Despite her checkered history with law enforcement, Johannesburg private investigator Jade de Jong is attempting to operate on the right side of the law, confining herself to low-profile cases. But her remarkably attractive new employer, Ryan Gillespie, has tasked her with finding a missing security official after a break-in at the nuclear energy plant he runs. The target of her search is Carlos Botha, a skilled operative and a threat to national security.
Jade traces Botha to a run-down suburb, but discovers she’s not the only one looking for him. Someone has put a hit out on Botha, and Jade forms an unlikely alliance with her mark in order to learn more. But how long can she keep up the facade of friendship before he realizes she’s been hired to track him?
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This is how you hide a body.
We’re not talking a scenario where you’ve had weeks to plan, to scope out the area, to assess the terrain. This is a rush job. Risky and dangerous, but a job nonetheless, and you are a professional.
First, the killing. Up close and personal is easy with the help of your accomplice, who provides a distraction at the right moment. The method you use is quiet. You’ve done it before. It’s also quick, bloodless and effective, but it requires skill and resolve.
You have both.
You maneuver the body into the car and drive the short distance to your destination, where you go about moving it to its permanent resting place.
“Where do you think he’s . . . ?”
Your accomplice speaks the words, and you mutter, “Shut up.” Voices can be overheard. You need to work, as far as possible, in silence. Sulkily, your accomplice refuses to help you any further, meaning that the job now rests on your shoulders alone.
The clock is ticking, and you need to get the body out of the car. You lean across the backseat, push the handle from the inside. At the same time, you breathe in, relieved that your nose can pick up no smell of urine or of shit, which would have complicated things.
“Where do you think he’s . . . ?”
You find yourself repeating your accomplice’s nonsense words in your mind as you climb out of the car, stepping carefully over the uneven ground in the darkness, bending through the open door.
Lifting a dead person out of a car is difficult. Dead bodies are heavy, limp, awkward to handle. Limbs flop, creating a weight imbalance that can send the corpse slumping out of your grasp. It’s easier if you turn the person into a package first.
You truss the wrists and ankles firmly together, pulling as tight as possible, using thin nylon rope that will grip and will not slip.
Then you crouch down and get yourself underneath, pushing your head and shoulders through the loop that the trussed limbs have made and grabbing onto the arm with both your hands. This is an up-close-and-personal business, where you smell the trace of deodorant and stronger hint of sweat from the corpse’s underarms, and you feel hair tickling your face. This butterfly caress reminds you of a lover’s hair, a comparison you’d rather not have thought about and now wish you hadn’t.
You need to distance yourself; it’s easier that way. Think of it not as a corpse, but rather a heavy sack. Even so, this is not for the faint of heart, nor for the weak, because heaving yourself forward so that the body is pulled from the car seat and staggering into a standing position with this weight around your shoulders is a challenge.
You stand, limbs quaking, hearing your breath coming fast, puffing from your lungs. But you’ve found your balance, and you’re carrying the burden. Your feet scrunch over twigs as you stagger forward, and you have a nasty moment where the corpse’s shirt catches on an overhanging branch, yanking you both backward in a wild rustling of leaves.
Now you’re out of the woods, so to speak, limping onward with your load toward the bridge that crosses the dam. A hidden ditch nearly claims you both—you stumble into it and lurch out, your ankle twisting in agony as you save yourself. Your heart is racing now, your breath harsh as you gulp in the cool air, your progress marked by the startled caws of night birds you can’t see.
“Where do you think he’s . . . ?”
The words are bothering you, although logically they shouldn’t. But perhaps it’s that you’re focusing on the one thing that doesn’t matter to distract yourself from the grim reality of all the things that do.
You reach the top of the incline. At last you’re where you need to be. The whiff of poisoned water taints the air, and some light—the fat maggot of a quarter moon—casts faint shadows but does not glimmer off the dam’s fouled surface. Now you can drop to your knees, tilt your shoulders and allow the burden you have carried to slide off so that it flops down near the edge of the dam wall.
Sweat crawls down your cheek, and you shake it away. You stride back toward the car and then veer left, hoping the supplies you brought here yesterday are still undisturbed. You brush aside the covering of leaves and branches that offered a rough camouflage, and there they are. Two heavy concrete blocks, each twelve inches in diameter, with holes drilled through their centers, and a longer length of coiled nylon rope.
The easiest way to carry the blocks is with the handles you’ve already made by threading a piece of rope through each center hole and tying it. You sling the coiled rope around your neck and pick up a concrete block in each hand. The rope bites into your palms. They are heavy, but the load is more balanced than your previous one, so it is easier. Another minute, and you’re at the top of the hill, smelling the sour air, placing the concrete blocks next to the body and crouching down to do what you need to do.
Now your weighted load is ready for transfer. You loop the rope through it and anchor one end to the trunk of the nearest tree. You hold the other end tightly, and with your foot, you nudge and push the body, scraping it over the earthen bank until it reaches the point of no return and topples over the edge down to the brackish water below.
You fling your weight back as the rope burns your palm, hauling on it, trying to slow the fall of your victim, because an almighty splash you do not want. Inch by painful inch, you ease out the rope. The trickle of sweat has become a stream, tension and exertion combined, but your efforts are rewarded by the almost soundless plop as the corpse meets the water with barely a ripple spreading across its surface.
Now you can play out the rope faster, letting it slide through your hands as your victim completes the downward plunge, through water twice as deep as you are tall, to rest at last on the dam’s beslimed floor.
You let go of the rope, untie it from the tree and pull it out of the dam, coiling as you go, the length slipping through your fingers, first cool and dry, then slick and wet and stinking.
Then you stand up again, exhausted from your efforts, resting your hands on your knees for a moment. And it is then that you see it.
Even in the muted light of that ungenerous moon, the shape is unmistakable. A human figure, facing you, dark jacketed, standing near the edge of the trees.
You draw a sharp breath, preparing to give chase, but before you can sprint closer, the man turns and swiftly melts into the cover of the bushes.
Now, suddenly, the half-finished comment your accomplice offered makes sense. “Where do you think he’s going?”
It was an observation; your accomplice had noticed that man.
Your job was not done in secret.
Somebody was watching; somebody saw.