Thursday, April 23, 2015

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.”

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