Lubbers sighed and knit his brow. “Except that it’s taking so terribly long. Her parents are naturally hoping for quick results …”
A white man in the same sort of uniform as the man at the gate came striding across the courtyard and gave us a military salute.
“War veterans,” said Lubbers. “I need them to ensure the safety of my clinic and my patients.” “Have you had problems in the past?”
“Certainly,” he replied. “Not all blacks are the gentle lambs’ certain people make them out to be, though I should add that whites have also tried their hand at bushwhacking out on the veldt.”
I knew that my next question might arouse his displeasure, but I asked it anyway: “What do you think of these kidnappings? Where have the missing persons gone?”
Lubbers sat back in his chair, smiling thinly. “I suppose you assume that I’m now going to back the police theory to the hilt, but the only sensible answer is: I’ve no idea. There are many possible reasons for their disappearance, whether involuntary or deliberate: family altercations, dissatisfaction with local conditions, and, of course, criminal activities. It may even be that our part of the world is being haunted by a psychopathic mass murderer.”
I noticed only now that the walls of one of the huts in which Lubbers had installed his clinic were smoke-blackened.
“There was a fire not long ago,” he told me. “A nurse’s negligence was to blame. Luckily, no one was hurt. Would you like a quick tour? You can see everything except for the isolation ward.”
I declined with thanks. A dog barked. Several others promptly joined in.
I briefly wondered whether to tell Lubbers about the mastiff, but some indeterminate feeling dissuaded me. Instead, I said, “You keep dogs? For hunting and protection, I assume?”
“Quite so,” he said. “May I see them?” I asked. “I’m a great dog lover.”
“Of course.” If my request surprised him, he didn’t show it.
The dogs, housed in a large, barred enclosure, were just being fed by a servant-hence their excitement. I counted five specimens of various breeds. There was no mastiff among them. I vainly scanned the animals for a discolored tongue but noticed nothing unusual apart from the sudden aggressivity of a large male crossbreed. It snapped at the others—which retreated, whimpering, into the corners of the pound-then sprang at the bars with such force that it bled from the muzzle. Though hurt, it tried again. It was intent on attacking me and Lubbers.
The doctor gave the servant a court order. My limited knowledge of Afrikaans was sufficient for me to gather that the man was to kill the animal at once.
We had taken only a few steps when a shot rang out behind us.
“Some mongrels tend to have uncontrollable tempers,” Lubbers remarked. “I should have had the animal put down before.”
When taking my leave, I noticed something about his attire that I hadn’t spotted before. It was a small, brownish stain on his shirt, just beside the button tape. It could have been dried blood.