GUN RUNNER

Reads: 188  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A first time gun runner selling US issue guns and equipment is humiliated by a swamp dwelling militant.

Submitted: January 16, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 16, 2008

A A A

A A A


The water reflects the reddish glare of the setting sun which is mirrored on the horizon. The mangrove root spreads downward like a thousand fingers, fanning out across the shoreline. So thick, it forms a wall that is so solid that it appears to the uninitiated like an impregnable man made barrier, a wall of vegetation, broking only by the occasional opening where the creek meets the sea.
 Somewhere in the creeks a sea bird screams in its high pitched cry. The sound bounces of the water and trees to be swallowed by the constant swash of the wave .from afar, all seemed quite and beautiful with an undercurrent of violence impersonated by the slash of the waves on the mangrove roots. The sun seemed to increase in intensity as it waves a final goodbye to the earth, throwing a bright blanket across the coast. 
Far away so tiny that it is marked only by a slight glitter, possibly that of the fast waning sun on something shiny probably glass, a ship sits in patient wait. She has being in anchor for 2 days, occasionally moving further out to sea to avoid the infrequent naval patrol. Like much of Africa, the bight of Biafra is left largely unprotected. Mainly because of lack of governmental will, the dearth of manpower and equipment. This leaves it susceptible to infiltration by smugglers and child traffickers who make brisk business through the creeks. 
Tom vaneti, a middle aged Venetian, was reclining on the deck, watching the sunset which to him is the most beautiful sight anywhere in the world .he’d give anything to see it everyday for the rest of his life that is if he lives through this summer. His doctor has already told him that his liver is ….. He doubts he has that much time.
 “Stop drinking if you want to live!” he had yelled at him that day in the clinic. But how can he stop drinking, when it is the only way he can keep his sanity. Yes, he had tried to kick this 20 year habit but after one hellish week we had gone right back. It will kill him to stop, so he has chosen to die drinking, accepting that as fact.
“At least he’d die happy” he musses  
Tom was born in Venice and like all men born in close affiliation with water; he feels a deep love for it, born out of long association, complemented by an unwavering respect. That respect has kept him safe all these years of sea faring. It may sound crazy but…… one had to respect water to live on it. No matter how calm looking, water can and has killed; You may spend hours frolicking in the river, stream or even the sea, Getting drenched in the swimming pool, letting the water wash over your soul, you lie in the bath to ease your mind. Yes, water can mean many things to different people, but once you lose your respect for it, get careless, water can only mean one thing, Death. 
The peaceful thoughts of tom vaneti were shattered by a sudden burst of noise which effectively disrupted the solitude of the moment.
It was dim at first, and then gradually, it increased intensity, becoming an earsplitting racket that startled the sea birds that flew off in a shower of water and downy feathers. The clamor was apparently coming from some sort of diesel engine.  
Tom turned towards the shoreline, alarmed. At that moment the first mate who was on his 10th trip to the Niger Delta, waved at him to reassure him.  “It must be them” he called out, walking over to turn the floodlight toward the shore while checking to see that it was in working order.
 “OK BOYS!” Tom yelled to the sailors “get the ship ready. I don’t want to take chances” 
The diesel engines stopped as suddenly as it had started. On the ship all eyes were focused on the shore line, waiting for the agreed sign .then it came, a brief flash of light, possibly from an electric lamp, the sort used by naval men. It came in brief flashes of long and short intervals 
“Moose code” tom thought to himself, Surprised. Turning to the first mate he gave a thumb up sign “light it up” The big searchlight flashed in answer.
 ‘Sure right it’s them, and they did not keep to the agreed time. They are three days late already.” said the first mate, not bothering to hide his irritation. ‘I hope they’ll give a good reason and tender apologies” tom remarked 
“You bet, they just as shoot you than say sorry” the first mate replied with a big smile on his Irish face 
“That’s not funny, now boys pull up that anchor, I don’t want any unpleasant surprises” 
‘Ok tally ho!”
 “Anchor up” 
“Ok, now smithy… gets some of the boys armed and make sure they keep it in sight”
 ‘Here they come” someone shouted. 
Tom turned just in time to see three speed boats leap out of the mangrove , initially running parallel to the shore line ,then cutting sharply right directly in line with the ship, The after wash trailing behind them like tails. When they hit open sea they abandoned the direct approach, zigzagging to avoid the worst of the ragging waves. At times they are lost behind a mountainous wave only to appear again on the crest of another one, the boats landing at the valley with a big splat. 
The boats were being driven at a reckless speed and at intervals leaps up in the air to land with a great splash.
Tom noted the skill of experienced sea men as the boat got closer. No, he wasn’t dealing with ignorant natives like this ship’s owner had had him believe. These guys that drive speed boats with the dexterity of a formula 1 driver and communicate via moose code are not ignorant. 
Artemis is a Greek ship. The owner had recently stumbled on the black gold mine of the Niger delta. A fellow ship owner who was shipmates with him in their younger days, suddenly seem to have limitless fund even at off season, throwing mind boggling parties for his mistress. It is not that ship owners are a poor lot but when someone starts ordering customized cars from the manufacturers and buys off all the luxury houses in the market at the rate angelos was doing, one is bond to ask questions, especially if that person once saved your life. So salvias did ask Angelos the source of his extra fortune.
Salvias took one look at him and took brought out a miniature map of Africa, propping it on the table he leaned over to whisper “ever heard of black gold?” 
Angelos thought for awhile scratched his bald plate “I believe it has something to do with petroleum” he said wondering what salvias was up to.
 “Yes, t has every thing to do with petroleum, back in the old days in the USA… that is what they called crude oil” salvias agreed. 
He shoved his fat fingers into his breast pocket, fumbled for awhile and fished out a gold plated pen of quality carat, leaned over once more and marked the bight of Biafra with two crosses.
 “The people of the Niger delta are at odds with the Nigerian government, they’ve being neglected for so long so the adventurous ones burst the pipes that crisscross they land to siphon the oil that they claim is rightly theirs. The government claims they are vandals and smugglers. I don’t really care who is right or whether their environment is wasting like they claim. I am not a politician or an environmentalist .the one thing that I am is a business man and shipping is my business.” He adjusted his large flame and took a sip of water which is the only thing he drinks these days, following keenly his doctor’s orders. He continued, talking a little slower this time, keeping his voice low. “There is an international syndicate in operation, they run everything, we are only paid to ship the oil to the desired location and keep our mouth shot” he stopped again to wag his fingers briefly in the air in an admonishing way “you don’t get this rich by talking to the wrong peoples” 
“What about the government, police and the security agencies, the…” Angelos asked. Keen to stay away from the police, with his kind of past he is always wary of the police. 
“Too under paid to do anything but partake” he paused to look around the restaurant, and then went on in a conspirational tone “some of the top government officials are involved. They supply the information and their tame police provide cover and help guard the loot” 
Angelos knows a straight deal when he sees one. So by the next month he was one of the elite ship owners engaged in booming business ferrying Nigerian oil illegally. Having paid the required protection fee to the smugglers, he dispatched his flag tanker Artemis to the bight of Biafra and after he paid off the syndicate he was on his way. 
Tom doesn’t care much about the details of a job as long as it is straight forward and to him straight forward means not coming to land. Left to his devise he can easily avoid most of the better equipped navies around so an ill equipped African navy is like a stroll in the park. The job of handling the local militants was left in the hands of an experienced lieutenant. He knows enough about shady deals to keep out off really deep parts. 
The boat reached the ship and a stern looking youth tossed a rope to the waiting hands of a sailor who grabbed it and secured it tightly. Tom was not overtly surprised to see that the occupants of the boat were armed. AK 47 seemed to be the weapon of choice, though some spotted what looked like American made assault riffles, all with the exception of the leader wore life jackets over combat pants and us army issue gum boots. The leader himself seemed to be a stoutly built youth with a dark brown complexion that is given an oily hue by his heavy sweating. He appears amiably and gentle though this in itself is deceptive, for if tom Vaneti knew the story of Sam ‘the beast’ Clark he would think to keep well away from him. 
Sam was born in the creeks of Delta state to civil service parents; he was big even as a child, now he weighs 120 pounds that is more muscle than fat, it’s his droopy eyes that give him that false impression of gentility that Tom noticed earlier. Gentle is one thing he is not.  
As a young boy he reigned supreme as the local bully, subjecting his victims to the most humiliating of ordeals. By the time he got to senior secondary, his notoriety was already legendary and grew by the day. He was instrumental to the free for all fight that ensued between school prefects backed by the SS3 students and the SS2 ‘big boys’ backed by the SS1 & 2. This earned him a deserved expulsion; this would have been the end of a lesser mortal but not the ‘beast’.  Two years later, while his peers were still battling with the twin hurdles of JAMB & SSCE, he some how found his way into ESUT where he continued in his tradition, immediately enlisting in the most dreaded fraternity where he rose like a shooting star through the ranks, becoming in a few months a gun hand, albeit a good one at that. His only problem was that he enjoyed his job too much and was responsibly for the demise of many an innocent student. For being the guilty finger in several avoidably avoidable skirmishes with rival cults, he had his gun taken from him and ‘promoted’ to recruiter to his apparent dislike. In his third year, bored and in the look out for trouble, he coaxed a soldier of a rival fraternity into a fight. Not satisfied with the way his capo handled the perceived insult, he led a big rebellion that saw him emerging as the undisputed head of his fraternity. His erstwhile capo was then resting in a 3 feet grave in the outskirts of Enugu. With this much power he felt invincible and sought to exert his relative influence on the student union governments of ESUT and IMT. Expectedly, this was resisted and a big war ensued between him fraternity and several others, resulting in the death of hundreds of students. This was between 1998 and 2000. 
Graduating after seven years, having put in extra years as a result of constantly going into hiding to wait the cooling off one war or the other, he was drafted into the so-called youth wing of a leading political party in the south east. Here, he discovered that he was not recruited for brains but brawns. His duties were almost identical to what he had done for years; make sure all opposition(s) is eliminated, pacify or kill any stumbling block, put fear in the heart of anyone who may be contemplating recalcitrance. For Sam, this was the life, get paid for something he would gladly do for free. Setting out immediately, he formed a strike force, made up of like minded guys from his fraternity. In a few months he had done all that was required from him and more. Though, he had the frame of mind not to completely destroy the opposition. Knowing that this will put paid to his usefulness thereby putting a seal to his source of income. For two years he habited a first class suite at the presidential hotel Enugu. From here he coordinated his strike force, parting and painting the campuses in Enugu redder than red. All through this time he showed a great love the school environment, even at a point contemplating going back for masters. He would have remained in Enugu, living the easy life but for a change of guard in the cult hierarchy of Enugu’s numerous higher institutions.
It so happened that his fraternity through a stroke luck lost out in the newest battle of supremacy and the new over lords declared him persona non granter, to be shot on sight. Luckily for Sam, he was out of town at that time, so he happily stayed away. Forecasting the exhaustion of his lean resources, he asked and was introduced to bunkering which had in the presiding years become a thriving business. Since the bunker rats are always on the lookout for people of his ilk, it was relatively easy for him to assimilate and grow fast. In a year he was seen in Port Harcourt at the head of a guerilla unit affiliated to the militia. Sammy “the beast” Clarke has found a more fashionable way to be a bad boy. He even learnt to recite some revolutionary slogans almost convincing even himself that he is now fighting a just course. This is the man who is now offering Tom Vaneti his hand, begging his pardon for been two days late. 
‘You know the government has stepped up their patrol in the creeks’ he said casually as if it is a minor rejoinder.
Clasping Tom’s elbow he steered him towards the sealed containers. Tom, wanting the briefest contact with the wet African, signaled to the liaison person who rushed forwards to usher Sam to the containers. He opened the nearest one to reveal an assorted collection of light weapons mostly Russian made but with a large enough sprinkle of American Government Issue armaments to make any CIA official wonder at the much hyped control of US army equipment. 
Sam smiled at the fretful liaison person, whose face was bright red in the light of the moon, with beads of perspiration threatening to fall of his forehead.
‘I hope you brought the uniforms and outboard motors?’ 
‘Yes sir, we even added inflatable boats which I assure you are at no extra cost’ he smiled a nervous smile ‘all are awaiting your inspection’ 
‘Ok, open up all the other containers’ Sam said, signaling his boys forward.
 Another day and place Sam would not have bothered with inspection but he knew that this Europeans believe they are dealing with backward Africans who can be sold a steel pipe in place of a rocket launcher. Taking his time, he surveyed the open containers, only once frowning at the contents of one. Remarking that the bullet proof vests were not the specimen ordered. He only agreed to take it after he was tested on a ‘living target’ which happened to be the liaison officer Who even though he knew the effectiveness of the vest, could only manage to keep from peeing on himself as he stared hypnotized at the barrel of the AK47, fighting against the belief that the leering black face behind the trigger would lift the gun a little bit and blast him out of existent.
 ‘Smile’ said Sam as he aimed just below the neck of the bullet proof jacket, laughing like a mad man when the liaison officer was flung against the container door by the impact, crumbling on the deck with all the breath knocked out of him. Tom who was just coming out of the control room, rushed forward, catching him before his head hit the deck. Tom’s blood raged when he noticed that the bullet hit only a few inches below where the vest ended. Just a few inches higher and the liaison would have being a dead man.
‘Was that necessary’ he asked fighting to control his temper. 
 ‘No’ said the still smiling Sam ‘but it was fun. Do you have any trouble with my sense of humor?’ 
Tom wanted to smash his knuckles into the smirking face. He wanted to so badly that his clinched fist hurt from being held so tightly. He held his anger in check. Knowing the life of many people depended on his keeping his anger until this deal is done. He surely can’t go back to Greece with an empty ship. Lowering his head to hide the menace he could feel waiting to burst free he shook his head, not trusting his voice to not give him away, Sam nodded curtly in response. 
 ‘If it’s okay with you we will offload tonight. The boats are ready awaiting our signal’. ‘
Ok by me, I don’t see any reason to wait’ Sam turned to speak briefly into a cell phone.
Tom strained to hear what was being said but found that though the words were obviously English he could not understand what was being said. Apparently it is a sort of Pidgin English. He remembered over-hearing some Taiwanese immigrants speaking something similar some years back in Spain. He looked on as more boats appeared from the creeks to begin the lengthy process of offloading. Under his breath he swore at the arrogant leader of the smugglers who was at that moment directing the oncoming boats with his flash light. 
‘One day I will get him for this’ he said silently.
 
Gun Runner
 
 
The water reflects the reddish glare of the setting sun which is mirrored on the horizon. The mangrove root spreads downward like a thousand fingers, fanning out across the shoreline. So thick, it forms a wall that is so solid that it appears to the uninitiated like an impregnable man made barrier, a wall of vegetation, broking only by the occasional opening where the creek meets the sea.
 Somewhere in the creeks a sea bird screams in its high pitched cry. The sound bounces of the water and trees to be swallowed by the constant swash of the wave .from afar, all seemed quite and beautiful with an undercurrent of violence impersonated by the slash of the waves on the mangrove roots. The sun seemed to increase in intensity as it waves a final goodbye to the earth, throwing a bright blanket across the coast. 
Far away so tiny that it is marked only by a slight glitter, possibly that of the fast waning sun on something shiny probably glass, a ship sits in patient wait. She has being in anchor for 2 days, occasionally moving further out to sea to avoid the infrequent naval patrol. Like much of Africa, the bight of Biafra is left largely unprotected. Mainly because of lack of governmental will, the dearth of manpower and equipment. This leaves it susceptible to infiltration by smugglers and child traffickers who make brisk business through the creeks. 
Tom vaneti, a middle aged Venetian, was reclining on the deck, watching the sunset which to him is the most beautiful sight anywhere in the world .he’d give anything to see it everyday for the rest of his life that is if he lives through this summer. His doctor has already told him that his liver is ….. He doubts he has that much time.
 “Stop drinking if you want to live!” he had yelled at him that day in the clinic. But how can he stop drinking, when it is the only way he can keep his sanity. Yes, he had tried to kick this 20 year habit but after one hellish week we had gone right back. It will kill him to stop, so he has chosen to die drinking, accepting that as fact.
“At least he’d die happy” he musses  
Tom was born in Venice and like all men born in close affiliation with water; he feels a deep love for it, born out of long association, complemented by an unwavering respect. That respect has kept him safe all these years of sea faring. It may sound crazy but…… one had to respect water to live on it. No matter how calm looking, water can and has killed; You may spend hours frolicking in the river, stream or even the sea, Getting drenched in the swimming pool, letting the water wash over your soul, you lie in the bath to ease your mind. Yes, water can mean many things to different people, but once you lose your respect for it, get careless, water can only mean one thing, Death. 
The peaceful thoughts of tom vaneti were shattered by a sudden burst of noise which effectively disrupted the solitude of the moment.
It was dim at first, and then gradually, it increased intensity, becoming an earsplitting racket that startled the sea birds that flew off in a shower of water and downy feathers. The clamor was apparently coming from some sort of diesel engine.  
Tom turned towards the shoreline, alarmed. At that moment the first mate who was on his 10th trip to the Niger Delta, waved at him to reassure him.  “It must be them” he called out, walking over to turn the floodlight toward the shore while checking to see that it was in working order.
 “OK BOYS!” Tom yelled to the sailors “get the ship ready. I don’t want to take chances” 
The diesel engines stopped as suddenly as it had started. On the ship all eyes were focused on the shore line, waiting for the agreed sign .then it came, a brief flash of light, possibly from an electric lamp, the sort used by naval men. It came in brief flashes of long and short intervals 
“Moose code” tom thought to himself, Surprised. Turning to the first mate he gave a thumb up sign “light it up” The big searchlight flashed in answer.
 ‘Sure right it’s them, and they did not keep to the agreed time. They are three days late already.” said the first mate, not bothering to hide his irritation. ‘I hope they’ll give a good reason and tender apologies” tom remarked 
“You bet, they just as shoot you than say sorry” the first mate replied with a big smile on his Irish face 
“That’s not funny, now boys pull up that anchor, I don’t want any unpleasant surprises” 
‘Ok tally ho!”
 “Anchor up” 
“Ok, now smithy… gets some of the boys armed and make sure they keep it in sight”
 ‘Here they come” someone shouted. 
Tom turned just in time to see three speed boats leap out of the mangrove , initially running parallel to the shore line ,then cutting sharply right directly in line with the ship, The after wash trailing behind them like tails. When they hit open sea they abandoned the direct approach, zigzagging to avoid the worst of the ragging waves. At times they are lost behind a mountainous wave only to appear again on the crest of another one, the boats landing at the valley with a big splat. 
The boats were being driven at a reckless speed and at intervals leaps up in the air to land with a great splash.
Tom noted the skill of experienced sea men as the boat got closer. No, he wasn’t dealing with ignorant natives like this ship’s owner had had him believe. These guys that drive speed boats with the dexterity of a formula 1 driver and communicate via moose code are not ignorant. 
Artemis is a Greek ship. The owner had recently stumbled on the black gold mine of the Niger delta. A fellow ship owner who was shipmates with him in their younger days, suddenly seem to have limitless fund even at off season, throwing mind boggling parties for his mistress. It is not that ship owners are a poor lot but when someone starts ordering customized cars from the manufacturers and buys off all the luxury houses in the market at the rate angelos was doing, one is bond to ask questions, especially if that person once saved your life. So salvias did ask Angelos the source of his extra fortune.
Salvias took one look at him and took brought out a miniature map of Africa, propping it on the table he leaned over to whisper “ever heard of black gold?” 
Angelos thought for awhile scratched his bald plate “I believe it has something to do with petroleum” he said wondering what salvias was up to.
 “Yes, t has every thing to do with petroleum, back in the old days in the USA… that is what they called crude oil” salvias agreed. 
He shoved his fat fingers into his breast pocket, fumbled for awhile and fished out a gold plated pen of quality carat, leaned over once more and marked the bight of Biafra with two crosses.
 “The people of the Niger delta are at odds with the Nigerian government, they’ve being neglected for so long so the adventurous ones burst the pipes that crisscross they land to siphon the oil that they claim is rightly theirs. The government claims they are vandals and smugglers. I don’t really care who is right or whether their environment is wasting like they claim. I am not a politician or an environmentalist .the one thing that I am is a business man and shipping is my business.” He adjusted his large flame and took a sip of water which is the only thing he drinks these days, following keenly his doctor’s orders. He continued, talking a little slower this time, keeping his voice low. “There is an international syndicate in operation, they run everything, we are only paid to ship the oil to the desired location and keep our mouth shot” he stopped again to wag his fingers briefly in the air in an admonishing way “you don’t get this rich by talking to the wrong peoples” 
“What about the government, police and the security agencies, the…” Angelos asked. Keen to stay away from the police, with his kind of past he is always wary of the police. 
“Too under paid to do anything but partake” he paused to look around the restaurant, and then went on in a conspirational tone “some of the top government officials are involved. They supply the information and their tame police provide cover and help guard the loot” 
Angelos knows a straight deal when he sees one. So by the next month he was one of the elite ship owners engaged in booming business ferrying Nigerian oil illegally. Having paid the required protection fee to the smugglers, he dispatched his flag tanker Artemis to the bight of Biafra and after he paid off the syndicate he was on his way. 
Tom doesn’t care much about the details of a job as long as it is straight forward and to him straight forward means not coming to land. Left to his devise he can easily avoid most of the better equipped navies around so an ill equipped African navy is like a stroll in the park. The job of handling the local militants was left in the hands of an experienced lieutenant. He knows enough about shady deals to keep out off really deep parts. 
The boat reached the ship and a stern looking youth tossed a rope to the waiting hands of a sailor who grabbed it and secured it tightly. Tom was not overtly surprised to see that the occupants of the boat were armed. AK 47 seemed to be the weapon of choice, though some spotted what looked like American made assault riffles, all with the exception of the leader wore life jackets over combat pants and us army issue gum boots. The leader himself seemed to be a stoutly built youth with a dark brown complexion that is given an oily hue by his heavy sweating. He appears amiably and gentle though this in itself is deceptive, for if tom Vaneti knew the story of Sam ‘the beast’ Clark he would think to keep well away from him. 
Sam was born in the creeks of Delta state to civil service parents; he was big even as a child, now he weighs 120 pounds that is more muscle than fat, it’s his droopy eyes that give him that false impression of gentility that Tom noticed earlier. Gentle is one thing he is not.  
As a young boy he reigned supreme as the local bully, subjecting his victims to the most humiliating of ordeals. By the time he got to senior secondary, his notoriety was already legendary and grew by the day. He was instrumental to the free for all fight that ensued between school prefects backed by the SS3 students and the SS2 ‘big boys’ backed by the SS1 & 2. This earned him a deserved expulsion; this would have been the end of a lesser mortal but not the ‘beast’.  Two years later, while his peers were still battling with the twin hurdles of JAMB & SSCE, he some how found his way into ESUT where he continued in his tradition, immediately enlisting in the most dreaded fraternity where he rose like a shooting star through the ranks, becoming in a few months a gun hand, albeit a good one at that. His only problem was that he enjoyed his job too much and was responsibly for the demise of many an innocent student. For being the guilty finger in several avoidably avoidable skirmishes with rival cults, he had his gun taken from him and ‘promoted’ to recruiter to his apparent dislike. In his third year, bored and in the look out for trouble, he coaxed a soldier of a rival fraternity into a fight. Not satisfied with the way his capo handled the perceived insult, he led a big rebellion that saw him emerging as the undisputed head of his fraternity. His erstwhile capo was then resting in a 3 feet grave in the outskirts of Enugu. With this much power he felt invincible and sought to exert his relative influence on the student union governments of ESUT and IMT. Expectedly, this was resisted and a big war ensued between him fraternity and several others, resulting in the death of hundreds of students. This was between 1998 and 2000. 
Graduating after seven years, having put in extra years as a result of constantly going into hiding to wait the cooling off one war or the other, he was drafted into the so-called youth wing of a leading political party in the south east. Here, he discovered that he was not recruited for brains but brawns. His duties were almost identical to what he had done for years; make sure all opposition(s) is eliminated, pacify or kill any stumbling block, put fear in the heart of anyone who may be contemplating recalcitrance. For Sam, this was the life, get paid for something he would gladly do for free. Setting out immediately, he formed a strike force, made up of like minded guys from his fraternity. In a few months he had done all that was required from him and more. Though, he had the frame of mind not to completely destroy the opposition. Knowing that this will put paid to his usefulness thereby putting a seal to his source of income. For two years he habited a first class suite at the presidential hotel Enugu. From here he coordinated his strike force, parting and painting the campuses in Enugu redder than red. All through this time he showed a great love the school environment, even at a point contemplating going back for masters. He would have remained in Enugu, living the easy life but for a change of guard in the cult hierarchy of Enugu’s numerous higher institutions.
It so happened that his fraternity through a stroke luck lost out in the newest battle of supremacy and the new over lords declared him persona non granter, to be shot on sight. Luckily for Sam, he was out of town at that time, so he happily stayed away. Forecasting the exhaustion of his lean resources, he asked and was introduced to bunkering which had in the presiding years become a thriving business. Since the bunker rats are always on the lookout for people of his ilk, it was relatively easy for him to assimilate and grow fast. In a year he was seen in Port Harcourt at the head of a guerilla unit affiliated to the militia. Sammy “the beast” Clarke has found a more fashionable way to be a bad boy. He even learnt to recite some revolutionary slogans almost convincing even himself that he is now fighting a just course. This is the man who is now offering Tom Vaneti his hand, begging his pardon for been two days late. 
‘You know the government has stepped up their patrol in the creeks’ he said casually as if it is a minor rejoinder.
Clasping Tom’s elbow he steered him towards the sealed containers. Tom, wanting the briefest contact with the wet African, signaled to the liaison person who rushed forwards to usher Sam to the containers. He opened the nearest one to reveal an assorted collection of light weapons mostly Russian made but with a large enough sprinkle of American Government Issue armaments to make any CIA official wonder at the much hyped control of US army equipment. 
Sam smiled at the fretful liaison person, whose face was bright red in the light of the moon, with beads of perspiration threatening to fall of his forehead.
‘I hope you brought the uniforms and outboard motors?’ 
‘Yes sir, we even added inflatable boats which I assure you are at no extra cost’ he smiled a nervous smile ‘all are awaiting your inspection’ 
‘Ok, open up all the other containers’ Sam said, signaling his boys forward.
 Another day and place Sam would not have bothered with inspection but he knew that this Europeans believe they are dealing with backward Africans who can be sold a steel pipe in place of a rocket launcher. Taking his time, he surveyed the open containers, only once frowning at the contents of one. Remarking that the bullet proof vests were not the specimen ordered. He only agreed to take it after he was tested on a ‘living target’ which happened to be the liaison officer Who even though he knew the effectiveness of the vest, could only manage to keep from peeing on himself as he stared hypnotized at the barrel of the AK47, fighting against the belief that the leering black face behind the trigger would lift the gun a little bit and blast him out of existent.
 ‘Smile’ said Sam as he aimed just below the neck of the bullet proof jacket, laughing like a mad man when the liaison officer was flung against the container door by the impact, crumbling on the deck with all the breath knocked out of him. Tom who was just coming out of the control room, rushed forward, catching him before his head hit the deck. Tom’s blood raged when he noticed that the bullet hit only a few inches below where the vest ended. Just a few inches higher and the liaison would have being a dead man.
‘Was that necessary’ he asked fighting to control his temper. 
 ‘No’ said the still smiling Sam ‘but it was fun. Do you have any trouble with my sense of humor?’ 
Tom wanted to smash his knuckles into the smirking face. He wanted to so badly that his clinched fist hurt from being held so tightly. He held his anger in check. Knowing the life of many people depended on his keeping his anger until this deal is done. He surely can’t go back to Greece with an empty ship. Lowering his head to hide the menace he could feel waiting to burst free he shook his head, not trusting his voice to not give him away, Sam nodded curtly in response. 
 ‘If it’s okay with you we will offload tonight. The boats are ready awaiting our signal’. ‘
Ok by me, I don’t see any reason to wait’ Sam turned to speak briefly into a cell phone.
Tom strained to hear what was being said but found that though the words were obviously English he could not understand what was being said. Apparently it is a sort of Pidgin English. He remembered over-hearing some Taiwanese immigrants speaking something similar some years back in Spain. He looked on as more boats appeared from the creeks to begin the lengthy process of offloading. Under his breath he swore at the arrogant leader of the smugglers who was at that moment directing the oncoming boats with his flash light. 
‘One day I will get him for this’ he said silently.
 
Gun Runner
 
 
The water reflects the reddish glare of the setting sun which is mirrored on the horizon. The mangrove root spreads downward like a thousand fingers, fanning out across the shoreline. So thick, it forms a wall that is so solid that it appears to the uninitiated like an impregnable man made barrier, a wall of vegetation, broking only by the occasional opening where the creek meets the sea.
 Somewhere in the creeks a sea bird screams in its high pitched cry. The sound bounces of the water and trees to be swallowed by the constant swash of the wave .from afar, all seemed quite and beautiful with an undercurrent of violence impersonated by the slash of the waves on the mangrove roots. The sun seemed to increase in intensity as it waves a final goodbye to the earth, throwing a bright blanket across the coast. 
Far away so tiny that it is marked only by a slight glitter, possibly that of the fast waning sun on something shiny probably glass, a ship sits in patient wait. She has being in anchor for 2 days, occasionally moving further out to sea to avoid the infrequent naval patrol. Like much of Africa, the bight of Biafra is left largely unprotected. Mainly because of lack of governmental will, the dearth of manpower and equipment. This leaves it susceptible to infiltration by smugglers and child traffickers who make brisk business through the creeks. 
Tom vaneti, a middle aged Venetian, was reclining on the deck, watching the sunset which to him is the most beautiful sight anywhere in the world .he’d give anything to see it everyday for the rest of his life that is if he lives through this summer. His doctor has already told him that his liver is ….. He doubts he has that much time.
 “Stop drinking if you want to live!” he had yelled at him that day in the clinic. But how can he stop drinking, when it is the only way he can keep his sanity. Yes, he had tried to kick this 20 year habit but after one hellish week we had gone right back. It will kill him to stop, so he has chosen to die drinking, accepting that as fact.
“At least he’d die happy” he musses  
Tom was born in Venice and like all men born in close affiliation with water; he feels a deep love for it, born out of long association, complemented by an unwavering respect. That respect has kept him safe all these years of sea faring. It may sound crazy but…… one had to respect water to live on it. No matter how calm looking, water can and has killed; You may spend hours frolicking in the river, stream or even the sea, Getting drenched in the swimming pool, letting the water wash over your soul, you lie in the bath to ease your mind. Yes, water can mean many things to different people, but once you lose your respect for it, get careless, water can only mean one thing, Death. 
The peaceful thoughts of tom vaneti were shattered by a sudden burst of noise which effectively disrupted the solitude of the moment.
It was dim at first, and then gradually, it increased intensity, becoming an earsplitting racket that startled the sea birds that flew off in a shower of water and downy feathers. The clamor was apparently coming from some sort of diesel engine.  
Tom turned towards the shoreline, alarmed. At that moment the first mate who was on his 10th trip to the Niger Delta, waved at him to reassure him.  “It must be them” he called out, walking over to turn the floodlight toward the shore while checking to see that it was in working order.
 “OK BOYS!” Tom yelled to the sailors “get the ship ready. I don’t want to take chances” 
The diesel engines stopped as suddenly as it had started. On the ship all eyes were focused on the shore line, waiting for the agreed sign .then it came, a brief flash of light, possibly from an electric lamp, the sort used by naval men. It came in brief flashes of long and short intervals 
“Moose code” tom thought to himself, Surprised. Turning to the first mate he gave a thumb up sign “light it up” The big searchlight flashed in answer.
 ‘Sure right it’s them, and they did not keep to the agreed time. They are three days late already.” said the first mate, not bothering to hide his irritation. ‘I hope they’ll give a good reason and tender apologies” tom remarked 
“You bet, they just as shoot you than say sorry” the first mate replied with a big smile on his Irish face 
“That’s not funny, now boys pull up that anchor, I don’t want any unpleasant surprises” 
‘Ok tally ho!”
 “Anchor up” 
“Ok, now smithy… gets some of the boys armed and make sure they keep it in sight”
 ‘Here they come” someone shouted. 
Tom turned just in time to see three speed boats leap out of the mangrove , initially running parallel to the shore line ,then cutting sharply right directly in line with the ship, The after wash trailing behind them like tails. When they hit open sea they abandoned the direct approach, zigzagging to avoid the worst of the ragging waves. At times they are lost behind a mountainous wave only to appear again on the crest of another one, the boats landing at the valley with a big splat. 
The boats were being driven at a reckless speed and at intervals leaps up in the air to land with a great splash.
Tom noted the skill of experienced sea men as the boat got closer. No, he wasn’t dealing with ignorant natives like this ship’s owner had had him believe. These guys that drive speed boats with the dexterity of a formula 1 driver and communicate via moose code are not ignorant. 
Artemis is a Greek ship. The owner had recently stumbled on the black gold mine of the Niger delta. A fellow ship owner who was shipmates with him in their younger days, suddenly seem to have limitless fund even at off season, throwing mind boggling parties for his mistress. It is not that ship owners are a poor lot but when someone starts ordering customized cars from the manufacturers and buys off all the luxury houses in the market at the rate angelos was doing, one is bond to ask questions, especially if that person once saved your life. So salvias did ask Angelos the source of his extra fortune.
Salvias took one look at him and took brought out a miniature map of Africa, propping it on the table he leaned over to whisper “ever heard of black gold?” 
Angelos thought for awhile scratched his bald plate “I believe it has something to do with petroleum” he said wondering what salvias was up to.
 “Yes, t has every thing to do with petroleum, back in the old days in the USA… that is what they called crude oil” salvias agreed. 
He shoved his fat fingers into his breast pocket, fumbled for awhile and fished out a gold plated pen of quality carat, leaned over once more and marked the bight of Biafra with two crosses.
 “The people of the Niger delta are at odds with the Nigerian government, they’ve being neglected for so long so the adventurous ones burst the pipes that crisscross they land to siphon the oil that they claim is rightly theirs. The government claims they are vandals and smugglers. I don’t really care who is right or whether their environment is wasting like they claim. I am not a politician or an environmentalist .the one thing that I am is a business man and shipping is my business.” He adjusted his large flame and took a sip of water which is the only thing he drinks these days, following keenly his doctor’s orders. He continued, talking a little slower this time, keeping his voice low. “There is an international syndicate in operation, they run everything, we are only paid to ship the oil to the desired location and keep our mouth shot” he stopped again to wag his fingers briefly in the air in an admonishing way “you don’t get this rich by talking to the wrong peoples” 
“What about the government, police and the security agencies, the…” Angelos asked. Keen to stay away from the police, with his kind of past he is always wary of the police. 
“Too under paid to do anything but partake” he paused to look around the restaurant, and then went on in a conspirational tone “some of the top government officials are involved. They supply the information and their tame police provide cover and help guard the loot” 
Angelos knows a straight deal when he sees one. So by the next month he was one of the elite ship owners engaged in booming business ferrying Nigerian oil illegally. Having paid the required protection fee to the smugglers, he dispatched his flag tanker Artemis to the bight of Biafra and after he paid off the syndicate he was on his way. 
Tom doesn’t care much about the details of a job as long as it is straight forward and to him straight forward means not coming to land. Left to his devise he can easily avoid most of the better equipped navies around so an ill equipped African navy is like a stroll in the park. The job of handling the local militants was left in the hands of an experienced lieutenant. He knows enough about shady deals to keep out off really deep parts. 
The boat reached the ship and a stern looking youth tossed a rope to the waiting hands of a sailor who grabbed it and secured it tightly. Tom was not overtly surprised to see that the occupants of the boat were armed. AK 47 seemed to be the weapon of choice, though some spotted what looked like American made assault riffles, all with the exception of the leader wore life jackets over combat pants and us army issue gum boots. The leader himself seemed to be a stoutly built youth with a dark brown complexion that is given an oily hue by his heavy sweating. He appears amiably and gentle though this in itself is deceptive, for if tom Vaneti knew the story of Sam ‘the beast’ Clark he would think to keep well away from him. 
Sam was born in the creeks of Delta state to civil service parents; he was big even as a child, now he weighs 120 pounds that is more muscle than fat, it’s his droopy eyes that give him that false impression of gentility that Tom noticed earlier. Gentle is one thing he is not.  
As a young boy he reigned supreme as the local bully, subjecting his victims to the most humiliating of ordeals. By the time he got to senior secondary, his notoriety was already legendary and grew by the day. He was instrumental to the free for all fight that ensued between school prefects backed by the SS3 students and the SS2 ‘big boys’ backed by the SS1 & 2. This earned him a deserved expulsion; this would have been the end of a lesser mortal but not the ‘beast’.  Two years later, while his peers were still battling with the twin hurdles of JAMB & SSCE, he some how found his way into ESUT where he continued in his tradition, immediately enlisting in the most dreaded fraternity where he rose like a shooting star through the ranks, becoming in a few months a gun hand, albeit a good one at that. His only problem was that he enjoyed his job too much and was responsibly for the demise of many an innocent student. For being the guilty finger in several avoidably avoidable skirmishes with rival cults, he had his gun taken from him and ‘promoted’ to recruiter to his apparent dislike. In his third year, bored and in the look out for trouble, he coaxed a soldier of a rival fraternity into a fight. Not satisfied with the way his capo handled the perceived insult, he led a big rebellion that saw him emerging as the undisputed head of his fraternity. His erstwhile capo was then resting in a 3 feet grave in the outskirts of Enugu. With this much power he felt invincible and sought to exert his relative influence on the student union governments of ESUT and IMT. Expectedly, this was resisted and a big war ensued between him fraternity and several others, resulting in the death of hundreds of students. This was between 1998 and 2000. 
Graduating after seven years, having put in extra years as a result of constantly going into hiding to wait the cooling off one war or the other, he was drafted into the so-called youth wing of a leading political party in the south east. Here, he discovered that he was not recruited for brains but brawns. His duties were almost identical to what he had done for years; make sure all opposition(s) is eliminated, pacify or kill any stumbling block, put fear in the heart of anyone who may be contemplating recalcitrance. For Sam, this was the life, get paid for something he would gladly do for free. Setting out immediately, he formed a strike force, made up of like minded guys from his fraternity.


© Copyright 2017 the Lame One. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Thrillers Short Stories