The Empty Hourglass

A Short Story

by Cobus Vermeulen

WILLIAM wanders through Hillbrow, Gauteng, South Arica. His fear is burning like
a wildfire inside his soul. Once more he remembers why unfortunately he’s there again,
having tried his best, as best William could, avoiding death as far as he can!
“I need money, right now! I’m sick, that Doctor has to prescribe me those pills,
keeping me out of the Hospital. I promise you…” have Bul heard more than once from more
than one previous client.
Mostly he smiles at them, making sure they’ve got all their information. His business
generates one hundred percent profit. Then as well, meeting so many people from so many
walks of life.
This would be the reason why William is walking around. Not going back to his
apartment or having a night out with his friends or even his girlfriend. William was barely
twenty-five, looking the worse for wear. Not having saved in three days and not changed his
clothes in two. Walking around as he is, he looks over his shoulder regularly, hoping above
all that he’d come up with a good plan along the way.
He suspects they are hunting him; someone could easily come up behind him, knocking him
out cold just for the fun of it.
Jumping around; “What do you want?” looking around him, seeing he’s alone.
Stopping, wiping the sweat from his face, looking up and down again.
“I seriously need to get out of the City!” he mutters to himself – “That’ll be one for
the books, and thus, how are you going to do that one?” he asked scared.
William turns to walk, seeing he’s still alone in the quiet street; hungry, exhausted and fearful
for what is to come.
“Remember…” Bul says loud, “I know where you live. We don’t want to wait for our
money. That may be an awful lesson for you to learn. That said, if you don’t know who I am
what will happen already?” the big man asks him.
“Believe you me; I’ve heard almost every tale there is. I know what happened to those
people who didn’t pay what they owed. I’m not one of those guys, you can believe me.”
William told him, believing every word he spoke.
He’d been doing business with Bul for so long, but it’s only now that he realizes what
kind of mistake he’d made, doing this.
Firstly they’d be looking for him at all the regular places where he’d hang out. If that doesn’t
work, they will wait for him at his apartment. Only, no matter who is the first unlucky soul to
arrive there, they’d be in a terrible position, need to answer quite a few questions.
“I hope that Lisa got the messages I sent her, she better not go to the apartment.
Maybe I should go have a look if she’s at her place.” he told himself, “The only thing is this,
you saw them taking her from your place, whereto, you’ll never know!” he wanted to shout at
himself, shaking while he kept on walking.
William spots a car turning into the street. He stops at the closest tree, becoming one
with it and keeping an eye on the approaching vehicle. Lucky for him, there aren’t any
working streetlights, so he’s covered in this way at least.
He keeps an eye on the slow driving car. It just passes him and then suddenly slows down
even more. He can see nothing more is happening and fear, they might have seen him.
Only then does he see the indicator and the vehicle turn to the gate hidden from even
Unwilling to wait and see, William turns, running in the opposite direction as fast as
he can.
His fear and exhaustion don’t allow for much after all.
Stopping immediately at the intersection when he reached it. William looks up and down,
trying his best to see if can spot any of Bul’s men looking for him. Keeping well out of their
way is the only way he can get himself out of this situation.
“It looks clear…” walking across the street as if there’s nothing the matter with him.
William puts his hand in his pants pockets, strolling down the street with not a care in the
world. He makes a complete three-sixty turn, trying to see and notice anything and everything
around him. Doing what he can, to stay one step ahead of the rest.
The thing he doesn’t know, some of the guys working for Bul had seen him already.
They are the eyes and the ears of the man all of them fear.
Slowly but surely the move in and start following him for afar, making sure not to spook him.
Even at midnight, there’s always something happening somewhere in this suburb.
William starts moving faster again, keeping an eye on the next possible place where anyone
might be waiting for him.
“How can you be certain that those guys saw you? How can you even suspect that
they’re working for Bul? No matter what the situation, one two or three of them, they’re
already more than you are! All on your own!” his little voice tries poorly to reason with him.
This realization hit him so hard; he falls against a tree. It gives him a chance at once
more, surveying the area around him. Almost out of his sight, way behind him, he sees that
one of the men, moving somewhat slower than he did, also dives behind the closest tree to
“Soon, very soon it’s game over for you!” his little voice tries to scream it to the
World, yet, William knows not to draw any unwanted attention to himself.
He gets up slowly, turns and starts walking normally, knowing, if they suspect he’d made
them, it’ll be over for him so much faster!
“WHAT’S going on with you? Who is there? Alberta did you make me some coffee?”
one of the homeless men shout out when they hear him coming closer.
William is so shocked at this; he stumbles back into the street and fall on his butt. Luckily for
William, the driver of the oncoming car sees him, but his reaction time isn’t that good.
Swerving just in time, missing most of William, he doesn’t kill the man but runs over the
fingertips of his one hand.
“Haaa… haaa, you damn idiot! Look where you’re going! You drove over my hand!”
he shouts at the driver in the car.
To William’s great surprise, the car stop. It starts to back up all the way to him. Stopping
close enough to him to see his reflection in the driver’s window. His heart skips a beat when
the window rolls down. He looks, but it’s dark inside the car, and he cannot see anyone.
William can see it would be one of Bul’s cars, enjoying the intrigue of it.
“Your last breath would be in pain. Nonetheless, you’re going to go to hell now!” he
says softly, not sure if this was, in fact, Bul’s car.
“I’m so sorry for driving over your hand. Would you like to go to Hospital with me or
would you rather wait for your buddies running to your aid?” the blond haired woman asks
William is shocked, unsure; she switches on the ceiling light and points to the back. The
moment she looks back at him, she sees he already opened the passenger door and got in.
“Close the window please, it’s somewhat chilly outside.” she told him, pulling away.
“Sure, I’d just like to know…” he tries to say.
The only issue here now is, William isn’t thinking with his right head, especially in
his current condition. He looks at her, suspecting that she could be the last woman on Earth
he’d ever be so close to.
“If and when you’re done undressing me with your eyes, I’m still sitting here next to
you, the woman who didn’t completely miss you. Your hand?” she said, trying to get his
No matter what she could have said, nothing would have helped; thus her last resort was
taking hold of his injured hand he was so carefully hiding.
“Haaa …haaa, don’t do that! Do you have any… idea… just how painful that is?” he
shouts at her, not sure who around them could have heard as well.
“I’m not sure what you were doing in the middle of the street. It does look like your
hand is far more painful than what I could have suspected. I am so sorry, would you be able
to forgive me?” she asked William, doing what she could in sounding as sexy as she could.
William instantly fell in love with this woman, that was just before an Opel Corsa cut them
off and she had to start driving far more aggressively. Through all of this, William hit his
hand on more than one thing along the way.
“Haaa… haaa…!” William tried his best at keeping the pain to himself, not that it
worked out for him.
“I think I know that little ass, he or she had been giving me issues for a while now.
This guy is following us, not that it had ever happened to me before. They must be here for
you, want to get out and go to them?” she asked rhetorically, any other man with her would
have answered her, not William.
“I need to get this damn seatbelt on before I fall out of the car! Everything beyond
that you’ll have to deal with.” he told her, struggling with the belt; “Just before I pass out so
that you’d know if they’re who I suspect they are, those guys aren’t my friends. They’ll break
more than my bones if they can manage to get a hold of me.” he told her, hitting his hand
once more, this time he didn’t shout.
“Then this is your lucky night, that I found you just at the right time.” she told him,
seeing he was still struggling with the seatbelt, “I work for the Police, and I suspect we’re
investigating the same people you might be running from. They’re in loansharking business
and do what they can, making sure the people cannot pay, thus roping them in deeper.” she
told him, seeing he was still struggling with the belt, while the little car was again speeding
up behind them.
Only when what she told him, hit him, did he stop fiddling with the belt, looking at
her in utter shock now.
“Did you drive over my fingers on purpose?” he once more shouted.
“No. That was an accident. As I said, not sure what you did in the middle of the
street.” she told William, expertly driving the car – “I do know that the people in the car
behind us, they are working for Bul. We’ve been on the trail of this gang if you want to call
them that. We’re going to raid them tonight and take all of them down. Thus, if I were to drop
you off at the closest Hospital, I’d suspect that your life expectancy would be much shorter
than what both of us would have assumed. Am I right or am I right?” she asked, driving
without caring for an answer.
“If you know so much about them, why are you still toying with them? Drop me off at
a Doctor, and then you go capture all of them?” he asked curiously.
“They’re a little smarter than that, each night’s venue changes. No matter what we do,
we haven’t been able to infiltrate their ranks. That’s why you’re going nowhere, that’s why
tonight you’re playing such an important part.” she told him, seeing he once again stopped
moving altogether; “With your help tonight, you’ll lead me all the way to where they’d be.
Do you understand me? When we’ve got all of them, I’ll take you to the Hospital myself. Just
help me to help you get them off the street? Yes or no, what do you say?” she asked him with
her charms working in overdrive.
William can only sit there in silence, pain and all, it didn’t sound that good to him in the least.
SHE drives the car very well, missing the little vehicle by inches on more than one
move. While they’re playing through the streets, another car enters this crazy dangerous
“I wonder… where Lisa is?” William asked, not aiming the question at her.
“What was that?” she asked very fast.
“I’m… worried if you keep on driving as you do, either they or we would land on our
roof at some point.” he told her, really fearful for the way she drove.
William feels the pressure into his seat around the one corner to the next. By now he
doesn’t know if he’ll walk away from this, getting out on the other side. With the Court Case
coming down then, he’ll have to turn states witness against Bul and the rest.
She suddenly stops dead, letting the cars pass her. They don’t stop or even slow down; it’s
their turn to get out of there, for her to chase them down.
William’s heart beat in his throat, “I should never have borrowed that money from
Bul! What the hell did I get myself into this time? This night is going to give me a heart
attack!” he thought, not sure why she stopped there.
“I’m pretty sure that we’ve got them on the run right now. You might want to call in
the cavalry, getting us some back-up. They are going to Bul.” he told her, trying to breathe
“That’s an excellent idea, thanks for reminding me, sometimes I think I can take on
the whole world if I needed to.” she told him, smiling happily at him.
She pressed a button on her phone and picked it up when it started to ring. She spoke only a
few words, looking over at the stressed man next to her.
“My Captain told me to thank you, knowing that this isn’t the easiest thing to do.”
“Right, I don’t have a choice in the matter. If I don’t help you, you cannot help me.
Yeah right.” William told her, shaking in the seat.
From there they drive, reaching an area which William had never been in before. She drives
cautiously, not sure what they’d expect in the dark of night.
“For the moment we’ll wait just here. As soon as the phone ring we’ll drive at them
with everything we’ve got. As soon as I stop, you stay in the car. It’ll be safer for you that
way.” she told him, “Be sure to know, after tonight, you’ll never have this kind of problem
once again.” she told him, gripping the steering wheel very tight.
“This can seriously not be,” William told himself, not sure – “What can the chances
be that she of all people, working for the Police and investigating Bul would just run over
your fingers.” William’s stress hit him hard now, “Not to mention, after this, you’ll have to
testify against all of them… that’s a little crazy, to say the least!” his fear screamed at him
Just then the phone rang once. It broke the silence and almost drove William over the
edge, wetting himself!
He cannot take hold of anything, she pulls away much too fast and once more he hit his hand
on something. Trying his very best at swallowing the pain.
Before he knows, they’re up to speed, driving like hell at the enemy!
Just as they enter the old abandoned warehouse, they see two men standing there with
each a big gun each in their hands. Aiming the guns, they force her to stop. They walk over to
them very cautiously and looking in all directions not to be caught off-guard.
“Just a thought, this was a terrible idea, and then, please don’t pull your gun, getting
us a shot!” William told her, seeing the men opened both doors.
As soon as William is out, he’s shown downstairs and there he sees there are more men with
guns and many tables. No one look at him, they’ve got far too much to do.
“Now that he’s here, with another girl I might add, I can leave, and we’re square?”
she asked, “How many times did I tell you, you’re going to get yourself killed?” William
heard the familiar voice.
“You know that voice sounds sexy…” William’s subconscious told him.
He turned in the direction where he heard the voice, then to his utter shock he sees Lisa
walked from there.
Then he sees Bul in his utter total terrible glory, smiling utterly too happy at William.