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“I miss you already,” David told her seriously. Kathy laughed. “Don’t be silly. I haven’t even left yet.” Don’t go, David wanted to say. Please stay. But he couldn’t. Something was wrong, somehow their relationship had changed, and he knew he had to let her go. He smiled back at her instead, then opened the back door of the Land Rover to reach for her suitcase. It was two o’clock on a Thursday and a chilly wind was swirling around the airport car park, lifting up Kathy’s fawn-coloured hair into a halo around her head. The winter sun was bright behind her, and her dark glasses prevented David from seeing the expression in her eyes. “Thanks,” was all she said, glancing at her watch. Kathy started walking towards the looming steel-and-glass structure of King Shaka Airport, her handbag in one hand and her briefcase in the other. Her grey business suit was flawlessly elegant, her bright red patent shoes impractically high, David thought, for a long flight in a plane. “You don’t have to come in,” she told him over her shoulder. “You could have said goodbye at the drop-and-go.” “I gave myself the afternoon off,” David told her, quickly catching up. “The business can manage a few hours without me.” He was lying. He was two drivers short this week, and he would have to step in again and make a trip to Gauteng tomorrow, driving the Mercedes van to deliver a consignment of computer parts somewhere in Johannesburg. He was having trouble keeping up with the orders these days, which was good for his logistics business, but bad for his relationship with Kathy. Spending more time at work and less time with her was starting to take its toll. She smiled briefly at him, but he could see her mind was elsewhere, either on the time, the plane trip, or the job ahead of her. 5
He reached into his jacket pocket as he tugged her wheeled suitcase behind him, feeling the small velvet box that had nestled there for the last two weeks. The ring. He had seen it in an antiques store in downtown Durban, and knew it was perfect. A small diamond, surrounded by blue sapphires. The setting was Victorian, the gold a pale white with small flaws that spoke of character and history. It had cost him a small fortune, but the easy part had been paying for it. The hard part was finding the right time to give it to her. What if she said no? What if she thought he was too damaged, too moody, too tied up in his work? He could change. He would change. “So, a week then?” he said, forcing a lighter tone into his voice. “And when you get back we can test Dreamer’s new rigging?” He knew she wanted to go sailing. She had been impatient when Bobby Baumann had taken longer than expected to re-rig her beautiful fifty-five foot Mikado schooner, and had often complained that they could have been out there, on the ocean, just the two of them. He had become worried when, in the last two weeks, Kathy had mentioned having made a mistake, that she should never have used her inheritance to buy the yacht, that she should have saved the money instead. “Put it away for the future,” she had said. “I can’t go sailing, David,” was her reply now. “I’ll have audit reports to write up when I get back from Cape Town, and an analysis to submit.” “After that then,” he smiled. “Fine,” she said. “After.” But it wasn’t fine. He could feel it when she kissed him at Departures, the way she avoided his eyes and pulled away from his embrace when he tried to hold her. Am I losing you? He watched her walk through the security gates, his heart dropping when she didn’t turn around to wave goodbye. He thought about her leaving him as he drove home, as he fed the cat, as he made a tasteless meal for his supper. Stowaway sensed his mood and came to sit on his lap after he had finished eating. He stroked her absently as he sat staring at the TV, the black-and-white cat purring and watching him as he dug the small box out of his pocket and gazed at the ring. 6
What had suddenly gone so wrong? His attention wandered to the photos on the shelves beside the TV. The picture of his daughter was there. It was the one Kathy had replaced after the fire all that time ago. He had been stunned as she presented it to him. He could never have brought himself to ask his ex-wife for a picture of Janey, not after what he had done. Nor could he phone his estranged brother who lived on the family holding in the Karoo. So Kathy had hunted down Janey’s school records, had persuaded the principal’s secretary to search for her class photograph. She had it carefully copied and framed, and David thought about the tenderness with which she had given it to him. Kathy loved him, David knew that. She spent all her spare time with him, helping him renovate his flat, choosing new furniture with him. Together they worked on the yacht and picnicked in the park. David had even gone with Kathy on the dreaded outings to the mall. And then, two weeks ago, things had changed. Kathy didn’t smile at him like she used to, she didn’t talk to him quite the same. The silences were longer. They weren’t the quiet, comfortable silences of two people alone and content with each other. They were silences of blame, David thought, of reproach. He put the ring back into its green velvet box and put it down on the coffee table in front of him. Had he done something wrong? Had she met someone new? He was still trying to work it out when he got up and turned off the TV. He wanted an early night. Tomorrow would be a busy day. He had to go down to the harbour to collect and clear the computer parts through customs. Then he’d have to load the Mercedes himself. The drive to Jo’burg and back would take up most of his weekend after that. Which was fine. He wasn’t doing anything without Kathy. He reminded himself to buy flowers for her when she returned, then remembered he needed to get cat food and kitty litter before he left or he’d be in Stowaway’s bad books as well. He went to bed, Stowaway accompanying him and curling herself into a ball on the cold, empty pillow beside him.
It was Stowaway who woke David later that night. Or rather, he thought it was Stowaway. A noise roused him from a restless sleep. He opened his eyes and lay there, trying to place the sound he had heard. It wasn’t the cat. It was voices, coming from his lounge. A man’s voice droned along in a steady monotony of the day’s stock exchange activities. David moaned. Had he left the TV on? The night was cold, the duvet around him warm and comfortable. The digital clock showed three o’clock in the morning. He tried to dismiss the voice, hoping he would fall back to sleep despite the TV’s murmur. Bloody cat, he thought to himself. She must have stood on the remote control. He shut his eyes and willed himself back to sleep, ignoring the man’s mumble about the Dow Jones, the price of gold, and how VAT was going to affect future markets. A sharp hiss came from the lounge, Stowaway’s high-pitched snarl reaching his bedroom. He snapped his eyes open to see the bedroom door move and heard the first soft footfall as someone entered the room. A shadowy figure loomed in the darkness at the foot of his bed. “Kath?” he said as he pushed himself onto an elbow. It wasn’t Kathy. The figure split, the single person resolving into two, then three. “Mr Roth,” came a barely muttered greeting. “We need you to come with us quietly.” Adrenalin flooded David’s system as he lunged up. He was too slow. They grabbed him, a rough hand clamping his mouth shut as he tried to yell. More hands pinned his legs and wrists. He fought them off, lashing out in his attempt to break free. It was no use, they were too strong for him. They hauled him out of the bed, the pillows tumbling between their legs, the sheet ripping as he was jerked away. The back of his head caught one of them in the face. “Bastard!” They weren’t gentle after that. Someone, the man he had hit, punched him in the kidneys. David staggered to his knees. Another blow slammed him into the chest of drawers that stood against the bedroom wall. He went down, two of them on top of him, one wrestling 8
his hands behind his back, the other with a knee on his shoulder and a hand grabbing his hair. “Stay down!” came the hissed command. David didn’t have a choice. He could barely breathe, the weight on his back digging into his spine, his arms straining as the third man zipped a cable tie around his wrists. They slapped duct tape over his mouth, someone pressing down hard on the ends for good measure. Then came the hood. It was thick and suffocating and made of heavy material. David’s alarm turned to fear as they pulled it over his head, the man with his hand in David’s hair finally letting go as they jerked it tight at his throat. He then gave David’s head a final shove so that his face made painful contact with the floor again. David’s eyes watered as he lay there, trying to get a decent lungful of air, his sinuses stinging. Above him the three men stood catching their breaths, one of them with his heavy boot on David’s back. “That was too loud,” someone muttered angrily. “Turn the TV up.” David’s panic cleared enough for him to wonder who they were, and what the hell was going on. “Hmmm,” he tried to speak past the duct tape and the tight, heavy hood. You’ve got the wrong guy, he wanted to say. You’ve made a big mistake. The weight on his back increased. “Shut up.” David wheezed under the boot. He was sure the man was now standing on him. “Search the place,” came another command. David heard two men move into the lounge. They were quiet and didn’t break anything from what he could tell, but he did hear them going through drawers and papers, searching in his filing cabinet in the dining room and through the post on the hallway table. While they were looking, the man standing over him finally took his foot off David’s back and took him by the arm. “Get up.” He pulled David to his feet, shoving him rudely against the wall, then grasped him by the throat. “Behave, and you won’t get hurt.” David tried to swallow. His nose was still stinging which made breathing through the hood almost impossible. He nodded, hoping his surrender would pacify the man so that he would relinquish his grip. 9
It didn’t. The others came back from their search. “It’s not here,” they reported quietly. “Shit,” the man holding him rasped. “All right then. Let’s go. But keep it down.” David was propelled sharply forward. Two men held his bound arms, steering him roughly around his rumpled bed and out the door into the lounge. “Hmmh,” he grunted breathlessly. What do you want? Where are you taking me? Someone rapped him on the back of the head. “Shut up.” It was disconcerting, the blow not hard but unexpected. David kept quiet after that. He was too busy trying to walk without knocking into anything. Although the two men were guiding him, they weren’t particularly careful about where they steered him. David caught his shin on what must have been the lounge coffee table, then stubbed his toe on the small step up to the front door. The fact that he was barefoot, and all he wore were his tracksuit pants and the white T-shirt that he slept in, didn’t concern his abductors. His fear deepened. They didn’t care what he looked like or how he was dressed because they were going to kill him. He thought about trying to break free, about escaping, but the hood and the cable ties made any attempt futile. They would only catch him again, and give him a further beating for trying to escape. Better to wait, to bide his time. At least Kathy hadn’t been here. Thank God she was in Cape Town. David stumbled as they steered him out his door. They literally carried him down the two flights of stairs to the ground floor of his block of flats, the two men on either side supporting him firmly as he scrambled down the steps. Then things became awkward. They stopped him just inside the lobby door, pushing him against the two postboxes set into the wall so that they dug into his back. They were broken, both boxes’ doors hanging wide as if someone had forced them open to get to the post inside. “Clear,” came a soft word. “Right,” was the whispered reply. “Let’s go.” They pulled him away from the wall, a man on either side as they pushed him quickly out the door, then right. Through the garden. 10
David flinched as bushes and low branches brushed at the hood, then stumbled as they dragged him over the knee-high hedge that grew around the boundary of the neighbouring property. “Down,” someone rasped. He was pushed down, made to run bent over through more scratching bush. “In here.” David was jerked sideways, grunting through the duct tape as he tripped on the edge of the pavement. He knew he was in the alley behind the neighbouring house, but why? Why the subterfuge in the middle of the night? Before he could come up with an answer they were pushing him into a vehicle. It was big from what David could make out. He had to step up through a door to get in, then sprawled untidily on the back seat as he was pushed across. The doors were clicked shut quietly as men got in beside him and pulled him into a sitting position, one on each side. The third got into the passenger seat in front of him. “He gave you trouble?” came the question from the driver. David could hear a hint of amusement in the question. “Just go,” came the sour command from the man in the passenger seat. “Freewheel down the hill.” “Hmmnn,” David mouthed through the tape. Where are we going? Someone elbowed him and his question ended in a sharp grunt. “Just relax and enjoy the ride.” Right, David thought. And when they got to where they were going, they would either let him go . . . Or kill him.
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