Fiction Friday: enjoy an extract from Wilna Adriaanse's 'Blind Side'
'There's a syndicate involved, and that's why they should let me help. I know everyone who operates in the Western Cape and most in the rest of the country as well."
About Blind Side:
South Africa's thriving underworld is dark and diverse, a nest of brutal thugs commanded by shady international operators. Their reach spans the globe; their grasp touches every part of society.
Still mourning the death of her father, her guiding light and an honest cop if ever there was one, Lt Ellie McKenna accepts a case to infiltrate Cape Town’s criminal world.
Hired to protect the young girlfriend of the high-flying, dirty-dealing nightclub owner Enzio Allegretti, she is acutely aware that one false move could be fatal.
But how do you protect a girl when her entire social circle is full of dodgy characters? And how do you stay out of danger while living in a den of snakes? Who do you trust? The loving boyfriend in a dubious line of work? The concerned family with connections in all the wrong places? Or the inscrutable head of security?
Ellie knows full well that in this job the brave often end up dead ... blindsided by a faceless enemy.
Tuesday morning, 24 September 2013.
“Mac, what are you doing here?”
Lieutenant Ellie McKenna of the Crime Intelligence Division raised herself slightly from her seat at the back of the room. “I want to help.”
The room went quiet, except for the odd cough here and there.
Brigadier Ibrahim Ahmed, head of the Serious Economic Offences Unit in the Western Cape, shook his head. “Bad idea, Mac. As you well know.”
“Captain Greyling said I could . . .”
“Not his call to make.” His eyes searched the room. “Where is he, by the way?”
“He phoned to say he’s stuck in traffic; there’s been an accident, but he’s on his way,” someone replied.
“Mac, go home. Your mother needs you.”
Ahmed peered at Ellie over the rim of his reading glasses.
The bags under his eyes were distinctly less noticeable a week or two ago, Ellie thought. Actually, he didn’t look too bad for a man approaching sixty. His black hair showed no signs of grey. There were whispers behind his back that he dyed it. He was a neat man, his posture erect. Proud. He was tall and lean and she'd heard the guys who work with him say he was remarkably fit for a man who spent most of his time behind a desk these days.
“He was my father. How would you feel if it was one of your family members, Brigadier?” She was on her feet now, and the room went even quieter.
“Same as you, I guess, but I hope I’d have the brains to listen to good advice.”
“It wasn’t a random shooting, and if you give me access to his files, I’ll prove it.”
“We don’t know what it was yet. That’s why I want you out of here now, so we can get on with our job.”
“And I’m telling you I can help, Brigadier. I know the people who may be involved.”
He shook his head again. “Not gonna happen. And I won't say it again.”
“I have a right to know.”
“The minute we arrest someone, you’ll know. But until then, I don’t want you near this case. Understood?”
Ellie saw the eyes in the room moving from one side to the other, like spectators at a tennis match. “I won’t get in the way. I’m good at my job and I know where to look.”
“Mac, if you don’t excuse yourself right now, I’ll call your commanding officer and tell her you’re interfering in a case. And if she can't make you change your mind, I’ll personally have you locked up until we’re done. Don’t think I won’t do it.”
Ellie picked up her handbag and headed for the door.
“And if I hear you’ve been talking to anyone, I’ll make sure you lose your badge.”
She opened the door, turned at the last moment. “For the record, I think this is bullshit.” She closed the door with a resounding click.
Outside, she took a few deep breaths, got into her car and switched on the engine. Instinctively her eyes searched for his vehicle among the others in the parking lot, but his space was empty. That was why she put off going to bed at night. Every morning there was a moment when she tried to convince herself it had just been a terrible nightmare. Before she was forced to face the awful truth. It was like pulling off a scab every morning.
She couldn’t bring herself to drive back to her parents’ home in Goodwood, but she couldn’t face her own place either. She drove around aimlessly for a while, then called Melissa.
“Where are you?”
“Tyger Valley shopping centre. What’s up?”
“Do you have time for coffee?” “
Sure, where? Mugg & Bean?”
“No, somewhere quieter.” They agreed on a place where Melissa would wait for her.
Melissa Calitz and Ellie had been friends since 1994, when Melissa and her family had moved to Ellie’s neighbourhood. Both fourteen at the time, they had been inseparable ever since. Written matric together, gone on to study psychology at Stellenbosch University together. Been roommates in res. Enrolled for their honours degrees together. Both had been selected to do a master’s degree, Ellie in clinical psychology, Melissa in counselling psychology. Shared digs and dated two friends, Antonie Calitz and Chris Moolman.
Melissa and Antonie were married now. Antonie was a physician in Durbanville. Chris broke off the engagement three months before the wedding. That was six years ago, when Ellie was twenty-six. He was an engineer, and she’d run into him every now and then at the shops. The last time he had introduced her to his fiancée.
Melissa frowned and her jaw dropped slightly when Ellie walked into the restaurant.
“What the hell have you done to your hair?” she asked as Ellie slid into the opposite seat.
“Dyed it darker.”
“I can see that. I just don’t understand why.”
“You dye your hair.”
Melissa shook her head. “You can’t compare the two of us. My hair is a mousy brown. It’s a bloody shame for you to dye your hair. I always thought you liked the fact that you inherited your dad’s mop of strawberry-blond hair.”
Ellie took a packet of sugar from the container in the middle of the table and began to twirl it between her fingers.
“I don’t want to be reminded of him every time I look in the mirror.”
Melissa took her hand across the table. “Sweetie, dyeing your hair won’t do any good. You’re the spitting image of your old man. Pale eyes, cheekbones, wide mouth . . . the lot. What do you plan to do about that?”
Ellie shrugged. “I had to start somewhere. Dyeing my hair was the cheapest option.”
“Why are you hanging around here? I thought you were with your mom,” Melissa said.
A waiter approached and they ordered an espresso and a cappuccino.
“My aunt took her to the hair salon. I was at the office.”
“To do what?”
“Offer my help. They won’t listen to me, but I know it wasn't a random attack.”
“You mean he was targeted?”
“Not necessarily, but it wasn’t just some trigger-happy lowlife. There’s a syndicate involved, and that’s why they should let me help. I know everyone who operates in the Western Cape and most in the rest of the country as well.”
Their coffee arrived and Ellie put two sugars in hers. Stirred distractedly. “Ahmed sent me home, said he doesn’t want me near the case.”
“I agree with him. You can’t be involved.”
“He was my dad. He would have done it for me.” The spoon clattered into the saucer.
Melissa took Ellie’s hand across the table again. “Sweetie, you haven’t even buried your dad yet. Give yourself a chance to breathe, at least, before you start looking for the perpetrators.”
“Do you have any idea what chaos our intelligence is in at the moment? The ones still sticking it out try their best, but they're snowed under. If I can’t help, then I don’t know who can.”
“I hear you. But you need to believe that there are enough people who really want to solve this case. It’s time to step away.”
Ellie motioned to the waiter to bring her another cup of coffee.
“On any given day of the week there are about five hundred crime syndicates at work in this country,” she continued as if Melissa hadn’t spoken. “Everyone thinks they’re busy with their own shit, but it’s all interconnected, and almost impossible to unravel. I’ve been doing this job for four years. If anyone knows how to do it, it’s me.”
“Bury your dad first. If you still want to help afterwards, I’m sure no one will stop you.” Melissa sat back in her chair.
“How’s your mom?”
Ellie shrugged. “Not really talking to me.”
“I’ll pick you up tomorrow.”
“Thanks, but it’s out of your way. I’ll see you at the church.”
“Is everything under control? Anything I can do for you?”
“I don’t really know. Someone phoned to ask how many people we're expecting. The congregation takes care of the tea and sandwiches after the service. How should I know how many people are going to show up? It’s not like we’re selling tickets.”
“They just want a rough estimate.”
“I wonder if I’m going to get my mom there tomorrow.” Ellie tapped her spoon against the saucer. “Maybe I should stay away too. It’s not like he’ll know I’m not there.”
“Have you got something you can take?”
“The doctor gave my mom some tablets. Maybe I’ll take one or two.” She looked at her watch, took money from her purse and put it on the table.
“Thanks for the chat.”
Melissa got up as well and gave Ellie a hug. “Call me if you need me. Or if you want me to come over.”
Ellie nodded and kissed her cheek.
- Extract provided by NB Publishers