musicians. The writer does not stop and explain what would be readily known by Zimbabwean readers, insulting their intelligence along the way. He uses Shona freely throughout the novel, but does not weigh the narrative down with clunky explanations. He seamlessly integrates these aspects of his character and plot into the story with no apologies. The foreign reader will find their way, just as the Zimbabwean reader will navigate the unknown landmarks of Edinburgh. There is a respect for all readers here that I think is the way that it should be. Huchu stands his ground in this debate. He will write as he wants and I beg African writers to learn from him and do the same. 

The other thing that I appreciate about The Maestro, The Magistrate and The Mathematician is that it is published by the independent Zimbabwean based ‘ama Books. Huchu’s first book was critically acclaimed and translated into many languages, published all over the world. He easily might have been grabbed up by overseas publishers, but what that does is make them stronger at the expense of publishers on the continent. Of course, many publishers on the continent do not approach the publishing business with a global eye and concentrate on a very limited parochial point-of-view that makes authors unwilling to stick with them as their careers take off since it becomes difficult to make a proper living.  

Some big name authors can be published overseas but then withhold rights in certain areas around the continent to allow local publishers to distribute the book. This can assist the local publishing house. 

But that is not what’s happening here. ‘ama Books published this book. Now they will be the ones selling the rights to foreign publishers to distribute the book in those countries. This is how local publishers grow as trade publishers and begin to play real roles in the global industry. ‘ama Books and Huchu must be congratulated for this. They both took risks. Again they are showing us the new way of doing business in this harsh publishing game on the continent. 

(This column first appeared in the 3 July, 2015 issue of Mmegi in my column It's All Write)

Monday, July 13, 2015

Poetavango Short Story Contest! Deadline 30th July!



Poetavango, the poetry group in Maun, is one of the groups that operate under the motto- “If not us than who?”. They don’t like the conditions that they live in, so they get busy trying to create the world that they want and I seriously respect that. This year they are taking another welcome step toward improving the situation for writers in Botswana by running a short story competition in conjunction with the Maun International Arts Festival. 

In their press release they identified the problem- “One of the objectives of the Maun International Arts Festival 2015 is to promote the literary arts, to give hope to writers who, throughout the years have been, by and large, disgruntled by the conditions of the writing industry in Botswana. Nascent writers are easily discouraged by the somehow writer-unfriendly environment within which we live.” Then the group set out to solve it- “The Maun International Arts Festival seeks to promote the culture of reading and writing. As an initiative for achieving this, the organisers, Poetavango Spoken Word Poetry are introducing the first Poetavango Award for Short Fiction.  The literary competition will focus only on the short story form for fiction writers living in Botswana. It is hoped that in the future, the competition will include awards for novels, poetry and journalism.”. 

The plan is to publish the winning entries and a selection of the better submissions in an anthology. This is a great opportunity for writers in the country and we should all try to support them. 

The rules for the competition are:
·        Only writers living in Botswana can enter the competition (citizens or non-citizens), 18 years old and above. 

·       Only one submission per writer allowed. 

          Writers can submit stories in any fiction genre, e.g. literary, romance, thriller, adventure, suspense, horror, etc.

·      Stories should be no longer than 3500 words and must be in English.

·    Stories must be set in existing places/locations of Botswana. Stories with non-existent or international settings will be disqualified. 

·       Stories must not have been previously published in any form, including online platforms (websites, blogs or social media)

·       Only email submissions allowed. Stories must be submitted as a .doc or .docx attachment, no PDF or any other format is allowed. Stories should not be pasted in the body of the email either. 

·       The deadline is July 30th 2015, 11:59pm CAT. Late entries will not be considered.

·       Submissions must bear the title of the story and name of writer. However, stories will be judged anonymously with names removed. 

·       Writers are allowed to use pseudonyms, but real names must be indicated in the body of the email.

·       Document must be typed in Times New Roman, font size 12, 1.5 line spacing. Paragraphs must be left-justified, ie, leave the right margin ragged. Titles must be centered and bolded in same type as the body but font size 14. Name of the writer should also be centered (size 12 and bolded) and immediately under the title.  

·       In the body of the email, write your names in full (even where pseudonyms are used in the story, you need to provide real names here), address and contact details and the word count of your story. 

·       By entering the competition, the writer declares that the story is their original work and grants Poetavango the permission to publish the work either in print or digital platforms. 

·       Members of the Poetavango Collective and their families are NOT allowed to enter the competition; however, their work may be included in anthologies where necessary. 

·       All submissions will be acknowledged with a response from the receivers. Shortlisted stories will be announced by August 30th while the winners will be announced by September 15th

·       The judges’ decision is final.

·       The Award Ceremony will take place on October 26th during the Maun International Arts Festival ’15, in Maun, Botswana. Winners are expected to attend this event. 

·       For more information or enquiries, email to poetavango@hotmail.com or call +267 73597356 or +267 74083616



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"...the Joyce Carol-Oates of the African writing"

"...the Joyce Carol-Oates of the African writing..."?? Not a small amount of hyperbole in that but very kind of Short Story Day Africa (SSDA) to prop me up with such compliments. This writing life is tough, I'll take such kudos wherever I can get them. :)

 The folks over at SSDA interviewed me for the Wednesday Writer slot. They asked me all sorts of interesting questions and I tried my best not to let them down with the answers. Here's an excerpt about my so-called prolific behaviour: 


Sometimes I feel embarrassed by how much I write, I look around and see I’m slightly abnormal. I’ve started hiding writing because I fear people will think I don’t take things seriously enough, but I do. Honestly. The thing is I come from a working class background. What this means is that if you have a job from which you earn an income, you must go to your job every day, Monday to Friday, and work. So I’ve been writing seriously now for nearly twelve years, going to my office from about 9am to 6 pm, five days a week. That’s a lot of time to write. I do try my best to waste time on Facebook, but eventually that gets tiring.


Read the rest of the interview HERE.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Vanishings Experiment- An Evaluation

So a few months ago I set out on an experiment. I had a novel, The Vanishings, which had been accepted by two publishers but in both cases I had to take it back because of various reasons. Honestly I thought both me and the manuscript had had enough and we needed to do something different. I decided I would serialise the novel around the internet, two chapters per week.

My main objective was to have the book read. The biggest frustration I have since the bulk of my books are published in Southern Africa is distribution. So many of my books never leave the subcontinent, some seem never to leave the publisher's storeroom. I just wanted the book to be read. My hope is for this to be the first book in a series, so I also hoped the more people who got to know Delly and Dambuza in this first book, for free, the more who might be willing to buy the second book in the series, that, of course, is yet to be seen.  

Initially I received three offers of spots interested in being part of the experiment: two blogs run by Batswana (something I had been specifically looking for) and an online African magazine from Kenya (Afrikan Mbui). Along the way one of the blogs had to opt out since the owner did not want swearing on her blog and there is a lot of swearing in The Vanishings. Every Thursday the chapters appeared on the blog (lo-blogs) and the magazine site as well as here on Thoughts from Botswana. On Fridays the same two chapters appeared again on the Facebook page set up for The Vanishings.

On this blog, the lowest number of visitors on a Thursday when the chapters appeared was 48, which is slightly higher than normal posts. The highest was 151, with an average of about 70. It is hard to tell if the posts were read as there was only one comment on this blog throughout the experiment.

The Facebook page was problematic. Because of how Facebook does things not every post on the page is seen by every person who has liked the page (there were 186 likes). I tried to up the traffic there by re-posting posts on my own Facebook page and occasionally on the Maun Bulletin Board page since the novel is set in Maun. There was more interaction from readers on the Facebook page, more comments etc than on the blog.

I also tried to push people to the various sites using Twitter and Facebook.

It's hard to tell what sort of success the experiment was. Visits on the internet do not necessarily mean that the person has read the chapters. I had hoped more media on and off line would get excited about the project. I sent out a few press releases. Short Story Day Africa was very supportive, but that was about it.  During the experiment, I had a short story published at Lawino that featured Delly and Dambuza, Playing Games in the Delta. I had hoped that would drive traffic to the experiment, but I'm not sure if it did.

I would say I'm marginally happy with the experiment. I was expecting more from it, I thought giving a novel away free was something that might be appreciated. I guess, as has been proven elsewhere, free things are sometimes undervalued. I thought too that a detective mystery is a good book to be serialised since the dramatic tension by its very nature is high. At the same time, the people who enjoyed the book and the experiment seemed to really enjoy it and that made me happy.  So for that it was a success.

I did get a comment from a person saying that they didn't like reading a novel in parts, they'd rather read it all in one go. In response to that, I have now put the entire novel up at Amazon. You can find it here.

I'd be keen to hear what everyone thought of the experiment. Thanks for being part of it!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chapters 33, 34 and 35- The Vanishings (the final instalment!!)






Chapter 33

Delly had a new group of tourists arriving. They were two couples from America. She waited at her office while Les went to collect them from Maun Airport. The safari trucks were packed and the group would head out soon after they arrived. Delly usually liked to greet the groups, but rarely went out on safari anymore. She’d had enough of tourists, everyone thought they’d made a lifelong friend in you before the tour ended and Delly frankly didn’t need so many friends. Nowadays she mostly went into the Delta alone to get a bit of a rest.

She sat on the back veranda and drank her morning coffee and ate her marmalade toast as she waited. She was happy to see Kgosi sleeping half submerged in the river down below. They were old friends if only in Delly’s mind. She’d be sad the day he was forced out of this prime stretch of river. She was not heartless enough to be a true wildlife lover. She didn’t like that the weaker was always destined to lose. It could have been because she herself was becoming weaker as the years passed and didn’t like the idea of losing the battle.

Delly was trying her best to not think about Nana. She’d been gone to South Africa for four days and hadn’t called yet. Delly wondered what was going on. She hoped Nkosi’s mother was still alive. She realised now how selfish she’d been. So much time had been lost. She was thankful Nana didn’t blame her and though Dambuza had revealed a confidence, she was happy he had. She hoped Nkosi’s mother was alive and could meet her beautiful granddaughter.

Delly looked up, she heard the whistle of the grey hornbill and peered into the sausage tree a few metres from the edge of the veranda and saw her friend. She plucked a bit off the edge of her toast and sprinkled the crumbs on the railing. The hornbill landed with a thump and tilted his head at her looking at her with his black marble eyes to see if she could be trusted. They played this game most days and she wondered when he would accept she was his friend.

He reached forward with his huge awkward bill and delicately picked up the bits of bread one by one until he finished and then with a piercing whistle of thanks, at least Delly heard it that way, he flew off. Just then she heard the vehicle pulling up in the drive at the front of the house. She picked up her dishes and headed that way.

“Hello? Anyone home?” An old man with hair dyed to a colour no human actually had stood in Delly’s office.

“Yes, welcome to Botswana!” Delly said in her tourist voice. “I’m Delly Woods.”

The man with the unnatural hair reached out his hand for a hardy handshake. “I’m Kent and this is my better half Barb. These are our friends, Bob and Marge.”

Delly shook everyone’s hands. They were obviously wealthy. The women had styled blonde hair with faces pulled back to appear an odd kind of forty when in fact the skin, tanned a few too many times, looked the tired side of sixty. They were all decked out in new safari clothes, khaki shorts, matching vests, and heavy hiking boots which were useless since they’d be carried everywhere in a safari truck.

“So your boy here tells us we’ll be heading out right away,” Kent said.

“Yes Les, the man who collected you and two other guides will be taking you out to the first camp inside Moremi so you can set up for the night,” Delly said already not caring much for Kent and company.

“You know Bob here works for a company that is thinking of investing in this new AIDS drug the outfit you got here, Hope Institute, is making. He thought we might get a chance to get a little tour of the place since we were here. You think that’s possible there, darling?”

Delly smiled and held her hand from reaching out and giving Kent a hard clap. She was not his darling and never would be. “Okay let me make a few calls and we can change the plans. That will mean you need to sleepover her in Maun if that’s alright with you.”

“Sure, sure whatever you have to do.”

***
Delly decided to take the group to Hope Institute herself. She didn’t want them causing problems for Les. On the way Kent barely shut his mouth. The other three didn’t have a chance of speaking with him around.

“So how do you survive out here in Africa and all?” Kent asked her.

“I do okay.”

“I shouldn’t be complaining we make a lot of money off the craziness of this place. I’m CEO for KDL Armaments, you know the company?”

“No, can’t say I do. I don’t buy many guns,” Delly said. She could feel a headache building behind her temples.

“We sell all sorts of weapons to the Africans. As long as they keep wanting to kill each other we’ll be doing just fine.” He laughed at that and his wife Barb giggled at the back. Delly sped up hoping to get the whole thing over as quickly as possible.

She pulled up at Hope Institute and was happy to see they’d organised a tour guide for the group. “I’ll wait here in reception for you,” Delly said.

“Alright, sweetheart, we’ll see you in a bit,” Kent said.

Delly took out her cellphone and rang Dambuza to check if Nana had called him.

“Nope,” he said. “I haven’t heard from her at all. Should we be worried?”

Delly didn’t want to get him upset and besides she knew Nana, when she was off on one of her missions she forgot to keep in touch. “No, she’s fine. It’s just how she is. Listen anything new on the case?”

“No, I’m off to the morgue just now. Want to take a look at the autopsy on Annah Ditiro. The family wants to bury her this weekend.”

“Yeah, I heard.” Delly looked up and saw the Americans returning. “Okay listen, come by the house later for drinks. I gotta go.”

Delly stood up and Kent put his arm around her shoulder. “Thanks for this, sweetheart. Bob really enjoyed it, didn’tcha Bob?”

Bob, a smaller, much quieter version of Kent but with his natural grey hair said, “Yes, thank you, Ms Woods.”

“No problem.”

The group turned to leave and Kent stopped and stepped back to look down the corridor. “Who’s that?”

Delly looked at the retreating back of Portia. “She’s one of the researchers here, one of the bosses actually. She holds the patent for Total Protect, she developed it.”

“Is that so? But I think I know her?”

Delly started walking again. “You might, she’s American and quite an important microbiologist I understand.”

They got in the car and Delly was thankful Kent had decided to spend the ride speaking to Bob about the advantages of buying some stock in his company given the acquisition of the new HIV/AIDS product Total Protect. To Delly it sounded a bit like insider trading but she wasn’t sure. It could just be a branch of the Good Ol’ Boys Cub.

The group would spend the night at Audi Camp. When Delly pulled up to the place, she was happy to see Les had lunch laid out for the group and she would be quickly free of her cargo. She knew she was likely a much better host long ago, but she’d done her time and all she wanted now was a tuna sandwich, an ice cold beer, and the quietness of her little house on the river.

“Okay then I’ll be off,” Delly said once the group had got out of her vehicle.

“I got it!” Kent shouted.

Delly closed the door and started moving away, but Kent grabbed at the door and she stopped. “I remember now. That woman back there. I remember how I know her.”

Delly didn’t really care how Kent knew Portia. Likely some country club gala or another high society function. But she knew the quicker she let him get it off his chest the quicker she could get away from him. “Is it? How do you know her?”

“She’s been negotiating a deal with the company,” Kent said proud that he’d remembered.

“I’m sure she has,” Delly said not interested in the slightest. “Isn’t Bob’s company the American distributor of Total Protect?”

“No, not Bob’s company, mine, KDL, she’s been talking to us.”  Delly looked out the windscreen and suddenly it seemed like everything had stopped. The birds stopped singing, the wind stopped blowing. She could only hear Kent’s words as he continued. “She’s developed some sort of biological weapon. A calibrated one that can be used to pacify a population without killing them. If it works, she’s going to make a bundle. Of course, we can’t be part of it, America’s got treaties and stuff, but there’s plenty of guys that will snatch that thing up, I’m tellin’ ya, sweetheart, that little lady is going to make a serious packet of change.”

Delly wasn’t sure what he said after that. She drove away. She needed to get to Dambuza. She needed to get Dambuza and they needed to save Nana before it was too late.



Chapter 34

Dambuza tried Nana’s cellphone again. Still no answer. He reminded himself that Delly said everything was fine, there was nothing to worry about. It was just how Nana was. He closed up his office and headed over to the morgue. He wanted to get the final autopsy on the dead girl before her family took her to the private mortuary.

He got in the Corolla and his phone rang. “Hi Daddy,” his daughter, Ludo, said.

“Hi baby, how’s F-town?”

“Everything’s fine. I was just checking on you, you’re so quiet.”

Dambuza couldn’t ignore the coincidence that he was off to check the dead body of a young woman almost the age of his daughter. His loving, caring daughter who in the middle of her hectic busy life, had decided she needed to check and see if her father was doing okay. “I’m fine, Ludo. You know me, too busy with work. Sorry I haven’t called.”

“We’re still coming at break, right?”

“Of course. My friend has agreed to take us out into the Delta. I think you’ll like it. I know Thabang will. ”

“Cool, should I tell the boys?”

“Yeah, tell them, it’s a done deal.”

“Okay Daddy. It sounds great. You take care of yourself. I love you.”

He started to say he loved her too but she’d already hung up. Anyway, he thought, kids knew their parents loved them, he hoped that anyway, because he knew he never told his kids near enough.

He drove to the morgue and found Manga waiting for him. “You’re late.”

“Yeah, sorry,” Dambuza said. Manga handed him the report.

“It’s like I told your boss, she was strangled, then thrown in the water.”

Dambuza didn’t even want to ask but had to. “Any sexual abuse?”

“None.”

Dambuza’s cellphone rang. It was Blue. Renet was giving them some trouble. He was being transferred to the prison until the court date and he was refusing to go. “You need to get Tito to help you, I’m at the morgue.”

Dambuza hung up and set his phone on Manga’s desk. “Any chance I can see the body?”

“Sure.” Manga walked with Dambuza down the hall. They entered the room and Dambuza shivered, he wasn’t sure if it was the cold or the fact that he’d just entered a room full of dead bodies. Despite his profession, he’d never gotten used to the dead.

Manga pulled out a drawer and unzipped the black bag all the way to the bottom so Dambuza could see the whole body of the young woman. She looked so small and young and vulnerable. Who could have done such a thing? Why hadn’t he stopped them?

Manga pushed her head to one side. “There’re the marks from strangulation. Looks like they used a belt.” Dambuza looked closer. “I don’t know why they threw her in the water; even a layman was going to see those marks.”

“Who knows? Maybe they didn’t care. Maybe they think no one will ever catch them,” Dambuza said.

“You done?”

“Yeah.” Dambuza looked as Manga’s fat fingers grabbed the tab of the zipper and then he noticed something. “What’s that?”

“What?” Manga asked looking at where Dambuza pointed. He pulled the zipper back down to show him. “It’s her shoe. Funny such a big girl wearing pink takkies like that.”

“Where’s the other one?” Dambuza asked.

“She only came with the one,” Manga said.

Dambuza had a flash. A pink takkie falling on the ground, stopping a door from closing and quickly being thrown back in the car. That day when he beat up Gopolong, that’s when he’d seen the pink takkie.  Could it be? Could Gopolong be the killer? Could Gopolong be involved in the case of the disappeared?

“Thanks Manga, got to go!” Dambuza rushed out to his Corolla and headed for Hope Institute. In his haste, he left his cellphone sitting on Manga’s desk ringing away.

***
Dambuza ran through the halls of Hope Institute looking for Gopolong’s office. He felt an arm on his shoulder. “I’m sorry but this is a business premises. You can’t be running around like a wild animal.”

Dambuza turned to see Portia. “Oh it’s you,” he said relieved. “I’m Detective Dambuza Chakalisa, we met before... I’m looking for Gopolong Tlholego, I need to take him into the station. It seems he’s involved in many things not just what you know about.”

“What I know about?” Portia asked, she looked confused.

“The papers, the ones Nana gave you?”

“Nana? I don’t know anyone called Nana and I don’t know anything about any papers.

Then Dambuza remembered, of course they wouldn’t call her Nana. “Nonofo, Nonofo Woods. The papers she gave you about Gopolong.”

“Nonofo Woods has been fired. She disappeared with no notice and I know nothing about any papers. As for Dr. Tlholego, his wife is ill and he’s taken a few days off to go and visit her. He’s not here.”

“Do you know where I can find him? How I can contact him?”

“No, I don’t get into the personal business of my employees. Please can you make your way off the premises in a more conventional manner?” She turned and walked away not caring about his answer, assuming he would follow her orders.

Dambuza decided to try Gopolong’s house anyway. Maybe he hadn’t told his boss the truth. Dambuza couldn’t imagine Gopolong taking care of a sick anyone, especially a wife. He wondered why Portia had lied about receiving the papers from Nana. Or maybe in the end Nana decided to wait until she came back from Kimberly. He wished she would call so she could sort out all of the questions. Though it might be normal Nana behaviour, he found it damned annoying.

He pulled up to Gopolong’s house and was happy to see the BMW was in the driveway. He doubted Gopolong had a gun, but still he thought he’d better call for back-up. Dambuza  reached in his pocket for his cellphone, but it wasn’t there. He looked around the car and then remembered he’d set it down on Manga’s desk. Damn!  He couldn’t leave now since Gopolong could run at any minute.

He got out and headed for the house. The door was open and he went in. He could hear someone moving in the backroom and he slipped down the hall and around the corner. Gopolong was packing a suitcase, he turned and saw Dambuza. “What the hell are you doing in my house?”

“I’m here to take you down to the station,” Dambuza said.

“What for? I’m on my way out if you haven’t noticed.” He closed the suitcase and picked it up. Dambuza stood in the doorway so he couldn’t pass. Dambuza reached forward to try and get handcuffs on the hand holding the suitcase and with one swoop Gopolong brought the suitcase crashing down on Dambuza’s head. Dambuza staggered and Gopolong pushed past him.

By the time Dambuza stood up and made his way outside, Gopolong was getting into his car. Dambuza pulled him out and with two blows, a left hook and a straight right, Gopolong was on the ground. He hadn’t actually wanted him passed out, but it was better than losing him all together. He snapped the cuffs on and dragged him to the Corolla. When he went back to the BMW, he saw the pink takkie still lying on the floor at the back of the car. Goplong was so confident that no one would ever catch him he hadn’t even troubled himself to get rid of the dead girl’s shoe. He thought of taking it, but instead locked the car up and left it for the forensics people to figure out.

When they pulled up to the station, Gopolong was still out, so Dambuza called Blue to help him. They carried Gopolong to the cells. Lebo stood up when  he saw them coming. He watched as they neared and then fled to the back of his cell, his face pale.

“Don’t put him in here!” he said.

They opened the cell next to Lebo’s and put Gopolong on the bed. After making sure it was locked tight Dambuza went back to Lebo. “You got anything to say?”

“That’s him….that’s the guy,” Lebo said his voice a weak whisper.

Dambuza was sure the forensics in the BMW and Lebo’s testimony would be enough to convict Gopolong. Now he needed to get him awake so he could say where he kept the people, if they were still alive, or where he buried them if they were not. Dambuza went in search of some cold water.

“Delly was here, did you speak to her?” Blue said.

“No.”

“Ao! But she was pretty upset. I told her she could find you at the morgue. She didn’t call you?”

“Maybe, I don’t know, I left my phone that side. What was it about?” Dambuza asked becoming worried. It took a lot to upset Delly. Maybe she’d spoken to Nana.

“Her daughter. She said her daughter was in some kind of danger,” Blue said.

“What? God!”   Dambuza rushed for a phone. Suddenly he remembered Khathurima’s warning. Someone he loved would be put in danger by the people he was after. He opened his office and fell on the phone. “Delly it’s me. What’s happening?”

“It’s Portia. She’s the one. A man was here told me he knows her; she’d been trying to sell his compnay a biological weapon. She’s the fucking one Dambuza! And Nana basically told her she knew what was going on.  I think Nana’s in danger. I don’t think she’s in Kimberly, I think they have her!”

“Delly come to the station. I need to finish what I’m doing here. I don’t know what’s going on, but come here. I have Gopolong, I think we can get the information we need from him.”

“And what about Portia? She’ll get away!”

“Delly please, just come to the station,” Dambuza begged her before hanging up.

Dambuza grabbed a bottle of cold water from the fridge in the station kitchen and rushed back to the cells. They’d left Gopolong cuffed on the bed and he still laid where they left him. Dambuza dumped the cold water over his head and he woke up in a sputter. He looked around and saw Lebo staring at him from the other cell. He shook his head and said, “Damn.”

Before Gopolong knew what was going on Dambuza was on top of him, his hands around his throat. “Okay you sonofabitch, tell me where they are!”

Gopolong smiled. “Too late, I’m afraid.”

“What do you mean too late?”

“Check my cellphone in my pocket.” Gopolong sat up, the snide smile still across his face.

Dambuza clicked the cellphone open and there was a message from Portia, it said GAME OVER. “Game over? What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means your nosey little Nana and her friends are all dead by now. Portia doesn’t play.”

“You are going to hang for this you sonofabitch! Where? Where are they?”

“Hope Institute.”

“I don’t mean Portia you fucker! I mean them! I mean Nana!” Dambuza could have killed him, but he knew Gopolong was his only link to finding Nana.

“You are very dull Policeman Dambuza. I mean them. Why would we inconvenience ourselves? They’re at Hope Institute. Underneath the building. They’ve always been there.”

Gopolong seemed unfazed by being caught. He was proud to reveal their plan. They had a chamber built in the basement of the building. No one knew about it except he and Portia. “Even that fool Hamilton was clueless. As much as Portia claimed to love him, she never shared our secret with him, the pious bastard. Only wanted to do good for the poor AIDS patients. As if that will make him any money with all of the sickest in countries that can’t pay. He’s a fool, and Portia knew that.” 

Dambuza locked the cell up and headed out the door just as Delly arrived. “Let’s go! I know where she is,” Dambuza said. He didn’t tell her that Nana might already be dead. He called back to Blue, “Send armed uniforms to Hope Institute!”

***
Dambuza didn’t wait for the back up to arrive. He and Delly found the service stairs and headed to the basement. Gopolong said there was a room at the end, locked, and inside that room there was a cupboard with a wall at the back that opened to the entrance into the place they’d kept their “ research subjects” as he described them.

They ran down the hall and saw the room was unlocked. Inside, the cupboard was open and Dambuza feared the worst. Portia must have already been there, she didn’t care now if the room was found, she was done with her work. They would all be dead and she’d be long gone.

Dambuza put his hand out to stop Delly. “No. You wait here,” he said. He was surprised when she stopped without a word and let him go ahead. She must have sensed what might be in there.

He stepped though the back of the wardrobe into a dimly lit corridor, the walls were unplastered cinder blocks, at the end was a closed door. He rushed to the door and kicked it open.

He heard a scream and then, thankfully, Nana’s voice, shouting, “She has a gun!”

When his eyes adjusted, he saw Portia standing to the side with three people, Nana among them. Dambuza saw the gun pointed at Nana’s head.

“I was doing a good thing,” Portia said. “I wanted to make a weapon that didn’t kill people, that was better. It would only make them sick and weak. This way at least they would survive. I was doing good. I know Hamilton will understand that. I wanted him to see me. That was the important thing. For him to finally see me.”

Dambuza moved forward very slowly while speaking. “Yes, Portia, you did a good thing. Hamilton needs to know about it. Let’s put the gun down and we all go and tell Hamilton.”

 Her head whipped toward his direction. “You don’t know anything! Don’t speak about Hamilton, he’s a great man! A great man! And he comes here and starts screwing around with this coloured bitch, a stupid, uneducated coloured bitch, when he could have me! Me! He doesn’t care about brilliance, he never has. I created Total Protect, I thought he would be impressed, he was just happy to have another way to show off to women, to get more women into his bed. He didn’t even see how important it was what I had done.”

Dambuza tried again. “Portia, it doesn’t need to be like this. If you give me the gun we can all leave this place and talk things over. Just give me the g…..”

There was a shot and Dambuza rushed forward, but it was too late. Portia lay dead on the floor, blood pooling around her head, the gun still stuck in her mouth. 


Chapter 35

Baleka looked around when they finally got outside. “Where’s Les?” she asked Delly.

“He’s out on a trip. I’ve sent someone to bring him back. They should get here by dark,” Delly said, holding the skeletal Baleka’s arm and walking her toward the vehicles.

“Good, that’s good,” Baleka said. She couldn’t stop smiling and looking at the vast blue sky, everything looked so beautiful and fresh. George came up next to her. “Do you want to come home with me for awhile?”

George shook his head. “No, I need to see my family. This all made me see that home is where I need to be, with the people I really care about.”

Baleka pulled away from Delly and went to her friend.  She put her arm around George’s shoulders and they walked toward the police cars waiting to take them to the hospital.

Delly turned to Nana. “Are you okay?”

“Sure, a bit tired, pretty stinky, but I’m fine,” Nana said. “That asshole Gopolong is the one who knocked me out, with formaldehyde or something on a cloth. Next thing I knew I was in that room. God, I don’t know how those two survived in there. I would have gone nuts and I was only there for a few days.”

“So, come home with me and let me mother you for awhile,” Delly said. “I think we both need that.”

“No, I think I want to go to my place first, is that okay?” Nana asked.

“Sure.”  Delly hugged her daughter, she wiped away the tears pooling in her eyes.  “You’re one tough cookie.”

“I come from excellent stock,” Nana said.

***
Dambuza got back to the station just after lunch. When he walked in the door, Blue and Zero stood up and applauded. “Cut it out you two,” Dambuza said.

“Good job, Dambuza,” Blue said.

Tito came out of his office to see what was going on and smiled. “Dambuza, can I see you a minute?”

“You two can award me with a couple beers later at Chuck’s,” Dambuza said as he passed Blue and Zero.

Dambuza sat down and only then realised how exhausted he was. “So you heard what happened down there at Hope Institute then?”

“Yep, I can’t believe it, right here in Botswana. They were testing biological weapons on those poor people. Unbelievable. ” Tito shook his head. “How long did you know the cases were connected?”

“For about an hour. Delly’s daughter came to me with some papers, she thought something was happening at Hope Institute, but it was only when I saw the missing shoe in the morgue that it all came together.”

“Well the President is coming up. As you can imagine he’s pretty angry the government has been drawn into all of this. They might be closing Hope down.”

“I hope not,” Dambuza said thinking about Neo. “There are people there doing important things and it doesn’t look like Hamilton Ride was involved at all. It was basically a one woman show, one woman and her side-kick.”

“You look beat. I think you deserve the rest of the day off. Good job, Dambuza. I think you’re going to fit in nicely here in Maun.”


***
Dambuza pulled the Corolla out of the parking lot and headed towards Nana’s place. When he realised she could be in danger, that she might be dead, everything became clear for him. It wasn’t as complicated as he had thought. Yes, they both had unresolved issues, who didn’t? But why did that need to stop them. Maybe they could have something special. He thought maybe they should give it a chance after all.

He didn’t know what he thought about the divorce, but for now he wanted to see Nana.
At Hope he’d been busy with the forensic team in the underground room and when he got out Nana had already left. Delly had taken her home.

He stopped in front of Nana’s house and jumped out of the Corolla. The door was open and he went in. “Nana!”

She came out from the back bedroom, freshly showered in her bathrobe, and ran into his arms. He held her as she wept.

“I thought I was going to die in there,” she said. “You saved my life.”

He picked her up and carried her to the bedroom setting her gently on the bed. He pushed her wet hair out of her eyes and wiped the tears off her cheeks. “I thought you were gone. Why was I so stupid to only see how much you meant to me when I thought you were dead? I’m a fool. Nana, I think I might be falling in love with you. Why was I so afraid of that?”

“No… you’re not a fool. I kept thinking of you too. We were like broken robots banging into each other and causing more damage. But in that place, I could feel the connection to you…you’re so important to me Dambuza. I understand everything now.”

Just then Dambuza saw the suitcase standing in the corner and noticed the wardrobes were empty. “What’s that?”

“I’m leaving.”

Dambuza sat up on the bed staring at the suitcases. “Leaving? I thought you said you understood things now.”

Nana got up. “Yes, I understand everything now. Thanks to you. I was down there thinking about what you told me about my grandmother, my father. I feel like finally my circle has closed. I feel whole and complete. Thanks to you.”

Dambuza kept quiet. That was not what he wanted to hear.

“I spoke to my Gran, she’s alive Dambuza! I’m going to her. I’ve already organised a house in Kimberly. I’ll get a job. I intend to live with her for as long as she has. I want to know everything about her ...and about my father.”

“So the fact that I love you, does it mean anything?” Dambuza asked.

“It means everything, but I need to do this now.  I care about you too, Dambuza, but I need to find out about me for awhile.”

Nana kissed him and he knew what it was. It wasn’t an invitation, it was a goodbye.
***

The growling was worse than ever. They probably even heard the fight all the way in town, Dambuza thought. “Can’t we help him?” he asked.

Delly shook her head. “Nature has its rules and unfortunately they’re not kind.”

They both watched Kgosi’s last fight. The newcomer’s incisors had left gaping wounds on both sides of Kgosi’s huge body. He hadn’t come to play today. He’d been testing Kgosi all of this time. Today he’d come to win.

“Well I did it,” Delly said.

“Did what?” Dambuza asked not really listening as his attention was taken up with the fight down below in the river.

“I registered the company.”

“The company?”

“Delilah Woods and Partners.”

Dambuza turned away from the fight. “Delilah Woods and Partners?”

“The private detective company.”

Dambuza laughed. “I never thought you were serious.”

“I’m serious about some things,” Delly said.

“And who are your partners?” Dambuza asked taking a drink of his beer.

“I thought you might be one.”

“Me? I’ve got a job, did you forget?”

“No, I thought for the future, when you get tired of that police gig.”

They sat quietly and watched the last bits of the match out on the river. Kgosi had moved down the river, his sides heaving. The newcomer made another charge, but this time Kgosi backed away. The newcomer stood his ground his jaws wide open and Kgosi continued down the river. His time as king was over.

“He’s going,” Dambuza said.

Delly looked out over the river and back at Dambuza. “Yeah… well, that’s the way it goes.”

Dambuza was sure he saw tears in his friend’s eyes. He poured them both a shot of Jack. “To the old guard!”

“To the old guard!” Delly said and downed the shot.

They sat for awhile watching the new comer. “But you said partners. Who else did you have in mind?”

“Maybe Nana will come back,” Delly said.

“She might, but I doubt she’d have interest in being a detective in your little company.” Dambuza had been trying his best not to think about Nana. She’d been gone almost a month now. He was happy to find saying her name wasn’t as painful as he thought it might be.

Delly stretched her long legs out in front of her. “Well, if nothing else we still got Bob.”

Dambuza shook his head as Delly’s bellowing laugh rang out over the Thamalakane River and the newcomer looked up at his strange new neighbours.

The End