Thursday, April 30, 2015

Chapters 23 and 24- The Vanishings

Chapter 23
Dambuza sat down for a ringside seat of the latest instalment of the “Battle of the Hippos”. Kgosi was still holding his own, though tonight the newcomer was trying his best and seemed to be making some headway. “So what do we have so far on Nana’s case?” Delly asked.

Dambuza noted the “we” and “case” in Delly’s question. He smiled considering that she actually considered them a crime fighting duo. The next Sherlock Holmes and Watson or Batman and Robin. “What did she tell you about those letters?”

“She said she found them in an office.”

“Do you really think someone would leave such letters lying around?”

“No, I suspected she got them from Hamilton’s office. She seemed reluctant to say.”

Dambuza took a big swig of his beer and Kgosi growled at the newcomer his mouth wide showing his massive incisors for effect. “That’s just it. Do we trust her?”

“She’s my daughter, Dambuza. I think by some moral code I’m required to trust her.”

“Hmmm…maybe. But what is this about really?”

Delly stood up and leaned on the railing opposite where Dambuza sat. “Okay, I knew she wasn’t being honest, but I also knew she was in trouble. There’s something going on. Do you think she’s involved?”

“I hope not, but we can’t rule that out. Good detective work says we must look at all possibilities. Nana says she found the letters in Neo’s office.”

“Well that could definitely explain her being upset. She loves Neo; she wouldn’t want her involved in this kind of thing, neither would I. But I can’t believe Neo would get involved in such things to be honest. I’ve known her since she was a baby. I probably know Neo better than I know Nana.”

“To hide something like this in a big organisation like Hope Institute, you would have to be someone in management and that would exclude Neo.”

“And include Hamilton,” Delly said. “God damn that girl! She always picks the losers.” She looked up at Dambuza. “Present company excluded.”

“No need to exclude me, I seem to have excluded myself.”

Delly went for more beers and sat back down next to Dambuza. “So it’s not going to work out then? You and Nana?”

Dambuza shook his head. “Anyway, I have old business to attend to.”


“Bontle’s coming for the weekend. Seems she’s having second thoughts.”

“That’s a good thing… right?” Delly asked.

“Maybe. Can we change the subject?” Dambuza didn’t feel like talking about subjects he knew nothing about.

“Sure,” Delly said.  “How about dead bodies? That’s always a nice topic for conversation.” She laughed bringing Bob to her side. “The DNA guy should be here tomorrow.”

“Yeah, it’s strange, all along I took that traditional doctor’s word that they were still alive somewhere. Now I’m hoping tomorrow the expert tells us those body parts are for the missing people. Kind of sick. It’s like I want them dead so the mystery can be solved.”

“Maybe, but it’s better for those families if they finally have an ending. They can bury their loved ones and get on with their lives. Holding on to hope can be hell, I can tell you that. Hell on earth.” Delly’s eyes looked out over the river and she seemed to move into her head.

Dambuza could see something was troubling his friend. “You know something about that?”

Delly broke a branch off the leadwood tree that reached out over the veranda. She peeled the bark as she spoke. “You’ve asked about Nana’s dad. She doesn’t know this, at least not all of it… the worst of it. I came up here to Maun pregnant. I was running. Running from Kimberly and my family and the politics of the day. I fell in love with the wrong boy. We grew up together, he was our maid’s son, Nkosi. It was okay to be his friend, but that was it. Anything more and well…it was all such a mess. A horrible mess.”

“Does Nana know him?”

“No…he died before she was born, at least that’s my theory.  I think my father killed him. I don’t know for sure, no one does. His body was never found. His mother is stuck in that terrible purgatory, not knowing if her son is alive or dead. I ran away so as not to be part of it. When my father knew I was pregnant and Nkosi was the father, he went crazy. After that Nkosi was gone. Disappeared. Vanished. They said he ran away. But I knew him, he would never leave me, he loved me. For many years, I kept thinking he’d find me in Maun. I hoped one day there’d be a knock at my door and he’d be there. But it never happened.”

“Does Nana know your family in South Africa?”

“No, I forbade it. I want nothing to do with them. In any case, I was the only child and my parents are dead now, a few aunts and uncle are all that’s left. Nkosi’s mother’s still alive, though. I’d love Nana to meet her, but I’m scared. I never told her my father killed Nkosi. Her grandmother might mention it; despite what she says, I know she thinks it just like me.”

“All that is old news, though. I think Nana would love to meet her grandmother. What your father might have done is not important anymore.”

Delly threw the bare branch she held in her hand off the veranda and it fell at the edge of the river. “Maybe…maybe, one of these days. We’ll see.”

Dr. Thapelo entered the police station followed by a fug of efficiency. He wanted to set up his lab and get to work. Since space was at a minimum, Dambuza offered his office.

“Yes, this will do,” he said. He immediately began to set up his equipment.

Dambuza decided to make himself scarce while Dr. Thapelo got to work. He’d finally got his Corolla back after having to replace nearly every expensive part under its hood. He drove over to Hope Institute, parking in the small woods to the side of the buildings. He wanted to keep an eye on things, see if anything turned up. He had nothing better to do and this thing was troubling him. What was it all about? And why did Nana care? She would go back to UK, what did she care about some loonies making biological weapons in Botswana? Okay it was her home and her mother lived here, but she didn’t seem like the patriotic type.

He still couldn’t believe that someone in Maun was making biological weapons, concealing the operation behind an HIV/AIDS initiative. It sounded like something from a crazy spy book. But then there’d been other crazy things happening in the country. An Al Qaeda cell operating in the Delta organising an attack at the World Cup had been found and neutralised by the joint operations of Botswana’s DIS and INTERPOL. A few years ago, another group of people, trying to take advantage of the orphan situation created by HIV/AIDS, set up an orphanage only to find out they were taking kids out of the country and selling them into a human trafficking syndicate.

Botswana was an ideal place for such activities because no one expected them to happen here. It was a soft target, no stringent security like the countries more often associated with such activities. The more he thought about it, the more he began to accept that this could be happening in Botswana, at Hope Institute. Greed was a fantastic motivator. One could only wonder how much a strictly calibrated biological weapon might fetch on the open market. There were people willing to pay a lot for such a weapon.

People started exiting the building.  Dambuza looked at his watch, lunch time. He saw Nana leaving with Neo. The tall cream coloured Nana and the compact, dark Neo. He had to agree with Nana, his gut told him Neo was not involved. His gut was hardly ever wrong.

The place cleared out and Dambuza thought of heading back to the office to check on Dr Thapelo when he saw Gopolong leaving with Hamilton. What an odd duo that was, Dambuza thought. Hamilton, almost a textbook example of what a handsome, middle-aged man should look like, and Gopolang who got passed by in the looks department in a serious way. From the conversation the night Dambuza met Gopolong in Nana’s office, it appeared he had no respect for his boss, but now they were chatting friendly enough as they made their way out of the building. But then, he was his boss, nothing strange about a senior employee and his boss going out for lunch. Still Dambuza wondered what they’d be talking about over sandwiches. He wondered too if one of them was a man named Carl.

“So how’s it going?” Dambuza asked Dr Thapelo even though by the looks of him it didn’t look promising. He had arrived tidy in his neatly pressed white coat, but now his hair looked as if it had been run through by his hands a hundred time and his white coat was crumpled and dirty. Was that blood down the front?

“Are you sure these hair samples and the other things taken from the victims’ families are correct?” Dr Thapelo asked, annoyed. “They weren’t contaminated in some way? Mixed up?”

“I think so. I wasn’t involved, but I know the officers who went around were told how important it was to label all of the evidence correctly. Is there a problem?”

“I don’t know.”  He went back to his microscope he’d brought from Gaborone. “It’s all very curious. I’ve been redoing all of the tests trying to find an answer to the quandary before me.”


“Yes, I seem to have far too many people here.”

“Too many? How? What do you mean?”

Dr. Thapelo sighed. Dambuza knew that type of impatience, of having to explain something so easy for you to someone miles behind you in knowledge. “I think I should just get back to work. I’d like to be on the morning flight back to Gabs I have a class to teach tomorrow and I wouldn’t like to miss it.”

Dambuza knew when he was being asked to leave; the problem was what to do with himself. He was in a bit of an in-between place. Tito had given him only the missing persons cases in the hope that he’d put all his effort into it. So in the meanwhile he needed to wait for Dr Thapelo to finish up so he could prepare the paper work for the prosecutor and make sure that Renet got the punishment he deserved. In Botswana, the death sentence was still the punishment for murder and in this case Dambuza agreed if Renet was responsible for the deaths of these people, he deserved it. 

Dambuza wandered out to the front desk. Blue was filling in a report with an old woman. Two people were waiting in the queue. One was a young man with a split lip that was intending to swell up good and proper in the next few hours. The other was a young woman, sitting as small as she could staring at a spot on the bare floor. Dambuza hoped it wasn’t a rape case. He never could handle a rape case, especially a rape case with such a young woman. He grabbed some report sheets and sat down on the bench next to Blue. “I might as well give you a hand while I’m waiting.”

“Thanks,” Blue said surprised.

“Okay, step on up,” Dambuza said to the split lipped man. “So what happened?”

There are people who can tell a story in a sequence that makes some sense and then there are people who can’t. Unfortunately the young man in front of Dambuza fell into the latter category. An hour later he’d finally pulled the story out of him. He and his friend were at the local spot. His friend bought a carton of Chibuku, but then had the audacity to refuse to share it with Mr Split-Lip and a fight ensued. Simple and to the point, could have taken five minutes to explain from someone else. Since the complainant started the fight and he was the only one turning up at the station, he really didn’t have a case.

It was already 4:30 and Dambuza could legally knock off, but the young woman was still sitting at the edge of the metal bench, her hands on her lap, staring at the same spot on the floor she’d been staring at since Dambuza first saw her. She wore a blue letaise and a headscarf, but the pink cloth sneakers gave away the fact that she was barely a woman, maybe eighteen or nineteen. “Can I help you madam?”

She stood slowly. It appeared she might be injured somehow. Dambuza’s heart sank. It was a rape case. He decided there and then as soon as she said it, he would get one of the female officers to take her in the back. He just became too furious over rape cases. He always saw the victim as Ludo or Bontle, and he wanted to dispense with the paperwork, go out and find the creep who did it and beat the life out of him.

“So how can I help you?” Dambuza asked.

The young woman spoke in a soft voice. “I’m Annah Ditiro. ….They were trying to get me.”

“They? What do you mean?” Dambuza was confused by the way she spoke.

“The muti people. They tried to catch me, in the bush, but I got away.”

Dambuza hesitated. Could it be the same people? Or was it someone else? Isn’t it they had the perp behind bars, in a locked cell? “Would you be able to identify them?”

“Yes. They were two, two men. One I know from school. He was a year behind me at Maun Secondary, but I remember him. He was always in trouble. Lebo Leepile. The other one I don’t know his name, but I know he’s from Makalamabedi. He was driving the car for his mother. I know her, she goes to our church. Mma Letsatsi.”

“What church is that?” Dambuza asked though he knew the answer.

“Spiritual Awakening.”

What was going on? Did Renet fail to call off his dogs when he got taken to jail? Was that it? And why did Dambuza find himself back to where he started? Back to Spiritual Awakening?

“Will you lock me up?” the young woman said staring out in front of her.

“Lock you up, why?” Dambuza asked.

“They’ll be coming back for me. I need a safe place. I need you to put me in jail until you catch them.”

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary…” Dambuza started.

The woman turned, her eyes darting back and forth in fear, her hand shot out and grabbed Dambuza’s arm. “Please…I’m scared, I don’t want to die. I don’t want them to take me too!”

Dambuza assured her she’d be fine. They’d have the culprits behind bars before she got herself back home. He called one of the officers on duty. “Zero can you drive this young woman home. Stick around for awhile to make sure she’s okay.”

“Sure boss.”

Chapter 24

Lebo Leepile was a regular customer of Maun Police Station and Blue advised Dambuza to check a drinking spot on the eastern side of the town, he liked to hang out there. Dambuza rounded up two officers to help and they set off.

Dambuza arrived first in the Corolla and he waited for the uniformed officers. His phone rang, it was Delly. “Yep.”

“Dambuza, I’m in town, just saw you passing by. What’s up?”

“I don’t know.” Dambuza explained about the young woman and what happened.

“Wait- I know that girl, Annah Ditiro. She lives with her parents down the road from me. Damn! I’m coming,” Delly said hanging up before Dambuza could tell her that it might not be such a good idea.  Dambuza doubted Tito would be very happy to hear a private citizen was involved in police business, but Delly knew a lot of things about Maun that Dambuza didn’t. He could chalk her up as an informant if he had to.

He saw the uniforms pull up and Delly was just behind them. She came up to Dambuza. “I know the guy, this Lebo. We had a bit of a scuffle once. Let me come with, I’ll point him out.”

The four went around to the front of the compound. A mud hut with a reed wall on two sides made up the drinking spot, but despite its sparseness, it must have been popular since Chibuku cartons littered the compound and the benches were full with people who looked as if they’d been at it all day. Delly whispered in Dambuza’s ear, “Second one on the left bench.”

As soon as Dambuza looked in that direction, the young man stood up and fled toward the back of the compound. Dambuza and the officers took off after him. Lebo jumped over the back fence like it was a hurdle. The younger uniforms did the same. Dambuza stopped when he got there. His heart pounded dangerously in his chest and he didn’t see a dignified way of getting over the fence. The uniforms would catch the guy, he told himself. What was the use of him running after Lebo too? He might as well just wait at the car. He walked back to Delly.

“Don’t worry. I know you could have taken it if you wanted,” Delly said with a smirk on her face.

“Yeah, right. Age is a bitch.”

“And the beer doesn’t help,” Delly said patting Dambuza’s stomach.

Dambuza let the uniforms take Lebo to the station while he and Delly headed out to Makalamabedi to look for suspect number two. “So what do you think this is about?” Delly asked. “I thought this case was in the bag.”

“I doubt Renet collected people himself. Maybe he didn’t get a chance to tell his henchmen he wouldn’t need new bodies for a while.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t rank Lebo up in the list of the most intelligent blokes that’s for sure. Even if he knew Renet was in jail, he wouldn’t think it might be time to stop working for him. A couple years ago he tried to steal a battery from one of the safari vehicles while it was in the bush. The guides woke up in the morning, found him on top of the vehicle, a young male lion off to the side waiting for him to come down so Mr Lion could have his breakfast. We laughed about that one for a good old time, Tito and I. No,… not the brightest spark our Lebo.”

“Yeah well I guess he was wise enough to get a good paying gig with Renet.”

“Aren’t you jumping to conclusions? You don’t know for sure they’re working for him. Maybe the cases weren’t all connected.”  Delly drove for a while in silence. “What happened with the DNA guy?”

“I left him there still at work. He said he was having some kind of a problem, but he intends to leave tomorrow morning so I suspect he’ll work until he’s sorted it out.”

It was dark when they arrived in the village. They asked a passing man if he knew where Mma Letsatsi stayed and the man got in the Land Cruiser with them to show them the place.

A car pulling into your compound at night in the village usually brought bad news, so the old lady approached them cautiously. “Can I help you?”

Delly turned off the car and jumped out. “Ee Mma. Re batla ngwana wa gago, Pops Letsatsi.”

“He’s not here. What do you want with him?” she asked.

Dambuza showed her his badge. “We need to ask him a few questions.”

“He’s in trouble then. I thought as much.” The old lady shook her head. “He took my car yesterday and he hasn’t been back yet, though he promised to have it back this afternoon.”

“Does he borrow your car often?” Dambuza asked.

“No, not really. Time and again. I don’t like to give it to him. But lately he pays me money for it and pours petrol, so it works out okay for me. I know he likes to drink and I can’t afford an accident. Do you think there’s been an accident? Do you think he destroyed my car?” She asked suddenly anxious. Dambuza thought it funny that a mother was not worried when her son is being wanted by the police, but becomes upset when she hears her car might have been in an accident.

“We don’t know anything yet. Where do you think we could find your son?” Dambuza asked.

“I don’t know. Probably in Maun. He likes being in Maun.”

“We understand you attend Spiritual Awakening Church?” Delly asked.

“Yes, why does that matter? Nowadays with all of the things happening we need to protect ourselves don’t we?” She obviously didn’t like being questioned about her church. “Are we finished here? Generations is about to start.”

Dambuza handed her a paper with his cell number on. “If he turns up can you give me a call?”

She took the number and pushed it into the pocket of her housecoat, but said nothing. She turned and headed back inside to her TV and her soapie fix.

Delly dropped Dambuza at his Corolla and headed home. It was almost ten, but Dambuza thought he might pass by the station to see how Dr Thapelo was doing. He was surprised to still see Tito’s car in the parking lot. Though he liked to be in early, he didn’t like staying late and Dambuza wondered what had kept the boss. 

Dambuza could see the light on in his own office. He opened the door and Dr Thapelo, looking, unbelievably, worse than he had left him, sat at Dambuza’s desk and Tito sat in the broken metal chair opposite him. The equipment was all packed up.

“So you finished then?” Dambuza said. He looked at both of the men and knew something was wrong.

“Ee,” Dr Thapelo replied.

Tito turned to look at Dambuza still standing at the door. “It doesn’t look good.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean none of those bodies out there are a match for the people who have disappeared,” Tito said.

“But how could that be?” Dambuza asked and then realised it meant they were parts for other people. “So who are those people? The people buried in the bush?”

“It looks like Renet was burying people, people he maybe killed, but not the people we’ve been looking for,” Tito said.  “It looks like we have two complexly different cases here.”

“The parts you found out in the bush belong to seven different people, none of which are the people you are looking for,” Dr Thapelo said. “And as you know -no heads. But I can confirm that the blood found in the office at the university does match the blood of the some of the seven bodies in the bush.”

“And can we identify any of those bodies?” Dambuza asked.

“Not without some DNA from the person or someone in their family. I’ve kept all of the data safe. If something comes up, we’ll have it.” Dr Thapelo stood up. “Well I really need to get some sleep if I’m to get back to Gabs tomorrow. I’ve done everything I could. Sorry you didn’t get the answer you wanted.”

Tito and Dambuza watched the doctor collect his things and leave. Neither one was up to walking him outside to his car. They had been sure this was all they needed to get Renet and to solve the missing persons’ cases. Now they had no one for the missing persons’ cases and they had seven unidentified dead bodies. Just then Dambuza remembered Lebo. “Did they put Lebo Leepile in lock up?”

“Yeah, I saw him there,” Tito said off- handedly. “We have a problem now. Who are these seven people? No one has reported them missing. We have five disappeared people and seven suddenly appearing bodies. What the hell is going on, Dambuza? This kind of stuff does not happen in Maun.”

Dambuza wondered if the boss was right. Maun was starting to look far more complicated than its sleepy exterior promised. “I don’t know. Well, at least we know there were seven bodies and Renet was burying them. We can charge him with seven counts of murder. In the meanwhile, we’ve got Lebo. With the right methods, he could lead us to his boss, who may still turn out to be Renet.”

“Lebo? What does he have to do with anything?” Tito asked, confused.

“I thought you knew. It looks like he works for someone who collects people in the bush. A young woman got away. She came into the station late this afternoon. They were trying to catch her and she escaped. We were out looking for his accomplice. I’m back from Makalamabedi just now.”

Tito stood up. “Well that’s something at least. Listen, I’m exhausted. I’d like to sit in on your questioning of Lebo if you don’t mine. I know the young man well. I could be of assistance.”

“Sure, we can do it first thing tomorrow.”

The boss stood. “Okay then. Dambuza, I’m not sure if it’s you or just coincidence, but things have certainly become very exciting in our little town since your arrival. Too exciting.”

Dambuza sat at his desk after Tito left. He wondered if the boss had a point- did he attract problems? Suddenly he remembered the next day was Friday. By this time tomorrow night Bontle would be there. He couldn’t help but feel excited; he loved his wife, and hadn’t seen her for more than a month. But at the same time he felt nervous. He didn’t want to be pulled back in and then a few months down the line, when the novelty of being back together had worn off, she’d be going back to the divorce lawyer. He couldn’t get his mind clear to find out where he stood since his heart was in a mess. He told himself he’d just see what she had to say. He’d take everything slow. Very, very slow.

And then there was Nana. He couldn’t deny he felt a strong attraction, but he knew too it was a reckless and dangerous one, one that couldn’t be trusted. Could there be anything sensible and true there?  Or were they both just love battered and attracted to each other because they recognised familiarity?

Dambuza checked the time. It was almost eleven but despite the uncertainties and puzzles that surrounded him, he knew one thing for certain- he seriously needed some alcohol in his body. 
Thursday was the beginning of the weekend for many, especially at Chuck’s where it was Ladies’ Night. The place was packed. Dambuza got a beer and turned to look for a table. Just then his eyes spotted someone he knew. At the back he could see Neo and Gopolong. He suspected it was a date if what Nana had said was true, but Dambuza decided to push in on it anyway. He needed a table and he also hoped he might get a better feel for Nana’s situation at the Institute -and Gopolong’s.

“Oh Dambuza! Sit!” Neo said when she saw him.  Dambuza grabbed a vacant chair from a nearby table. “How’s it going? You remember Dr. Tlholego, Gopolong?”

“Sure howzit?” Dambuza held out his hand to the unlikeable man.

“Fine,” he said, not hiding the fact that he didn’t like the idea of Dambuza joining them. “So how’s the police business?”


“Nana said you got a break on those disappeared people. You found some bodies or something,” Neo said.

“Yes and no. We found some bodies but it looks like they’re not for the people who have disappeared. I just spoke with the DNA expert. But we may find the culprits anyway. They tried to grab someone else today out in the bush, but the young woman got away. Luckily she knew one of the guys. We have him in custody.”

“Is it? Exciting stuff,” Gopolong said as if it was the furthest thing from exciting he could imagine. “So it was a one person job then?”

“No, we know there are at least two. We’re still looking for the other one. But we suspect there are more involved than that. I’m sure these two will tell us what we need to know.”  Dambuza ordered another beer from a passing waitress. “Enough about my job, how’s the Institute?”

“Same old stuff,” Gopolong said.

“Ao! I don’t know why you are always so negative, G,” Neo said. “Today was an important day. We got approval by the FDA in America for Total Protect. It looks like a factory will be opening there in the next three months.”

“Well that is something to be proud of. I guess Hamilton is over the moon,” Dambuza said.

“I guess so, I don’t know really. He and Portia are away,” Neo said.

“Yes, away on one of their endless overseas trips. Spending all of the Institute’s money allegedly fundraising,” Gopolong said. “While the minions work away they get lauded all over the planet for the fantastic work they’re doing for the poor helpless Africans. Makes me sick.” 

Dambuza smiled. He wondered about people like Gopolong- so unattractive in looks and personality too. With every word, Dambuza disliked this man more. “I suppose their travelling helps to raise funds for the project though. That’s got to be a good thing for everybody,” Dambuza said.

“Of course it does. I don’t know why Gopolong is so against it. Maybe he doesn’t like Portia and Hamilton being together in some foreign city all alone,” Neo said, not succeeding in hiding the annoyance in her voice.

“You know what, Neo, there is nothing more unattractive than a jealous woman.” Gopolong looked at Dambuza for confirmation but Dambuza pretended he didn’t notice.

Neo said nothing. She quickly finished her drink. The mood at the table had suddenly become icy cold. “You know, guys, tomorrow’s a work day and I need to get some sleep.”

Gopolong looked surprised. Dambuza wondered how stupid was this smart man not understanding what he’d done. “I thought we’d made some plans,” Gopolong said.

“Plans? I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Neo said. She turned to Dambuza and kissed him on the cheek. “See you around, I hope.”

The two men watched Neo push through the crowd to get to the door. “Bitch!” Gopolong spat, downing his drink and snapping his fingers at the waitress to bring him another.

Dambuza swallowed the words he should have said to put this vile man in his place. He wanted information and now he had the opportunity to get some. Dambuza knew how to play.

“Women can be difficult,” he said.

“You’re telling me. We agreed we’d have sex tonight, now she leaves, what is that about? In any case, I was done with her, this just decides it,” Gopolong said. “I really don’t need a woman with so much drama. I just wanted a good lay and we both know those are a dime a dozen. I’m so done with that one.”

“So how is that Portia? She seems a bit of a cold fish to me, but then I never spent any time with her,” Dambuza said.

“Portia? No ways… Portia is hot for an older woman. We’ve become close, quite close. But she can’t see anything when Hamilton is around. She thinks the bastard’s shit don’t stink, if you know what I mean.”

“Sure, it’s not like I care much for Hamilton myself. Wouldn’t mind him going back to America.” 

Goplong laughed. “Yeah, I could see the other night that you have it bad for Nana. I’d forget about that. She’s another frigid bitch if you ask me. That one- no ways. Won’t give me the time of day- never. Do yourself a favour and forget about it man!”

Gopolong ordered them another round of drinks. He seemed suddenly to be on a mission to get plastered.

“Anyway, at least sometimes Hamilton travels without Portia, then you can sneak your way in,” Dambuza said.

“To be honest, I don’t worry much about Hamilton. There’s a lot he doesn’t know. Portia and I are okay. Yeah…. we’re okay…everything will work out fine…” Gopolong seemed to drift away, his mind elsewhere. Dambuza could tell he was getting very drunk on his whiskeys and water. He imagined a drunk Gopolong was an even more irritating character.

“So you and Portia got something going then?” Dambuza asked.

“Fuck yeah. If I told you, it would blow your mind, but I can’t. Just know …yeah…Portia and I are tight…and set to get a whole lot tighter.”

Dambuza didn’t believe him. What would a successful, beautiful American woman want with Gopolong?  He might be educated and have a bit of money, which might attract local women, but he held little else to attract such a woman as Portia to him. No, Dambuza was fairly positive anything happening between Gopolong and Portia was only happening in Goplong’s mind. He was full of talk.

Dambuza was growing tired of this annoying man. He also had to get some sleep; God knew he had a big day ahead of him- the interrogation  of Lebo and then Bontle. He couldn’t sit here listening to the ramblings of an ugly, drunk man. It was time to go home.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book Launch: Novels of Botswana in English 1930-2006

Novels of Botswana in English 1930-2006 by Mary Lederer will be launched at the
University of Botswana bookstore (Books Botswana) 
on 29 April, 2015 (Wednesday)
 from 6-7 pm. 

First book-length study of the subject
                What do Botswana novels say about Botswana’s culture?

 Here is the review I did of the book for my column It's All Write. 
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The Vanishings- Chapter 21 and 22

Chapter 21
South African advocate Viljoen seemed to have not read a newspaper since the 1980s. He seemed to have missed the whole overthrowing of apartheid and the eventual end of white rule. He was firmly stuck in colonial days where white was the order of the day. As such, he didn’t seem to understand why these two black idiots sitting across from him felt they had the right to ask him or his white, French client anything. They were cheeky kaffirs from his point of view. His disdain for Tito and Dambuza could not be more apparent and it was making Dambuza angry and keeping him from being sensible which gave more fuel to Viljoen’s racist opinions.

“I’m not sure which laws you operate from in Botswana, but it is standard practice that if you have no evidence for the claims that you are making against my client you must let him go,” Viljoen argued. “Perhaps we should see a magistrate and that person can explain it to you in a language you would be able to understand.”

“Your client was seen in the bush digging in a place where numerous human body parts were found. Is that not evidence?” Dambuza asked.

“Evidence of what exactly? He is an entomologist. He was digging up mophane larvae for study in the lab. You saw for yourself that he had fresh specimens in his case.”

“But what was in the large portion of that case? Could you ask your client about that? And while you’re at it why don’t you ask him why he dumped it somewhere? Somewhere no one has yet to discover.” Dambuza was speaking to Viljoen but looking at Renet. Though he looked tired from a night in jail, the professor still kept the arrogant sneer across his face. It was a challenge to Dambuza, wiping that sneer off.

“I told you before Dr Renet contends that the case was in the back of the van. Perhaps one of your officers took it, who knows? It’s obvious your investigation methods are not nearly up to scruff.”

“If we find it, we suspect we will find traces of blood matching the body parts in the holes where we dug,” Tito said. Unlike Dambuza, he was unperturbed by the antics of the South African, he’d expected as much just as he told Dambuza before the advocate arrived. It was common to have South African lawyers in Maun, lawyers who thought the people in Botswana were all a bunch of babbling idiots. Tito was thoroughly schooled in dealing with this type.

“If. If you find it, Superintendent. My client cannot sleep in your filthy cells waiting on an if.”

“No… no, I wouldn’t expect him to. This is why I have officers searching his house and his office as we speak,” Tito said. “We wouldn’t want to inconvenience him in any way.”

Dambuza watched the sneer leave Renet’s face and he wanted to pat his boss for a job well executed. Renet whispered something in his lawyer’s ear. Viljoen said, “I’d like to have some time to confer with my client…in private.”

Tito and Dambuza left. “He’s got something at his house. We’ll get him before the sun sets,” Tito said, smiling. He walked into his office and Dambuza continued on to his. He was glad he had this break, he needed to call Delly.

“Oh, Dambuza, I’m glad you called. Do you have a chance to come round the house? Nana’s here and I think she has something you should see,” Delly said.

He didn’t feel like seeing Nana and besides, there might be a break in the case at anytime. He couldn’t be off somewhere when he finally got Renet.  “I don’t know Delly…maybe later.”

“It’s pretty important, I think. It won’t take long.”

Against his better judgement Dambuza agreed. The Corolla was still with the mechanic who had little good news last time he called so Dambuza got one of the officers to drop him off at Delly’s in a station car.

He found Nana and Delly in the office going through some papers spread out on the desk. Delly looked up. “Good, Dambuza, you’re here.”

Nana gave him an awkward hello.

“So what is it?” Dambuza asked. “I don’t have a lot of time, I think Renet’s about to confess.”

“It’s these,” Nana said. “I found them by accident. I think something’s going on at Hope Institute.”

Dambuza looked at the papers. They seemed to be correspondence. They spoke about bacillus anthracis and tularaemia. Dambuza imagined they were some sort of bacteria or a virus from the context.

“Yeah? So? It seems normal that scientists at Hope Institute might discuss various diseases. AIDS patients have to deal with a lot of different bugs when their immune system gives out. I don’t get it.” Dambuza looked at his watch. He told Blue to call him immediately if Renet or his lawyer were ready to talk.

“Yeah okay,” Nana said, “but not these bugs. Tularemia is a bacteria found mostly in rabbits in North America. Bacillus anthracis is the bacteria that cause anthrax.”

Dambuza couldn’t see why any of this was enough to pull him away from cracking a multiple murder case. “Yes, okay. Who knows? Isn’t it the work they’re doing here is for the whole world? Maybe AIDS patients in the north have a problem with this rabbit disease. We don’t know, none of us here are scientists.”

“I looked up both of these on the internet. They’re both used as biological weapons. I think Hope Institute is manufacturing biological weapons,” Nana said.

Dambuza sat down, he was suddenly very tired and he was sure Nana’s love of drama was getting the better of her. “I think you’ve watched too many movies. These people are in partnership with the Botswana government. There is no way they’d be getting into shit like that.”

“How do you know Dambuza?” Delly asked.

“I just know. And besides, even if it’s the case that they are making biological weapons at Hope Institute, which I seriously doubt, what do you expect me to do? I’m a cop. I don’t work for the CIA or the DIS. Besides I got a murderer about to confess, I need to go.”

He got up and Nana touched his arm. “Please, Dambuza. I think something is going on and I’m afraid Neo might be in trouble. I can’t trust anyone else with this information. I just want to make sure it’s nothing. If something’s going on I want Neo out of there before it all comes out. She can’t have her career ruined because people were into things she didn’t even know about.”

Dambuza’s cellphone rang. “Yeah?”

“Dambuza where are you?” It was Tito.

“Sorry, Boss. I just went out for a second, I’ll be back just now.”

“There’s no need. Viljoen has said no more talking. He’s about to board a plane for South Africa. He says he has urgent business and he’ll only be back on Monday. He gave strict written instructions that no one should speak to Renet while he’s gone.”

“Damn! What do you think that’s about?”

“I think he’s going to come back with some back-up. They found Renet’s hiding place at his house. No body parts but lots of blood. All we need is the DNA test linking the blood to the parts we dug up, then to the disappeared people, and we have him. I got a guy coming up on Thursday from the University, an expert in DNA testing. We don’t need to talk to this guy at all. We ought to have everything we need to get Renet by the time Advocate Viljoen gets back from his urgent business.”

Dambuza hung up. Nana was still waiting for her answer. “Come on,” Delly said. “I’ll help you. We make a good team.”

Dambuza rubbed his forehead where a sharp pain threatened to take over his entire head. “I must be a raving lunatic. People dealing with this kind of stuff are serious. We could get ourselves killed.”

“I don’t want you to catch them, really, just find out what it’s all about. Then I can warn Neo. She’ll never believe me without more evidence. This is the exact work she’s always wanted to do, the work she’s doing at the Institute, helping to find a way to cure AIDS. It will take a lot to convince her to leave. These papers are not going to do it.”

Dambuza couldn’t pass up a damsel in distress it was as simple as that, no matter how stupid and dangerous the decision was going to be, he knew he had no option.

“Okay… but in the meanwhile Delly I think you better look into that private detective license. I can’t be working with an amateur.”

Chapter 22
Nana offered to give Dambuza a ride home. Since Delly was making no effort in that direction though she knew the Corolla was dead, he had no choice but to take the ride. He couldn’t help he was still pissed off at seeing Nana with Hamilton at Chuck’s. As they drove toward the mall Nana asked, “You got any time for a beer?”

Dambuza’s need for a beer outweighed his wanting not to spend time with Nana. “Okay, sure.”

 It was just past 5:30 and a Tuesday night so Chuck’s was nearly empty. One of the bartender’s Dambuza had become friendly with was on duty. “Dumela Bra Flicka. Can I get a couple beers?”

“Sure Officer.”

He and Nana took a table near the window. Outside, people were rushing home from work. Quick stops at the supermarket across the street had them laden down with bags. A few chickens pecked at the side of the road, not troubled by the passing cars that zipped by so close their feathers ruffled.

“So what’s going on Dambuza?” Nana asked. Dambuza turned back from the window and looked at her.

“What do you mean? We’re here, we’re having a beer.” He was trying nonchalance but he couldn’t keep the anger out of his voice.

“If you remember correctly you blew me off, not the other way around,” Nana said.

“I blew you off? I told you I couldn’t have sex with you. That’s not blowing you off.”

“It sure felt like it.”

Dambuza got up to get another beer. He thought this conversation needed a few shots too. He wondered how she got to the point where he was the bad guy. Women had interesting minds; he had to give them that. No matter what he did, he was the bad guy. He downed one shot and filled it up again before heading back to the table. He felt the buzz of the alcohol just entering his bloodstream and it fortified him.

He set the drinks down. “Okay, Nana, what is it you want from me?”

She drank her shot and chased it with some beer, while Dambuza lit a cigarette. “All I know is I like you,” she said.

Dambuza nodded his head. Liked him. Liked Hamilton. Liked how many others? He did not want this conversation.

“So tell me more about Neo,” Dambuza said moving away from his emotional danger zone.

“I was an awkward girl. Being mixed race in Botswana is not always a good thing; you can’t seem to find a place anywhere. But Neo was my friend. Her family was very poor and she often stayed with Mom and me. In many ways I see her as a sister.  She’s helped me more times than I can count. Always ready to get my back. It’s time I did the same for her.”

“So why don’t you just ask her about those bugs of yours? She could find out better than me, she’s in the lab.”

Nana looked toward the bar. Dambuza sensed she was uncomfortable with the question. “I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to put her in danger.”

But she didn’t mind putting him in danger, Dambuza thought. “So where do you think I should start?”

“Come and see me at the lab. People won’t suspect anything; they know you’re my friend. We’ll see what we can get. We need to do it ourselves, I’m still not sure who to trust there.”

“You seem to trust Hamilton all right,” Dambuza said and immediately wished he hadn’t.

“What do you mean?”

“You’re the one who said he wasn’t your type and yet I saw you both in here the other night. You couldn’t keep your hands off him.”

Nana looked down at her half filled glass. “It’s not what you think.”

“What?  He forced you to hold him and kiss him? Please Nana, I’m not a fool. I saw what I saw.”

“Yeah, okay.”  She looked at Dambuza and her eyes filled with tears. “You know what? People look at me and think oh she has everything… but it’s not like that. I loved him Dambuza, the man who died in my flat in London…he was married and he was often terrible, but the man I killed, I loved him. We were together for ten years. He had his wife, but I only had him, always only him. And now I’m just trying to survive. I don’t care about Hamilton, I told you that and I was telling the truth. What you saw was just me trying to survive.”

Dambuza wanted to reach out for her but he knew he couldn’t. For the sake of his heart- and hers. He understood Nana where likely no one else would. It was about just skimming the surface, avoiding going deep. They’d both been there, deep in the trenches, and it could be a bloodbath. They couldn’t take that pain again. So in the meanwhile they’d dodge feeling, keep away from people who pulled them into the places where everything became intense and needy. They would avoid vulnerability and coast along the surface. And to do that, they both needed to leave each other alone.

Dambuza looked through the letters Nana had given him. He’d never asked where she got them. They were sent to some post office box in America. He suspected they used coded names. They were signed from Carl. No surname. It could be anything really. Fakes. From the office politics he’d overheard that night in Nana’s office, it was obvious many people disliked Hamilton. Maybe it was a way to get back at him.

He agreed to meet Nana at her office over lunch. He had nothing going with his case until the DNA expert arrived, so he might as well see what he could do for her. It was only to see if there was anything to the correspondences. He doubted it, but he’d help her just the same.

He looked out the window of his office. He couldn’t keep his mind on his work ever since Bontle said she was coming on the weekend. He should be happy. It sounded like she wanted to get back together, that she was having second thoughts about the divorce. That was a good thing, at least that’s what he had thought. He was angry about the divorce, but he wondered was it because he didn’t want his marriage to end or because Bontle took the initiative first. He knew he still loved her, but he was still angry that she gave up on them. He thought they were in it together, they’d always been, that’s what the fights had always been about, they could have easily walked away long ago if they didn’t love each other. He felt let down by her when suddenly she was pulling out and leaving him alone. The constant of them being a unit, together against the world, had been what kept him in the marriage through all the fights. He lost trust in her now. She showed him she was not in it forever. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to forgive her for that. He was scared for what would happen on the weekend, he wasn’t looking forward to it.

There was a knock at his door and he was pulled from his thoughts. Blue poked his head in the door, smiling. “Ah…Dambuza there’s a …a…..woman here for you.”

Dambuza stood up pushing the letters from Hope Institute into his notebook. He squeezed past Blue. He knew it must be Nana there to pick him up.  “What? You’ve never seen a woman before?” Dambuza asked him.

“Not one like that,” Blue said.
“I found a few more things,” Nana said leaning over the computer in her office. “Look at this.”

Dambuza sat down in a chair next to the computer and looked at the screen. It seemed to be some sort of data. It showed different levels of tularemia and it appeared as if it was divided into days and some sort of symptoms.  There was also a table showing levels of anthrax and symptoms continuing until a level that noted death.

 “Again, it doesn’t prove anything. Just looks like data, it could be from anywhere.”

“Not alone but I have this.” She opened her drawer and took out a paper and handed it to Dambuza.

It was another letter for Carl. It said that they were just about ready to handover the results for the tests on C00948. They seemed to have discovered the exact mix of tularemia and anthrax so that the set objectives could be attained. There were levels to incapacitate a population for a set period of time to make them compliant for “our needs”. They’d also determined dose levels for “removal”.

Dambuza felt ill. Could people be doing things like this right in Botswana? Who were they? Who was this Carl and who were the people he was working for? “Where did you find these?” Dambuza asked.

Nana hesitated. “Where I found them is not that important.”

“What? Of course it is. Where you found them is very important. It leads us to who is involved.” Dambuza could hear she was trying to hide something.

“Maybe not.”

Dambuza stood up. He suspected she was protecting Hamilton, which was fine. She could go on protecting him, but Dambuza was done then. This was serious stuff and he was not going to be played.  “Okay then, I’m outta here.”

He headed for the door, but Nana grabbed him by the arm. “No… please… wait. I’ll tell you. I got them in Neo’s office.”

“Neo’s office? Here you want to save her from the bad guys- maybe she’s one of the bad guys, did you ever think of that?”

“No,” Nana shook her head. “No, I know she’d never do this. That’s why I need to find the real answer.”

“Why don’t you ask her?”

“I can’t. I’m afraid she’ll lie to me. I think she’s trying to find out and to stop this thing on her own. That’s the impression I get. I know her; she would lie to keep me safe. She loves me Dambuza, I told you that. She always protects me.”  

“Okay, now I’m getting pissed. You have every story in the book except the truth. I’m not getting involved in heavy shit like this if you’re not straight with me.” He was annoyed and wanted to leave. Nana was not telling him everything that was obvious.

Nana looked at the door. “Please… keep quiet. I know… I haven’t been completely honest. I found these in Neo’s office. I made copies and put hers back. I knew it was something, that something was wrong. But I know Neo, she would never be involved in anything like this. She’s been seeing someone. I don’t like it, she knows this. I think this might involve him.”

“It’s someone here at the Institute?”

“Yes, it’s Gopolong. I really don’t know what she sees in him. He’s awful in so many ways. I even think he hits her. And on top of it, he’s married as you know. Now it looks like he might be involved in all of this, at least that’s what I think.”

Dambuza wasn’t sure he believed her. “I need the truth, Nana, I mean it.”

“I swear that’s it. These are from Neo’s office.” Nana sat down again. Dambuza could see the stress of what she’d uncovered was taking its toll. “She’d never do this, no matter how much money was involved. I know it. She’s not like that Dambuza. It’s Gopolong. She’s like that, she always picks these creeps, and then she does everything to protect them. Please, we need to get the truth. I need to protect Neo from these people.”