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from P.S. by Liberty Henwick

Chapter Four

The sunset was Armageddonesque – a blend of arterial red and searing yellow that, in a painting would look kitsch, but where it belongs in the sky, was breathtaking. These vibrant skies were not unusual for Johannesburg though, some say the air pollution is good for one thing at least. But the riot of colour was an apt mantle for the violent crime which was part and parcel of life for the six million citizens in the city.

“Ag sorry Abi, not much of a walk I’m afraid.” Jenni had parked in the cul-de-sac of Seymour Street which opened up to a footpath to the park. She looked up and down the street - being vigilant had become second nature. “You can say hello to your pal at least, and have a swim.”

Abi flopped out of the car and trotted over to the fence of Number 1 Seymour and issued a brief “Woof.” Within moments a larger male Golden Labrador bounded across to the other side of the fence and greeted his friend with a series of gruff barks. The two dogs touched noses briefly and then Abi’s attention was grabbed by a gaggle of Egyptian Geese at the water’s edge. She turned and charged down into the water, dispersing the squawking, flapping geese.

Jenni stood and watched her, torn between not wanting to stray too far from her car and needing Abi’s company for reassurance. She looked around the perimeter of the dam but there were no other walkers at this hour. The water was red rippled too, mirroring the sky.

In 1985 when the Westdene bus disaster happened, which had claimed the lives of 41 school children, she was only seven years old - old enough to remember the tragedy on the news. The chilling image of the empty double-decker being drawn from the water had stuck with her, as had the rows upon rows of white coffins at the funeral. She was not old enough, however, to appreciate the depth of anguish of the parents who lost their children to this watery grave. She briefly thought of her little niece Beth, feeling that Sunday was suddenly too far away before she would see her again.

The evening was warm but she involuntarily wrapped her arms around herself and rubbed her upper arms with her hands. “Come on Abi, leave the geese alone!” The dog paddled back to shore and bounded up the bank. Half way back to Jenni she veered off to the right. “Come here Abi, where are you going?”

The dam was surrounded by clumps of bushes and willow trees. Abi was headed towards a dense cluster of bushes growing against the wall of a house that backed on to the dam. All the walls along here were topped by spiked steel fencing and razor wire. Jenni caught a whiff of cigarette smoke.

Abi was barking at the bushes but it was too dark for Jenni to see what they concealed. Narrowing her eyes briefly she glimpsed the red glowing dot of an inhalation. “Come here Abi, now!” The big dog sheepishly turned and ambled back to her mistress. Jenni’s hand shook a little as she grabbed her collar and walked back to the car. Nearing the road she glanced back towards the clump of bushes. A tall slender man wearing a flat cap was watching her. With the sunset behind him, he was in complete silhouette. As she paused he turned and walked away around the water’s edge, limping slightly.

The journey home was quick, just up and over the ridge that separated Westdene from Melville. Once Jenni was back she flopped onto her bed and buried her face in the pillow. Abi nosed her hand that hung limp over the sid...

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