Present Darkness

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Book: Read Present Darkness for Free Online
Authors: Malla Nunn
Tags: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Crime, rt, blt, South Africa
times.” If Aaron knew who Cooper was, he wasn’t showing it.
    “I wasn’t here,” Emmanuel said. “You’ll have to tell me where you were earlier tonight.”
    “I was at school, then at Principal Brewers’ house, then at home.” Aaron stretched out his legs, already familiar with this line of questioning. He was tall even when seated and muscle was starting to fill out his shoulders and chest. His broad face had no expression. Whatever his emotions were, they were hidden behind a calm façade. Emmanuel recognised the cool countenance and the loose physical grace with which the Zulu youth moved.
    “Do you know why the Lieutenant and I are asking you about where you were last night, Aaron?”
    “Some men broke into the principal’s home and beat him and his wife,” the young Shabalala said in a quiet voice. “The principal was a good man. His wife was hospitable. They took us into their home and fed us with kind hearts. I would never harm these people.”
    “What about their daughter?” Cassie had blushed before describing the Zulu youth. There might be something there. “Did she also have a good heart?”
    Aaron hesitated, caught out by the question. The mask that hid his feelings slipped, and a bright flash of anger registered in his dark brown eyes. He cleared his throat and said with careful deliberation, “The daughter sat and ate at the table with us.”
    “Did you go back to the Brewers’ house after you’d finished eating dinner, Aaron?” The anger Emmanuel had seen was brief but real. The Zulu youth had a temper. He controlled it well but what might happen when that control slipped?
    “I did not go back to the principal’s house. I got off the bus and walked for a long time. Then I went back to my home.”
    Mason sucked his teeth to show what he thought of that answer. Emmanuel felt the same. The boy would have to give up a name, a location and at least one witness to back his story.
    “Where did you go, exactly?” A bar crowded with drinkers, a card game, a brothel; any place with people, would be a plus.
    “Nowhere. Just walking.”
    Emmanuel retrieved his pen and notebook and placed them neatly on the tabletop. “Give me the name of one person, just one, who saw you wandering through Sophiatown on Friday night.”
    “I kept to the shadows. Nobody saw me.”
    “Really?”
    “It is so.”
    Surely this boy, the son of a detective constable, understood the penalties for serious assault and theft. What part of “you’re in deep shit” did he not comprehend? A knuckle rapped hard against the interview room door.
    “Lieutenant,” Detective Constable Negus’s sleep-affected voice said. “Phone call for you.”
    “Take a message. I’m busy,” Mason said.
    “I already offered but the man says it’s an emergency and you must come now. Something about a shepherd and his sheep.”
    “All right.” Mason straightened and gripped the door handle. “You’re with me, Cooper. We’ll give Shabalala ten minutes to think about what he really did last night and hope that he remembers the truth by the time we get back.”
    “I have told you where I was.” Aaron flexed his right hand, testing the joints. “I was walking.”
    Emmanuel paused at the door and gave Aaron a look like the one he’d given Cassie: You are lying, boy, and I know it.
    *
    The hard linoleum floors amplified the gritty sound of Lieutenant Mason’s voice and the slam of the telephone receiver as it hit the cradle. Negus stood by the edge of the cot, waiting for knock-off time. Emmanuel sat at his desk, mulling over Mason’s decision to pull him from the interview room. Either Mason really didn’t trust him, or the ex-vice cop was so mired in a “one man undercover” mentality that dominating all aspects of an investigation remained second nature.
    Lieutenant Mason stepped into the squad room, jacket buttoned up and black hair slicked back. Churches of all denominations would happily invite him to join a prayer

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