by Paul du Pré
Africa, in an alternate world.
A 9+1-part series.
“We’ll be late,” complains Bumko.
Shikara ignores this churlishness and walks steadily besides him, holding his hand.
A clatter of hooves and, ahead of them, two horsemen spur out of a side-street, jacketed and booted in black leather, faceless in visored, plastic helmets that gleam in the moonlight. Bulumko snatches Shikara aside, into concealing shadow, but the horsemen gallop off about their business, rapidly receding, leaving the street ahead empty.
“I should never have let you…” begins Bulumko. Shikara glances up, questioningly. “Dangerous…” he mutters. “Those riders…” He turns to face her, “You never can tell.” And straightens, resolute. “We need to hurry. Saleem’s waiting for us.”
But, when they turn into the mews at the back of the club, they see people milling about like fire-flies, their lanterns illuminating a row of temporary toilets. There is an atmosphere of hushed dread: horses in the stalls lining the road nicker and shuffle, infected with unease, while the crowd whispers – susurrates like a crawl of insects. Bulumko can’t quite make out what anyone is saying, and pushes forward till checked by the sight of what looks like strings of sausages, anchored round the handle of one of the toilets, and from there strung over nearby projections: the handles of neighbouring units, an overturned bin – an insane butcher’s demonstration of the catenary principle underlying the hang of suspension bridges, domestic washing lines, and the fall of a woman’s hair, executed in raw meat.
“What is that?” demands Bulumko uneasily.
“Leticia Booysen…” breathes a bystander. Bulumko can’t make out his meaning.
“What?” he barks.
Annoyed by his bumptiousness, people glare at him, faceted torchlight reflected in their glittering eyes, and chitter. He catches the words: “…Leticia…murdered…” and “…her boyfriend…”
It turns out that Leticia, a childhood play-mate of his, who lived with her dad, just a few streets down from his mom’s house, has been disembowelled. She is not dead yet: head cradled in the night-watchman’s arms, she lingers (it is the watchman who found her) and, as she fades, she fingers her boyfriend, Easton and his gang-buddies. The community is finding the cruelty of the assault a little hard to understand, but then, they agree, drink and drugs and gang-rape can get out of hand. And nobody in their right mind would put murder past Easton and his buddies. Which is why none of them are in a hurry to be seen fetching the police. Never mind actually talking to them.
This is an attitude Easton seems keen to reinforce. A few minutes after Bulumko and Shikara get there, he and his friends return, slinking through the crowd like a malignant troop of hyenas. People flinch, cringing from the evil savagery that seems to diffuse from them like a cloud of poison.
“What happened to her?” grates Easton, disingenuously. And, challenging the night-watchman, hisses, “What you holding her for?” His posture radiates assault; hints that he would like nothing more than to kick Leticia’s head right out of the watchman’s cradling arms and into the next vacant lot.
But even Easton doesn’t dare push the community that hard.
“What happened to her…” He turns it into a statement, scowling at the crowd: “No one would want that to happen to them.”
No one disagrees, and the moment stretches.
“She’s gone,” whispers the watchman.
“What did you say?” snarls Easton, gaze jerking back to Leticia’s body. Then, striking a wounded pose, he turns on the crowd again and howls, “This is a private moment. My girlfriend just died. Go home!” Projecting grief and aggression, believing it with all his feral heart, he expects they will obey. Either that, he knows, or they will turn on him and his buddies. His henchmen know it too and close ranks, broadcasting maximum threat. “Go home, all of you!” Easton shouts. “Show some respect!”
One by one, people scuttle away, into the darkness.
Bulumko stands his ground till only a few are left.
Unexpectedly, Shikara tosses back her hair, sashays forward. “Hey, big boy, want to have a good time?”
Easton’s men, lurching forward to intercept, stop in their tracks.
“Who are you? Bitch,” he grates.
“I’m a girl who likes to have a good time with a hard man.”
“You insane? What you playing at…” His voice whines, stressed between disbelief and surging lust. “ How you know you won’t have…an accident – like her?” He gestures at Leticia’s body, then leers. “Is that what you into?”
“You wouldn’t dare touch me. My father is richer than you can dream. And if you hurt me – in ways that I don’t want to be hurt…” Shikara simpers, while Bulumko looks on in heart-sick disbelief. “…He will find you and kill you in ways that make this look like a children’s party.” She too points to the husk of Leticia’s body, blood no longer welling from the ragged gash in her naked belly.
Easton smiles wolfishly. “You got lip.”
“I’ve got more than lip. I’ll give you the fuck of your life. If you’re hard enough.” She cups Easton’s groin, and he slavers, puts his arm around her waist, pulls her in, tight.
There’s predatory anticipation in his grip.
Woman underwater – Free-Photos on Pixabay
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Shikara is a work of fiction by Paul du Preez, writing as Paul du Pré. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights are reserved, including without limitation, the right to reproduce Shikara and the original art or music associated with it, or any portion thereof in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of Paul du Preez. Copyrighted 2020 by Paul du Preez.