Zulu Brothers story: Lahliwe

But that wasn’t really an option now was it?
I looked at Sandile in the eye as I introduced myself, he looked me in the eye too and shook my hand.
He said there was woman, and he needed to get her out of a situation.
I asked him what he needed from us, he said just names and places.
I asked him why he wanted to get the woman out of the situation, and why he was willing to pay money for it.
He said the woman could be carrying his child.
I asked him who the woman was. He told me and I gasped.
Later I told my boss I couldn’t do it, that there are people in this world that you just don’t mess with.
But my boss is always ahead, in everything.
She said: “We are looking into the Wolmarans heist that was never solved,”
I knew about that heist, now and again it popped up in the news and I found it fascinating that it had been years since it happened and yet nobody had a clue who did it.
I mean, how do people steal R90million, kill someone while at it and get away with it? Just like that?
I told my boss that it could be dangerous to even pursue that thing, but she’s always been that type, the daring type, that’s why she owns a private investigator firm.
I was just an administrator then, filing data, printing documents and taking minutes in debriefing meetings.
I had been filing data our foot-soldiers kept collecting on the case when Sandile called to say he didn’t need our services anymore. He was sure it wasn’t his child, he said on the email.
But we were close, very close to cracking a case that the police had failed dismally to solve. I had read every document that landed on my desk and I knew that it was all beyond co-incidence. There was no way.
Another case landed soon after that and I had no choice but to let it all go.
When I met Sandile in Swaziland a year had passed and he never even mentioned it.
Now here I am, with one of the people I spent months trying to crack sitting on the floor of my balcony smoking weed.
If Sandile were here and I told him this, maybe he’d go back there, he hated these people.
I hear a knock and I immediately assume Marieke is done with her escapades and wants to throw herself on the bed now.
I drag myself to the door knowing it’s going to be a long night of her talking about Jaco.
But it isn’t her, it’s the weed guy.
“Eyi uyasinda lomlungu wakho,” he says.
What does he mean she’s heavy? That girl is as thin as spaghetti! Even her hair is thin!
He’s carried her halfway into the room and if he wasn’t here, I’d let her sleep on the floor because really, I haven’t had a peaceful night in five days.
But I don’t want to be that person so I hold her arms while he holds her legs and we carry her to her bed.
I expect him to leave immediately but he doesn’t, instead he sits at the edge of Marieke’s bed and looks across him at my bed.
“You brought your own linen?” he asks.
This is rather invasive but yes, I brought my own linen.
“I have this thing about…?”
“You have this thing about not wanting to use things that other people have used? A bit snobbish don’t you think?” he says.
Why is he cutting me off?
Also, I have never been accused of being a snob, I came from the wrecks and he doesn’t know anything about me.
“The white girl just wants a hug from her daddy, but you, why are you here?” he asks.
Again, invasive.
“My husband died and I’m not coping,” I say before I can stop myself.
“So? people die. Did you think he was going to live forever?”
“No, but I thought he was going to live long enough,”
He looks straight at me and rubs the palms of his hands together.
“Nobody lives long enough, there’d be no space to stand on the ground if anybody lived long enough,” he says.
I guess it’s true what they say about ganja-heads, they become deep when they are high.
“I have a five-year-old daughter and I would have loved for her to have her father all her life,”
I’m being honest.
I’m not sure if I would have stayed married to Sandile all my life but he would have been Zothile’s father all her life.
“So why are you here?”
Didn’t I just tell him why?
“You look like you are coping very well to me,” he says.
Condescending isn’t he?
Okay, that’s it!
“Losing a husband isn’t as hectic as almost killing your own brother, so yes, I’m more relaxed because my conscience is clear,”
He does that thing of pulling the two ropes of his hoodie together again. His forehead wrinkles but his eyes remain as big as they were.
Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about his brother. We are not supposed to use the stuff said in the Aura Room against each other, Senzi would be mad if she found out.
“My brother has always had my back,” he says.
“And yet you almost killed him?”
Why am I continuing with this? And why have I not told this guy to leave?
“Yes I did,”
He’s stopped that thing with his hands and I’m glad because it was damn irritating.
“And you don’t regret it?”
He nods and lies back, resting his head on Marieke’s bum like it’s a pillow.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love my brother. I’d kill for him, I’d kill all of you for him because that’s how he raised me, to be loyal and to act when I have to,”
I don’t even understand what that means, and I can’t even explain that to him because he hasn’t taken his eyes off me since he said those words.
Never in the five days that I have been here have I wished for Marieke to be wide awake and irritating me than I do now. She brought this guy here, she must make him leave.
“See this?” he says, pulling his hoodie down and pointing at a scar on his shoulder.
I nod, because I’m stupid and instead of running out of this room screaming, I’m letting a man I know isn’t really harmless show me his scars.
“I got this scar from a broken glass window, I was eleven. My brothers left us, me and my two younger brothers with a woman called MaZulu, she was supposed to be family because we shared a surname with her. They paid her to live with us in her shack because we were too young to live at the men’s hostel, but you know what she did?”
I shake my head, because really, how the hell would I know?
“She rented us out to fat men,”
“Yes, fat men. They were fat because they couldn’t enter rich people’s houses through windows, they needed two thin young boys to do that for them. I’d break the window and enter first, my younger brother would come in after me and deactivate the alarm, up to today I still don’t know how he does that, and he was eight, eight years old. Once inside we’d unlock all doors so the fat men could come in and steal whatever they wanted,”
I’d squirm if I wasn’t me, but rich people weren’t exactly my favourite people growing up so I’m far from the point where I find something wrong with what the fat men did.
“My brother… the one I almost killed. Do you know what he did when he found out? And I was about 16 then,”
I shake my head, because again, how would I possibly know?
“They found the fat men, all four of my older brothers, they found the fat men and they made them sit on chairs, together with MaZulu. Nkosana has this thing of slitting throats, him and Qhawe, they like doing that. Mqhele is a different story all together, he doesn’t have a specific thing but when he has decided you are gone, you are gone,”
I know all these names. They came up in the Wolmaranstad investigation documents but there were other names too, I couldn’t link the Zulu brothers to the heist but something told me they were there too.
“The fat men were easy, but MaZulu,” he says and sighs.
“MaZulu cried like our mother cried when they were burning her alive. I can still hear her, even today I can still hear her,”
Okay now I don’t know what he’s talking about, I know nothing about his mother.
“That’s why a decision was made on that night that women, no matter what they do, should be left alone. We couldn’t sleep for days after that,”
I’m lost now, but I won’t dare ask him to stop talking because nobody has ever been this open with their crimes, not unless they are about to die.
“I couldn’t stay after that. I ran away, disappeared for months and to be honest I never thought I’d come back,” he says and goes back to rubbing his palms together.
It’s not irritating this time, because as much as I didn’t want his weed-head here earlier, this is the most fascinating story I have ever heard and I believe this is the first and last time he’ll ever tell it to anyone.
The part I don’t understand is why he is telling it to me.
He’s gone quiet and I can’t have that.
“So where did you go?” I ask.
“Away. To the world,” he says and sighs.
I’ve always tried to stay away from men like him, all my life because I know what their presence does to my clitoris, but this one’s force is strong.
“They found me. Can you believe they looked for me until they found me?”
He’s left Marieke’s bum alone and he’s sitting up straight now, looking at me like I should be surprised that his brothers looked for him the whole time.
“I came back because Lals…”
“Please don’t call me that, my name is Lale,”
“Okay. I came back to find my younger brother a different person. Some woman with big breasts and hips had done that to him, changed him and made him mad like me,”
“You aren’t mad,”
“You don’t know me,” he says.
He’s right, I don’t.
“If I had been there, that woman would not have touched him,”
I wait to hear what was done to the brother, but instead of telling me he rubs his hands together again.
“Her name was Carol and I never met her,” he says.
“I failed at this loyalty thing, I always have failed at it,”
He goes back to where he was, his head on Marieke’s bum and he doesn’t look like he’s going to tell me more about Carol.
But a bigger thing has been worrying me.
“So why did you want to kill your brother?”
He looks at me longer that I’m comfortable with and everything I learned on my job and school of life escapes me and I look away from him.
“Because I can’t be loyal, that’s why,” he says.
This man is the complex type, I’ve already figured that out.
He looks at his watch and stands up.
I don’t want him to leave, I want him to tell me everything.
“This white girl is messed up,” he says looking down at Marieke snoring on the bed. And then he leaves.
What the hell just happened here?