Damn, this flight is full, I thought to myself as the passengers kept piling into the Boeing 737-800 SAA flight to Cape Town, inching their way down the aisle to their respective seats, then struggling to put their oversized and over-allotment of luggage in the overhead bins. I was already seated in 31D. I had one bag, easily stowed overhead. I always sit at the back, in an aisle seat. I’ve seen the view – as beautiful as it is – hundreds of times, and I prefer having an emergency exit close and accessible. Additionally, I’ve found from experience that these rows fill up last and if there are any free seats they’re usually middle seats, last rows.
Not tonight. Tonight, every seat, in every row was occupied. It was going to be a long flight. The gentlemen and his wife to my right were clearly Muslim and on their way back from their pilgrimage. I’d seen a lot of Muslim’s making the pilgrimage in the last week.
“Lots of people making the pilgrimage at the moment. I thought the Hajj was later in the year, around September? What’s the special occasion?” I asked him politely.
“Not sure, but lots of pilgrims,” he agreed with me, but seemed disinclined to continue the conversation. Fair enough. Two hours later; one hot meal of fish curry and rice, and one hundred and fifty pages further into my latest read, we touched down, straight into a rather strong South-Easter.
The car rental agency gave me a free upgrade because I was a regular and they had vehicles available. It was a new Corsa – nice car. I was on the road in no time, pausing briefly to text Miki that I’d landed and was on my way.
Buzz, buzz – new text message: Please pick up coke n chocolates on way home. She always has an errand for me to run on my home from the airport. I’d been awake since 5AM, spent an entire day in meetings at the office and just suffered through a long and overcrowded flight. The last thing I wanted to do was go shopping. I’m usually too tired, and annoyed and I just politely decline her requests, but this week she’d been trying very hard not to impulsively run off to the shops herself, so I decided to reward her for her efforts and pick up the required items.
By 21:50, I was home, upstairs, out of the cold wind. Zee was still awake. He always stays up when I’m coming home. It’s sweet. Miki smiled widely when she saw me, jumped up and down and gave me a long, tight hug.
“I missed you this week,” she said, still smiling.
“Yeah, me too.” It was really good to be home with my family.
I put my bag down, took off my boots and sat down on the windowsill overlooking the road below. Miki came over to join me, bringing the chocolate with her. We chatted quietly, both happy with each other. It was really windy outside. The trees lining the road were thrashing in the wind, lancing shadows up and down the road. There were no pedestrians about.
Crash. We looked down and saw a length of aluminum siding slide into the road, bent and twisted.
“The wind must’ve ripped it off the store below our building.” I said.
Two minutes later, a man purposely crossed the road below us. He looked quite scruffy, possibly homeless, but he definitely wasn’t just wandering around. He walked up to the window of the R5 store and kicked it. I thought he was just angry. Maybe he’d been roused by a CID patrol, but they usually just leave the homeless to sleep through the night. Or maybe he’d been roughed up on the street.
“He’s going to break into the R5 store.” Miki said certainly.
I was dubious. We watched him go to a smaller window and kick it twice. It smashed and he started to pull it out of the window frame. Miki’s instincts had been right; he was breaking into the store. I put my boots on, picked up my keys, phone, and headed for the lift, hitting the call button.
“He’s gone inside,” she called after me, “be careful.”
Once I was downstairs, I ran across the road, the wind knifing through my thin shirt. Forgot my jacket, I thought to myself. Standing in front of the smashed window, I peered in to see if he was still inside. He was. I looked around for a CID guard to alert and call it in, but none were around, they were all probably sheltering from the wind. I stood in front of the smashed window to ensure the man remained inside and started to call SAPS. Fortuitously, just as I was digging into my pants pocket for my phone two SAPS members on foot patrol walked around the corner.
“Good evening officers.”
“Evening sir”, they replied.
“Officers, I stay in the building across the road and I just witnessed a man smash this window, and force his way into this shop.” I explained, indicating the broken window in front of us.
“Is he still inside?” they asked?
“Unless there is another way out, he’s still inside.” I replied.
I expected them to draw their firearms and enter the store after the suspect. But, obviously, that’s movie stuff. Instead, they radioed into Cape Town Central for assistance.
A response van arrived about five minutes later, blue light splashing across the intersection. I explained the situation again to the arriving constables and they seemed more inclined to respond directly. But, still no movie action. The senior constable just shouted in through the smashed window.
“You, inside. Come out immediately!” He commanded.
He had to repeat himself twice more before the suspect finally showed himself, and with his head hanging down climbed out through the smashed window. He didn’t offer any resistance or try to run away.
I looked over the road towards our apartment building, and up. Sure enough, Miki and Zee were both peering out of the fifth floor window, pale faces just barely showing in the darkened window. I waved. I saw Zee’s face break into a big smile as he waved back.
The SAPS officers marched the suspect across the road, placed him in the back of the van, and then proceeded to take my statement. Of the whole episode that probably took the longest as I explained precisely what I’d seen and done, and the officer wrote it down in longhand. I signed the statement and everyone went his or her own ways.
After seeing the state of the suspect, and his hangdog expression when he was arrested, I felt a bit sorry for him. Perhaps he’d only been trying to get in out of the wind. But I wanted to demonstrate to Zee that a man does what’s right: it’s wrong to damage another person’s property and steal from them; and if you see something wrong, you act decisively and without fear, even if it’s dark, cold and dangerous.