Vinnie the Virus was dumbfounded. He had just witnessed the most gruesome, and yet the most electrifying murder of his five month career as an undercover agent in an organised crime syndicate based in Johannesburg, the crime capital of South Africa. In the past ten years the Vipers were responsible for the majority of all hijackings in the province, which contained more than half of the country’s population. Thousands of vehicles, including luxury sedans, had been carted over the border into Zimbabwe to help fund the uprising against white farmers. Many people had died.

Vinnie was also a white man. It would surprise the press and the citizens of South Africa to know that there were many white men over the age of 45 involved in crime in the country. The syndicates were linked to every major (and minor) insurance company as well, the Vipers included. And last, but certainly not least, for this was Vinnie’s purpose of being undercover in the first place, there were links to one of the deputy police commissioners in Pretoria, the state capital. Vinnie’s job was to prove this.

His squad, known only as TF-1, had already fingered most of the members of the vehicle hijacker syndicate, and now all they needed was proof. Vinnie was second in command, and reported only to General Bezuidenhout, he of the notorious Recce forces of the Border war in the 1980s. That war had long since been considered the Vietnam of South African history. Many brave young soldiers were injured, had died, and worse, irreparably damaged psychologically. Bezuidenhout was one such man. He had been hand-picked in the mid-1990s by the president to oversee the elimination of organised crime. Bezuidenhout had respected that president. Now, the only reason he was still involved was because one of his soldiers was fingered as the top man in the Viper syndicate.

Vinnie stared at the blasted skull and brain remnants on the tiled wall. He was almost certain that he could see an eyeball, but the thought just brought him to his knees, at which point he retched violently. Solly started laughing at him. “Eish, this umlungu does not know real death. We have worse than this in the townships all the time.”

Vinnie spat bile from his mouth, wiped his lips with the back of his hand, and stood to face a man black in more ways than one. Solly Nkosi was a dangerous man. He was one of the Vipers’ original foot soldiers. He had been hired as a teenager back in 1993 by the syndicate to perform the more grisly murders. Now he was in senior management, organising cadres of young black men who hated the system, and who wanted to make more money than they would ever earn legally, educated or not. Every so often though, Solly had to finish off a particularly nasty situation.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Solly,” Vinnie retorted. “You forget I was a sniper in the old defence force. It’s the smell I can’t take, not the death.”

“The smell of death is what keeps us alive, umfaan,” replied Nkosi, ironically younger than Vinnie. The use of “umfaan” elicited a raised eyebrow from Vinnie, but he managed otherwise to keep his cool. Nkosi was unnecessarily violent. He made a sport of torturing his victims until they begged him to end their lives. He would eventually oblige them, but it was a game for him to be more creative each time. Vinnie was so looking forward to killing him. But the time was not yet right.

“Vinnie, my friend, it is the smell of death that keeps me going. I know that this man who died before me today would have taken my life had I not taken his first. He was a threat to my family, a threat to my boss, and a stain on the sheet of God’s bed. This man needed to know that I had him vanquished before I put a bullet in his head.”

“Solly, you are one sick motherfucker, you know that?” sneered Vinnie. He meant it, and Solly knew he meant it. The man grinned widely, taking it as a compliment. After all, one man’s poison was another man’s drinking water.

Solly turned away from the corpse and led Vinnie out of the public toilets at Johannesburg Central Station. The noise of gunfire was common at this train station, and the public knew to avoid it. Police would be called eventually, but this time it was Vinnie who would report it before anyone else did, three hours later when it was all over.

Vinnie had been in the old defence force as a sniper. His number two man would tell him where to shoot, and all Vinnie ever saw was the scope on his rifle and the brutal death he inflicted on behalf of his superiors. Most of his work had been assassination, and his 90% success rate had brought him to Bezuidenhout’s attention after the previous regime fell away. He had been enlisted in TF-1, his death was faked, and all record of his life was erased. Vinnie did not exist. He no longer had a surname. He was just Vinnie. Vinnie the Virus. He was also paid handsomely for his dedication, which kept him in a life of moderate means and extremely wise investments. After the Vipers, he planned to retire. That would make his retirement age a remarkably young 34.

Nkosi caught him daydreaming. “Umfaan, you need to concentrate. We’re going to see Baas Jannie today. He doesn’t like dreamers. He likes results. You’ve managed to acquire forty vehicles in five months, and now he wants to meet you. Don’t let him catch your mind wandering. Baas Jannie knows a lapse in concentration could mean a lapse in income, and Baas Jannie doesn’t want to be poor. Do you understand?”

Vinnie, who had heard similar speeches for the last two weeks, nodded and pretended to yawn. “Ag, Solly, I’m just a little tired. Vinnie has seen enough BMWs and Mercedes Benz to last him a lifetime. Even a VW is too much for my eyes today. Let’s take a taxi to Soweto, why don’t we? And we’ll stop off at Baas Jannie on our way, deal?”

Solly smiled from the corner of his mouth. “You think you’re funny? Taxi To Soweto was a crap movie and you keep tossing it in there every chance you get. Funny, umfaan, very funny. Now hop in and let’s go visit the boss. Pretoria is far in traffic.”

“Ja, but you’ve got a roof that comes off and I’ve got some really lekker music which we can listen to on the way.” Vinnie climbed into Solly’s Mercedes CLK 500 convertible, and pulled out a CD from his jacket pocket. He loaded it into the front loader as Solly jumped in. The roof was already open as they pulled off with a peal of squealing rubber, The Darkness pumping from the custom sound system. Solly pulled his tongue at the racket, and Vinnie just laughed as they hit the freeway at 150.