Heart of the Hunter

Heart of the Hunter

by Deon Meyer

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Tiny Mpayipheli, a giant man with a gentle demeanor, once earned his living as a government gun for hire. Now leading a quiet, ordered life in the countryside, he is reluctantly summoned back into the game when a trusted old friend is kidnapped. With just seventy-two hours to deliver the ransom, with an army of security forces deployed to stop him, and with a diabolical double agent perilously close to assuming absolute power, Tiny races a hijacked motorcycle across the wilds of backcountry Africa in a thrilling epic adventure.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802145789
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 03/06/2012
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 755,766
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

SIMON VANCE is a prolific and popular audiobook narrator and actor with several hundred audiobooks to his credit. An Audie® Award-winner, Vance was recently named "The Voice of Choice" by Booklist magazine.

Read an Excerpt


Transcript of interview with Ismail Mohammed by A. J. M. Williams, 17 March, 17:52, South African Police Services offices, Gardens, Cape Town

W: You wanted to talk to someone from Intelligence?

M: Are you?

W: I am, Mr. Mohammed.

M: How do I know that?

W: You take my word for it.

M: That's not good enough.

W: What would be good enough for you, Mr. Mohammed?

M: Have you got identification?

W: You can check this out if you want to.

M: Department of Defence?

W: Mr. Mohammed, I represent the State Intelligence Service.


W: No.

M: Secret Service?

W: No.

M: What then?

W: The one that matters.

M: Military Intelligence?

W: There seems to be some misunderstanding, Mr. Mohammed. The message I got was that you are in trouble and you want to improve your position by providing certain information. Is that correct?


W: Mr. Mohammed?

M: Yes?

W: Is that correct?

M: Yes.

W: You told the police you would give the information only to someone from the intelligence services?

M: Yes.

W: Well, this is your chance.

M: How do I know they are not listening to us?

W: According to the Criminal Procedures Act, the police must advise you before they may make a recording of an interview.

M: Ha!

W: Mr. Mohammed, do you have something to tell me?

M: I want immunity.

W: Oh?

M: And guaranteed confidentiality.

W: You don't want Pagad to know you've been talking?

M: I am not a member of Pagad.

W: Are you a member of Muslims Against Illegitimate Leaders?

M: Illegal Leaders.

W: Are you a member of MAIL?

M: I want immunity.

W: Are you a member of Qibla?


W: I can try to negotiate on your behalf, Mr. Mohammed, but there can be no guarantees. I understand the case against you is airtight. If your information is worth anything, I can't promise you more than that I do my best....

M: I want a guarantee.

W: Then we must say good-bye, Mr. Mohammed. Good luck in court.

M: Just give me —

W: I'm calling the detectives.

M: Wait ...

W: Good-bye, Mr. Mohammed.

M: Inkululeko.

W: Sorry?

M: Inkululeko.

W: Inkululeko?

M: He exists.

W: I don't know what you're talking about.

M: Then why are you sitting down again?


A young man stuck his head out of a minibus taxi, wagging a mocking finger and laughing with wide white teeth at Thobela Mpayipheli.

He knew why. Often enough he had seen his reflection in the big shop windows — a great black man, tall and broad, on the tiny Honda Benly, the 200 cc ineffectively but bravely putt-putting under his weight. His knees almost touching the handlebars, long arms at sharp angles, the full-face crash helmet incongruously top-heavy.

Something of a spectacle. A caricature.

He was self-conscious those first weeks when to add to it all he had to learn to ride the thing. Going to work or home, every morning and afternoon in the rush-hour traffic of the N2, he was awkward and unsure. But once he learned the skills, learned to dodge the vans and 4x4s and buses, learned to slip between the gaps in the cars, learned to turn the pitiful horsepower to his advantage, the pointing mocking fingers ceased to trouble him.

And later he began to revel in it: while they sat trapped and frustrated in the gridlocked traffic, he and his Benly buzzed between them, down the long valleys that opened up between the rows of cars.

On the road, from Cape Town, east to Guguletu. And Miriam Nzululwazi.

And Pakamile, who would wait for him on the street corner, then run alongside the last thirty meters to the driveway. Silent, six-year-old solemnity on the wide-eyed face, serious like his mother, patiently waiting till Thobela took off the helmet and the tin work box, swept his big hand over the boy's head, and said, "Good afternoon, Pakamile." The child would overwhelm him with his smile and throw his arms around him, a magic moment in every day, and he would walk in to Miriam, who would be busy already with cooking or washing or cleaning. The tall, lean, strong, and beautiful woman would kiss him and ask about his day.

The child would wait patiently for him to finish talking and change his clothes. Then the magic words: "Let's go farm."

He and Pakamile would stroll down the yard to inspect and discuss the growth of the past twenty-four hours. The sweet corn that was making cobs, the runner beans ("Lazy housewife, what are you hinting at?" asked Miriam), the carrots, the squashes and butternuts and watermelons trailing along the beds. They would pull an experimental carrot. "Too small." Pakamile would rinse it off later to show his mother and then crunch the raw and glowing orange root. They would check for insects, study the leaves for fungus or disease. He would do the talking and Pakamile would nod seriously and absorb the knowledge with big eyes.

"The child is mad about you," she had said on more than one occasion.

He knew. And he was mad about the child. About her. About them.

But first he had to navigate the obstacle course of the rush hour, the kamikaze taxis, the pushy 4x4s, the buses belching diesel exhaust, the darting Audis of the yuppies switching lanes without checking their rearview mirrors, the wounded rusty bakkies, pickup trucks of the townships.

First to Pick 'n' Pay to buy the fungicide for the butternuts.

Then home.

The director smiled. Janina Mentz had never seen him without a smile.

"What kind of trouble?"

"Johnny Kleintjes, Mr. Director, but you need to hear this yourself." She placed the laptop on the director's desk.

"Sit, Janina." Still he smiled his hearty, charming smile, eyes soft as if gazing on a favorite child. He is so small, she thought, small for a Zulu, small for such a great responsibility. But impeccably dressed, the white shirt a shout in contrast to the dark skin, the dark gray suit an expression of good taste, somehow just right. When he sat like that, the hump, the small deformity of back and neck, could barely be seen. Mentz maneuvered the cursor on the screen to activate the replay.

"Johnny Kleintjes," said the director. "That old rogue." He tapped on the computer keyboard. The sound came tinnily through the small speakers.

"Is this Monica?" Unaccented. Dark voice.


"Johnny Kleintjes's daughter?"


"Then I need you to listen very carefully. Your daddy is in a bit of trouble."

"What kind of trouble?" Immediate worry.

"Let's just say he promised, but he couldn't deliver."

"Who are you?"

"That I am not going to tell you. But I do have a message for you. Are you listening?"


"It is very important that you get this right, Monica. Are you calm?"


Silence, for a moment. Mentz looked up at the director. His eyes were still soft, his body still relaxed behind the wide, tidy desk.

"Daddy says there is a hard drive in the safe in his study."


"Are you getting this, Monica?"


"He says you know the combination?"



"Where is my father?"

"He is here. With me. And if you don't work with us, we will kill him."

A catch of breath. "I ... please ..."

"Stay calm, Monica. If you stay calm, you can save him."

"Please ... Who are you?"

"A businessman, Monica. Your daddy tried to trick me. Now you have to put things right."

The director shook his head ruefully. "Ai, Johnny," he said.

"You will kill him anyway."

"Not if you cooperate."

"How can I believe you?"

"Do you have a choice?"


"Good. We are making progress. Now go to the safe and get the drive."

"Please stay on the line."

"I'll be right here."

The hiss of the electronics. Some static interference on the line.

"When did this conversation take place, Janina?"

"An hour ago, Mr. Director."

"You were quick, Janina. That is good."

"Thank you, sir, but it was the surveillance team. They're on the ball."

"The call was to Monica's house?"

"Yes, sir."

"What data do you think they are referring to here, Janina?"

"Sir, there are many possibilities."

The director smiled sympathetically. There were wrinkles around his eyes, regular, dignified. "But we must assume the worst?"

"Yes, sir. We must assume the worst." She saw no panic. Only calmness.

"I ... I have the hard drive."

"Wonderful. Now we have just one more problem, Monica."


"You are in Cape Town, and I am not."

"I will bring it."

"You will?" A laugh, muffled.

"Yes. Just tell me where."

"I will, my dear, but I want you to know, I cannot wait forever."

"I understand."

"I don't think so. You have seventy-two hours, Monica. And it is a long way."

"Where must I take it?"

"Are you very sure about this?"


Another pause: long, drawn out.

"Meet me in the Republican Hotel, Monica. In the foyer. In seventy-two hours."

"The Republican Hotel?"

"In Lusaka, Monica. Lusaka in Zambia."

They could hear the indrawn breath.

"Have you got that?"


"Don't be late, Monica. And don't be stupid. He is not a young man, you know. Old men die easily."

The line went dead.

The director nodded. "That's not all." He knew.

"Yes, sir."

She tapped again. The sound of dialing. It rang.


"Could I talk to Tiny?"

"Who's speaking?"


"Hold on." Muffled, as though someone were holding a hand over the receiver. "One of Tiny's girlfriends looking for him."

Then a new voice. "Who's this?"


"Tiny doesn't work here anymore. Nearly two years now."

"Where is he now?"

"Try Mother City Motorrad. In the city."

"Thank you."

"Tiny?" asked the director.

"Sir, we're working on that one. There's nothing on the priority list, sir. The number she phoned belongs to one Orlando Arendse. Also unknown. But we're following it up." "There's more."

Mentz nodded. She set the program running again.


"Could I speak to Tiny, please?"



"I think you have the wrong number."

"Tiny Mpayipheli?"

"Oh. Thobela. He's gone home already."

"I need to get hold of him urgently."

"Hold on." Papers rustled, soft cursing.

"Here's a number. Just try it. 555-7970."

"Thank you so much." The line was already dead.

New call.


"Could I speak to Tiny Mpayipheli, please?"



"He is not home yet."

"When do you expect him?"

"Who is calling?"

"My name is Monica Kleintjes. I ... he knows my father."

"Thobela is usually home by a quarter to six."

"I must speak to him. It's very urgent. Can you give me your address? I must see him."

"We're in Guguletu. Twenty-one Govan Mbeki."

"Thank you."

"There is a team following her and we've dispatched another team to Guguletu, sir. The house belongs to a Mrs. Miriam Nzululwazi and I expect that was her on the phone. We will find out what her relationship with Mpayipheli is."

"Thobela Mpayipheli, also known as Tiny. And what are you going to do, Janina?"

"The tail reports that she is traveling in the direction of the airport. She could be on her way to Guguletu. As soon as we're sure, sir, we'll bring her in."

The director folded his delicate hands on the shiny desktop.

"I want you to hang back a bit."

"Yes, sir."

"Let's see how this unfolds."

She nodded.

"And I think you had better call Mazibuko."


"Get the RU on a plane, Mentz. A fast one."

"But, sir ... I've got this under control."

"I know. I have absolute confidence in you, but when you buy a Rolls-Royce, sometime or other you must take it for a test drive. See if it is worth all the expense."

"Sir, the Reaction Unit ..."

He raised a small, fine-boned hand. "Even should they do nothing, I think Mazibuko needs to get out a bit. And you never know."

"Yes, sir."

"And we know where the data is going. The destination is known. This creates a safe test environment. A controllable environment."

"Yes, sir."

"They can be here in" — the director examined his stainless-steel watch — "a hundred and forty minutes."

"I'll do as you say, sir."

"And I assume the Ops Room will get up and running?"

"That was next on my agenda."

"You're in charge, Janina. And I want to be kept up-to-date, but I'm leaving it entirely in your hands."

"Thank you, sir." She was being put to the test. She and her team and Mazibuko and the RU. She had been waiting a long time for this.


The boy was not waiting on the street corner, and unease crept over Thobela Mpayipheli. Then he saw the taxi in front of Miriam's house. Not a minibus, a sedan, a Toyota Cressida with the yellow light on the roof — PENINSULA TAXIS — hopelessly out of place there. He turned up the dirt driveway and dismounted, more a case of careful extraction of his limbs from the motorbike, loosened the ties that held his tin box and the packet with the fungicide on the seat behind him, rolled the cords carefully in his hand, and walked in. The front door was standing open.

Miriam rose from the armchair as he entered; he kissed her cheek, but there was tension in her. He saw the other woman in the small room, still seated.

"Miss Kleintjes is here to see you," said Miriam.

He put down his parcel, turned to her, put out his hand. "Monica Kleintjes," she said.

"Pleased to meet you." He could wait no longer, looked to Miriam. "Where is Pakamile?"

"In his room. I told him to wait there."

"I'm sorry," said Monica Kleintjes.

"What can I do for you?" He looked at her, slightly plump in her loose, expensive clothes: blouse, skirt, stockings, and low-heeled shoes. He struggled to keep the irritation out of his voice.

"I am Johnny Kleintjes's daughter. I need to talk to you privately."

His heart sank. Johnny Kleintjes. After all these years.

Miriam's back straightened. "I will be in the kitchen." "No," he said. "I have no secrets from Miriam."

But she walked out anyway.

"I really am sorry," said Monica again.

"What does Johnny Kleintjes want?"

"He's in trouble."

"Johnny Kleintjes," he said mechanically as the memories returned. Johnny Kleintjes would choose him. It made sense.

"Please," she said.

He jerked back to the present. "First, I must say hello to Pakamile," he said. "Back in a minute."

He went through to the kitchen. Miriam stood by the stove, her eyes outside. He touched her shoulder but got no reaction. He walked down the short passage, pushed open the child's door. Pakamile lay on the little bed with a schoolbook, looked up. "Aren't we going to farm today?"

"Afternoon, Pakamile."

"Afternoon, Thobela."

"We will go farming today. After I have talked to our visitor."

The boy nodded solemnly.

"Have you had a nice day?"

"It was okay. At break we played soccer."

"Did you score a goal?"

"No. Only the big boys kick goals."

"But you are a big boy."

Pakamile just smiled.

"I'm going to talk to our guest. Then we'll go farm." He rubbed his hand over the boy's hair and went out, his unease now multiplying. Johnny Kleintjes — this meant trouble, and he had brought it to this house.

They strode in time across the parade ground of First Parachute Battalion, also known as the Parabats, or simply the Bats. Captain Tiger Mazibuko was one step ahead of Little Joe Moroka.

"Is it him?" asked Mazibuko, and pointed to the small group. Four Parabats sat in the shade under the wide umbrella of the thorn tree. A German shepherd lay at the feet of the stocky lieutenant, its tongue lolling, panting in the Bloemfontein heat. It was a big, confident animal.

"That's him, Captain."

Mazibuko nodded and picked up the pace. Red dust puffed up at each footfall. The Bats, three whites and one colored, were talking rugby, the lieutenant holding forth with authority. Mazibuko was there, stepped between them and kicked the dog hard on the side of the head with his steel-capped combat boot. It gave one yelp and staggered into the sergeant's legs.

"Fuck," said the Bat lieutenant, dumbfounded.

"Is this your dog?" asked Mazibuko. The faces of the soldiers expressed total disbelief.

"What the hell did you do that for?" A trickle of blood ran out of the dog's nose. It leaned dazedly against the sergeant's leg. Mazibuko lashed out again, this time in the side. The sound of breaking ribs was overlaid by the cries of all four Parabats.

"You fucker ...," screamed the lieutenant, and hit out, a wild swing that caught the back of Mazibuko's neck. He took one step back. He smiled.

"You are all my witnesses. The lieutenant hit first."


Excerpted from "Heart of the Hunter"
by .
Copyright © 2002 Deon Meyer.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Michael Connelly

“This guy is really good. Deon Meyer hooked me with this one right from the start. Heart of the Hunter is a thriller with some weight attached, and that is a rare find.”
—Michael Connelly

Customer Reviews

Heart of the Hunter 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
MykelM More than 1 year ago
Incredibly well done. It was one of those rare books that made me want to read it through in one sitting. As is the case with all of Deon Meyer's books, the characters are realistic, the circumstances believable.
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