The sound of heavy breathing filled the dark air. Mabel gasped as she felt a strong, hungry mouth in her neck. She opened her eyes but the complete darkness pressed her eyes shut again and the weight moving on top of her felt even heavier…stronger. She felt her body shudder with exhilaration. She opened her eyes again. A thin ray of light was piercing the darkness. She stared at it, wondering where it came from. Then Father Peter lifted his head into it and Mabel clearly saw the outline of his sharp jawline, his thick, dark blond hair and those austere eyes…
Mabel shook as she awoke from her sleep. Her heart was hammering almost as loudly as other parts of her were.
‘Kiss my ass, I am never going to be allowed in Heaven. Molesting a priest…that’s probably as bad as it gets.’ Mabel said out loud.
And with a feeling of impending doom, Mabel fell back to peaceful, coitus-less sleep.
As Mabel stopped the government vehicle at the crime scene location given to her by the police officer, she again sensed some impending doom. The location was next to a small, poorly frequented road. Apart from a few police cars and the morgue van, there was nothing but veld, a few trees and earth.
This must be a bad one, Mabel thought as she exited the car with her white coat and bag of goodies. She had attended enough crime scenes to know what they looked like. The extreme number of violent crimes had hardened most police officers, especially in that part of South Africa, so the mood on these things was usually lighter than expected. Just another day at the office for South African police officers. Not today. No-one was standing around the cars chatting and comparing notes. No-one was relating war stories.
Please don’t let it be a child.
In her training days Mabel fell in love with investigating officers. At the peak of her country’s post-revolution racial conflict, she always wished she could show people the hearts of detectives. Not the corrupt few. She meant the real detectives. The black detectives who cried over the rape and murder of a young white teenager. Or the white detectives who punch holes in walls because another black woman was killed. Or everyone in between who sacrificed normal lives to spend it dancing with the Devil.
Please don’t let it be a child.
And one thing that most detectives have in common: they bring their A-game where children were hurt.
As Mabel arrived at the deathly quiet scene proper, she was met with a view that she would have happily given back to the maker. Chills ran down her spine. A kid. A young male child still dressed in his school uniform. Tied to a tree. His head was tilted upwards and a spine-chilling expression met you as approach the horror. A sure sign of unspeakable torture. Massive blood stains flanked both sides of his abdomen….sure sign of pre-mortem torture.
‘Yes?’ Mabel was startled and turned to meet the gaze of a man who looked like he’s been running on the dirt road of life. Probably a cop his whole life.
‘I’m Warrant Officer Shabalala. Call me Solomon. I’m the I.O. here. I though Professor Mokoena would send someone…else?’
Ah. Of course. The boys club…
‘The other pathologists are busy with cases. I started at the department last month. Nice to meet you.’ Shabalala shook her hand but dropped his gaze to the horrendous scene behind her.
‘What do we know of this, sir?’ Mabel asked.
‘That the ancestors of who-ever did this will haunt them in life, and burn them in death.’
Mabel looked back at Shabalala. The deep lines on his older-than-what-he-probably-is-face seemed to have deepened.
‘We don’t know anything yet, Doctor. Maybe you can help with that.’
Mabel put on her white coat and took some latex gloves from her bag. She slowly walked toward the body, careful to make meticulous observations.
Stretched out legs. Brand new Hushpuppies still on the feet…whoa…
‘Solomon, you noticed the shoes, right?’
‘What is the closest neighborhood to this location?’
‘No neighborhood, a township. Atteridgeville.’
‘Atteridgeville… Are there many affluent families living in Atteridgeville?’
‘No. Atteridgeville is poor, Doc.’
‘This school uniform…’
‘Don’t know yet. We’ll check.’
‘So a child, roughly 8 years of age, well taken care of, wearing a new school uniform and really expensive shoes is tied up to a tree in God’s forsaken land near a township…’
Mabel dropped to her knees next to the body and proceeded to examine the body. Tears had dried on the boy’s dirty face, drawing vertical lines that extended from his eyes to his jaw. There were scratches on his neck, arms and legs. Mabel did her best to examine the cause of the blood stains on the boy’s sides without disturbing the ropes that glued him to the tree. She’d be able to do a better job in the morgue. This was just preliminary stuff. And Shabalala would want an estimate on time of death.
The boy was cold to the touch, but his limbs were very stiff. Rigor mortis had set in. Normally this would have taken about 3 to 8 hours but the intense Pretoria heat would have accelerated this process.
‘So he died from stabbing? To the sides? ’ Shabalala asked.
‘No. These wounds are animal scratches and bite wounds. And he was alive when it happened.’
‘Why do you say that?’
‘All the bleeding. Dead people don’t bleed. Wild life around here, what are we looking at?’
‘Anything. Lots of cats. Wild African, Lynx, Red. And foxes. And dogs.’
‘Hhhm. From rigor, lividity and absence of maggots I’d say he died less than 20 hours ago. I’d be able to give a better estimate once the post-mortem has been performed.’
‘Okay. What did he die from?’
‘I’ll be able to give you a credible answer after the autopsy.’
‘Okay. Another child was stabbed in-between here and Atteridgeville last month. Maybe it’s a serial killer.’
Mabel rose to her feet and looked Solomon Shabalala square in the eyes. ‘This is not the work of a serial killer. This kid wasn’t stabbed or strangled or shot. He was tortured somehow and left, but I suspect he wasn’t left for dead.’
Shabalala raised an eyebrow.
‘I’ll have more answers tomorrow morning. Meet me at the morgue around 10am. And find the school. I suspect that if we find the school, we’ll find the killer.’
‘But if he wasn’t stabbed or anything, he wasn’t killed…’
‘Believe me, Solomon, this was murder.’
[To be continued…]