Winner of the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize, ATKV Literature Prize, and twice winner of the M-Net Literature Awards
"Brooding. Riveting. Brilliant.” Deon Meyer, author of Blood Safari
Inspector Albertus Beeslaar is a traumatized cop who has abandoned tough city policing and a broken relationship in Johannesburg for a backwater post on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. But his dream of rural peace is soon shattered by the repeated attacks of a brutally efficient crime syndicate, as he struggles to train and connect with rookie local cops, Ghaap and Pyl, who resent his brusqueness and his old-school ways.
A beautiful and eccentric artist and her four-year-old adopted daughter are murdered on a local farm, and angry white farmers point to her enigmatic Bushman farm manager as a key suspect. Along with Ghaap and Pyl, Beeslaar is plunged into the intrigue and racial tensions of the community and finds that violence knows no geographical or ethnic boundaries.
Weeping Waters marks the beginning of a great new series with a striking new setting, a strong ensemble cast of characters and suspenseful storylines.
|Publisher:||Europa Editions, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Karin Brynard is a former political and investigative journalist and uses her research skills and eye for detail to fascinating effect in Weeping Waters. She is, today, one of Penguin South Africa’s biggest authors.
Maya Fowler is a novelist, editor and translator living in Cape Town, South Africa. Her debut novel, The Elephant In The Room , (Kwela, 2009) was shortlisted for the Herman Charles Bosman prize.
Isobel Dixon was born and educated in South Africa, and in Edinburgh where she completed Master's degrees in English Literature and Applied Linguistics. She has translated novels from the Afrikaans and her debut poetry collection Weather Eye (Carapace, 2001) won the Sanlam and the Olive Schreiner Prizes in South Africa. Dixon is Head of Books and a Director of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency, where she represents writers from around the world, among them Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers and international prize winners.
Read an Excerpt
The call came through just after two.
He was at his desk at the police station, having his lunch of vetkoek and mince. Washed down, as usual, with a mug of strong black coffee. Three sugars.
He was almost done when the phone rang.
One of the constables on duty in the charge office. "There's been a murder," the man gasped, "two dead. A farm killing. Woman and child. White. On Huilwater farm, about forty kays out on the Upington road." And then, "The caller's still on the line. Would the Inspector like to speak to him?"
Inspector Albertus Markus Beeslaar shoved the vetkoek aside.
A man's voice, shaky and hoarse. "Too late," he kept repeating, "a madman ... a devil ..."
The voice broke off.
"Like animals. Both of them, just slaughtered. Blood. On everything. Everywhere."
He said he was standing in it. Then the man began to sob, stammering about being too late.
It took some coaxing to get a name out of him. "Boet Pretorius," he eventually answered. "From the farm next door."
The child was barely four years old. "Four, just four," he said, over and over again.
"Where's the woman's husband?" Beeslaar asked this several times.
"There is no fucking husband," was the fierce reply. A foreman, yes, but he was nowhere to be found.
Where was he phoning from?
There was a long silence, as if the man had to think about it.
Then, "Good God, man! Get out of the house, now," Beeslaar ordered. "Wait outside. I'm on my way."
For a moment Beeslaar didn't move. So much for a peaceful life on the platteland, his dream of a quiet small-town post. He threw the vetkoek into his wastepaper basket and told the constable on duty to send more backup to Huilwater. He rounded up two colleagues and got a car. The Citi Golf. The only one available in a carpool of two. No air con, a hundred and eighty thousand on the clock.
They squeezed in, ready to tackle the forty kilometres of dirt road.
Sergeant Pyl had to take the back, with Ghaap in the passenger seat. Beeslaar crammed his own two-metre frame behind the wheel. Cursing under his breath, as he did each time he got into the tiny car: the steering wheel too close to his knees, the seat too narrow, no legroom, his head against the roof, leaving him feeling hemmed in and pissed off. This afternoon was no exception. He was in a foul mood already, even before they hit the road that led to the murder scene.
But all that didn't irritate him as much as the fact that he was still struggling to find his feet in this post: real city boy, ill at ease in a world of farmers and cattle and farm roads and sand and snakes and blazing-heatwith-out-air-con. He'd barely arrived, blissfully under the impression he was heading for a quiet job in a peaceful backwater, when the shit hit the fan and started flying in all directions.
He arrived right in the middle of an unprecedented wave of stock theft. And either he wasn't a detective's backside any more, or he was dealing with a super-sophisticated mafia. Because he could find neither hide nor hair of these crooks, no matter how hard he tried.
The farmers were at their wits' end. And furious, because they were being nailed. Everyone wanted results, arrests, while he was having a hard time telling his arse from his elbow, let alone rounding up a cunning bunch of stock thieves.
And then, just a fortnight ago, two farm workers were brutally murdered on Vaalputs. They must have caught the thieves in the act. The remnants of a flock of sheep, some with throats cut, others with hock tendons slashed, had lain there, bleating and bleeding to death, all goddamn night. Till the farmer discovered them the next morning and put them out of their misery. And only then found the bodies of the workers, the Jacobs brothers, underneath the carcasses, trampled to shreds by the panicked beasts.
And he, Albertus Markus Beeslaar, sat there like a damn fool. With everyone looking to him, the new guy with so many years of experience. Big Man from the Big City. Schooled by the cream of the crop of Johannesburg's old Murder and Robbery Squad. But here he was now, blowing around like a lost fart. With not a clue about what to do next.
If only he had caught the thieves, the Huilwater woman and her child would still be alive to —
He narrowly dodged a pothole. Bumped his head, berated himself — stop brooding and focus on the road: the potholes were the size of chest freezers.
With half an ear, he listened to Sergeant Pyl behind him — the hyperactive one, who couldn't keep his trap shut for a second, even if he had to shout to make himself heard above the din of gravel clattering against the chassis. There was lots of gossip, he said, about the single woman farming on Huilwater. An eccentric artist from Johannesburg. And the Griqua girl she was adopting, and that weird Bushman farm manager of hers. Pyl's voice was virtually drowned out as they rattled over a corrugated stretch of road, so that Beeslaar couldn't always follow the thread.
Half an hour of shuffling, shaking and head-bumping. Pyl prattling on doggedly from the back. Ghaap, his long, skinny body folded up like a stick insect on the seat next to him, was thankfully less talkative. Then they finally found the turn-off to Huilwater and stopped at the back door of the farmhouse.
Boet Pretorius was sitting on the back steps, his large figure hunched over. There was blood on his clothes. Stains on his knees and forearms. Even in his hair. There was vomit on his shirt, and a dark smear on the hand that was clutching a cigarette.
Around him a wordless gathering of men: farmers from the district, driven in from God knows where.
Who'd sent word? Beeslaar wondered fleetingly. Pretorius?
One was still hovering in the kitchen doorway, his face pale and frightened. Probably went in to satisfy a macabre curiosity, Beeslaar thought as he headed for the group.
"Beeslaar," he introduced himself, "and Sergeants Pyl and Ghaap. How many of you have been inside?"
He got his answer in the form of downcast faces, hands fumbling with a hat or a pistol at the hip.
"Christ," he muttered, and walked past them.
The man at the door quickly stood aside. "There's no one left," he told Beeslaar, who took a moment to comprehend what the man was trying to say.
"From now on, you all stay clear of this house," Beeslaar barked. "This is a murder scene, not a fucking freak show!" He swallowed back his anger and then tried again, more evenly, "Please see to it that nobody leaves this place before I've talked to every one of you! Understood?" He waited sternly until they assented. Then he turned and went inside the house. Over his shoulder he ordered Pyl to man the back door — no one, apart from the forensics team from Upington, was permitted — and Ghaap, meanwhile, should start taking statements and round up some officers to find the farm labourers.
It was a particularly gruesome scene. In twenty years with the South African Police Service, he'd not witnessed anything like this. He saw the child first. In the first bedroom. Lying on her side, in a pool of blood. He could see the blood was fresh — a few hours, at most.
The woman's body was in a second bedroom. She was sitting on the floor, her back against a chair. Her arms hung loosely, hands relaxed, palms open to the ceiling. Like a rag doll propped upright on a child's bed. But without a head. Or rather, from where he was standing in the doorway, he couldn't see one. And he didn't want to get too close — he'd wait for the team from Forensics. Not that this was a pristine murder scene, exactly.
The two bedrooms and the passage were covered in bloody tracks from the farmers traipsing in and out. Beeslaar felt his blood pressure rise.
The forensics team from Upington turned out to be one bloke. "Sorry I'm so late," he said, introducing himself as Hans Deetlefs. "Without my GPS I'd never have found the place!" He looked pretty pleased with himself and his GPS, this man with the fresh face and big specs. He was a short man, but clearly minus the accompanying syndrome. And he seemed smart. Already kitted out in his plastic coveralls and shoes, bag of tricks in his left hand, camera hanging from his neck. "Welcome to the wild North West, Inspector," he said, blinking his little eyes in a self-satisfied way. "I hear you're all the way from Joburg!"
Beeslaar mumbled a response, in no mood for chitchat.
Cheerily, Hans Deetlefs unpacked his case and deftly set to work, pointing out a detail to Beeslaar every now and then. Such as the fact that the woman's head was actually there. Quite simply, her throat had been cut so deeply that her head fell backwards into the hollow of the seat. Together, they inspected the chaos in the bedroom. The drawers had been pulled from the wardrobe and emptied onto the floor in a tangle of underwear, scattered items of jewellery and cosmetics, and the mattress half dragged from the bed. As if someone had been searching for something. A low bookshelf lay upended and several books were spattered with blood; this had apparently happened before the killing.
"She must have sat watching," Hans happily declared. "Bet you a hundred bucks they fed her roofies before murdering her." He blinked up at Beeslaar.
"I'm not a gambling man," Beeslaar grunted.
The blood was everywhere: walls, floor, bed. The woman's long summer dress, light blue, was stained black. And outside, the front stoep too was a mess, with three sheepdogs and a mongrel lying in pools of blood.
Deetlefs wasn't much bothered by the fucked-up state of the murder scene. "Shit happens," he said with an irritating grin as he blinked again. His words were still hanging in the air when more shit threatened: Sergeant Ghaap appearing in the doorway without foot protection, glowing cigarette in hand.
"Inspector, the guys outside wanna know if you can ... umm, how long it's going to take. They want to go."
Beeslaar began counting to ten, but didn't even reach three. "Fuck off with that cigarette! And then go and tell that bunch outside: if they want to spend the night in the cells, they should just try and leave here!"
When Beeslaar was finally satisfied that he'd seen everything, he left Deetlefs to it and stepped outside for some fresh air. And to listen to Pretorius's story.
But there was a commotion and more violence threatened.
The farm manager had arrived. Before Beeslaar could stop them, a group of young farmers pulled the man roughly from his truck and onto the ground, ready to beat the hell out of him. And then shoot him. Ghaap, Pyl and a couple of their colleagues had to break it up.
Adam De Kok was his name. An interesting figure, the Bushman foreman that Ghaap had mentioned. He'd been in town all day — with the Huilwater housekeeper, Mrs. Beesvel — doing the weekly grocery shopping and collecting stuff from the farmers' co-op. Beeslaar took them aside, walked with them to the manager's house some thirty metres from the main homestead. They settled on the back stoep, where Beeslaar spoke to them both. But they were both shocked, knew nothing — the poor woman could hardly talk, she was so distraught. She broke down, speaking in gasps between sobs, about "her little ones," "the evil world," "too late," "bad people." The evil world indeed, Beeslaar thought, as De Kok comforted her.
There was little point in pressing them further right now. De Kok said he would take Mrs. Beesvel — Outanna, he called her — inside for a cup of sweet tea, while Beeslaar stayed on the stoep to finish the questioning. He had the rest of the workers brought to him for interviews. Same story from each one of them: "saw nothing," "heard nothing." All of them were clearly beside themselves. Two more had to be fetched from a distant camp where they'd been repairing fences. And apart from the fact that they were also clearly shaken, they too knew nothing.
Then Beeslaar moved on to the waiting farmers. Starting with Boet Pretorius.
"Went into town this morning, just the usual, co-op and bank. Quick burger at the Dune, left at about half past one. And on my way back ..." He grimaced. "I'm on the farm next door, Karrikamma," he said. And no, he hadn't noticed any strange or unusual vehicles around here, or along the way.
"I just wanted to stop by, the house is so close to the road, you know, you can just quickly pop in."
Seven o'clock, almost five hours later. Deetlefs had just given the green light for the bodies to be taken away. The ambulance guy, an unwashed fellow with wine on his breath, had a hard time loading them up. The closest available pathologist was in Postmasburg.
The yard was suddenly quiet. The farmers gone, the one-man team from Upington gone. Ghaap and Pyl on their way back to the station with the ops guys.
Beeslaar was alone. Sitting on the back steps, where he'd found Boet Pretorius earlier that afternoon. Looking out over the yard, at the two giant blue gums shading the back door. A lane of white karees separated the manager's house from the main house.
A big zinc dam stood at the front of the house, a windmill alongside, its pump straining, screeching as it drew water, its blunt blades a metallic grey against the sky. Dusk was falling. The setting sun flared red in the fine dust that hovered over the yard.
Beeslaar felt slightly nauseous. Not just because of the bloodbath he'd witnessed that afternoon. It was the water. He'd been in this godforsaken place for two months, but still couldn't get used to the brackish water, water that turned soap to scum and left chalky limescale rings in every glass. His body yearned for the stale swimming-pool flavour of Joburg tap water.
He tried putting Joburg out of his mind. It was a different life. He was here now. On this farm, in this heat.
Sweating like a pig. And thirsty, always thirsty.
But he also knew that now, sitting here, this thirst was the very least of his problems.
Sara Swarts looked for a tree, some shade, in front of Number 3 Driedoring Street. Yvonne Lambrechts's house, Tannie Yvonne, as they called her, not a real aunt, but a friend of her mother's from way back, and one of the few people in the district she still knew.
It was Tannie Yvonne who had called her yesterday with the news about Freddie. And the child.
"My sweetheart, you've got to be strong now. There's terribly bad news."
It hit Sara like a lightning bolt. Freddie ... and like that.
And a child. The girl she'd wanted to adopt. She'd even sent a photograph. At the time, Sara had hardly even looked at the picture. Another of Freddie's crazy "projects." Not yet over, the thing between Freddie and her ... Oh, God.
Sara turned off the ignition and got out. Tired of thinking. Right through the night. Kilometre after kilometre of merciless road — all the way from Cape Town. Thinking, and regretting. All along the West Coast to Vanrhynsdorp, then east and north again. With Freddie on her mind all the way. And the issues she'd had with Freddie, those final bitter words ...
Up the ridge of the plateau, towards the Hantam. Then Bushmanland, vast and flat. Two, three hours' drive between one sleeping town and the next. The straight road a tunnel through the dark. Here and there the flare of an animal's eyes, or a greyish something scurrying across the road. Jackal. Mongoose, a buck. Not another living soul to be seen. Just the black night and the two beams of light her little Corsa cast onto the never-ending black tar. At sunrise she saw the first quiver trees, wild silhouettes dancing against the dawn. And then the red dunes in between haakbos and grasslands, the camel thorns with their characteristic umbrella shapes. For the first time since receiving the news she felt real again. Here, back in this familiar world, as if the night had been some harrowing nightmare where she'd stumbled through a dark maze, in search of ... who knows what.
She knocked on Tannie Yvonne's door and was met with hysterical high-pitched barking. The door had scarcely opened a crack when three small fluffy dogs rushed at her, jumping up at her calves.
Tannie Yvonne embraced Sara without a word. She was still in her pyjamas and smelt of talcum powder and sleep. Dry-eyed, Sara stared over her shoulder at the familiar corridor and lounge.
"Come in," she said, "I'll make us some tea."
"I should probably go to the police first," Sara protested.
Excerpted from "Weeping Waters"
Copyright © 2009 Karin Brynard.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
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