Prologue: Miracle At Zebra Drive
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the intellectual property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Ladies #1 Detective Agency novels are the creation of Alexander McCall Smith. The settings and characters of both are only borrowed for a little while, and no claim is made by the author of this story on them.
The people of Botswana are their own.
Set post-Chosen and after Teatime for the Traditionally Built
in the novel series.
Precious Ramotswe settled herself into the chair on the front porch of her home. It was a traditionally-built chair for a traditionally-built Motswana woman. The dark wooden frame creaked only a little as she leaned back, and the criss-crossed leather strips of the back and seat formed comfortably about her body. A light shawl draped over her shoulders warded off the mild evening chill. It was May, when the heat of Botswana's high summer eased and the cool dry season began. She sipped a mug of red bush tea as she watched people pass by the low wall bordering her property. Every so often someone would offer a polite "dumela" and stop to chat. Those in the cozy neighborhood of Gabarone Village valued, like Mma Ramotswe, the old Botwsana ways. Of neighbors knowing neighbors, of the enjoyment in an hour's peace after the day's work, of idly watching the shadow cast by the acacia tree in one's yard slowly travel over the swept dirt of the yard.
An engine rumbled down the street. Mma Ramotswe smiled. Her husband's truck had a distinctive sound. She went into the house to get a cool beer. She had little use for alcohol after her first marriage had ended. It had brought too many tears and pain with it. But Mr. JLB Matekoni was not Note. One beer did not lead to five, to harsh words and harsher blows. Meeting him on the porch, they sat together and talked of the day's work. Of course, they each knew already. Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors and the Number One Ladies Detective Agency shared premises. Many a customer to her agency came under the excuse of servicing a car. Many an inquiry about straying husbands or a missing relative ended with an appointment in the garage for more material problems to be fixed. A unique and happy arrangement, like her marriage. Still, it was good to relax in that quiet hour Mma Ramotwe reserved between returning home and dinner. To talk and laugh about the funny people who came to one with life's fusses to be solved. To speak of the perennial subjects of the rains and the cattle and the lands.
Eventually, they rose to prepare for dinner. Mr. JLB Matekoni of course disappeared to finish his beer and perhaps tinker with one of the engines he brought home from the garage. Much as she tried, Mma Ramotswe could not banish completely the odd spare part leaking oil onto a square of newspaper. In her heart she would not wish that. Her husband's little habits were as much a part of him as the hat of her beloved daddy Obed, now late, the finest man she had ever known. Smiling wistfully, she bustled about the kitchen preparing a simple dish of beef and vegetables. Always the women who did this. Well, why should they not? Imagine Mr. Matekoni poking oily fingers into the stew! Although it was usually Charlie and Fanwell, the eternal apprentices at the garage, who left greasy hand prints on doorknobs and clothes. Humming an old tune, she clattered about the kitchen.
Rubber squeaked on the red-painted concrete floor. Her foster daughter Motholeli wheeled herself in to help set the table. A brief sadness passed over Precious. Motholeli had grown into a fine young teenage girl, with the exotic golden-brown skin and slightly tilted eyes of the Basrawa. Beads strung in the many braids of her hair clacked while she maneuvered about. Upper body strong. The paralysed legs below wasting away, for all the exercises prescribed by Dr. Moffat. Transverse myelitis caught from the dog that had bitten the girl as a young child. Even the doctors in Johannesburg, paid from the sale of cattle from theherd inherited from her daddy, could not restore what was lost. Yet as it always did, the sadness lifted away like a cloud drifting away from the sun that shone down always on Botswana. Motholeli and her brother Puso were safe, fed, good students at school. Never once did Mma Ramotswe regret them coming into her life. A surprise, true, snuck in by Mrs. Silvia Potokwane, the redoubtable matron of the orphan farm outside Tlokweng. Mr. JLB Matekoni was a man of quiet strength, but weak before Silvia's bluster and fruit cake. Like so many others in the country! So for all the bother and money, Mma Ramotswe did not grudge a single minute or pula. Did not the old Botswana morality say that an orphan must be cared for as one's own child?
Puso wandered in. He helped his sister out of the wheelchair and into her seat by the table. A strange boy, still given to wandering about and studying ants or the flight of birds. Mma Ramotswe thought it might be his San heritage coming out--the ones the whites called "bushmen", who had wandered the empty spaces of the Kalahari for centuries. For this, it was Motholeli who was more her adopted father's child than Puso. She was more likely to be huddled with Mr. Matekoni over a small engine while Puso explored the bush behind the garage. Still, he was a good and loved boy. He put away the wheelchair, aiding his sister. She had been a mother to him after his people had buried him alive with his late mother. Together, Mma Ramotswe and her family bowed their heads in grace. She said the Anglican prayers in Setswana. Had she not much to be grateful for? To be born in Botswana, that most gracious of countries in Africa. To have her husband, and her children, and her work. To--
The clock ticked six thirty.
Terror, as sharp as when Note calmly lifted his belt. An attack, sickness, what?
"I--" Motholeli's eyes rolled back.
Puso leapt up to catch her. Mr. Matekoni rushed to her side.
Mma Ramotswe rushed to the telephone. Dr. Moffat would know--
A whisper that was loud as a clap of thunder.
"I want to be strong."
And then Motholeli stood.
The crowd cheered when Note Mokoti finished the solo with a wild trill of his trumpet. Mopping his balding head, he waved to his audience before hopping off the stage. A small jazz club in Paris, true. At least it wasn't like the old days, playing for his supper in a shebeen or as a trained monkey at a white's wedding in South Africa. The pay was good, the liquor fine, and plenty of women both white and African happy to entertain him for the evening. Not to mention a continent away from Johannesburg. Who knew that bitch he had slapped about for denying him a bed had several tsotsi friends? Jo'Burg had become quite unhealthy. He had accepted the first foreign job offer he had heard about. Better than being necklaced or carved up by the vicious, desperate street thugs who swarmed South Africa's streets. At least it had ended up well in the end.
Women. He slammed down a shot of whiskey. The bane of his existence. Fine company, but they always disappointed. Whine, whine, until you took a belt to them. Like that fat wife of his--well, former supposed wife. There had been the matter of another wife at the time of their wedding that had complicated that problem. It had cost him the several thousand pula he had thought to claim from her when he had paid her a visit a few years ago. The arrogance of the woman. Rich from her silly detective agency and her cattle and her second husband. She had bluffed him out of what was rightfully his. Left him to scrabble for a way to pay off a most inconvenient debt. Well, he was well clear of her.
Hmmm. Note glanced at the white girl in the corner. Bird-thin, the oddest eyes he had ever seen. Perhaps--what did they call them?--one of those Goths, in her velvets and silks. An odd one out in the crowd, but interesting. She had swayed to his music every time he took the stage for a solo. By the gems on her fingers, a rich brat at the least. He weaved his way over to her booth, unsteady from a night of drinking between sets, with a broad smile on his face. Ah, she liked him! The white girls liked big, broad African men like him, didn't they? A little paunch from middle age, but still a handsome scoundrel. Note sat beside her.
"I like your music," she said, a strong Cockney accent slurring her speech. "When you play, I hear lovely lovely screaming and angels playing naughty games. Swish swish, crack crack!"
"Ah--" Note swallowed. In a moment her swaying had become that of a mamba rising to strike.
"All alone." The girl mock-dabbed tears away. She seized his wrist with a grasp like iron. "Daddy stinking, Mummy dust to dust, Spike rising fire phoenix into the sky, so bright.'
"Please--" His frantic begging was drowned out by the trio on stage. Everyone else looked away from their isolated booth.
"No one to play games, not even Miss Edith." Her face changed into something not human at all. Fangs and amber eyes gleamed in the candlelight.
Note Mokoti's last living screams died when fangs sank into his neck. Drusilla drank deep. Oh, he tasted wonderfully. All champagne and hate and nasty blades beneath his smiles. As he slumped, she opened a wound with a talon at her breast. He suckled like a baby. Oh, Note was his name. And what lovely notes he would sink, in blood and fire and fury. The sands would burn. Feigning a pair of drunken lovers, she guided the dying man out through the dark alleys of Montmartre. A vampire's strength ripped off the cover of a manhole. Down into the sewers they went, down down into the earth where her fledge would rest in the catacombs until he rose anew.
Drusilla hummed to the trumpets of the stars screaming while she entombed her new lover among skulls and bones.