A Web of Lies
A story made up of a number of true events
Leon was the lead singer in a Goth band called 'The Faulted' during the late 1980's and early 90's. The group gigged in most of the 'alternative' clubs in South Africa, mostly situated in Johannesburg and to a lesser extent in Pretoria. These had such provocative names as 'The Doors' - named after one of the iconic bands of the 60's and 70's - Alcatraz, and Idols.
Clad in his Doc Martens and black jeans, and with flowing shoulder-length black hair, he caught the attention of the young chicks who attended the venues where he played. Many of them became groupies, following their idols wherever they performed, even if it meant roughing it at such open air events as Splashy Fen and Rustler's Valley.
Gwen was seventeen and was still in high school. She had first heard The Faulted when they debuted on Radio 5, and had attended their maiden concert at the Thunderdome, situated on the border of Johannesburg and Joubert Park. They were the support band for the big name group in the same genre, ‘No Friends of Harry’.
Almost immediately she found the lead singer of the new outfit attractive, not only because of his looks but also his strong baritone voice. She bought their first album almost on the day that it was released, and soon she was attending more and more of their gigs, even though she was still under age. And so she became one of their many faithful followers.
She used to make sure that she was as close to the stage as possible when the band started playing. This meant that it did not take long for Leon to notice her. Being in his late twenties, he felt that she was too young for him but this did not stop him from growing fond of her in the same way as an older brother would a younger sibling.
Apart from her looks, one thing that he noticed was the leather wristbands she always wore. They were different from the ones that were available from such establishments as Moola's in the centre of Jo'burg, and seemed to have come from some bygone era. This was further evidenced by the fact that they appeared well worn, the leather being faded from black to a greyish tan.
One of Gwen's friends secretly informed Leon that her birthday had just passed, and asked if he would give her a backstage pass as a treat. Leon discussed the request with the manager of Club Alkstraz, where the band would be playing that night.
Some time during the gig the band stopped playing, and Leon said he had a special announcement to make.
Imagine Gwen's surprise when he said: "A little bat told me that one person here tonight had a birthday this week." He smiled down at Gwen, and gestured for her to join him on the stage. She hid her face with one hand - partially out of embarrassment, but mainly to hide the fact that she was crying - as the band leader helped her up. He then asked her what her favourite song was.
She told him: "Leather Clad Angel."
She remained on the stage while the band played the song of her choice specially for her. Gwen's grey eyes brimmed with tears the whole time and her face beamed with a broad smile. When the song was over, Leon invited her to join him and the band backstage once the gig was over. She could hardly believe her ears, and it was only self-consciousness that prevented her from hugging Leon on stage.
The rest of the night was like a dream come true, and at last the time came for her to meet her idol face to face and in person. She was extremely relieved that she had just turned nineteen, a year over the legal age.
The time spent with the four members was over far too quickly it seemed, but it was long enough for Gwen's feelings of admiration of the band's leader to become adoration. It was also where Leon discovered the story behind the wrist bands.
Gwen's father was a biker. In fact he was a member of one the biking clubs, the Cape Town Cowboys, while he was studying at the university there. His love for motorbikes remained long after he and Gwen's mother were married, and tragically cost him his life when Gwen was just eleven years old. Among the items that he left her were the studded leather wristbands and an old leather waistcoat which she wore only on special occasions.
One night, about 6 months after Gwen's birthday, the band had been playing at Club Alcatraz, and Leon was walking back to where he had parked his vehicle. He came to the alley behind club Masquerades. He noticed a small object lying on the pavement halfway down the narrow street. He was curious and went to see what it was. Imagine his horror when he saw that it was part of a leather wristband, with a metal stud that was being held on by a thread. In the poor lights he could not see whether there was any blood on the leather, only that it was badly stained. He thought that someone must have dropped it, but rather than throwing it in the dustbin, Leon took it with him hoping that he would find its owner.
A few nights later he and his band were playing at the Doors, another club where Gwen would often go and listen to them play. Leon found it strange that she wasn't there that night. A few nights later they were back playing at club Alcatraz, and again she was not there either. Leon began to worry that something had happened to her. It was not like her to miss two events. His immediate thought was that she might be sick, or that her mother had grounded for some reason.
He knew some of her friends, but did not bother initially to ask them what had happened. Instead he assumed that it was not serious, and that he would see her again. But after the third or fourth time, he became more concerned. After the concert, he approached one of Gwen's closest friends and asked her if Gwen was okay.
His face became pale when he heard the answer. "Haven't you heard? Gwen has been missing these last 2 months. No one knows where she is."
"What the hell!" Leon exclaimed, "Where was she last seen?"
"She usually takes a shortcut past club Masquerades on her way home." Came the reply.
Leon was in shock when he heard the last location where Gwen had been seen. He remembered the piece of leather that he had found, and could not help thinking that he had made a mistake by picking it up. Perhaps if he had just left it there, it could have been the one piece of evidence that would have led the police to where they could have found her. He swore under his breath at his own stupidity.
The next morning he went to the local police station with the evidence that he had found, thinking that he would be able to help with the investigation. The reception that awaited him was definitely not what he expected. Instead of thanking him, the officers took him to an interrogation room and began to question him about his whereabouts on the night of Gwen's disappearance. When he told them that he was walking past club Masquerades, they immediately became abusive towards him and even threatened to arrest him on the spot. The more he protested his innocence, the worse the abuse became. Eventually they had to let him go because the evidence they had was at best circumstantial. Nonetheless they told him not to plan on travelling anywhere out of the city for the time being.
He went home regretting what he had done. In good faith he had turned to the authorities with what he had found, and they had treated him like a common criminal, or a suspect at least. The police had even taken down his details including his phone number, and had told him that they would contact him if they had any more questions. Now he feared that they would falsely accuse him of whatever had happened to Gwen.
Sometime later, a news report stated that the police were investigating Gwen's disappearance. It was also said that they had a prime suspect, and when they described the person, Leon was shocked to find out that it was him. He contacted the police station, and said that he wished to give a formal statement as to how he came about possessing the only piece of evidence they had - the piece of leather. However when he arrived, they tried to arrest him on the spot again only with circumstantial evidence.
"But I already told you guys. I found it while I was walking back to my car which was parked on Commissioner Street. I normally take the short-cut past the back entrance of Masquerades." He insisted.
"Yes we heard you the first time!" The investigating officer barked, a sneer on his face. "But can you prove it? "
"I was not alone. " Came the reply, "Why don't you ask the other people that were there at the time? They will be able to corroborate my claim."
"Don't try to tell us how to do our work!" The policeman retorted, raising his fist as if threatening to strike Leon, "We know you are guilty, we just don't have the evidence to prove it yet!"
"Oh so that's how it works now! " Leon exclaimed, "Whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty'? Does that no longer apply? "
"Vokken pasop!" The cop yelled in anger, "Jy is scum! Nothing but scum!"
The more Leon argued, the more he realised he was incriminating himself. Especially when one of the investigators said to him: "You punks are all the same! Nothing but street scum! "
Again Leon was threatened by the officers that questioned him, and they possibly would have carried out their threats if they were not stopped by one of their superiors. After two hours of intense abuse, he was finally allowed to go free, but not without further threats being hurled at him by some of the other officers. Again he was warned not to go anywhere until further notice.
The constant fear of being arrested and charged for a crime he did not commit gave Leon literal nightmares. He found it more and more difficult to relax, and his mental state was in decline. The sense of helplessness did not do him any good either. He felt as if they could come any minute and take him away.
A few months went by, and Leon began to almost believe that the threat was over. Late one afternoon there was a knock on his door and outside he saw a police car. When he opened the door he was presented with a warrant for his arrest. The charge was attempted murder! This shocked him because they had not found a body yet. As far as he knew, the case was still labelled as that of a missing person.
He was taken to the Leeukop prison where he was placed in the cells along with the other prisoners that were awaiting trial. No one could tell him when he was to appear in court. He was there for three weeks before the trial began, and the proceedings lasted a single session, at which it was dismissed completely due to a lack of evidence. Exactly three weeks later Leon was arrested a second time. This time he was charged with kidnapping, again with no evidence.
He was taken back to the same prison as before, only this time he was released before he was even given a trial! The officers merely came to his cell and told him that he was free to go. No effort was made to return him to his home, and no reason was given for his release. It was then that Leon decided to go to the press and have his story published in the newspaper. By this time he was suffering from depression and recurring nightmares. Not only that but he was struggling to eat properly, and when he did he would force himself to bring it up again. His general mental state was in tatters! Luckily the band stayed together and supported him throughout his ordeal.
The day that the report came out in the newspaper, Leon was awoken by a knock at his door. It was the police! Again they threatened to arrest him if he did not withdraw the statement but he had made to the press. No warrant was given and thus they were unable to carry out any threat at the time, but their threat remained nonetheless.
Just before they left, one of them said: "Just you wait jou bliksem! We'll be back, and this time we'll get you! "
Leon was about to answer back, but then he realised that it would only cause more trouble. They were obviously out to get him, and they would use any opportunity to do so. Instead he just turned around and went back inside.
He found that he was shaking uncontrollably from rage. And once he was sure that the police had gone he shouted: "Why don't you bastards leave me alone?! Surely you would be better off catching real criminals rather than harassing innocent people! "
Then came the day when one of the local newspapers printed a story that practically labelled Leon as the one responsible for Gwen’s murder. The headline read: “Nineteen year old student still missing, presumed dead. Perpetrator still at large …’ Leon could hardly bear to read any further, but he forced himself to do so. The report claimed that an interview had taken place with a so-called eyewitness who allegedly saw Leon and Gwen together on the night of her disappearance. However, when the police insisted that they reveal their source’s identity, the tabloid said that the individual in question “wished to remain anonymous”.
The article further quoted their ‘witness’ as saying that he knew that Leon was a ‘Devil worshipper’, and that he had witnessed him and his band ‘performing Satanic rituals on stage’. Later it was revealed that the editor of this local paper was a deacon in a church in Johannesburg, and had often used his own column to criticise what he called the ‘Rise of Occultism’ amongst the youth. In these letters he had made regular reference to the various nightclubs that favoured the alternative music scene, including those where The Faulted gigged. He even advocated that these ‘sinful dens of iniquity’ be shut down, and that the owners and staff be ‘thrown in jail’. What made matters worse was that one of his sons worked as a bouncer at Masquerades itself.
Leon's mental state had reached the point where he needed psychiatric help. One of the doctors who saw him recommended that he spend some time at Tara, a centre specialising in psychiatric patients. One of the reasons was that the police were not permitted to harass patients that had been admitted there, as it was considered a breach of patient doctor confidentiality. Reluctantly Leon agreed, and a month later was admitted for assessment.
While he was there, he began to suffer from recurring nightmares. In these he could see Gwen lying in the alley where he found the piece of leather. He could see himself standing over her body, and as he got closer to his own image, he saw that he was wielding a knife in his one hand. This bothered him because he did carry a weapon as a means to defend himself if he was attacked, but he had never used it. Once he had been aware that someone was following him. He stuck his hand into the pocket where he put the knife, but instead of using it, he merely evaded his would-be attacker. That was the closest he had ever come to using his knife. And still the nightmares haunted him, and it was all he could do to convince himself but they were merely dreams!
The results of the assessment were conclusive: They pointed to a very real possibility of Leon suffering from a mental breakdown if he was not treated immediately! At first the doctors wanted to put him on strong medication to help him to relax, but one in particular pointed out that in his present state, there was a danger that he would never be able to cope without them. This would mean that he would be dependent on them possibly for the rest of his life! Instead he prescribed a mild sedative to help him sleep without being disturbed by the dreams. During the times that he was awake, the specialist began teaching him certain methods of meditation to help him calm down, especially when circumstances became too stressful.
No sooner had he been released from Tara, when he started to receive death threats from people who believed the reports that continued to come from the local newspaper that had published the initial article. One night he and his band were preparing for a gig at the Doors when a young man rushed towards him wielding a knife. If it were not for the bouncers, Leon or one of his band members could have been injured or even killed! Not only that, but Club Alcatraz's reputation had been badly damaged by the reports. So much so that they were only open from Wednesday to Saturday, as they could not afford to remain open the other three days. And even then only the die-hard customers frequented the club.
Three months went by without further incident, but it was not long before the police began harassing him once again. Almost every week they would come and threaten to 'lock him up and throw the key away'. Twice he was taken to the police station for questioning. Both times he was treated as a criminal even though there was still no evidence against him.
The constant pressure and stress began to take its toll on his relationship with the rest of the band. There were constant arguments during practices, and the creative drive had all but dried up. Leon even found it difficult to concentrate on the words to his songs, and often finds himself making mistakes. Thus it was decided that, for the time being the band would take a time-out to allow Leon time to resolve his issues. He still had regular sessions at Tara, with the same doctor that had treated them before, and it was these that kept him from falling apart completely.
Doctor Wallace was an elderly man who had officially retired from medicine, but still volunteered regularly at some of the hospitals in Johannesburg. One such institution was Tara. Although he was somewhat old fashioned in his methods, they had often proved more successful than the more modern approach. One thing but he insisted upon was that one needed to treat the whole patient rather than just the condition. This was especially true with psychiatric cases because the so-called condition was often not as well defined as with a medical patient. It was this approach that benefited Leon the most.
Then came the breakthrough! Gwen was rescued from a flat in Durban. She had been badly beaten and left for dead by her attacker. Unbeknown to him she had survived, and was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor by one of the cleaners. She was rushed into hospital where she regained consciousness three days later while she was in intensive care. Her face was so badly beaten but it was difficult at first to identify her.
When she was able to talk again, she related the story of her ordeal. This is what she said: "I had been to Le Club - a slightly more upmarket club in the centre of Johannesburg - and at closing time, was walking back to my friend's car which was parked just behind Masquerades. The next thing this guy grabs me from near the side door to the club! I tried to free myself, and that was when he hit me over the back of the head with something hard.
The next thing I knew, was that I was lying on someone's bed with my hands tied behind my back and a gag of some sort in my mouth. I can hear someone breathing heavily at the foot of the bed, but I can't see him until he leans over and tries to kiss me! I turned my head to avoid him and he slapped me across the face, after which he forced himself on me! From then on things went from bad to worse! There were even times that I thought he was going to kill me! And then there were moments when I wished he would so that my nightmare could be over.
My hopes were raised when I heard police cars outside the apartment when I was being held. I did not hear the discussion between them and my captor, but it didn't take long for me to realise that my hopes were premature, because they just left soon after they had arrived. That was when the guy decided to kidnap me and take me to Durban. I was shoved into the back of the car and told to lie down on the seat if I knew what was good for me. We only stopped once during the whole trip, and that was on the side of the road so that I could pee!
When we arrived at the new apartment, I tried to plead with him to let me go. I even promised that I would not tell anyone what he had done to me if I could just go home. That was something that I soon regretted! The bastard beat me up so badly that I thought I was going to die for sure! Instead I blacked out, and that was the last thing I could remember before the cleaning lady found me on Monday morning."
Gwen was able to describe her attacker in some detail, and it soon became clear that he was none other than the bouncer whose father was the deacon who had written all those scathing reports. It took three weeks for the police to find him, and when they did he was trying to flee the country. According to later reports, he had fled because he thought that Gwen was dead. He had showered before he left in order to try and wash off some of the blood, changed into clean clothes, and left the apartment.
Gwen's ordeal left her with severe hearing loss as well as affecting her balance, so much so that she needed to walk with the aid of a crutch in order to prevent her from falling over. She underwent a series of operations to repair the damage caused by the many beatings she had endured at the hands of this brute. It was estimated that she had been raped at least five times during her captivity!
In the meantime, neither the police that had mistreated Leon, nor the newspaper that had printed the article branding him the killer, made any attempt to put the matter right. Not only that but the threats to Leon’s life did not cease even after the real villain had been arrested and convicted. Many claimed that the young man, the son of an ‘upstanding member of the community’, had been falsely accused and that the evidence had somehow been planted on him. Some even suggested that Gwen had somehow egged him on, and had made up the whole incident to cover up her own guilt.
As a result of all this, the members of the Faulted decided that they would either have to part company or leave the country. It was settled that they would do the latter as it was deemed better to make a new start, far away from the constant abuse. Club Alcatraz continued to suffer financially while the owner was still fighting in court to have the scandal that threatened the venue’s existence resolved. Five and a half years later, after the original editor of the newspaper had been forced to resign when it was discovered that he was running a string of illegal brothels in Hillbrow, his replacement reviewed the initial article and agreed to print an official apology.
Three months later, a lone vehicle was found on one of the service tracks by ranger in the Kruger National Park. Upon investigation, they were horrified to discover the body of a young woman still sitting in the driver’s seat, the seatbelt on, A hose-pipe ran from the exhaust to the front window, that was open just enough to feed it through. It was estimated that she had been there for roughly three days before her car was discovered, and the autopsy found that she had died from carbon monoxide poisoning. In the same newspaper that had originally printed the story that she had somehow deserved the treatment she had endured, her name was published.
Leon had just woken up after a gig at a London club when there was a knock on his door. He opened it to find that it was Gary, the drummer of the band. In his hand he held a fax that had been sent to him from one of his friends in South Africa. He said nothing, but showed it to Leon. It was a copy of a newspaper article.
The article read: “The body of a young woman, thought to be in her mid twenties, was found in the Kruger National Park last Monday. Rangers discovered the vehicle while patrolling an area of the park that is closed to the general public. It was announced that she had committed suicide
by using a pipe from her exhaust to the front of her car. An autopsy confirmed this as the cause of death, and the deceased was identified as Gwendoline Van Heerden, the same person who was abducted and repeatedly raped before left for dead in a flat in Durban. She was the victim of the convicted rapist David Bertram, who is still serving a thirty year sentence for his crime. Condolences have been sent to the victim’s friends and family.”
Leon’s face went very pale. He felt weak at the knees, and had to sit down. His shoulders slumped forward as he buried his face in his hands. His friend poured a drink and handed it to him. He sat next to him and placed his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“Fuck! I’m sorry man.” He commiserated.
“Thanks buddy,” Leon replied shakily, “But it’s worse than you think.” Gary looked at him quizzically, and he explained: “A few months ago, after our one gig at the White Stallion, I had just fallen asleep when I saw Gwen standing in front of me. There was a strange look on her face, and all she said was: ‘I’m so sorry’. Then she disappeared again.”
“That’s weird dude!” The other exclaimed, whistling softly.
“Ja man, but look at the date that she was found.” Leon commented, “The dream I had was exactly three days before. It was as if she came to say sorry to me either just before or just after she had killed herself! At first I thought it was just my imagination, but the next morning when I got out of bed, I found this lying next to my pillow.”
To Gary’s dismay, Leon produced a faded piece of what once had been a leather wristband, complete with a single metal stud.
“Geezus!” He exclaimed, “I thought you gave that thing to the cops!”
Leon answered: “I did. That’s what makes this whole thing even weirder! It was as if she had put it there to remind me, so that I would never forget her.”
“Nee man Leon. You’re fucking with me.” Gary said incredulously.
“I am not, I swear I’m telling the truth.” The singer insisted.
That night the band was scheduled to play at a club simply called The Coachman. It used to be a tavern where people would dine before travelling on the coaches. They had gone through all the sound checks, and were ready to play their first song.
Before they began, Leon stepped up to the mike and stated: “Our first piece is an early one, and I would like to dedicate it to a very special person. Gwen - wherever you are - this is for you.” After which they commenced with playing ‘Leather Clad Angel’.
About the Creator
I was born in Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and currently live in South Africa. From an early age, I seemed to have a knack for poetry. I have written a number of stories, poems, and several novels, ranging from fantasy to non fiction.
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