Books: Extract From Weeping Waters By Karin Brynard

November 8, 2014

Karin Brynard is a huge seller in the Afrikaans crime fiction market. New book Weeping Waters sees her work available for English-speaking readers for the first time. Below is an extract from the book.


The call came through just after two. He was at his desk at the police station, having his lunch of vetkoek and mince. Washed down, as usual, with a mug of strong black coffee. Three sugars. He was almost done when the phone rang.
One of the constables on duty in the charge office. “There’s been a murder,” the man gasped, “two dead. A farm killing. Woman and child. White. On Huil¬water farm, about forty kays out on the Upington road.” And then, “The caller’s still on the line. Would the Inspector like to speak to him?”
Inspector Albertus Markus Beeslaar shoved the vetkoek aside.
A man’s voice, shaky and hoarse. “Too late,” he kept repeating, “a madman … a devil …” The voice broke off. “Like animals. Both of them, just slaughtered. Blood. On everything. Everywhere.” He said he was standing in it. Then the man began to sob, stammering about being too late.
It took some coaxing to get a name out of him. “Boet Pretorius,” he eventually answered. “From the farm next door.” The child was barely four years old. “Four, just four,” he said, over and over again.
“Where’s the woman’s husband?” Beeslaar asked this several times.
“There is no f***ng husband,” was the fierce reply. A foreman, yes, but he was nowhere to be found.
Where was he phoning from?
There was a long silence, as if the man had to think about it.
Then, “Good God, man! Get out of the house, now,” Beeslaar ordered. “Wait outside. I’m on my way.”
For a moment Beeslaar didn’t move. So much for a peaceful life on the platteland, his dream of a quiet small-town post. He threw the vetkoek into his wastepaper basket and told the constable on duty to send more backup to Huilwater. He rounded up two colleagues and got a car. The Citi Golf. The only one available in a carpool of two. No air con, a hundred and eighty thousand on the clock. They squeezed in, ready to tackle the forty kilometres of dirt road.
Sergeant Pyl had to take the back, with Ghaap in the passenger seat. Beeslaar crammed his own two-metre frame behind the wheel. Cursing under his breath, as he did each time he got into the tiny car: the steering wheel too close to his knees, the seat too narrow, no legroom, his head against the roof, leaving him feeling hemmed in and pissed off. This afternoon was no exception. He was in a foul mood already, even before they hit the road that led to the murder scene.
But all that didn’t irritate him as much as the fact that he was still struggling to find his feet in this post: real city boy, ill at ease in a world of farmers and cattle and farm roads and sand and snakes and blazing-heat-without-air-con. He’d barely arrived, blissfully under the impression he was heading for a quiet job in a peaceful backwater, when the shit hit the fan and started flying in all directions.
He arrived right in the middle of an unprecedented wave of stock theft. And either he wasn’t a detective’s backside any more, or he was dealing with a super-sophisticated mafia. Because he could find neither hide nor hair of these crooks, no matter how hard he tried.
The farmers were at their wits’ end. And furious, because they were being nailed. Everyone wanted results, arrests – while he was having a hard time telling his arse from his elbow, let alone rounding up a cunning bunch of stock thieves.
And then, just a fortnight ago, two farm workers were brutally murdered on Vaalputs. They must have caught the thieves in the act. The remnants of a flock of sheep, some with throats cut, others with hock tendons slashed, had lain there, bleating and bleeding to death, all goddamn night. Till the farmer discov¬ered them the next morning and put them out of their misery. And only then found the bodies of the workers, the Jacobs brothers, underneath the carcasses, trampled to shreds by the panicked beasts.
And he, Albertus Markus Beeslaar, sat there like a damn fool. With everyone looking to him, the new guy with so many years of experience. Big Man from the Big City. Schooled by the cream of the crop of Johannesburg’s old Murder and Robbery Squad. But here he was now, blowing around like a lost fart. With not a clue about what to do next. If only he had caught the thieves, the Huilwater woman and her child would still be alive to— He narrowly dodged a pothole. Bumped his head, berated himself – stop brooding and focus on the road: the potholes were the size of chest freezers.
With half an ear, he listened to Sergeant Pyl behind him – the hyperactive one, who couldn’t keep his trap shut for a second, even if he had to shout to make himself heard above the din of gravel clattering against the chassis. There was lots of gossip, he said, about the single woman farming on Huilwater. An eccen¬tric artist from Johannesburg. And the Griqua girl she was adopting, and that weird Bushman farm manager of hers. Pyl’s voice was virtually drowned out as they rattled over a corrugated stretch of road, so that Beeslaar couldn’t always follow the thread.
Half an hour of shuffling, shaking and head-bumping. Pyl prattling on doggedly from the back. Ghaap, his long, skinny body folded up like a stick insect on the seat next to him, was thankfully less talkative. Then they finally found the turn-off to Huilwater and stopped at the back door of the farmhouse.
Boet Pretorius was sitting on the back steps, his large figure hunched over. There was blood on his clothes. Stains on his knees and forearms. Even in his hair. There was vomit on his shirt, and a dark smear on the hand that was clutching a cigarette. Around him a wordless gathering of men: farmers from the district, driven in from God knows where.
Who’d sent word? Beeslaar wondered fleetingly. Pretorius? One was still hovering in the kitchen doorway, his face pale and frightened. Probably went in to satisfy a macabre curiosity, Beeslaar thought as he headed for the group.
“Beeslaar,” he introduced himself, “and Sergeants Pyl and Ghaap. How many of you have been inside?” He got his answer in the form of downcast faces, hands fumbling with a hat or a pistol at the hip. “Christ,” he muttered, and walked past them.
The man at the door quickly stood aside. “There’s no one left,” he told Beeslaar, who took a moment to comprehend what the man was trying to say.
“From now on, you all stay clear of this house,” Beeslaar barked. “This is a murder scene, not a fucking freak show!” He swallowed back his anger and then tried again, more evenly, “Please see to it that nobody leaves this place before I’ve talked to every one of you! Understood?” He waited sternly until they assented. Then he turned and went inside the house. Over his shoulder he ordered Pyl to man the back door – no one, apart from the forensics team from Upington, was permitted – and Ghaap, meanwhile, should start taking statements and round up some officers to find the farm labourers.
It was a particularly gruesome scene. In twenty years with the South African Police Service, he’d not witnessed anything like this. He saw the child first. In the first bedroom. Lying on her side, in a pool of blood. He could see the blood was fresh – a few hours, at most.
The woman’s body was in a second bedroom. She was sitting on the floor, her back against a chair. Her arms hung loosely, hands relaxed, palms open to the ceiling. Like a ragdoll propped upright on a child’s bed. But without a head. Or rather, from where he was standing in the doorway, he couldn’t see one. And he didn’t want to get too close – he’d wait for the team from Forensics. Not that this was a pristine murder scene, exactly.
The two bedrooms and the passage were covered in bloody tracks from the farmers traipsing in and out. Beeslaar felt his blood pressure rise. The forensics team from Upington turned out to be one bloke. “Sorry I’m so late,” he said, introducing himself as Hans Deetlefs. “Without my gps I’d never have found the place!” He looked pretty pleased with himself and his GPS, this man with the fresh face and big specs. He was a short man, but clearly minus the accompanying syndrome. And he seemed smart. Already kitted out in his plas¬tic coveralls and shoes, bag of tricks in his left hand, camera hanging from his neck. “Welcome to the wild North West, Inspector,” he said, blinking his little eyes in a self-satisfied way. “I hear you’re all the way from Joburg!”
Beeslaar mumbled a response, in no mood for chitchat.
Extract from Weeping Waters by Karin Brynard courtesy of Penguin Books South Africa. For more information, go to