Chapter 1 [James Butternox, Monday, 16 February 2015, 12:00]
I am screaming at the top of my lungs, but nobody hears me. There is nobody to save me. I am falling and falling, deeper and deeper into the darkness. My muscles are aching and there is perspiration all over my body. When… will… this… end?
I feel my body twitching. My eyelids are heavy. Slowly I open it. Am I dead? Where am I? I look around the room. I close my eyes again. It’s burning. I have a pounding headache. And I feel sick and weak.
I slowly open my eyes again. I look around the room. It is white. Everything is white. Am I dead? What is the last thing I remember? Is this heaven? Well… it feels like hell. I close my eyes again and try to make sense of where I am.
After a few minutes I open my eyes again and look around. I realise that I am in a hospital bed. I search for the button to call the nurse. Finally my fingers find it and I press it. A minute later a nurse appears.
“Where am I?”
“Good morning, Mr Smith. You are in hospital. You were in an accident a few days ago. You’re very lucky. You bumped your head pretty hard but you didn’t sustain any major injuries.”
“The Sisters of Mercy Hospital.”
“And where is that?”
She continues to take my blood pressure and listen to my heart rate. She writes something on my chart.
“I will ask the doctor to come and speak to you as soon as possible. Are you hungry or thirsty?”
“Yes, is it possible to get something smooth like yoghurt or jelly?”
“Certainly. I’ll phone the kitchen right away. Get some rest.”
She leaves as quietly as she appeared. I feel very confused. Is it a case of mistaken identity? Wasn’t my wallet with me when I was in the accident? She called me “Mr Smith” but I am James Butternox. And where is my cell phone? Certainly they phoned my ICE (“in case of emergency”) contacts. Where is Jill? Or my mother for that matter? Why is no one at my bedside? Maybe they were tired and went to get some food or went home to take a shower?
Did she say “a few days ago”? Boy, my boss is going to be pissed. I had that important deadline. What day is it? O my word, I feel so confused. What happened anyway? Accident, they say. I can’t remember any accident. But how is it that I remember everything else about my life? My lovely wife, Jill, with her reddish blond curls and supple body; my overbearing mother who can always think of another insult and who dresses like a teenager; all my friends; my job; my bombastic boss and my Golden Retriever called Lady.
I am so tired. I just lay there for a while. Then the doctor enters the room. He explains about the accident and the head injuries I sustained. I have a cerebral concussion and I was in a coma for three days but he thinks that the swelling in my brain is down and they need to do another MRI scan. He keeps on calling me “Mr Smith”.
Finally I say, “I’m not Mr Smith. My name is James Butternox.”
The doctor and the nurse exchange looks. How odd.
“Do you know what day it is?”
“Well, if I was in a coma for three days, it’s probably a Saturday. The 19th of July 2014.”
Again the exchanged looks. What is going on?
“It’s the 5th of February 2015.”
“Mr Sm… uhh.. sir, I’m afraid it seems that you have partial amnesia from the brain injuries you sustained.”
“Partial amnesia? What does that even mean? I remember everything fine – my wife, my mother, my friends and colleagues and my dog.”
“Do you have a contact number for your wife?”
“Off course. Her name is Jill Butternox. Her number is 071 255 5525. Call her. Has she already been here today?”
“No-one has been here to visit you since you arrived, sir.”
I feel a heat wave going through my body. My anger is rising. If I don’t make sense of this situation, I’m going to lose it very soon. I want to see Jill!
“Sir, we will bring you your belongings so that you can go through them. Maybe you will remember something. In the meantime, sister, please call radiology and book a MRI scan for Mr Sm…, Mr Butternox. Thanks. I will see you later. Good day, sir.”
They both leave, leaving me with confusion and racing thoughts. Will they phone my wife? Everything feels so weird. Why am I the only patient in the room? Normally there are four beds in a hospital room. My medical aid doesn’t cover private rooms.
The sister comes back with my personal affects. It looks like my wallet. It even has teeth marks in the leather where Lady chewed on it when she was still a puppy. I check the cell phone. Yes, it’s mine all right. I have this compulsion to draw ;) on everything, a wink. I don’t know why, I just draw it all the time. And there is the minute winking face in the bottom right hand corner at the back of my cell phone.
I open my wallet. I’m convinced that I will now be able to prove that I am James Butternox. And then I’m phoning Jill. I open the wallet and take out my driver’s licence. That’s me on the photo. Sandy brown hair, blue eyes, aristocratic nose. My birth date is correct. 7 August 1985. Then I look at the name. Kevin Michael Smith. Really? Who would give their child such a stupid name? Kevin Michael? It doesn’t even sound right. No! It can’t be! I KNOW I am James Butternox. Okay, really it’s Jameson Butternox - maybe my mother had one too many whiskeys when she thought of this name? So, what the hell?
I take out my credit card, my Clicks card, my Pick ‘n Pay Smart Shopper card and all the others. They ALL say Mr KM Smith. I don’t understand this. Maybe I hit my head really hard - but hard enough to get someone else’s memories? I doubt that very much.
Suddenly I realise that my watch and wedding ring isn’t there. It isn’t worth much but in my mind it is priceless. I feel exhausted. I close my eyes and immediately I fall into a deep sleep.
Chapter 2 [James Butternox, Monday, 16 February 2015; 12:45]I wake up. I feel groggy. It feels like I have been sleeping for hours. I haven’t even phoned Jill yet. She must be so worried about me. My tummy is rumbling. I open my eyes and see a large bowl of jelly and custard on the serving tray. I sit up and eat it. It feels like heaven, smoothly going down my dry throat. I feel better instantly. I look at my cell phone. The battery is flat.
I try to get up. Oh, I’ve got that ridiculous hospital gown on where people can see your arse if you’re not careful, and no underwear. Great! And I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible.
I look in the bedside cupboard and find a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, socks and tekkies. And, thank goodness, also clean underwear. I get dressed quickly. I feel fine. There’s no way I’m going to stay in this place for a minute longer. I just need to get home a see Jill and Lady. Then everything will be all right.
I test my legs and body strength. Not as good as I remember it, but fine for the get-away. I slightly open the door slowly and silently. The nurse is busy at the nurses station, turned away, chatting happily with her boyfriend on her cell phone.
I sneak out and soundlessly close the door. I crawl past the nurses’ station and out into the corridor. Then I get up and walk quickly, trying to find the nearest exit. With luck I will find a busy Emergency Room and can just sneak out.
It’s very quiet in the hospital. That is odd. No doctors and nurses walking around. No cleaners mopping the floor. Where is everybody? This is eerie.
I don’t stick around to find out why it’s so quiet and where everybody is. I sneak out the closest door with an “EXIT” sign. I shield my eyes from the blazing sun. Damn, it’s hot! It really must be February. I run over a patch of grass and leave the hospital grounds through the huge iron gates. I run-walk quickly along the sidewalk to the nearest bus stop or taxi rank that I can find. There are already sweat stains under my arms from the effort of walking. I’m weaker than I thought. I hold onto a lamp post for a moment and catch my breath before I continue onwards. I don’t know the area at all so it’s difficult to know where I’m going and if I am even moving in the right direction.
As I’m walking I check my wallet. I thought I saw some cash in it when I went through it in the hospital. As I open my wallet I see my hands and they remind me of my father’s hands. I put that thought right out of my head. I still get a knot in my stomach when I think of Dad, even if he died twenty six years ago.
I have always been very meticulous about paying with cash. Once you start swiping the card, what prevents you from doing it again and again? No, the way to become successful and rich is to live frugal. Buy only what you need and indulge yourself once in a while.
There is R1 820 in my wallet. Why on earth am I carrying so much cash with me? My daily withdrawal limit is only R1 000. Well, luckily I have it now because I have no idea how much money I will need to get home.
A block away I see a taxi-stop. I’m a little bit scared, I admit. It’s not as if I’m racist or anything but a tall white guy with blue eyes and sandy brown hair in a taxi full of black and coloured people definitely stands out. I stand inside the taxi-shelter, out of the scrutinising sun. I wonder how much a taxi will cost from Cape Town to Stellenbosch.
Finally a mini-bus taxi stops here. The driver and other people look at me like I’m some kind of alien. I ask the driver where the taxi is going. He says that he is on his way to Kuilsriver and that is the furthest they travel on this route. From the taxi rank in Kuilsriver I can take another taxi to Stellenbosch.
I get into the taxi. I just see white teeth on dark faces as the tired people show their amusement with a white boytjie on the taxi. I sit in the second row from the front. I’m squashed between a coloured guy in dirty jeans and a big black women who also has her shopping on her lap. I find it hard to breathe and the mingling smell of different people’s sweat is overwhelming. I feel nauseous but have no choice – I have to get home.
Suddenly people start passing money from the back to me. My neighbour sees that I am confused and he explains in Cape-Afrikaans, “My Lanie, die texie fêr is fôtie-faif Rênd. Djy moet a-mal se gelt va agte af sa-vat, djoune bysit en da wie voerentoe aanpass.” [The taxi fare is R45. You must take all the money from the back, add yours to it and then pass it on to the front.]
In Kuilsriver I locate a taxi going to Stellenbosch. I get in. Another R45. This time I know the drill. I’m also used to the sweaty odour in the air.
They drop me off at the Taxi stop at Die Braak in the middle of Stellenbosch. It’s already late afternoon, probably 4 o’clock. The shops are still open. I phone Jill. Maybe she can leave work early and pick me up. No answer. I leave a voice message, “Jilly Bean, it’s me, James. I’m standing at Eikestad Mall and was wondering if you can pick me up. I don’t have my car. Please phone me back as soon as you get this message. Love you! Bye.”
Jill only gets off work at 5 o’clock at the earliest. She works a lot of overtime, as do I. She is a lawyer and it is really survival of the fittest out there. She is a good lawyer. People go back to her because of her empathetic and straight forward manner. She is a short woman and she always wears high heels to make herself look taller. She wants to look a client (or the enemy) in the eye.
She doesn’t come from a rich family. When she was five, Child Welfare took her away from her alcoholic parents because they couldn’t look properly after her anymore. She was adopted by a nice family, but the emotional damage was done. She studied Law to make a real difference in normal people’s lives. But even when she tries her best it doesn’t stop disgruntled clients who are in jail to send her death threats from time to time. Arseholes. She doesn’t know where her real parents are now, whether they are dead or alive, and she doesn’t care either.
I think about it. Will I sit and have coffee and something to eat or will I just walk to Jill’s office myself? Jill and I love to hang out in coffee shops and just read the paper or talk. I miss Jill so much that I decide to rather walk to her work. I just want to hold her and rest my face in her neck, smell the sweet, flowery perfume that she has always worn since we were in high school.
I’m tired and I stink. My coma, the weather, as well as the claustrophobic atmosphere in the taxis contributed to that. I hate how I look and feel. I normally dress nicely, even when I am just at home. Now I look like a drenched dog. I start walking towards Dorp Street. At Checkers I stop to buy a chicken-and-mushroom pie and a 500ml bottle of Coke.
I eat and drink while I continue walking down Dorp Street. When I see her office building, I try to clean my face as best as I can and I enter the foyer. I’ve always felt very welcome here in these grand lawyers’ offices but today I feel out of place. I normally wear formal clothing as I am a chartered accountant. Now I am in jeans, a stinky T-shirt with sweat stains and tekkies, and not clean ones at that.
I try to keep my pose as I walk closer to the receptionist. Mary, the usual receptionist, who is an elderly kind-hearted woman, is not there. Instead there is some young beautiful blond girl that looks like she is rather a model than a receptionist at a law firm. She puts away her cell phone to give me her full attention.
I a honey-dripping voice she asks “May I help you, sir?”
“Yes. I would like to speak to Jill Butternox. Can you please call her for me?” I reply.
“Do you have an appointment, sir?”
“No. She is my wife. I just need to talk to her quickly. Can you please call her?”
She gives me a look of ‘look what the cat dragged in’ while she picks up the phone to summons Jill. I sit on the red velvet covered couch in the waiting area and look at the modern art against the walls.
Five minutes later Jill walks in. Man, she’s a looker and she’s got a great heart. Her red hair slides through the air as she walks into the foyer. She looks at me with her green eyes. She has a pointy nose and she hates that fact about herself - but I love it. She is always dressed in formal work clothes and those high heels makes her calves look even sexier that they are. I’m such a lucky man!
“James? Let’s go talk in my office.”
Well, at least she didn’t think I’m Kevin Michael! What a relief.
I follow her into her medium sized office and she closes the heavy wooden door. She is a very private person and will never discuss any matters in front of colleagues or the receptionist. I’m so tired - I just fall into the leather chair opposite her desk.
“James? What’s wrong? Why aren’t you at work? Why do you look like this? What happened?” She is frowning and looks super concerned but also puzzled. Her brows look like question marks.
I start explaining about the accident, that I was in a coma for three days, about my concussion and swollen brain, how I “booked” myself out of hospital and how I finally got to her via the taxis and walking.
She listens quietly to my story the whole time, with her hands folded neatly in her lap. She has her game face on. This is odd. She usually reserves that face for clients and my mother. I can see her nervously pressing the pinkie of her one hand with the thumb and index finger of the other.
When I’m done, she says, “James, you were not in an accident. You woke up next to me in bed this morning. You scolded Lady for lying on your work clothes you put out last night. We had muesli and yoghurt. You were late for work and left in a hurry. I left a few minutes later.”
“Impossible!” That’s the third time I’ve said this word today.
“Where’s your car?”
“I don’t know” I reply.
“Well, take my car, go home, get a shower and climb into bed. Maybe you’re coming down with something. I’m really worried about you.”
“I lost my house keys.”
“O my word! We’ll have to change the locks! You know about the threats I receive” she scolds but then she says in a calmer voice, “Let’s talk about it later. It’s now first a priority for you to get home. I will catch a lift with Lilly.” Lilly is one of her colleagues.
I thank her and take the car and house keys. I locate her car in the secured parking lot, an easy job, since she always parks in the exactly the same spot. I get into her silver Volkswagen Polo. As I start the car I turn the air con on full power. Oh, how nice that feels. I really just want to get into my own shower.
I drive home. We can afford a larger home. In fact, we own a larger home, but it is more profitable to rent it out while we keep on living in our two-bedroom flat, the one we bought just after our wedding five years ago. It’s also almost walking distance from Jill’s work. The traffic in Stellenbosch can get quite bad, especially in the morning and late afternoon. A long time ago the roads may have been sufficient for the inhabitants but in the past ten years or so the amount of university students and residents increased astronomically – or so it feels. Even in December the town is bustling with people.
I park in the driveway in front of our semi-detached flat. I get out, lock the car, open the small iron gate and walk to the front door. Lady is sitting in the living room window, waving her tail furiously and barking a welcome bark – one only reserved for me. She is already six years old. We rescued her from a ditch and since then she has been our “child”.
I unlock the door and immediately Lady is all over me. She kisses me and I physically need to push her off me. I bury my head in her thick hair while I scratch her behind her ears.
Then I go directly to our bedroom. I strip off my stinky clothes and put it in the laundry basket. I open the shower taps and step into the coolness of the fresh water. I just stand there and let the water flow over me.
After half an hour I feel much better. I get out of the shower and put on some clean clothes. It smells exactly like it always smells. I brush my teeth with my electric toothbrush, comb my hair, drink two head ache tablets and get into bed. Our maid comes on a Monday and Thursday, so the bedding is clean, crisply ironed and smells of Stay Soft. I hope Jill will be home soon. I should probably phone my boss, but I don’t feel like it. I put my head down on the pillow and exhaustion takes over. I’m fast asleep within seconds.
Chapter 3 [James Butternox, Monday, 16 February 2015, 17:50]I wake up with a start. Someone is screaming at me. He is pointing a gun at me! I am so stunned - my first thought is how I always told Jill how safe we are in our flat. I only got a gun to make her feel better. For in case one of the deranged ex-cons seeks revenge.
I put my hands in the air. “I’m unarmed! Take anything you like! Just don’t hurt me.” Then I take a closer look at this guy pointing the gun at me. I can’t believe it! No! It’s not possible! The guy pointing the gun at me is ME.
James-with-the-gun says, “What are you talking about? You are invading MY home, sleeping in MY clothes in MY bed. Get out of here, you psycho!”
I, James-without-the-gun, get up out of the bed. Suddenly James-with-the-gun sees my face more clearly.
“Holy crap, what’s going on? Your… you… you look just like me! Who are you?”
I answer, “I am Jameson Butternox, born on the 7th of August 1985. This is my house and I live here with my wife, Jill.”
He replies, “No! I am Jameson Butternox!”
He thinks for a moment and then he orders me to go into the bathroom. He locks the door from the outside. I can hear him phoning Jill. He gets agitated, screaming at her that he was NOT in her office a while ago. He was at work until now and now there is a strange man in our house who looks like him!
He slams down the phone. I can hear him breathe heavily. Then I start thinking. Is it possible that I have an identical twin brother that Nicky (my mother) gave away at birth? But if that is the case, why does he also think he is James and that he lives in this house?
“James!” I shout, “Phone Nicky. Ask her if she had identical twins when I was born!”
“How do you know my mother’s name is Nicky?” I hear fear in his voice.
“Because she is my mother.”
I can hear James-with-the-gun walking away and then just silence. I don’t have a watch on, so I don’t know how much time has passed. My head is killing me and I feel nauseous. I sit on the bath mat with my back against the wall.
After a while, which felt like forever to me, I hear Jill talking to James. They both enter the room.
James says. “I’m going to open the door. Don’t make any sudden moves. Jill is with me. I still got the gun.”
He opens the door. Jill is as white as a sheet. She looks from me to him and him to me several times. “Remarkable”, she says.
“Well, there has to be a practical explanation for this, right?” Jill is always so practical, trying to diffuse a situation and finding solutions. She tells James-with-the-gun to put the gun away in the safe. He does so reluctantly. She puts up a brave face, but I can see her trembling.
We all go to the dining room. She hands us each a sheet of paper. “Okay, I’m going to ask you some questions and each of you has to write down the answers. Don’t look at each other’s answers.”
I get up, take my paper and go sit at the other end of the dining table. She starts asking questions – full name, birth date, mother’s full names, Lady’s birth date, stuff about my work, stuff about her and lastly, about my birthmark. I write everything in my neat handwriting. My grade 4 teacher said my handwriting were more beautiful than most girls’ handwriting in the class. I think she meant that as a compliment but it didn’t go down very well.Jill takes the two pages and goes to the kitchen.
Chapter 4 [Jill Butternox, 19:00, Monday, 16 February 2015]My heart is racing. It feels like it’s going to jump right out of my chest. I close my eyes, say a quick silent prayer, and open them up again. Tea! Tea will help me now. I switch on the kettle and get out my favourite pink girly mug that my mother gave me on my seventh birthday. I make myself a cup of Five Roses Earl Grey tea.
I sip my tea slowly and turn the pages around. Astounding! Their handwritings are identical, not alike, but identical. What can this mean? How can there be two James’s who looks the same and has the same handwriting? I was wrong – I don’t think there is a practical explanation for this.
Then I start comparing answers. They both have all the answers correct, including the birth mark one. Well, the proof is in the pudding. I drain my tea, put my cup in the sink and go back into the living room.
I take a deep breath. “Both of you have ALL the answers correct.” I say quietly.
“Impossible!” screams both James’s at the same time.
I take another deep breath.
“Both of you turn around and drop your pants.”
They both do it, knowing that I am checking for the birth mark on his buttocks – in the shape of a sailing ship.
They both have the sailing ship in exactly the same place! I feel the world going dark around me.
Chapter 5 [Kevin, Monday, 16 February 2015]
We both jump forward to catch Jill as she faints. I catch her first. Let’s just call me Kevin from now on and the other James we can call James.
“Get away from her!” James shouts at me.
He looks like he is about to attack me so I stand back.
“I’ll go get some water” I say and then I go to the kitchen.
When I come back Jill is sitting up.
“Here is some water”
“Thanks. What happened?”
“You fainted”, says James and I at the same time.
This is getting lame. I wish that I can just punch the guy out.
Jill looks at me. “James, you are the James that came to my office earlier, right?”
“Right”, I confirm.
“Can you show me your driver’s licence or some other card with your name on?” Now I know I’m in trouble. I know all my cards say Mr KM Smith. How can I prove to her that I am me?
Chapter 6 [Jill Butternox, Monday, 16 February 2015]James-of-this-afternoon looks down. Then he looks up. He looks me directly in the eye. The brims of his blue eyes have turned red and I can see he is fighting the tears.
He fetches his wallet form the buffet table where he always puts his wallet, cell phone, watch and wedding ring when he gets home. Except, there is no watch and wedding ring there now. I look at the other James. He still has his watch and wedding ring on.
James-of-this-afternoon quietly says in a strained voice, laced with emotion, “Jilly Bean, I don’t know what’s happening. I love you so much. I’ve known you since we were in diapers. I KNOW I am the real James, but I can’t prove it.” A tear rolls down his cheek.
He put his hand out offering me his wallet and I take it. I look at it closely. It is his wallet all right – same colour and Lady’s teeth marks in the leather. I open it. I pull out each card and put it back. Every time it says “Mr KM Smith”.
I look at his driver’s licence. It’s him on the photo. His birth date is correct. But the name is Kevin Michael Smith. I close the wallet and give it back to him.
I turn to James-in-formal-work-clothes. “Can I see YOUR wallet?” He takes out his wallet from his pocket and gives it to me. I don’t understand – it is James’s wallet again, same colour and same dog teeth marks.
“Are you two playing tricks on me? Am I even awake or is this some kind of nightmare? Because I can promise you, it’s NOT funny.”
“No tricks” says James-in-formal-work-clothes, “you can see from the wallet that I am the REAL Jameson Butternox. Check my cards.” I do so and all the cards confirm it – Mr J Butternox.
I try to hide my shock. I can hear my heart beating in my ears. Obviously this James can prove he is the real James. But I felt a bigger emotional connection with Kevin. How can that be? I’m just standing there like a dumb ass statue while I hear James throwing Kevin out of the house. Lady is howling.
“Please, Jilly, please! Don’t forget about me!” shouts Kevin. Lady pushes past my legs and slips around James. He tries to catch her but is unsuccessful. Lady runs full speed to the fence. She pushes her snout through the opening and puts her nose in Kevin’s hand. I see all this and I think “Lady knows HER James.”
I stand there and I am scared. I don’t know what to do. James calls Lady in. She refuses to come.
“Oh, fuck that dog!” says James agitated. Now I’m really scared. THIS is NOT my husband. Kevin is my husband. How will I ever contact Kevin again? What is going on? I feel like I’m losing my mind. Just this morning everything was still normal and now…
Chapter 7 [Kevin, Monday, 16 February 2015]Lady charges past James to me. She puts her snout through the opening in the fence. She is whining and I feel her wet nose caressing the palm of my hand.
“It’s okay, girl. It’s okay. I’ll be back for you.” I say in a calming voice – although I feel anything but calm inside.
As I walk away she is still whining. “Oh, fuck that dog!” I hear James say. And in my heart I am thinking, “Jilly Bean, you know I will NEVER in a million years talk like that to my dog. Please be careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
I’m sweating. I feel stressed. There is a pain in my arm. I feel like I’m having a heart attack. This is too much. This is something that happens in the movies, not to an average South African man.
I take a deep breath and walk towards town. I still have R1 690. Maybe I should go to an ATM and see if I can withdraw some more money. I’ll need more if I have to stay at a guest house for an extended period of time.
I walk to the closest ATM and put in my bank card. I type in my 4-digit pin – “Incorrect pin. Please try again.” I try again. I KNOW this is the correct pin. Okay, so now I’m screwed for money too. I feel like crying. I don’t have enough money for a long term stay at a guest house, so I go to the Information Centre to find out where the nearest Backpacker’s Inn is. They are closed but from the information and the map on the door I can find my way. I know Stellenbosch pretty well since I grew up here. I realise that again I only have the clothes I have on. Luckily I put on a board short and comfy T-shirt before I went for my nap.
When I get to the Backpacker’s Inn, it is dark and dingy. I’ll have to hide my money somewhere safe if I am to survive. At least they provide a hot meal for R25. I eat slowly, checking out the scene. I think back to what happened at my house. Suddenly I realise I left behind my cell phone and I have no watch and wedding ring. It’s the absence of the wedding ring that hits me hard. This time I do cry.
“Hey, man. Are you okay?” asks one of the backpackers.
“I just lost my wife and my dog” I sob.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! What can I do for you?”
“Nothing. There is nothing anybody can do now.”
“Well, let me know if you need anything, man.”
This is going to be a long night. It is so hot in here. I lay in bed, sweat dripping from every part of my body. The odour in the room is only slightly better that the one in the taxi. Long gone is the shower I took four hours earlier. My heart aches. I miss Jill. I miss Lady. Hell, I even miss my mother. That’s it! I’ll go stay with my mother. I will tell her Jill and I had a fight and Jill needs some space. Hopefully that lie will pass.
Chapter 8 [Secret Agent Harry Lewis, Monday, February 2015]
“Where is he fuckin’ now?” I ask impatiently.
“He’s at the Backpacker’s Inn. We’ve got Johnnie inside, pretending to be a backpacker. He will report back later” answers Conrad Black, the Intel specialist.
“You think he’ll stay fuckin’ put for the night?”
“Sure thing. I will call you if there are any movements. Go rest, Boss.”
I leave the “office”, walk 500m, then get into my rental car and drive to my Hotel. This has been a fuckin’ stressful assignment for me. If I didn’t threaten the fuckin’ doctor’s family, we would have been far behind fuckin’ schedule. Oh, how I despise fuckin’ doctors - thin little clever things wearing glasses and their everlasting “moral responsibilities”. Oh, please. For fuck’s sake!
I must remember to phone mutter[mother]. She always feels so alone when I’m out on a mission. I’ll make it up to her when I get back. After this one I can retire a rich man. Shit.
I park in the Hotel’s crappy parking lot and walk through the foyer and up the stairs to my room. When I enter the room I immediately order room service. A man can get fuckin’ hungry this time of night.
When the guy pitches up with my Lasagne and green salad half an hour later I sit down to enjoy the meal. I take out Brandy and Coke from the mini bar and gulp it down in between mouths full of pasta. Fuck, that tastes good!
After I finished the lasagne I throw the fuckin’ salad in the dustbin. For fuck’s sake, I’m not a goat! If I want to eat vegetables I’ll order chicken or fish. Ha-ha. I laugh at my own joke.
I pull off my sweaty clothes and take a long shower. The team fucked up pretty bad today. I don’t even want to fuckin’ think about it. Luckily that fuckin’ actor playing James isn’t as shitty as I thought in the beginning. I dry myself off and get into bed naked. Then I fall into a deep sleep – a sleep of someone without any worries, someone without any conscience.
Chapter 9 [Conrad Black, Monday, 16 February 2015]I give a deep sigh as my boss leaves the flat - our “office” during the mission. Suddenly the air feels lighter. I can breathe again. I scratch the nicotine patch on my arm.
Damn, if only I could go out for one cigarette! I get my nicotine craving under control by chewing some strawberry flavoured gum. This is going to be a lo-o-o-ong night and I was on duty. Tomorrow Paul Fairland will take over the day shift from me. That guy is weird. Not that I can talk. Computer specialists in general have odd habits. But something about Paul is fishy – I just can’t put my finger on it.
I think about Mr Lewis again. He is a tough, muscular bald ex- military man with a huge temper. He has a kind of oriental look to his face which is weird, since he comes from either Namaqualand or Namibia. I deduced that from his Afrikaans accent. He will never tell us anything. He is a super private person and I get the feeling he doesn’t trust us very much. He always swoops in at the most unexpected moments and make you feel like you are standing in the principal’s office. We all have our own keys to the flat and you don’t always hear someone come in when you are busy with important work.
I still struggle with this whole assignment but good money is good money. I need to pay off my student loan and my car. I have to pay rent and eat. I could really do with a cash injection right about now.
Then Johnnie calls in. Kevin is asleep. No further news. Like I said, it’s going to be a long night. I make another mug of coffee and add three sugars and full cream milk. I go sit at my desk again in front of the multiple screens. Then I start thinking about today. Shit, I thought the paw-paw was going to strike the fan when Kevin woke up out of his coma. I phoned Dr Holden, the neuro-surgeon who was supposed to keep Kevin in a coma for 13 months, immediately. Unfortunately he was in a three hour surgery so the “doctor” and “sister” had to improvise. Off course I saw Kevin leave on the hidden cameras but I couldn’t call that stupid actress because she was on her phone with her boyfriend and the “doctor” went outside to have a cold beer. It’s so hard to find good help these days. People don’t take pride in their work anymore. I sigh. Luckily things turned out okay. We just need to grab Kevin and get Dr Holden to induce the coma again. Easy peasy. I think. I’m just the computer technician. I don’t know much about field work. I drink my last sip of coffee and check all the cameras. Everything is fine. Then I go through the days video footage again to memorise all the details, in case the “buffalo” (Mr Lewis) grills me tomorrow again. I thought I was tired but I actually get so focused on the footage that the night quickly turns to day.
Chapter 10 [Patrick Grear a.k.a. James Butternox, Monday, 16 February 2015]
I am lying in bed. I can hear Jill’s breathing. She is awake but pretends to be asleep. Today was a big success. Except for that bloody dog who almost gave everything away. The mutt is still whining outside. Refuses to come in and sleep at our feet like she normally does.
It’s been a long road but my Swiss bank account is definitely not complaining. Actually I am an actor. My name is Patrick Grear. I grew up in a poor family. Mostly we had very little food to eat. I took out a student loan to study Drama and started my career with a small role in a very popular soapie.
Two years ago I was contacted by the Secret Service. Apparently my face and body was most suitable for a long-term undercover job. I went through many surgeries. After each surgery R500 000 was deposited into my Swiss bank account. And finally the tattoo. It hurt like hell but it’s a perfect imitation of the real one.
The Service had hidden cameras everywhere. They watched everything James, Jill and Nicky did for about two years. Then I was brought in. In between the surgeries they coached me. I had to learn how James speaks, his mannerisms and all the little secrets they have uncovered. It wasn’t an easy road. To learn and live someone else’s life is very tiring. It’s like you are on stage 24/7 and that’s tough, I can tell you. And learning how to write like James. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to change your handwriting? Obviously a handwriting specialist won’t be fooled but Jill isn’t a handwriting specialist, is she? Thank goodness for that. Now here I am. We’ll see who the real James is. They are such fools. I close my eyes and fall into a deep sleep, dreaming about Island holidays and Martini’s.