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Posts Tagged ‘vietnam’

Didn’t read part one? Click here

Didn’t read part two? Click here

It was a pretty chilly evening by Durban standards, the locals wandered the Golden Mile in jerseys and flip-flops, beanies pulled low against the wind. Danny was propped against a palm, dragging the inside of one itchy sole across its rough bark. He’d stationed himself on the opposite side of the road, about 20 metres down the road from the hotel. He was waiting for Khaya and Mandla to pick him up in a car they’d loaned for the night. He’d torn the cuticles off every nail, and his heart hammered an irregular tattoo in his chest. The last time he’d been this overwrought, he’d been covered in sand under New Pier, eluding Big Vic and the meaty fists of his henchmen. The witchdoctor had revealed that Danny’s mark was a thin Asian man attending an international conference, and staying at the Elangeni. The man would be waiting outside the hotel lobby, wearing a safari style suit, complete with an expensive looking camera bag. Danny, masquerading as a tour guide, was to pick him up in a private vehicle, along with two other men, and commence the night tour of this most underrated of cities. Totally fool proof, thought Danny, although he did wonder if the safari suit was overkill.

At five to seven, a ridiculously souped-up old school Nissan Sentra pulled up alongside Danny. A black stripe ran around its bronze body and its domed back windscreen, along with all its windows, were tinted a metallic blue. The passenger window slowly wound down until just Mandla’s sunglass shielded eyes and nose were visible.

Heita,” greeted Mandla with a gangsters nod, “get in.”

“What the hell…” Danny murmured in disbelief. This was hardly an inconspicuous ride. And it certainly didn’t look like anything a reputable tour guide operator would pick up a guest in. Danny hesitated, and with a sense of foreboding, opened the back door and got in.

“And now,” he asked, “get this off a laaijtie in Phoenix?”

“Hey,” said Khaya, “there wasn’t a lot to choose from. Met a guy in the Vic Bar two nights back, and he said he’d borrow us his wheels, no questions asked, for a small fee. Since we’re both still broke, we had to leave our IDs with him.”

“His brothers a cop,” continued Mandla, “said he’d report it stolen and turn over our IDs if we didn’t bring his wheels back later tonight.”

Danny huffed out a long sobering breath in the back seat. Reality suddenly weighing heavy on his scrawny shoulders. He wouldn’t do well long-term in jail. Not well at all.

“Okay chinas. Drive up to the traffic circle, do a u-ey, and drive by the hotel. See if our guy is standing out front.”

Khaya hit the gas and the boys did a quick scan of the lobby as they drove by. The safari-clad Asian was standing near the taxi bay, so they shot down the road and did a repeat performance at the traffic circles at both ends. Khaya coasted into the taxi bay and Danny leapt out with as much confidence as he could muster.

“Good evening, sir,” he beamed is his best white accent, “you look all set for our night tour. The name’s Dan, and I’ll be your guide for the evening. Won’t you come this way.” The gentleman bent slightly at the waist in Danny’s direction, before following Danny to the car. Danny opened the back door and waited while the man folded his reed like body into the backseat. He couldn’t help but be impressed at what a cool laanie the guy was. Didn’t even raise an eyebrow at the unconventional ride. Danny slid in after him and the foursome shared an uncomfortable beat of silence before Khaya eased the car into slow moving traffic. As the car continued along the beachfront, heading towards the famous late-night hangout of large Indian families sharing outsized vats of biryani, curry and rice at Blue Lagoon, the man eventually spoke.

“So,” he said. “This horn. It is big? You got dimensions? I don’t want be wasting my time.”

“Yes boss,” said Khaya, “the horn is big! A little over a meter. Wait until you see it baba, you won’t be disappointed.”

Mandla and Khaya had wrapped the horn in a new blanket and stashed it in the boot of the car. They’d also placed a cooler with ice and soft drinks next to the horn, as well as the old duffel bag. Their plan was to pull the car over into one of the less family laden parking lots overlooking the sea, pull out the cooler and act like a group of friends sharing a drink after a late night out. Once they’d felt they’d suitably fooled anyone showing signs of suspicion, they’d casually gather around the open boot, and talk loudly about sub-woofers and the eternal search for superior quality sound. Then Khaya would lean in and flip the blanket open, revealing the horn. In Khaya’s mind, the Asian would be so impressed at the sheer size of the beautiful specimen that he’d nod his assent immediately and agree to the price given to the sangoma. Khaya would close the blanket and roll the horn into the duffel bag that had housed it all this time in Durban. Then all four would climb back into the car and return to the hotel. Once there, the money, hidden in the camera bag, would be handed over to Mandla. Then Danny would jump out ahead of the Asian, grab the duffel from the boot, loudly thank him for his patronage, and hand over the duffel while reminding him not to forget his purchase of two beautifully hand-crafted wooden giraffes from a local curio-seller on the beachfront.

Khaya pulled into an appropriate parking lot – not too many cars, but not too few. He parked someway down from a family packing up after a long day in the sun, stomachs fit to burst from delicious platefuls of mutton curry and rice, and fragrant sujie for dessert; the scent of it still hanging in the dense sea air. Part A of the plan was underway. The men casually exited the car and while Danny made a show of stretching his arms above his head, leaning to either side, Mandla opened the boot. The cooler was pulled out and the lid popped off. Mandla handed out drinks randomly and Danny, elected by the others to talk sound like only a Naidoo can, began his nattering away. As the men leaned in to view the imaginary speakers, a car, with sound so superior it bounced slowly along the tarmac, pulled up three bays over. By this point, Khaya got spooked and felt a now or never attitude was called for, and pulled back the blanket to reveal the ash grey length of horn, nestled against the blood red of the wool. An unexpected whistle of appreciation left the lips of the Asian, which unleashed a torrent of commando style yelling and pounding of feet. The tableau was lit up by large beams of light, and the all four men were pushed to the ground, faces squashed against the fine grit of sea sand coating the tar.

With his hands tied roughly behind his back, Danny watched, as if in a dream, the tango of police boots and canine paws move between sheets of overlapping light. To his right, he saw his fear and astonishment reflected in the eyes of Khaya, and behind Khaya, he watched as the Asian was helped to his feet by a police officer, high-fived and handed his police issue weapon.

The making of Danny Naidoo, perceived loafer and waster of space, was cut short by a well-executed sting operation. In an unlucky pre-determined sequence of events, a police officer called Khwezi, was stationed as a mole in the muti markets the day before. She only bumped into Danny by chance; she’d been pulling boxes out from under her table, trying to copy the design of nearby stalls, when she’d stood up and they’d collided. His shifty disposition, and his unlikely presence at the market, had her shady character antenna warming up. The week before, her unit had received a tip off from a member of public about a completely unrelated rhino horn deal going down. While all the male officers had got the cushy job of staking out the harbour, from the comfort of the bar at the Bat Centre, Khwezi was assigned the role of bad sangoma, complete with hair beads and wildebeest tail fly switch. Oh how they’d laughed! But it was Khwezi standing over Danny right now, one foot on his back, a large toothy smile splitting her moon face in two.

As he lay on the floor, a sharp piece of rock cutting into his temple, it dawned on him that this was as comfortable as it was going to get, for a very long time.

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