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Sunday, 19 May 2013

BLOOD RIVER - The Beginnings

I have started Blood River and here are the first 2 chapters - I am on Chapter 3 right now ----


Of Wilson Akingbade



Reginald Dartington-Grant fell down for the fourth time, this time it was because he hadn't seen the fallen tree in the long, thick grass. He cursed as he sat back up on his haunches, his shirt wringing wet with sweat. He drew out a cloth from a pocket and wiped the sweat from his brow. Ahead, Mundata, his guide, had stopped and was looking back at him in exasperation.
"Bloody country, why is it so hot!" It wasn't a question, more of a challenge. Mundata didn't answer, it was his 'bloody country', and it was fine for him.
"Take a break, Mundata, I need a rest."
"Not here Mister Dartington-Grant, here is bad idea. Must get up there, to the rocks."
"No, I must stop."
Mundata looked past Reginald to the men carrying his bags on their heads. He wasn't going to risk all those lives. He called out in his own dialect, "Mukilile tatansuwika, jambasha nditote, zimzi, zimzi." He had given order to the bearers to pick up Reginald and follow him quickly up the rocky slope.
"Hey, what's going on?" Reginald felt himself bodily lifted off the ground by a huge man and slung over his shoulder like a rag doll.
"We must climb Mister Dartington-Grant; you hot and tired, Bakange carry you up. We cannot stay here. Must move, quickly."
"Why, what's wrong with here, it's shady, nice soft grass and lots of brightly coloured sticks I can study?"
"Not bright sticks, poisonous snakes, sleeping now, soon wake. We stay, we die."
Mundata was pointing down at three entwined 'Gaboon Adders', which looked like a pile of autumn leaves, mottled yellow and red with brownish tinges. These well-camouflaged snakes sleep in the heat of the day but it does not take much to wake them up. The bite of this adder is fatal if not treated within seven minutes. Mundata was right; they couldn't stay a moment longer. Reginald's fourth fall had caused vibrations in the ground and they were beginning to stir. Bakange increased his stride, stepping over a hissing snake as he did so, the others scrabbled up the rocks, and within two minutes, they were all up out of the adder-infested valley and back in the merciless sun. Reginald cursed as Bakange plonked him heavily onto the ground between two rocks. He had questioned the reason why he was there a dozen times since the ship had docked at the coast, a hundred miles away.

Seven weeks had passed since he sailed from Plymouth. After all that time at sea, only catching a glimpse of land now and then, he had been glad to get his feet on dry land.
It was eighteen hundred and nine and someone had suggested that he go deep into the interior of West Africa because a French explorer searching for the source of the Kandiachana River had said that there might be precious stones along its course.
His Majesty, King George III had despatched an order to Reginald's institution, the Royal Geological Society, to secure mining rights for the country. It was an easy order to give, but a tough one to fulfil. It was that order that influenced Reginald to join the Lady Jane Grey as she sailed out of Plymouth, bound for the colonies in the south. The Lady Jane Grey was a four masted schooner and faster than some at nine knots, but rolled a lot even in moderate swell. Reginald had spent the first four days lying on his bunk an awful green colour. He wished he could die and end the awful illness. 

After the first week, when the ship had cleared the Bay of Biscay, he felt a little better. He had enjoyed the brief respite as they docked in the Spanish Canaries to take on a few more passengers and supplies. He had strolled about the main town of Las Palmas on Grand Canaria and enjoyed a cool drink made from red wine and oranges. He decided that he would make a note to take some of that back to England on the return journey. He wished he had a jug full of it right now as he squinted up at the burning sun, high in the sky. It would be at least four hours before there would be any relief from its wicked finger.

"Mister Dartington-Grant, here is cave, inside please, we take break here."  Mundata pointed towards a black hole in the rocks behind Reginald and then to the others he called out in their dialect, "Bamba tuti minta na'ani assanta'ike. Puzza n'kize hakankita." In English, it translated as "Into the cave chaps with all the baggage."

Reginald needed no further bidding and headed for the cool cave. The bearers slid in behind him and stacked the kit bags against one wall. Mundata sat in the entrance and pulled out of his shoulder sling something that looked like a dried tree root. He pulled out a long sharp knife, cut a piece off the 'root', and flicked it into his mouth from the blade of the knife. The knife and 'root' returned to their original places and Mundata sat and chewed slowly and deliberately. Reginald watched and wondered, was Mundata chewing tobacco? Was it growing here too, not just in the Americas? He began to consider that it might be a more profitable venture if tobacco was growing wild in the country. Then he remembered the words of the King's messenger, "His Britannic Majesty demands that his envoy secure the mining rights in the hinterland behind his colony of Gold Coast and grants free and safe passage to his envoy to return home when he has fulfilled his demand."

Reginald knew the true translation of the message was, "The King says, 'get out to the land north of the Gold Coast, get me my mining rights, and you'll be allowed to come home'."
He knew that to fail meant exile or death. He knew that to change the end product from precious stones to tobacco would have the same result. He considered that it was worthwhile asking because he could not return empty-handed. At least if the riverbed came up empty, he could hold out tobacco as an offering. He called across to Mundata, "Hey, Mundata, what do you call that? I mean what are you chewing?"
Mundata looked at him quizzically and then he grinned showing the half chewed pinkish mess in his mouth. "Chakki."

That reply was of no assistance at all to Reginald. Mundata realised that Reginald was no wiser by his answer; he pulled out the 'root' and cut a small sliver, offering to Reginald. The geologist looked at it for a few seconds. He was not a user of tobacco; he considered it a foul product of nature that took over the very soul of its user.
"Eat, good, chakki, from my home."

Reginald took the sliver and placed it between his teeth. He gently bit it. Nothing happened. It was hard; he bit a little harder and felt it begin to soften. As he slowly chewed on it, he felt the flavour begin to come out. Meat and spices, a little peppery. His eyebrows rose involuntarily and Mundata clapped his hands in delight.
"This is meat?"
"Yes, Sir, meat, Pundu Chakki."
"Pundu Chakki?"
"Yes sir, the Pundu is little animal, long horns, brown fur, like small cow. Chakki, my language for dried meat."
Reginald gasped, "This is meat from an Antelope, and you spice it and dry it?"
Mundata laughed and clapped his hands again in delight, the white man was experiencing his first taste of the dried meat they had eaten for centuries, "Yes, we kill Pundu and take skin for bed or woman covering, then clean meat, hang in small cage in hot wind with spices all over. Three weeks, chakki."
"Pundu Chakki." Reginald said softly, "Now THAT's something to take back home!"
"Why you want take chakki home, you got no meat at home?"
Reginald laughed, "Oh yes, we have meat, lamb, pork, beef…. Lots of meat."
"Lumb? Pokk? Biff? They little animals like Pundu?"
"No, a minute ago you said 'cow', do you eat the meat from cows?"
"Cow meat, yes, not make good chakki, too much bleeding."
"Well, we call cow meat, beef, from another language, French, Boeuf."
It made little sense to Mundata; Reginald might as well be speaking French. Although the French had been active in nearby areas, Mundata had little experience of them.
"Know cow meat, biff you call. Not know this lumb or pokk you say."
"Listen carefully, not LUMB, LAMB," Reginald realised that the long drawn out way he had said lamb made him sound like one, so he made the sound of a lamb. Mundata looked astonished, "M-a-a-a-a-a? I know!" He made two horns out of his index fingers and then pulled out a small ball of fluff from his sling, "small horns, short leg, fat and thick fur, black."

Reginald had only ever seen one black sheep and thought they were a rarity. He wondered if that was why someone was named a black sheep if different from the rest of the family. He took the small ball of black wool from Mundata's fingers. "Yes, this is the fur. We call it WOOL."
"Nearly, that's good enough. Have you eaten the meat?"
"We call animal Fah'sa, no, not eat meat. Kill Fah'sa, no fur."
"We have two kinds of, what was that 'Far Shar'? One we keep for wool, the other we have for meat."
Mundata's eyes were huge, "You take wool off one Fah'sa, meat off other Fah'sa?"
Reginald laughed at the thought of shearing one sheep and then paring off meat from another.
"No, the Far Shar we eat, we kill first. We take off the wool, kill the sheep, use the skin, eat the meat."
"Oh, must have many Fah'sa? We only have three, maybe four."
"Yes, the people who keep sheep, fah'sa, have hundreds."
"Hunn dridds?"

Reginald looked down, picked up a stick, and then drew a line in the sand. "ONE" he said holding up his finger, then drew another and said "TWO".  Mundata nodded.
Reginald drew eight more lines and said "TEN" holding up all his fingers.
"Kooch" said Mundata, holding his up.
Reginald now closed and opened his hands twice and said "Ten, ten – two tens – TWENTY"
"Kiliche" said Mundata, doing the same.
"Oh good," muttered Reginald to himself, "He's getting the idea." Then he opened and closed his hands ten times and said, "ONE HUNDRED."
Mundata looked at him and then opened and closed his hands slowly, saying the name to himself as he did so, "Kooch, Kiliche, Muzki, Fijike, Masz'ne, Dikhle, Umza, Lilike, Noctozi, AMTAZI. Amtazi – Hunn Dridd!" he laughed and Reginald couldn't help laughing too, then Mundata stopped and looked quite concerned, "People have that many Fah'sa?"
"Yes, many times that many – hundreds."
"That a lot of Fah'sa!"
"Yes, much wool and meat for a lot of families."
"Your home good. I go for water, wait here."
Mundata disappeared down the slope to the right, the opposite way to their line of ascent.
A few minutes later he returned with a skin bottle full of water. He held it out to Reginald.
"Here drink, waterfall there, out of rock, clean, no pains." He pointed to his stomach.
"Thank you Mundata." He took a long drink and then passed it on to the others. He dropped his head down on his pack and dozed.


Upper Kandiachana River, three days later.

The morning sun began to warm the tent and as Reginald stirred, he heard the sounds of the waterfowl close by and the call of the exotic birds in the overhanging trees. His nostrils flared as he smelled the wood smoke of the fire and an aroma that was foreign to him, but delicious. He picked up his boots, upturned them, tipped out a couple of insects who scuttled away in disgust, and slipped them onto his feet. He pulled on a shirt and buttoned the waistband on his shorts. He sniffed again at the smell as he unhooked the entrance to the tent and stepped out into the cool crisp morning air. 

Ahead of him, a dozen yards from the water’s edge he saw Mindila, Mundata’s brother, bent over the fire he had started half an hour sooner. He either heard Reginald, or his native instincts told him someone was behind him, for he turned to face the explorer as he approached. “Mulingwe Makuzi.” He said, bobbing gently once. Reginald had already learned that the expression used by Mindila was a polite greeting, “Good morning big boss.” He also had been told how to return the greeting and promptly replied, “Mulingwe Banta Zapote.” (Good morning faithful man). Mindila clapped his hands in delight. He had only ever seen one white man in his life before, a huge man with a big beard, at the docks when a ship came in for supplies. He had been scared almost witless and vowed to keep away from any of these strange light-skinned people. After a week with his better educated and experienced brother as bearer to Reginald, he had come to quite like the oddities he was discovering about them. The first thing he learned was that they weren’t anything to fear, why they could die just from sitting in the sun and didn’t even know anything about the fundamental dangers of living rough in the African jungle. He smiled as he pushed aside his earlier fears, for here was a man whose life depended upon the skills of Mundata and the bearers. That made him feel proud and important.

“What is that delightful smell?” Reginald asked. Now, Mindila’s English was very limited. He had no idea what the question was. He grinned, pointed up to the sun and then to the rising mist out on the river.
“Puzme aga’te mulundwiza wakutze.” (You sleep well, look that day’s well along.) His eyes fell upon Reginald’s finger, pointing at the fire.
He figured that a white man maybe had not ever seen a fire before.
“Swik’ka, putzelantu swik’ka.” (It’s fire, breakfast fire.) At least it was getting closer, even though Reginald had less of a clue what Mindila was saying, than the bearer had of his English question.
Mundata arrived with more wood and saved Mindita’s embarrassment.
“Good morning sir, you have good sleep last night, seem to lie like you die in tent?”
“Wonderful.” Reginald smiled, glad he was back on conversational terms with someone. “It was the best night’s sleep I’ve had all week.”
“Good, now I get breakfast for you.”
“What is that smell, I have never smelt it before but it just made me get up?”

Mundata grinned as he reached down and picked a handful of pale brown beans from a small leather bag. He held them out to Reginald. “Kof’ay.”
(I can hear you say, ‘hold on a minute – coffee was known in England for over a century already.’ – so, let me explain, Reginald came from Derbyshire and was a tea drinker, he’d been offered coffee before and refused it. He had never smelt it freshly made.)
“What, those little beans, coffee?” He exclaimed as he regarded their bland appearance.
“Yes, kof’ay, grow up mountains, make good drink to wake man up.”
Reginald took one and held it up to the light of the sun and then sniffed it, it didn’t have the aroma that had beckoned him from his tent.
“This doesn’t smell the same as whatever is on the fire, why?”

Mundata shook his head, “No, this just berry, have to er,” he scratched his head and muttered, “Jubinje mutake…” and then brightened up and continued, “I think you say loast, when you cook something in fire?”
“Loast?  - oh you mean roast, yes, we say roast. In English it is when we put something dry into a closed dish and inside the oven, inside the fire, yes.”
Mundata understood about half of Reginald’s expression, but he was pleased he had got the term right, even if he fell into the common trap of transposing R and L. “Loast, yes, we have to loast the berries in the fire. Here, now see.” He held out dark black versions of the coffee beans for Reginald to see.
Reginald took one and went through the same ritual including disappointment when it didn’t smell a lot different from the first one.
Mundata didn’t wait, he held up one finger to show he hadn’t finished yet. Then he took a few of the beans, placed them into a small stone cup and, with the handle of his knife, crushed them coarsely. He held the cup out to Reginald.
“Now you breath in from this cup.”

Reginald grinned, it was a strange way of saying “Now smell it.” He sniffed at the cup and gasped in surprise. “That’s it, that’s the smell!”
Mundata went to the fire and lifted a small pot of bubbling brown liquid, produced a piece of woven cloth and draped it over a tin mug before gently pouring some of the steaming coffee onto it.

A minute later, he removed the cloth and handed the cup to Reginald. “Here drink. This give you kick like Zigga!” He laughed.
Reginald had already learned that a ‘Zigga’ was a Zebra, and he knew how they can kick having seen one kick its way out of a wooden shed to escape its captors. He took a sip. It was invigorating, far more so than tea.
Reginald Dartington-Grant had drunk his first cup of fresh roasted, fresh ground coffee, on a high plateau a hundred and fifty miles into a country where no white man had been before. It was a proud moment for him. 

There was a lot more excitement yet to come........

Chapter 3 is in progress - do you like this so far -----?   TELL ME!!


I didn't write this - but I want to share it - - - -


Mary Hitchins was happily married, or so she thought until she caught her husband in bed with his secretary.....

She told Tom, her husband, she was leaving him and would do so within the day. She waited for him to leave for work and then she set about making her own plans.
She called a removal firm and set about packing her personal items and things she thought she should have, into boxes ready for the removal men. She had found a small flat in the wanted ads and already secured it.

The removal men were due at 2:00 and she was going to get the keys for the flat at 3:00 so it was all going to plan. She went down to the supermarket and bought a kilo of prawns in their shells and a 250g tub of caviar. She sat down at the table with a bottle of spring water and ate the prawns and caviar between sips of cool water. She had a reason for this meal. Every time she finished a prawn, she took the head and swiped a little caviar on it and dropped it into a dish. Then, when the removal men were loading her things, she went round the house, popping off the ends of the curtain rods, which were chrome tubes and placing inside a couple of the heads and caviar. As she replaced the last cap end on the last curtain rail, the men said they had finished and she locked the door, dropped the keys back through the letter box and said goodbye to that part of her life.

Later that day, Tom returned home, this time with his new partner, his secretary and together they itemized the things they needed to replace, things Mary had taken. They had a take-away Chinese and slipped into bed. It’s not the purpose of this story to follow their every move... so we move on a few days....

It was a hot weekend that brought it to the fore. The smell I mean. Tom sat up and sniffed. Melissa his new girlfriend sat up and sniffed. Just what was that smell?
They opened the window and sniffed. No, it wasn't outside. It seemed to be all over the house, everywhere they sniffed there it was.

Over the next two weeks they had workmen in, looking for dead animals in the walls, under the floor, in the roof space and inside the ceiling. They found nothing and the smell just got worse with every day.

They decided they couldn't live there any more and put the house on the market, with three different estate agents, but no-one wanted to buy their stinky house.
Eventually, no-one would come to the house, taxis stopped 100 metres up the road, the postman left the mail with the corner shop and the newspaper boys stuck the paper in the gate.

Workmen refused to call and quickly ended any phone call. Estate agents wouldn't answer the phone and Tom was in despair.

Expecting this to be the case, Mary, who had refused to sign the divorce papers called Tom and made a generous offer.
'Sell me the house at a good price, and I'll sign the papers.'
Tom agreed and asked her to meet him along with the solicitors that afternoon. She signed the divorce papers which Tom's solicitor duly witnessed. Then, as agreed, the house papers were drawn up and Mary's solicitor handed over a certified cheque for £12900 which was one tenth of its value.
It was agreed that Tom would move out by 3:00 the following day and Mary would get the keys by 4:00.

At 3:00 Melissa said, 'The cow, taking you for so much, I think we'll just leave her with light bulbs.'
To spite Mary, Melissa took down and loaded into the van, all the curtain rods from the house.........


Saturday, 17 March 2012


BLOOD RIVER – Synopsis

It's just the turn of the nineteenth century, and West Africa, to be precise, the upper reaches of the Kandiachana River, one of the feeder tributaries to the Congo basin.
Reginald Dartington-Grant is a British expeditionary explorer, looking for precious gemstones and metals in the deep jungles of Africa. He finds one of the richest seams of corundum (aluminium oxide) in Africa, where the crystals have been corrupted by chromium, giving them a deep, blood red colour. Rubies, as big as and better quality than those from the Indian continent. It's not a simple matter of staking a claim, he has to document his find, have the stones confirmed and lodge a formal expedition request to the governments involved. Then he must get men and equipment out to the area and establish a defendable mining town. News travels fast and the loose tongue of a drunken bearer in a coastal bar has the world set aflame. Suddenly the race is on, the Germans, the French and the Dutch all becoming actively involved in making the river and its rocky treasure store theirs. The local Shibumba natives, cannibals and headhunters, add to the drama. As if that isn't enough, the river is full of hungry crocodiles and the jungle well populated with predators and poisonous creatures of all kinds. Jurgens Kootzee, a South African diamond and emerald expert, recruits his own team and tries to beat the lot to the best mining corridor. Hans Freyer, sent by the Kaiser himself, will stop at nothing to secure the rubies for the Fatherland. Michael Smith, despatched by a wealthy stockbroker, has little back up to help his quest, while two near neighbours, Jean Gristeau, Paris, and Henri Mars, Brussels, nearly kill each other on the ship, before they even get there. How Dartington-Grant survived and succeeded is the most amazing story. I am pleased to be your storyteller.

Bob Curby 2012©



HIDDEN - Synopsis
Date 3569.7
Place Majaxan, Asphorian Nebula, 7.2986 Light Years from Earth
The growing need for energy supplies means that prospectors have to go further and further to find them. When they do, they document and categorise the planet, grading it from 0 - completely barren and needing maximum life support, to 10 - earth-like breathable air and temperature, life supportive. A letter, from A - No hostility, to D - extreme likelihood of life loss, is added to the number.
Majaxan is classified 2-A, barren, but no life threats. The planet is covered with a purplish crystalline dust, like tiny marbles, which reflect the light from the huge star Limenzo at the centre of its solar system, making it appear to glow. Apart from the interstellar prospector Xymergi Dyzcom, nobody has set foot on the planet before. It is 50 minutes by jump-drive from Earth, around seven and a quarter light years away. Nobody is aware of the inhabitants of the planet, living deep under the crystalline surface. On Earth, in desert regions, many have been intrigued to watch the Distoleon Tetragrammicus larva or 'Ant Lion' at work. This tiny predator makes a conical 'pit', at the bottom of which it sits, waiting. The ant falls in, struggles to climb the sandy slope and suddenly, the huge jaws of the predator strike and the ant disappears forever. The planet's inhabitants are gargantuan cousins of Distoleon Tetragrammicus, a hundred times bigger. Not knowing this, Drazric, the Mintaren commander of the Zorg Class mining freighter ‘Explorer VIII’, and his 23 crew, lands on the planet. Before he and his ship are destroyed, he flees as sole survivor.

Bob Curby 2012©

Writing commenced March 2012 - completion target December 2013

Wednesday, 7 March 2012



A Book-Works Publication ©2012


Botoka, the State of Dajkouti, West Africa.
Presidential palace: 04:00 Monday 16th March 1973.

"Do not move, remain where you are. Keep your hands visible. This is General Azmizo Fejethakti; your throne is now mine, Sir."
The speaker was an imposing military man, well over two metres in height and weighing in excess of one hundred and ten kilos. He was not fat. He was very fit.
President Hadjikata had been a little rash in the last few years, spending money on lavish unnecessary luxuries while country starved. The military commanders had met and decided that he must go. The decision was clear because, during the last few years, he had refused to call a general election. After a meeting that lasted an hour, General Fejethakti was chosen to oversee the handing over of power to the people of Dajkouti.
President Hadjikata reached out and turned on the bedside lamp. He squinted at the four battle-clad figures before him. "Who are you, and with what right do you invade my home?"
"I repeat Sir; I am General Azmizo Fejethakti of the Dajkouti security forces. I am ordered by the military commanders to take your throne sir. You are no longer the President of Dajkouti. You may get dressed, and with your wife and family, take whatever personal possessions without which you feel you cannot live. We will escort you to wherever you feel you would like to live and you may then live on in peace. As from now I assume the role of President of Dajkouti."

BBC NEWS Monday 16th March, 1973:
"Today, the Military Junta in Dajkouti, West Africa, deposed President Joseph Hadjikata in a whirlwind overnight military coup.
General Azmizo Fejethakti now holds the office of President. He is known to be anti-west and very much pro-the east. Western governments are concerned over the developments by the military status and the stability of the economy of West Africa. The Prime Minister, Martin Stedman has today issued a statement in relation to the protection of British Companies currently operating in the state of Dajkouti. He promised action to protect the assets of those companies and the British workers who live in and around them. Travel to Dajkouti is suspended and anyone on holiday in Dajkouti will be safely air-lifted."

Robin Templar reached forward and switched off the television. He sat quietly for a few moments and then he reached for the telephone. As the head of MI6, he had a large workload and it had suddenly got a whole lot bigger. He dialled a number and waited. He heard the ring response in the ear-piece, "Brrrr—brrrr…….Brrrrr—brrrr….." and then a voice met his ears.
"Gerry, we need to meet, please call COBRA (along with Templar and Davidson, the Home Secretary, COBRA was made up of Martin Stedman the Prime Minister, Trevor Hyde-Williams the head of MI5, Alex Fernly the Foreign Secretary and the Head of Military Operations, Admiral Mostyn), try and set a date that is convenient for everyone, and as soon as possible. Tell each one it's to do with the protection of assets in Dajkouti."
"Right, bad news Robin, I'll book a room and get everyone together tomorrow morning. Dajkouti is not within British jurisdiction so we need careful planning on this."
Dajkouti, straddling two long rivers that flowed south westerly into the neighbouring country Jambouta, and backing up against the Assissa Mountains in the north, was rich in minerals vital to British industry. Able Aaronsen, the CEO of Brit-Ameri-Corp, who mined the copper, zinc, cobalt and silver in the country, was in a state of panic when he called the Foreign Secretary immediately the news broke.
"Foreign Secretary, my Board members are extremely concerned about our ability to continue to mine the resources in Dajkouti, given that Azmizo Fejethakti is notorious in his hatred of the West and will not easily grant us zone-free un-encumbered continuation of our operations in the country. In addition my staff and workers make a sizeable number of British and American citizens."
Alex Fernley, Foreign Secretary, was a sharp witted man, but kindly and he could empathise with Able. He chose his words carefully.
"The Government understands the predicament into which this coup has placed our major companies in the state of Dajkouti. I received a telephone call a few moments ago from the offices of our security services. An emergency meeting has been called for tomorrow morning at 08:00. We will be sure to discuss the very issues that your Board is concerned about."
"I hope so Sir, for some of our Board it would be a financial disaster, so much so that the company is prepared to fund whatever is needed to stabilise the situation speedily. We could, but do not wish to, airlift the key workers out of the area. We feel that it is of greater value to maintain the mining operation, and on that basis, whatever it costs, you can look to us for funds."
"That sounds like a bribe, a back-hander Mr Aaronsen."
Able Aaronsen squirmed, it did sound like a bribe, but he knew that military protection of mines was not going to be cheap. He wanted his people protected. At fifty years of age, he held under his belt nearly thirty years in the mining industry. He recollected that in the old days, the miners would have taken care of things themselves, but in the modern society, it was not acceptable to just go out with guns and take on whoever got in the way of mining.
"Well, not a bribe, but an assurance. You see, we know you have planned already to remove this new tyrant and threat to the British economy. We just want to make sure your funds hold out, that's all."
The Foreign Secretary smiled, he knew that Aaronsen, Swedish by birth, was not trying to bribe him but he enjoyed winding up the man.
"Able, if we need funds, our American cousins will no doubt assist, if they wish to do so via your Company, then we will not argue with that."
"I believe the same conversation is taking place between my US counterpart and the Secretary of State."
"I will update you about lunch time tomorrow, in the meantime, try and keep in touch with your man in charge out in Botoka.
The more information you can give us, the better."
"We don't have anyone in Botoka, but my Chief Engineer is Harry Gould in Haltjai, he knows one of the local ombudsmen in Botoka who was close to the President. Hopefully they haven't put him in prison, he will keep us informed."
Botoka, the capital city, was half way up a three thousand metre high mountain and sixty kilometres from its airport. The mining capital of Haltjai nestled deep into the Assissa Mountains, a hundred kilometres from Botoka and had only a helicopter port and a strip for light aircraft. Anyone who needed to fly in from a major country, had to land at Alari airport, sixty kilometres south of Botoka and around the half-way mark from the border of Jambouta, the neighbouring country, through which all coastal traffic travelled. Jambouta was a country in the hands of pirates who stripped any western travellers of anything valuable before they reached the border with Dajkouti. These factors had to be taken into consideration when thinking through any strategy that they would take. Able Aaronsen had to try and get to sleep and let the 'boys at the top' sort out the strategy so he agreed with recommendation Alex had made.
"Okay, Alex, I'll wait for your call in the morning."
The receivers fell back into their rests and both men, half a city apart, sat staring at the ceiling, wondering what the future was going to be for them all.

 ------ you'll need to buy the book to read any more.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

A Tragedy Turned Around

This is the scene - the head of the security division responsible for UK mainland anti-terrorist protection, has resigned his commission because the woman he loved, from a distance, a co-worker and vital member of the team, died in his arms after getting in the way of his attacker. What follows is the final scenario in this tale.
The names used are characters created by the author BOB CURBY and there is a guest name, a service cab driver code named MI5Spycab, the name is used with his permission.
I invite you to join me at ANDERSON'S RETREAT:

Anderson's Retreat
07:00 McCardle Bray: Loch Coogan
Parry Anderson banged his hand down on the jangling alarm. It was seven days since Melissa had died, right there in his arms and he hadn't slept properly since. The alarm was superfluous and annoying, but he left it on just the same. Somehow, his resignation from S-5 provided nothing more than extra time to dwell upon those last moments together.

Every night he closed his eyes all he could see was Ryker Dobjek, his eyes aflame and shouting Parry’s name before Melissa tried to calm him and took the knife into her chest as he thrust it at Parry. Parry’s night was full of turmoil, he would awaken, yelling her name, sweat pouring from every part of his body.

"Melissa, oh Melly, why did you get in the way, it should have been me! Not you, not you!" he would cry out, before sobbing into the pillow.
Parry's enemies would love to see the once tough decision maker sobbing this way, but luckily only Charlie, his faithful Labrador witnessed his anguish. This morning he rolled over as usual and sat up, his eyes showing the signs of yet another sleepless night. Somehow he had a feeling that there was something different about this day. Charlie was sitting on the carpet beside his bed as usual and looking at him with those sad brown eyes. He reached out and fondled the ears of the only warm creature left in his life.

"Okay Charlie, I'm up, let me take a shower and then I'll take you out for a nice long walk, we can get some breakfast when we get back, come on, good boy."

Parry went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He shuddered as the first burst of cold water hit his body and shook his head to rid himself of the wooziness of being tired. He dressed quickly and headed for the door, Charlie joined him as he flicked the lead off the hook by the door. "Come on Charlie."
As he closed the door, the phone began to ring, but he didn't hear it.

Back at Acorn House, Colin looked across at Elizabeth  who had once again taken up the reigns of section head. "Either we're too late and Parry's gone out, or he's in a whiskey induced drunken stupor. I don't think it was a good idea to let him go off into the remote highlands all by himself."
Elizabeth Booth, sighed as she thought of Parry, alone in his retreat, "The choice was not ours, we are lucky he gave us a number." She looked down at the sheet of paper in her hand, it was Parry's resignation letter to the Home Secretary Edgar Murray. At the bottom was a rubber stamp impression;  it was in red and clear, one word, "DENIED".

"We have to let Parry know he still works for us. This letter was rejected because he is the only one who can run this section, and that's tough for me to say."

Colin replaced the receiver and nodded to Danbury, "One of us will have to go."
Danbury smiled, "I've been needing some fresh air, a trip to Scotland would be just the job."

"If anyone's going, it'll be me, I owe him that much." Liz shook her head as she replaced the letter in the brown transfer jacket and handed it to Danbury. "You're in charge, I'm going now."

"Can I help?" The voice from the doorway took them by surprise, it was Tim Kerr. Liz looked at him for several seconds before she spoke. "If Danbury thinks you are going to be useful here, then you are welcome to stay. Oh, and well done in tying up the loose ends after Melissa's death. We would never have convicted Tomascieski of the plot to cause a rift between us and the new Russian initiative. He'll never bother anyone again."
"It was ordered by Mostyn when SIS became aware of the intel, I felt I owed Mel that much. Now I'm here to help."

"Your help is ways appreciated Tim, Colin, update him on the current situation, I must go."
Elizabeth turned and headed for the exit door as Colin and Danbury began to fill Tim in on the happenings of the previous few days. She dialled a number and placed the mobile phone to her ear as she headed for the lift. "Hello, MI5Spycab? Meet me out front in ten minutes, I will need to go to Kings Cross."

The department's specialist taxi was on its way and drew up as Liz left Acorn House.
"Kings Cross you said ma'am, have you a train time? The traffic's pretty bad. I could hack the Met's traffic light control to get us through quicker."
"I need the next available northbound train out of London, and if you think that will help, do it."
"I'm on it. I should say that one of your senior officers in S5, Archie Mellor, has an operative, codename Zarkov, who flies a Lynx helicopter, he could collect you from St Pancras and have you in Scotland by lunch time."
"Get him then, or better still, give me the number."
"Mellor is only contactable via Haversham, and I don't have a number for Zarkov. I can ping him though, I have already done that."
"Thank you, let me know as soon as he responds."

The taxi weaved its way through the rush hour traffic, the traffic lights almost miraculously changing to green as they approached them. MI5Spycab smiled to himself, he enjoyed his work, and the extra bonus of taxi fares.
He heard a ping and saw Zarkov's message, "On my way, ETA St Pancras heliport 17 minutes."

He looked in the mirror at Elizabeth, thought to himself, "How can such a gorgeous chick be in charge of S-5?"
As if reading his very thoughts Liz said, "You're wondering how a woman could be in charge of the section, well, I am. Any reply from Mellor's man?"
MI5Spycab hid his embarrassment and replied, "He'll be on the helipad about the time we get there, it's very fast."

She didn't speak again until she opened the door at St Pancras, "Thank you, for everything."
"You're welcome ma'am." He drove away to hack into the network of dissidents once again.

Liz followed the signs with a large H and a circle with a horizontal line above it, representing a helicopter. After a few minutes of climbing stairs and walking along passageways, she emerged onto the roof of the station. Ahead of her was a red and white Westland Lynx helicopter, its rotors at idle speed. She ducked as she approached it, though she'd need to be eight feet tall to be hit by a rotor blade. She opened the door to see a man whose face she was sure she'd seen before. "Zarkov?" she asked as she pulled herself into the jet helicopter.

"Yes ma'am, are you Charlie one?"
"Correct, do you know our destination?"
"Yes ma'am and our flight plan is cleared, we take off immediately, please fasten your seat belt."
"Why do they call you Zarkov?"
"Ma'am, do you have a valid reason for asking or just curious?"
Liz looked sideways at the pilot, he would be late fifties, early sixties even, old enough to be active during the cold war. "Just curious, you aren't Russian are you?"

He never turned his head as he lifted off the Lynx and turned north eastwards. "Ms er Booth..." he began.
"You may call me Elizabeth, it's okay." She smiled, with that touch of a sparkle in her eyes, but he still wasn't looking. He took another breath and continued, "Miss Booth, I retired from the service when 'The Wall' came down. I speak fluent Russian and I used that name whenever on an operation. It has remained with me. There's nothing sinister." He twisted the throttle and the surge of power pushed them them back into their seats.

Liz felt a tingle of excitement, it was the fastest she she'd been in anything other than an airliner.
"Ooh, that's some acceleration, how fast is it?" She peered out of the window as the ground fell away and the buildings rushed by.
"Accelerates at the same speed as a jet airliner and tops just under 300 knots, a little over 300 mph. She cruises at ten thousand feet and will get you to the Highlands in around two hours. Less if there's a southerly wind."
"That's good Mr er Zarkov, thank you."

He was true to his word, in just under two hours they could see Loch Coogan and the small white house called McCardle Bay, Anderson's retreat.
"Do you want me to set down right by the house? I mean, does he know you're coming?"
"He doesn't know, and I'm trusting that he won't react out of character, so, set down on the gravel driveway."
"As you wish, Elizabeth."

She looked at him sideways again, but he still looked straight ahead.
"Thank you."
The Lynx crunched to a standstill and Zarkov set the rotors to idle and cut the main jets to almost zero.
Liz jumped out and ducked as she headed towards Parry's door.

Inside, Parry had watched the helicopter approach and set down. He'd seen Zarkov before. He knew that someone from S-5 would be the passenger.
Liz reached the door and tapped on it. Parry poured some whiskey into a glass and sat by the fire, facing the door; he ignored the tapping.
Liz peered through a window. Parry saluted her with his glass. She returned to the door. After tapping again she turned the handle and opened the door.
"Hello Parry."
"Hello Elizabeth, this is a pleasant surprise. Just passing were you?"
"Parry, you're needed back in the network."
"I resigned my commission remember. I don't work for the service anymore."
Liz stood in the flickering firelight, her head on one side. "Parry, you never resigned, we never heard a word. There is nothing on your file."
"You know I handed that letter to Murray myself, so go on what happened to it? I'm sure you're going to tell me?"
"Yes Parry, your letter is in my file, stamped 'DENIED', he did not accept it."
"Okay, so, what is so impossible that you can't manage without me?"

Liz stood up and gestured towards the door, "Can we talk in the chopper, time is not our friend right now."
Parry took the final gulp of his whiskey, grabbed a jacket and was tying his tie as they sprinted to the helicopter.
"Good afternoon Zarkov."
"Good afternoon Sir Parry, it's a pleasure to see you again."
They buckled up and Parry gave one last look at his house. "Just get us to London."
"We're on our way sir. What about your dog sir?"
"He doesn't fly too well. My housekeeper will look after him."

MI5Spycab was waiting as they touched down on the roof of St Pancras station just after 1:30.
"Back to Acorn House please, quick as you can."
"Certainly ma'am, good afternoon Sir Parry, welcome back."
"I'm not back, but thank you anyway."
Parry watched the buildings slip by, familiar scenes he thought he'd seen the last of, and grimaced. "So, Liz, what's that there in front of the office?"
"What, the black four wheel drive?"
"That's your driver, Peter."
"Why is he there when MI5Spycab was sent to collect us? Or rather, why was MI5Spycab sent when my driver's here?"
"He's waiting because you are going to need him, now. We have recent and code red intel; you will want to deal with it yourself. As soon as the team have brought you up to speed, you'll need to go."

They swiped into the building and took the lift up to the Network ring. As she swiped to open the security door, Liz smiled at Parry. He noticed the twinkle and gave a half smile back, in that sophisticated way everybody loved.
Colin and Danbury stood up as Parry entered. "Welcome back Sir Parry." Colin called, followed by Danbury's "Good to see you," and Tim's thumbs up sign. 
Parry just nodded in acknowledgement. He looked at Danbury, "So, what's going down?"
Danbury handed Parry a folder with some photographs, "Do you know Ernest McIntyre?"
"McIntyre, the industrialist? Yes." He ran his eyes over the pictures.
"He's called a meeting at four o'clock with ministers and security representatives. Intel shows that there is a major risk to national security and as yet we haven't determined what. Elizabeth felt that we, the team should get on to it without hesitation and that you would want to go to Saddlers House, McIntyre's home, as the head of the Section. Tim Kerr is back here to help with the strategy when it comes down to it."

Parry looked at the pictures again. "Who's this?"
"Armand Bergoff."
"Bergoff?! The Bader Meinhof butcher? I thought he was executed."
Colin pointed to his screen, "CCTV footage from Heathrow Terminal 3, here's Bergoff getting his baggage after flying in from Munich. Look, we zoom in, that's where that picture came from. He's here okay and right now MI5Spycab is following his cab."

Parry closed the file. "Stay on it, Elizabeth, I suggest you get Commander John Wilmott from Special Branch and Archie Mellor, they both have come up against Bergoff before. You'll find their numbers in my carousel. Right, I'd better get out to Saddlers House. Keep me posted."
Liz nodded, "We will Parry, Peter's been briefed, he'll get you there before four o'clock."

As the turbo charged Range Rover made its way across to the A2, Parry read all the information in the file and looked again at the pictures of Bergoff. Something wasn't right. He just couldn't put his finger on it.
He reached into his pocket, withdrew his mobile phone and punched in a number. After a few seconds he spoke, "Colin, get onto Heathrow, talk to a man called Palliser in scheduling. Ask him for the full manifest on Bergoff, I want to know where he was before Munich, did he fly in to Munich or over-land?"

The Range Rover slowed up and then turned off the road. It stopped in front of a pair of gates. Peter leaned out and pressed a button. There was a crackle and almost indiscernible speech and he responded, "Sir Parry Anderson."
The gates swung open and the Range Rover tossed up a small cloud of gravel dust as Peter headed up the long drive. A minute or so later it stopped in front of the door. Parry got out and looked at his watch, it was three forty five, Peter had made good time. He rang the doorbell and turned around to survey the rolling lawn and shrubs. He heard the sound of a jet helicopter, but couldn't see anything. For the briefest moment he though he saw Zarkov's Lynx. Behind him the door opened. He turned back to see a charming young woman with a big smile. Her lips parted, "Sir Parry, welcome, come in, come in."

"Where is everyone?"
"Oh, it's early yet, they'll be here I'm sure."
Parry followed her in and into the room she ushered him towards. "Please have a seat Sir Parry, I'll advise Mr McIntyre you are here."
"Thank you, miss, er..."
"Mrs Thomas, Angela, you're welcome."
Parry sniffed, the scent was familiar, "Er, Mrs Thomas, what's that perfume you're wearing?"
"Golden Angel, why?"
"Oh, nothing, it's just that someone I knew once used to wear it."

The door closed and Parry was left to his thoughts. He stood by the window and thought about how much Melissa would have enjoyed being there. His thoughts were interrupted by the jangling of his mobile phone. "Parry."
It was Colin. "Sir, Bergoff flew from Stockholm to Munich, he had been seen with Orlof Edeljik on more than one occasion."
The door opened behind him and a maid came in with a tray. He looked at her briefly as he continued, "Then it's definitely a bomb, where is he now?"
"He's on the underground, the Jubilee Line, going south, he's not carrying anything."
"Okay, stay with him, let me know if anything develops."
"Yes sir."

Parry was aware that the maid was fussing over the tray with her back to him. He realised that the perfume smell was even stronger. "You don't wear Golden Angel as well do you?"
The maid turned slowly round as she replied, "Yes Parry, I always do."
He gasped. "Melissa? MELLY!" In a second she was in his arms, their lips met and he held her tight. "But,  on the cliff? You died in my arms!"
"That's what everyone was supposed to think, but the department thought this was the best way for both of us."
"But Dobjek stabbed you with that bread knife, I saw him, saw the wound!"
"We fooled you, yes, the illusion was perfect. Ryker made sure you saw the knife, but he actually injected me with Sodium Di-Methyl Acetate in solution, for twenty minutes it simulates death. The wound was in a canvas bag of pig's blood across my chest, looked pretty good I think."

Parry kissed her forehead, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Darling if you believed it, the world would believe it, and they did."
Parry was puzzled, "What about McIntyre and this security issue? What about Bergoff.... Hang on!"
Parry looked at the picture again, "I knew something was odd! This was taken when Bergoff came here the last time, they're old pictures!"
"Yes Parry."
"Is S-5 in on this?"
"Yes Parry!"
"But Elizabeth says my resignation was not accepted, it's back in her file, stamped 'DENIED' so how can this work?"
"This letter you mean?" Melissa held out the resignation letter, "It's not the real one, that's in the Home Secretary's file, and approved. You are free, and you're mine!"
"I do love you Melly."
"I love you so much Parry."

Parry's mobile phone rang again. He looked down at the screen, it displayed 'HS'. He dropped it into a flower pot and they left the room together.
Parry and Melissa now live with Charlie in a small cottage on the Sussex downs, with a climbing rose around the door and pastel wallpaper. They have a turtle in the garden pond.

(Written as tribute to [spooks] - with a change of names you could very easily imagine it as an alternate ending to the final episode of the final series)

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