I didn’t have much time to think about Sa’afia once I got to work. The manager of a farm about ten kilometres out of town had caught Lance Holder masturbating behind a barn. When the manager challenged him Lance had run for it. The manager had caught up with him near the barn entrance, and punched him a couple of times while Lance got his pants up.
The manager had tried to lock Lance in the barn, so he could call the cops. Lance had hit him with a garden stake. The manager fell over, and Lance ran. Another farmhand called the police, who’d picked Lance up while he was hitchhiking back to town. The farm manager had provoked a pointless incident, and he hadn’t really been hurt, but he’d shown that Lance had more violence in him than anyone had thought. Lance’s career as a comic figure was over.
His violence had arguably been provoked, it was relatively trivial, and it was only indirectly connected to his sexual behaviour. But he was now a violent sexual offender. He was in police custody.
I got to see him after waiting three hours, but he had nothing to say. So I went back to the office and started a report on what the probation service had been doing with him for the past year, including the four months he’d been on my caseload. Because that was a question someone was going to ask.
There were many ugly aspects to the situation, but one of them was that I could see that we’d been wrong to think Lance wasn’t capable of violence, but I couldn’t see what we could have done to prevent that incident. Lance wasn’t in jail. If I wrote a report that really did say what I thought had gone wrong, it’d be referred above my head and get re-written. But even if I can’t write the full truth I like to have an idea what the full truth is. In this case I didn’t know.
So it was a bad day. Sa’afia called me in the afternoon. On my office phone. She’d been expecting to hear from me. She wanted to tell me off for not calling, and putting my mobile on “Do not disturb.” I stopped her.
“Have you heard from your mother?”
“Yes. She’s still out. So you can come over tonight. If you still even want to.”
“Sa’afia, you can stop that right now. I expect you to call me and tell me whether your home is available or if you’re coming to me.”
“Yes, but -“
“Is that understood?” There was silence. I found myself cheering up, though I kept any trace of that out of my voice. “Do you understand, girl?”
I considered asking if she’d just bitten her lip. She would have if I’d been there to see it. But there were parts of the game that couldn’t be played over the phone. Instead I said, “Yes, what?”
I had to grin. Sa’afia didn’t have a bratty bone in her body, but it was a good try.
Anyway, she wouldn’t see the grin. I made myself sound angry. “Sa’afia!”