The Garden of Burning Sand

The Garden of Burning Sand

by Corban Addison


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623653866
Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 573,121
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Corban Addison is the author of the international bestselling novels, A Walk Across the Sun and The Garden of Burning Sand, which address international human rights issues within the framework of deeply researched and compelling human stories. An attorney, activist, and world traveler, he is a supporter of numerous humanitarian causes, including the abolition of modern slavery, gender-based violence, and HIV/AIDS. He lives with his wife and children in Virginia.

Read an Excerpt

Lusaka, Zambia
August, 2011

The music was raucous, but it was always that way in African clubs. The beat of the drum—the backbone of village song—had been replaced in the cities by the throbbing insistence of electronic bass, amplified until everything around the speakers picked up the rhythm—people, beer bottles, even the walls. On Zoe’s first trip to the continent—a brief jaunt to Nairobi when she was six years old—her mother told her that Africa is the keeper of humanity’s pulse. It was a truth she remembered every time she stepped foot in a Zambian bar.

The place was called Hot Tropic, the club de jour in a city constantly reinventing its nightlife. The decor was all fire and glitter, neon lights flashing red against the walls and dazzling disco balls turning everything to sparkle. The place was packed with bodies, most of them African twenty-somethings, bouncing to the beat.

Zoe was seated at a table in a corner of the bar where the decibel level was slightly buffered. She was dressed in jeans and a Hard Rock London T-shirt, her wavy blonde hair pulled back in a clip. At the table with her were three African friends from work—two men and a woman. Most Saturdays Zoe hosted a barbecue, or braai, at her flat, and afterward those who had not satisfied their appetite for beer and conversation went clubbing. Tonight, the subject on everyone’s minds was the September election, pitting Zambia’s President, Rupiah Banda, against the aging warhorse Michael Sata, and the energetic upstart Hakainde Hichilema, or “H.H.”

“Banda is finished,” Niza Moyo was saying, her dark eyes aglow with indignation. “As is his party. They’ve run the country for twenty years and what have they given us? Mobile hospitals that take doctors away from the real hospitals; police officers that have no vehicles to investigate a crime; roads that only the rich can drive on; and corruption at every level of government. It’s a disgrace.”

Like Zoe, Niza was a young attorney at the Coalition of International Legal Advocates, or CILA, a London-based non-profit that combatted human rights abuses around the world. She was feistier and more outspoken than most Zambian women, but she was Shona, from Zimbabwe, and her father was an exiled diplomat known for challenging authority.

“I sympathize with your position,” said Joseph Kabuta, an officer with the Zambia Police Victim Support Unit. Solidly built with closecropped hair and wide perceptive eyes, he reminded Zoe of the young Nelson Mandela. “But Banda is still popular in the rural areas, and Michael Sata isn’t well. Zambians don’t want another president to die in office.”

“The press reports about Sata’s health are overblown,” Niza rejoined.

“What I can’t figure out,” Zoe interjected, “is why you don’t throw out the guys with one foot in the grave and elect the best candidate. Everybody loves H.H. He’s a born leader and he has no political baggage. But everybody says he can’t win. Where’s the logic?”

“It’s the way people think,” said Sergeant Zulu—who everyone called Sarge. Strategically brilliant and compulsively affable, he was the lead attorney at CILA and the mastermind behind the organization’s campaign against child sexual assault. “In Africa, presidents are like village chiefs. People vote for the gray heads.”

“So what you’re saying is that reformers don’t stand a chance until the old guard dies?” Zoe asked. “No wonder progress is like pulling teeth here.”

Sarge smiled wryly. “Each generation has to wait its turn.” He held up his empty bottle of Castle lager. “Anyone else need another beer, or am I the only one drinking?”

“I’ll take a Mosi,” said Joseph, draining his bottle and pushing it to the center of the table. Suddenly, he frowned and reached into the pocket of his jeans. He pulled out his cell phone and glanced at the screen. “It’s Mariam,” he said, giving Sarge a quizzical look.

Zoe perked up. Mariam Changala was the field-office director at CILA and the mother of six children. If she was calling Joseph in the middle of the night, it had to be serious.

Zoe watched Joseph’s face as he took the call. His broad eyebrows arched. “Is Dr. Chulu on call? Make sure he’s there. I’m ten minutes away.” He put the phone away and glanced around the table. “A girl was raped in Kanyama. They’re taking her to the hospital now.”

“How old?” Niza asked.

Joseph shrugged. “Mariam just said she’s young.”

“Family?” Sarge inquired.

“Not clear. They found her wandering the streets.”

Zoe spoke: “Who picked her up?”

“Some people from SCA.”

“She’s disabled?” Zoe asked. “SCA” stood for Special Child Advocates, a nonprofit that worked with children with intellectual disabilities.

“Presumably,” Joseph said, throwing on his jacket. “Sorry to break up the party.” He gave them a wave and headed toward the door.

Zoe decided on a whim to follow him. Child rape cases usually appeared on her desk in a weeks-old police file. She’d never learned of an incident so soon after it happened. She tossed an apology to Sarge and Niza and weaved her way through the crowd, catching up to

“Mind if I come with you?” she asked. “I’ve never seen the intake process.”

He looked annoyed. “Okay, but stay out of the way.”

Zoe followed him into the chilly August night. Thrusting her hands into the pockets of her jacket, she looked toward the south and saw Canopus hanging low over the horizon. The brightest southern stars were visible above the scrim of city lights. Joseph walked toward a rusty Toyota pickup jammed in between cars on the edge of the dirt lot. Only the driver’s door was accessible. Zoe had to climb over the gearshift to reach the passenger seat.

Joseph started the truck with a roar and pulled out onto the street. Since Hot Tropic sat on the border between Kalingalinga, one of Lusaka’s poorer neighborhoods, and Kabulonga, its wealthiest, street traffic on a Saturday night was kaleidoscopic, a colorful blend of pedestrians,
up-market SUVs, and blue taxi vans crammed with revelers.

“How did the people at SCA find the girl?” Zoe asked as they left the club behind.

He stared at the road without answering, and she wondered if he’d heard her. She observed him for a long moment in the shadows of the cab. She knew almost nothing about him, except that he had been a police officer for over a decade, that he loathed corruption, and that he had recently completed a law degree at the University of Zambia.

She spoke his name to get his attention. “Joseph.”

He twitched and took a breath. “One of their community volunteers found her,” he said. “A woman named Abigail. She saw blood on the girl’s leg and called Joy Herald.” Joy was the director of SCA. “Joy called Mariam at home.”

“It happened in Kanyama?”

He nodded. “East of Los Angeles Road, not far from Chibolya.”

She shuddered. Kanyama lay to the southwest of Cairo Road—the city’s commercial center. A patchwork of shanties and cinderblock dwellings, most without toilets or running water, it was a haven for poverty, alcoholism, larceny, and cholera outbreaks. In an election year, it was also a cauldron of political unrest. But at least Kanyama had a police post. Chibolya was such a cesspool of lawlessness that the police avoided it altogether.

They left the well-lit neighborhoods of Kabulonga and headed west along the wide, divided highway of Los Angeles Boulevard. Skirting the edge of the Lusaka Golf Club, they took Nyerere Road through a tunnel of mature jacarandas whose dense branches slivered the light of the moon.

“Were there any witnesses?” she asked.

He sighed and shifted in his seat. “I have no idea. Are you always so full of questions?”

She bristled and thought: If I were a man, would you be asking? She considered a number of barbed responses, but in the end she held her tongue. CILA needed her to build bridges with the police, not wreck them.

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