Was the hot blood he smelled his own?
December 22, 2013
A VG Serial: Dark Continent Continental
“Roger. You think it will be about an hour then? Okay, Roger that.” Nigel had opted to use a radio on a battery pack, instead of a cell phone to call the airstrip. It created less hassle. They were used to it. “Okay. Let’s start hacking!”
Angus and Skeeter were nervous about being separated from their carry- ons. They found an old canvas mail bag in the back of the plane. Skeeter slid the carry-ons into it. She put in four bottles of water for good measure. Then, she tied the end with a rope. She would pull it behind her while the men plowed through. She was afraid to ask what kinds of snakes they would need to be on the look-out for. “Mambas, black or green” is what popped into her mind. She shuddered.
At the bottom of the steps, they looked off to the west. The savannah was not far. It was in plain view, but they were in an area that was covered with a dense, green, steamy canopy and carpeted with thick, lush underbrush. The plane had made a partial path, but it was very rough and did not go on for a very long distance.
“This way! Follow me!” Nigel instructed. He hacked at the brush and Angus and Buziba followed, trimming more of it. They were mindful of the plane recovery crew that would be coming in. Sheeter brought up the rear, dragging the bag. It bumped along behind her over stumps of hacked off brush. The smell of the cut greenery was oppressive as was the equatorial heat.
When they were about halfway to the savannah they decided to take a break. They stopped to drink some water. Nigel lit a cigarette.
“The people with tractors will haul us to the airstrip? Angus wanted to make sure he got it right.
“Yes, it will be those people, but I have asked them to also bring a car for you to ride in.”
“They can also probably drive you to Garissa for a small fee, if you wish. They would be glad and need the money.”
“That would be great. When we get to the Savannah, remind me to ask you more questions about Garissa. Do you know of anyone there, personally, that is reliable to help us there? Buziba, what about you—you know anyone reliable there?”
“Yes, I do know quite a few people. I can give you several names,” Nigel answered.
“Yes! Yes! I do know! I do know!” Buziba answered in a sing-song voice. “Reliable people! Reliable people!” His spidery fingers went all about.
Skeeter could not prevent herself from grinning broadly at his manner of speech, as Angus glanced in her direction and almost lost it.
“Okay. Let’s go!” Nigel put out his cigarette and started hacking away, again. It took them twenty more minutes to get to the bottom where they stopped for another break.
Skeeter examined the ecru canvas bag and was amazed to see it was now solid green.
“We’ll keep on going in that direction,” Nigel said, pointing. “Let’s call them again and see if they have gathered a crew and left yet.” Angus offered one of his cell phones while they glugged water from bottles and splashed more water on their faces.
Nigel interrupted their splash party. “They have gathered up the people but have not left yet, leaving shortly. We will walk a ways and then stop under a shady tree and start a fire to make it easy for them to spot us. I explained it to them.”
Angus and Skeeter looked back from where they had come. The plane looked very eerie sitting at an angle on the mountain. They snapped their first series of African pictures—of the plane.
“Ready to go again? We can stash the machetes under this tree and I will pick them up on the way back.” Nigel saw no point in carrying them any farther.
They started walking. The three men were in front, with Skeeter lagging behind. Buziba had taken her canvas bag for awhile. She kept panning the landscape. There was not one sign of an animal herd. She was disappointed. As Nigel forged ahead, Angus slowed down to let Skeeter catch up with him. As he walked under the soothing coolness of an Acacia tree, with Skeeter ten paces back, he felt himself knocked to the ground with a violence he had seldom encountered in any of his police work. He felt his neck pop and heard the report of a gun so close that it deafened him. He was dizzy. He struggled to get to his feet, the smell of cordite and hot blood surrounding him.
Chapters of Dark Continental by Sara Marie Hogg will be published on Saturday and Sunday.