"There's no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father's dead. I'm afraid he's been murdered."
Faced with the violent death of his own father, Assistant Superintendent David 'Kubu' Bengu, the smartest detective in the Botswana police, is baffled. Who would kill such a frail old man? Kubu's frustration grows as his boss, Director Mabaku, bans him from being involved in the investigation.
The picture becomes even murkier with the apparent suicide of a government official. Are Chinese mine-owners involved? And what role does the US Embassy have to play?
Set amidst the dark beauty of modern Botswana, A Death in the Family is a thrilling insight into a world of riots, corruption, and greed, as a complex series of murders presents the opera-loving detective with his most challenging case yet. When grief-stricken Kubu defies orders and sets out on the killers' trail, startling and chilling links emerge, spanning the globe and setting a sequence of shocking events in motion. Will Kubu catch the killers in time?
About the Author
MICHAEL STANLEY is the writing team of Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip.
Sears was born in Johannesburg, grew up in Cape Town and Nairobi, and teaches at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Trollip was also born in Johannesburg and has been on the faculty of the universities of Illinois, Minnesota, and North Dakota, and at Capella University. He divides his time between Knysna, South Africa and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Michael Stanley is the author of the Detective Kubu Mystery series, including A Death in the Family and Dying to Live.
Read an Excerpt
A Death in the Family
A Detective Kubu Mystery
By Michael Stanley
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip
All rights reserved.
Assistant Superintendent David "Kubu" Bengu was enjoying his dream. He was at an all-you-can-eat buffet at The Palms hotel. His table was on the patio away from the noisy bar, and Joy, his wife, was visiting her sister, so she couldn't limit how much he had to eat.
A smile flitted over his sleeping face as the bowl of shrimp on the buffet table slowly morphed into a platter of lobster in front of his eyes, and a man with a chef's hat put two enormous tails onto his plate. Then his plate grew to the size of a tray, and there was room for cold, poached salmon and a delicious white sauce he didn't recognize, as well as a large piece of smoked trout. That's enough for a starter, he thought as he gazed at the lamb on the spit and the mountain of rare beef surrounded by crisp roast potatoes and horseradish sauce. He picked his way back to his table past the other diners and their dainty helpings, where his half-empty glass of Sauvignon Blanc miraculously changed into a silver ice bucket with a bottle of Moët champagne, already open. A white-gloved waiter with a red sash pulled back his chair, then slid it forward as he sat down. Kubu nodded, and the waiter poured the bubbling nectar into a flute that stood a foot tall.
Even though he was fast asleep, Kubu let out a quiet sigh of pleasure.
Joy rolled onto her side, trying to move away from the twitches of Kubu's arm as he drained the flute in a series of toasts to the other diners on the patio.
Now Kubu watched a man nearly as huge as himself trundle a large trolley of desserts toward him. Sherry trifle, apple pie, malva pudding, chocolate cake, carrot cake, jugs of custard and bowls of whipped cream delicately laced with cognac. Kubu groaned with pleasure as it approached. Thank God, there was no fruit salad or fresh fruit.
He opened his mouth, and the man wheeled the trolley right into it. Why choose, Kubu thought, when you can have it all?
Just as he was about to wash it all down with a bottle of port that had appeared in his hand, an alarm went off, and a doctor ran onto the patio holding a clipboard. He pointed at Kubu, and the alarm rang again. Kubu looked around, and the piles of food shrank in front of his eyes, and the diners evaporated into thin air. Kubu became frantic. Where was the food going? What was he going to eat?
"Wake up, Kubu!" Joy shook him. "Wake up. It's the phone. It'll be for you."
Kubu shook his head trying to orient himself back to reality.
"Okay. Okay," he grumbled, and stretched over to pick up the phone next to his bed.
"Bengu." His voice came out like a hoarse whisper. He cleared his throat.
"Bengu." This time he recognized his own voice.
"Kubu, this is Jacob Mabaku. I have some bad news."
Kubu sat up, trying to think which of his cases could have blown up so badly that the director of the Criminal Investigation Department had to call in the middle of the night.
"What's going on, Director?"
"There's no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father's dead. I'm afraid it wasn't natural causes. He's been murdered."CHAPTER 2
"My father? Murdered?" A band of tightness squeezed Kubu's chest. "It must be a mistake. That's impossible. No one would do that." The band tightened, and Kubu found it difficult to breathe.
"Your mother phoned the police in Mochudi about three hours ago to say he was missing. She was worried he'd lost his way because he's been absentminded lately. Anyway, they started looking, and about an hour ago they found his body about five blocks from here, on Litabi Street. Some neighbors identified him. They phoned me. I'm at your mother's house now."
Kubu couldn't think — couldn't breathe. A huge sob shook his body. His beloved father murdered? It was not possible.
"What ... what happened? How did he die? Do they know who did it?"
"He was stabbed. And there's no indication at the moment either who did it or what the motive was."
Kubu sucked in a deep breath. He wasn't prepared for his father to be dead.
"My deepest sympathies, Kubu. He was a wonderful person. One of a kind."
Kubu couldn't speak. Only a croak came out of his mouth.
"Kubu. Please put Joy on the line."
"What time is it?"
"It's just after midnight. Please give the phone to Joy."
Kubu turned to Joy, who was sitting up, tears streaming down her face. She put one arm around Kubu's shoulders and took the phone.
"Is it true?" she whispered.
"Unfortunately, it is, Joy. It's a terrible tragedy. But I need you to look after Kubu. He's not going to take this well."
"What can I do?"
"I've sent a car to bring him up here. His mother needs him, and you too if you can get someone to take care of the kids."
"It's late. I don't know ..."
"The car will be there in twenty minutes."
"We don't know anything at the moment, except that he appears to have been stabbed."
"Who would do that? He wouldn't harm anyone."
"I'm sorry, Joy. We've no information at all. Please tell Kubu to be ready for the car." There was a pause. Then Mabaku continued. "I'm so sorry, Joy. I don't know what to say. Call me at any time if you need to talk. Anytime — day or night. Kubu has my cell phone number."
* * *
"I'M NOT WAITING for any car!" Kubu shouted. "I'm going now!" Joy grabbed Kubu's sleeve. "Please, Kubu. Please wait. You're not in any state to drive."
"I've got to get to my mother. She needs me."
"So do I, and so do the kids. We can't have you killing yourself driving up there."
"Please, Kubu, I'm frightened something will happen to you."
Kubu stared at her. Then he put his arms around her. "I'm sorry for shouting at you, darling. But I can't just sit here and twiddle my thumbs. I'll be careful." He picked up the keys to his Land Rover and headed to the front door. "Please call Pleasant to see if she can look after the kids. Mother will need you too."
Then he turned and left.
* * *
MABAKU'S FEARS WERE well founded. Kubu's mind was not on the road as he raced north to his mother. He went through the stop sign at the end of Acacia Street and narrowly missed another car as he failed to yield at the circle on the A1.
This can't be true, Kubu thought. Why would anyone want to kill Father? He doesn't carry any money unless he's going shopping. And he doesn't wear a watch.
Kubu didn't even notice the pair of donkeys eating grass right at the edge of the road as he left Gaborone.
Maybe he lost his temper with someone — Alzheimer's can do that to a person. Kubu was trying desperately to make sense of the senseless. But why kill him? He's old and frail — a shove would've taken care of any aggression.
Kubu increased his speed now that he was out of town.
How was his mother going to survive? They'd been married for nearly forty years. Done everything together. Depended on each other.
Kubu's eyes filled with tears. He took a deep breath, trying to get hold of himself.
His mother would have to come and live with them. They'd have to add on another room — the kids were already sharing the second bedroom.
Where would they get the money for that?
The turnoff to Mochudi was just ahead, and Kubu barely had time to slow down to make the turn. He shook his head. I'd better be careful on this next stretch of road, he thought. There are usually cows wandering around.
Ten minutes later he pulled up in front of his parents' house. There was a police car there, as well as Mabaku's Toyota Camry.
As he climbed the stairs to the veranda, he heard voices inside. He opened the front door and went in. It was obvious the neighborhood had come together to support Amantle. Several men and women were in the living room, some in dressing gowns. Amantle was on the sofa, head in her hands, sobbing quietly.
Mabaku was standing to one side looking very uncomfortable. When he saw Kubu, he took him by the arm and pulled him back outside.
He put his hand on Kubu's shoulder. "I don't know what to say, my friend," he said. "This is a terrible night."
Kubu just nodded, unable to respond.
"Before you go and speak to your mother, I need to say a couple of things. One, you are to take the next week off. Your mother will need help with the funeral arrangements. We'll take care of your cases. And two, you are to keep completely away from the investigation into your father's murder. And when I say completely, I mean completely." He paused and looked Kubu right in the eye. "Understood?"
"But, I can ..."
"No 'buts'! You're to stay out of it. No investigating on the side. No talking to people about it. Nothing! Am I making myself clear?"
Kubu nodded. "Who will you put on the case?"
"I will lead the investigation myself," Mabaku replied. "And Samantha will do most of the legwork. I'm giving it top priority on the grounds that it may be an attempt to intimidate a police officer."
"Thank you, Jacob." Kubu's voice came out as a whisper.
"I'll call you to arrange a meeting tomorrow afternoon. We need to see if you've given anyone a reason for doing this."
"Yes, Director. Thank you."
With that Kubu turned and went in to console his mother.CHAPTER 3
For Detective Samantha Khama, it was only her second call out to the scene of a murder. The first time had been dreadful, the still body proclaiming that a life was over, violently ended with no time to put affairs in order, no chance for good-byes. But this time was much worse. The body lying in the alley under the police floodlights was a defenseless old man and, worse still, the father of a colleague.
Samantha wiped her eyes and tried to focus on the job at hand. She and Kubu had had their disagreements, but she counted him as a friend and looked up to him. Their work together on the witch-doctor case had been close and intense, and although she wouldn't use that word, Kubu had become her mentor. She could imagine the turmoil he was going through now. She'd never met his father, but she'd heard Kubu talk of him and had deduced how close they were. And she could imagine how she would feel if something like this happened to her father.
Everyone at the scene was upset. There was little conversation except what was necessary to carry out the job efficiently. They were taking every care with the scene itself. Forensics had photographed the area around the body and checked for footprints. They had a couple of clear prints in the dusty section opposite the body, but they seemed to match those of Constable Tohe, who had discovered the body.
Ian MacGregor, the pathologist, was kneeling next to the body. He was usually unflappable, but she could see that he, too, was badly shaken.
Ian hauled himself to his feet, shaking his head. "Looks like three or four stab wounds to the chest and one into the neck. One probably went into the heart. Of course I won't be able to tell until we do an autopsy. My guess is that the assailant was right-handed and struck downward."
Samantha nodded, but didn't respond.
"Well, you can search the body now."
"I think I should wait for the director. He said he would head over here as soon as Kubu was with his mother." She hesitated, then rushed on, "Dr. MacGregor, this is so awful! Who would attack an old man and knife him to death? He was just a frail old man and deserved respect."
"Well, that's your job to find out. But in my experience, people who commit murders aren't usually very concerned about age and frailty. The less likely the victim is to fight back, the better."
They heard a car drive up, and soon Mabaku joined them.
"How is Kubu taking it, Director?" Ian asked.
"How do you think? He's seems okay on the surface, but he's in shock. And his mother's distraught, of course. It's a hell of a mess." He turned to Samantha. "Drop everything else. This is now top priority. I don't care if he was mugged or if this is somehow connected to one of Kubu's cases. Whoever did it is going to hang. We're going to make it absolutely clear that we won't tolerate anyone hurting one of us through our families."
Samantha wondered how much that was going to help Kubu and his mother, but she just nodded.
"So what have we got?"
Ian shrugged. "He's been dead for around three hours, I'd say. Died somewhere between eight and ten o'clock. There are several stab wounds, one of which went into the heart as far as I can tell. I'll do a preliminary autopsy first thing in the morning. Not much more I can do here." But he made no move to leave.
"Zanele's people haven't come up with anything yet. No murder weapon, no clues. But they're working on it."
Mabaku could see that for himself. Zanele was talking to her fingerprint specialist and sounded frustrated.
Mabaku cursed. "We should have something by now!" He took a deep breath and watched the activity. Then he said more quietly, as though to himself, "We have to be careful to keep perspective on this. Routine procedure and hard work. That's what we need. That's what solves cases." He didn't add that they'd miss Kubu's flashes of inspiration, but they were going to have to do without them. "Let's take a look." He put on his overalls, booties, and gloves and went over to the body.
Kubu's father was wearing a white shirt with long sleeves, and a gray jacket open in front, as if to frame the browning crimson of the wound. The pockets of his trousers were turned inside out. Mabaku bent over and started searching. He rolled the body on its side to see if there was a wallet in the back pocket. There wasn't, but lying on the ground was a cell phone.
"That's funny," Samantha said. The two men looked at her, surprised. "I mean it's odd. Kubu told me that Wilmon never takes his cell phone anywhere. He just uses it to get calls from the family. Kubu told me it once fell in the toilet, and his father pretended it was lost ..." Her voice trailed off, and she felt her throat close. She swallowed.
Mabaku thought for a moment. "We must check that with Kubu and Amantle. Maybe he was expecting a call. He doesn't seem to have anything else with him." He turned to Samantha. "Please check the phone for calls made and received for the past month and check with the telecom company as well, in case any of the records on the phone have been deleted."
Samantha nodded, then asked, "No wallet?"
Mabaku shook his head. "Hardly surprising. If he was mugged, the wallet would be gone. Or the assailant could have taken it to make it look like a mugging. Wilmon must have dropped the cell phone when he was stabbed and fallen on top of it."
Zanele joined them looking tired and depressed.
"Nothing yet. A dirt street is about the worst murder scene you can imagine. It's been windy, so stuff blows away. People walk through here all the time, so anything we find might have nothing to do with the murder at all. I've already got a whole bag of junk. And I don't think we'll get any fingerprints." She glanced at the rough brick walls.
"Keep at it, Zanele," Mabaku said. "Collect everything. Some of your junk could turn out to be important later on. In the morning we'll search the whole area. Maybe the killer threw the knife away. And we'll start checking right away if anyone in the area saw or heard anything."
Suddenly, Samantha had an awful thought. Suppose they never got to the bottom of this? Suppose Kubu had to live without knowing what had happened here and why? Then she pulled herself together. That wasn't going to happen. Mabaku wasn't going to let it happen and neither was she.
The director turned back to her. "If this is just an opportunistic mugging, we'll get him through the local police. Check with them in the morning and get them to see if their contacts have any information that could be useful. But if this is something to do with Kubu, then we're going to have to get at the motive through him. That's going to be painful for him because he'll blame himself for his father's death."
Samantha thought about it. "What if it's neither a mugging nor connected to Kubu?" she asked tentatively.
Mabaku shook his head. "Wilmon was as straight as an arrow. He would never have been involved in anything that would get him killed."
Samantha said nothing, but she wondered about that cell phone.
Excerpted from A Death in the Family by Michael Stanley. Copyright © 2015 Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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