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Rough Diamond-a South African short story. ch 4
At breakfast with Millie Stander, Susan was gently questioned about why she was in Barclay West. She knew that Millie already knew why, and was probably just trying to get a bit more out of her. She felt like she needed to tell someone what had happened. Millie seemed to be someone she could trust and who listened patiently and sympathetically. Again there did not seem to be any advice forth coming from the boarding house owner, who had obviously never been confronted with something like this before. At the same time, just telling her seemed to help Susan to gather her thoughts. After breakfast she walked down to the police station, just three blocks away past the local general dealer and library.
She also decided that she wanted to read up about the legendary river monster that is supposed to live in the Vaal River near Barclay West. It is reputed to have been the reason some locals have, in the past, disappeared without trace after last been seen crossing or swimming in the river; a story that Danie had told her briefly yesterday evening. Hence part of her dream last night.
The bored looking young student police woman at the front desk pointed her to a corridor and a door that was marked “Detective Sgt. Barry van Staden”. She knocked and was invited in by the policeman she had met the previous evening. On the edge of his desk was a pile of files and as he stood up to pull out and clear a chair for her, she noticed that he limped slightly.
“Please take a seat, Susan,” he invited her with a friendly smile on his face that helped her to feel at ease. “We have an interesting problem here,” he confided to her. “At present we do not have much to go on. Perhaps you can tell me a little about your father and his background? You have to understand that no crime has been committed and so officially we cannot really get involved. Here in the diamond fields things however, work slightly differently.” He explained to her that so far they only had an unofficial complaint from a worker that his boss had not paid him recently.
The next hour was spent with Susan telling Sgt. Van Staden what she knew about her father and why and how she had come to find him. The money he had sent her Mom kept jumping into the foreground as the obvious reason why she had come. She did not even try to explain that the reason she was there was much more complicated. It lay somewhere in the heart of a little girl who longed to have and know her own father, even if he had so terribly wronged her and her mother so many years ago. A cup of tea, delivered by the student policewoman, and a couple of phone calls that did not become urgent enough to permanently interrupt the interview, were the only distraction. There were several pregnant pauses as the detective seemed to ponder a statement or thought.
Her explanation about the letter her father had left saying; “You will be better off without me and my drinking and temper problems” did not seem to find a comfortable place with Sgt. van Staden. Danie had told her a bit about this rather rough looking policeman who actually was a loving family man. A serious rugby injury had ended his promising career as a player. As a young player he had been earmarked for a place in the national team, the Springboks. She felt that he would help her if for no other reason than she needed help desperately. In this town far away from home, she was like a fish out of water, floundering on the banks of the Vaal River as it flowed past her Dad’s hut.
“In a town like this everyone knows everyone and so I know Jacque. Some years ago we actually played for the local rugby club together. He was a good scrumhalf, but battled to be as disciplined on and off the field as he needed to be. It does seem strange, however, him leaving you and your Mom so suddenly. Now he disappears again?” He shook his head in a mixture of disbelief and confusion. “Sometimes men do strange and even terrible things that they themselves do not understand,” he continued. “You won’t believe what I have seen in my 26 years in the force!” He pondered on the thought, but wisely did not expand on it. Susan did not need stories from past disasters, only answers to the present problem.
“Give me some time to make some phone calls and then I will ask a few people who may be able to shed some light on the problem. Here on the diamond fields a lot of our cases are solved by getting information informally.” He walked her to the door and asked her to file a missing persons report at the front desk, even though it was early days since Jacque’s disappearance. “That would make my investigations official.”
There did not seem to be much that Susan could do at this stage so she decided to explore the library and spend some time reading up about the history of the area, about diamonds and even recent events. She heard laughter coming from the public swimming pool across the road and thought she may just go and swim a few lengths later to help her relax. Her body was very tense after the events of the past day or two and the bad night. When she felt this way, like a wound up spring, exercise always helped. She would give the river a miss, even if she did not believe the story about the monster. She may also see if she could get a lift to Longlands so that she could take a closer look at her father’s shack. Piet Swart must have the key. Perhaps he was the key to this mystery, her mind raced to possible answers without any logical reasons.