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There were several transplant centers around the world that were on the take and who dealt directly with their own Pierre Kleinhanses, so I didn’t have to. I could merely pay off surgeons or hospital administrators and when someone needed a kidney, I faxed them my client’s medical details, and they would provide the part, paying careful attention to blood type, MHC, and HLA matching criteria—like an auto dealership that had ordered a part for your car from a distributor in Ohio who bought it from a factory in Mexico. I never cared much about where the parts came from; I just dealt with the dealerships. I sent them email and faxes from across the ocean. But now I needed to see the raw and fertile fields of the farm.
Pierre reached in front of me and opened the glove compartment, revealing a handgun that he tucked inside his belt. “Here he is,” he said, motioning to a middle-aged black man approaching the car. “Dr. Wolff said let you get a look and let’s not get anyone hurt today so let’s make it like that, Jack. Let’s get you a look but no problems please.”
“I don’t want any problems,” I said quietly, assessing the man approaching us. His clothes were entirely western. His demeanor was entirely blank. Tough to read. He did not wave or smile but he nodded very slightly to Pierre. That told me a little about him.
Pierre popped open the door handle on his side to exit the car so I followed suit. He walked to the front of the car to greet the man and they shook hands. They exchanged a few words but it wasn’t in English or Afrikaans. It might have been Zulu. “This is New York Jack,” Pierre said then and the man extended his hand and met my gaze. I shook his hand and Pierre added, “Thaba,” indicating his name.
“Hello,” I said, assuming he spoke English.
“You want to see inside Alexandria?”
“For business,” I replied. I felt as if I couldn’t just say, “I don’t know.”
Pierre said something to him in the other language again. Thaba shrugged. Pierre spoke again and then he nodded. “Okay,” Thaba said. “Come,” and he started walking in the direction of Alexandria, only about a block from our car.
Wallace still took risks to unearth buyers, exposing himself in small ways I had stopped doing years ago. I fully expected to see him destroyed one day, either by a jail sentence or something more gruesome and unexpected. He was one of the main reasons I never let down my guard or relaxed my protocols, always rotating phones, always changing email addresses. He was a pro, and he managed his risk, but he was arrogant, and that brings men down.
“They’re gonna have to go to Jozi,” I said to Wallace.
“That’s what I already told the husband. Johannesburg, I told him.”
“Lucky she’s AB. At least that’s easier.”
“That’s what I told him.”
“So I’m going to have to travel too,” I said. “I wouldn’t want to arrange this by phone. I’m going to have to go back there now.”
“Okay,” he said without looking up.
“I’ll need fifty up front.”
“I brought you a hundred,” he said quietly, motioning to the backpack on the seat beside him.
A week later I went back to Jozi to find the Fifteen we needed for Wallace’s client. Sitting at the hotel bar of the Michelangelo in Sandton with Dr. Mel Wolff and his slimy sidekick, I was feeling fatigued. I didn’t want to be back in South Africa. I was sick of the long flights. It did allow me to move a few hundred grand in cash to Jozi, but it made me feel caught up in the baseness of the business. Even in the wealthiest neighborhoods in Jozi you always run the risk of a good car-jacking. I wanted to be back in Tucson, by the pool at my condo, listening to some old Texas blues and thinking about my putting. I needed some time with a woman whose touch was a balm against my isolation. I was tired of Wolff and Pierre and Wallace and the thought of that kid with a nephrectomy scar etched into his lower back.