فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Chapter four

The Commune

Mma Ramotswe sat in her office at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and examined the ring on her left hand. The assistant in Judgement Day Jewellers had wanted Mr JLB Matekoni to spend a lot of pula on an engagement ring with a much bigger diamond. But Mma Ramotswe was not interested in the size of the stone. A tear ran down her face as she thought of the man she would marry. Nobody had ever given her anything like that ring before, she thought. He would be a good husband for her and she would try to be a good wife for him.

She shook her head and turned her thoughts to the day’s business - Mrs Curtin’s case. She did not really want to look for the son. Why look for information about the past if it would only bring unhappiness?

But since she had agreed to help, she should start at the beginning. This was the commune where Burkhardt and his friends had started their farm. She probably would not discover anything, but she might get a feeling for what had happened.

At least she knew where to find the commune. It was near Silokwolela, a village in the west, not far from Molepolole. She left early on Saturday morning in her little white van. There was already a stream of traffic, mostly people coming into town for shopping. But a few people were leaving town as well. Mma Ramotswe slowed down. There was a woman at the side of the road waving her hand for a ride.

Mma Ramotswe stopped her van and called out, ‘Where are you going, Mma?’

‘To Silokwolela,’ said the woman, pointing down the road.

‘I am going there too. I can take you all the way.’

‘You are very kind, and I am very lucky,’ said the woman.

As they travelled, Mma Ramotswe spoke with the woman, who was called Mma Tsbago. She knew a little about the farm. People had thought it would be a success, but it had failed. Mma Tsbago was not surprised at that. People often give up if things are too difficult.

‘Is there somebody in your village who can take me to the farm?’ asked Mma Ramotswe.

Mma Tsbago thought for a moment. ‘Yes, there is a friend of my uncle who had a job there.’

When they arrived at Silokwolela, Mma Tsbago took Mma Ramotswe to a well-kept house on the edge of the village. They waited at the gate while Mma Tsbago called out, ‘Mma Potsane, I am here to see you!’

A small, round woman came out and let them in.

Mma Tsbago explained to her why they were there.

‘Yes,’ said Mma Potsane, ‘my husband and I both worked out there. But then things went wrong. People stopped believing in what they were doing, and went away.’

‘Was there an American boy?’ asked Mma Ramotswe.

‘He disappeared. The police came and looked for him. His mother came too, many times. One time she brought a game tracker. He was a little man and he ran round like a dog. He looked under stones and smelled the air, but he found no sign that wild animals had taken the boy.’

‘What do you think happened to him?’ asked Mma Ramotswe.

‘I think he was blown away by the wind and put down somewhere far away. Maybe in the middle of the Kalahari.’ Mma Tsbago looked at Mma Ramotswe, but Mma Ramotswe looked straight ahead at Mma Potsane.

‘That is possible, Mma,’ she said. ‘Could you take me out to the farm? I can give you twenty pula.’

‘Of course,’ said Mma Potsane. ‘I do not like to go there at night, but in the day it is different.’

Mma Tsbago went to her home, and Mma Ramotswe and Mma Potsane left the village in the little white van. The dirt road was rough and Mma Ramotswe had to drive slowly.

The road ended, and Mma Ramotswe stopped the van under a tree. There had probably been eleven or twelve houses at one time, but now most of them had fallen down. She and Mma Potsane walked to the main farm house. It still had a roof and doors, and glass in some of the windows.

‘That is where the German lived, and the American and the South African woman,’ said Mma Potsane.

‘I should like to go inside,’ said Mma Ramotswe.

They entered the house, feeling the cooler air.

‘You see, there is nothing here,’ said Mma Potsane.

Mma Ramotswe was not listening. She was studying a piece of yellowing paper which had been pinned to a wall. It was a newspaper photograph - a picture of some people standing in front of a building.

She pointed to one of the people in the photograph. ‘Who is this man, Mma?’ she asked.

Mma Potsane looked closely at the photograph. ‘I remember him. He worked here too. He came from Francistown. His father was a schoolteacher and this one, the son, was very clever. He was friendly with the American, but the German didn’t like him.’

Mma Ramotswe gently put the photograph into her pocket. They went through the other rooms of the house. Some of them had no roofs, and the floors were covered with leaves. It was an empty house - except for the photograph.

Mma Potsane was pleased to leave the house, and showed Mma Ramotswe the place where they had grown vegetables. The land had become wild again. All the wooden fences had been eaten by the ants. Only the ditches were left, old and unused.

‘All that work,’ said Mma Ramotswe. ‘And now this.’

‘But this always happens,’ said Mma Potsane. ‘Even in Gaborone. How do we know that Gaborone will still be here fifty years from now? Perhaps the ants have plans for Gaborone as well.’

Mma Ramotswe smiled. ‘Will the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency be remembered twenty years from now?’ she wondered. ‘Or Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors?’ Probably not, she decided, but was that very important?

She had come here for information about something that had happened many years ago, and she had found nothing, or almost nothing. It seemed that the wind had blown everything away.

She turned to Mma Potsane.

‘Where does the wind come from, Mma?’ she asked.

‘Over there,’ Mma Potsane said, pointing to the trees and the empty sky, to the Kalahari. ‘Over there.’

Mma Ramotswe said nothing. She felt that she was very close to understanding what had happened, but she did not know why.

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