They didn’t have time to waste.
December 8, 2013
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
After a complicated and somewhat private boarding, because of their firearms, and an uneventful take-off, the two homicide detectives dozed in their seats for the long flight. It was leaving Houston at 6:20 p.m. and would arrive at Heathrow at 9:40 a.m. Their bodies were well-rested but their minds had been on overdrive and often seemed to be absent, like the gray matter of the brainless bodies they were investigating.
Somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, Skeeter woke up. They were cruising over a gauzy cloud bank, but Skeeter kept her eyes peeled for any breaks in the expanse of white. She loved to look at scenery from the window, even if it consisted of just the deep blue sea. Angus came to when his paperback slipped from his lap onto the floor of the cabin. He noticed Skeeter giving her undivided attention to the porthole window.
“I hate to admit it, Angus, but I have never even been out of the country, except for those few times we have crossed over into Mexico on an investigation of some kind.”
“Me either, Skeeter. Oh, I did go to Alberta once on a geology dig in college. It was for extra credit and I thought it would be fun. It was. We’ll be okay. When we do all of this in reverse, on the way back to the states, I think we have a layover in London for just a few hours. I want you to think of some sights there you would like to quickly see. We will try to whiz by them for some pictures, maybe eat an authentic meal somewhere,” Angus suggested as he handed her a small map of London Central. “Sound like a good idea?”
“Perfect. I know we can’t stay long, but since we are waiting for the flight out, anyway, we might as well see a few sights. It beats sitting in the airport for hours.”
* * *
“Angus, we’re in London!” Skeeter said as the plane touched down. She was excited and had caught sight of many famous landmarks, including London Bridge and Big Ben, as the plane banked and turned for landing.
Angus reiterated. “As you remember, we decided not to fly directly into Nairobi from here. There are many unsettling things going on there, now. Those unsettling things could migrate elsewhere at any time—it is a crap shoot and will be squirrelly.”
“From London we are going to Zaire? What city? Kinshasa? Then we are taking a puddle-jumper from Kinshasa to Garissa?”
“Right on all questions,” Angus answered. Except what we learned in geography as Zaire is now re-named the Democratic Republic of the Congo. At the moment, from what I have heard and researched, Garissa is close to some large pockets of Masai. Garissia is also pretty calm, compared to some other cities—this could change at any moment.”
* * *
Shortly after Angus and Skeeter arrived at the airport in Kinshasa, on and Air Africa flight, they learned that the plane they were about to board had been grounded—severe mechanical problems. Angus quickly pulled out an atlas. It was over 1,500 miles, overland, surface, to Garissa, and who knows about the checkpoints to cross the borders? What horrendous mess could the get themselves into if they tried to hire a driver. He had picked this flight into Africa because it avoided political hotbeds, but it was very far away from their eventual goal. These countries seemed to be in constant turmoil and he had studied hard to avoid traveling into Muslim territories.
“What are we going to do now, Angus? Our flight is cancelled, with no future flights scheduled, as far as I can see.” Skeeter could not hide her jitteriness as she read airline schedules.
“Charter. We will have to charter a flight, and it is going to cost us.”
Skeeter parked herself in a fiberglass contour chair, blue, and waited with their belongings while Angus flat-footed it all over the terminal. He hoped to find an English-speaking charter outfit. He certainly did not understand French or Swahili. “Nothing!” Angus was muttering and cussing to himself. There isn’t even a ticket counter that says ‘charters’ or anything like it. He tried an information kiosk but got nowhere. He glanced about and when the coast was clear he darted through a glass door where he could see people gassing planes. When he found someone that could understand English he inquired about a charter.
“Ask him!” One of the mechanics pointed to a man in grease-stained coveralls. Angus followed him a short distance and watched as he checked an aileron on an old crate—what looked to be a World War II era prop-driven plane, with four engines. Some of the insignia was still very visible. It was British. The blonde, blue-eyed man in the coveralls started to speak to Angus.
“Do you do charter flights?” Angus asked.
The man answered in what seemed to be an Australian accent. “I would be the pilot, this is my ship, Gracie. She’s a pretty good ol’ gal.” Where did you want to go? I haven’t gotten any other charter requests, today.”
Angus explained about their flight cancellation, their need to get to Garissa, their limited amount of time to dilly dally around.
“Nigel.” The man introduced himself and offered his hand. “Garissa, huh? I go there two or three times a month, average. It will take me another hour to get her ready to go. I am not trying to influence ya, but I will be your only opportunity. There are no other charters. High rollers with their own private planes is all.”
After Angus introduced himself to Nigel, he explained that they were on police business—Angus displayed proper ID—but that it was not meant to be broadcasted or gossiped about. Could Nigel live up to those requirements? He also explained that as such, they would be carrying firearms. This was partial insurance in case Nigel was a shady character, or involved with shady characters. It was a warning. He asked if they could pay in travelers’ checks. When preparations were underway he walked off to get Skeeter. He was pretty confident they could get credit, a refund for their cancelled flight. That would help a little.
* * *
Skeeter took one look at the plane, shook her head almost imperceptibly and said, “I don’t believe I’ll ride that!”
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.