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Authors: Larry Johns

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BOOK: Place of Bones
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Isa pursed his lips and drew in a long breath, which he let out slowly. Yes, Kharim would surely know what was happening. But the truth was that he did not wish to hear it. They were happy in Kinshasa, and a child was on the way after all these years. How could it be that it was all over? Would they not...

The telephone jangled.

Isa laughed. That would be Kharim now. It could be no-one else. He smiled down at his wife and said simply, “You see? He calls
” He stepped across the room and lifted the telephone. “Isa..

“It’s Kharim.”

“Ah, Kharim! Salaam walaikum, a-hoi. Kaif halek?” Hello, brother. How are you?

“Don’t play the unconcerned with me, Isa. Is Miriam with you?”

“Yes, but -”

“Do not talk, Isa!  Go!  And go immediately!  It has happened almost exactly as you warned it would. I know you can hear it, so I need not explain. The Luana garrison will receive no support, if it is not already too late for that! Lumimba’s supporters have somehow immobilized all the aircraft at the Kikwit FZA base, plus those at the airport. Sugar in the petrol, so I am informed. The Fatunda garrison has risen against its officers. But this is not all. At present a large body of Lumimba’s people is marching on Luana. The Motanga regime is at an end, even if Motanga himself survives...”

Isa frowned. “Then who is at the garrison now, attacking it, I mean.”

“Mercenaries, dammit, Isa!  Their aircraft must have flown almost directly over your house. Did you not s - “

The line went suddenly dead.

Isa felt a surge of panic rise in his throat as he jiggled the rest. “Kharim!  Are you there?”

And it was at that moment that his front door burst open and the house was filled with a blood-curdling wailing sound. Seconds later, as Miriam ran to her husband’s side, the first man entered the living room. He was shabbily-dressed, but the gun in his hands glinted newly, as did the white stripe daubed across his nose and cheeks. Isa had time only to feel his bowels contract, to reach out to his wife, before the gun blazed at almost point-blank range, and he was dead.

Thus, Isa bin Mohammed bin Isa became the first person outside the Luanda garrison to fall victim to the assassination squads of Roderick Lumimba’s new regime, and Miriam became the first woman of such a household to be raped, many times by many people, then mutilated and eventually killed. By the time Mahindru’s two aircraft had arrived at the refueling point at Liranga, twenty-six members of Motanga’s administration, plus their families, would have met similar ends.

The revengeful blood-letting had begun.



Liranga dropped away below us. We swung back out of Congolese airspace, picked up the river, then turned north. “Everything according to plan,” said Mahindru over the intercom. “Now, that’s got to be nothing short of miraculous, colonel. How’re your wounded?”

“Two will probably make it,” I said, “Two probably won’t.” Of the forty-four men to make the flight south, thirty-six of us were making the trip back. I had not bothered to pick up the dead. Not even Brook. Time was the factor. Red-One had suffered three losses, plus one of the wounded. Red-Two; four dead, no wounded. Two of the dead were a result of the eruption of the arms room. Blue-One lost only its leader; Brook, but had three wounded on board. Blue-Two had come away completely unscathed. In terms of loss for loss it had been a very cheap action indeed.

Mahindru nodded. “I don’t wish to be accused of trying to teach my grandmother to suck eggs, colonel, but that was a hospital you shot buildings at, why didn’t you - “

He was referring to the wounded. I cut in. “I tried that last time around. They ended up hanging out of the windows by the bandages they’d been strapped up with. It’ll be pure, unadulterated mayhem back there now. You think you’ve seen killing already? You’ve seen nothing ‘til you see the
of a mercenary action!  In this business nothing is certain or over, until it’s over, and then it’s
It goes on, and bloody on! And I mean that literally. Try that call again.”

Mahindru shrugged and switched channels. “Base-One...Base-One...Base-One. Come in!”

The ether remained stubbornly silent.

“Full power,” I asked.

Mahindru nodded. “Blasting! Pushing sixty watts.”

I leant forward and looked at the map. We were coming up to the Zaire/Ubangui confluence. I touched the copilot’s shoulder. “Anything on your ‘scope?”

He shook his head. “Just our high-flying friend.”

I angled my head to see the tiny screen as the copilot switched to extreme range. The fluorescent blip indicated the aircraft to be flying at something over 50,000 feet, its position altering very little. “Going round in circles.” the copilot added.

I said, “Could be any one of a dozen people, but at a guess I’d say U.S. They’d be directly interested, with one of their seven-oh-sevens on the ground.”

“Or, to be more correct,” put in Mahindru with a grin, “spread all over it.”

How true, I thought. And I wondered why we could not raise Piet.

The copilot said, “Well, whoever it is, I doubt they can pick us out of the ground clutter."




Both McCann and the copilot were wrong in their assumptions. Firstly, the “high flyer” was a Russian AWAKS Tupolev, which had been hurriedly re-routed over the area from its normal patrol zone over the Arabian Gulf. And it had on board, as part of its standard equipment, infra-red scanners. The two helicopters showed up on those screens as tiny white blotches, which represented the two
heat signatures
given off by the exhausts of their jet engines. Also on their screens were the signatures of the two FZA aircraft, one of whose passengers was Craig Harding. These latter blips were currently approaching the glaring white smudges that represented the still-burning USAF 707, and the hanger. The FZA helicopter, which had put in at the airfield with engine trouble, was no longer burning, but was still hot enough to give off a signature of its own.

Craig Harding stared disbelievingly out the window as the column of dirty smoke came into sight on the horizon. Then, as his aircraft swept in over the Kikwit road, their inability to re-establish contact with Luana garrison was explained absolutely.

“Sweet Jesus! Craig!” This was the voice of Mike Glasson, Harding’s opposite number in the second aircraft. “What the -”

And that was all.

Speechless, Harding saw the streak of light curve sharply upwards to disappear into Glasson’s aircraft, which exploded in a blinding flash, the debris showering outwards and falling to earth. Harding, his mind unable to accept the truth of his sight, could only open his mouth soundlessly. A moment later he was able to squeeze out, “Mike?”

Then the second missile, disgorged from a SAM missile launcher in the hands of one of the new occupants of the Luana garrison, found its mark and Craig Harding, plus everyone else on board that aircraft, ceased to be.

On the ground, hidden in the bushes of the Luana Reserve and unable to move for fear of being seen, Arnold Hewes witnessed the two salvos. He sank down onto his haunches, shaking his head. “Madness...Madness...” was all he could utter.

Hewes remained where he was, as he was, for a very long time indeed. So still and motionless did he remain, in fact, that several curious hyenas approached to within inches of him, sniffing, and wondering.




On the patio of Casa Bianca, Mark Reteif was telling his story to Winterhoek and Jan Bluthen.

“...and when I say that the place was a shambles, I mean just that. It was a devastated shambles. There’s a hole driven up through the main building large enough to accommodate Saturn-Four. And the God, the dead! They litter the place; they
it in some places!” Reteif, a tall, bearded man in his early forties, was not given to over-statement, and both listeners knew it.

“Did you see Motanga?” asked Bluthen.

Reteif, in a nervous action, swatted at a fly in flight. “I did not!” he said positively, enunciating each word separately. He shuddered visibly. “They told me he had been castrated.”

Both Winterhoek and Bluthen nodded commiseration and wore suitable expressions of horror. But, in truth, they were beyond sensitivity of that kind. In any case, castration hardly rated as the worst kind of torture known to most Central African countries. Winterhoek said,”And how is the situation there now?”

Reteif shook his head and expelled a sigh. “Well, sir, all I can say is that Roderick Lumimba
to be coping.” He shrugged apologetically. “I’m sorry, sir, but I could not remain longer than was absolutely necessary. As it was I had to insist upon an armed escort. The death squads are

“Oh, quite.” said Winterhoek. “You were exactly - “ Benoit, Bluthen’s assistant, stepped out the French windows then. “Yes, Benoit?”

“Colonel McCann is attempting to raise the camp now, sir. Should
respond in any way?”

Winterhoek sank deeper into the cushions of his seat. He shook his head. “We will allow him to discover all for himself. He will certainly contact us after he arrives, at which time we will pass on Lumimba’s offer of employment.”

Bluthen said, “I doubt he will accept, sir.”

Winterhoek pulled a face. “The man is a mercenary, major. I’m certain that our own offer will appear too...too
for a man of his experiences.” He raised his eyebrows. “Besides, I am not altogether certain that he would be shall I put it?”

“A good example?” suggested Bluthen.

“Just so,” nodded Winterhoek, adding, “Once a mercenary, always a mercenary.”

were in his shoes,” put in Reteif, “a mercenary is the
thing I would wish to be...not after
  How can a man
that kind of thing?”

“How indeed,” agreed Winterhoek. He felt comfortably at ease now that it was as good as over, and he was willing to indulge in profitless small talk. “What would you be, then, if you were he?”

“Something in demolition, sir.”

They all laughed. Then Winterhoek said, “Could you bring us a radio, Benoit?” He glanced at the other two. “The various news broadcasts should make interesting listening, eh?”

Benoit went off. Reteif said, “Voice of America had a bulletin going out when I was flying over here, sir. Massive uprisings, they said. Situation unclear, and all that.”

Bluthen grunted. “Well, I suppose they’ll all be seeing things a little clearer now.”

Winterhoek remembered something. “You didn’t see anything of this man Hewes, while you were there, did you, Mark?”

“The American?”


Reteif shook his head. “No-one mentioned him, and I saw neither hide nor hair of a white face. Mind you,” he added, with a grimace, “after that first sight of the slaughter, I looked
as little as possible. Lumimba seemed pleased with it all, though. Hence his offer to the man responsible, I suppose.”

Winterhoek glanced up at him briefly. The remark, if heartfelt, was naive in the extreme. Then again, Winterhoek mused, it really depended upon his meaning of the word
was responsible, it was Brown. Or whoever cooked up his operation in the first place. Colonel Robert McCann stood a very long way down the list in terms of primary responsibility.

Benoit returned with a portable radio, which he placed on the table. “I’ll stand by the receiver downstairs, then, sir.”

Winterhoek nodded. “Please do.”

Bluthen added. “Let me know if you want a break from it, David.” Then he leant forward and turned the radio on.

Benoit returned to the patio close to an hour later, to find the three men something the worse for the whisky they were drinking. “Word from Kinshasa, sir. It seems that
Lion Force
has melted into the countryside without a shot having been fired.”

Winterhoek smiled happily. “The new freedom fighters go to ply their trade.” He raised his glass. “A toast, gentlemen...the new freedom fighters!”

The toast over, Bluthen, the least drink-effected of the three, said, “They may simply go home, sir.”

“Oh, I do hope
chuckled Winterhoek, as merry as he ever remembered himself. “We need them. Zaire, or whatever it will be called now, needs them. Lasting democracy requires opposition. Look at
It may take time, but it happens in the end. And
opposition!” He looked momentarily puzzled, as if by his own words. His face turned serious and he stared into the glass. “I joke, of course.”

The three other men exchanged glances. Bluthen said, “Of course!”

Winterhoek stood up suddenly. He looked somberly from face to face. Then he said, “Gentlemen...” He placed his glass carefully on the table, “I must ask you to excuse me. A short nap is indicated. Thirty minutes should suffice, I think. And if I were to find strong, black coffee on my bedside table at the end of that time, instead of the customary tea, I would not be ungrateful.”  Without another word, he stepped inside.




Arnold Hewes had never considered himself a particularly brave man. In fact, he knew there to be a streak of pure cowardice lurking within him. Back in the operations room he had known only blind fear, terror. How he had not voided himself, he did not know. How he had survived, he did not know. But survive he had. He had even made his own escape, by the only route available to him - through the gate to the airfield. He knew now, of course, that he should have waited those few extra minutes until the two helicopters had taken off. There would have been time and to spare for him to have walked out the main gate to the road, before the ragged army arrived at the airfield to siphon in through the very gate he had left by.

He had hidden in the bushes near the football pitch - the real one, as opposed the makeshift one on the parade ground - as the gun- and machete-waving throng had streamed past him. And in those bushes he had remained. From there he had witnessed the destruction of the two incoming FZA aircraft, and he had watched, dry-mouthed and shaking, some forty or so of the new arrivals swarming over the only parts of the 707 to remain more or less intact. The tail section, and the flight deck. The former, however, was some 70 feet from the scene of the original explosion. Then, at last, these men had apparently seen enough and had returned to the compound, leaving Hewes in unbelievable solitude.

Later - Hewes had no idea how
later - he had crept from the bushes and started to run. He was over the hill, already out of sight of that scene of death and destruction, when he brought himself up sharply, puffing and drenched in the sweat of his exertions. In the distance, near what appeared to be a road, choked with traffic headed out of Kinshasa, he saw the Inkisi Springs Hotel. He did not know its name, of course, but it looked just what it was - a major tourist hotel, and as such it promised sanctuary. And a telephone!

At first, Hewes wondered why he had stopped running. For safety - though distant and on the other side of a high, wire fence - was at least in sight. Then he realized. The crew of the 707. He had to know.

The four officers had been offered accommodation in Kinshasa for the short duration of their stay, but had opted to remain close to their aircraft, after their request, that they be allowed to move it the few miles to Kinshasa International Airport, had been politely averted. Luana airfield, Motanga had insisted, had a perfectly adequate hanger which was in need of use. And thus it had been, the crew making up beds in the aircraft.

BOOK: Place of Bones
12.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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