Deadly Harvest A Detective Kubu Mystery - By Michael Stanley

Part One


“By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.”



AS SHE WALKED HOME, Lesego’s head was full of Christmas. She knew her sister would save some of her tips and buy her a small present. Lesego had no money, so she was making Dikeledi a doily from scraps of red material left over from her needlework class. She was trying to embroider “Dikeledi” across it in blue, but she’d made the first letters too big, and the whole word wouldn’t fit neatly. She frowned. She was going to have to start it again.

Lesego was carrying a cloth bag heavy with shopping and another with her schoolbooks and, even though it was a threadbare hand-me-down, her school uniform was hot. She was already tired when she came to the steep hill leading to her aunt’s house in the upper section of Mochudi. She sighed, and her eyes followed the road upward, causing her to miss her footing. She stumbled, nearly dropping her shopping. The two potatoes she’d bought rolled from the top of the bag toward the road, and her shopping list, which had been shoved between them, fluttered into the weeds on the side of the road. She gave a small cry and scurried after the potatoes; her aunt would be furious if she lost anything. Just as she retrieved the fugitive vegetables, a red Volkswagen pulled over and stopped next to her. The driver leaned across and opened the passenger door.

“Hello, Lesego,” he said. “Jump in. I’ll give you a lift up the hill.”

She gave a grateful smile and wrestled her shopping and schoolbooks into the car. “Hello, rra. It’s very kind of you. It’s a long hill.” He smiled back, put the car into gear, and started on the road up. There was a click as he engaged the door locks. Lesego took no notice. She looked around.

“This isn’t your usual car.”

“You’re very observant, Lesego. My car is at the garage. They loaned me this one while they service mine.”

She nodded, wondering about people who were so rich that they could just lend you a new car with no trouble. But she thought it would be rude to say that, so instead she pointed at her supplies.

“I got everything my aunt wanted except the two sweet potatoes. They were too expensive—and old as well—so I bought two ordinary potatoes instead, which were cheap. Do you think she’ll be cross?”

“I’m sure she won’t be. It was a sensible decision.”

She nodded, relieved.

When they reached the top of the hill, she turned to the driver.

“You can drop me here if you like, rra. I can walk home now. Thank you.”

But the car started to move faster now that it was on the level.

“Let’s go for a short drive first,” he said.


Dikeledi looked down at her bowl of gravy with a few kidney beans floating in it. She hoped the question wasn’t meant for her, but her aunt looked directly at her: “Dikeledi, I asked you where Lesego was.”

“I don’t know, Aunt,” Dikeledi said in a frightened voice. “She didn’t come back from school.”

“She didn’t bring the shopping, either. I gave her money.” This seemed to offend Constance Koma the most. “Where is she?”

Dikeledi glanced around the table desperately, looking for rescue. But the boys were silent, their eyes downcast. Surprisingly, it was Tole who came to her aid. The children were supposed to call him uncle, but between themselves they had other names for Constance’s partner, with his bad breath and groping hands.

“Who cares where she is, Constance,” Tole said. “She probably stayed over with a friend. We’ll give her a good hiding when she gets back. Teach her a lesson.” He reached across the table, pulled the dish of pap toward him, and dug into it with his fingers. “Let’s eat.”

“We haven’t said grace yet!”

Tole hesitated, still holding the lump of pap.

“For-what-we-are-about-to-receive-may-the-Lord-make-us-truly-thankful-Amen.” He dipped the ball of pap into his watery gravy and slurped it into his mouth.

The boys started to eat the same way, and Dikeledi joined in, hungry despite her worry for her younger sister. Her aunt scowled at her but said no more.

Soon the food was all gone.

“The pap was burned,” Tole said. “And there wasn’t enough.”

“If you got off your ass and found work, we’d have more,” Constance said.

“Don’t talk to me that way!”

Constance just looked at him. After a few moments he shoved back his chair and stalked out. They all knew where he was going—to the Bootleggers Bar.