Murder is all one can think of if you go to happy hour at Mr. Headache’s… our local bar, here in the not so well known jungle of Scottburgh, on the southern coast of South Africa.

Imagine going to the Munich Beer fest with the motto S.T.R.A.W.R.U.M. on your shirt and you’ll know how I’m feeling right now… that is S.T.R.A.W.R.U.M. stands for and I quote “Seriously Toxic Rum And We Recommend Using Much”… Jah, we thought it was a cool name too… maybe that’s why everyone who had a free moment spent it at the bar… on duty or off duty…

To get there was easy all you did was tip the local cop and he’d drop you off right at Mr. Headache’s front door… getting back was even easier… he’d come back and arrest you for being drunken disorderly and since the local jail was always overfull with the usual suspects… you got dropped off at home with a promise of a very big tip for him in the morning… Maybe that’s when my luck changed, that night when I didn’t want to tip him even though I had enough to do so and I got dumped in lockup sell 13, with the girl in the red dress…

Her name was Denique Lobeche’ and she was the most drop dead gorgeous – father did a good job in bed – mother was Miss Universe – gift to mankind I’d ever seen before in my pathetic life thus far.

Call me crazy but I knew it was fate that had landed me at the feet of this angel… well that and the fact that I was thrown into the lockup sell headfirst and she happened to be standing right where I landed.

CHAPTER 1 24 Hours a Day

“Hey Charlie!! Give me a ride to Mr. Headache’s please man… I’ll pay you tomorrow.” Charlie was a failed detective from one of the big Cities, Durban I think, they say he was caught red handed with cocaine and Durban poison to the amount of R10 million but that nothing could be proven since the evidence mysteriously disappeared two days after his arrest… after that he decided to move down coast “for reasons of health” as he would’ve put it.
“Pay now and tomorrow again buddy… and you’ll get a ride, otherwise get lost!!” Ah well it was worth a try… didn’t really think he was going to take me anyway, he was and is and will always be cash on demand. “Bloody cop, all he wants is money, wouldn’t help me if he ran me over himself!!”

Actually I did have money for a tip but I’d rather use it for another ‘Klippies & coke’ than pay it out to that idiot… “Hey Lara!! How about a lift please?” Now Lara she was a star, she was my sister’s best friend and my stand-in date since “school and beyond”, we would’ve been going steady if only she didn’t like her boyfriend so much, I mean what’s 10 years between two people if the ‘sap’ hasn’t realised he should ask her to marry him yet?
“Sure hop in I’m heading past there anyway… You going to Mr. Headache’s right?” “Jah, where else in this ghost town is there to go to anyways? Thanks you’re a real star, I asked Charlie but you know Charlie…”

In unison “Pay now and tomorrow again buddy!!” We laughed, Lara was Murphy’s Law personified… She is allergic to the preservatives in alcohol and she’s a bar lady… hehehe… still Lara is Lara even though people call her Croft behind her back, she doesn’t mind… and she’d wait forever for that ‘sap’.

“So how much did you win at the casino last week Lara? I heard you and what’s-his-name went and got rich over-night.” Her face went red… and yelling into the wind as she opened the rooftop of the car she said, “You know well his name is Chriss and I wish you wouldn’t do that!! But yes we went for the weekend and he won about R25, 000 and I lost half of it… Not gambling, but when I went to the bank I got mugged…” Now it was my turn to get angry “Oh my … I … Lara I didn’t know… did you report it with the police?” “It’s ok I figured you haven’t heard yet, I only got back yesterday… Chriss is still mad at me, I keep telling…” “That idiot!!… I should clobber him, being mad at you… how were you supposed to know you were going to be mugged… are you sure your ok? I could talk to him if you…”
“NO!! The last time you two ‘talked’ it ended up with both of you in Charlie’s jail and the next morning in front of Judge Judie!! I’m fine and he’ll cool off in a while, don’t’ make things worse ok!!” she could always make me promise anything when she looked me in the eyes, in some ways Charlie had it better than me, he only cared about himself, whereas I cared about this one girl sitting next to me… “But Lara…” “No but Lara, anyways here’s Mr. Headache’s… if you want a lift back I’ll pick you up when I come back from my mom’s place at 11pm… ok?” “Thanks but I’ll be fine Lara…” “Bye…” “Jah, bye…”

And then she was gone… I knew I’d stuck my foot in my mouth again and that just personified my day so far perfectly… at least I can drink my foul state of humour into a stupor… “Barman I need S.T.R.A.W.R.U.M.!!”

Later that night well past the time that all sensible people had gone home I staggered out of the bar… by the time Charlie found me I had gone halfway back home…only in the wrong direction… I was on my way too my mom’s place… I don’t know maybe I was still in a way feeling guilty about the conversation I had with Lara… Her talking about her mom must have stuck with me… According to Charlie I was walking, no how did he put it…
…“Staggering like a monkey who had 20 000 too many alcohol injected bananas” and he was taking me home when I (in retrospect not my best moment) made introductions between his BMW X5’s back seat and my R500’s worth of drinks…

Well he knew I’d spent all the money I had by that time so disgusted as he was he decided “…enough is enough, first I hear at the bar you were bad mouthing me and now this… you’re going to spend the night in lockup!!”

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“Lieutenant!! Open up a cell so I can dump this disgrace to human kind away for the next millennium or two… You know it took me over an hour to get here!! I had to clean the mess he made in my new X5’s back seat before I could even open the windows, it stank so bad!!”
“No-can-do Charlie, all the male lockup’s are full, there was a major fight at a concert over in Rocky Bay and we had too take their excess arrest… I’ve been trying to get a hold of the captain but neither he nor you where anywhere to be found…” “Shit!! Any of the female lockup’s empty?”

“Nah, but number 13 only has that French girl in it…” “Perfect, she can talk him to death when he recovers his 2 brain cells he’s got left, if what I hear he drank at Mr. Headache’s is even halfway true….” “He got pissed again? That’s the seventh time in the last 10 days!! Either he’s planning to never retire and live off his salary or he struck it rich somewhere… I heard he spent R9 000 already!!”

“Where’d you hear that… local gossip radio or what… he didn’t even have enough money to tip me for a lift this morning? If I didn’t see him staggering on the N2 he would have gotten mugged or even worse if I didn’t pick him up… No he’s just a drunk idiot who through up in my car… Besides he works with my brother-in-law at ‘Aragon & Associates’ so I know his salary isn’t that big.”

“It’s true, my sister works as the accountant for the bar and she says that’s what our friend here spent… Maybe he had a big client or something?” “That’s good to know… I can send him my bill for cleaning my car… anyway get a move on and put him in with the now miss blabber mouth so I can get out of here. My wife is going to kill me if I’m late again…” of the rest I can’t remember much but that’s how I ended up in the cell with Miss Denique Lobeche’… and all my troubles really started…

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“Hey!! Watch it you’re going to hurt me… owwwweee!!! You bald head… scruffy looking… fat… perverted… over glorified security guard!!!” “Monsieur is you all right?” Looking up I must have been a sight to behold… she was a goddess though… “Wait a minute… shouldn’t Monsieur be in another cell, this is the female cell yes?” “Hey, who are… wow… I mean… hello…” “Hello, is Monsieur all right?” “Jah, my ego’s just a little bit bruised… that and this nail that’s throbbing in my head…. Hey!! Charlie’s tail… you dope… you idiot born of 30 generations of casual… unwanted… sex in bushes!! You through me into the women’s lockup…”

“He won’t answer Monsieur, I’ve been trying the whole day but they wont do nothing” “I guess were going to have to keep each other company… so Miss…” “Lady Lobeche’ or I guess now it’s only Denique, Denique Lobeche’…” “Denique… whose heart did you brake to end up in here?”

“My husband… he is dead… they say I did it, but I did not!! I was sleeping at my sister’s house… they do not believe me… Ah my poor Philippe…” “Don’t cry… no seriously my head is still ringing from that Lieutenant’s police brutality… but tell me why don’t they believe you? Where’s your sister? Surely she can prove your whereabouts on the night?” “Is a long story Monsieur, I do not wish to… trouble you… I only…”

“If it’s the way I’m dressed, I apologise… I’ve… had a ruff last few days…. all though taking our first impressions out of the equation… I am a lawyer… a damn good one if I say so myself… besides doesn’t look as if we got anything else to do for a while anyways… and I’m starting to get over being sick too…”

“A lawyer? That is why Monsieur knows all these policemen’s names? I could here Monsieur calling them all the way from the front of the station…” “Jah, I met all of them at one stage or another, but please tell me what happened… maybe I can help you…”

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“So… lets see if I got everything right. You and your husband just got back from your honeymoon and two days ago had a big fight where things got a bit out of hand… as in you throwing him with a glass bottle that shattered his nose… and him roughhousing you a bit…. And you left to stay with your sister for the night?” “Yes, only she… she wasn’t there, her spare key’s were in the big doves cage in the back of her garden, that is where she always leaves them.” “So you stayed at her house? Didn’t you think of calling her and asking where she was? Did she go on holiday or does she have a boyfriend that she can go stay with overnight? Surely you were worried?” “I did phone her on her cell phone, but it was switched off and I left a message on it.” “Did you phone from her house phone or do you have a cell phone?” “I don’t see how this is important Monsieur, but no her house phone is broken… I phoned from my own cell phone.”

“It’s important because that could have cleared you, I mean if you phoned from her house phone… the data at the service provider would have shown you to be at the time of the phone call at her house, but I am afraid even if you phoned from your cell phone it does not prove you were at her house… maybe we can prove you were in the area by seeing which cell phone tower mast is closest to the house… Did you perhaps talk to one of your sister’s next-door neighbours, anybody that could say in a court that they saw you at the time of your husbands murder at another place than your own house?” “No, Monsieur…” “Did you put petrol in your car perhaps buy bread or milk at a shop, anything that could be used as a alibi?” “”No, Monsieur” “All you say is no Monsieur… no Monsieur… good grief woman you’re up for first degree murder think!!” “I’m sorry… now Monsieur understands how frustrated I am!! I went straight to her house, I was so mad I didn’t stop at all. I drove in half the time I usually do until I got to her house… that’s why I’m here… no-one, not even these supposed pig policemen, believe I was at my sister’s house… they say that I… oh my Poor Phillip!!”

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“So I hear you got busted by Charlie last night again… One of these days he’s not even going to bother arresting you and then you’ll be in real trouble. I wish you’d stop this adolescent behaviour and get your life back together… be like… your brother Douglas… if I had a…” “…a rand for every bloody goody thing he’s done right you’d be rich… jah, I know dad… and I don’t need this… not now at least… ok? All I want to do is take a shower and go sleep, how’d dad get into my place anyway? I know you don’t have a key…”

“Your mother loves you very much and so do I…” “So that’s why you divorced her right? Tell dear mom I want my key back or wait, no don’t worry, I’ll tell her myself at the banquet tonight… what about Shazon? Is she going to be there also?” “Yes, your sister, bless her soul, flew in last night from Johannesburg to Durban and caught a taxi just to be here for this. At least somebody understands how important this night is for me! The mayor of Durban and Scottburgh are both coming, yet my eldest son seems to think it’s a shizzcabob get together!!” “Dad, you’re raving…” “I’m going to tell Shazon to talk to you… God knows I can’t and I’ve tried… At least call your mother and tell her your okay. She was worried sick about you and wear something respectable… not like LAST TIME!! I couldn’t show my face anywhere for a month after that fiasco… Blue dress suit, where in this town did you get that suit? If you want you can wear one of mine or if you’re to good for that… your mother says your black tie suit from Douglas’ wedding last year should still fit you… call him also, he should’ve landed an hour ago already…” “Yes Dad…” “…and he’ll be on his way here soon… why all my children want to stay at the far reaches of the country from their family I’ll never know…” “Yes Dad… strange…”

“…and try to find a date… but I must get on my way now, got a board meeting to attend before tonight’s due…” “Bye Dad… close the door after leaving my key on the escritoire please….” “…AND GET A HAIRCUT!! Before tonight! For heaven’s sake you look like something the cat would’ve dragged in!!” Sounds of keys falling and the door closing. “Bye dad!! By the way dad… the cat’s been dead for ten years now… and THANKS for bailing me out!!

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“What in the blue-blazes happened here!?” My house was ransacked… everywhere except for the reception room was a mess!! From my sofa’s upside down still floating in the pool that my taken-apart-refrigerator had left too all the millions of pieces of glass lying on the floor… “I’ve been burgled!! Jeesh, a guy gets a little plastered and…” The phone rang… “Jah… jah… jah… NOW WHAT!! Where the hell is that pho… ahh, Hello…” “If you value your life – don’t take her case…” “Take whose case, what are you talking about!? Did you do this to…” “…Don’t take the case…” “Hello? Hello? He hung up!!” The phone clicked off, I had answered on the house’s cordless, but I knew the other one in my bedroom had identity call installed… so I walked to the bedroom and it was gone. Not just the phone – EVERYTHING!! The room was empty…

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“Are you sure that you don’t have any idea who did this? Was anything moved after you got here?” “Look Charlie, I already told you all I know, I got home after my dad bailed me out… AND could you please next time call Croft!! That ear bashing he gave me just made me want to drink more! Anyways, this is how I found my house, the reception room was untouched, the bedroom was missing and the rest was fucked up!!” “So you tell me…” “Look I know just as well as you do how things like this work, don’t touch a thing until you people get here. As for who did this, you know my caseload almost as well as I do… it could be anybody. I haven’t exactly made a lot of buddies with the fringe elements on the south coast…” “Jah, credit where credit’s due… I’ll give you that… you more than anybody else I know, have put away more scum for life terms than the entire New York police force has in the last year… I’ve been meaning to ask… why’d you change to defence? You were a fantastic if fanatical… “ “Gee thanks Charlie, I never knew you care…. and it’s none of your business, bud out…”

“Hey! Don’t start with me! It’s just since you started practising law here, my job was for a time a LITTLE bit easier… besides the way things looking at the moment… that ‘it is none of my business’ is not going to mesh for long buddy… by the looks of things somebody got it in for you… and THAT is my business” “You do care!!” “Ah shut up!! How can you be so blaze’ about this? Just look at your place! Even the wallpaper was stolen!”

“Don’t remind me, besides it’s easy when I know such a caring person like you is on the case and besides everything was ensured twice over…” “Really…” “No it’s not like that! Seriously!”

“What ever, I’ll get one of my people to pull up your phone bill and we’ll put a trace after that call you had. As for a place to stay, do you have somewhere to go?” “Are you offering?” “Enough already!! Do you have a place to stay?” “Yes. I already asked Croft and she said I could use one of her spare rooms.”

“Okay. I might have a few more questions later…” “Come on Charlie you don’t need a reason…” “Shut up!! I’m serious!! I MIGHT have a few more questions later on but for now that’s enough. Literally and Figuratively!! You can go now if you want too, I’ll post two of my people here too look after the place for you during the banquet tonight till you can get someone in to fix your backdoor tomorrow.”

“Bye Charlie and Charlie…” “Jah?…” “Thanks…” “Jah-jah, Bye.” Not that I had much hope nor faith in him, but he’d do his best and that is all I could ask for… as for the message, well where’s the fun if there’s no risk involved? At that point Lara showed up and I left with her to get ready for the banquet.

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“You gonna tell your family?” “Sure… I’ve told my family already…” “You don’t fool me Monsieur…” “Funny… Why should I tell them eh? Besides you’re the only family I need Lara. Why should I have to go through that particular slice of hell if they’re better off not knowing anyways?” “They’re going to find out your … hold on…” Lara pulls the car over to the curb. “Mrs. De Lange! Mrs. De Lange! Do you need a lift? We can fit another person in here. What you doing here?” “Ah Lara! No I’m fine I’m just walking for the exercise… Oh your uncouth friend is here also… so how is your hangover? You know you had your parents in near hysterics?!” “Hello Mrs. De Lange…” as an aside to Lara “If she doesn’t want a lift let’s go I still need to pick up my car from the shop… and I’ve got to get a bloody haircut…” Lara ignores me… “You sure Mrs. De Lange, it wouldn’t be any trouble.” “No dear, but I appreciate it… with old age comes extra responsibilities I’m afraid. Need to warm up these tired old muscles of mine. I’m not in the grave yet! Hehehe… take care now.” “Bye Mrs. De Lange! Nice day to you.”

Driving off Lara gives me a nasty look. “You really are lucky I owed your dad a favour, you know. I would’ve dumped you for tonight just for that!” “For what? She didn’t want a lift and we need to get going…” “Mmm….” “Jah-jah…” “You know poor Mrs. De Lange walks this road everyday, she was our Biology teacher and you can’t do wrong to show her some respect. How she got you through that class anyways I’ll never know!”

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Later that day after collecting my car and getting everything done for the banquet I went back to the office to get a start on Denique Lobeche’s case… and about halfway through I fell asleep only to be woken up by the janitor. “Shit, I’m late, what time is it?” “It’s two hairs over nine… sonny… time to get a watch.” “Argh, not now!”

Running off down the passage I never did hear much of his retort… must’ve been something along the line of “fancy lawyer and he aint’ got no watch! I wont get my will done here! No sirree, wont get it done here…”

“Sorry Lara, fell asleep at work… you ready?” “Almost, just give me a sec. I just came in myself, an hour ago, my mom was running late with her stuff and I had to take her home first. Make us a quick drink, please?” “We’ll have to get it there Lara, we’re late as it is…”

“Ah, probably for the best. Wouldn’t want to smell of liquor when we meet the Mayors…” Lara laughs “Not again anyways…” “Don’t remind me. Come on let’s go! I’m double parked outside with the motor running.”

“Here I am!” “Wow!” “You like?” “I like, but I don’t think what’s-his-name…” “…don’t start…” “I don’t think Chriss will like you going out like that, but I like… I like…” “Down boy! Let’s go!” “Yes Ma’am! What ever you say Ma’am!!”

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“We now declare the ‘Conner Dean Anderson Exotic Aquarium’ officially open!!” Applause from the crowd. Fireworks going off in the background. “Thank you Mr. Mayors’!! Welcome one and all and please come in… come in… I’ve got… I mean.. We’ve…” Light hearted laughter. “We’ve got a lot to show one-and-all as well as young and old!!”

“That’s your father for you, shoulder rubs with Mayors and Royalty on a constant basis and he goes and names his pet project after his eldest son, the biggest Aquarium in the world for exotic fish gets the name of the person with the biggest ego of them all… The ‘Conner Dean Anderson Exotic Aquarium’ is kinda anomalous don’t you think?”

“…and I had to grow up with that kind of influence in the house… no wonder I turned out the way I did” “What? Successful, flourishing, up-and-coming lawyer who aint half bad to look at?” “No, cynical, suspicious, disparaging and facetious ‘not to mention all you said’ but no wonder my brother and sister didn’t stick around… one went to Cape Town and the other went to Johannesburg.”

“Whatever Conner, it was nice of them to come here though… speaking of which I wanted to say high to Shazon. We don’t get much time to chat now that she’s moved to Cape Town.” “You two are in cahoots everyday on your phones…” “It’s not the same Conner and you know it!!” “Oh Shazz!! Hold up, Shazz…”

Well I hadn’t been inside my dad’s aquarium before tonight so I thought I’d take the grand one-cent tour… “Mrs. De Lange! Why hello, I didn’t know you were here tonight?” “Oh, sobered up have we? You should thank your lucky stars that angel Lara still talks to you. Well as long as you are around, you can come with me on a tour of this rather nice aquarium, now can’t you…” “Yes ma’am…” “…and I can tell you all about some of the exhibits I chose for your dad’s public and personal exhibits…” At that point I knew it was going to be a long… long… night… “The main beliefs of, up to standard management of anything and especially a aquarium, are based on a few easily-learned innate rules. To use these is the only…. You listening Conner?” “Yes ma’am.” “Good, it’s the only way to truly manage an aquarium, especially one of this particular size”

Sometime later during the night Mrs. De Lange was still showing me around… “Now in that tank you can see some of the Vallisneria Spiralis commonly known as Ell or Tape Grass a kind of aquatic plant that is very stylish, like you can see, also very narrow with almost silky-smooth leaves…”

“Well well, what have we got here Mrs. De Lange and Conner, after whom this establishment is named… Conner… Mrs. De Lange… allow me to introduce Mayor Hinbeanz of Durban Centrality and Mayor Deniet our Mayor here in Scottburgh I believe you’ve met?” “We’ve met… Mayor Hinbeanz… Mayor Deniet…” In unison, “Conner…” “Mrs. De Lange, fine night for the opening don’t you think?” “Why yes indeed! I was just telling young Conner here about the many facets of the aquarium…” “Yes she was, care to join us Mayors?” “Oh yes, please do… I’ve not had this much fun since I stopped teaching… hehehe…” “Aaah… why certainly…” “I’d be delighted.”

“If the two Mayors will excuse myself and Conner, I’ve… got another matter to discuss with him at present” “Off course dears go ahead, Conner you’ve been very nice to a old lady tonight, I hope this wont stop there will it?” “Of course not Mrs. De Lange… Ummm, you can take me on another tour at a later stage again… goodbye.” “Goodbye….”

“Come along Mayors… oh that wont do… Hinbe and Deniet… I’ve got lots to show…” and off Mrs. De Lange went with the two Mayors in tow… “Thanks Johan, I owe you big time…” “That’s okay, I saw you were struggling and I took the moment to get rid of two pests at the same time. Can you believe it, those two Mayors were in cahoots trying to blackmail me into bribe money just because I happen to own land in both of their Centralities that is being dumped on supposedly by my refuse company illegitimately.” “…and are you?” “No of course not!! That’s just a cover story for my diamond smuggling, but they don’t know that!!” “Johan, you realise I’m a lawyer right?” “Jah, but you owe me… and not just for tonight, I saved your ass on numerous occasions since primary school so don’t go high and mighty on me okay.”
“Jah-jah, so other than the usual what’s up?” “Nothing much Conner, I’m serious! Business has been slow since the last raid at customs, I tell you it’s getting harder and harder to make a living… speaking of trauma… Mrs. De Lange have you long?” “About 3 hours….” “Ouch!!” “You telling me! I learned the names of fish I can’t even spell never mind pronounce!! From Be’tta sple’ndens to you-name-it and she’d ask me questions regarding them to see if I was paying attention!!” “I’m going to kill Croft! She was supposed to protect me from vengeful people like that…” “Oh, I saw her with her boyfriend Chriss awhile back…” “No!! He’s here? Bloody hell, I think that settles it, its definitely time to get out of here!!” “Feel like a drink at Mr. Headache’s?” “Nah, not after last night, but let’s go see if a takeout place is open and I’ll tell you all about the last 24 hours… and of the most drop dead literally drop dead gorgeous girl you’ll ever see in your life…”
“You don’t say eh? What’s her name, maybe I’ve met her already…” “I doubt that… Her name is Miss… no… Lady… Lady Denique Lobeche’ and before you say it, yes she’s a single woman now but she’s up for murder… of her husband…”

“I wasn’t going to say that… although you might need a stiff drink after all, cause… mate… that woman is trouble, trust me Conner… I know her.”

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CHAPTER 2 Random Misgivings

Later at an all night pizza place. “So Charlie stops the car for a missing taillight… he walks up to the driver’s window. ‘Officer, I wasn’t speeding was I? I mean I was only going 20km/h… Ignore him officer!!’ yells the woman next to the driver, ‘He gets moody when he’s drunk!!’ Now Charlie he’s flabbergasted! When all of a sudden the guy sleeping on the back seat wakes up, takes one look at Charlie, another at the couple in the front and says ‘Shit I knew we weren’t going to get far in this stolen car!!’ hehehe…” “…and Charlie let them go? Why?” Snicker… “That’s the best part Conner, you wont believe it!! He fainted!! He actually fainted!!”

“…and you say Lady Lobeche’ and her then boyfriend, now apparently ex-husband were the couple in the front and you were in the back?” “No the guy in the back was some random. I only found out because Denique’s husband was with me on some other business adventure that I had going on…”

“If I show you a current picture of her, you think you’ll be able to recognise her?” “No… I never met her, but I know a lot about her through her husband and a few other contacts I’ve made. Apparently she likes to gamble a bit and her husband was struggling to cope with the payments.”

“You think she killed him for his life insurance policy?” “Married what two weeks? In need of cash big time? Maybe she owes someone money and decided married life isn’t for her and she cashed him in” “Maybe… although I doubt it she doesn’t come across as the type, the more I spoke to her the more it seems she’s genuine.”

“Okay, look at it this way, from what you tell me she hired you last night. Sorry Conner but who hires a strange drunk lawyer when they’re going up for first-degree murder, eh? She’s up to something…”

“This case is starting to sound like a lot of trouble… maybe I need to go have another chat with my client… she’s up for bail tomorrow morning so that would be the perfect time to get a few things settled… Ah, Johan…” “Jip? Oh no… that face says it all… You need a place to stay tonight?” “Well with pig face back, I can’t stay at Croft’s place…” “Okay, but you’re paying for this pizza and if you snore I’m going to through you out on the street!” “Jeesh, you’re a real buddy Johan a reeeeaaaall buddy.”

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Following day at ‘Aragon & Associates’ the entire place was in an uproar… It had been burgled during the night and the janitor had been killed. “What time did you leave last night Conner?” “I’m not sure, I fell asleep working on a new case and the janitor woke me up.” “Ruff guess…” “About 7ish but I’m not sure. I was late for the big due last night so I didn’t have time to look, I went straight to my mom’s place got changed, picked up Lara and off to the banquet we went. You think this got anything to do with my place?” “Maybe, for now I can’t rule it out… to much of a coincidence. Did they take anything?” “No, I had all my stuff in the safe, which they did not touch and I had the Lobeche’ case with me.”

“You’re not considering taking on that case are you?” “Yes I am, why?” “You got to be kidding me… it’s a done deal… we’ve got her fingerprints on the murder weapon, she as much as admitted she broke it over his nose! We’ve got motive, opportunity, everything we need and she doesn’t have an alibi! A open and shut case if ever I saw one.” “She says she was at her sister’s place.” “A likely story, her sister isn’t and haven’t been home for the past week, I spoke to one of her neighbours and it seems Lobeche’s sister isn’t expected back soon either. The sister’s place is harder to get into than Fort Knox ever was, no way the French girl could’ve stayed there!

We can’t get a hold of the sister on her cell phone and the Lobeche’ twins’ parents are passed away…” “Twins?” “Oh don’t know that do we?” “I’m not completely up to date as yet Charlie…” “Her sister’s name is Chantelle, they’re identical twins… she’s got some rich boyfriend from Monaco or something… speaking of which… isn’t Lady Lobeche’ supposed to be bailed this morning?”

“Oh, shit!! Yes, with all that was happening already this morning I forgot! Listen Charlie I need to finish this discussion at a later stage…”

“Come on Conner, you don’t need a reason…” “Funny Charlie… Reeeaallllyy funny.” “Paybacks a bitch! I’ll come round here again on my way home.” “Thanks Charlie, I got to run see you later.” “Cheers.”

~~~~~ ) ¥ ( ~~~~~

“Thank you Mr. Anderson for finally showing up” “My apologies your honour, there was a break-in at my practice and I had to wait for the poli…” “Then in future you will let the court know, understood!” “Yes your honour.” “Well, everything is in order and I’ve taken into account the circumstances surrounding this case… bail is set at 1 million rand.” “What!! Your honour…” “The defence council will refrain from making any statements, especially due to the fact that he is very close to being held in contempt of court for wasting the courts time!!”

~~~~~ ) ¥ ( ~~~~~

“So Conner, I hear Judge Judy really got heated in court today with you?” “Jah, she wasn’t to affable to me being late for the bail setting… 1 million Rand!! Unbelievable!!” “… and Lady Lobeche’ paid it?”

“Yes, but she has to wear a tag emitter everywhere she goes.” “Think she did it?” “No, I actually believe her. Something just isn’t making sense about this case and the first thing I’ve got to do is find out where Lady Lobeche’s twin sister is.” “Got any idea’s on how to do that?” “Jah, a few… the case won’t be heard in court for at least 5 months due to the high amount of court dates already on the go, that’s one of the reasons Judge Judy allowed bail to commence.” “That’s a long time to set before a case can be heard isn’t it?”

“No not really, at least it gives me some time to build a case and tomorrow I’m going to Durban to see an old American detective buddy of mine that I met whilst training with the Navy Seals in ‘97” Lara gave me a wink and said “Reliving the glory days eh?” “Oh, not as much as I used to….”

~~~~~ ) ¥ ( ~~~~~

It was early morning when I arrived in Durban, the roads were clear even with the Amanzimtoti Police speed trapping as per usual… I only needed to meet Roy at the bar for a pub lunch at 3pm so I thought I’d take a look around town a bit.

Things had really gone downhill in the City, most if not all businesses had move to north Durban out of the city and it was starting to look like a ghost town… I had at first thought to stay over for the night but that didn’t seem to be such a good idea… street gangs everywhere most of their members not even past puberty… How this country was being raped and pillaged by our own people was above me… In this manner I drove around until I found a holiday inn on the outskirts of Durban at which point I took a short nap before my meeting the afternoon…

“Well, well if it isn’t my old buddy Conner… long time no see!” I’d gotten to the pub a bit late, but Roy must’ve slept over there the way the beer mugs were lined up in front of him. “Roy, you old ‘Sea Dog’, still giving the ladies problems, eh?” Roy’s nickname was the easiest to remember from my navy days… He got it the 1st night we went out, when he went hounding after a pair of girls on a yacht…”

“So what’s this you couldn’t talk too me about over the phone… eh?” Roy said whilst looking at the barman and signalling for more. “It’s a new case I’m on that can use some ‘additional information’ the type of information that I know you can get…” That got his attention… “Tell me, how much would this information be worth too you, I know we buddies and all but I got a bar tab to clear…” Good grief his breath stank… I was beginning too have some doubts but then again fringe elements, rat’s squealers, etc. wore going too talk easier to him than me… “That depends on what you can dig up…”

After about 3 hours talking and having put about 11 gallons of coffee into him I left Roy at the bar and by that time I was in a mood for a little relaxation… that and the fact Lara called asking if I wanted to go with her and what’s-his-name for a picnic at Bazley Beach…

~~~~~ ) ¥ ( ~~~~~

Chapter 3 Taurey’s

It was early morning when I woke up. I had a strange feeling of being watched, but believing it to be part of my lingering hangover I felt around for my glasses and after finding them realised I was alone in bed.

Now normally this wouldn’t be unusual except for one thing… where was Gill, the pretty girl I met at the 3-30 club last night? Surely she hadn’t left without saying goodbye… then I saw her.

She was on the floor and blood was everywhere. I had blood on my clothes, bed and even on the champagne bottle. Since I got those strange phone call’s regarding the Lobeche’ case I’ve kept my revolver within reach or so I thought for it was not on the mantelpiece or in its holder.

Suddenly I heard someone say “Never mind I have it, don’t go fooling around anymore… you wont find it.” After that I remember little to nothing, all I know is that I felt one sharp blow to my head and I had the sensation of being dragged somewhere.

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“Good afternoon… my but you had been a busy little boy, haven’t you!!” I will never forget my first impression of Charles. He was your typical Taurey even though that I only found out later. Short in stature, lightly dressed and what he lacked in height, he made up with his mouth.

Did you have a nice nap? You know sleeping in the middle of the desert with dried blood in your clothes and hair isn’t usually a smart thing to do!!” I opened one eye and blearily tried to focus on my surroundings.

A chair stood to the side of the tent with a man in it and I was surrounded with an assortment of cushions of all shapes and sizes. “What do you mean desert and where am I really?” for a moment I thought he was having a heart attack, then he had a look of understanding and said “first things first, here drink this… it will make you feel better in a while and as for your questions, I think all shall be better explained after you had a quick shower and a change of clothes”

Thus after having unsuccessfully tried to get any information out of him, I was forced to go take a shower… if that is what you can call taking water from a well, dumping it over your head and being man-handled by a 59 year old Taurey maid, called Beauty.

“There isn’t that better? I see the clothes I picked you fit well. They were my eldest sons’… but now they are yours!! Tell me Conner, what were you doing in the desert? When I found you I thought you were dead and would have left you behind, for the Nubian scarecrows, if I didn’t hear you moan.”

All this was strange to me, also he spoke Afrikaans so well, I could have sworn he had lied about the desert and that I was the butt of a very stupid practical joke. Yet I, after seeing for myself the desert, knew he was on the level and besides this heat couldn’t be faked. “My name I gather you already know and if I knew what I was doing in the desert or in fact in which desert I am, I wouldn’t have asked you where I was!!”

“You are in the Sahara Desert and as my guest so do not be so agitated, my name is Charles. As for knowing your name… you spoke whilst dreaming.” “The Sahara desert!! Last I remember I was in my hotel room in Durban – South Africa, not a desert and another hemisphere to boot!!”

“Calm down my friend, shouting wont help. Here have some more wine and I might add your secret is safe with me…” “Then you know…” “ …To put it bluntly, yes. Now it is time to sleep. We have a long journey ahead of us tomorrow and the sleeping pill I gave you in your drink should be working its affect on you very soon…”

~~~~~ ) ¥ ( ~~~~~

A second time I woke up with a hangover and that just from a few glasses of Charles’s wine. Thinking out loud “Never again will I touch another drop…” I had to stop for standing just inside my tent flap was an eye-catching girl, also I might add she was laughing at me!!
“You will regret those words after a few days on the back of a camel in this heat!!” she said with the sparkle in her eyes still there. “Oh, I doubt that… not with this killer headache to remind me… miss?” “My name is Samantha and the miss is silent, but trust me on this… you’ll be begging my uncle for some of his wine – that’s a promise. Now if you’ll be so kind as to follow me, I’ll show you were you can wash and have a bite to eat before your friend Beauty finds you…” That got me moving, another session with Beauty was not what I needed at the moment.

“Tell me Samantha, how is it that you and your uncle speak Afrikaans so well?” “We both spend a lot of time in South Africa doing business every five years or so and I studied in Bloemfontein until two years ago.” “Strange I never would have guessed you were a South African, but it does explain a lot” “On the contrary I am a Taurey, not South African even though my mother was. I merely studied there, though seeing you I wish I was back there, life was so much easier there, but I’m needed here.”

The following days I spend a lot of time talking about almost everything, with Samantha and Charles. In that way I found out why I couldn’t just go to the nearest town and find the local South African embassy. The nearest town was at the edge of the desert in eastern Libya and the nearest South African embassy was in Tripoli, the national capital of Libya.
At night Charles always came to my tent and together we would discuss what my options were… not that I had any, that was clear from the start, for Charles told me all I had said in my sleep and I answered a few of his questions that he had in that regard too. I was to travel with him and his people too Tripoli where I could find the South African embassy and arrange a flight back to Durban via Johannesburg.

All in all I was unconscious for two days, in which my kidnappers must have kept me sedated and traveled by airplane where somewhere along the way I must have been left too die in the desert, before Charles found me or maybe as he put it “thrown out the airplane along the way”… so I knew Lara at least was looking for me – even though I knew she wouldn’t expect an international collect call, it made me feel better just knowing she’d be looking for me. That is if she didn’t think I killed that girl in Durban…

It was to be a long journey and I learned a lot from Charles and his people about their land or as Charles fondly put it the night before we were to cross into Libya… “It is the most breath taking – deadliest place you will ever see my friend, where a person walks naked in the day because of the heat and will sell his soul for just 5mm of rain at noon.”
They were both right!! Samantha in saying I’d beg for some more wine and Charles about the desert. It’s daytime temperatures ranged from inferno to hellish and a freezer at the North Pole in wintertime would have seemed like a tropical climate compared with the cloudless desert nights. I fell in love with it. Even though the desert had lots of rain in the previous months it only had a few scattered oases, yet what it lacked in beauty in the open desert, it condensed in the various oases that the caravan stopped at.

We reached Tripoli at night and it was decided that I would stay with Charles in his manor, after which Samantha would take me to the RSA embassy in the morning.

“That was the best dinner I ever had!” I told Samantha as she was showing me where my room was afterwards. “The desert has that affect on a person… it makes you realise what is important in life... Can I join you tonight? Maybe tell you some more about Tripoli before we go out tomorrow…”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea Samantha. Your uncle wouldn’t like it, also I owe my life and more to him…” “…He doesn’t rule my life and I asked you, not my uncle! Good night!!” and with that she left me – the fool that I was.

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