Maverick Life


Tannie Maria in the Karoo – An extract from The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Maria Mystery

Tannie Maria in the Karoo – An extract from The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Maria Mystery
Bokmakierie. Image: Bowen Boshier

Sally Andrew is the author of a series of Tannie Maria murder mysteries set in the Klein Karoo.

Chapter One 

Have you ever wanted something really badly? You can’t just wait till it lands in your lap, but if you chase it too hard you might chase it away from you. Or catch something you didn’t expect. I was maybe too hungry for love and ended up with murder on my plate. 

It was a warm Saturday afternoon in March, and I was getting ready for dinner with Detective Lieutenant Henk Kannemeyer. A bokmakierie sang out in my garden, and a bird replied from a thorn tree in the veld. 

I put a bowl of salad onto the stoep table. ‘Ag, you look beautiful,’ I told the salad. 

I had made three salads and two puddings, for just two people. I guess that shows I was trying too hard. 

Henk was bringing the potjie for the fire. The potato salad and coleslaw were in the fridge; the rocket salad with Brie, red figs and pomegranate pips was on the stoep table. There had been some gentle rain the day before that made the air so clean that I could see the red rocks on the Rooiberg and the purple folds of the Langeberge. But now was not the time to enjoy the view. There were still the butter dumplings to make, as well as the icing for the peanut-butter coffee chocolate cake. 

Tonight was a special date because Henk was going to spend the night. We had discussed where Kosie, his lamb, was going to sleep. The lamb was a gift from Henk’s uncle Koos, the sheep farmer, and was not meant to be a pet. But although Henk loved roast lamb, he didn’t have the heart to do that to Kosie. In his own house, the lammetjie slept in the kitchen, but Henk agreed it was time the lamb learnt to be an outside animal, and it would sleep in the little hok behind the house with my chickens. It got on well with my chickens. 

The idea of Henk spending the night made me nervous. I ate some of the potato salad with its cream-and-mint dressing. The bokmakierie was still singing in my garden. Most birds have just one hit single, but that shrike could make a double album with all its tunes. My favourite song is the one where it throws its head back, opens its beak and pumps its little yellow breast. It was singing that very song as I iced the cake with melted chocolate and coffee. Another bird that sings with such feeling is the fiery-necked nightjar. When there’s a full moon, it sometimes sings all night. It makes a beautiful bubbling sound that is filled with such pleasure it can make you blush. 

I cleaned the icing bowl with my fingers. Now I would need to scrub my hands before putting on my lacy white underwear. White, like it was going to be my first time. 

It would be the first time since my late husband, Fanie. 

SOUTH AFRICA - February 2012: A view of Mushroom Rock with sheep grazing in the foreground. Feature text available. (Photo by Gallo Images / GO! / Dawie Verwey)

A view of Mushroom Rock with sheep grazing in the foreground. Image: Gallo Images / GO! / Dawie Verwey

Oom Gert Dirkse looks into the future. On the outskirts of Paulshoek in Namaqualand lives Oom Gert Dirkse, a herbalist and seer who receives visitors from as far away as Johannesburg. The settlement of Paulshoek is hemmed in by the Kamiesberg range. The highest peak in the range, Rooiberg, is 1 700 m above sea level. Feature text available. (Photo by Gallo Images/GO!/Simone Scholtz)

Paulshoek, hemmed in by the Kamiesberg range. Image: Gallo Images / GO! / Simone Scholtz

Karoo sunset, stones and koppies with Langeberge in the distance.

Karoo sunset, stones and koppies with Langeberge in the distance. Image: Andrea Nixon

Henk arrived in his Toyota Hilux bakkie just before sunset. He came with a bag of wood for the fire, a three-legged potjie pot, a lamb and the lamb’s blue blanket. Kosie wandered over to join my chickens at the compost buffet. Henk put the cast-iron pot by the braai spot in the garden. I stood on the stoep, watching him as he brushed his hands together and then wiped them on his jeans and looked up at me. He smiled that big smile of his, and the sun caught the tips of his chestnut moustache. He wore a white cotton shirt with some buttons undone, and his chest hairs glowed silver and copper. What had I done to deserve someone like him? 

‘Hello, Henk,’ I said, smiling. I stood with my hands on my hips, in my cream dress with the blue flowers. 

He did not answer but walked up the stairs onto the stoep. He cupped my chin in his hand and tilted it up to him. He bent down (he is big and tall, and I am round and short) and kissed me. He smelt like fresh bread and cinnamon, and honey from the beeswax on his moustache. 

He held his large hand in the small of my back and pressed me to him. I wanted to lead him inside there and then, and if I’d followed the wild blood of my father (who was English and a journalist), I would have done just that. But my mother was a respectable Afrikaans housewife, and she had fed me her morals along with all her good meals. 

‘I should light the fire,’ said Henk, his voice warm in my ear. ‘Yes,’ I said.
The best potjie needs a few hours simmering on a low heat. DM/ ML

This extract is from The Satanic Mechanic: A Tannie Maria Mystery. You can buy Sally Andrew’s books here. Sally reads from her novel:

In case you missed it, also read Tannie Maria’s Advice and Recipe Column: Ouma’s Karoo Lamb Pie

Tannie Maria’s Advice and Recipe Column: Ouma’s Karoo Lamb Pie

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