‘Who are you?’ asked a young but snippy voice.
Mabel looked up from her office desk and saw a younger version of her primary school head mistress, Miss Van Reyneveld.
‘Lord Almighty,’ Mabel blurted out.
‘Excuse me?’ asked the thin blond woman who must have spent about an hour tying the bow around her neck.
Do people still do that?
The Nazi hopeful had short bob hair, flattened to perfection and tucked in behind her ears. Square, black-rimmed glasses framed a small, round face that seemed as austere and miserable as her kitten-heal black shoes and black tailored jacket and pencil skirt.
This must be my doppelgänger! Thought Mabel and wondered what this Stepford wife must be thinking about her green and orange spotted top and ridiculous curly hair.
‘Uhm…sorry!’ Mabel wasn’t sure she had anything to apologize for, but did so anyway. She felt a Christian-school-for-girls-admonishment coming on. ‘I’m Mabel. Mabel Ackerman. Can I perhaps help you with anything?’
‘I’m Michelle Kruger. I’m a master’s student in forensic biology. I was told to report to you.’
‘Uh…okay…you sure you must report to me?’
‘Yes. Professor Mokoena directed me to you. Clearly preparations have not been made. Can you please show me the way to my office space?’
Mabel burst out laughing and threw her wild-haired-head back in enjoyment. It was only when her head returned to its normal position that she realized her neo-Nazi guest was not laughing. At all. Mabel swallowed her laugh and with it some saliva that chose to dive down her trachea instead of her esophagus. Her body was propelled into a coughing fit and Mabel felt herself going into the ugly cough. She didn’t quite recognize the sounds she was making, but, in that moment, she just hoped for life. When she recovered, blond Idi Amin had disappeared from her office and Mabel decided that it was all a nasty dream…
Five minutes later, the phone rang. Mabel’s boss, Professor Serame Mokoena, proceeded to tell her that it is always the newest member of staff’s duty to train any post-graduate students in the department. She will do it.
About twenty minutes later, Mabel’s phone rang again.
Why not? Maybe some gang members want some training too…
But it was another crime scene…
As Mabel parked the white government vehicle in front of a huge posh house in Waterkloof, Pretoria, she sneaked a peak at Michelle’s pencil skirt in the passenger seat next to her.
That is tight. I hope this house doesn’t have stairs.
‘Michelle, have you ever been to a crime scene?’
‘In the department we always try to dress for both crimes scenes and court rooms. That means comfortable yet professional.’ Mabel regretted this little part of the lesson as soon as the words left her mouth. Michelle’s eyes wandered up and down Mabel’s outfit and she raised an eyebrow.
‘Not like me!’ Mabel laughed, hoping the woman would smile. Just once.
‘We follow a specific path in and out of the scene. You stay behind me the whole time. Don’t touch anything, and let me know immediately if you feel unwell.’
‘I won’t faint. I’ve dissected hundreds of animals during my work and studies.’
In that case, my liege, by all means, guide us to wisdom.
‘Okie dokie. Let’s do this.’
The magnificent glass house looked somehow sad. But not puppy in the corner sad. I just lost my fellow soldier sad.
‘Are you the pathologist?’ A very tall, spectacled and intelligent looking man walked directly toward Michelle and stuck out his hand to greet her.
‘No.’ Michelle said but shook the man’s hand anyway.
‘I’m Doctor Mabel Ackerman. From Forensics. Call me Mabel.’ She smiled warmly and held out her hand for its turn to be greeted.
The spectacled man looked at Mabel, back at Michelle, then back to Mabel…then down at Mabel’s outfit.
‘Uh…okay. I’m Warrant Officer Vilakazi. Follow me.’
The trio entered the glass sliding doors by the side of the house. It was riddled with gun shots. They walked through what appeared to be a gaming room that narrowed into a long, wide and slightly darkened corridor. As they reached this corridor, Vilakazi stopped abruptly, causing Mabel and Michelle to almost collide with him.
Officer Vilakazi moved himself up against the side wall, revealing the contents of the passage. Two people were lying on top of one another. Well dressed, middle-aged. A man and a woman. The woman had beautiful, thick blond hair and well-groomed nails. The man too seemed well taken care of and in otherwise good shape. Apart, that is, from several gunshot wounds.
‘Mr and Mrs Rhodes. Married for 28 years. Mrs Rhodes was a housewife, Mr Rhodes operations manager at PriceWell shopping chain. They were shot from outside. Shooter hid in the garden and started shooting.’
The smell of iron and blood saturated the air. But there was something else…
‘Were they having dinner?’ Mabel asked.
‘Yes. How’d you know?’
‘I smell Something Fishy calamari.’
Officer Vilakazi looked at her, aghast. But she didn’t notice. She walked past the two bodies, into the room at the opposite end of the corridor. A huge, bright room met Mabel.
This is where they lived, this family.
A massive flat screen was affixed to the right wall, looking out on mammoth luxurious leather couches. On the coffee table in the middle of the room were two wine glasses, still filed with white wine.
Of course. High end folks won’t have red with fish…
A pink lip stain crown one of the glasses. Mrs Rhodes’. She drank wine before she perished. For some reason this made Mabel feel sadder. Two large porcelain plates were arranged on the coffee table next to the glasses. Something Fishy calamari and chips. Untouched.
They never had time to enjoy the last meal.
‘Warrant officer Vilakazi, did you find a pay slip for these takeaways?’ Mabel turned as she asked the question. She expected Vilakazi to be right behind her. He wasn’t. She looked up at the darkened corridor and could only see the silhouettes of three people standing beyond the two bodies of Mr and Mrs Rhodes. She felt an odd stab of fear.
Fear? Something’s off…
Mabel heard Michelle make a strange, unrecognizable sound.
‘Michelle? Are you…’
A deafening shot rang out. A spine-chilling scream. Mabel felt a strange sensation tearing past her. Like a vampire breathing in your neck. Then more screams. The silhouettes started running in her direction.
And she realized it…
Someone tried to shoot me!
[To be continued…]