November 12, 2018

The second in a series of excerpts from Train in the Distance.


Albert de Jong, Attorney at Law, stood in front of him. He was dressed in a beige double-breasted suit cut from very expensive cloth.


His tailor would have classed him “portly short”. His graying hair was slicked back with Brilliantine. 

De Jong sported an immaculate, pomaded Clark Gable moustache and a light blue handkerchief peeked out of his breast pocket. His floral tie, gaudy as it was, was a perfect match against the pale blue shirt with its gold collar pin.

Ja, en hoe kan ek u hulp? Yes, and how can I help you?” De Jong addressed him pompously, actually having to look up at him. Although not tall, Adam was able to gaze down at De Jong and take in – face-to-face – the essence of the man whose defence of Van Staden had failed so miserably.

“Don’t you remember, Meneer De Jong? We had an appointment, for 8:30 – the Hannes Van Staden case? We actually met briefly at the trial in Pretoria…” 

“Yes of course, the reporter from Durban…Max, Merkiss, I'm sorry…? How silly of me, please forgive me: what with the execution tomorrow morning and a dozen other cases I have to handle almost single-handedly.

“Adam Marks, actually – Sunday Tribune,” Adam interjected, thrusting out his hand to shake De Jong’s, but De Jong kept his right hand deep in his trouser pocket.

De Jong rattled on, paying scant attention to Adam.

“…yes, very well: now what was it you wanted to speak to me about? Ah yes, of course, Hannes van Staden – poor boy. Not much anyone can do for him now. You wanted something? Be at the execution perhaps? I can arrange it if you really want, although I honestly don’t recommend it: sat in on a few myself, in the interests of justice, you understand. Fairly nasty business actually …the gurgling and the smell…well, no I’m sure you don’t want to be a first-hand witness…”

As De Jong took a rare pause for breath, Adam took the gap: “Well, actually I really intended to spend the night with the family. When we spoke on the phone, you said you’d arrange it…?”

“With the family? Hell, what would you want do you want to do that for?

“Spend the night with the family, oh well I suppose I can fix that, if that’s what really interests you. Of course, it would be far more interesting for both of us if you’d spend the night with me."

Adam was taken aback: Jesus, he thought, is he gay as well as being a “shyster” lawyer?

“Interviewing me…we’ll have dinner and then you can interview me. I could give you some very juicy stories."

“No thank you Mr. De Jong. I came to interview Van Staden’s family and to spend the night with them. Now if you can help, that would be great, if not, I’m sure a call to Pretoria Central Prison, or perhaps better still a long-distance call to the Mayor of Diep Rivier will help me get to the family. And then we can all read about Hannes van Staden’s helpful lawyer, who not only succeeded in getting his client condemned to death, but also bad-mouthed the family

De Jong started spluttering: “You bloody reporters are all the same; you can’t threaten me, I’m a prominent lawyer in this city. I’ll take you and your newspaper to the cleaners…bloody little communist Jew-boy reporter; I know your type…”

“No, Mr. De Jong. You don’t know my type at all; you know very little about me and you don’t even seem to take notice of what you do know about me – that I am a reporter and I do have an extremely good memory for detail and especially for conversations containing juicy quotes.

“So, good day Meneer De Jong. Oh, and be sure to buy the Tribune on Sunday and look for my by-line: Adam Marks, that’s M A R K S – pronounced ‘MARKS’…as in Karl…”

Adam turned his back on De Jong and headed out the main door.

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