Her curiosity was killing her.
February 2, 2014
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
After an affectionate call to Eleanor back in Austin, to hopefully keep the home fires burning, Angus turned to Skeeter and asked, “What do you think? Are we ready to go back to Austin? Do you think Dube and Phomello are sufficient? We really can’t pay for any more back-ups—especially if we will probably need to come back to this side of the world to collar the guy, when we have more information. That is a big expense and we need to reserve something for that.”
“Yeah, Angus. I truthfully did not think we could get everything done, even if we used every minute of the two whole weeks. I think we should put our fake booth up at the marketplace again today for awhile, and just leave the rest of it in these two guys’ hands. We don’t know the lay of the land, the customs and the languages. We stick out like sore thumbs anyway. Dube and Phomello can do just as good of a job as we could do, with our guidance. We have fulfilled our mission of finding good contacts and we couldn’t have done any better on that.”
“Okay, we will tie up our loose ends and get the heck out of Dodge. Did I tell you that Phomello wants to have us all to his home for a farewell dinner of authentic African cuisine before we go back? He has promised that his wife will prepare a traditional dish that does not contain anything too exotic.”
“Eeeek!” Skeeter exclaimed. “Does he really promise?”
Angus leered as he put on a face of mystery. Skeeter watched him as he made reservations on a commuter flight from Garissa to Kinshasa for the next day. He then booked a flight from Kinshasa to London on African Airways.
“Let’s hope for the best, Angus—no funny plane incidents, this time.” Skeeter joked.
Angus called Phomello and told him of their plans to go back to Austin and apologized for the last-minute notice. After he made another phone call to explain it all again to Dube, they gathered up their marketplace items and started out the door. “If we play our cards right, we might see our strange honey pot critic again—you might even be able to get a photo of his face this time. Whoever he was, his accent sounded British or Australian to me, and he seemed to be too knowledgeable about honey pots for my own comfort.”
* * *
Dube picked them up for the ride to Phomello’s home on the eastern edge of Garissa. It was within walking distance of the Almond Resort, but Dube insisted on driving them. The house was a tiny, solidly built bungalow, with a grass roof. It was sparsely furnished, but they had arranged things tastefully. Some items in the home were African and some were Western-made thrift shop type furniture that Phomello had painted with black lacquer. It was very pleasing to the eye, the way he had done it. The color scheme seemed to be brown and black, with vibrant accents here and there. The wooden floors were covered with woven sisal mats. They had a small table in the kitchen area, where Phomello’s children would be eating. The adults would eat cross-legged on the floor around a large coffee table—the only surface big enough for all of them.
As they sat at the table drinking a Kenyan beer, Angus posed a question to Phomello and Dube. “What are you guys working on now?”
Phomello answered. “We are trying to get photographs of the middleman. We think we have identified the Masai camp and have been spying on it. The middleman does not buy the honey pots from them at a definite, time, we don’t think. It may be twice a month, once a month—we haven’t pinned it down yet, so it may take awhile to get this information, just watching and waiting. If we can get him to lead us to the buyer, we will get a photograph of him and his vehicle. We are trying for the license plate number.”
“So you think you know the Masai camp? That’s great news. And if you do get a license plate number, get it to us as fast as you can. We have people who can run it immediately to get a physical address and name. They will have to go through all sorts of international barricades at our home office, but it is doable, especially on a crime of this scope. This is wonderful news. It may not be so hopeless after all.” Angus could not hide the gleam in his eyes.
Phomello’s wife interrupted them with a large bowl of Pulau-a-chicken, which they passed around and ladled on their plates. She returned with a platter of Mandazi sweet bread. Skeeter started eating slowly, tentatively, but when she tasted the chicken, cabbage and rice dish, she picked up her speed. It was delicious. She decided to get seconds if there was anything left in the bowl.
* * *
Angus and Skeeter had mixed feelings about leaving the Almond Resort. It had been their home for a week and two days. They were disappointed that they had not seen the man at the marketplace again, and were not able to get a good photograph of him.
Angus and Skeeter were surprised to learn that the original airport at Garissa was not in use, so flights took off from a nearby landing strip until the original airport could be re-built. Their flight to Kinshasa was a low-rider. It seemed to barely skim the treetops at times. It pitched, rolled and rumbled a few times and the indecipherable chatter all about them was unsettling. They were not looking forward to their six-hour layover at Kinshasa. They were relieved to see the snaky Congo River coming into view. Kinshasa sat on its southern bank.
When they were finally able to plop themselves down in some very uncomfortable seats at the Kinshasa airport, Angus was startled by his vibrating cell phone just as he was nodding off in a sunbeam. “This is Angus.”
A very excited Phomello exploded with the words, “I have a license plate number!”
Angus took the number and other information down, then, he said, “This is the best possible news. Be on standby for me to call you right back. If you can follow the man’s vehicle without observation, try that. I am going to get right on this. I will call back soon with further information.”
Angus’ hands were shaking as he placed the call to Captain Tyrone Sullivan. “Yeah, that’s the license number, Captain. They are probably British plates. Whatever help you can give me… if you can move heaven and earth and get a name, a physical address, aliases. A bio of the guy would be gravy. We are laid over in an airport right now and your information will guide us to our next plan of action. Thanks a heap!”
Skeeter was smiling broadly.
Angus laughed before announcing, “Phomello says he couldn’t see the middleman very well, but he was very small, African, and did finally appear. Dube and Phomello have kept watch on the camp for several days. Dube finally spotted him with binoculars from quite a distance, putting the honey pots in a basket and exchanging money. When Dube went home for his shut- eye, he called Phomello and told him to wait for the middleman to come into the village. Phomello took up a post also from a far distance, waited for all in-coming ox carts, then watched him seek out the man. The middle man was so small they thought he must be from one of the tribes of tiny people.”
“Did they get a photo of the buyer?” Skeeter asked.
“Yeah, they did, from a far distance. When we get squared away with more information on the license number I will see if they can send us the image on one of our cell phones, but first things first. We may have to cancel the flight to London, or we may have to fly somewhere else entirely, or we may even have to go back to Garissa.”
“My curiosity is killing me,” Skeeter admitted. I want to see a picture of the buyer.”
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.