An extract from The Lost Boys of Bird Island
Paedophiles in power:
Suzie’s story is occupying my mind. I turn the recorder on and listen up. She recalls the night the victim was brought in. About a year ago, I was on night shift. All of a sudden, this bright light lit up the ward and I heard a helicopter outside. You know that landing pad next to the ward – well, it’s right there. And the noise ... just so loud.
Evacuated injured soldiers have been transported by helicopter to this hospital before. Suzie says her first thought was that there had been an accident at one of the military bases.
It was 11.30pm.
Five hours later, says Suzie, a patient was brought into the trauma ward after surgery. It was strange because the patient was wheeled into a private room by three men dressed in grey suits. There was a fourth man – a doctor, I think. I’d never seen him before. The patient was on a drip. They never asked me to help.
In the ward, the matron on duty assisted the unknown doctor. About 40 minutes later, the doctor and the men in suits left. Another man sat outside the door like a guard. Curious, Suzie checked the ward’s admittance register. I paged through it, but guess what? There’s nothing in the register about this patient. Not even a name. It was like he didn’t exist. I came back on duty later and the register was still the same. I’m not allowed in the ward and the guy in the suit is still sitting outside the room.
Only the matron [of the whites-only hospital] was allowed to tend to this patient.
I really wanted to see who was in the room, so I waited until the matron went in and timed a walk past as the door opened.
So I look in and I can’t believe what I see. There’s a child in there. A coloured child. He looks about 12. Imagine that, Max!
Suzie says the guard had watched her pass the room and had seen her peeking in.
Later, the matron calls me in. The guard has told her what I’ve seen and she tells me never, ever to talk to anyone about it.
Then suddenly the boy was gone. Discharged, Suzie says, after a week. But the strangest thing is that there are no records, not one, of the boy’s stay in the hospital.
Then suddenly the matron is gone. She just disappeared.
I switch off the recorder. My mind wanders back to William and what he had told me earlier – that there were rumours about Wingnut shooting a youngster in the anus. Now I’m wondering, does this boy in the hospital have anything to do with this?
It’s Monday. I’m now taking stock of the Allen case. Two of the suspects are dead, both meeting their end under suspicious circumstances. Two suspects are alive and well. The older of the two brothers who first brought me evidence about “moffie uncles” can place Allen at the scene of the alleged sexual assault.
Finding the mystery patient would be the final nail I need to seal the case. If I can get him to testify, then we have Wingnut.
Gordon storms into my office.
“We searched a house in Jeffreys Bay for pornographic material,” Gordon says. “At the start of our search, the resident of the premises threatened to report us to a cabinet minister in the National Party. Says they are friends.”
“Did you find any porn?” I ask.
‘What do you f**king think, Max?” Gordon says. “Of course we did.”
“Jeffreys Bay and Witelsbos are not far from each other. If this minister and the [resident] are friends, as she claims, then he must own or rent property in the vicinity. And in the vicinity is Witelsbos, where William says he was molested,” says Gordon.
My lead to the mysterious boy in the trauma ward is going to be through the elderly matron. But she has somehow disappeared.
A few phone calls later and I have her new address as well as her telephone numbers – home and work.
At 6pm, I dial the home number. A woman with a raspy voice answers in Afrikaans. She confirms her name and surname and then I identify myself.
I get straight to the point. I hear her breathing on the other end of the line. And then suddenly she’s a bag of tears, begging for the Lord’s forgiveness.
“I haven’t spent one cent, not a penny, Sergeant Max. All of the money is still here. I always knew it was trouble. It’s dirty money. And now God has seen fit to punish me for my sins.”
I pretend to have known about the money.
“Yes, and exactly how much money was it again?” “R10 000, Sergeant. I’ve still got it all.”
By the time our conversation reaches the 45-minute mark, she’s given me exactly what I need: the name of the surgeon who treated the youngster. She honestly doesn’t know the particulars or current whereabouts of the kid.
The doctor refuses to talk about the case, opting to play the patient-doctor privilege card afforded him. He reveals nothing. The men in grey suits have done their job well. My clandestine investigation has run up against a brick wall.