The Black Sun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The Review


Some time in June 1964, mercenary Irish-born British Major Thomas Harry, better known as Major ‘Mad’ Harry, is rehired by the Congolese in-waiting Prime Minister, Moïse Kapenda Tshombé, a wealthy man, whom he meets in his Pink Palace in the Katanga Province for the second time in three years, supposedly to salvage the fate of the foreign hostages, including a few Americans, in the three-storey Hôtel du Lac, in Albertville -- a town on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika -- already attacked and seized by the ruthless rebels who call themselves the Simbas who are led by Gaston Soumialot and his ‘General’ Nicolas Olenga. But in reality Harry’s pressing mission is to retrieve the secret Belgian gold cache, all in bars packed in ten crates, worth fifty million dollars, from a bank’s vault – only known to four protagonists: Tshombé, the CIA station chief, the Union Minière director and Harry himself. Incidentally, a Belgian named Antoine van Bilsen, who happens to be the bank Director, is forced to look after the cache that is now in the hands of the rebels who hold his wife, Beatrice, as a hostage in Alberville.

Harry’s subordinates, notoriously named Les Affreux, ‘the Terrible Ones’, include an Afro-American man named Captain Cyrille Cernuda, of Armée Nationale Congolaise, who turns a true friend, and a drunkard Irish-born Doctor, Joseph Barnes, who has hardly given up drinking since his wife’s car crash back in Dublin years before his arrival in the Congo. Reluctantly, he also takes along two other men, one is the snoopy Lloyd Garrison who works as a correspondent and photojournalist for Scripps-Howard, then America’s largest chain of newspapers, whose flagship was The New York Herald Tribune, and a Ku Klux Klan leader and old-time foe of Harry’s bygone days, an American-born Major called Lawrence ‘Mike’ Williams, on a mission because he needs both men: Garrison because of his knowledge of the town and the hotel’s whereabouts, and Williams because of his band of mercenaries and his military expertise and leadership skills.

Tshombé also gives Harry and his hirlings the use of a matte black wood-burning train, equipped with sufficient firepower, along with government soldiers on board, and leaves the only train station in the southeastern city of Élisabethville for their doomed destination, Albertville. On the way, the train is attacked by a United Nations peacekeeping Alouette chopper piloted by two Swedish men that forms part of the UN air force. Harry then picks up a beautiful blond Belgian missionary damsel named Maye Michels in his Belgian-made tricycle TricycleSpankenTruppen after the mercenaries’ train finds her running wildly along the railway line in the midst of hills and bushes, escaping from her chasers, a Simba patrol driving in a Soviet-made jeep, part of the rebel bands that earlier attacks her small village church and burns it down and kills the rest of the missionaries. Meanwhile, Major Williams, who resents Harry’s leadership, begins to cause trouble because the American sneaks into one of the jeeps loaded with the gold cache.

Things come to a boiling point when the American makes a romantic advance, which Harry interrupts. Harry and Williams then fight an inconclusive duel which involves a chainsaw. First, Williams attempts to use it on Harry who then desperately takes his turn to use the chainsaw. Harry is prepared to kill Williams but stopped by his close friend, Cernuda. But there are further complications when the mercenaries reach the town. Firstly, the gold cache in a time-locked vault delaying the departure of the train, and secondly, Garrison and Cernuda attempting to have the hostages in the hotel freed.

Before travelling into the bush, Harry and Michels along with three of his men stop by the rear side of the bank and secretly carry off the cache, leaving behind Garrison and Cernuda who drive in another jeep and stop by the hotel. Using a Simba disguise, Cernuda takes in Garrison who now pretends to be his prisoner. But as Cernuda leaves, Garrison refuses to abandon the hostages in the hotel, with its rooms full of sickening scenes of rape, murder, drunkenness and torture, and agrees to stay behind to help them to escape through a safe passage. Just as Garrison leads the hostages stealthily to a safe haven in the midst of low-ling hills around the town, he is told by one of the Belgian hostages that her son is left behind.

Garrison prepares to take the risk and treks back to the hotel to save the little boy in the hotel. But as he attempts to save the last hostage, the Simbas manage to capture Garrison and show no mercy and have him tied up to two trees in the town centre. With Garrison at the mercy of the Simbas, Harry reluctantly agrees to let one of his marksmen on the train to shoot Garrison to stop him from further torture in the hands of the Simbas who are now cutting him alive with machetes. Back in the town precious minutes tick by as the train hurriedly picks up the hostages.

The delays in the bank and the hotel eventually allow the other Simba force, loaded in Soviet-made jeeps and trucks travelling on a dirt track, to catch up and begin attacking the train and Harry’s men. Finally the heavily-laden train, which is loaded with the gold cache concealed in a jeep and the residents, slowly leaves the station under small arms fire. But just as it is nearly out of range, a mortar round destroys the coupling between the last two carriages. Agonisingly, as the rest of the train picks up speed and steams away, the last coach with most of the hostages on board slowly comes to a stop before rolling downhill back into the Simba-held town.

Before the train leaves off, Harry loses Bilsen and his wife and some of his men to the waves of the wild Simbas who now attack the train on foot from the rear. And as the Simba army leads a raid to retrieve the gold from Harry and his men, the train eventually leaves. Following a rail line diversion involving two purloined trucks by the Simbas, the train stops halfway in the middle of nowhere and by the time Cernuda’s men attempt to have the rail cleared off, the second wave of the Simbas suddenly launches attacks in three fronts. Harry and his men are too few to face the wrath of the spear-waving Simbas who manage to kill many, including Doctor Barnes.

In the end, the train leaves to safety. When the train runs low on fuel, Harry and one of his men, Sergeant Rolf Steiner, once a member of the Hitler Youth, leave in a jeep to get hold of army trucks from a nearby Congolese military camp to carry off the rest of the hostages and a few men he is left with. Little does Harry himself know about the gold cache loaded in his jeep by Cernuda who always mistrusts Williams. In his absence, Williams kills Cernuda with his long knife and now takes on Michels, slapping her in the face several times, in the mistaken belief that both know about the whereabouts of the gold cache. Empty handed, Williams drives into the bush in one of the jeeps. When Harry returns to find his friend dead, he is filled with murderous revenge. He pursues Williams in his favourite tricycle and after a vicious brawl Harry kills him with the same knife with which Williams strikes Cernuda. Harry then returns to the truck convoy. With his job done, Harry reflects on himself, feeling the guilt of vengeance, and turns himself in for a court-martial for his action.

Table of Contents

Élisabethville’s Enigma


The Review


Some time in June 1964, mercenary Irish-born British Major Thomas Harry, better known as Major ‘Mad’ Harry, is rehired by the Congolese in-waiting Prime Minister, Moïse Kapenda Tshombé, a wealthy
man, whom he meets in his Pink Palace in the Katanga Province for the second time in three years, supposedly to salvage the fate of the foreign hostages, including a few Americans, in the
three-storey Hôtel du Lac, in Albertville -- a town on the western shore of Lake Tanganyika -- already attacked and seized by the ruthless rebels who call themselves the Simbas who are led by
Gaston Soumialot and his ‘General’ Nicolas Olenga. But in reality Harry’s pressing mission is to retrieve the secret Belgian gold cache, all in bars packed in ten crates, worth fifty million
dollars, from a bank’s vault – only known to four protagonists: Tshombé, the CIA station chief, the Union Minière director and Harry himself. Incidentally, a Belgian named Antoine van Bilsen, who
happens to be the bank Director, is forced to look after the cache that is now in the hands of the rebels who hold his wife, Beatrice, as a hostage in Alberville.


Harry’s subordinates, notoriously named Les Affreux, ‘the Terrible Ones’, include an Afro-American man named Captain Cyrille Cernuda, of Armée Nationale Congolaise, who turns a true friend, and a
drunkard Irish-born Doctor, Joseph Barnes, who has hardly given up drinking since his wife’s car crash back in Dublin years before his arrival in the Congo. Reluctantly, he also takes along two
other men, one is the snoopy Lloyd Garrison who works as a correspondent and photojournalist for Scripps-Howard, then America’s largest chain of newspapers, whose flagship was The New York Herald
Tribune, and a Ku Klux Klan leader and old-time foe of Harry’s bygone days, an American-born Major called Lawrence ‘Mike’ Williams, on a mission because he needs both men: Garrison because of his
knowledge of the town and the hotel’s whereabouts, and Williams because of his band of mercenaries and his military expertise and leadership skills.


Tshombé also gives Harry and his hirlings the use of a matte black wood-burning train, equipped with sufficient firepower, along with government soldiers on board, and leaves the only train station
in the southeastern city of Élisabethville for their doomed destination, Albertville. On the way, the train is attacked by a United Nations peacekeeping Alouette chopper piloted by two Swedish men
that forms part of the UN air force. Harry then picks up a beautiful blond Belgian missionary damsel named Maye Michels in his Belgian-made tricycle TricycleSpankenTruppen after the mercenaries’
train finds her running wildly along the railway line in the midst of hills and bushes, escaping from her chasers, a Simba patrol driving in a Soviet-made jeep, part of the rebel bands that earlier
attacks her small village church and burns it down and kills the rest of the missionaries. Meanwhile, Major Williams, who resents Harry’s leadership, begins to cause trouble because the American
sneaks into one of the jeeps loaded with the gold cache.


Things come to a boiling point when the American makes a romantic advance, which Harry interrupts. Harry and Williams then fight an inconclusive duel which involves a chainsaw. First, Williams
attempts to use it on Harry who then desperately takes his turn to use the chainsaw. Harry is prepared to kill Williams but stopped by his close friend, Cernuda. But there are further complications
when the mercenaries reach the town. Firstly, the gold cache in a time-locked vault delaying the departure of the train, and secondly, Garrison and Cernuda attempting to have the hostages in the
hotel freed.


Before travelling into the bush, Harry and Michels along with three of his men stop by the rear side of the bank and secretly carry off the cache, leaving behind Garrison and Cernuda who drive in
another jeep and stop by the hotel. Using a Simba disguise, Cernuda takes in Garrison who now pretends to be his prisoner. But as Cernuda leaves, Garrison refuses to abandon the hostages in the
hotel, with its rooms full of sickening scenes of rape, murder, drunkenness and torture, and agrees to stay behind to help them to escape through a safe passage. Just as Garrison leads the hostages
stealthily to a safe haven in the midst of low-ling hills around the town, he is told by one of the Belgian hostages that her son is left behind.


Garrison prepares to take the risk and treks back to the hotel to save the little boy in the hotel. But as he attempts to save the last hostage, the Simbas manage to capture Garrison and show no
mercy and have him tied up to two trees in the town centre. With Garrison at the mercy of the Simbas, Harry reluctantly agrees to let one of his marksmen on the train to shoot Garrison to stop him
from further torture in the hands of the Simbas who are now cutting him alive with machetes. Back in the town precious minutes tick by as the train hurriedly picks up the hostages.


The delays in the bank and the hotel eventually allow the other Simba force, loaded in Soviet-made jeeps and trucks travelling on a dirt track, to catch up and begin attacking the train and Harry’s
men. Finally the heavily-laden train, which is loaded with the gold cache concealed in a jeep and the residents, slowly leaves the station under small arms fire. But just as it is nearly out of
range, a mortar round destroys the coupling between the last two carriages. Agonisingly, as the rest of the train picks up speed and steams away, the last coach with most of the hostages on board
slowly comes to a stop before rolling downhill back into the Simba-held town.


Before the train leaves off, Harry loses Bilsen and his wife and some of his men to the waves of the wild Simbas who now attack the train on foot from the rear. And as the Simba army leads a raid
to retrieve the gold from Harry and his men, the train eventually leaves. Following a rail line diversion involving two purloined trucks by the Simbas, the train stops halfway in the middle of
nowhere and by the time Cernuda’s men attempt to have the rail cleared off, the second wave of the Simbas suddenly launches attacks in three fronts. Harry and his men are too few to face the wrath
of the spear-waving Simbas who manage to kill many, including Doctor Barnes.


In the end, the train leaves to safety. When the train runs low on fuel, Harry and one of his men, Sergeant Rolf Steiner, once a member of the Hitler Youth, leave in a jeep to get hold of army
trucks from a nearby Congolese military camp to carry off the rest of the hostages and a few men he is left with. Little does Harry himself know about the gold cache loaded in his jeep by Cernuda
who always mistrusts Williams. In his absence, Williams kills Cernuda with his long knife and now takes on Michels, slapping her in the face several times, in the mistaken belief that both know
about the whereabouts of the gold cache. Empty handed, Williams drives into the bush in one of the jeeps. When Harry returns to find his friend dead, he is filled with murderous revenge. He pursues
Williams in his favourite tricycle and after a vicious brawl Harry kills him with the same knife with which Williams strikes Cernuda. Harry then returns to the truck convoy. With his job done,
Harry reflects on himself, feeling the guilt of vengeance, and turns himself in for a court-martial for his action.
Read Chapter

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Back in the Barracks

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The Irish Insanity

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Adventuring for Albertville

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Maye’s Moment of Melancholy

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The Gehenna of Gold


The interminable day wheeled slowly to its end. The sun setting over the distant dark hills to the west burnished the tall tree tops with a brush of flame and gold, and darkness fell fast over the
land as the stars stood white in the hot sky. It had been precisely a day and a half since Harry left behind Tshombé in Élisabethville, and he had now thirty-six hours to accomplish his task.


The day that followed, an interminable, wonderful Wednesday with an azure, cloudless, windless sky and a dazzling white sun turning the undulating plateaus and light-laden palm trees into an
impossibly immense day, was never afterwards clear in Harry’s mind. It was as if everything that day had been seen through a haze, or in a dimly remembered dream: it was almost as if it had been a
day lived by someone else, so remote it was, so detached from all reality, whenever he later attempted to recall it.


He knew himself, and admitted to himself, that it all appeared to originate from the tearing anxiety in his mind, a savage restlessness that would never let him be still a moment: but he had been
on tasks before that had terminated in vain, and the vainness had never troubled him. To get a man to fight to the death is to use a man who has nothing to lose – and that he was one of those men.
What troubled him were the bank and the giant gold deposit, worth fifty million dollars, stored safely in it -- at least for the time being – sufficient to tempt any one, any where, any time, even
his own men.


Saving the hapless hostages was a secondary objective of the task, he and his men thought, even though he must have known, more clearly even than himself, just what the cost of attempting to rescue
the heavily guarded hotel in the city must always inevitably be. And then, beyond that again, he knew that his worry was never solely on Maye and his men, deep as was his determination to get the
gold at all costs – something he could hardly let his men know of the gold secret.


With the central government in Léopoldville already facing a 1963 deficit of one hundred million dollars, seizing the bank by the Simbas had been a sad saga, even though it had become barely to
their knowledge of what the bank in reality stored.


The good word was that only he, Cernuda and Maye knew of the existence of such an exquisite deposit, and as luck would have it, the Simbas had left the town, leaving behind a mere few men in the
town. The bad word was two-fold: the hotel where the one hundred and fifty white hostages had been taken was the grand Hôtel du Lac, a scant short distance from the branch office of Banque
Nationale du Congo, along the road that bore the hotel’s name, had now turned into a formidable fortress for the Simbas, and generally reserved for their high-ranking men; but the hostages
themselves, unfortunately could hardly help them. Also on the debit account was the fact that the Director of the bank itself, a Belgian named Antoine van Bilsen, along with his wife, had been held
as a hostage himself, though he was allowed to work during the banking hours.


Hôtel du Lac was a large three-storey structure. Its construction in the 1950s came during Albertville’s Belle Époque, the period when the town was booming, and at that time it must have been an
impressive place, the huge hotel for hundreds of miles. It stood back on the other side of the road, once that cars parked outside, music coming out of the dining room, fans spinning inside the
rooms to keep down the heat and the mosquitoes. It took quite a leap of imagination. Fifty years after it was built, the hotel had now hardly any electricity, any smell of life; and the rooms were
mostly mere empty shells, lost in the midst of the ghost town … It was all gone now … .


Penetration by stealth, Harry and his Les Affreux assumed, was the pyramid point in the plan. Garrison could provide them with practically some details of the town itself, as he himself had been
there before, though his sphere of knowledge was limited to Hôtel du Lac. The internal geography and routine of the hotel, Harry had added, were unimportant by all accounts: only complete and
brazen and bold surprise could hope to serve their purposes. Hence, the plan. The plan was ingenious, a masterpiece, yet still plagued with the dark perils of death.


It was Harry’s words of wisdom in his plan that, should the rescue of the hostages still be alive on the cards, they stood a fair chance. It was Harry’s further command that Cernuda, Maye, Garrison
and three other men should accompany them in the two Minerva Recce jeeps as far as the bank, and assist Harry, Cernuda and Maye, while Cernuda himself, along with Garrison, would masquerade as a
Simba man and wait and watch outside the bank. The two jeeps would drive on two different tracks before approaching the city: Harry, Maye and the three men would take the dirt track he and Maye had
gone before, and the other would take the dusty, corrugated road – the one on which they had seen the two trucks before.


That way all members could keep in contact with each other; and, to complete a magnificent day’s work, the train that had provided the essential transport would then leave its present location for
the town, about a mile and a half inside the boundary, to help transport the hostages out of the town to safety. Eventually, the overall task would be split into three parts: Harry would supervise
his men at the bank; Garrison and Cernuda would look after the hostages at the hotel, and finally Williams and Opepe would wait with the train outside the boundary of the town. Harry had omitted to
say when the train would move in during their incursion into the town.


Under the shimmering sun and the ear-piercing silence, Harry, Cernuda, Opepe, Williams, Steiner, Garrison and Maye had already assembled inside the observation coach; no one else was allowed to
enter as the matters were too sensitive, too secretive.


Williams was the first to break the silence, shaking his head in wonder.


‘Very, very touching, indeed … but that is your assumption …’ Williams broke off. ‘What if the Simbas returned while honeymooning?’


Harry gazed at him, his face carefully empty of expression, unclouded by the slightest trace of trepidation. ‘What do you assume?’ his voice magnificent in its assured confidence.


‘We won’t still go in,’ said Williams softly.


Harry nodded in agreement.


Steiner broke in. ‘And we won’t go in unless you people first land in here with the big prize?’


‘In a word – yes,’ said Harry.


Garrison could feel every stiffened muscle in his body relax as relief poured over him, flooded him like a wave. His voice tailed away into silence, and faded away altogether as Harry lit a
cigarette and for a long moment no one looked at each other. It was Garrison stubbing his cigarette cutting Harry off. ‘Well, that’s it, isn’t it?’


Harry nodded his head and then said: ‘One hour from now.’


Harry felt none of that Garrison’s relief, none of the elation that he had expected now that the green light had been given all at last, just numbness, such as he had seen in Maye’s eyes the day he
met her, and a strange heaviness of heart.


Five minutes later, under a bright blue lowering sky, the jeeps pulled out of the freight wagon; Harry, Maye and three of his men then drove off along the dirt track, and Cernuda and Garrison in
another along the dusty, corrugated road. The drive had been completely uneventful, and although they had been prepared for rugged roads there had been none that could have hampered or delayed
them. The three men who sat in the rear seats of Harry’s Minerva Recce jeep were a Dutch named Van de Hoek, Marri Grobbelaar of the South African origin, and his Rhodesian counterpart, 'Skinny'
Coleman. The small number of Simbas stationed in the town was very confident; they had hardly any reason to be anything else.


A deep silence had descended over the town.


Twenty minutes later, both jeeps came into sight of each other, Harry pulled up the jeep in the rear side of the bank, and Cernuda now concealing himself in the Simba clothing camouflage, with a
painted face resembling that of a tribesman, drew up his jeep outside Hôtel du Lac, a scant one hundred yards. Opposite the hotel stood the white-walled bank, dotted with tall palm trees around it,
and gazing at it for the first time, Harry felt the first touch of hesitation, the realisation of the mere madness of what he and his men were executing.


He had parked the jeep in front of a door to the rear of the bank, leaving his Sterling behind in the jeep. As Maye descended it, followed by Hoek, Grobbelaar and Coleman, Harry beckoned to Maye to
enter the bank and fetch the director. Harry and his men waited outside. She was inside the bank in two minutes’ time; and after a couple of minutes she and an unsmiling Bilsen walked out of the
door. He was the last kind of man Harry would have expected to see in that position. He was a short, grey haired, slightly stooped man in a well-cut dark suit, with a high-domed, thin, intellectual
face. He wore a black fedora, had lean capable hands and his eyes drifted from the three men to Harry.


For a long moment Bilsen stared at the men, his face a study of bewildered incomprehension, then understanding came and with some certainty of foreknowledge, his dark face brightened as though a
slave emancipated from bondage. He looked to them more like saviours or professional soldiers sent from the heavens. In point of fact they were both, barely mattered for a man whose wife’s life now
hung by a thin thread, for his wife, Beatrice, like the other hostages, had been kept unharmed in Hôtel du Lac.


Bilsen had hardly any suspicions as to the men’s genuineness, Harry and Maye could see. His eyes were edgy, with a face darkened with fear.


‘Thank Heavens, whoever you are! … But you must hurry. You’re losing time … the Simbas will be crawling all over the place in forty-five minutes,’ Bilsen hesitated.


‘How many are they?’ asked Harry coldly.


‘Oh, I’m not sure … I assume two battalions,’ he looked at Harry, and then nodded at the door. ‘Please, you must hurry.’


Harry and Maye exchanged glances; Maye’s glance was much of a disconcerting distress, and then strolled inside the bank.


The door led them directly to the basement where it housed a huge vault tucked away in it, its brass still shone, but it looked venerable and expensive. Bilsen took the lead across the basement
towards the underground vault. Ten boxes of 24-carat gold were stored this vault and included three disused wells, and a big black clock that hung on one of them. In reality, the floor-space was
much smaller than that of the building itself. The posters on the wall, depicting sunny climes, comfort cruises and happier times, had been preserved from the bygone Belle Époque. Yet, as the Congo
had lost its faith in most investments, gold did still provide a primeval sense of security.


Bilsen wet his trembling lips, sweat droplets sliding down his cheeks, and then used keys, three-feet long, to open the outsized vault doors. They looked ceremonial, like something served for a
state occasion, but the keys were still fully functional. He sent a nervous glance around, looking for the unexpected arrival of Simbas through the front door. He hurriedly bolted it. He saw none –
that was hardly reassuring. The core of the Simba army was still far, far enough, for the men to accomplish the task … Or was it really?


After they walked for a few yards, with only the sounds of the footsteps breaking the silence inside the basement, Bilsen used his index to indicate the wooden boxes of the gold bars inside the
vault. ‘The gold is here … all of it … safe.’


Harry’s eyes flailed about the cool basement. The gold bar boxes … the walls … the posters … his watch … and finally the clock on the wall. Time was flying fast, and he knew it.


Harry, in those first few minutes of anxiety, tense, was conscious of nothing but the gold. He looked across at Maye. Faces were shiny with sweat; Harry’s Belgian uniform was soaked at the armpits.


‘Call the men in,’ he pointed with his thumb over his shoulder; his eyes evidently focused on the gold boxes.


Maye strolled towards the rear door, and led the men towards the basement. Harry then signaled to Hoek, Grobbelaar and Coleman that it was safe now to carry the boxes, on the double, back to the
rear seats of the jeep that was parked outside. The lead man, Hoek, a cigarette over his ear and another unlit in the corner of his mouth, looked around dubiously. Harry looked at his watch for the
second time. Thirty minutes to go, thirty-one at the most. Almost at once the three men carried the first load, three boxes, to the jeep and then returned for the next load, then the next … arms
and legs that moved in unison, with a swift and trained efficiency.


Harry took the last glance at his watch, and then nodded to Maye to climb the jeep outside; he was the last to lead the way back through the rear door.


‘What about my wife and I,’ uttered Bilsen with a hiss, his head moving with a sudden nervous spasm.


Harry paused, turned to face him and then said unemotionally. ‘Join your wife and wait there for the train.’


Each gold box weighed almost ten pounds and had a length of twenty-five inches and a width of twenty inches, sufficient to slow down the three men’ strides. Under the broiling sun, Hoek stooped
from exhaustion, his forearm was beginning to ache with the strain of supporting the weight of the three heavy boxes, and his fingers were now so numbed that he had hardly any means of knowing
whether he was slipping or not. And his face was already drenched in cold sweat.


‘You know Marri? These boxes are too heavy just to carry cash,’ said Hoek with a wry face.


‘Yeah, what I was thinking,’ said Grobbelaar, while wiping the back of his hand across his lips. ‘Whatever it is, it ain’t cash.’


Coleman cut them off. ‘Diamonds?’


‘I just dunno, but one thing I know for sure … This ain’t cash … and this ain’t diamonds,’ Hoek murmured.


‘Or gold?’ asked Coleman softly. His eyes were very thoughtful.


Upon hearing the word ‘gold’, the three men paused for a second, frozen in silence, with only eyes exchanging glances and faces looking dubious, shining still with sweat.


Harry broke in suddenly. ‘Get on with it.’ He was brisk, his voice hard and cold.


With Harry and his little band at the bank running out of time, Cernuda and Garrison were barely better than any other. Little enough time was left – twenty minutes perhaps, twenty-one at the most.
Cernuda was now walking slowly, head straight on his shoulders, side by side Garrison, but his eyes to the door of the hotel.


There was a thin line of tall palm trees in front of the hotel, along the road that was now nothing but rutted dirt, with a giant white sign that read: Hôtel du Lac. The hotel’s outside scene was
in a shambles, looking neglected, forlorn, with the sign dangling, French windows were filthy with dust, gun barrels emerging from under the scarab-like metal covers that looked like overturned,
oversized woks. And the outdoor café was chaotic as such: chairs and tables scattered around, and dishes smeared with congealed food upon the side tables; the flower pots were overgrown, some
broken into pieces; the walls outside were dingy, some painted in dripped black and white strokes – hardly named a hotel as such any more – just an ill-kept building that had headquartered the
Simbas since the seizure of the town.


With a panga machete in one hand and a bottle of Blue Nile brewery’s Camel Beer in the other, Cernuda had tapped the panga under Garrison’s chin tightly so as to deceive the Simbas who were
stationed inside the hotel. Garrison still feared the sharp-razor panga, sending a nervous glance at Cernuda, sighing in defeat.


For a few moments they strolled towards the door side by side, without speaking. Suddenly there came out of the door a Simba man wearing a raggedy-looking beard and a monkey-skin headdress on his
unkempt hair, a pistol holster slinging over his neck. Cernuda sneaked glances at the drunkard Simba man swaying, his head whirling and putting out a hand to steady himself, and his mouth breathing
the smell of alcohol.


Suddenly he stopped in front of them, grinning.


‘Kuacha hapo!’ [Stop there!] said the Simba, his eyes smoky, the smell of his body blended sourly with stale cigarette smoke and liquor fumes.


‘Jambo’ [Hello], said Cernuda.


‘Yeye ni nani?’ [Who’s he?], asked the Simba.


Garrison was now dead silent, attempting to conceal his composure, the thrill of trepidation, his mouth twitching worriedly and his cheeks streaming with sweat.


‘Yeye ni kaffir’ [He’s a kaffir], replied Cernuda.


‘Jina lake ni?’ [What’s his name?], asked the Simba.


‘Jina lake ni Garriso’ [His name’s Garrison], replied Cernuda.


‘Kuchukua naye ndani’ [Take him inside], said the Simba, his face now devoid of grin.


‘Wewe kunywa’ [You drink?], Cernuda smiled pretentiously.


‘Ndiyo, shukrani’ [Yeah, thanks], said the Simba, grinning again.


As Cernuda tossed the beer bottle at him, the Simba accepted with wonder and started gulping it down as if it were water.


He then let out a fresh burst of high laughter. ‘Sisi kuua wote hivi karibuni’ [We’ll kill all soon].


Cernuda had hardly any choice but to follow suit. Garrison’s patience was running thin, and all he wanted now was to let free himself out of the despair.


‘What did he say?’ whispered Garrison with a gulp.


Cernuda merely murmured. “He said: “You’re a dead man.”’


Garrison stared back with widening eyes, his tongue a stone slab. He stammered. ‘Dead meat?’ ‘Are you sure we’re going through the right door?’ said Cernuda in a whisper.


‘Dead sure … Once we’re in, we’re in a big dining room,’ whispered Garrison, oblivious of the shooting pain in his chin, jerking upright, steadying himself.


Cernuda merely gazed at him, his face fairly expressionless, and he still had the panga tapped under Garrison’s chin.


Once inside they were, they glanced around at the dining room and a score of Simbas. Chaos was upon chaos, that much had hardly changed if the town itself had. The soft weeping of a child, the
voice of a mother, and the grueling guffaws of laughter, were the more confused chilling sounds. The smell of spiced food and spilled liquor, mingled with the floury taste of plaster dust and the
bitter stench of cigarettes and hemp.


There were rifles on tables, machineguns on chairs, grenades rattling on the floor, boxes of ammunition stacked on the front stoop, pistol belts hanging on lamps, high explosives in the kitchen;
knives at totally random and even mortars in the backyard. Pictures and portraits dangling on the walls, with a big portrait of Moïse Tshombé dotted with bullet holes.


A thin-moustached Simba man, drunk to death, was crawling over the debris of broken glass and shattered crockery on the floor filled with dirt, food and muddy footprints; two of his men, high on
hemp, climbing up the circular staircase to the guest rooms. Another Simba was laying down in a sofa smoking and drinking; guns, rounds of bullets, empty beer bottle scattered on the reception desk
that was beyond human recognition, and a crowd of the Simbas, sitting round a table, playing cards; and spilled beer, choked ashtrays and cigarette butts thrown carelessly around the floor.


Cernuda and Garrison picked their way through the debris and went straight to the big kitchen on the first floor. Garrison checked the door, found it open, and went in. Cernuda waited outside the
door, watching for possible arrival of anyone from that raucous, crazed crowd of the wild-eyed Simbas.


Garrison hardly hesitated; his eyes flicking about in the kitchen, and then called out to the hostages, who were made to sit on the kitchen floor. ‘Anyone speaks English here?’


Suddenly a soft voice approached from the midst of the panic-stricken hostages. ‘I do.’


The voice came from a woman named Daphne Parks. She was a consular official of the British Embassy; she had already been slapped twice by the Simbas, and then had had her dress unzipped. She wore a
short floral dress which left her back and shoulders bare, and her feet were thrust unto open sandals. But in concession to the wind in the air she wore a shawl over her shoulders. Close to her,
her skin appeared to have a plastic smoothness and elasticity, as though it had been lightly oiled and polished, and down the back of her naked neck the hair was fine and soft, growing in a whorl
in the nape.


The survivors, grey with shock and some gaudy with bloodstains gazed at Garrison for a few seconds, perhaps still in shock and scare, barely believing in what he had just said. Two little girls,
bloodstained, holding tightly to their dolls; a shoeless mother and daughter in pajamas, and a baby with her feet sticking out of an airline bag. Nearly everyone was covered with blood and bruises.
Five white fathers were already stripped of their cassocks and their beards cut off, and a number of them beaten with hands, rifle butts, sticks and machetes.


‘All right, listen to me all of you … We’re getting out of here.’


Parks broke in briskly. ‘I know of a back door … I can take them out.’


‘Good … Let’s get out of here…’ Garrison paused. ‘Hurry all of you, for Christ’s sake!’ he shouted in despair, beckoning them forward imperiously and they came, shuffling their feet and looking
awkward.


A whine of panic inside his head was preventing him from thinking straight. As Garrison seized upon his time, with the hostage column marching through the rear door, a Belgian couple was moving
with a slight limp. At the door Cernuda’s eyes moved back and forth in steady arcs, then followed garrison longingly. He pressed his lips together, and attempted to judge what was happening inside
the kitchen.


Garrison turned to Cernuda. ‘You go ahead.’


Cernuda nodded.


As Cernuda walked his way back through the dining room towards the jeep outside of the hotel, Garrison paused, sneering into the low-hanging sun. The land here was open, a series of soft swells,
with only the burned out ruins of a black Mercedes-Benz ‘Ponton’ sedan, and about five hundred yards away from the sedan, an abandoned white Volkswagen Beetle, with open doors, and along its side
skirt sprayed with a graffiti that proclaimed in French: Vive Lumumba!


Garrison and Parks led the hostages over the open land that broke the integrity of the horizon and squelched softly. As they drew nearer to the railway line, the sun needled Garrison’s eyes,
blinding him, taking refuge behind one of the soft swells. He raised his hand; the hostages piled to a halt around him. Garrison squinted for another few seconds. The he turned to Parks, who was
looking dolefully at her feet.


‘Tell your people to stay quiet here,’ murmured Garrison, looking at Parks.


Parks and those who understood English murmured agreement.


There was hardly anybody there at all. All was echoing, dusty silence, and nobody uttered a word. Nothing whatsoever happened. Parks had moved in closer to Garrison, and then, from right behind
them, a shout came in a cracked, rather frightened voice, from a madly gesticulating elderly woman with a mass of dark hair piled on top of her head. She was speaking in the Belgian language;
Garrison could hardly make out what she was shouting about.


‘Anyone speaks Belgian here?’ said Garrison desperately, in a hushed voice.


A bearded Belgian father standing next to her seized her by the shoulders, attempting to silence the scared woman; disappointment etched in every sagging line of her face.


‘Ja,’ said the father with a sudden resurgence of readiness. He then continued, almost hastily. ‘She says her little boy’s left behind in that hotel.’


Garrison hesitated for a moment; confusion and frustration seeped through his every pore, reeking. Garrison shook his head. ‘You take charge … I’ll get the boy.’


Parks nodded in agreement.


Garrison then strode off in the direction of the rear side of the hotel, leaving the crowd behind the soft swell. Fatigue was taking its toll. He relocated the trail. A leap of imagination; a
glimpse into the quarry mind. He pursued the direction that felt most proper, and followed it.


As he approached the kitchen door, suddenly a Simba emerged directly from the door. Garrison paused – and paused -- his wide eyes moved from the door to the tall Simba man standing still in front
of him like a tower. Garrison watched his eyes narrow, under that peaked cap with a black leather visor and a black-and-white leather sweatband, and his sudden triumphant grin as he saw Garrison in
his sights, and his finger tightening on the trigger of a full-size 8mm Belgian Nagant, amidst the sound of silence.


He brought the pistol up, levelling it at Garrison, and then he nodded his head to the kitchen door. Garrison stood, gave him a silver-tongued, ostentatious grin, and then raised his hands slowly
to the level of his shoulders. But he had resisted the temptation of even thinking of escape, and it had made him feel disappointed. And he knew his end had eventually arrived … .
Read Chapter

The Simba Scrimshaw


Harry and Cernuda had been much too fortunate, with Harry and his men now racing in the jeep on the dirt track towards the train on the one side, and Cernuda climbing into his jeep, gathering speed
swiftly and driving on that dusty, corrugated road, on the other. Dust boiled out from bind Cernuda’s jeep as he approached the first logged bridge, cutting across the patch of the grass land,
negotiating a relatively short, narrow, dusty path and ran towards the railway line.


Both vehicles were moving fast, barely a mile apart, and parallel to each other, coming together at a combined speed of almost two hundred miles per hour, amidst the towering columns of dust.


Williams stood with his binoculars at the back-end of the observation coach, on the balcony, waiting, watching slowly around him, and in the other end stood a watchful Opepe. Williams was already
losing hope, it was as if it were hope against hope, and he never wanted to keep the train on the rails any longer, and for one awful moment he was even tempted to give up the whole suicidal
scheme. Then he thought of Harry, Cernuda and Garrison and all of others who were now depending on that train. There were already too many deaths: and the last death had already transpired – the
execution of the pro-Tshombé provincial president -- as an example to the town’s 30,000 inhabitants.


Two o’clock, and Kumwenda would be waiting for his signal to start the enormous engine, he would reverse his train once he reached a small wagon turn-table a quarter of a mile away, and he would be
as punctual and precise about this as he was about everything else. Two o’clock and Williams would be waiting for them to arrive: and so, too, would Harry and Cernuda, Parks and the hostages.
Williams was still waiting for them, but he was hardly waiting alone. Kumwenda kept looking back and forth in the other direction. It was frustrating, maddening, to have to stand, to lay in wait
without a hope and helplessly while the Simba army was about to arrive in columns of men two miles away.


Then, last of all, Williams saw the Simba army through his binoculars, without moving, without hesitating, still standing in the middle of the coach balcony.


‘Opepe!’ his heavy voice boomed. Then he nodded his head towards the road. ‘The Simbas!’


There was absolute silence. There were barely any birds flying or wild beasts moving about to disturb the short infinite peace. Then the silence was dead. At that instant there was a sound of
gunfire. Williams raised his binoculars to his eyes and observed a column of jeeps and trucks that approached the dusty, corrugated road in an orderly fashion, making their position clearly for
Williams.


At that instant Williams was still undecided, doubtful.


The column of the Simbas was made up of Soviet, Chinese and British trucks and jeeps: two Zil-157s, two Pragas and a purloined Cegesoma, and two GAZ-64s, and they were heading towards the town
along that road.


Then out of the corner of his eyes, he saw directly ahead the dust columns of two speeding jeeps, and they were approaching fast a scant half a mile. Thirty seconds passed, then as many again. The
Simbas, Williams thought – and it was becoming barely tolerable to keep his eyes on them – were hardly in hurry to make their presence known.


Williams then signaled to Opepe to command his manned machine-guns on the train’s roof tops to fire fast, however, he found a surprise awaiting him on the other side: under the cover of the
gunfire, the two jeeps had come into sight, and now they were approaching the freight wagon’s ramps.


The abrupt appearances of Harry and Cernuda, bearing down upon him with the roaring sounds, too were welcoming news for. As the jeeps slid into the freight wagon, Opepe then signaled to Kumwenda to
start the engine. In an instant one could hear the booming of the overheated boiler. Smoke was escaping from the valves. Then the train moved off and was soon out of sight of the Simbas, its white
smoke mingling with the dust in the air.


The train finally grounded to a halt at the soft swell, where Parks and the other hostages were waiting, hardly a quarter of a mile from the boundary of the town. It arrived after an hour of
waiting, most uncomfortable, most exhausting and tensed hour, and for all the men’s hunger and weariness and sleeplessness, they arrived in spirits. The rail route to the soft swell might or might
hardly have been watched, but they had taken hardly any chances.


Parks, Bilsen’s wife, Beatrice, and all others were now walking briskly towards the balcony of the observation coach, and Cernuda had stood still on the balcony keeping his head on a swivel,
watching them round, one by one. He searched for faces that looked the least bit familiar and stares that lasted a little too long. His hope of seeking Garrison must have evaporated by now.


When the hostages reached the platform steps, Beatrice stepped on first, followed by Parks. For the next few seconds, he would have a chance to question her. He glanced over his shoulder.


‘Has anyone seen Garrison? Cernuda attempted to raise his voice, but it was a hoarse raven’s croak.


‘Too late … your man is back in the hotel.’ The interruption came from Parks, who paused in front of him, and the tone was ironic.


Then with his naked eye, Cernuda suddenly saw, to the right, a man holding a small black luggage that he had lugged in his belongings, running wildly, witless with terror, along the railway line
towards them, hardly further than five hundred yards from where Cernuda was standing.


‘Beatrice!’ Bilsen shouted his wife’s name – but the echoes mocked him – droplets of sweat streaking down his forehead and cheeks.


‘Beatrice!’ He ran forward, still sprinting along the line.


Beside Cernuda stood Beatrice, who swung around, her face convulsing, as she heard her husband shouting her name, but he was hardly alone.


Behind him came the sound of savage cries from a wave of wild-eyed, well-disciplined Simbas, charging down arrow-straight, in frenzy, on foot like frantic beasts screeching ‘Ciyuga! Ciyuga!’ –
‘Kill them all! Kill them all!’


In the front of the wave ran a tribal witch doctor waving palm branches at them, and in front her led a GAZ-64, in it sat three men -- one was the lead man, perhaps a commanding officer, donning
peaked cap and a gaudy green uniform with red epaulettes and a red stripe down his trousers. He wore a pistol in a holster at his side with gaiters on his legs, stood upright inside the jeep and
kept giving the signal with his hand to charge on. The jeep had a marking, a symbol of revolutionary arrogance -- a marking that proclaimed: République Révolutionnaire du Congo, Secteur
Albertville.


The witch doctor’s presence had a significance for the Simbas: he would place cuts on the face and chest of Simbas, place ‘magic dust’ on the wounds, place animal skins on them, close their eyes
and fire guns in the arm -- telling them it was aimed at them and had hardly any effect. They were now un-killable as long as they were loyal, pure and had hardly any contact with uninitiated –
white men ... if they died it was because they broke the code, not because it was fake.


Dawa concocted by the witch doctor had induced these Simba warriors to believe that enemy bullets turned to water, mounting their morale. Dousing themselves in water which they believe protected
them from bullets, the Mai Mai – ‘water water’ – charged across the land. Armed with poisoned spears, arrows and ‘poopoo guns’, these five-feet-tall warriors, and grim faced in their manes of
monkey fur and feathers and high on hemp pursued on as Bilsen ran on. Then the thump of signal drums preceded Harry and his men, and its crash echoed and reechoed across the land … .


‘Antoine!’ Beatrice bellowed frantically. ‘Antoine!’


The shimmering sun hit Bilsen with a blast as he ran as fast as he could.


The Simba officer standing in the GAZ let loose several volleys slashing through the back of Bilsen, almost cutting him in half, and blood spurting from the wounds. Bislen snapped his head back,
his luggage fell from his hand, and he still strived to stay on his feet but finally fell off.


‘Antoine!’ roared Beatrice, her eyes widened in shock and awe.


The loss of her husband was too much to bear. She stood there frozen for a moment, then climbed down the coach and ran blindly towards Bilsen’s body lying next to the railway line, screaming,
sobbing.


‘Come back here!’ shouted Cernuda, as he descended the balcony, with his Vigneron in his hand, and chased the woman swiftly.


But before Cernuda could close in on her, the Simba officer in the GAZ once again fired, the bullets drove Beatrice backwards, while her body jumped and turned and twisted. She slumped down next to
her husband, leaving a glistening wet smear of bright blood down the ground. Cernuda froze in the mid-stride, his mouth was about to shout her name again, but then closed it slowly. He felt the
seamed scars of death mottling and staining with a flush of shame, and his wrath was now too strong upon him. With the Simbas still charging down, Harry and four of his men – Steiner, Bridge, Chanu
and Coleman – had hurriedly climbed down, and they were now committed and ready.


As Cernuda squinted ahead silently for a split second, he hardly hesitated any longer. At the fatal instant he had become aware of his predicament, and he had done what was best in the
circumstances. He turned swiftly to fire from his Vigneron a traversing burst into the GAZ, three bullets caught the Simba officer’ chest, smashing him backwards over the backseat. Then he
swivelled his sub-machinegun at the driver and fired, the bullets struck him in the neck. The next couple of seconds saw the GAZ somersaulting twice in rapid revolutions, and in the end it landed
upside down killing the third Simba. Cernuda continued firing each time he took steps backwards.


Williams who had crouched behind the balcony’s platform railings started firing, followed by Coleman unleashing a volley of bullets as he sat on the platform steps, his face streaked with sweat and
blood, frowning heavily. Joined by them were the figures of Harry and Steiner striding towards the palm trees about twenty yards apart from each other, and firing. Four soldiers from Armée
Nationale Congolaise too sheltered behind a nearby soft swell. And finally Chanu, Coleman and Bridge crouched behind the bushes atop hedgerow and hurled a stream of bullets in unison; and the
bullets splattered around and throughout the phalanx Simbas causing high casualties.


The eternal moments of mortal combat dragged by, as the manned machinegun on the rooftop of the observation coach hurled its hell of fire, the second wave of the Simbas, now charging headlong
behind the first column, counted in waves in frontal attacks. The Employing small arms fire, PPS-43s, and Simonov and recoilless rifles, the second phalanx thrust through the forward positions with
much ease.


Above them they heard the unceasing whistle of bullets, and the Simbas ceaselessly gasped and fell to right and left. But none ever looked at them; their wild eyes were fixedly merely at their
mortal white targets – Harry and his men – cutting them in droves. Chanu, Coleman and Bridge were the first to fall as the Simbas’ fiery fire pierced through the hapless figures, followed by the
four soldiers from Armée Nationale Congolaise.


Harry’s Les Affreux casualties and those of Cernuda’s were now mounting and Williams’ patience was wearing thinner and he was already feeling irritated, frustrated with the fatalities, at the same
time restrainedly calm, as a man usually is when a long-desired moment arrives.


There was nothing over the land now except the sky -- the lofty sky, unclear, but still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds slowly creeping across it.
Read Chapter

Garrison’s Grim Reaper


Amidst the gun-smoke, De-Grouwe had already crouched behind the sandbag fortification around the manned machinegun on the rooftop of the observation coach, with his self-loading rifle, and he had
already taken two, one by one, his running targets on the ground like the scurrying ants. He was now left with three single shots – only three to take.


Suddenly the sun-stricken day was lit by the searing white furnace glare of an explosion, near a thin cluster of palm trees, and a couple of glass windows of the train were blown out in a
glittering cloud of flying glass. It was as though a storm of surf had burst upon a rock cliff, flinging out its shinning droplets of spray, but this was a lethal spray that scythed down two green
helmeted soldiers striding along the coach corridor at that moment.


A second later the second explosion, this time missing the train by a yard, the blast swept across the ground, a draught of violence that shook the green trees and sent a soldier reeling against
the tumblehome of the coach, his helmet spinning high into the air that was driven in upon the soldier so that his eardrums ached with the blow, and the breath was sucked from his lungs.


And then the third one, exploding almost immediately, sending up a plume of dust in a net of fire a scant five hundred yards away from the observation coach.


The Simbas constituting the column behind the first one were armed with three Chinese 60mm mortars, accounting for the three explosions. As the two-manned mortars flung their fiery payloads into
the air, chaos erupted in and out of the train.


The first column was now thrusting through Harry’s final defensive line, charging up to the train from the rear, taking his men by sheer surprise. The skirmish was now shifting from open combat to
close combat. Harry whirled in the direction of loud footstep noises coming from behind him and spotted two Simbas sprinting at him. He brought his Colt up, levelling at the Simbas and fired. The
force of the fiery bullets, coupled with their momentum, launched them into the air and over the ground. He then stood over one of them trying to reach to his rife; Harry hardly showed any sympathy
for him, and he ended his life with a bullet between his eyes.


Steiner had his battle to worry about. Leaving Harry alone behind one of the palm trees, he had turned towards the other end of the other coach where Opepe and two of his men had crouched down
behind the windows, firing their guns at six spear-waving Simbas. One of them had slipped stealthily into the corridor through an open window. Machete raised high, the Simba was set to strike when
Steiner heard the sound of the footsteps. Instinctively, he dropped to his knees as the Simba’s machete whizzed overhead.


Steiner had learned his adroitness from the greatest Deutsche Jungvolk culture of all time.


His foes hardly had any.


Momentum carried the warrior forward, but he remained balanced and under control. Planting his front foot and turning, he put himself into position to swing again. Steiner swiftly reached to his
Maschinenpistole and sprayed a stream of bullets. The Simba fell bleeding to the floor, blood oozing from a gash on his chest.


On the other side, three Simbas suddenly charged into the rear flank of the observation coach. The three men had learned from their companions’ mistake, approaching swiftly yet under control. With
poisoned spears and arrows, ready to strike, they prepared to fight to the end. Ready for the challenge, Williams still crouching behind the balcony railings with his sub-machinegun hardly wasted
any chances. The three Simbas were almost the same size and build, and they moved with dexterity. The main difference was in their training. And his quarry was cunning and experienced in his craft
of killing, and would only be taken by greater cunning.


In Williams’s mind, the aftermath was all but decided. Although he was dazed, years of training had told him what to do. With all his strength, he swung around on one knee and unleashed a stream of
bullets hitting them in a chasm of twists and turns.


The screeching and firing were raging on unceasingly.


With Grobbelaar and four other mercenaries, along with the Congolese troops, engaging the Simbas from behind the sandbag fortifications of the open wagons, Cernuda was now standing behind Williams,
watching with his binoculars in silence.


But at least the hostages, with some still standing in the corridor and some packing in the seats, appeared to be safe for the time being. Certain of the passenger coach, which was getting more and
more crowded and noisier, were barricaded like a fortress, amidst the occasional screams of scare and pangs of panic. Several of them, seriously injured by bullets, were lying on the seats. But
hardly any hostage had succumbed to his injury and, after a couple of them lying conscious for a fair time, they finally came round.


The battle was barely meant for the rescuer; it too was equally a battle for the rescued.


With a revolver in her hands Parks was defending through a broken window whenever some Simbas appeared there beside her. About a couple of mortally wounded Simbas had already fallen on to the dusty
railway line.


It took another few moments for Cernuda to realise the agonising, futile attempt to keep the train lingering amidst the hellish fire of the Simbas. When he realised, he stole a glimpse of Harry
still firing his sub-machinegun each time he strode backwards, and with him being the only one fighting his way on the ground, the rest of his men had already boarded the train.


The Sambas were still coming in waves, rushing on to the railway line.


Upon Cernuda’s signal, Kumwenda had started the locomotive; the disc-shaped flywheels slowly spun giving the train part of the energy to get going, for he was determined not to let his men into a
fresh catastrophe, but the men themselves were beginning to think they were cursed.


The coach flywheels were spattered with blood. Formless shreds of human flesh hung from the naves and spokes of the flywheels. As far as the naked eye could see over the open land there were long
red streaks.


Cernuda was now waiting for Harry – the last man – looking livid, and his eyes narrowed in swift disbelief for a second as he saw him approaching towards the rear side of the observation coach. For
a few seconds more Cernuda was at a loss, and the words so ready on his lips remained unsaid. He now beckoned to Harry forward authoritatively. Harry had still the same mad urge to tear loose, to
fire on, to convulse every muscle in his body, killing a few more Simbas, he thought, would be a sweet revenge, but his head was clearing. He finally recovered and jumped on to the foot-board of
the coach.


For an instant the two men stared at each other; Cernuda slowly handed a pair of binoculars to Harry who now stood beside him motionless, silent.


Cernuda shook his head. ‘I think that’s your man … Garrison.’ His face looked solemn, somber.


They exchanged glances in disbelief; Harry adjusted the objective lenses attempting to allow his eyes to focus on the distant object in the direction of the town lying behind them, perhaps about a
mile away. Harry rapidly recognised the far-away figure – the short plump figure – still wearing his rimless spectacles. Harry said nothing, his eyes gazing miserably at it, giving a small
breathless moan of agony.


That bruised and torn-skin figure was Garrison – a figure that had loomed like a dark shadow in the back of Harry’s mind.


The Simbas had his hands tied with rope to two palm tree trunks, ripped off his shirt, and his big round belly bulged into the sizzling sunlight, as two Simba men, each standing on either side of
Garrison, held a machete in his hand. Each taking his turn and his time, slashing across his bare chest slowly, patiently, like two surgeons. It was seasoned with a feline enchantment in torment
that symbolised like an ancient ceremonial execution.


The third Simba man stood in front of him and he seemed to be dancing in death as he basked in burlesquing with Garrison’s black Rolleiflex, his paperback novella Heart of Darkness, torn apart and
laid in tatters on the dusty ground, right beside his legs. And the fourth one, stood, a scant one hundred yards from the others, wearing Garrison’s straw bowler’s hat.


His long dark hair hung forward screening his eyes, black blood spurted his nose, the dried lips and the blood-gutted eye sockets – and the bloody wounds bloomed like the petals of the poinsettia
tree upon his chest.


To Harry it seemed such a pity that it should have happened at all, for it was the first figure, after so long, to bring a shadow of death and darkness to his heart during the whole trip, and he
found himself futilely sighing. It was a sorrowful scene -- one that tugged at Harry’s heartstrings and reaffirmed his decision to do what he thought was the right thing to do – make the agonising
death more painless, easier, and quicker, and relieve the hapless human of the pangs of pain.


Harry finally broke his long silence. ‘Bring him down.’ His voice was dull, quiet.


The word then reached De-Grouwe who was still there on the rooftop. It was his task now to finish what the Simbas had earlier intended to finish.


With his eyes watching them through the rifle’s telescope, his index finger began to tense around the trigger; he waited, aimed, and his magazine had five rounds already ready. Then came a silent,
flat crack, and a single bullet slashed through Garrison’s skull, his head snapped back then a moment later tilted, blood spurted from the wound running across his face. The second bullet caught
the Simba standing in front of Garrison, and the camera flew from his hands. The third hammered into the second man’s head, sending the straw bowler’s hat spinning high into the air. The fourth
brought down the third man standing on one side of Garrison, and the final bullet went for the one on the other side, killing him instantly.


By the time the Grim Reaper’s gory death ended, the train was back along the line in the direction of Nyunzu, with a speed of one hundred miles per hour, and with the chimney sending up a cloud of
smoke it passed out of sight of the Simbas.


And with Garrison now dead, Harry and Cernuda had little to say to one another. Even Harry’s usual optimism seemed to have failed him, but his face was as untroubled as ever. And worse, even worse
than that, was the thought of what must inevitably happen to them or other men with Garrison and some men gone, but the thought had scarcely any sooner come than he had thrust it violently,
ruthlessly away from him: if ever there was a time that hardly any weakness must touch his mind, that time was now, and dwelling on that delicate face of Garrison was all too easily evoked in his
mind’s eye was the highroad to despair … .
Read Chapter

The Hymns of Hades


For the first three or four minutes there was hardly any sound, no words spoken in the train, only the steady roar of the locomotive. A hundred questions, a hundred comments framed themselves on
the lips of Harry, Cernuda and many others, but they hardly knew where to start, and the shadow of the nightmare from which they had just escaped was still too vivid in their minds.


The train disappeared into the tall trees behind the open land, and even in that crystal clear, sound carrying air, the Simbas left behind could hear their screeching growing fainter and fainter
until they were only distant murmur: the Simbas must have pushed back deep in the very heart of the woods or the town itself – so had thought those on the train.


With the three hostages dead already – the boy at back the hotel and Bilsen and his wife Beatrice – the hostages numbering now one hundred and forty-seven had overcrowded the observation coach,
bumping into one another. Parks and some others had leaned into a free corner of tiny space to brace their bodies against the violent shaking of the train and left both hands free for use should
the need arise.


About ninety-seven of the hostages had already left the observation coach for the next coach as the space was getting too little for all to occupy it, and throughout that hour, their minds full of
worrying thoughts on their fate, hearts filled with anxious fears, and wild imaginations had carried them afar off and revealed to them a thousand dark imperils.


Many pale-faced hostages stayed in their seats without moving, but they hardly put their tiring eyes to sleep; some scarcely restrained their agitation, and the couple of children were forced to
napping.


Only the crashing sound of a musical pocket watch on the floor that had slipped from one of the men’s fingers broke the silence in the observation coach. As it landed on the floor, its cartouche
opened wide and a chime started to play. The chime seemed to fascinate, to hypnotise everyone sitting there, and they stared into it as if by staring long enough they could sense the passing
moments of their final freedom to safety. But it was barely the chain-watch that fascinated them; it had been the effect of the fear and the memory lingered on.


They were all deep sunk in their own private train of thoughts, Maye now in the other coach was thinking, almost inevitably, perhaps, of the long dead Garrison and the men, when the interruption
came, the coughing of a woman standing next to her in the corridor.


Twenty seconds, perhaps thirty, passed, then suddenly came a sudden crack and the terrible splintering of flying window glass shivering into a hundred fragments as it fell on to the floor, and the
blood from the scarred, misshapen cheek of a man leaning against the closed window, began to well and flow and drip steadily down his cheek. The man even hardly knew it had happened, his whole
mind, his whole being was at that moment in the state of an unending shock. The others startled out of a deep reverie, glancing around in panic.


The broken window glass came from a sudden flash of explosion close to the coach, missing it by about a yard or so. Some women began to scream, and it broke the spell of horror. There were shouts
and running feet as passengers ran into one another, with a couple of them falling on the floor. A woman near them began in a high hysterical voice, ‘Les Simbas, les Simbas!’


One of the men who had fallen on the floor under the crushing feet of panic-stricken passengers staggered up and began squeezing himself through the crowd towards the corridor, screaming in a
passionless tone, and a woman fell flat to cover her only child or to play dead.


Two seconds later another flash of explosion missing the coach from the other side. Someone shouted, ‘The mortar fire!’ Another, turning around, ran amok; someone else crashed into another as both
in despair had attempted to escape through the corridor leading to the next coach. A young woman had been hurled about the corridor, like a toy in tantrum. Three others were crawling, creeping, or
moving spasmodically amongst the tumbled luggage and handbags. Some lay contorted as though in silent laughter at death’s crude joke.


The train’s speed perceptibly eased now as it started slowing down swiftly on a rough incline. Then two seconds later the third flash of explosion that badly mangled the coupling, giving the
observation coach and the passengers a violent jerk. And so the coach, detached from the rest of the train, fell farther and farther behind, whilst the locomotive, now with only the freight and the
three open wagons and a coach, raced on faster than ever.


The three mortar explosions came from the columns of the stubborn Simbas who had been racing down the railway line from the moment the train left its prior position. Confused, some members of the
ever panicked crowd were flung against the other end of the observation coach, knocking a few down and rolling them across the corridor. Parks who had lost her revolver was now making a futile
attempt to regain control of herself. Not only was it impossible to stop the detached coach, but it was impossible to yield and escape the entrapment of Hades.


Grey-faced with the shock of the explosions, Harry and Cernuda had climbed on the top roof of the coach. Harry, with his uniform shirt sleeves rolled far up as always, was now clinging onto the
coach where the other hostages were, attempting to fasten the coupling, but it was too late to hold on to the detached observation coach. It was all gone now in a flash of seconds … And all they
could do now was a mere exchange of silent glances, seeing in despair the agony of defeat in the face of Mother Nature’s forces. Harry, even though his anxiety, through his almost overpowering
wrath, could still feel pity, could feel heart-sorry for them presented with such a cruel, inhuman choice.


Carried on by its own momentum, the observation coach with the fifty passengers on board went trundling along for a few moments, amidst the gasps of horror and the wild screams and shouts, and the
screams of the women that rose louder now seeming as deafening as the Simba gunfire a short distance down the line. The detached coach had run along the rails for a quarter of a mile, and then a
few moments later it slowed down little by little.


Amidst the euphoric panic ascending around him and the utter despair and defeat, an old Belgian couple stood embraced in the people-packed corridor, murmuring, consoling, with her husband’s both
arms tightly around her neck. His eyes drifted to a revolver next to his foot on the floor that had flown away from Parks’ hands during the violent jerks and shakes of the detached coach.


He had forced a thought from his mind, deciding to seal their fate with their own hands, rather than letting their lives be decided by the Simbas. He had a momentary, heart-warming glimpse of his
wife. He then stooped slowly to pick up the Webley revolver, straightened himself, cocked it and held it to the back of her head. There were only two bullets left in the chamber. He stood for
another moment and held his breath; his chest hardly moved. As she cocked her head over his shoulder, he fired a single shot, and then held it to his temple and fired the second.


The detached coach finally drifted to a stop less than a mile from the columns of the racing Simbas who had now come swarming in waves out of the open land to march triumphantly towards the hapless
coach.


Even Harry – a man with a reputation for steel nerves and disregard for danger and death – had to watch the final fate of the passengers in a gasp of horror and silence, setting his teeth against
the groan that came to his mouth.


Many attempted to flop onto the corridor, pretending to be dead. Others hardly had to pretend. One Belgian child was cut in half by a Sten gun burst. The parents who flung themselves over their
children were stitched by the wild bullets that sprayed the crowd. The hostages were hacked to pieces in the corridor. Among them were four Belgian nuns and a number of Belgian and American
priests. The Simbas, basking in their ceremonial carnage, had the priests beaten and their throats cut. After similar treatment, the nuns were placed on top of them. The usual mutilations were
carried out on the sexual organs, and flesh was cut from the bodies.


Some of the Simbas, drunk and high on Indian hemp, chose their victims for the night. The first dozen were bound, hands and feet tied together behind their backs -- trussed like chickens. They were
taken outside and dumped on the ground. A man was first. They hit him across the face with a beer bottle and blinded him. Then they beat him slowly, down the spine, with rifle butts and sticks.
Every time he squirmed they hit him. It took him five minutes to die.


Some of them died more quickly. Seven more Belgians caught a slew of bullets through heads and backs as they attempted to escape the slashing gunfire. Bullets bathed a child in blood … The Simbas
scarcely let a single living being live for far too long … .
Read Chapter

Return of the Roaring Lions


About two miles outside Nyunzu the train suddenly stopped, edging it close on to the shelter of some tall trees that crowded down on the line, a scant two hundred yards from two unoccupied dusty
Bedford RL trucks – each facing in the opposite direction – that were blocking the railway line in the midst of clearing of thick wood.


The land was one of wild and rugged beauty. A high plateau and a low mountain of scarred copper and cobalt, carved though the centuries by wind, dust, and rain stood as solitary reminders of a time
now long forgotten. The clearings, laid on each side of the line, were becoming increasingly overgrown and the trees grew so closely together that it looked as dark as dusk.


Kumwenda, his eyes rimmed red by the firebox fury heat, burned and sweat beaded on his forehead and streaked his shirt, jumped out of the locomotive cabin and stepped on to the line closer to the
trucks that were without their tarpaulins. He stopped with a hand to the hip, took off his hat and ran his fingers through his hair; his eyes drifted evasively to the flat tyres, each punched
through with a bullet hole. He pressed his lips, looking worried with a dark premonition of peril. Harry and Cernuda, tired and jaded and weary-eyed, joined Kumwenda standing next to the trucks.


Kumwenda took a long draw on his cigarette, and let his eyes wandered idly around the land before returning his gaze to Harry and Cernuda, rushing on: ‘The Simbas’ trap … we must get out of here
before it’s too late, Major.’


‘And fast and quick we must.’ Harry’s voice was quiet, his eyes swinging in steady arcs, never leaving the surroundings. He paused for a second, and then nodded to Cernuda. ‘Get them moved off the
line … nice and quick.’


Cernuda nodded agreement.


The moments moved by slowly. Cernuda’s call was about the only excitement his troops received in those monotonous moments, drilling them hard to keep discipline up, stay alert, but with no where to
go and nothing to do, it was just another overwhelming chore for him.


Ten of the green helmeted soldiers had climbed down the open wagons, pushing and pulling silently, attempting to move the trucks off the line. Harry’s eyes still swung with a constant vigilance, a
trait that had saved his life many a times. Surveying his surroundings; of the clearings, of the trees and the line.


The deafening silence and the stillness ruled absolute – but barely for far too long – as a murmuration of purple-headed glossy-starlings suddenly awoke to the nightmarish scare, seeming confused
and panicked, amidst the woods in the distance, soaring high into the grey sky and out of view, scattering wildly and giving a piercing shriek in a distress call.


The stillness of the moment was suddenly shattered by the sound of distant gunfire. Within seconds one of the crew of the manned-machinegun atop the freight wagon fell onto the ground, his steel
helmet spinning high into the air. His Lee-Enfield rifle flew from his hand as he fell, and it slid across the rooftop.


Then another moment, another gunfire exploded, and bullets drove another soldier backwards as he was helping others push the truck, pinning him to the tailgate, his body writhing as he fell.
Harry’s face grew hardened and bitter as he stared at the dead soldiers, momentarily distracted by the buzzing sounds of the gunshots round into the train.


Then there came a sudden scream from Opepe standing in the centre open wagon. ‘The Simbas!’


Panic returned again, as the watchers inside the train stared at each other in perplexity, at the loss to discover any possible reason for this dreadful display of firepower: they were hardly left
wonder long.


Cernuda’s face seized into a mask of horror, his expression descending into a state of absolute, primitive shock, his eyes staring transfixed, inches away from the leering death-grin of the dead
human faces, drenched in blood and bullet.


Bullets burst around the wagons as soldiers in the open wagons crouched down behind the sandbag fortifications, firing short bursts to their left and right. Then a searing, blinding mortar
explosion sent pieces of shrapnel ripping through the air, some of them roaring past the train, like tiny meteors. The shrapnel streamed through the bodies of three more soldiers crouching behind
the sandbags, killing them instantly, with more bullets around them as they slammed into the dirt surrounding the wagons, and the wagons themselves.


From their vantage point Harry saw they were surrounded, from the muzzle flashes he had counted five. A moment later, bullets bounced off the coach and the wagons all around him like angry hornets.
It was hard to see for most of them the skirmishers that popped up out of the woods on the left and right sides, barring their sight.


And then suddenly all around them the waves of Simbas, preceded by their sorcerers, sprang out of no where along the clearings that surrounded them, charging out of the woods in a thunderous roar
and bullets started to rain down on Harry and his men.


The white-painted Simbas wearing their monkey-skin headdresses raced down along the clearings wildly, side by side, with their feathered spears and arrows, poopoo guns and PPS-43 sub-machineguns
and Lee-Enfield and Simonov rifles; some armed with machetes and clubs.


Most of the Simbas had even puffed themselves into a fury on bamboo pipe-loads of Indian hemp, charging in down in a suicidal fashion. And like roaring lions, they ran rapidly shouting: ‘Mai, mai …
Soumialot!’ They were so adept at this warfare that they could conquer vastly larger foes while suffering minimal losses.


Suddenly the hostages who were now lying on the seats and crouching down behind the windows of the coach, some scattering along the corridor found themselves in the midst of the menacing crossfire.
Two of Harry’s men stooped low, then jumped up and poking their carbines through the shattered windows amidst cries of terror that could be heard from inside the coach.


The corridor was already filled with ten dead bodies riddled with bullets and lying singly and in piles, tormenting fragments of humanity. The soft cries and the groans of the wounded, the bitter
weeping of a child, the voice of a mother, were the sounds more menacing than the screaming and the shouting.


Maye was half-sitting, half-lying at the far end of the corridor, supported by an anxious-looking Belgian priest. Her eyes were shut, her face very pale, there was the beginning of a bruise high
upon her forehead, but the breathing, shallowly but evenly.


Williams had ordered Hoek and Grobbelaar to maneouvre around the left and right flanks of the train, and now each with their weapons in their hands, started unleashing a stream of bullets into the
crowds of the Simbas, killing some of them in droves under a hail of bullets. A mercenary was already killed as crossfire raked the train’s wagons.


Steiner had crouched down behind the sandbags, as the black soldiers had, in one of the open wagons, his hair matted with congealed blood, and there were cuts on his face and hands, some of still
bleeding. Like the rest of the men, he too had hardly any time to rest as the Simba reinforcements were coming into the fray.


A second elapsed, then another, then there came a flat, whiplash crack as the Simba’s 60mm mortars laying in the woods fired and a roar and eruption of smoke and flying debris as the shell exploded
in the wall of trees, just two hundred yards away from the train.


After the waves of the Simbas had committed, Harry signaled for the three mortars in the open wagons to fire upon them on either side of the flanks. The hell of mortar loads exploded amidst the
flanking crowds, engulfing the dying Simbas in nets of fireballs shredding their bodies from the waist down.


The Simbas’ maiden attempt was a near success. Almost thirty of the Congolese soldiers had died, already feeling they would be doomed to be destroyed outright. Cernuda did his best to keep the
morale of the men up though it was a real chore. Mixed feelings arose throughout the soldiers as the Simbas, defying death and danger, making their siege work.


And before Cernuda and Williams had time even to call out a warning, several automatic carbines had opened up from the clearings and they leapt back behind the wagon sandbags to escape the
whistling hail of and machinegun and rifle fire that smashed into the sandbag fortifications around them, some bullets striking into the holes with solid hammer blows, others ricocheting off and
whining away evilly to hurry their misshapen metal in tree-trunks still deeper in the wood, and yet others just breaking off branches and twigs to bring tiny flurries of dust sifting down to the
ground.


Some of the soldiers who had joined their colleagues attempting to push away the second truck on the rails had had hardly any time, any chance and any warning and they toppled and swayed and
crashed heavily to the ground or onto the line.
Read Chapter

The Doctor’s Dance of Death


De-Grouwe, the marksman, was proving himself that day again. But the guns from everywhere across the land still coughed and chattered, the Simbas behind them were still charging down, firing from
memory, and bullets were still whistling and ricocheting all around him.


Most of Les Affreux, Bridge, Chanu, Coleman, and now Hoek and Grobbelaar – they were all dead; all had met their terrible torment of death. They were dead, primarily, because he, Harry, had set
foot in the darkness of Hades of death, but he had barely been their executioner: only the fiery fire of the Simbas could be held accountable for that. De-Grouwe had lived longer than them.


He had climbed up onto the rooftop of the freight wagon, where the only manned machinegun had survived but without the crew serving it, and now he was breasting his way across the rooftop, with his
AN-49 rifle over his back, feeling his feet touch the sandbags, scrambling behind them. Crouching behind the sandbags atop the freight wagon, he could see the three bullet-riddled corpses,
flattened out over the sandbags like shadows sketched in the dust.


However it was they, not the formidable foe, who had fallen victim to an ambush as they had blundered into a fierce living wall of teeth and claws which had proceeded to slaughter many of his men
and split the force up as they fled for their very lives. He had already lost a few members in the route, whether they had been killed or lost in the confusion was as much unknown as his fate.


A serious man of few words who had a businesslike attitude to his duty, he now readjusted his rifle telescope, checked it. A rather large flying insect landed on a sandbag next to him. Ugly thing
he thought, with its bright orange wings and misshapen design. He was still bleeding from a slash on one of his forearms which had been hastily bandaged up; blood ran down his arm onto the sandbag.
Hopefully the smell of blood would hardly attract any unwanted attention. As if he could sense danger, he looked in the direction of the racing Simbas and he could scarcely see the ground in
amongst the vast hordes of the Simbas.


He strained his eyes to make out their faces; there was a crowd of them. The shadows in the dark jungle continued to move forward. He could hardly actually see them very well in the thick jungle
cover, just formless ghosts, but from the way that the vegetation stirred, as something brushed past them he could tell something was out there.


De-Grouwe raised his rifle to fire into the endless expanse of the jungle, in the direction of the charging Simbas. Looming pink and green plants were blasted apart; great leaves rich with moisture
were cut to ribbons. Things which had taken time to grow faded away within the space of a few seconds. Silence fell. Nothing stirred apart from the fragments of plant life that were falling back to
the earth after the onslaught, and he had already counted three shots, three dead bodies.


Two bullets caught him in the chest, smashing him backwards over the sandbags; his rifle flew from his hand as he fell, but he stayed on his feet on the rooftop, and then turned to the sambas,
pulling his Belgian Browning Challenger pistol from its left shoulder holster and firing blindly, successively at any movement, any shifting in the thicket. More bullets struck him; he lost its
grip on the pistol, knocking him off his feet. He then fell on his back, his weight pressing him down into the muck of the ground.


The welling red blood from the long bullet wounds that stretched from the temple back past the ear was in shocking contrast to the close-cropped silver hair. He shook his head without speaking.
There was hardly anything to utter, he could think of nothing to utter, his mind was numbed. Before his dying seconds, he eased his arms, so that he could look down on the approaching Simbas. He
lifted his blood-stained head and looked at them with sightless eyes. A second later dead he was.


Harry, his Sterling sub-machinegun at the ready, had left the coach at once and rushed to the locomotive’s cabin, where one of Kumwenda’s firemen was already dead, his body still lying on the hot
metal floor, with a bullet hole in his head. Kumwenda, with a Belgian Browning 1922 pistol in his hand, and his fireman were defending themselves heroically, shooting through the broken cabin
windows whenever some Simbas appeared out of nowhere.


The first wave of Simbas had started invading the train, breaking open the door, windows and fighting with the soldiers, the hostages at close quarters. Some of them, without being seen, had
managed to slip along underneath the coach. And, as the fight went on and bullets crisscrossed over their heads, they moved along under the coach with the old agility and suppleness that they had
had as suicide volunteers. They then crawled to one of the windows with dexterity.


Maye watched in horror as three Simba men forced their way in through the coach. A moment earlier, the old Belgian priest had stepped in front of her and saved her from them. Now he was gone, she
was alone. The last time she had fired a gun was at a summer carnival back at home. And it had hardly been even a real gun. It had been an air rifle on one of those carnival games where the goal
was to win a prize.


Grabbing it from the jacket pocket of a dead man lying on the seat, she pointed it at one of the Simba men, clad in a motley khaki uniform, racing towards her. He held his oval shield in front of
her, giving her nothing to aim at. All that she could see was the tip of his machete and the mane of his monkey-skin headdress.


Still, she knew she should never wait for him to get any closer. She pulled the trigger. The pistol roared, and when it did, it jerked wildly in her hand. The bullet sailed high and wide, nowhere
near her target – a common mistake for an amateur. Undaunted, she squeezed the trigger a second time, but with a similar outcome. She was barely close.


She watched him all with her wide eyes. The emotion of the picturesque, the glitter of the machete, the glint of polished iron, the wild, savage expression of the Simba man, the call of savage
wildness, and the contagion of a climbing trepidation caused the blood to race through her veins.


Spinning swiftly, one of Harry’s men rushing through the corridor’s door aiming low, he fired three shots at the Simba man. The first round missed, but the second and third shots hit his target.
The muscular Simba man refused to scream as he fell to the floor in agony, in a pool of blood.


The other two Simbas, both armed with machetes, were still alive, and they were now approaching carefully, soundlessly, towards the window of the private room where Doctor Barnes was, and then
slipped through the window. All they could hear was the sound of music – Wagner’s Sinopoli - Parsifal Act 3.


Inside the room, a silence dwelt there, a different silence from that of the veldt at night; compounded of a few simple elements, such as the faint, incessant drip of hidden sounds and occasional
loud, hollowly echoing the sound of music.


Barnes’ mind was confused with whisky, holding his hipflask in his hand that he had been drinking from for an hour; he was torn by conflicting emotions, consumed by a torturing anxiety that made
all previous anxieties fade into nothingness. He was dancing around dizzily in the centre of the room, talking, almost rambling to himself; his voice was soft with memory. All aristocratic reserve
gone, yelling and shouting and waving his arms like a madman.


He was staggering to his feet and was now tottering drunkenly towards the window. The whole room ringing with the music, smelling with whisky and cigarette smoke, his body blended sourly with stale
smoke and liquor fumes. Whisky droplets dripping from his mouth, his eyes smoky from the liquor, he then hesitated. He was breathing uneasily; gradually his eyes widened, becoming dreamy and full,
like moons rising over the edge of some unknown, exotic land. His lips opened with a nerveless fatalism.


As he saw the feared figure of one of the Simbas standing in front of the window, with the other standing behind him, he hardly cared what he said: ‘who … are you? Come in … Come in.’


The Simba looking through a thick haze of cigarette smoke stood still, with his machete in his hand. He wore a piece of cotton cloth dyed black, so draped as to leave one arm and shoulder bare, a
polished bone armlet, and a khaki cap with a plume that must have been traded through many hands. His wild eyes passed over him contemptuously, but rested with more interest on the hipflask.


The Simba looked at him for a moment, and a flush of fury flared in his eyes as Barnes turned, stopped dancing and started staggering slowly towards him, handing him the hipflask. He moved in close
to the Simba.


‘Simba, Mai, mai!’ whispered the Simba.


A second later with a whipping, backhanded throw, he let fly his machete impaling Barnes, driving him backwards, pinning him to the wooden door. He laid eyes upon the Simba man and twisted into an
expression of horror and revulsion. Still holding the hipflask in his hand, spittle from his open mouth trickled down on his chin. He cried out in desperation, kicking out with all his strength,
his body jerking at the force of the impact that hit it. And then death came upon him at last, his eyes still wide open in a gasp of horror.


A second elapsed. His trembling hand let the hipflask drop to the floor.
Read Chapter

The Bite of Betrayal


Desperate times, despeate decisions … Harry had made up his mind: the train had to force its way through the mauruding mobs of the Simbas, come what may.


‘Drive on,’ Harry’s voice was hoarse and savage, and quite without realisation the perils of what he was doing, he wanted Kumwenda to drive his train through everything that existed in front of it,
pushing away the only truck that still stood there on the railway line.


Kumwenda stared back, equally startled. He gasped: ‘But, Major … the truck--’ he paused. His thoughts whirled incoherently.


‘I said: “Drive on,”’ shrieked Harry in near exasperation. He then nodded him towards the truck. ‘Drive on … damn it!’


‘Yes, Major,’ obeyed Kumwenda, his voice was low and gentle.


Amidst the surging sounds of gunfire and human shouts and screams and the veils of smoke and dust, Kumwenda hardly lingered to react. His only fireman and Harry started swiftly filling up the
firebox with shovelfuls of coal and wood, and as the firebox rekindled, pressure swelled and the train was back on the rails rolling rapidly. And as it moved off, it struck the truck, forcing it to
skid on the rails for a few yards ahead, pushing it harder, faster, and finally it forcibly pushed it off the line.


The grinding bump that moved the truck off the line like a toy amidst the screeching sound of flywheels and tearing of metal as the truck’s flat tyres slithered across the line and pushed softly
outside the line. With the train freeing itself from the metal obstruction, and a moment later it was on its way again.


The train continued on in silence, leaving behind the catatrophic scenes of bloody carnage. The remaing soldiers, now numbering fifty, and almost the equal number of whatever was left of the
hostages, were nursing their wounded men, women and children.


Steiner, the only man of Les Affreux left lucky to survive the carnage, had a wide assortment of cuts and bruises, with his roughtly-bandaged head. And so had Cernuda, Williams and Opepe, who had
stayed in a silence more eloquent of their relief than any words could have been: had Harry’s attempt been made half an hour later both rescue and escape would have been impossible.


There were other lucky survivors too. Maye was shepherding a dazed old woman, wounded in the crossfire, lying in one of the seats. She whispered and groaned, others called for succour. Maye herself
seemed unhurt, the blonde wing of her hair hung forward blocking her and sweat and dust had mingled, streaming down her cheeks.


Inside and outside of the train were soaked and smeared with blood and bullet. There were splashes and gouts of them upon the walls, doors and broken windows, there were patches and specks of blood
spreading and crawling across the wagon floors, dark slicks of blood sinking into the wood, ropes of it dribbling and pettering like rain from the body of a man who hung over the seat.


Then there was the dead body of another man who lay, face down, with his arms thrown wide, and there were still more blood-stained dead bodies, those of the rescued and their rescuers, that hardly
anyone could count or cared to look at. Yet, the shroud of smoke and dust that still drifted across the corridor could hardly hide the carnage.


Steiner was the first to count the deaths. He had turned and walked quite slowly along the corridor into Doctor Barnes’ room, watching his blood-smeared body, the blood streams running like a
river, the hipflask still lying on the floor, the broken window … He lifted the blood-soaked hipflask and went back to Harry, who was still with Kumwenda in the locomotive cabin.


As Steiner approached the cabin, his eyes drifted to Harry’s. But he stood in silence as Harry’s curious eyes narrowed.


‘Any news of the woman?’ asked Harry gently.


‘The woman’s safe,’ said Steiner softly.


‘And Barnes? asked Harry.


Steiner slowly tossed the hipflask at Harry, and then nodded. ‘This is the only thing left of him, Major.’ His voice was quite gentle, warmth, something that touched on reverence.


Harry stared down at the hipflask in his cupped palm, gnashing his teeth, his face muscles turning tense, but he said nothing. In his heart he knew he was deeply sorry, but for what or for whm he
could hardly at that moment have uttered it: all he clearly knew was that the fire of wrath within him was slowly swelling, burning more brightly than ever. And Steiner saw the hurt in those eyes,
blue as rifle steel. For the next moments there were scarcely any sounds, any words spoken in the locomotive cabin, only the steady roar of the engine.


Over an hour and a half elapsed before the train reached the town of Kamina, where Harry and Cernuda made the necessary arrangements there. Two Congolese army-owned Reo trucks would leave within
two hours that would transport them directly to Élisabethville in the Katanga provincette. The sole question was the time they would need to achieve their aim in such a hastily planned trip.


In Kamina, the large base complex consisted of Base 1, an air base used for flying training, and Base 2, a paratroop training facility. The two trucks would come from a brassage centre, controlled
by Armée Nationale Congolaise, a centre that was used primarily to combine fighters of the former warring factions into the new army units.


An hour before Harry and Steiner could set out for Kamina in one of the Minerva Recce jeeps that that already pulled out of the fright wagon, Williams had strode into the wagon, then proceeded with
care and caution towards the other Recce jeep loaded with the stacks of wooden crates. He had summoned his courage and moved forward.


His eyes moved up from the front of the jeep. They fell on the rear side. His eyes, dark and intense, seemed to bore into him. Then he ran a hand over his mouth, and stood still. The muscles in the
small of his back contracted sharply, making the querulous expression on his face turn pinched. His back was barely pleased with all this bending and standing. The closer he approached the
carefully canvas-covered stacks, the more his confidence grew. He stepped forward for a better view, and when he did, he removed part of the cover, his eyes were drawn to the wooden crates – ten of
them – carefully stacked together.


He was staggered by the sight, then grinned evilly at them. He knew he had discovered something momentous, the look of sheer blissful greed on his face that had prepared him for the first glimpse
of the beauty bounty. He rounded the rear side of the jeep and stood there in shock, his massive jaw dropping to his cheek, marvelling at the enormity of it all: the glittering sparkle of the pure
gold bars, the number of the crates, and the effort they must have taken to haul this from the bank.


There was hardly any need to attract attention – someone might be watching. Instead, he studied his surooundings, searching one of the crates. Suddenly he felt a fresh flood of alarm, as he heard a
creaking sound coming closer towards the freight wagon, staring panting at the footsteps, narrowing his eyes. He still could hear the sound of the footsteps; he hurriedly ran through the other
sliding side-door and reached one of the open wagons.


After several seconds, he breathed a sigh of relief.


The footsteps were of Cernuda who had stayed on the guard duty, protecting the freight wagon. Cernuda then climbed cautiously on the freight wagon and recognised rapidly the green canvas cover that
had been partly removed. He stared at it with suspicion, his eyes studying it in minute detail. He knew then beyond all possible doubt that some one was here, and that he had arrived before anyone
else had. He looked at the crates, grandly calculating, his eyes moving very slowly.


The instant he thought of a plan, but knew it was too perilous … .


A mild wind blew steadily out of the north and the darkness was dawning. Nothing appeared across the land. Under the lurking stars the land empty, desolate, stretched endlessly away on every side
until it vanished into the blurred distance of an empty horizon. Over everything lay the silence of death.


It was typical of Harry that he spent scarcely any time in self-recrimination or in wondering what might have happened had he chosen some other course of action. He would have done the same thing
over again. He had had every reason to believe the railway route back to Élisabethville was hardly devoid of danger. That left only the road: first a crossing of the frontier – hardly any huge feat
if one had expert help and Harry had had the best there was – and then a rough ride on the two army trucks. Harry gave the mental equivalent of a philosophic shrug and the past ceased to exist for
him.


It was equally typical of him – more precisely, perhaps, it was typical of the rigorous mental conditioning that he had undergone in his long battle-hardened experience – that his thoughts about
the future were firmly canalised, channelled along one all-exclusive, particular line of thought, towards the achievement of one specific objective.


The job on hand was to get Steiner to Kamina and return alone, leaving him there to take care of the army trucks. He would have to make for kamina on road – for one or two miles’ daunting drive
through the plantations and then short-circuit the road to the Congolese army base. The detour would take an hour to complete.


The moment had arrived at last for Williams to carry through his own devious design.


Using the caution of a natural predator, Williams had groped his way back carefully to the freight wagon through the darkness, and now he was inside the wagon and he could hardly contain himself
any longer. He had avoided Cernuda and Opepe who were on the guard duty with a few soldiers, as the rest of them were resting.


Wildly he spread his arms and felt for the gold bar crates that should be in the Recce jeep inside the freight wagon – and when he realised that the crates were absent he let out a groan of
frustration and fury. Growling like an animal, he smashed the fist of his good hand against the wagon wall, enjoying the pain of it in his frustration, and his wrath and his hatred was so strong
that it shook his body like the black fever, and he cried aloud, a formless beast cry without coherence or sense.


Then Cernuda came to his mind that now appeared distracted, disturbed and dangerous.


The stars were swimming mistily above him, and the only sound was the gurgle and chuckle of the running water of a nearby river. There was the glimmering of a sub-machinegun now, and he saw the
metal barrel of it shine amongst the tall trees a scant two hundred yards from the train. He found Cernuda leaning against a tree branch trunk, sleeping soundlessly, his Vigneron loosely slinging
over his back.


Williams started behind the sleeping figure through the dark thick of trees. Both were now alone in the silence. No, not silence. There was the sound of breathing – a heavy panting breath. His
footsteps made a squeaking sound. He slowly unsheathed his long black slayer machete, listening for any sound with the patience of the hunter, and the long moments dragged by.


He moved heavily, noisily, enjoying the fierce thrill of having him in his power. Drawing out the final consummation of his bite – bailing out each moment of it like a miser. Then with a single
lighning flash of strike through the opening of the branch trunk, he thrust his machete hard into Cernuda’s back. And as it cut deep through the spine, Cernuda cried out wildly in a shock, his eyes
opening widely, sweat streaming over his face and lips twiching in the pang of pain. Williams then pulled out swiftly the blood-stained machete. And as he let his Vigneron drop from his back,
Cernuda slowly turned to face his murderer.


His eyes were still open and his mouth now formed a silent cry of agony – and a moment later he fell on his knees, then sideways, and he lay there motionless on the ground, amidst the ropes of
blood dribbling and pattering like rain from his body.
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The Vice of Vengeance


The sun was ascending appropriately now. There was an edge of glittering orange visible over the plateau and the sky above it was colourless and bright. The light fell upon Williams’ wild eyes,
upon his hair hung above his eyes, upon the lines scarped severely into his face. His crazed mind was spinning in strange, nightmarish directions.


He was now looking desperately, diabolically for the only person that had meant much to Harry – Maye, the woman. He had thought that she would know for certain where the gold bar crates might be,
since he had known Harry and the woman had been too close to each other.


Williams’ wild thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the footsteps across the corridor. It was Maye approaching the door of the coach. As she stepped down from the foot-board of the coach, her
green eyes landed on his red fiery face without a spark of smile. She looked down again, stepping to one side so they could pass each other. Williams glaring at her waited – and waited – and then
stumbled to her. At the same time, his hand was groping for the bone handle of the slayer machete.


‘Has Harry returned?’ asked Maye softly, as she stared at him with ill-concealed insolence at his machete, and then transferred her stare to Williams’ eyes.


‘He’s too, too far from now. Hmm?’ Williams cut her short in mid-sentence, and he did it curtly.


‘What do you mean?’ said Maye in wonder, her eyes furrowed.


There came a sudden sound of ripping linen, a gasp of pain, and Williams, his right hand gripping the collar of her short-sleeved black blouse, ripping it partly open from the front, had her
halfway pushed hard against the rear-end of the coach: the blood-shot, sleep-filmed eyes, widened first with surprise, shock then with fear, were only inches away from the hand that had magically
lifted high to slap her white-turned-pale face. A moment of stillness, a contemptuous shove and Maye was scrabbling frantically at the rear end of the coach behind her in an attempt to keep her
balance.


‘Where’s the gold?’ said Williams, his mouth closing tightly in a white line of rage.


Shock it was that showed first in Maye’s face, the shock of unbelief, then pain, then fear as her neck was crushed in the vice of Williams’ grip and her hands round his hands slowly forced to open.


‘I don’t know … what you’re talking about? Maye had paled visibly. ‘I don’t know-’


Williams then reached out rapidly to take a twist of the thick blonde hair in the crippled claw of his hand, wrapping it with a swift movement about his wrist and jerking back her head, laying open
the long pale throat for the hand, lifting his hand high to slap her twice. For a moment Maye stood motionless, while Williams’ iron fingers tightened inexorably round her throat, the massive
shoulders hunching as he put all his great strength into the effort.


‘You know what I’m talkin’ about.’ Williams creased his forehead. ‘I said: “Where’s the gold?”’


Then there came again a swift succession of slaps – one with the backhand followed by the other with the palm of the hand – with a rapid rhythm, and another state of terror, attempting at instant
compliance, blind, unreasoning obedience. And hardly did he have it yet.


Maye opened her mouth to protest, but her lips moved soundlessly, and Williams went on, his every word now a cold and deadly menace. And finally she did.


‘Let go of me!’ Maye was now stuttering in her panic, and her legs and hands were trembling.


Williams glared at her strained face, only the years of professional ruthlessness keeping his monstrous face in rage, and he knew his effrontery hardly had gone anywhere near her obedience and he
knew too that Harry would arrive any time from now. His narrowed eyes watched her, then as a sign of self-appeasement and sadism, he gave her a final backhand slap, hurling her to the ground.


A moment later he hurried off to the freight wagon, and another moment he was behind the Recce jeep wheel, somehow. He threw the jeep into reverse inside the freight wagon, jammed his foot down
onto the accelerator and drove down the wagon ramp. The double thump brought a lunatic grin to his lips. His hands moved for the gearshift again.


He ignored it. Halfway down the front end of the locomotive he became aware of feet pounding behind him. Some one was calling after him. It was Opepe. Williams saw him in pursuit. The gears gnashed
as he attempted to find first. Then it had clicked into place. A moment later, he was about two to three hundred yards away from the wagon, gaining speed.


Opepe then reached Maye in two strides and fell to his knees. Her eyes were half shut, her face pale, there was the beginning of a bruise high upon her eyebrow with a streak of black blood spurting
from the corner of her mouth, but she was still gasping for breath, shallowly but evenly. Shaking his head side to side Opepe was now attempting to steady her with an arm round her shoulders.


‘You’re okay, Madame Michels?’ asked Opepe gently.


‘Yes … yes. I am,’ Maye gave a small gasp of pain.


Feeble steps were heard from a short distance, and two green helmeted soldiers, tall and frail, odorous of sweat, proceeded uncertainly, solemnly then paused with a stretcher that carried Cernuda’s
dead body.


‘We found the body behind the tree,’ said one of the soldiers faintly.


As Opepe and Maye looked up, the rest of the soldiers and even the hostages now slowly climbing down the coach had gathered round, drew back enough to make room for the stretcher and then formed a
close semicircle about it, and stood silently. Kumwenda and his only fireman flanked Opepe.


Cernuda’s splendid head seemed even nobler in its rigid stillness than in life. The dark hair had crept down upon the wide forehead; the face seemed strangely long, but in it there was barely that
beautiful and chaste repose that expected to find in the faces of the dead. The brows were so drawn that there were two deep lines above the beaked nose, and the chin was thrust forward defiantly.
It was as though the strain of life had been so sharp and bitter that death could hardly at once wholly relax the tension and smooth the countenance into perfect peace -- as though he were still
guarding something precious and holy, which might even yet be wrested from him.


They all stood stiffly upon the stretcher, gruff and reserved and patently out of place in these surroundings, with hands, conspicuous for solemnity, and their mouths and eyes that were drawn down
solemnly. They were all silent then, each of them considering the enormity of the death of a brave man. Maye flushed, dropped her eyes, and then, almost incredulously, looked again. There was a
kind of power about her face -- a kind of brutal handsomeness, even, but it was scarred and furrowed by violence, and so coloured and coarsened by fiercer passions that grief seemed never to have
laid a gentle finger there.


Harry sat at the jeep wheel very still in silence, placing his black beret beneath the left epaulette, and staring right ahead, and he had been away for about two hours, leaving Steiner behind at
Kamina – a long, slow journey. He now plunged into a mass of narrow, twisting jungle roads: on many stretches where the dark thickness of trees lay smooth and deep and treacherously masking the
border between dirt track and ditch, his was obviously the first jeep that had passed, but despite the care and concentrated attention Harry gave the tracks, his flickering eyes found them every
few minutes; the man’s unflagging vigilance was almost inhuman.


He felt thirsty, deftly stretching one hand to the rear seat. Suddenly before his hand touched upon a whisky hipflask, it sensed something he was unable to fathom. He glanced back quickly and his
stare was fixed on the wooden crates that should have never been there. His narrowed eyes drifted to the crates again, staring at them in disbelief for several seconds longer. For a long moment
Harry looked almost at a loss – so unexpected an expression on his puzzled face a study of bewildered incomprehension, then understanding came and with it some certainty of realisation.


He now knew Cernuda had placed the gold bar crates before he had departed for Kamina. He shook his head, feeling a deep pleasurable excitement. A smile came on his face, then a grin that stretched
from one corner to the other. ‘That son of … Captain Cyrille!’ He then unstopped the hipflask, raised his hand high towards the sky and then gulped. ‘Here’s to you … you son of ….! Just wait there
till I get my hands on you, Captain.’


The plateau reached out into emptiness, peaceful and wide as the soft sky itself, and wrapped in a tangible, white silence, a long, cold silence that only lasted for a few moments as the engine of
Harry’s jeep roared in a distance.


Harry drew up to a stop, his eyes drifted from the crowd to the dead body. He then climbed down, with a shock that showed in every line of his face now ceasing smiling. He paused, and then shook
his head without speaking; his mind was numbed.


He slowly drew closer to the crowd with some members now stepping backwards to let him pass through it, as he looked down on Cernuda’s dead body, half covered with a green sheet of cloth.


It was Major Williams,’ echoed Maye somberly, standing next to Opepe.


Opepe broke in suddenly, and cleared his throat gruffly, pointing in the direction of a dirt track with his index finger. ‘I saw him driving down the river up those hills, Major.’


Harry slowly turned away and looked at the body on the stretcher in silence, a long, long silence.


As he approached the body, slowly, ponderously, inch by agonising inch as if he were lifting some tremendous weight, he knelt down beside the stretcher, lifting his head off his chest, his eyes
still clamped shut. For a long moment he stayed in that position, sobbing silently, his lips shivering with a mourning cry, the fists by his side clenching and unclenching in his anxiety, his
frustration at the helplessness.


The numbness in his mind slowly giving way first of all to a confusing maelstrom of conflicting thoughts and emotions, then slowly clearing and settling till there was only one thought, one fixed
immovable purpose left in his mind. The slow wrath that had been smouldering within him all those moments now burst into an insane white flame that consumed his mind, his every thought to the
exclusion of all else, but there was hardly any trace of this blazing wrath within him when he slowly stood up.


He then walked directly towards the freight wagon, where his TricycleSpankenTruppen had been placed inside.


Maye followed behind him quickly, shouting. ‘Harry, don’t kill him … nobody wanted this … not even him.’


Harry jumped on the tricycle, letting it hurriedly out of the wagon over the ramp. Maye was standing beside him now.


She went on roaring: ‘Harry! Listen to me … Don’t kill him!’


Harry hardly even felt Maye’s screaming, and though his whole body shuddered involuntarily as he had slid into the tricycle, his mind had hardly even registered the shock now. There was barely any
room in his mind for any physical sensation, for any emotion or thought of any kind, except for that one starkly simple, primeval desire, the desire that had sloughed off the tissue veneer of
civilisation as if it had never been – that of revenge. Revenge or murder – there was hardly any distinction in his mind at that moment, the absolute fixity of his purpose permitted of none.


‘Don’t kill him?’ he cut across Maye. ‘I’ll cut him into pieces.’ The easy suavity had gone from his voice, now hoarse and savage; the loss of Cernuda had shaken him straight down his spine.


‘Wait, Harry,’ shouted Maye again.


But it was too late, as Harry started the tricycle’s engine and rode off in the direction of the dirt track that lay next to the long river that snaked through the thick woods ahead. He had ridden
along the track half a mile down-river before making his crossing and now he found himself amidst the woods. Amidst the high speed, he was now attempting to duck branches and leaves of the tall
trees that obstructed his sight, striking him on his unsmiling face.


Maye then turned round and nodded to Opepe. ‘Follow him, Opepe.’


‘Yes, Madame Michels,’ replied Opepe, as he stroke towards the jeep, loaded with the gold crates, and slid into the front seat and drove off.


He could hear the voice of Cernuda now, marching through his mind, the words that they had exchanged and shared in the distant past: ‘I’m just a soldier, Harry … ‘And we kill for the same reason
for which we were born.’ … ‘You kill for money; I kill for peace’ … ‘Perhaps, we two could raise it from the ashes one day’ -- and as the last vestiges of his rationale slipped away from his
powerless grasp and down into the darkness he knew, even as his power of knowing departed from him, that the dark veil of madness had completely clouded him in its thick and choking folds.


For all his swift-ride madness, he had covered the ground swiftly, with scarcely any sign of life from either side of the dirt track. More yards to ride now, still a strange absence of all sound
and activity from the woods and he was hardly giving up hope when he heard the roaring sound of the jeep engine from the trees a scant a hundred yards. It was Williams.


Ahead of them were humps in the dirt track and as they rolled rapidly towards them both vehicles suddenly burst over them each time they did. Williams glanced back at him unbelievably, glancing
wildly around to see where Harry was and within a minute he accelerated his jeep and he was lost to sight round a corner of the track. In a few minutes Harry had reached the side of Williams’ jeep,
both now rocketing off almost parallel to each other, and then both vehicles struck with such suddenness, such savage force, that both for the moment numbed, incapable of all action, capable of
nothing but realisation of the enormity of their blunders, the thoroughness, the appalling ease with which each had been deceived.


Williams, with a face that had turned grey and glistened sweat, threw himself out of the jeep seconds before it had cart-wheeled twice in vicious slamming revolutions that smashed the glass from
the window screen and burst the doors open. The mangled jeep eventually ended its fate on its side against one of the tall trees. Harry had picked up speed over a few yards and careered towards a
small cliff edge that lay ahead of him and leapt out of the tricycle seconds before it plunged over the cliff. It then nose-dived two hundred and fifty yards into the lake.


He pounced on Williams, with both now swaying and shuffling together plunging into the cold water of a tiered waterfall, panting, grunting, straining, splashing water until they locked together
soaked in water, even though both had fallen hard into the waterfall.


Except for the sounds of the wrestling men, there was the sheer silence of sounds of wildlife and murmuring water. Somewhere in the deep jungles, there were age-old ruins of a Mayan settlement
placed near the magnificent waterfall and invited one to a pilgrimage into the past of the Yeke Kingdom civilisation that only lasted from 1856 to 1891, the ancient artifacts that scattered about
the ruins and the picturesque waterfall along with an assortment of evergreen plants and trees.


Harry had the certain joy of killing him with his bare hands if he could. Deep inside him he knew that he had hardly any chance at all in the world, that he could hardly hold Williams off for more
than a few seconds, but he told himself that if ever he was to have a chance it was now, before the fight had started, while the element of surprise still existed as a possibility, and even with
the thought he was hurling himself across the shallow water.


Williams was almost taken by surprise – almost, but not quite. He was swimming away even as Harry’s feet struck him, making him grunt with the pain, and one of his flailing arms caught Harry behind
the head so that he all but somersaulted, his back striking painfully against a nearby rock by the couch with a force that drove all the breath from his body with an explosive gasp.


For a moment he lay quite still, then, badly winded and aching though he was, he forced himself to struggle to his feet again – if Williams’ feet reached him while he was still crawling in the
water, Harry knew that he would never rise again – waded to meet the advancing giant and struck out with all that remained of his strength at the sneering face before him, felt his fist strike home
jarring against solid bone and flesh, then coughed in agony as Williams contemptuously ignored the blow and struck him with gigantic force in his face.


Harry had never been hit so hard, he had never imagined any person could have been capable of hitting so hard. The man had the strength of an ox. In spite of the sea of pain, in spite of his
rubbery legs and the wave of nausea that threatened to choke him, he was still on his feet, but only because he splayed hands were supporting him from the rock against which he had been hurled.


His vision was blurred and dimmed; he could just vaguely distinguish Williams struggling frantically with the wild movements of the hands, when he saw Harry coming at him again. Hopelessly,
desperately, Harry flung himself forward in a last futile attempt to lash out at his tormentor, but Williams just side-stepped and waded towards the rock. Weakly, dizzily, he pushed himself somehow
to his feet and stood there swaying, conscious of nothing but the reeling waterfall, the fire of his body; the salt taste of blood on his lips and his indestructible foe racing towards him like a
crazy torero.


Once more, Harry told himself dully, once more, he can only kill him once, and he was reaching his hands behind to launch himself on his last tottering wade then his iron arm reached across
Williams’ chest and smashed him hard against the rock. Harry then unleashed a series of swift punches, in rapid rhythm, with Williams standing open-mouthed in shock, his head tilting wildly to and
fro, blood spurting from his mouth onto his wet muddy uniform, falling sideways like a broken, crumpled doll.


With one of his huge hands already tightening relentlessly round Williams’ throat, Williams was now moaning deep in his throat while his starving lungs fought for air and his fists hammered in
frantic madness against Harry’s back and shoulders with as much effect as if he were beating them against a rock of granite.


‘No Harry … No … No Harry!’ roared Williams, pleading wildly for mercy.


In an instant Harry grabbed Williams’ black slayer machete with one hand and unsheathed it. He swiftly held it with both hands, as the tip of the blade faced downwards, raised it above Williams and
then thrust it hard into his chest, once, twice, then thrice -- in a swift, scary rhythm -- as much strength as he had in his muscles.


‘Nooo!’ screamed Williams, his whole face convulsing.


As the wild screaming suddenly stopped, his body, battered and drenched in blood -- with one arm shattered and hung loosely in the tattered, blood-stained sleeve of his shirt -- lay motionless over
the rock for a moment, and blood dribbling and pattering like streams of a raging river mingling with the running lake water. And then a moment later he dropped flat into the shallow water, and his
huge body tumbling down with the splashing sound.


Harry stood still in the water, weak and barely able to stand upright, and he was still gasping for air, his body and mind numbed, his shirt sleeves tattered, his hair hung in damp ropes dangling
in his muddy, creased face, and he was still breathing wildly.
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THE EPILOGUE - A Call for Confession


The land was gleaming in the sunlight as though freshly painted; the cloudless sky smiled at itself in the smoothly sparkling lake of the tiered waterfall, the satin-green plants and trees rippled
occasionally in a gentle breeze. No sounds, no life, just the endless sound of the running water.


The creaking sound of footsteps was approaching, and then it stopped suddenly. It was Opepe now standing on the bank of the lake. Harry still standing in the lake turned slowly, looking over his
shoulder. His heart started pumping harder and faster than ever, though keeping his mouth tightly closed; his breathing slowed momentarily, then became faster.


There was a feeling of emptiness, almost of despair, or perhaps of remorse. And when he spoke his voice was strained and hoarse, he scarcely recognised it as his own.


‘Come on. Let’s go, Opepe.’


Opepe was still standing, apparently transfixed with horror, gazing at him, feeling a gush of pity like a dying warm fountain and it was welling inside him. He felt a kind of detached aloofness at
the sight of Harry’s pale, pointed face still contorted with rage.


He then shook his head slowly from side to side. ‘Everything black … everybody black … you and him … blackness everywhere … Captain Cernuda never wanted this blackness, never … never.’


Harry looked at him sharply, as he raised his voice a bit sharper, louder. ‘I said: “Let’s go.”’


‘I no go with you … you go your way, I go my way,’ said Opepe sadly, his voice was now tinged with distaste for Harry.


Both never spoke a word after that. Harry then watched him walk towards the jeep that Opepe had stopped five hundred yards away from the lake. Harry himself walked on foot all the way back to the
train.


An hour had elapsed before Steiner finally arrived with the two Congolese army’s Reo trucks that would take them along a long journey back to the capital of the Katanga provincette, Élisabethville.


By that time, almost all men, women and children and the soldiers had climbed into them, waiting for Harry and Opepe. And as soon as Harry reached, he and Maye sat in front of the jeep and Opepe
sat near the tailgate of one of the trucks. A few moments later the jeep driving in the lead, with the trucks following behind close, vanished out of sight.


They had to slow down as they drove on the narrow, corrugated ridges and dirt tracks that at times arced abruptly until they had to slow down; a dozen times, at least. As they were now plunged into
a narrow, twisting track, Harry’s thoughts had changed, a feeling overwhelmed by a sense of guilt at having killed Williams, at having failed his one best and close friends Cernuda and Maye.


Amidst a deafening silence, Maye’s eyes occasionally drifted from the rack to Harry’s and each time her eyes shifted to his there was a drop of tear trickling down his face. He felt his heart soar
as the chain of memories of him and Cernuda started rekindling in his mind as though those memories, those spoken words, were engraved into his memory. And each time he remembered each word, each
time that he and Cernuda had exchanged and spent together it would hurt him more, burn him up inside more than ever:


‘No, all is yours … I’m just a soldier, Harry’; ‘And we kill for the same reason for which we were born’; ‘You kill for money; I kill for peace,’; ‘Peace?’ … the peace is dead in the Congo … long
time ago,’; ‘Perhaps, we two could raise it from the ashes one day’; ‘Perhaps, one day,’ … .


Without moving, without speaking, Harry kept driving, it seemed to him, for an eternity of time, while his mind first of all absorbed the shock, the bitter realisation of the guilt, and then hunted
frantically for the reason for death, for evil and the consequent death of his close friend. And Maye kept watching those sad, deep and unsmiling eyes that had lost their glitter some how. She
looked at him in slow puzzled wonder.


Harry now could feel the sickness deep down in his mind, the bitter taste of guilt and despair. He knew it was the end of everything. But the remorseful expression on his dull face had remained: it
might have been pinned there. Then he shook himself, a person throwing off the dark terror of a nightmare, and looked at Maye.


Suddenly he drew up to a stop in the middle of the dirt track, and as he stopped the trucks too came to a halt. He then climbed down.


‘What is it now, Harry?’ asked Maye.


Without uttering a word, Harry walked slowly towards the edge of a ridge that sloped down to a long river, a slope that was too steep in some places. He stayed there in a deep silence, speechless,
with a strained face hardly resembling that of the old Harry.


Opepe climbed down from the truck and approached him, followed by Maye. Harry shook his head without speaking. There was hardly anything left in him to utter, he could hardly think of anything to
utter, his mind was numbed and remorseful now.


As Opepe drew closer to him, Harry turned to face him. ‘Sergeant Opepe.’ ‘Yes, Major,’ replied Opepe.


There was barely any trace of the blazing fury within him when he spoke quietly to Opepe, his eyes drifting from him to Maye.


‘I want to be court-martialled for the murder of Major Williams.’


‘Yes, Major Harry,’ said Opepe, as he straightened himself and saluted him.


A faint smile shone finally on Harry’s face as Maye glanced at that grey face haggard and emaciated as she had never seen a face before, a pitifully wasted face sculpted and graven into the deep
lines of premature age by unimaginable privations and hardships. She said nothing, and she could see that his eyes shining in the sunlight with unshed tears.


Harry then climbed up the truck, as Opepe sat behind the wheel of the jeep with Maye sitting beside him. They could see across the enormous Katangan plateau, never once looking back, and by and by
they were lost to sight behind the tall trees ahead and Harry knew that he would never see them again.
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