THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

26   Curiosity leads him into a gun shop

The next time he walked down Hout Street he stopped on the pavement opposite City Guns, hesitated, and then crossed over. He had a strong aversion to firearms, deeming them abhorrent on three counts. Force, or the threat of force, as a means of settling a dispute seemed to him to be a very unintelligent option. The non-violent possibilities were numerous and he believed strongly in his own ability to extricate himself from confrontation and conflict by employing such methods as argument, persuasion, flattery, reassurance, deception, deceit, pleading, weeping, promises, distraction, diversion and sleight of hand. Secondly, the mere sight of a gun made him feel faintly queasy. This was on account of his own personal involuntary response to the visual stimulus. Into his mind there instantly leapt a scene of horrible carnage: bullets ripping into flesh, blood spurting, bones being irreparably smashed, spinal cords snapping, arteries and nerves being severed. The fact that a gun was loaded meant that it was waiting to go off at any fraction of an instant. It had to go off, like a time bomb, and he braced himself for the imminent explosion. Finally, he associated a certain type of person with the bearing of firearms, and it was a person not to his liking at all. It was clear that some men derived a Freudian pleasure from carrying a gun - it made them aggressive and obnoxiously proud of their masculinity. They tended to scowl and swear more than was their usual habit, and to swagger and be argumentative. They became boorishly boastful and spoke coarsely of women, subconsciously certain in the delusion that the carrying of a pistol was accompanied by miraculous generation of erectile tissue. These were the selfsame poseurs whose virility was charged up when they slid behind the wheels of their souped-up Ford Cortinas. Henry didn't like them. He didn't like anything to do with firearms but nevertheless he crossed the street to look in the window, fully intending to enter the shop and experience the dubious pleasure of being sold a gun.

The door was solid and massive and the colour of Pears Soap. The window displays which flanked it were curiously innocuous and, as it turned out, deceptive. The window to the left was devoted largely to an array of knives. There were Swiss Army combinations consisting of a whole toolbox of miniature equipment: scissors, file, can opener, corkscrew, bottle opener, awl, tweezers, saw, pliers, magnifying glass, tooth pick, screw driver - almost entirely useless for practical purposes. Then there were the spring-loaded clasp knives arranged like the spokes of a wheel - these were ideal for cutting bite-sized lengths of biltong or for stabbing rival gangsters. Behind the knives in one corner stood a family of stainless steel vacuum flasks, made in the USA and very expensive. In the other corner were two Coleman cooler boxes arranged one on top of the other. The right hand window was given over to a scene from the bush, with grass and twigs on the floor and a black pot astride the coals of a campfire. On the seat of a canvas folding-chair was a felt bush hat complete with leopard-skin headband. Casually leaning against the chair was a .303 hunting rifle. In the background he saw a weathered tree trunk upon which hung a pair of handcuffs and a four-foot sjambok of genuine hippo hide. The sporting life was sketched with skilful economy and the window dresser's dark message was not lost on Henry once he spotted the accoutrements on the periphery - strict discipline was an essential ingredient for a successful safari.

In the Metropole Bar on the corner of Long Street he drank two beers to prepare himself for the little adventure that awaited him. He had no intention of becoming a gun owner but he was more than moderately curious about the process surrounding the legal acquisition of a firearm. What he was about to do was deceitful and a premeditated waste of salesmen's time. He justified his intentions by reminding himself that to deal in arms was an indisputably immoral occupation and that the major religions of the world roundly condemned trafficking in commodities that lead so inevitably to an increase in human misery. So what if it wasted their time? He would be delaying, if not preventing them, from making a genuine sale. He would go in there and act his part and learn something more about the peculiar behaviour of human beings. He drained his glass and sallied forth full of Thespian resolve.

When he pushed open the door a klaxon bellowed twice with the same hoarse urgency of a bullock undergoing castration. Nervously he stepped inside and became aware of several pairs of eyes regarding him with intent suspicion.

"How can I help you?"

Henry jumped. The voice came from directly behind him. The man had been standing on a narrow footplate attached to the back of the door. His jeans were tucked into jackboots and his white lounge shirt was open at the neck. The cuffs of the shirt were rolled twice and flapped midway between wrist and elbow. The potbelly on an otherwise scrawny frame added to the seediness of his appearance and Henry was reminded of the alcoholic barman at the Fireman's Arms. They could be brothers. From the shoulder holster he was wearing there protruded a Colt Government Model pistol.

"I - I'm thinking of buying a gun."

"For? What purpose? We have hundreds of firearms here."

And it was true. He hadn't entered a shop - this was a veritable arsenal. Thousands of guns. Before him and to his left two long counters formed an L. To the right a flight of steps descended into the basement. Behind each counter stood two men, and all four of them were conspicuously armed and staring at Henry, who was the sole customer at that moment.

"This counter is for sporting guns and assault rifles, and this one is for hand guns."

The older of the men at the sporting counter beckoned and Henry advanced obediently. He looked into China blue eyes set close in a meaty red face and he felt at once that this big-bellied hulk had to be an ex-cop. China Blue? No, these eyes were Delft Blue. They glinted with the coldness of sanitaryware and Henry was in no doubt that the blueness of these eyes must have had an emulsifying effect on the contents of many a large colon.

"Alright Meneer. I can see you think you don't know what you want but actually you do know what you want, if you see what I mean. Don't worry about any crap from that ou over there about 'what purpose?' Every man come in here for the same purpose - hy soek 'n wapen. And what you wants a wapen for? I tell you straight: security. A white man come in here for one thing only - to protec' hisself. To protec' hisself, his car, his house, his kids, his dogs, his wife."

"Well, I'm not married and…"

"Ag don't worry man, you don't look like a fokken moffie. Anyways, we don't allow moffies in here."

"No ways." The doorman said this emphatically. He made a lightning draw form his shoulder holster and sighted along the blue-black barrel of his pistol, left hand steadying the right, one eye closed, aiming at the groin of an imaginary hermaphrodite. "Get your poofter arsehole out of here before I blow your balls off." Satisfied, he lowered the gun and jettisoned the magazine before commencing to strut up and down. Every few paces he would go for his gun, whirl on his heel and pull the trigger. Meanwhile the ex-cop had resumed his sales pitch.

"A man has always got something to protec', and there's always a enemy. And in the Republic we got plenty enemies, that's for fokken sure."

"You can say that again. The whole world's our enemy, and inside the country every coon and coloured's our enemy."

"For sure. That's why a white man's got to protec' hisself. No commies or kaffirs is going to chase us off our own land. Not a fuck. A intelligent ou realise he got to arm hisself. And no ways are one firearm enough. Man, you got to plan this thing proper."

"Man, you listen to what he says. We won't chune you kak, no word of a lie. Six. That's the minimum."

"Six guns?! Jesus Christ! I…"

"Don't worry, don't worry. We can get you all the credit you need. You can sign your name? Right, my mate." And he sprake unto Hinry mit zinzer und ernst, leaning forward, hands on the counter, belly resting on the scarred wooden surface. "This is now serious business. There's plenty danger out there. You got to think about this logical and cool. This is our history we talking about, this is our destination, so help me God. If you're too shit scared to take your own history by the balls and examine it and say yes, this is my destination and this is what I got to do, then fuck it man, you nothing but a fokken moffie, and one day soon you'll be calling the kaffir "Meneer" and he'll be living next door. No man, you got to say, Not a fuck, over my dead body, and you got to fight, fight, fight. Ever since Jan van Riebeeck, way, way back… thousands of years… we been fighting the Hotnots and the Kaffirs. You know, I'm going to tell you something no word of a lie, and I'm proud of it. It's part of my heritation. My father, and his father too before that, they used to hunt bushmen, and that's the truth. Jus' like animals. They were vermin."

"I'm sure they were." Henry was shocked. "They must hardly have been human to have been capable of such heinousness." The blue eyes regarded him uncomprehendingly for a moment, suspicion flickering just beneath the surface. "I suppose you're telling me all this in order to illustrate some point or other - maybe even then, back in those dreadful days of decimation and extermination, maybe even then there was the right gun for the right job. Is that where you're heading, Sir Fatguts?"

"The right gun for the right job! Just so!" He was grateful for the cue. "My father, he use to say to me, many times, Boitjie, you got to have…"

"Is that your name?"

"What?"

"Is that your name? Boitjie?"

"No, course not. What you think? We was a big family. He called all the seuns Boitjie. Anyway, that's got fuck-all to do with anything. My real name is Gerhardus. But they call me Mike, or sometimes Okkie. You call me Mike."

Now Henry was beginning to enjoy himself. This was just the right situation to stimulate his senses, which he felt had become rather dulled of late. Everything was a surprise and he was delighting in the absence of logic and predictability. He breathed rapidly and his eyes sparkled. Mike continued.

"The style of killing my father enjoyed the best was using a light calibre rifle. His style was slow and cool, never in a hurry. The idea he had was never to fire unless he can place the bullet in a vital organ. You see, if you places a bullet correc' it doesn't matter what the calibre. But you got to have nerve for that, that's for sure. You get other ous completely different. Take my uncle Poeslap. Now he think…"

"Your uncle's name was Poeslap?!" Henry was staggered. "Jesus man! Was he christened that?"

"Allemagtig man! It was his nickname - everybody call him Poeslap, even his mother, even his wife. Something to do with his bokbaard, jy weet. Hy was 'n rooikop. His hair was red coloured. But what's all this name kak? I'm trying to learn you about rifles. Now, Oom Poeslap was always a bietjie bang and he believe in the biggest bore rifle he can get hold of. A Rigby-Mauser double .577. He wired all two triggers together and when he pull the back one all two barrels fire at the same time. But he always fired too soon. I don't think he got even one. Not even one. One time he went out to try catch them poisoning his sheep and when he come near the water he see them and fire, jus' like that, from three hundred yards. Of course he miss the Bushmen but hit one of his own sheep. My father told me he seen that sheep later and it was just about cut in half. Now my father was different. He got at least six that I know of, before they all run away to the Kalahari. His favourite weapon was a Lee-Enfield .275. He only fired when he got real close and were sure of a brain shot or a heart shot. He believed the best ammunition was the old roundnose solid bullets. He sweared that were the best way to find the brain of a Bushman. You know, he said it was like shooting a springbok. When he come right up to the kill the body was still warm and soft and smelling just like a wild antelope; and, if the face wasn't taken away by the roundnose, he see the last light going out the eyes, just the same like when you shoot a wildebeest. He said they were wild and beautiful just like the wild animals but they was wragtig treacherous and sly. I mean, he had to shoot them to protec' his sheep, didn't he? Ja man, my father learned me good lessons. It just shows you, you don't need a big calibre. You mus' jus' stay cool and calm, and take your time like."

"But I'm not going to be hunting Bushmen. Not even buck." Henry had begun to perspire, and had to tell himself to stay cool and calm, and not allow himself to be overtaken by the funk he felt coming on. He was here to be entertained and educated. "I don't think I need anything like a…"

"Wag 'n bietjie meneer, wag 'n bietjie. Ek gaan jou verduidelik." Let's say you comes home one day and you unlocks the door and goes inside. You hears something in the bedroom and there's a fokken coon just finish raping your wife on the bed. YOUR bed. He look at you, you look at him. It's that fokken garden-boy you klapped last week. You goes for your 38 but he jumps straight through the fokken venster, glas en alles, more expenses, and he's up and running like a cat with its tail on fire. So what you do? Tell me." Henry shook his head. "I tell you what you do. You goes straight away to your gun safe, you gets out the Springfield MIA and you goes out the front door, not the back. Out the back you got razor wire on the wall so you know he's got to go for the front. That kaffirboy will be running down the middle of the road, eighty, maybe a hundred yards away. Nice and steady and cool you lines up your sights on the spine, you drops to the belt and you squeezes the five and a half pound trigger. He throw up his arms and fall flat on his flat kaffir face. Paralysed. Then you shouts, "Stop, or I shoot!" and you fires a warning shot in the air. If he don't fall down you got another nineteen in the magazine and a range of four thousand one hundred and three yards. If you got him with the first shot, that's good. Now you got all the time in the world before the police comes. You can skop his head and his balls just as much as you likes. That's the advantage of the Springfield MIA." He paused for Henry to express admiration and a desire to acquire such a useful weapon.

"Well, as I told you, I'm not married. I can see that this rifle could come in handy to a married man with an aggrieved ex-employee lurking in the shrubbery. But being a bachelor with…"

"God allemagtig!" He swore and banged the counter in exasperation. With contemptuous hostility he glared at Henry. "Can't you use your fokken imagination? Don't you read the newspaper? Don't you ride down the street? Isn't this the Republic of South Africa? Jirra Jesus! Look man, I can't waste my time trying to educate you. You come in here for a gun. You needs four guns minimum - that's what I'm telling you. One of the guns you needs…," he stepped back, stooped and drew the fearsome thing out from under the counter, "… is a Springfield MIA." He worked the bolt, pointed the barrel at Henry's stomach and pulled the trigger click, click, click. "Rotating bolt, gas operated, semi-automatic, air-cooled, twenty cartridge magazine." He threw it down on the counter. "Take it or leave it. Aaargh!"

Henry was surprised at the fierceness of this peroration and noted with alarm that the sanguine complexion had darkened to apoplectic purple. Boitjie/ Gehardus / Mike/ Okkie had made a strong statement when he said "Take it or leave it." He had also added dramatic finality to his statement by simultaneously throwing himself into a chair behind the counter. What Henry heard as "Aaargh!" and understood to be an expression of enraged contempt, was, in fact, something quite different. It was a gasp of pain, enunciated as "Einaaa!" and quite easily mistaken for "Aaargh!" The pain was inflicted by the 38 Police Special in his hip holster when he chose to sit down with histrionic forcefulness.

"Sir, allow me to take over where my colleague has left off." This was a younger man, taller and thinner with a long narrow face and small bright eyes. His sales manner was smooth to the point of unctuousness. "Take it from me sir, and I'm being particularly frank with you, we really value the way you've come in here and made these serious enquiries. Lest there be any misunderstanding - my colleague's English is not quite what it should be - let me rephrase his last statement. He feels you should definitely take the Springfield and under no circumstances should you leave it. He is perfectly correct in insisting that every adult white male in South Africa should be required by law, for his own good, to own at least four appropriate firearms. It would be irresponsible for him not to do so. He has shown you this assault rifle which you can use in situations similar to the one he has just described. You could say it is mainly intended for shooting people who are running away and are unlikely to try and defend themselves. Now this…" He turned and took down a piece of artillery from the wall rack. "…This is the latest technology in submachine guns. This is really beautiful."

At the sight of it laid on the counter in front of him Henry's stomach lurched and he took a step backward. The dull steel surfaces were blunt and naked; it lay there heavy and brutish like an oversized black dildo, menacing and obscene. The salesman stroked it lightly with his fingertips.

"We have the sole agency for the entire country." He said this with consummate smugness. "Sanctions, as part of the Communist Onslaught, have made us into the most innovative developers of weaponry in the entire world. There is absolutely nothing to beat this. The AK47 is a toy by comparison - the name tells you how outdated it is: Avtomat Kalashnikov 1947. 1947! In twenty years there's been virtually no change. The AK47 is really just a pistol with a stock fitted to it - very basic. That's why it's found all over Africa - it's so basic even a coon can use it. It's K-proof. But - it's got no range. There's the Belgian FN, the German G-3, the Italian Beretta, the American M16. They're all just about as basic and do the same job. Up till now I would say the most modern and effective submachine gun has been the Israeli UZI. It's definitely the most compact, with a folding metal stock. But this Armscor beauty is far and away superior. This is the top of the SSD range, the Vrekker."

"The Vrekker? What does SSD stand for?" Henry felt obliged to feign some interest in the technicalities.

"Skop Skiet Donner. Unlike all other submachine guns the Vrekker doesn't rely on gas or recoil operation. With the AK47 the power for the unloading / reloading cycle comes from the gases in the barrel before the bullet leaves the muzzle. There's a port in the barrel that is uncovered when the bullet passes, and gas enters and forces a piston back to compress the main spring. The Vrekker is entirely different, using the roller principle, involving friction. The breech is held closed while the pressure in the cartridge case is high, but opens when pressure falls to a safe level. The bolt is locked under high pressure but the moment the pressure drops it opens easily. The result is ZERO MALFUNCTION." He picked up the gun. "Now let me demonstrate some of these features. This is the flash suppressor, making it an ideal piece for night action. These are the standard, height adjustable sights, but it is possible to fit the optional autofocus rangefinder attachment. Here is the folding bipod mount… back here is the locknut for the tripod mount if required. A fully adjustable traversing and elevating mechanism is supplied free of charge with the tripod. Now one of the great advantages with the Vrekker is it's dual loading option. Firstly it is possible to belt load, the belt entering the breech here. By the way, this is the ejection port here. Or, alternatively, to magazine load." He opened a drawer under the counter and produced a magazine and clipped it into place. Grasping the gun with businesslike resolve he pointed it at a forty-five degree angle past Henry's head and pulled the trigger.

The burst of fire was brief but deafening. Henry was so shocked his mouth fell open and his eyes bulged from their sockets. "Jesus Christ man! For FUCK sake!!" His ears were ringing and the smoke hanging in the air smelt like the fifth of November. He turned and looked up and saw above the door, fixed to the concrete beam running the width of the shop, a Jarrah railway sleeper. It was riddled with hundreds of holes.

"That was three-shot auto, but you can set it to five, seven and ten, as well as semi and full."

By now the two beers at the Metropole had made their way through his system and Henry's bladder had filled. He became aware, with growing embarrassment, that he had involuntarily released a small quantity of urine when the maniac behind the counter had opened fire. He could feel an uncomfortable dampness at his crotch and, although he was wearing underpants today, he worried that their absorbency might not be sufficient to prevent a telltale dark patch from appearing on his PT shorts. He dared not look down for fear of drawing attention to himself so instead he moved closer in to the counter.

"What am I supposed to do with this thing? This is military hardware. This is for full-scale war."

"Exactly. That's just the point. We have already entered a war situation. Didn't you see the Cape Times this morning? Hey, Clint, can we see the paper?"

Clint ran a comb through his hair, sweeping it back off his Cro-Magnon forehead. He wiped off the excess Brylcream on his trousers, returned the comb to his lunch box, adjusted his belt, and made his way over with the newspaper. He walked awkwardly, rolling with his left leg, the seven-and-a-half-inch barrel of a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum slapping against his thigh.

"Thanks. Take a look at this and tell me if we're at war or not." He spread the paper in front of Henry. On the front page was a large monochrome photo of a man sitting in a puddle of water. He was without trousers and his arms rested loosely on his spread knees. The head was held forward as if in dejection and the face and hands were black. Minstrel black, not from boot polish but because they were charred black.

"This man took a wrong turn yesterday and landed up in Guguletu. A mob stoned his car and threw petrol bombs at it. Because he was white." He left the paper spread before Henry. "Now what we're saying is that it's necessary to defend yourself."

Henry felt sick and his mind slid back some eight or nine years to the library at Ingachini. He was standing before the bookcase, an open book in his hands. Herr Friedemann was in his Morris chair staring out through the open door into the afternoon haze. Fixed and devoid of human feeling, the eyes of concentration camp inmates stared up at Henry, and his whole being revolted and cried out as the implications began to dawn on him. The same choking horror was upon him now.

"Sir! Sir, I said, would you like to come downstairs to the range and get a feel for this beauty yourself?" Henry shook his head. The man looked disappointed but doggedly pressed ahead with his insincere patter. "Alright then, suit yourself. Instead, let me explain to you the tactical procedure you will need to follow when you are suddenly confronted by a mob of mad savages, like this man was." He nodded in the direction of the newspaper.

"Let us assume we are driving in an unsafe area, and that's just about the whole country, and we turn a corner, and there, advancing towards us, stretched across the road, is a large group of black youth, chanting, dancing, shouting and wielding various dangerous instruments, objects and missiles, all for the purpose of hurling. Now, we must be constantly vigilant and expecting such an event to take place wherever we are travelling. What we do, when this situation arises, is this: we jump on the brakes and at the same time we crash the gears into reverse - we don't worry about the gearbox; it's better to have a stuffed gearbox than a Molotov cocktail through the windscreen - and then we drive backwards at the highest speed possible. I, personally, have become very good at this. But only because I take it seriously. Every Sunday after church I go to the Goodwood Showground and I practise driving in reverse in the car park. For at least half an hour. I strongly recommend this because you never know what's around the corner. Alright. Now let's say we've driven back and put about two hundred yards between us and the advancing crowd of tsotsis. We brake sharply and swing the car sideways across the road and leap out. We open the boot and take out the SSD Vrekker ready-loaded with a thousand round belt. We spread the bipod on the bonnet and we aim for the middle of the oncoming wall. When it is seventy-five yards distant we give them a short greeting. Then ten shots to the left and ten shots to the right. Smooth, unhurried sweeps. When their comrades begin to fall they will break up and run. If they don't, and they still keep coming, we put it on auto and give them a slow three-second sweep left to right. At six hundred rounds per minute that's ten bullets per second. Then three seconds right to left. That's how an intelligent South African manages to survive today."

It seemed to Henry that this man's enthusiasm for his job went beyond the call of duty. The owner of City Guns was a fortunate employer indeed.

"Yes Sir. The Vrekker is an amazing piece of hardware. It can fire as slow as six hundred rounds per minute or as fast as four thousand rounds per minute. Imagine it!" He paused to give Henry time to comprehend the rapidity with which the Vrekker could fire and then proceeded with the next phase of his sales strategy.

"Now let's take a completely different situation. What would happen if the communists were to make a surprise aerial attack on Cape Town? Have you any idea how we would cope?"

"Gee, I don't know." Henry thought about it and shook his head. "I suppose there'd be a lot of people urgently trying to make contact with the Here. No, I don't know. Tell me."

"Let's say a fleet of Russian frigates, four helicopters to a ship, was to steam round the Cape. If they decided to launch an attack we would find ourselves having to face a squadron of enemy choppers coming in low over the Bay, canons blazing." Henry's frivolous reply had had no effect on his determination to construct another dramatic scene of frightful danger. "Then what would we do? I'll tell you. We get up on our garage roof with the Vrekker, that's what we do."

"And I suppose you blast the fuckers right out of the sky with six thousand rounds per minute, no problem? Very exciting. Not very plausible, though. How do you get up onto your garage roof in a hurry, all loaded up with the Vrekker and the necessary ammunition? Jump?"

"Haven't you been listening to me?" The salesman was indignant. "Every moment, day and night, we have to be vigilant. We have to plan ahead. We always have to have a ladder ready for just such an eventuality. And remember that Armscor have made this weapon exceptionally light and easy to carry, even up ladders. It has a very comfortable sling attachment and only weighs six kilograms, magazine loaded. Look at this: the stock appears at first glance to be made of steel but it's not. It's polyethylene recycled from old dustbins. Economical as well as light and durable. You must just be careful of hot ash, though. And look here, they've thought of everything: an ambidextrous safety catch!"

"Alright. That clinches it." Henry felt he could take no more of this. "That's very important. I can see the importance of an ambidextrous safety catch. It all makes sense. Thank you, I'll take one. One Fokker and one of those things this other shithead showed me. And lots of ammunition and all the attachments. Just wrap them up for me while I go to get my chequebook. I won't be a moment."

"Hey, but not so fast, Sir. Remember we said FOUR firearms were necessary? You've still got to select two handguns. Come over and let Clint and Adolf show you the best in the west. Adolf, let the gentleman try something with real knockdown capability."

Henry was becoming desperate. Somehow he had to get away. If there had been the faintest shadow of a doubt before, he now knew with an almost religious conviction that he would never own one of these horrible weapons. Two months with the Commercial Union Assurance Company had been enough to convince him never to work again. Fifteen minutes in City Guns had persuaded him, once and for all, never to have anything to do with firearms, ever again. And anyway his bladder was on the point of bursting. Reluctantly he moved to the other counter, hoping they wouldn't notice the dark patch, if indeed there was a dark patch.

"I'll take whatever you recommend," he lied in a strangled voice. "But for God's sake just…" What he was appealing for on behalf of a divine being was drowned out by the klaxon. Startled by the violent noise he turned to witness the entrance of a coloured man dressed in postman's uniform. Over one shoulder was slung a leather satchel from which large envelopes could be seen protruding, and in his left hand was a sheaf of letters through which he was beginning to shuffle.

"Morning all. Goeie môre." This was said in a cheery, slightly distracted tone.

"Freeze man freeze!!" The doorman jumped off his footplate, the Colt Government Model in both hands at arms length, two inches from the postman's right temple. "Who the fuck are you? Speak!" This was shouted in the voice of a parade ground sergeant major. The surprise on the postman's face was comical to behold.

"I'm the postman, Meneer. I delivers the letters."

"You lie, you fokken Hotnot! Action, Mike! Action, action!"

The ex-cop threw a switch and with a great clatter of unrolling metal three steel shutters crashed down, sealing off the shop frontage. The klaxon began sounding continuously and the lights went out. For a second or two all was blackness and then a spotlight snapped on, faltered, searched, found the postman, and held him transfixed in a pool of blinding white light.

Clint swaggered forward and placed the muzzle of his Magnum against the man's left temple.

"Punk," he said, but nobody could hear the deadly sneer in his voice so he shouted, "Punk! This is the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off. You got to ask yourself… Ah Christ man! Turn that fuckin' thing off, I can't hear myself." He had lost the initiative and Mike was quick to push his way into Adolf's circle of light. He began to scream and froth with maniacal hatred.

"Jou teroris poes! Wat maak jy hierso? What's your name? Where's your pass? How old are you? Where you steal that uniform? Don't lie to me, you Kommunistiese Kont. Ek gaan jou vrek skiet. Ek gaan jou moer, jou donnerse Hotnot. We'll make you talk. When I say jump, you jump. Jump!" And he fired at the postman's feet. Surprise had fled from his face to be replaced in succession by shocked disbelief and then terror. "Jump!" And he fired another two shots. The postman was so scared he couldn't have jumped if he was being shot at with a SAM 7 missile but the doorman jerked his head back and slowly crumpled onto his knees, teetered and fell on his face.

Ever resourceful, Henry had meanwhile taken the opportunity, under cover of darkness, to relieve himself against the sporting counter. He felt much more comfortable but somewhat dazed and weak. Adolf turned off the klaxon and switched on the lights. The unctuous salesman was still sighting down the barrel of his Vrekker, which he had managed to rig up on its tripod on the counter and to fit a cartridge belt into the breech, all in the dark and in the space of a few seconds.

They gathered in a group around the dead man and muttered the following commentary:

"Musta been a fuckin' ricochet."
"Jesus Christus. Allemagtige God, help my."
"Now THIS is a fuckup."
"I'm jus' the postman."
"Shit."
"This, it is not goot, nein?"

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