Table of Contents Phyllis Owen's serial.....
Stories and Serials
PHYLLIS OWEN: A SOFT WHITE CLOUD ~ CHAPTER FOUR
‘Please let me go,’ begged Nokwazi as he stared panic-stricken into the man’s callous face.
‘Shut up!’ the stranger snapped, his eyes gleaming.
Nokwazi sensed he was in great danger, but what could he do? The man’s grip was like a vice!
Suddenly someone else grabbed Nokwazi and jerked him free.
Thud! Nokwazi let out a cry of pain as his body hit the pavement. Looking up he saw that Samuel had gripped the stranger firmly around the neck, but the man managed to free himself by hitting Samuel in the stomach with his elbow. Samuel doubled up and sank to the ground. But only for a moment. As the man turned to grab Nokwazi again, Samuel, with an angry shout, made a dive at his legs. Both fell to the ground, a tangle of arms and legs. Samuel broke clear and, jumping to his feet, gave the man a vicious kick on the side of his head. The man fell back and lay motionless.
Nokwazi stared aghast at the still form. Is he dead? he wondered.
By this time a crowd had gathered.
Samuel grabbed Nokwazi by the arm and pulled him to his feet. ‘We must get away quickly!’ he hissed.
No sooner had he spoken than the man rolled onto his side and, pointing at Samuel, muttered, ‘Goodwin will get you for this.’
They forced their way through the crowd and, as they hastened down the road, Samuel pushed a five rand note into Nokwazi’s hand and asked angrily, ‘What did he say to you?’
Nokwazi shrugged. ‘I’ve never seen him before. He said he’s been watching me for several days.’
‘And you didn’t notice him?’ Samuel snapped.
Nokwazi said nothing but stared wide-eyed at Samuel.
‘Clear off!’ Samuel roared, and with a contemptuous wave of the hand he set off down a side street.
Nokwazi’s legs were still shaking from fright when he and Impuku walked home later that afternoon.
‘Hauw!’ exclaimed Impuku when Nokwazi related the story to him. ‘Samuel’s a hero!’
Nokwazi wasn’t sure he agreed with Impuku. Of course he was grateful that Samuel had come to his rescue, but he still didn’t trust him.
‘We’ve both had trouble this afternoon,’ broke in Impuku. ‘Samuel really gave me a terrible fright. I didn’t think he could be so fierce.’ Then a smile played around the corners of his mouth and he added: ‘From now on I won’t argue with Samuel. But who cares as long as we get our money.’
Nokwazi laughed, the tension slowly leaving him. ‘You’re right,’ he agreed, ‘we’re going to be very rich one day.’
The next morning the sky was overcast with a threat of rain. Nokwazi and Impuku arrived at the bus terminus early. Samuel was there waiting for them.
‘Whose jacket has an inside pocket?’ he asked.
‘Mine,’ replied Impuku, unzipping a large pocket in the lining of his jacket.
Samuel handed a small package he had been holding to Impuku. ‘Good! Slip this inside.’
Eagerly Impuku took the package and, after placing it in his pocket, zipped it up again.
‘Do you remember your instructions?’ Samuel wanted to know.
‘Yes!’ chorused the boys.
He nodded and gave them each a ten rand note and two one rand coins. ‘Your bus fare,’ he explained when they looked at him questioningly.
Samuel saw them onto a number five bus and left.
The boys were excited. Impuku had never before ridden in a bus and Nokwazi could only ever remember once riding in a bus a year before when one of his aunts came to stay with them for a few days. She had taken him and Phinda to the city to show them the sights and he still remembered the large ice creams she had bought them.
Most of the way Nokwazi and Impuku sat with their noses pressed against the windows staring at the houses with their lovely gardens and the large buildings that seemed to touch the sky.
All too soon the bus stopped at the city terminus. It was crowded with people, cars and buses. They climbed down from the bus and looked apprehensively about them.
‘Look!’ shouted Impuku excitedly, pointing with an outstretched arm to the opposite side of the broad street: ‘Nora!’
Nokwazi stared at the tall, shabby building before them. Some of the window panes were broken and boarded up with wood. Here and there large pieces of plaster had come away from the walls. It looked forbidding and uninviting. A few heavy drops of rain began falling. Nokwazi felt a moment of panic.
‘Let’s go before we get wet!’ exclaimed Impuku as he hurried across the street.
Nokwazi shook off the uneasy feeling that had come over him and followed Impuku. At the entrance to the building a strange musty smell came to meet them.
‘Yech!’ exclaimed Impuku. ‘This place stinks!’
The stairs leading up to the flats were littered with newspapers, empty packets and broken bottles.
Nokwazi shook his head in disgust. Even though they had always been very poor, Makhulu kept their clothes and the shanty spotlessly clean. She had told him and Phinda, over and over again, that there was no excuse for dirtiness. Makhulu, he knew, would never have allowed him to enter such a place.
Taking a deep breath, he slowly climbed the two flights of stairs with Impuku. They found the door with the number 211 painted on it. Nokwazi knocked tentatively three times.
As the boys stood waiting they became aware of the sound of footsteps. The door opened and a young girl stood in the doorway.
Nokwazi gasped in surprise. She could not have been more than sixteen years old, but her face was haggard and blotchy like an old woman’s. Her baggy jeans and blouse were torn and dirty and it appeared as if she had not washed for may weeks.
‘We want to see Louis,’said Impuku.
The girl’s glazed eyes seemed to light up momentarily.
‘You’ve brought the stuff?’ she asked.
A curious dread came over Nokwazi. There was something about the girl’s manner that put him on his guard. He knew he had to keep the package out of her hands.
‘No!’ he replied, ‘I’ve only a message for Louis.’
‘But…’ began Impuku, staring at Nokwazi in amazement.
Nokwazi nudged him on the arm.
Suddenly the girl’s face twisted into a terrible grimace and her eyes narrowed. ‘You lie!’ she screamed and, grabbing Nokwazi and Impuku by the fronts of their jackets, pulled them inside, slammed the door and locked it. She removed the key and put it into the pocket of her jeans.
‘You’re not leaving here until you give me my ‘fix’,’ she hissed, breathing hard.
Nokwazi and Impuku exchanged frightened glances. They realised that this girl was desperate and dangerous.
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