Professor Barnes was a small, neat man with a penchant for three-piece suits and Wolf was smitten with his voice. It had a deep, rich tone, the precise diction of a BBC newsreader and the musical cadence common to many African- and Indian-born English speakers. Wolf wondered if she could get him to read the phone book to her. Shaking off her musing, she turned her attention back to the Professor.
"So the animal bones are muti?"
The Professor tilted his head. "Yes and no. You must understand that these examples are very crude. Whoever made this didn't have a clue about what they were doing." He picked up an evidence bag containing one of the bone fetishes that Wolf had retrieved from Mrs Mzizana's garbage. "You said that the gentleman of the house, Mr Ngema, had a shipment seized. It's only a guess, but I suspect he may be supplying muti objects to a third party. With the consignment impounded, he may have resorted to making his own muti as a replacement for an order."
Wolf nodded, the explanation made sense. The string of red, white and black beads — colours sacred to many sangoma practitioners — would probably have been souvenired from one of his shipments, possibly as a toy to distract Samuel. "You think this third party is a bit upset about his gear going astray and is putting the hard word on?"
Professor Barnes held up his hands. "Perhaps it is the pressure of time or the money is too big and incentive to resist. Until we know who this third party is, it is all guesswork."
"So what does that have to do with the child?"
The Professor held up a hand. "That is why I asked Inspector Craddock to join us." As if on cue a large, out of breath man in a bad suit opened the door. "Ah, perfect timing, dear Sir."
Introductions and credentials were exchanged, and Wolf learned that the Inspector had an interest in both Mr Ngema and Mrs Mzizana in connection with the trafficking of prohibited items. She also learned that the third party was very likely Naledzani Madide, a self-styled sangoma or traditional healer who serviced black South African ex-pats.
Wolf asked her question of the Inspector.
Craddock, who'd turned out to be something of a fidgeter, stopped jiggling his foot and looked slightly pale under his still-flushed cheeks. "What child?"
"Samuel." Wolf explained that they found the runaway this morning, but that the house showed no signs of a child living there. No pictures, no toys, no effusive, besotted mother, nothing.
"You sent the child home?"
Shaking her head, Wolf grinned. "No, the boy's safe for the moment." The Inspector visibly relaxed.
"Thank god for that. We now think that Ngema and Mzizana have been trafficking in children. Until recently, we assumed they were involved with that idiot preacher and his miracle babies scam." Wolf had heard about the self-styled Archbishop and his child-kidnapping ring, the man had been making quite a tidy profit out of selling stolen babies to desperate couples, babies that he claimed had materialised through the power of prayer.
"So what are they involved in?"
"Some of the items that were seized in the last shipment were dried human penises." Professor Barnes carefully put the evidence bags on his desk back in their box.
"And that's part of muti?" Wolf could see why the Professor and Inspector were concerned.
The Professor shook his head. "You would be familiar with people believing that if a little medicine is good, then more must be better, yes?" Wolf nodded.
Inspector Craddock interrupted. "Madide is a charlatan who feeds on this belief and will do anything for money. I believe that the children are being killed to create a more powerful muti."
As Wolf grabbed her phone and dialed Declán, she looked across at Craddock. "I think we need to have a serious chat, Inspector."
15minuteficlets — word #98: juvenile
moonbeamsfanfic — challenge: declán and a child
Part of the Sangoma!verse and the Wolf&Declán!verse