Chapter 1.1 – MABEL MEETS HER OFFICE

‘Either this office hasn’t seen the business side of a Dust Buster in 20 years, or a dust-eating witch flew in here just before her ass exploded.’ Mabel reached into her handbag for the Allergex. She felt her sinuses prepare for warfare.

‘The previous occupant retired 3 months ago. I guess it hasn’t been cleaned out properly. I could send for cleaners?’ said Rhona.

‘Nah, thanks Rhonz. I think I’ll do it myself. You know what they say about cleaning your own work space.’

‘No, what?’

‘I don’t know but someone should say something sharp about it, don’t you think?’ Mabel launches another big toothy laugh. This time Rhona offers a giggle too.

Mabel stood hands on hips, studying the small office with the neatly packed books on forensic pathology, all hailing from a time long before Mabel was born. The books weren’t the only old new inherited artefacts. The chair, the computer, the stapler. Damn old. The window blinds…ancient. The 1cm of dust covering everything didn’t look like it’s been accumulating for 3 months. It seemed like certain scenes from The Mummy was shot here and the set designers never bothered cleaning up.

A sneaky smile evolved onto Mabel’s face. ‘Ah yeah. This is gonna be mine.’

***

The first day Mabel stayed in the office examining the library of books left behind by Prof Gary Zimbler, who was a forensic pathologist for 33 years before he retired. Most of the books were pathology textbooks from across the world and completely outdated. Some were more contemporary. Dimaio on forensic pathology and ballistics. Simpson’s Forensic Medicine. Gross’s writings on criminalistics. But there were also interesting additions.

Mabel was sitting flat on the floor next to a book shelf, paging through some of the nearby books that ended up becoming dust taxi’s. She would page through them to get a general idea of theme to better be able to sort the books according to topic. Mabel thought people who throw away, give away or otherwise do away with books are people who could quite possibly also sell their children into slavery. It’s like giving away a little soul!

She was paging and cleaning books when she came to an unexpected find. Secret Investigations of the SASP. No author indicated on the cover or spine. The book was bound in black with silver letter typing and no other insignia. Weird. No publication information page, no introduction or other academic markers.

Mabel took her phone and Googled the title. Nothing. The only think she could determine was that ‘SASP’ was the acronym for the ‘South African Secret Police’, a shady part of South Africa’s segregated past.

‘Weird dude,’ Mabel said out loud. With a shrug she cleaned the book, and placed it on the heap for ‘miscellaneous’.

‘Hullo.’ The voice was sweet but it still gave Mabel a hell of a fright. From where she was sitting on the floor she looked up to meet the gaze of Dr Babita Verma, a petit Indian woman in her late thirties. Mabel loved her face instantaneously.

‘Well gosh! That was a fart-inducing ‘hullo’ if ever I heard one! Hi, I’m Mabel,’ she said as she struggled onto her knees and held out her hand. Babita took it gently, moving like a wild rabbit back to her position at the door so as to ensure a getaway.

‘I’m Babita. I hear you’re our new colleague. Welcome, I hope you really enjoy the work.’

Mabel noticed she referred to ‘work’, not ‘people’…we’ve got a workaholic introvert here…

Babita’s face was small, round and framed by a thick, black bob. Something about her face and the way she was doing nothing to avoid Mabel’s stare made Mabel feel comfortable with this woman. And the fact that Babita laughed at Mabel’s fart joke made her like Babita even more.

‘You in the mood for a crime scene, Mabel?’

‘Whatta whatta?’

‘A detective just called. There was an axe killing in Waterkloof. They want an ETD. You in? I thought you might want something less…uh…administrative on your first day.’

‘You know I was just sitting here on my slave knees thinking how much I like your face. Now I think I like your mind too! Let’s do this!’

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