I was so blown away by the super review Roughseas wrote on the entire Solar Wind series (after already writing reviews on the individual books and posting them on Goodreads) that I totally forgot that it’s Friday! I owe you a story!
6 : Lindsey
When they were in the car, Richard held out his hand.
“Give me your knife.”
Shadow pulled a face. “You’ll give it back some time?”
“Some time,” agreed Richard and pocketed Sharktooth. Which was innocent. The Stiletto Shadow had used for his fast assault on the target, had been firstly meticulously cleaned; but secondly it hid in a sheath inside his grey gypsy coat. He’d hidden both the coat and his most precious knife in the bushes yesterday before reporting to the police station for finishing the Barberton Four; but he’d needed it for the job. That knife he was not handing over!
“Now you tell me, where were you?” charged Richard.
“Working,” said Shadow. “Jobbing for someone.”
“What kind of work?”
“Was washing their cars,” said Shadow without blinking. “Rich family, they have five cars. The smallest is…” it didn’t even take him a split second to think which vehicles he’d seen lots of in Sabie, “a Sanji 27. All the others are luxury cars.”
“What is the family’s name?” challenged Richard.
“How should I know?” replied Shadow. “But while I was washing them, I heard something on the radio…”
“What did you hear?” Richard started the car and went from zero to hundred in six seconds, regardless that the first three were still up his mother’s driveway.
The reckless driving style of the young gadjo gave Shadow a perfect excuse not to answer. He was clinging to whatever handholds he could find in the car, looking green in the face. When they drew up in front of Sabie’s police station, tyres screeching, he was glad to open the door and get the hell out of that death-trap of a vehicle. He stood bent over for a moment, breathing and fighting off the car-sickness.
Richard’s hand closed roughly around his arm.
“So, come along! You wanted us to come here, now show me what you had in mind. Jou klein bliksem,” he added for good measure.
Shadow bared his teeth as he was being tugged along. Several swearwords in Romani jib queued up at the tip of his tongue; but he bit them back, deciding it would provide much more satisfaction to insult Richard in his own language… which was English! He couldn’t understand why the man kept lapsing into Afrikaans.
Officer Dhlamini gaped at Shadow as Richard hauled him into the police office.
“There,” the young man prompted, giving Shadow a push that sent him flying against the counter. “Go for it!”
“Mister Robinson!” drawled Dhlamini. “It’s good to see you!”
“The same, sir,” replied Richard politely.
There was no politeness left in Shadow though.
“Your sister has gone missing and you make small jib?” he snapped at Richard, and turned to Dhlamini, jumping right in. “Officer, what’s the story about the girl they found? This morning?”
“What girl?” asked Dhlamini, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
“That girl in the rubbish dumpster?” Mpho piped up from the background. “Shame!”
Dhlamini glared at her. “We don’t know of any such report!”
Richard had gone as white as a sheet. He stared at Shadow, and at Dhlamini, and abruptly left the police station.
“Wena,” said Shadow quietly to Mpho. “Itla-mo! What did you hear? Asseblief?”
Dhlamini glared at him. Shadow took some universal vocabulary out of his pocket, the language that everyone understood.
“Just between us,” he said quietly. “I worked hard for this money, please can you tell me what happened to Richard Robinson’s sister?”
Both Dhlamini and Mpho took a bribe, Mpho for telling him what she’d heard, and Dhlamini for allowing her. Shadow was growling internally, but that was how these systems worked – here, not in Unicate-riddled Europe. That small corrupt act alone would have landed him in one of the Unicate high-security prisons.
“They talked about it on the networks,” said Mpho. “This blonde school girl, they found her dead in the rubbish. Raped and strangulated.”
“She is in the morgue,” said Dhlamini helpfully. “We investigated her body – she had no identification.”
“Thank you,” said Shadow and left the station, joining Richard at the four-wheel drive. The young man was leaning over the car’s bonnet, his head in his hands.
“C’mon, Richard,” said Shadow. “Got to be strong now. I hope we’re wrong about this. Got to check it out.”
Richard looked up, pale as dust. The sparkle had gone out of his eyes.
“C’mon,” Shadow prompted once more. He led the way.
One advantage to being the half invisible vagabond was that you got to know a town. Shadow knew exactly where to lead Richard.
Twenty minutes later they both sat at a cafeteria table sipping hot coffees.
“It wasn’t her,” Richard repeated for the twentieth time, like a mantra.
Shadow was shaking his head, trying to clear the fog from his brain. He’d lapsed on killing the monster on time, and one more young girl had been murdered pointlessly. At least it wasn’t Marge’s kid, but still… she was somebody’s kid.
“Sorry I suspected you, man,” said Richard unexpectedly and punched Shadow’s shoulder. “No matter,” muttered the gypsy. “But now we must find Lindsey. She’s still missing.”
“Right!” Richard got up, paid for the coffees and urged Shadow on. “Let’s get back to Mom.” He gave the young vagabond another sharp stare. “Thanks for sparing Mom this.”
“Course,” shrugged Shadow.
Marge was out of her head with worry by the time the two returned.
“Was a false lead,” Richard broke the news before they were even in the house. “That wasn’t her, that story Shadow had heard.”
“So you didn’t find her?”
“At least we didn’t find her dead,” said Richard. “Have you called her friends yet?”
“I’ve called everyone I have on my list,” said Marge. “While you two were out.”
“Have you looked in her room?” asked Shadow.
Marge stared at him as though he’d lost his wits.
“For clues,” he elaborated. “Sometimes there’s something that gives you an idea…”
Richard was already on the way to his sister’s room, with Marge and Lucy stampeding after. Shadow trailed behind, wondering. He had to get rid of Van Vuuren’s driver’s license before it was found in his possession – before the body was found in the first place. It was difficult to destroy such a license; they were pretty much fireproof, made from neolaminene. He could bury it, but experience showed that buried stuff always resurfaced randomly when you could use it least. Someone always found it. The only real way to destroy that kind of card was to cut it up, into small shreds.
“Ha!” he heard Richard’s triumphant battle cry. So the man had found something. He craned his neck to see.
Richard was holding a small envelope, handing it to Marge.
“To Mom,” she read, and ripped the envelope open to fish the note out of it. “Mom, if I have to live in the same house with that filthy veld-crawler, I’d rather go and live elsewhere. Wish you didn’t have to trade away your children for some bleeding-heart style charity. Lindsey.”
Shadow’s face fell.
“She’s actually run away,” said Marge, stupefied. Richard rifled through his sister’s belongings.
“She’s taken her sleeping bag,” he pointed out. “And her school bag isn’t here…” He glanced at Shadow. “How good are you at finding someone?”
The gypsy bit his lip. He was actually brilliant at that; but he’d rather not be the one to find her.
“We have to wait,” he said. “She’s going to come back.”
“Wait?” asked Richard. “After what we saw there in the morgue? There’s some monster out there that –”
“Morgue?” asked Marge, horrified.
Shadow spotted Lucy’s terrified eyes and held out his hand to her.
“C’mon, Lucy, I think we must go read some Big Brown Bear.”
She followed him; halfway down the passage she asked: “Shadow, is there really a monster out there that eats kids?”
The fear in her eyes was genuine. Her imagination had already spun a whole story about what might have happened to her sister. Shadow went down on his haunches to get to eye-level with the four-year-old.
“Lucy,” he said, “your sister will be okay. There was a monster. But Shadow killed him. That’s what I do.”
“You kill monsters?”
“And dragons, and zombies,” he assured her. “Come now. Let’s go read.”
She took his hand and bounced along on the way to the lounge, very much pacified. Shadow wished he could give Marge the same peace of mind.
Richard came down the passage to the lounge. He’d explained to his mother what he and Shadow had investigated earlier. It relieved and at the same time, upset her massively. She was off to the kitchen to make some tea now.
Richard took in the scene in the lounge: Shadow with Lucy next to him on a big armchair, reading from that enormous book that was the little girl’s favourite. She was leaning against him; as Richard came closer, he saw that she was asleep. After all the high tension this morning, not surprising. And Shadow kept on reading to her, somehow unaware.
“Thanks for that, man,” Richard said. Shadow glanced up.
“You’re good with kids,” continued Lucy’s brother.
“Where did you pick that up?”
Shadow shrugged. And said nothing. And realized that it wasn’t going to get him out of answering.
“There are always some chavvies running around in the familia,” he said. “We say it takes a tribe to raise a kid.”
Richard smiled. “We’ve got that same saying,” he pointed out. “In Zulu. Takes a village to raise a child.”
“Yeah,” agreed Shadow. “Any clue where Lindsey’s gone?”
“Likely to a friend that isn’t on Mom’s list,” replied Richard. “In fact…”
“Ha,” growled Shadow softly. “You know where.”
“Come, bro,” challenged Richard, picking up Lucy from her place next to Shadow without waking her up. “I’m just putting her into her bed and then you and I go and fetch Lindsey.”
“Richard, I really don’t think it’s a good idea…”
The man was already halfway down the passage with the sleeping toddler.
“And you still have my Sharktooth,” added Shadow under his breath.
Jib – talk (Romani)
Wena – you (Sesotho)
Itla–mo – come here (Sesotho)
Asseblief – Please (Afrikaans)
chavvies – children (Romani)
familia – family, tribe, clan (Romani)
“Southern Free” is not yet complete. This is a raw, unedited version. For more by same author: