No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Ezra Azra

Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra
Photo by Laura James at Pexels.
Photo by Laura James at Pexels.

Two financially wealthy doctors opened a clinic in the poverty-stricken ghetto where I lived when I was a child. They had to be wealthy because their medical services, including the medicines they dispensed, were free. The services had to be free because not enough people in that ghetto could afford to pay.

The doctors' names were Yvonne McBride and Vivian McBride. They were not related. They hired several women to help out in the clinic. My Mom was one of those women. For about three years the clinic had thirty-or-so patients a day.

My Grandfather, my Mom's Dad, lived with us. He worked as a language interpreter in the Law Court in downtown Durban. My Grandfather made more money providing advice at our home at nights to persons involved in litigation, than he did from his official job at the Law Court.

My Mom said all those persons who came to my Grandfather for advice, came from outside the ghetto. They could afford, and were willing to pay for counsel on loopholes in Law Court procedures that lawyers exploited to circumvent the law. My Grandfather's nocturnal shady customers usually were acquitted on technicalities incurred by egotistically negligent lawyers and, or, judges undermined by their own careless overweening sense of self-importance.

My Grandfather was paid a visit by a man who claimed to be a licensed Private Investigator. He said he had been hired to collect information about the two doctors of the free clinic. He said the National Association of Medical Doctors wanted to close down the clinic because it was free. The Association claimed a free clinic was depriving other doctors from earning a living by charging patients. The Association intended, at a later date, to report those two doctors to the Government's Revenue Department, on a charge of possible tax evasion.

Before those two doctors began serving the ghetto community, just about everybody, from cradle-to-grave, lived without help from medical professionals.

The Private Investigator said he had two reasons for approaching my Grandfather for assistance. First, he knew of my Grandfather's undeclared illegal income from unofficially dispensing advice to litigants. Second, he knew my Mom worked at the clinic.

He said he wanted my Mom to collect the names of the clinic's patients for a few months.

He said he would not let the Association know of my Grandfather's and Mom's involvement.

He said he was willing to negotiate with my Grandfather, payment for Grandfather's and my Mom's services.

At the first meeting with that Private Investigator, my Grandfather agreed, without conditions, to provide all the assistance the Investigator was asking. My Grandfather declined the Private Investigator's offer of payment.

When my Grandfather discussed the matter the next day with my Granny, she insisted my Grandfather get someone in the ghetto to kill the Private Investigator.

That would be easy. Killing people in the ghetto was a frequent happening, frequently for favours rather than for money payment. Because my Granny and Grandfather gave free food to lots of persons in the ghetto, there would not be a shortage of volunteers to kill the Private Investigator.

Most of the food my Granny gave to strangers was fruit she bought from the market.

The market in the ghetto was opened on only Saturdays. Only one day a week because there were not enough customers to support more days a week of business. At closing time on Saturdays there were always some vendors willing to sell their produce at as little as twenty-five percent.

My Granny waited, and made a killing every Saturday at closing time. The market was run by the City Government, which was ruthlessly punctual about closing time with their almighty machines that sprayed the floors and stone counters with waters, with lethal force.

Everybody was allowed to sit on the wood benches at wood tables in our backyard, to be fed. The only two conditions were that all food was to be eaten at the tables; none was to be taken out of the yard. And that all peels and other garbage was to be taken out of the yard.

My Grandparents did the calculations to determine how long they could delay murdering the Private Investigator, while the ghetto women working at the clinic could continue being paid before the clinic would be closed down by the National Medical Association.

Grampa and Granny knew that even after the murder of the Private Investigator, the Association was unlikely to discontinue their intentions against the clinic doctors.

When my Grandparents had decided on a date in the future, my Grandfather asked my Mom if she would do what the Private Investigator required. My Mom, like all of us, knew that when my Granny and Grampa agreed on a course of action, it was useless to demur. My Mom agreed to collect names and times of patients at the clinic. At the same time, my Mom had other painful considerations.
Getting paid employment in the ghetto was like working for gold mining businesses; moreso, working at that clinic for the high pay those two clinic doctors were paying.

If Mom went along with the Private Investigator's clandestine plan, she would still have months of pay to collect. On the other hand, Mom had to consider the stress she would be working in while knowing she was betraying the two doctors who were being so unselfishly kind to everyone in the ghetto.

Mom felt the moral burden all the more for having been informed by Grampa that of all the poor ghetto women employed at the clinic, Mom would be the only one helping the Private Investigator against the two doctors.

Mom's decision was to secretly inform the doctors; and to not let Grampa and Granny know. Mom let us know of this utterly disloyal, foolishly dangerous decision, years and years after Grampa and Granny had died of natural causes. Dying peacefully in bed was no mean accomplishment in our ghetto.

In the Clairwood graveyard there was a section with unmarked graves in order to discourage vengeful desecrations. In that section, because there were no grave mounds, we street urchins were unofficially allowed to play ball games, in order to further discourage desecrations.

After Mom informed the doctors, in order to avert suspicions, the doctors deliberately took long weeks to gradually close down the clinic.

Mom was the only worker who did not believe it was an accident when the workers showed up one day, to find the clinic had burned down during the previous night.

In the following days, the doctors visited all the workers at their homes to give each a generous severance wage.

With the clinic no longer there, it was unnecessary for Grampa and Granny to have the Private Investigator murdered. I have tried unsuccessfully more than once to find out if they called off the murder.

Mind you, had they gone ahead, nobody in our family would have held it against them for adhering to our sacred ghetto destiny which, to many of us, had the inevitableness of DNA prescription.

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