The first cold snap of Winter in the Mother City hit him hard this year. He wrapped the threadbare coat tighter around his shoulders, his hands tucked deep into the too small pockets. The cold still managed to seep in around his wrists, forcing him to squeeze the bunched up R50 note even tighter. The Winter wind always whistled down Long Street in May, and he cursed himself for choosing this location. And for the myriad of other stupid decisions he had made recently…
How different things had been 5 months ago. He tried moving around to get some blood circulating in his feet again, the inner numbness now spreading to his legs, immobilizing him. He reflected on his situation now, a tight coil of fear tightening in his stomach, self doubt, and perhaps even self loathing growing in him. This was not part of the plan. Yet, strangely compelled, he stayed there where he stood, waiting. Not too long to go. These guys were usually on time.
The car was so unassuming when it arrived that Moeneeb almost laughed at it. An old nondescript slightly beat up 10 year old Jetta, white, looking like someone from Parow’s daily commute. The driver of the car slowed to a stop now, having seen Moeneeb standing in front of Snoekies. He ignored the glare from the parking meter maid, stopped on the yellow line, then rolled down the passenger window. He called out now and Moeneeb moved to the car, quickly opening the door and slipping onto the faded cloth seats. He closed the door with a hard tug, banging it hard, and earning another glare from the driver. The car moved off now, and merged easily with the Friday evening traffic, heading up Long street towards Kloof.
Moeneeb looked through the clean windscreen and saw the top of the mountain clearly. All his senses heightened now, he could feel his pulse throbbing in his neck, the cold sweat of a few minutes ago now warming quickly in the heated car. The driver ignored him, and continued driving slowly, keeping to his lane and sticking to the almost crawling speed of 30km/hour. Moeneeb glanced at the man now and took in his appearance for the first time. He looked to be in his late fifties, wearing an old pair of faded jeans, checked shirt, and camel coloured coat. His long hair peeked out from under an old cap, the kind favoured by racecourse punters down at Kenilworth. He looked, to Moeneeb, to all intents and purposes, like someone’s dad, or maybe even a granddad.
The car now approached the intersection of Long and Wale Street, and the man turned into the parking garage of the old Saambou Bank building. The heavy metal security gates were already coming down again, as the car came to a standstill in a corner of the empty garage.
The man turned to Moeneeb now, indicating they should leave the car, still silent, no words being spoken between them. Moeneeb knew what he needed to do, fear transforming itself into adrenalin, charging through his body. He slipped out of the car, and walked to the where the man stood at the open boot. He reached in and picked up the laptop bag, the new ultra book almost weightless in his hand. The man started walking to the small metal gate, waving a small grey tag in front of the scanner, the gate jumping open with a loud clang. Moeneeb followed him up the stairs slowly, watching the now dead CCTV cameras as he passed them, the silence of the building deafening. These old building were always noisy and alive with the hum of the large air-conditioning units, but this building was so quiet now that it had been turned off.
Focused now on the task at hand, Moeneeb followed the man to the small server room. The machines still hummed with life, the backup power still connected to the building next door. This had been part of the design when they had installed the system all those years ago, the power had to stay on, the computer servers were not allowed to be turned off, the flow of information had to stay on, always. Multiple backups and fail safe methods had been been discussed and implemented, and Moeneeb had made it happen.
Dropping the bag lightly on the small table, the coldness in the room creeped under his thin jacket again. He would use some of the money from this job to buy some new clothes. After this gig, he would be able to afford to buy something decent, maybe from Markhams. He smiled to himself now, thinking that this would be some easy money for a change. God knew, he needed it.
Powering up the compact machine, he took a minute to admire the sleek aluminium finish, and the smooth feel of the recessed keys on the keyboard. Top of the range, core i7, nice. He thought of keeping it after the job was done, then thought again, no, this machine would be trouble. He pushed the thought from his mind. The old man had returned now, the bunch of keys jingling noisily in his hand. His silence was now easy for Moeneeb to accept, so when he spoke loudly, Moeneeb jumped. The man’s voice sounded as if he had gargled with gravel, the small pieces of rough sand having destroyed his vocal chords a long time ago. Coupled with a lifetime of smoking Gunston plains, the man had a voice that would set off a car alarm. Deep and rough, it sounded like someone running a brick through a blender at low speed.
”Your instructions are there. You have 1 hour. I will wait outside.”
Moeneeb sat down now, and pulled out the flash drive from his inside pocket, inserting it into the slot on the side of the laptop. The usb drive was shaped to look like a key, a gift from a friend who knew that he liked that sort of thing. The laptop booted up incredibly quickly, the log on screen requiring no password. Moeneeb went to work. He detected the wireless router, and logged on with the password he had setup all those months ago. Faanie had been very specific about this job. Copy everything, then delete all trace of the information, all of it. And make sure that it could never be recovered, ever, again.
The program ran quickly, the code optimised to copy, upload to the remote server at lightning speed. This was his thing. His skill. The time he had spent inside had been an education and having the right connections had helped. His natural ability to work with computers and his years working in the family electrical business had all helped. So when Moeneeb had made the mistake of wiring the money to his personal account that first time, and Faanie had picked it up, the alliance forged was to stay in place. For obvious reasons Moeneeb had to take the fall, the discreet arraignment taking place after hours, the sentence a light slap on the wrist, but the damage had been done. Two years in Correctional Services facilities with access to some of the best criminal minds in the world, and Moeneeb had flourished, quickly learning how to code on the easily smuggled in laptop, the 3G modem allowing him access to the Internet. On the inside, he became the banker, moving funds from bank to bank on behalf of the bosses, all the time teaching himself new programming techniques. And when his stay came to an end, he found himself alone in the outside world, with all his former friends gone, ties broken, except the one with Faanie, the old white guy. And unable to find work because of his criminal record, an unholy alliance had now been forged.
So when Moeneeb got the call he was not entirely surprised. Last year it had been the mining thing in Joburg, and he had to go in to do the cleanup, now this. A nice little sideline job, cash money, and relatively low risk. He made another copy, this time to his private little server, then ran the kill program, the virus that would wipe the drives. He smiled to himself. This virus had potential, but could never be released onto the web, the destruction it could cause would be catastrophic. He allowed himself to envision a dystopian future where he could release the virus, but then realised it as pure fantasy, forcing himself back to the present.
He watched the screen now, as the accumulated years of data was wiped clean. When the auditors arrived on Monday, they would find nothing, not a trace of data. When they logged on the virus would transfer to their machines a small piece of code that would send him all the information on their machines, every time they logged onto the Internet. And silently, Moeneeb would gather the information, and store it, until Faanie called. Money would change hands.
Finishing up now, he checked his watch and saw that the entire job had taken just under an hour. He pulled the usb key out and slipped it into his wallet. Quickly now, he wiped down the machine, removing all trace of his DNA from the machine with the small pack of alcohol swabs. He closed the machine with a quiet click, and stood up, stretching his arms and clicking is neck and back.
The old guy was waiting outside, just sitting there. Moeneeb did not see the gun under the newspaper. The old man looked up, a tear running from his eye. This still upset him, even after all this time, this would be number 73. The silenced gun spat out one bullet. It hit Moeneeb between the eyes and he crumpled like a sack onto the floor. The old guy picked up the ultrabook from underneath the fallen body. Reaching down he took the boys wallet, removing the usb stick, then wiping the wallet down, pushed it back into the boys jean pocket. He stepped over the body, leaving the security tag on the floor next to the dead man, and walked to the small emergency exit. He pushed the bar, the silent alarm triggering at the ADT control center where a lone security guard would dispatch a car to come and check. The car would find nothing wrong. The door would be closed from the outside. On Monday, the security firm will find the body, cold, all leads dead.
He walked out into Wale Street, the city dark and foreboding. The long walk back to the Bo-Kaap was refreshing, turning into Rose Street now, he passed the Bistro on Rose and saw the new generation of Cape Town partying up a storm. He smiled. And life goes on, for some anyway….