Rough Diamond-a South African short story ch 6
The search for a father and a diamond
Sgt. Barry van Staden was now paying full attention to the Jacque van Zyl case. The telephone lines between Barclay, Kimberly and even further afield, were buzzing. Rumours about the happenings of the last week or so were running wild, like a veldt fire out of control. The size of the diamond had grown on a daily basis and the local newspapers in the area had picked up on it. Piet Swart had been interviewed, as had anyone remotely connected to Jacque.
Susan had gone into hiding to get away from everything and was staying at a nearby resort where Barry had contacts. He had told to keep her head down. She had been on the phone to her Mom who had pleaded with her come home at once. There were mixed feelings about that from Barry, who felt that she was vulnerable because “one never knew what the criminal element might do!” They will know you come from Port Alfred by now and so it may not be the best place to hide out.
She felt so helpless. Hiding away was the last thing that she wanted to do, but at the same time there did not seem to be much else she could do. If her father wanted to contact her or her mother, he could do so through the police. One thing she felt certain about was that he was in trouble. Would this diamond that he and Piet had found prove to be a blessing or a curse? She hoped for the best but deep in her heart she feared the worst. Her journey to find him had not turned out in any way that she could have hoped for.
Then the worst news possible came in the form of Sgt. van Staden and his young policewomen assistant who had just arrived at the resort. She could see at once on their faces that they came to deliver very bad news. She had not made a mistake. “We are very sorry to bring this news to you. We found your father’s Cortina burnt out near the Magersfontein Road in the veldt. There was a body in it that has been sent to the forensic laboratory in Pretoria for identification purposes. It was so badly burnt that we are not certain that a positive I.D. will be possible, but we suspect strongly that it was him”.
The policewoman comforted Susan as she sat in stunned silence and then sobbed quietly. “A shepherd had found the car behind a hill, and if he had not, it could have been a long time before it was found. The car tracks near the road had been carefully wiped away,” Sgt van Staden continued with real feeling in his voice. He had become really fond of this young woman and it felt as if she was a daughter of his, suffering this pain. Normally he could remain quite unattached emotionally. It was part of his job and training.
“There was no sign of the diamond and so we are not even certain that it ever even existed. It is only Piet Swart’s word now, and we are not certain he is telling the truth. Strange things sometimes happen to people on the diggings. It is often difficult to distinguish between truth and fiction.”
Susan was stunned and she could not explain why she felt such a sense of loss. Her Dad had deserted them when she was only five and had not contacted them in all those years. What had driven him to such a terrible decision? And then suddenly she had hoped that she could at least see him again. Now that opportunity was gone. Should she, perhaps, go back and try to find out from those who knew him what he was like and perhaps even why he had left? She somehow doubted that this would help much. The better option at this stage seemed to be to let it rest, go home and get on with her life that had seemed so ordered before the letter had come.