Set in South African Bushveld in the small town of Hoedspruit. An influential person is murdered the question is who is responsible and how far back do we need to go to discover the truth.
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Stranger than the Game by Justine Lamb ©
Vickus Brink stood with his back to the door of his office, his arms thrust deep into his pockets, and he was staring out of the window with a blank vacant look on his face. His eyebrows where knitted together in a frown. His curly hair seemed damp in the dry heat of the day; he was a tall man, his nose crooked from the many breaks while playing high school and defence force rugby. His body was thinner now, almost bony; he was thinking back to that day, the day before he changed his life forever.
He had just finished playing a game against a border team, he was on a high he had received his SA colours the previous day and he remembered receiving his blazer with pride.
The president had been there, the National Party was still in power then. He had shook the Presidents hand, a tremendous honour bestowed, his Father Vickus Snr an avid National Party supporter had beamed with pride.
He and his high Dutch Afrikaans associates had slapped backs and drunk tall glasses of brandy and Coke over the Sunday Braai. The meat was good, large oversized Rump Steaks and rolls of fresh from the ‘plaas’ ‘wors’, his mother had gone out of her way to bake and make all the things he liked.
She was a solid women, short and petite in frame, with a face like a doll, Vickus and his father doted on her and her devotion was returned to them at every turn. She was a God fearing women who attended church every Sunday and she stood for everything a women and mother could aspire to be, Vickus thought they do not make women like her anymore.
’Angels are hard to find, he felt a tear run down his face, he did not move his hands from his pockets, and continued to stand motionless as if apart from the room within which he stood.
He thought of his father, admiring the strong no-nonsense man who had a firm hand but a twinkling eye and a keen humour. He thought back to the day he had killed his first Jackal on the farm, there had been a terrible screeching, his Mother had called frantically to him as his father was not home.
He was thirteen then, the Jackals had come in a pack and managed to get into the main breeding pigs pen, the sow was going crazy as the Jackals distracted her and then killed her piglets one by one. He was terrified, his father would be furious, their prize breeder was about to be killed and the piglets were decreasing in number before his eyes.
The sight of the blood and mangled pink flesh was too much for him and he closed his eyes and pulled the trigger of the Shotgun, his mother had thrust into his hands. He reeled backwards with the kick of the Gun in his shoulder, killing one Jackal, a near miss; he opened his eyes, the noise still ringing in his ears. The rest of the Jackals were gone. Slowly and methodically he and his mother cleaned up the mess, without a word. His father had been proud of him, funny that, he thought now! He had felt so lost that day.
After the braai was over that Rugby Sunday, he had helped his parents clean up after the last leaving guest. His father had sat him down in the living room and poured him a brandy, his first,’”ou are sixteen now my boy, not quite a man, but no more a boy, I want to tell you that life is short and you must live it to its fullest, I am very proud of you today and I will be proud of you everyday for the rest of your life,” his Dad said this without taking his eyes off his face.
With that his father had slapped him on the back and downed his drink. Vickus remembered looking at his Father and feeling so lucky to have the support of his parents.
His mother had entered the lounge with coffee and shortbread and they had all sat down on the couch to watch the News. There was a ring at the door, Vickus had said he would answer, they had never had any incidences on the farm, and they had had the same staff for as long as Vickus could remember. Opening the door that evening was as normal as coffee and rusks.
He removed his hands from his pockets and combed them through his hair as he remembered what had happened. He had opened the door, only to be grabbed by a large arm, a cloth gag was shoved into his mouth before he could scream a warning and he was tied up to the pillar at the bottom of the staircase.
This all happened in no less than a minute with minimum sound. He could see the legs of his parents on the couch as they sat close together watching TV, he could hear their muffled smiling voices.
He wanted more than anything to kick out, scream, warn them but his hands and feet were fastened tight and when he tried to open his mouth the cloth seemed to move closer to his throat, gagging him more. Three large dark shadows shoved past him and entered the lounge in which his parents were sitting.
The sweat and tears were now running down Vickus’s face as he forced himself for the first time in 10 years to remember what had happened. He heard his mother’s screams for help and heard the shots ring out as his father was killed in cold blood with four bullets to the chest and a final one execution style to the head.
His Mother had watched before being repeatedly raped and discarded with a single bullet to the heart. They had marched past him spitting at his feet as they left, balaclavas still in place.
There was no reason for this that he could work out, he had methodically been through all his fathers papers, files and books time and time again, chatted to bank managers, attorneys of law with which his father had had dealings, associates and friends had been questioned by him in confidence, there was nothing. Nothing he could find. His parents were loved in the community; they tithed and gave freely to the local charities. They always had an open door policy and there were many people in the community who felt indebted to them for advice given and taken.
Vickus had inherited handsomely, after the will was read and the estate finalised he had sold the farm for considerable profit and drove in his father’s car, learners licence in the cubby, from his roots without turning back. Hoping the memory of his last night in the home of his birth would not erase the sweet memories of childhood. At sixteen he was one of the wealthiest men in the Free State. Almost 20 years later he has still never been back.
Turning around he saw a women standing in the door of his office, she was dark and tall, pleasing to the eye. He thought he may have seen her around town. It was after all not that big, probably from one of the lodges, his eyes questioned her presence. I am here to find out about the Landrover two for Tranquility Dawn, she said. Ah, yes he thought Philippe’s girl, he recognised the French accent. Charming, he had little interest in women himself.
After his parents died, he had lost well a taste for anything, seemed he rolled banknotes these days, as the lodges filed there expensive vehicles in one by one for repairs, fitment or replacement. He had a tidy business selling top of the range 4x 4 vehicles and equipment. His staff was competent and many in numbers, he wandered why she had bothered to seek out his office.
He pushed a button on his desk phone, Cindy please come and fetch, Miss? He looked up, Imogen she said smiling, she had small teeth he noticed, not as white as he would have thought with that French complexion. He frowned at her, unknowingly. Imogen he said into the phone, she is looking for Patrick and the Tranquility Dawn vehicles. Thank you she said, politely when Cindy arrived a second later, I must have wandered in the wrong way, Mr Brink.
He looked at her, the muscle in the right hand side of his lower jaw twitched, she did not notice.
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