The U.S. debut of bestselling South African writer Chanette Paul.
Rejected by her parents, her sister, her husband, everyone except her extraordinary and unusual daughter, Caz Colijn lives a secluded life in her own little patch of South Africa. But a single phone call from her estranged sister is all it takes to shatter this refuge. Caz learns that her elderly mother is on her deathbed in Belgium—and that the old woman isn’t really Caz’s biological mother.
That phone call leads Caz down an ever-widening tunnel into her painful past. Jetting between Belgium and Africa, she’s desperate to learn who her biological parents are, why they gave her away, and whether this has anything to do with her daughter’s exceptional nature. Caz is so caught up in learning the truth about the past, she almost overlooks the person who is falling in love with her. And the very special key her foster mother leaves behind. And the two Congolese men who are following her every move.
From the Congo’s sparkling diamond mines to Belgium’s finest art galleries, from Africa’s civil unrest to its deeply spiritual roots, Sacrificed seamlessly crosses borders and decades with a fiercely captivating story.
Commissioner Max de Brabander was a serious man with a deep frown that seemed permanently etched between his light blue eyes despite the fact that he was probably not fifty yet. His mousy hair had just a hint of gray.
Caz sketched the background and told him that the uneasy feeling she had about the French doors and the shoe had made her decide to contact the police.
The frown deepened. “Why didn’t you contact us yesterday?”
“I didn’t want to be a nuisance. And I knew my sister wouldn’t be pleased if she returned and found I had called the police. She seems to have taken the front door key, which made me feel a little less anxious about the things I mentioned. I’m still hoping she’ll show up. I’m just really worried about the shoe.”
Her excuse didn’t go down well. It was probably understandable. The policeman didn’t know Tieneke the way Caz did.
“Please describe your sister to me.”
She did the best she could.
De Brabander looked at the inspector who had accompanied him. The man gave a slight shrug.
The commissioner turned to her again. “You have the key to your sister’s house?”
Caz took the key from the back pocket of her jeans and held it out to him.
“No, you must open up and take us in. Did you touch or move anything?”
It sounded like a premature question to her, but maybe the police over here were just more thorough than at home.
“I didn’t move anything, but I must have touched a few things. Including the locks and keys.”
He clicked his tongue and shook his head. “Well, let’s take a look.”
It was only a short distance, but they went in his car.
Inside Tieneke’s home she showed the policemen the French doors with the missing key before they went upstairs to Tieneke’s bedroom, where she pointed out the shoe. Was it her imagination, or did the two men exchange a meaningful look?
“Fetch the camera,” the commissioner ordered his sidekick.
While they were waiting for the inspector to return, De Brabander pulled surgical gloves from his coat pocket and wiggled them onto his fingers.
“I fell over the shoe,” Caz remembered. “It’s not in the same position any more. It was hidden under the corner of the duvet.”
The commissioner sighed, but said nothing.
The photo session turned into a lengthy affair, under the silent supervision of the commissioner.
Caz began to feel more and more uncomfortable. Were they always this serious in Belgium about someone who was merely suspected of being missing?
“Commissioner, I’ll be back in a moment. I just want to get some clothing from my suitcase,” she said after the umpteenth photo. “My luggage is still in the attic.” It felt like a banal thing to want to do while they were being so serious about Tieneke’s disappearance, but her clothing situation was turning into a crisis. And Tieneke’s bedroom was freaking her out.
De Brabander shook his head. “I’d prefer you to wait. We want to go through the entire house before anything is removed. I can arrange for your luggage to be brought to you, but only later.”
Now she really began to worry, but she merely said, “That would be kind, thank you.”
When the inspector had finally ceased taking photos, De Brabander crouched, took a pen from his pocket and used it to lift the corner of the duvet. He used the same pen to lift the shoe and bring it closer to his eyes. Then, just like Sherlock Holmes, the commissioner took a magnifying glass from his coat pocket, lifted the corner of the duvet again and studied the navy blue fabric.
“The way the duvet is hanging . . . Tieneke is a perfectionist.” Why she said it, she didn’t know.
The lump in her stomach grew harder. Something was very wrong. Surely they were being too serious about someone who might or might not be missing? And why had detectives been called to the scene instead of uniformed policemen?
De Brabander looked up at her. “Mrs. Colijn, I have to ask you to leave the house, please.”
“We have to summon the crime scene specialists and your presence might compromise the evidence. The house is now officially a crime scene until proved otherwise.”
“But . . .” She looked at him incredulously, unable to formulate the right question.
He sighed. “It appears there’s blood on the duvet cover. On the shoe as well. Very fine droplets, but present.”
The inspector lifted the duvet.
“Grevers!” De Brabander chided.
Grevers dropped the duvet, but not quickly enough. The smear on the white sheet under the duvet could only be blood.
Caz needed no further encouragement. She fled from the room, down the stairs and came to a halt outside, covering her face with her hands.
The inspector was beside her before she had regained her breath. “Mrs. Colijn, I’m very sorry. It was thoughtless of me.”
Caz couldn’t utter a word. The image of the bloodstain danced in front of her eyes.
Translated from the Afrikaans by Elsa Silke
2017, Catalyst Press