Suffering the Consequences
YOU South Africa|28 October 2021
It was time for Eric to pay for his sins
RICHARD RHYS JONES

MIKE Sloane was still awake when the clock in the lounge of his flat struck 2am.

He’d lain in bed since 11pm, watching the light of the sign across the road blinking incessantly against the wall, suffusing his bedroom in a bright red glow, like blood.

He imagined tiny rivulets running down the wallpaper and forming pools on the carpet. He turned onto his stomach and buried his head in the pillow, but his mind dwelt on his violent plan.

A few hours ago he’d taken the hand-grenade from its hiding place in the garage and packed it carefully in a cottonwool-lined cardboard box. He’d pierced the lid and looped strong wrapping cord through the eye of the firing pin.

Then he’d taped down the lid and enclosed the box in three layers of tough brown paper. The loose end of the cord was passed through a slit in the paper at the bottom of the box and wound round and round before the knot was tied. He was satisfied his skilful packaging would explode when the cord was tugged.

He was also careful about writing the address in a childish scrawl. It read “Mr Eric C Conradie” and had the word “PERSONAL” in capital letters at the top.

He wanted to be sure that if the police found the paper they wouldn’t discover who’d sent it or where it originated. It would be delivered by a courier service on the other side of the city. To ensure he wouldn’t be recognised, he’d wear spectacles, a cap and a false moustache, and he’d provide a false address.

He’d arrange for the parcel to arrive at the Conradie home about 5pm, soon after Eric returned from work. He felt sure there was no danger of Christine being there as she’d be playing bridge with friends and usually got home after 6pm.

Sloane thought about the war in Angola 35 years ago and two 25-year-old infantrymen – Sloane and Conradie – fighting together in the same regiment. He remembered the brutality of it all and how they’d stood side by side as the battered bodies of their comrades were lowered into makeshift graves.

He recalled how they’d found a dead Cuban soldier sprawled grotesquely in the mud and had each taken a Russian hand-grenade from his bandolier as a souvenir. Eric had told him he’d got rid of his because the sentence for retaining unexploded war mementoes was severe.

Sloane turned onto his back and thought about how fate had brought them together again after the war.

Both of them qualified as industrial pharmacists and were employed in the laboratories of the same pharmaceutical company in Johannesburg. Twenty years ago, when Eric had married attractive brunette Christine, he’d been best man.

Since then, Eric had gone from the lithe, athletic youngster he’d known in the army to an obese, middle-aged slob whose waistline bulged from an excess of liquor and food. He no longer laughed easily but was morose and moody.

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