I was following Google Maps, and it had saved me a significant amount of time. I came off William Nicol off-ramp. The choked lane to turn right off the off-ramp on William Nicol trailed back onto the highway itself.
So I took the left lane, thinking there would be a gap somewhere to get into the right-hand lane. There was none. In fact, the right-hand lane was being choked to death by taxis trying to get into the flow, right at the top. They had resorted to jumping over the island to get into the flow.
So trapped in the left lane I continued into William Nicol going the wrong way. I have done this before. Up to the first traffic lights and do a U-turn. And I was on William Nicol where I wanted to be, missing the chokehold on the off-ramp.
I was very pleased with myself and moved into the right-hand lane to get past the accident before Lesley. As the traffic in the lane moved at a reasonable pace, a big BMW 750 jumped across in front of me. I let him go, and gave him space. No “thank you” from the driver.
The lights at Kingfisher were red. I stopped behind the BMW. I needed to get to the Clicks at Broadacres, and it was getting on in time. So I checked Google to see what time they closed, while cars were stationary.
Then there was at least one person right next to the car. I felt there was a second person as well. I looked to the right and saw him open his jacket, and cock what looked like a 9mm pistol very close to his belt buckle. He was right up against the car.
Without thinking, I swung the steering wheel very hard to the right and hit the gas.
There were two very loud shots next to my ear. The ear still buzzed the next morning.
I bumped the perpetrator as I swung right, then corrected left. I was in a clear right-turn-only lane, and the lights had turned green. I roared down the lane, past the three or four cars ahead of me, and across the intersection.
I jumped all the lanes to get to the left lane, and up the ramp onto Witkoppen Road.
As I went up the ramp, I was aware of a cold feeling on my upper body. I remember thinking that there was no great feeling of adrenalin rush that I would have expected. There was no fear. Just this icy cold on my chest. And anyway, the feeling was subsiding.
Did they shoot me? was the cold feeling my blood running out? As I cruised down Witkoppen, I started feeling my upper body for wounds. Nothing.
The lights at Cedar changed to green as I approached. I continued down Witkoppen towards the Dougalsdale police station. I drove straight into the parking in front of the station and parked in a reserved space.
When I got out of the car, I looked at the sides of the vehicle to see if there were any shots in the car. I was almost disappointed that there were none.
I hurried into the charge office. It was almost empty. Two people were helping someone with some papers. One was a reservist volunteer, there to help with the flow of work.
A constable was sitting at the general desk, with his head on the palm of his hand, elbow on the desk. He looked bored. I went straight to him and told him that someone had tried to highjack me, that two shots had been fired, and that I had knocked over someone. I may have injured the perpetrator with my car.
The constable hardly moved. His head still in his hand. It struck me that this older man, in the police force, had no rank insignia at all on him. How does a policeman spend years in the force, and have no rank? This thought went through my frazzled mind as he mumbled something. I started repeating myself. There was no reaction.
“Well, I can see that you have no interest”. I stormed out of the station. But I really stormed, not 702’s version of an Ashwin Willemse “storm”.
OK, so I didn’t slam doors and throw dustbins over. but I moved out of there loudly and quickly. It was a small storm. With some Anglo Saxon adjectives.
I got to the car. Started it, and reversed out of the parking place. As I moved towards the exit and realised that if I had injured one or both of the perpetrators, there might be a hit and run report or something coming at me soon.
So I sat in the car with the engine running. I started putting a short report on Whatsapp to our neighbourhood group. I wanted there to be a record that I was at the police station. I wanted the record that I had attempted to report the matter. With a time stamp. I wanted a record that I had done what was required.
As I sat tapping out the third or fourth transmission, the civilian volunteer came to my window. He said I should go into another office, and talk to the guy there. “He will listen. He is very good.”
I went into the office. There was a man sitting in a police uniform, with a castle and star on his shoulders. I tried to remember what rank it was. In the military that had been a “Kommandant”, back in the 80’s. But there was a thing about the police then, that they preferred the title “Lieutenant Colonel”. So in the midst of this violent drama, I had this crazy series of thoughts running through my mind. After 1994 there was some other directive that to change this in the military as well. And then another thought that a lieutenant colonel is not addressed as such, but rather as “colonel”. I tried that. “is that correct?” I asked. He smiled and confirmed it was right.
I smiled too.
I told him the story of what had happened. I told him that I was concerned that I had driven over someone, who might be lying in a ditch. I had driven away from the scene. And I started having doubts that I had been shot at, at all. But my ear was ringing, and dammit, it had really happened!
He was very friendly, and helpful. He stilled my fears that I may have hurt someone. His reasoning that a sideswipe from a stationary position is never going to do much damage. There was nothing they could do. The guy will have run away. and there would be nothing for them to see.
He was right of course. He said that he would write it up in the incident report. He passed a piece of paper and a pen to me. “Put your details here.” I wrote my name, ID number, and address. Then I fluffed my telephone number, crossed it out and wrote again. I had to think hard about getting the telephone number right.
So there it was. On a scrap of paper. He would enter my details into the incident report. Maybe.
But what else was there for me to do?
I went back to the car and again looked for any damage. There really was none.
I sat in the car and tapped out a message to the family group. I started with “I am ok”
Then I told them about an attempted highjacking, and I would be home soon.
I was running out of time for Clicks. So I drove there. As I pulled into the parking, they were closing the doors. It was after 7. Perhaps I could persuade myself into the doors. No chance. My phone was ringing. It was Ness. It had been ringing for a while, and it stopped as I answered. I tried calling her back, but it would not connect. I think she was still on the line.
I walked down the line towards Spar.
She called again. Or I called her. I don’t remember. They were on their way to the police station to be with me. But I am at Spar. Do we need anything? No! Come home. We are turning around.
So I went home. They were parking in the garage as I got there. All four of them.
It was great to be home with the people I love.
I have a vivid memory of the gun against the window. I saw him pull his jacket aside. The pistol was in his right hand, lying parallel to the car, pointing to the back of the car. With his left hand, he pushed the slide back. But before his hand covered the slide, I saw the ribbing on the slide. A grip engraved into the weapon. Like the side of a Glock. But a chromed slide, rather than the blued slide of a Glock. And the ribbing was further forward. This was not a cheap gun. As he did this I thought, that if a man was going into a robbery, he would have already chambered a round, before getting to his target. “This is not for real”. But I must get out of there. As I whipped the steering wheel to the right, the turbo took a moment to wake up, and then we were off. At the moment that turbo was waking, the shots were fired. And they weren’t fired by an amateur. It was a quick tap-tap. People need to practice to get that right. Everything else worked in my favour. The gap between me and the BMW was enough. The right turn only lane next to me was clear. I was far enough back in the queue to block other motorists from entering the lane.
The car behaved beautifully. Power steering under full throttle is wonderful. I like to think that I fishtailed in a cloud of burning tyres, but I think that is probably not the case.
The colonel I spoke to at the station was Lt. Colonel Simango. While talking, a captain walked past and stopped to listen. He confirmed that there had been a report of shots fired at that intersection. So that was my first confirmation that I had not imagined the gun.
As we finished dinner, I remembered that my recorder had been recording while this was happening. I downloaded the clip and found the approximate time. And there very clearly, the two shots. Then the roar of the engine. This is all very real.
I lay in bed, playing on Whatsapp, chatting to the community who were all very supportive. Then I figured I should get some sleep, so I turned off the blue light of the tablet and started reading my Kindle. Dead Man’s Walk by Larry McMurtry. It is recommended reading by Stephen King in his memoir about writing. I am enjoying it.
So I read for an hour before I started feeling sleepy.
12:20 and the book was falling from my hands. So I rolled over and turned off the light.
The mindfulness of the book was gone. There was total darkness. And the shots were being fired again. And the sight of that weapon, and the casual way in which this guy sidled up to the car, with other cars all around. And the scene played through my mind over and over again.
I was not going to sleep. I lay awake wondering why we are able to take evasive action, get frustrated with the cops, and still go to Clicks, and then to Spar.
What are we doing here?