Read A Death in the Family Online
Authors: Michael Stanley
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To Andy Taylor, principal of the extraordinary Maru-a-Pula school in Gaborone
The peoples of Southern Africa have integrated many words of their own languages into colloquial English. Most of the time, the meanings are clear from the context, but for interest, we have included a Glossary at the end of the book.
For information about Botswana, the book, and its protagonist, please visit
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and on Twitter as @detectivekubu.
Words in square brackets are approximate phonetic pronunciations. Foreign and unfamiliar words are in a Glossary at the back of the book.
Detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department [Edison BUN-duh]
Kubu's mother [Uh-MUN-tleh BEN-goo]
Bengu, David “Kubu”
Assistant Superintendent in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department [David “KOO-boo” BEN-goo]
Kubu's wife [Joy BEN-goo]
Bengu, Mzilikaze (Mzi)
Kubu's step uncle [M-zilly-CAH-zi BEN-goo]
David and Joy Bengu's adopted daughter [NO-no BEN-goo (no as in nor, but without the “r”)]
Joy and Kubu's daughter [TOO-me BEN-goo]
Kubu's father [WILL-mon BEN-goo]
Forensic expert [Zuh-NEH-leh Dluh-MEE-nee]
Hong Zhi Peng
Manager of the Konshua Mine
First female detective in the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department [Samantha KAH-muh]
Bushman childhood friend of Kubu [Ggoo-muhn-AY-go (gg = guttural sound like clearing one's throat)]
Son of the tribal chief in Shoshong [Julius KO-muh (O as the o in or)]
Tribal chief in Shoshong [Run-koro-MAA-neh KO-muh (O as the o in or)]
Assistant Director, Department of Mines [Goodman Koo-NEH-neh]
Director of the Botswana Criminal Investigation Department [Jacob Mah-BAH-koo]
Pathologist for the Botswana police
Director, Department of Mines [Albert Mo-PAH-ti (O as the o in or)]
American mining representative
Ngombe, Mma and Rra
Wilmon and Amantle's neighbors and friends [En-GOM-bee]
Joy Bengu's sister [Pleasant Seh-ROE-meh]
Shonhu Wei Long
Executive at Konshua Mine
Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu was enjoying his dream. He was at an all-you-can-eat buffet at The Palms hotel. His table was on the patio away from the noisy bar, and Joy, his wife, was visiting her sister, so she couldn't limit how much he had to eat.
A smile flitted over his sleeping face as the bowl of shrimp on the buffet table slowly morphed into a platter of lobster in front of his eyes, and a man with a chef's hat put two enormous tails onto his plate. Then his plate grew to the size of a tray, and there was room for cold, poached salmon and a delicious white sauce he didn't recognize, as well as a large piece of smoked trout. That's enough for a starter, he thought as he gazed at the lamb on the spit and the mountain of rare beef surrounded by crisp roast potatoes and horseradish sauce. He picked his way back to his table past the other diners and their dainty helpings, where his half-empty glass of Sauvignon Blanc miraculously changed into a silver ice bucket with a bottle of MoÃ«t champagne, already open. A white-gloved waiter with a red sash pulled back his chair, then slid it forward as he sat down. Kubu nodded, and the waiter poured the bubbling nectar into a flute that stood a foot tall.
Even though he was fast asleep, Kubu let out a quiet sigh of pleasure.
Joy rolled onto her side, trying to move away from the twitches of Kubu's arm as he drained the flute in a series of toasts to the other diners on the patio.
Now Kubu watched a man nearly as huge as himself trundle a large trolley of desserts toward him. Sherry trifle, apple pie, malva pudding, chocolate cake, carrot cake, jugs of custard and bowls of whipped cream delicately laced with cognac. Kubu groaned with pleasure as it approached. Thank God, there was no fruit salad or fresh fruit.
He opened his mouth, and the man wheeled the trolley right into it. Why choose, Kubu thought, when you can have it all?
Just as he was about to wash it all down with a bottle of port that had appeared in his hand, an alarm went off, and a doctor ran onto the patio holding a clipboard. He pointed at Kubu, and the alarm rang again. Kubu looked around, and the piles of food shrank in front of his eyes, and the diners evaporated into thin air. Kubu became frantic. Where was the food going? What was he going to eat?
“Wake up, Kubu!” Joy shook him. “Wake up. It's the phone. It'll be for you.”
Kubu shook his head trying to orient himself back to reality.
“Okay. Okay,” he grumbled, and stretched over to pick up the phone next to his bed.
“Bengu.” His voice came out like a hoarse whisper. He cleared his throat.
“Bengu.” This time he recognized his own voice.
“Kubu, this is Jacob Mabaku. I have some bad news.”
Kubu sat up, trying to think which of his cases could have blown up so badly that the director of the Criminal Investigation Department had to call in the middle of the night.
“What's going on, Director?”
“There's no easy way to say this, Kubu. Your father's dead. I'm afraid it wasn't natural causes. He's been murdered.”
“My father? Murdered?” A band of tightness squeezed Kubu's chest. “It must be a mistake. That's impossible. No one would do that.” The band tightened, and Kubu found it difficult to breathe.
“Your mother phoned the police in Mochudi about three hours ago to say he was missing. She was worried he'd lost his way because he's been absentminded lately. Anyway, they started looking, and about an hour ago they found his body about five blocks from here, on Litabi Street. Some neighbors identified him. They phoned me. I'm at your mother's house now.”
Kubu couldn't thinkâcouldn't breathe. A huge sob shook his body. His beloved father murdered? It was not possible.
“WhatÂ â¦ what happened? How did he die? Do they know who did it?”
“He was stabbed. And there's no indication at the moment either who did it or what the motive was.”
Kubu sucked in a deep breath. He wasn't prepared for his father to be dead.
“My deepest sympathies, Kubu. He was a wonderful person. One of a kind.”
Kubu couldn't speak. Only a croak came out of his mouth.
“Kubu. Please put Joy on the line.”
“What time is it?”
“It's just after midnight. Please give the phone to Joy.”
Kubu turned to Joy, who was sitting up, tears streaming down her face. She put one arm around Kubu's shoulders and took the phone.
“Is it true?” she whispered.
“Unfortunately, it is, Joy. It's a terrible tragedy. But I need you to look after Kubu. He's not going to take this well.”
“What can I do?”
“I've sent a car to bring him up here. His mother needs him, and you too if you can get someone to take care of the kids.”
“It's late. I don't knowâ¦”
“The car will be there in twenty minutes.”