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Golden Fox 2

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Written by Administrator

Posted on 15 April 2011

317
Airport and taxied to the far end of the field where twenty jeeps and
troop-trucks of the Ethiopian army were drawn up to welcome it.
Ram6n was the first man out of the aircraft as the loading-ramp touched the
ground.
'Welcome, Colonel-General.' Colonel Getachew Abebe jumped down from his
command-jeep and strode forward to meet him.
They shook hands briefly. 'Your arrival is timely,'Abebe told him, and they
both turned and shaded their eyes as they looked into the sun.
The second Ilyushin made its final approach and touched down. As it taxied
towards them, a third and then a fourth gigantic aircraft turned across the
sun and one after the other landed.
As they pulled up in a staggered row and switched off their engines, the
men poured out of the cavernous bellies. They were paratroopers of the
crack Che Guevara Regiment.
'What is the latest position?'Ram6n demanded brusquely.
,The Derg has voted for Andom,' Abebe told him, and" Ram6n looked serious.
General Aman Andom was the head of the Army. He was a man of high integrity
and superior intelligence, popular with both the Army and the civilian
populace. His election as the new leader of the nation came as no surprise.
'Where is he now?'
'He is in his palace - about five miles from here.'
'How many men?'
'A bodyguard of fifty or sixty.
Ram6n turned to watch his paratroopers disembarking.
'How many members of the Derg stand for you?'
Abebe reeled off a dozen names, all young left-wing army officers.
'Tafu?' Ram6n demanded, and Abebe nodded. Colonel Tafu commanded a squadron
of Russian T-53 tanks, the most modem unit in the Army.
318
'All right,' Ram6n said softly. 'We can do it - but we must move swiftly
now.'
He gave the order to the commander of the Cuban paratroopers. Carrying
their weapons at the trail, the long ranks of camouflage-clad
assault-troops trotted forward and began to board the waiting trucks.
Ram6n took the seat beside Abebe in the command-jeep, and the long column
rolled away towards the city. Parched to talcum by drought and fierce
sunlight, the red dust rose in a dense cloud behind the column and rolled
away on the wind that came down hot from the deserts to the north.
On the outskirts of the city they met caravans of camels and mules. The men
with them watched the column pass without showing any emotion. In these
dangerous days since the emperor had been deposed they had become
accustomed to the movement of armed men on the roads. They were men from
the Danakil desert and the mountains, turbaned Muslims in flowing robes or
bearded Copts with bushy hair and broadswords on their belts and round
steel shields on their shoulders.
At an order from Colonel Abebe, the jeep swung on to a side-road and
skirted the city, speeding down rutted roads between the crowded
flat-roofed hovels. Abebc used the radio, speaking swiftly in Amharic and
then translating for Ram6n.
'I have men watching Andom's palace,' he explained. 'He seems to have
called a meeting of all the officers in the Derg who support him. They are
assembling now.'
'Good. All the chickens will be in one nest.'
The column turned away from the city and sped through open fields. They
were bare and desiccated. The drought had left no blade of grass or green
leaf The chalky rocks that littered the earth were white as skulls.
'There.' Abebe pointed ahead.
The general was a member of the nobility, and his residence stood a few
miles outside the city on the first of a series of low hills. The hills
were bare except for the grove of Australian eucalyptus trees that
surrounded the

P9
palace. Even these drooped in the heat and the drought. The palace was
surrounded by a thick wall of red terracotta. At a glance Ram6n saw that it
was a formidable fortification. It would require artillery to breach it.
Abebe had read his thoughts. 'We have surprise on our side,' he pointed
out. 'There is a good chance that we will be able to drive in through the
gate . . .'
'No,' Ram6n contradicted him. 'They will have seen the aircraft arriving.
That is probably why Andom has called his council.'
Out on a rocky plain between them and the palace, a staff car was speeding
towards the open gate.
'Pull in here,' Ram6n ordered, and the column halted in a fold of ground.
Ram6n stood on the rear scat of the open jeep and focused his binoculars on
the gateway in the palace wall. He watched the staff car drive through it,
and then the massive wooden gate swung ponderously closed.
'Where is Tafu with his tanks?'
'He is still in barracks, on the other side of the city.'
'How long to get them here?'
'Two hours.'
'Every minute is vital.' Ram6n spoke without lowering his binoculars.
'Order Tafu to bring his armour in as quickly as possible - but we cannot
wait until he arrives.'
Abebe turned to the radio, and Ram6n dropped the binoculars on to his chest
and jumped down from the jeep. The commander of the paratroopers and his
company leaders gathered around him, and he gave his orders quietly,
pointing out the features of the terrain as he spoke.
Abebe hung up the microphone of the radio and came to join them. 'Colonel
Tafu has one T-53 in the city, guarding the emperor's palace. He is sending
it to us. It will be here in an hour. The rest of the squadron will
follow.'
'Very good,' Ram6n nodded. 'Now describe the layout of the interior of
Andom's palace over there. Where will we find Andom himself?'

320
They squatted in a circle while Abebe sketched in the dust, and then Ram6n
gave his final orders.
Once again the column moved forward, but now there was a large white flag
on the bonnet of the command-jeep, a bed-sheet that fluttered on its
makeshift flagpole. The trucks kept in tight formation. The paratroopers
were concealed beneath the hoods of the troop-carriers, and all weapons
were kept out of sight.
As they approached the palace a line of heads appeared over the wall above
the gate, but the flag of truce had an inhibiting effect and no shot was
fired.
The lead jeep drew up in front of the gate, and Ram6n assessed its
strength. The gate was of weathered teak, almost a foot thick, reinforced
with bands of wrought iron. The hinges were rebated into the columns on
each side of the gateway. He abandoned any idea of driving a truck through
it.
From the top of the wall twenty feet above them the captain of the guard
challenged them in Amharic, and Abebe stood up to reply. They haggled for
a few minutes, with Abebe repeating that he had an urgent despatch for
General Andom and demanding entrance. The guard shouted back his refusal,
and the exchange became heated.
As soon as Ram6n was certain that all the guard's attention was on the jeep
he spoke softly into the two-way radio. The trucks behind the jeep roared
forward and then peeled off left and right. They bumped over the rocky
ground on each side of the roadway and drew up below the walls. From under
the canvas hoods, paratroopers clambered on to the roofs of the vehicles.
Ten of them were armed with grappling-hooks which they swung around their
heads and then heaved up over the top of the wall. The nylon ropes streamed
out behind them and dangled down.
'Open fire!' Ram6n snapped into the radio, and a storm of automatic fire
swept the top of the wall, kicking lumps of clay and brick from the rim.
The ricochets whined away into the branches of the blue gum trees. The
heads of

321
guards disappeared instantly, some of them ducking away but at least one of
them hit by a bullet. Ram6n saw his helmet spin into the air and the top
lift off his skull. A pink mist of blood and brain hung in the air for an
instant after he was snatched away.
Now the paratroopers were swarming up the wall, three or four of them on
each dangling rope at the same time. They were as agile as monkeys, and
within seconds thirty of them were over and into the palace grounds. There
were bursts of automatic fire and the thump of a single grenade. Seconds
later the great wooden gate swung open and Ram6n urged the jeep-driver
forward.
The bodies of the palace guards lay in the courtyard where they had been
shot down. Ram6n saw one of his paras huddled beside the gateway clutching
his belly with blood oozing through his fingers. The other paras grabbed on
to the jeep as it roared forward.
Ram6n was standing behind the 5o-calibre Browning heavy machine-gun that
was mounted above the driver's seat. He fired a long raking burst at the
remaining guards as they fled like rabbits into the maze of adobe buildings
on the far side of the courtyard.
One of the guards whirled and dropped on his knee. He raised the launcher
of the RPG 7 rocket he carried to his shoulder and aimed at the approaching
jeep. Ram6n swivelled the Browning on to him, but at that moment the front
wheels struck one of the corpses and the jeep bounced wildly, throwing his
aim high.
The guard fired the rocket and it whooshed across the open courtyard and
hit the jeep full in the centre of the radiator. There was a flash and a
roar as the rocket exploded. Although the engine block smothered most of
the blast, the front suspension collapsed and the vehicle cartwheeled end
over end.
They were all thrown clear, but the shattered body of the jeep blocked the
entrance and the troop-trucks were backed up beyond the open gateway.
The attack was stalling already, and the defence was

322
rallying. Automatic fire was stuttering from the windows and doorways of the
palace building.
The Cuban paras sprang out of the stationary trucks and rushed forward, but
another rocket hissed down the alley facing them. It flashed inches over
Ram6n's head, blinding him with smoke, and struck the leading truck,
ripping the bonnet open and shattering the windscreen. Diesel fuel spilled
from the ruptured tank and ignited with a sullen roar. Black smoke billowed
over the courtyard.
There was shouting and more firing in front of them. Beside Ram6n another
para was hit and went sprawling.
Ram6n snatched up his machine-pistol and waved the attack forward, just as
a heavy machine-gun opened up on them from one of the windows. Ram6n rolled
under the blast of shot and came up against the mud wall directly below the
window. The machine-gun was firing over his head, and the muzzle-blast
drove in his eardrums.
Ram6n snatched a grenade from his webbing pocket, pulled the pin and went
up on one knee to post it through the window. He ducked and covered his
ears.
There was a wild shout, and the machine-gun fell silent. Moments later the
grenade exhaled in a fiery breath above his head.
'Come on,' Ram6n yelled again, and led half a dozen paras through the
shattered window. The gun had been knocked off its mounting and the floor
was wet and slippery with blood.
It was room-to-room, and hand-to-hand now. The advantage passed to the
defenders as they retreated through the maze of rooms and alleys and
courtyards, doggedly holding each strongpoint until they were driven from
it.
Slowly the attack lost impetus and, although Ram6n threatened and swore and
tried to inspire them with his example, they bogged down in the twisting
alleys and interconnecting passageways and rooms. He realized that Andom
was certainly radioing for reinforcements of loyal troops, and that minutes
lost now could mean the defeat and failure of the revolution.

323
He heard Abebe's voice raised angrily, urging his men on in a fog of smoke
and dust, and Ram6n crawled across to him and seized his shoulder. Face to
dusty smoke-grimed face, they shouted at each other to make themselves
heard above the cacophony of guns.
'Where is that bloody tank?'
'How long since I called?'
'It's over an hour.' Was it that long? It seemed that minutes had passed
since the attack began.
'Get back to the radio,' Ram6n yelled. 'Tell them .
At that moment they both heard it, the shrill metallic squeal and the
rumble of the tracks.
'Come on!' Ram.6n lunged to his feet, and they ran together, doubled over,
with bullets fluttering in the air around their heads, back through the
blood-smeared rooms with walls pocked by bullets and shrapnel.
As they reached the entrance courtyard the tank butted its way in through
the blocked gateway. The turret was reversed, the long 55-millimetre
gun-barrel pointed backwards. The carcass of the rocket-shattered jeep was
forced forward by the mass of armour and it rolled clear of the gateway.
The T-53 burst into the courtyard with its diesels bellowing. The turret
was open, the commander's helmeted head protruded from the hatch.
Ram6n windmilled his right arm in the cavalry signal to advance and pointed
into the tangle of alleys and buildings.
The tank pivoted on its churning steel tracks and crashed into the nearest
wall. The mud bricks collapsed before it, and the roof tilted and sagged
and buried the T-53 beneath it.
The tank shook itself free and roared forward. Ram6n and his paras poured
into the breach it had opened. Walls toppled and timbers crackled as the
steel monster crawled forward, tilting and rocking over piles of rubble and
human bodies.
The screams of the defenders rose higher than the uproar, and their firing
died away. They came stumbling out

324
of the rained buildings, throwing down their weapons and raising their arms
in surrender.
'Where is Andom? Ram6n's throat was rough and sore with the dust and the
shouting. 'We must get him. Don't let him escape.'
The general was amongst the last to surrender. Only when the T-53 flattened
the thick mud walls of the main hall did he come out with four of his
senior officers. There was a blood-soaked bandage around his forehead and
over his left eye. His beard was thick with dust and blood, and one of the
scarlet tabs was torn from his collar.
His good eye was fierce. Despite his wound, his voice was firm and his
bearing dignified. 'Colonel Abebe,' he challenged. 'This is mutiny and
treachery. I am the president of Ethiopia - my appointment was confirmed by
the Derg this morning.'
Ram6n nodded to his paratroopers. They seized the general's arms and forced
him to his knees. Ram6n opened the flap of his holster and handed his
Tokarev pistol to Abebe.
The colonel placed the muzzle between the captive's eyes and said quietly:
'President Aman Andom, in the name of the people's revolution, I call upon
you to resign.' And he blew the top off the general's skull.
The corpse fell face-forward, splattering custard-yellow brains on to
Abebe's boots.
Abebe clicked the safety on the Tokarev, reversed it and handed it
butt-first to Ram6n.
'Thank you, Colonel-General,' he said.
'I am honoured to have been of service.' Ram6n bowed formally as he
accepted the weapon back.
'How many members of the Derg voted for Andom? he asked as the column sped
back towards Addis Ababa.
'Sixty-three.'
'Then we still have much work to do before the revolution is secure.'
Abebe radioed ahead to Colonel Tafu's squadron of T-53 tanks. They were
entering from the eastern side of the city,

325
and he ordered them to surround the building that housed the Derg and to
train their guns upon it. Elements of the Army were ordered to seal off all
foreign embassies and consulates. No legation staff were allowed to leave
the premises, for their own safety.
All foreigners in the country, especially journalists or television
personnel, were rounded up and escorted to the airport for immediate
evacuation. There were to be no witnesses of what followed.
Small units of Abebe's most loyal troops, backed up by Cuban paratroopers,
were rushed to the homes of the members of the military council and the
Derg who had declared for Andom. They were stripped of weapons and badges
of rank, dragged out and thrown into the waiting trucks and driven back to
the Derg, where a revolutionary court awaited them in the main
assembly-chamber.
The court consisted of Colonel Abebe and two of his junior officers. ~You
are accused of counter-revolutionary criminal acts against the people's
democratic government. Have you anything to say before sentence of death is
passed upon you?'
They were taken out directly from the trial into the courtyard of the
building, placed against the north wall of the chamber and executed by
firing squad. The executions were carried out in full view of the
revolutionary judges and those prisoners still awaiting trial. The volleys
of rifle-fire periodically interrupted the proceedings of the court.
The corpses were tied in bunches by the heels and dragged behind a truck
through the streets to the main rubbish-dump outside the city limits.
'The populace must witness the course of revolutionary justice and the
price of disobedience,' Ram6n explained the necessity of these exhibitions.
The court ruled that the corpses should not be removed from the
rubbish-dump, and their families were forbidden to indulge in the ritual of
mourning or to exhibit any public signs of grief. The grim work went on
until after midnight, 326
and the last batch of criminals was executed in the beams of the headlights
of the trucks waiting to drag them to the rubbish-tip.
Although they were both exhausted, neither Ram6n nor the future president
could afford to sleep until the revolution was secure. Ram6n had a bottle
of vodka in his pack. He and Abebe shared it as they sat beside the radio
and listened to the reports coming in.
One after the other, Abebe's loyal officers with Cuban support took over
command of the various units of the Army and seized all the important
points in the city and its surroundings.
As the sun rose, they had control of the airport and railway station, the
radio and television broadcasting studios, and all the military forts and
barracks. Only then could they snatch a few hours' sleep. Guarded by
Ram6n's paras, they stretched out on mattresses on the chamber floor, but
at noon they were in fresh uniforms for the meeting of the purified Derg.
There were armed paras at the door of the chamber and T-53 tanks drawn up
in the street outside'
As Colonel-General Machado congratulated Abebe, he said quietly: 'If you
kill Brutus, then you must kill all the sons of Brutus. In 15 io, Niccolb
Machiavelli said that, Mr President, and it is still the best-possible
advice.'
'So we must begin at once.'
'Yes,' agreed Ram6n. 'The Red Terror must be allowed to run its course.'

'The Red Terror shall flourish.' The hastily printed posters in four
languages were pasted on every street-corner, and the hourly radio and
television broadcasts proclaimed the new president and exhorted the populace
to denounce an traitors and counter-revolutionaries.
There was so much work to do that Abebe divided the city into forty cells
and appointed a separate revolutionary

327
court for each cell. The presidenv; of these courts were loyal junior
officers who were given full power to'undertake revolutionary action'. Each
had a team of executioners working under him. They began with the members of
the nobility, the rases and the chieftains and their families.
'The Red Terror is a proven tool of the revolution,' Ram6n Machado
explained. 'We know those who will prove awkward later. We know those who
will oppose the pure doctrine of Marxism. It is more expedient to eliminate
them now, in the first wild flush of victory, rather than undertake the
tedious business of dealing with them piecemeal at a later date.' He lifted
his cap and raked his fingers through his thick dark curls. He was tired,
his marvellous classical features were strained and drawn. Dark smudges
underlined his eyes, but there was no uncertainty in those deadly green
eyes. Abebe was at once grateful for this strength and awed by this iron
resolution.
'We must root out every rotten apple from the barrel. We must eliminate not
only the opposition, but also the thought of opposition. We must break the
nation's will to resist. They must be cowed and deprived of any sense of
self or self-determination. The board must be swept entirely clean. Only
then will we be in a position to rebuild the nation in its new and shining
image.' The corpses of the nobles and the petty chieftains and their entire
families were piled like garbage on the street-corners. The revolutionary
patrols drove through the city and picked up at random the children they
found playing in the streets.
'Where do you live? Take us to your parents' horne.'
The parents were dragged out of their houses and forced to watch as their
children were shot in the head at pointblank range. The little corpses were
left at the front door, swelling and stinking in the heat. The parents were
forbidden to remove them or to mourn them.
'The Red Terror will flourish,' decreed the posters, but in the mountains
some of the old warriors and their families resisted the death squads.
The tanks surrounded the villages, and the women and 328
children and old men were driven into their huts. The huts were set on fire,
and the screams mingled with the crackle of the flames. The men were marched
to the fields and forced to lie face-down in rows. The tanks drove over
them, locking their tracks to pivot on the piles of bodies and grind them
into a paste with the drought-stricken earth.
'Now for the priests,' Ram6n said.
'The priests were instrumental in the overthrow of the monarchy,' Abebe
pointed out.
'Yes, the church and the mosque, the bishops and priests and the imams and
the ayatollahs are always useful in the beginning. The revolution can be
nurtured in the pulpit, for the priests are by their training unworldly and
idealistic creatures who respond to a vision of freedom and equality and
brotherly love. They can be easily persuaded, but always remember that.
they are also in competition with us for the souls of men. When they
witness the revolution in action they will challenge us. We cannot brook
that competition. The priests must be disciplined and controlled - just as
all other men must be.'
They entered the great mosque and arrested the imam's fourteen-year-old
daughter. They put out her eyes and cut out her tongue, then they placed
two ounces of raw chili pepper in her vagina and took her back to her
father's house. They locked her in a room of the house with guards at the
door. Her parents were forced to squat outside the door and listen to their
daughter's death agonies.
The sons of the abuna, the archbishop of the Coptic Church, were taken to
one of the revolutionary courts and were tortured. Their hands and feet
were crushed in steel vices and their bodies were burnt with electricity.
Their eyes were gouged out and left dangling by the optic nerves on to
their cheeks. Their genitalia were cut off and forced into their mouths.
Then they were taken home and placed outside the front door. Once again the
parents were forbidden to remove their bodies for Christian burial.
The radio and television broadcasts harangued against

329
the decadence and revisionism of the Church, and the death squads waited at
the doors of the mosque when the muezzin began his chant. The faithful
stayed at home.
'All the sons of Brutus are dead,' Abebe told Ram6n, as they toured the
quiescent city.
'Not all of them,' Ram6n disagreed, and Abebe turned to stare at him. He
knew what Ram6n meant.
'It must be done,' Ram6n insisted. 'Then there can be no turning back. The
ancient bourgeois taboo will be shattered for ever, as it was on the
guillotine in the Place de la Concorde and in the Russian cellar when Tsar
Nicholas and his family died. Once it is done, there will be no return and
the revolution will be secure.'
'Who will do it?' Abebe asked, and Ram6n answered without hesitation.
(I will. P
'It would be best that way,' Abebe agreed, and looked away to conceal the
relief he felt. 'Do it as soon as possible.'
Ram6n drove dowry through the old quarter of the city. He was alone at the
wheel of the open jeep. The streets were deserted, except for the
revolutionary patrols. The windows of the houses were shuttered and
curtained. No face peered out at him, no children romped in the yards, no
voices or sounds of laughter came from behind the closed doors of the
mud-brick hovels.
The revolutionary posters were pasted to the cracked and chipped plaster of
the walls. 'The Red Terror shall flourish.'
There had been no hygienic services since the Red Terror began. The rubbish
clogged the streets, and the sewagebuckets overflowed and puddled in the
gutters. The bodies of the victims of the Terror were heaped like cords of
firewood at the street-comers. They were so bloated and bullet-riddled that
they were no longer recognizable as human. Gas-filled bellies stretched
their clothing until it burst at the seams, and their flesh was empurpled
and blackened by the sun. The only living things were the crows and kites
and vultures that hopped and picked at

330
the piles of the dead, and the fat gorged rats that scuttled away in front
of the jeep.
Ram6n wrapped his silk scarf across his mouth and nose to protect them from
the stench, but apart from that he was unmoved by what he saw around him,
as a victorious general is unaffected by the carnage of the battlefield.
The hut was at the end of a noisome alleyway, and there were two guards at
the front door. They recognized Ram6n as he parked the jeep and picked his
way through the accumulated filth. They saluted him respectfully.
'You are relieved of your duties. You may go,' Ram6n ordered.
He watched them hurry to the end of the alley before he opened the door and
stooped under the lintel.
It was semi-dark in the room, and he removed his sunglasses. The walls were
limed but bare except,for a silver Coptic cross suspended above the bed.
There were rush mats on the stone floor. The room smelt of sickness and old
age. An old woman sat on the floor at the foot of the bed. She wailed and
pulled the hood of her robe over her head when she saw Ram6n.
'Go.' He gestured to the door, and she crawled across the floor, her head
stiff covered, making obeisance and wailing and drooling with terror.
With the heel of his combat boot Ram6n pushed the door closed behind her
and studied the figure that lay on the bed.
'Negus Negusti, King of Kings,' he said with a dry irony, and the old man
stirred and looked up at him.
He was dressed in a spotless white robe, but his head was bare. He was
thin, impossibly thin. Ram6n knew that he suffered from the ailments of
great age, his prostate and digestion were diseased, but his mind was
clear. His feet and hands protruding from the folds of the white robe were
childlike and emaciated. Each tiny bone showed clearly through the waxen
amber skin. His beard and hair were untrimmed and entirely bleached to the
lustre of platinum. The flesh had melted from his face, so the nose was
thin

331
and aquiline. His lips had shrunk and drawn back. His teeth were yellow and
too large for the delicate bones of his cheeks and brow. His eyes were
enormous, black as pools of tar, bright as those of a biblical prophet.
'I recognize you,' he said softly.
'We have never met,' Ram6n corrected him.
'Still, I know you well. I recognize the smell of you. I know every line of
your face and the inflection and timbre of your voice.'
'Who am I, then;" Ram6n challenged him softly.
'You are the first of a legion - and your name is Death.'
'You are wise and perceptive, old man,' Ram6n told him, and advanced to the
bed.
'I forgive you for what you do to me,' said Haile Selassie, Negus Negusti,
Emperor of Ethiopia. 'But I cannot forgive you for what you have done to my
people.'
'Commend yourself to your God, old man,' said Ram6n as he picked up the
pillow from the bed. 'This world is no longer for you.'
He pressed the pillow down over the old man's face and leant his weight
upon it.
Haile Selassie's struggles were like those of a trapped bird. His thin
fingers clutched lightly at Ram6n's wrists and plucked softly at his
sleeves. He kicked and danced, and the robe rode up above his knees. His
legs were thin and dark as sticks of dried tobacco, and the knees were
enlarged knots out of all proportion to the skinny shanks.
Gradually his struggles grew weaker, and there was a soft spluttering under
his robes as his sphincter relaxed and his bowels voided. Ram6n leant on
the pillow for five minutes after the old man was completely still. He felt
an almost religious ecstasy come over him. Nothing he had done before had
ever given him this sense of gratification. It was physical and emotional,
it was spiritual and at the same time deeply sexual.
He had killed a king.
He straightened up and removed the pillow. He plumped it up and then lifted
the old man's head and set the pillow

332
beneath it. He pulled the hem of the robe down to Haile Selassie's ankles,
and folded the little childlike hands upon his breast. Then with thumb and
forefinger he drew down his eyelids.
He -stood for a long time studying the emperor's deathface. He wanted to
fix the image in his mind for ever. He was unaware of the heat and the
stench in the closed room. He sensed that this was one of the high points
in his life. The frail body epitomized all that he had pledged to destroy
in this world.
He wanted the memory of that destruction to be strong and vivid enough to
last a lifetime.

All possible opposition had been eliminated. The voice of dissent was
silenced. The sons of Brutus were all of them dead, and the revolution was
secure.
There were many other important issues needing Ram6n's attention elsewhere
in Africa. With a clear conscience he could hand over his position as
security adviser to the People's Democratic Government of Ethiopia. His
successor in office was a general in the security police of the German
Democratic Republic. He was almost as skilled as Rarn6n Machado in the
enforcement of pragmatic democracy on a recalcitrant population.
Ram6n embraced Abebe and boarded one of the Ilyushin transports that now
flew regularly in and out of Addis. It was a most convenient port of entry
to the entire continent.
They refuelled in Brazzaville and then flew south and west to land on the
new airstrip at Tercio base on the Chicamba river just as the sun set into
the blue Atlantic Ocean.
Raleigh Tabaka met him. During the drive from the airstrip to Ram6n's new
headquarters compound in the palm grove above the white coral beach,
Raleigh brought him fully up to date with developments during his absence.
Ram6n's private quarters were austere. A thatched roof

333
and large unglazed windows with roll-up blinds of split bamboo; bare
uncarpeted floors and chunky but comfortable furniture made by a local
carpenter from hand-sawn indigenous timber. Only the electronic
communications equipment was modem. He had direct satellite links to Moscow
and Luanda and Havana and Lisbon.
As Ram6n entered this simple dwelling he was reminded forcefully of the
cottage at Buenaventura in Cuba. He felt immediately at home here, with the
trade winds in the palms and the ocean breathing heavily on the white beach
below his window.
He was exhausted. This deep bone-weariness had accumulated over the weeks
and months. As soon as Raleigh Tabaka left him, he dropped his combat
uniform in a heap on the mud floor and crawled under the mosquito-net. The
gentle warm gusts of the trades through the open window billowed the
mosquito-net and caressed his naked body.
He felt replete. He had performed a difficult but infinitely worthwhile
task with skill and success. He knew that he had earned new honours and
rewards, but none would be as satisfying as this deep sense of achievement
that buoyed his weary spirit.
His creation surpassed that of a Mozart or a Michelangelo. He had used as
his raw materials a land and a people, mountains and valleys and lakes and
rivers and plains and millions of human beings. He had mixed them on his
palette and then, in blood and flames and gunfire, he had fashioned and
worked them into a masterpiece. His creation surpassed that of any artist
who had lived before him. He knew that there was no God - at least, not as
the bishops and imams whom he had so recently disciplined and humiliated
imagined God to be. The god that Ram6n knew was of this world. He was the
twin god of power and political mastery - and Ram6n was his prophet. The
work had only just begun. First a single nation, he thought, and then
another and another, until finally an entire continent. His elation staved
off sleep for a few minutes longer, but as he succumbed his mind took
another turn.

334
Maybe it was the hut and the wind and the sound of the sea - whatever the
association of ideas, he thought of Nicholas. In the night he dreamt of his
son. He saw again his shy reluctant smile, and heard his voice and his
laughter in his head, and felt the small warm hand curled in his hand like
the timorous body of a tiny creature.
When he awoke the longing was even more intense. While he worked at his
desk the image of his son's face receded and he could concentrate on the
coded messages from Havana and Moscow that flashed down from the orbiting
satellite. However, when he stood up from his desk and looked down through
the open window to the beach, he imagined he saw a slim tanned little body
splashing in the green surf and heard the sweet treble cries of the child.
Perhaps it was merely a reaction from the slaughter in the streets of Addis
Ababa, or the memory of the corpses of the sons of the abuna with their
eyeballs hanging on their cheeks and their inunature genitals stuffed into
their mouths, but over the next few days the desire to see his son became
an obsession.
He could not leave Tercio base now, not with so much in play, so many
prizes at stake on the great gaming-board of Africa. Instead he sent a
satellite message to Havana and within an hour had his reply.
After Ethiopia they would deny him nothing. Nicholas and Adra were on the
next transport flight from Cuba. Ram6n was waiting at the airstrip when the
Ilyushin landed at Tercio base.
He watched his son come down the ramp. He walked ahead of Adra, no longer
clinging to her hand like a baby. There was alertness in the way he carried
his head, a spring to his step, and a sparkle of curiosity and intelligence
in his eyes as he paused at the bottom of the ramp and looked about him
keenly.
Ram6n felt an extraordinary emotion, an intensification of the longing and
pride with which he had anticipated the boy's arrival. No other human being
had ever moved him

335
in this way. For long aching moments he watched his son in secret, concealed
in the throng of disembarking troops and swarming porters, his eyes hidden
behind sunglasses. He was reluctant to give a name to this emotion he felt.
He would never have entertained the word 'love'.
Then Nicholas picked him out. He saw the boy's entire attitude change. He
started forward at a run, but within a dozen paces he took control of
himself. The look of extreme pleasure on his lovely face was swiftly
masked. He was expressionless as he walked calmly to the side of the jeep
in which Ram6n sat and held out his hand.
'Good day, Padre,' he said softly. 'How does it go with you?'
Ram6n felt an almost irresistible compulsion to embrace him. He sat very
still while he overcame it, then he took Nicholas's hand and returned his
formal greeting.
Nicholas rode in the front of the jeep beside his father. Adra sat in the
back. They skirted the guerrilla camp on the way from the airstrip to the
beach compound, and Nicholas could not contain his curiosity. He asked the
first question hesitantly, in a subdued voice.
'Why are all these men here? Are they sons of the revolution like we are,
Padre?'
When Ram6n replied without any sign of irritability, the next question was
bolder. When the reply to that was also friendly, he relaxed further and
took a lively interest in everything around them.
The men at the roadside saluted Ram6n as the jeep passed. From the comer of
his eye he saw Nicholas stiffen in the front seat and return the salute
with all the aplomb of a veteran. Ram6n had to turn his face away to hide
his smile. The men had noticed it also and grinned after the departing
vehicle.
When they arrived at the compound, Ram6n's orderly had a batch of satellite
messages for his attention. However, there was little of importance amongst
them, and Ram6n dealt with them swiftly. He went to the hut alongside his
own that he had allocated for Nicholas and Adra. He heard

336
the boy's excited chatter as he stepped up on to the stoep, but it was cut
off abruptly as he appeared in the doorway. Again Nicholas was strange and
withdrawn, watching his father warily.
'Did you bring your bathing-suit?' Ram6n asked him.
'Yes, Padre.'
'Good. Put it on. We will swim together.'
The water inside the reef was calm and warm.
'Look, Padre. I can swim the crawl now - no more baby paddle,' Nicholas
boasted.
With Ram6n swimming beside him, he made it out to the reef with only a
half-dozen pauses to tread water while he regained his breath. They sat
side by side on a coral head, and while they discussed seriously how the
reef was formed by millions of tiny living creatures Ram6n studied the boy
carefully. He was well favoured, tall and strong for his age. His
vocabulary had expanded again since they had last been together. At times
it was almost like talking to a grown man.
They ate dinner together on the veranda. Ram6n discovered how much he had
missed Adra's cooking. Every minute Nicholas seemed more relaxed. His
appetite was good. He asked for more of the baked mullet. Ram6n allowed him
half a glass of well-watered wine. Nicholas sipped it like a connoisseur,
swelling with pride at being treated as an adult.
When Adra came to fetch him to bed, he slipped off his chair without
argument but pulled away from her hand and came around the table to his
father.
'I am very happy to be here, Padre,' he said formally, and held out his
hand.
As Ram6n shook his hand he experienced an actual physical constriction of
his chest.
Within a week Nicholas had become a favourite at Tercio camp. Some of the
ANC instructors and recruits had their families with them. One of the wives
was a trained primary-school teacher from the University of the Western
Cape in South Africa. She had set up a school for the

337
children in the camp. Ram6n sent Nicholas to take part in the classes. The
schoolroom was a thatched building with open sides and rows of benches made
of roughly planed native timber.
Almost immediately it was clear that Nicholas was as bright and advanced as
children three and four years older than he was. English was the language
of instruction, and he made swift progress in it. He had a clear sweet
voice and led the singing. He taught them 'Land of the Landless' and the
other revolutionary songs which the teacher translated into English. He had
brought his soccer ball with him, and this gave him tremendous social
prestige amongst his peers. A work detail from the camp under orders from
Colonel-General Machado levelled a soccer pitch for the school, laid out
the markings in lime and set up goal-posts. Such was Nicholas's prowess on
the field that they nicknamed him Pele, and the daily matches became a
popular feature of camp life.
As the general's son, Nicholas had special standing and privilege. He had
the run of the camp, including the induction classes for new recruits. The
instructors allowed him to handle the weapons.
Ram6n watched with carefully concealed pride as his son stood up before a
class of adult recruits and demonstrated the stripping and reassembling of
an AK 47 assaultrifle. Then he took his place on the range and fired a
magazine of live ammunition. Twelve of the twenty rounds struck the
man-sized target at which he was aiming.
Without Ram6n's knowledge, Jos6, the Cuban driver, taught Nicholas to drive
the jeep. The first Ram6n knew of his son's latest accomplishment was when
Nicholas, sitting on a cushion, proudly drove him down to the airstrip to
meet the incoming Ilyushin transport flight.
The men along the road cheered them as they passed with cries of 'Viva
Pele!'
The camp tailor made Nicholas his own set of camouflage combat fatigues and
a soft Cuban-style cap. He wore the cap cocked at an angle over one eye,
just as his father did,

338
and imitated Ram6n's mannerisms, lifting his cap to rake his fingers through
his hair or hooking his thumbs in his belt as he stood at rest. He became
Ram6n's unofficial driver, and wherever they went huge grins of delight fol-
lowed the jeep.
On some afternoons Ram6n and Nicholas took one of the boats powered by a
fifty-horsepower outboard motor and raced out through the pass in the coral
reef into the blue Atlantic waters. They anchored the boat over one of the
deep reefs and fished with hand-lines. The coral teemed with fish of every
possible shape and size and colour. Ram6n taught Nicholas how to chop the
carcass of a large fish, preserved from their previous expedition, into a
fine mince. They mixed this with beach sand to make it sink swiftly and
ground-baited the reef below the anchored boat.
Soon they could make out the shadowy shapes of large fish darting and
swirling in the blue depths sixty feet below their hull. The scent of the
ground bait had goaded them into a feeding frenzy. As they dropped their
baited hooks amongst them the thick line was jerked through their fingers
and Nicholas squealed with glee.
The reef fish glittered and glowed with peacock blue and iridescent green;
with clear daffodil yellow and startling scarlet. They were spotted with
jade and sapphire, striped like zebra and splashed with flaming ruby and
opal. They were shaped like bullets and butterflies, and winged like exotic
birds. They were armed with daggers and barbed spines and rows-of
porcelain-white fangs. They squeaked and grunted like pigs as they were
hauled flapping and squirming over the gunwale of the ass~ult-boat. Some
were so large that Ram6n had to give Nicholas a hand to drag them from the
water. He hated anybody, even his father, to help him. He hated even more
to stop fishing at the close of the day.
'One more, Padre - just one more,' he cried eagerly, and in the end Ram6n
had to take the line out of his hands.
One evening they stayed later than usual. Darkness was

339
falling as they hauled the anchor and started the outboard. The trade wind
had turned chilly, and the wind of their passage blew over them as they
bounced over the tops of the swells on their way back to the river mouth.
Goose-flesh pimpled Nicholas's arms as he hugged himself. He shivered with
cold and exhaustion and the reaction from so much excitement.
Steering the boat with one hand, Ram6n put his other arm around Nicholas's
shoulders. For a moment the child froze with shock at his unfamiliar touch,
and then his body relaxed and he crept closer to his father and cuddled
against his chest.
As he steered through the darkness with the small shivering body pressed to
his, Ram6n was assailed once again by the memory of the abuna of Addis
Ababa's sons propped against the front wall of their father's home with
empty eye-sockets and each with his tiny dark penis protruding like a
finger from between his dead lips. Ram6n was not touched by either guilt or
regret. It had been necessary, just as once it had been necessary to
half-drown the child that now cuddled against his chest. Duty was often
hard and cruel, but he had never flinched from its call. Still, he had
never felt before the way he did now.
They beached the boat, and handed it over to Jos6, the Cuban driver, to
care for. Then they made their way by lantern-light through the palm grove
towards the stockade of the compound.
Nicholas stumbled against him in the darkness, and Ram6n took his hand to
steady him. The child made no effort to pull his hand away.
They walked on without speaking until they reached the gate of the
compound, and then Nicholas whispered softly: 'I wish I could stay here at
Tercio with you always.'
Ram6n pretended he had not heard him, but he found it difficult to draw his
next breath.
The signals clerk woke him ten minutes after midnight. It needed only a
light tap on the door of the hut for Ram6n to come fully awake with the
Tokarev pistol in his hand.

340
'What is it?'
'A Red Rose relay from Moscow,' the clerk answered him. They had strict
instructions to call him at any time of day or night for a Red Rose
communication.
'I will come immediately.'
The message was in code, and Ram6n fetched his copy of the code-pad from
the steel safe. They used a 'one-time' pad, a separate code randomly
generated by computer for each sheet. He and Red Rose had the only existing
copies of the pad, and used a single sheet for each message.
He matched her sheet and began to decode the message.
'Project is code-named Skylight,' the message read. 'First subterranean
test of thirty-megaton fission device scheduled October twenty-sixth. Test
site located 27*35'S 24'25'E. Full specifications of device on hand.'
Ram6n sent his driver to the main ANC camp upriver, and Raleigh Tabaka was
in his office within forty minutes.
'We must leave for London immediately,' Ram6n told him as Raleigh read the
message. 'This is too important to co-ordinate from here. We will
orchestrate through the London embassy and the ANC office in the UK.'
Ram6n smiled with quiet satisfaction. 'We will have the Boers on the mat in
front of the Security Council before the week is out. Once again, they have
played right into our hands.'
He woke Nicholas to say goodbye to him.
'When will you come back, Padre?' the child asked bravely, hiding any sign
of distress.
'I don't know, Nicky.' Ram6n used the diminutive of his name for the first
time, and it sat awkwardly on his tongue.
'You will come back, won't you, Padre?'
'Yes, I will come back. I promise you that.'
'And you will let me and Adra stay here at Tercio? You won't send us away?'
'Yes, Nicky. You and Adra will stay here.'
'Thank you. I am glad,'said Nicholas. 'Goodbye, Padre.'

341
They shook hands solemnly, and then Ram6n turned away quickly and ran down
the steps to the waiting jeep.

Preventing the Skylight test was of secondary importance. It was almost
three years since they had first learnt of the South African plans to build
a nuclear bomb, and Ram6n knew that by now they had a viable weapon.
However, a nuclear weapon had very little practical application in the type
of bush war that was typically African.
What was of primary importance was to isolate South Africa even further
from its last remaining support in the Western world. Already a political
pariah, this was an opportunity that he had waited for, to brand her a
nuclear rogue into the bargain.
They met in the ambassador's safe room in the cellar of the Soviet embassy.
The embassy was set in that intimate diplomatic enclave behind Kensington
Palace.
Both General Borodin and Aleksei Yudenich had flown in from Moscow. Their
presence gave weight to the deliberations. It underlined both the foreign
ministry's and the KGB's renewed interest in the African section, and gave
Colonel-General Machado tremendous personal prestige.
The Africans were represented by Raleigh Tabaka and the secretary-general
of the ANC. Oliver Tambo, the president of the ANC, was on an unofficial
visit to East Germany and could not return to London in time for the
meeting.
There was a great deal of urgency, for the South Africans were due to test
Skylight within the coming week. Red Rose had reinforced her initial
despatch with quite extensive information concerning the enriching of the
uranium, the specifications of the actual bomb, its projected delivery in
the new G5 artillery round, the position and depth of the test-hole and the
ignition system that would be used to detonate the bomb.
'What we have to decide today,' Yudenich opened the discussion, 'is how
best to use this information.'

342
'I think, comrade,' the secretary-general of the ANC cut in eagerly, 'that
you should allow us to call a press conference here in London.'
Ram6n's lips curled into a small cynical smile. Of course they wanted it.
What a blaze of publicity the ANC would bring down upon itself.
'Comrade Secretary-General,'Yudenich smiled broadly,, 'I think the
announcement would carry a little more weight if it were to be made by the
president of the USSR, rather than the president of ANC.' His tone was
heavy with sarcasm. Yudenich didn't like blacks.
In private, before this meeting, he had remarked to Ram6n that it was a
pity that they had been obliged to invite the 'monkeys' rather than
deciding the issue between civilized human beings. 'It is difficult to
bring one's mind down to their level,' he had chuckled. 'But, then, you
have had much experience with them, Comrade. Should I have brought a packet
of nuts for them, do you think?'
Ram6n sat aloof from the discussion for nearly twenty minutes. The voices
of both Yudenich and the secretarygeneral were becoming louder and more
strained. It was Borodin who at last suggested mildly: 'Should we perhaps
ask Comrade General Machado's views? His source provided the information -
perhaps he has ideas how best to take advantage of it.'
They all looked down the table at him, and Ram6n had his reply prepared.
'Comrades, all that you have said has good sense and reason. However, if
either the ANC or the president of the USSR breaks the news it will be a
one-day sensation. I believe that to extract the most benefit we should
draw out the process. We should release a few scraps of information at a
time, and allow interest to build up over a protracted period-'
They looked thoughtful, and Ram6n went on.
'I also believe that if we break it ourselves, either through Moscow or
through the ANC, it will be looked upon as biased or at least highly
prejudiced information. I think we

343
should give the news to the most powerful voice in America to spread for us.
The voice that governs the United States - and, through it, the Western
world.'
Yudenich looked confused. 'Gerald Ford? The President of the United
States?'
'No, Comrade Minister. The news media. The true government of America. In
their single-minded obsession with the freedom of speech, the Americans
have created a dictatorship more powerful than anything we can devise. Let
us give this to the American television networks. We make no announcements,
we hold no press conferences. We simply give one of them a mere whiff of
the scent, show them the tracks of the hare, and let them hunt it down and
tear the animal to pieces themselves. You know well how it works; like a
pack of hounds their excitement and their blood lust will be more
thoroughly aroused if they believe that the prey is theirs alone. They call
it "investigative journalism" and give prizes to the ones who do most
damage to their government, their allies and to the capitalist system that
supports them.'
Yudenich stared at him a little longer before he began to chuckle. 'I hear
that in Africa they call you the Fox, Comrade General.'
'The Golden Fox,'Borodin corrected him, and Yudenich burst into
full-throated laughter.
'I see you merit your name, Comrade General. Let the Americans and the
British do our work for us once again.'

The total success of the Skylight operation reaffirmed Red Rose's-worth a
hundredfold, but brought with it its own problems.
The more valuable Red Rose became, the more skilfully and carefully she
must be controlled. Every possible precaution had to be taken to protect
and guard her in the field, and to give her incentive to continue. She must
be rewarded immediately for Skylight and given access to

344
Nicholas as soon as reasonably possible. However, this again was complicated
by Ram6n's own changing attitude towards his son.
He was determined that these sickly bourgeois sentiments which recently had
intruded on his sense of purpose must never be allowed to interfere with
his duty. He knew that, if necessary, given the right circumstances, he
must be ready to sacrifice Nicholas, just as he was completely resigned to
laying down his own life if duty dictated it.
Until that day, however, Nicholas must never be placed in any position of
danger. Especially there must never be the least possibility of Red Rose or
any other person laying hands on the boy and removing him from Ram6n's
custody.
He considered once again arranging the next access at the hacienda in
Spain. This would mean moving from Tercio; that involved a degree of risk,
a very small degree, but a certain risk none the less. It was just possible
that Red Rose - say, with the assistance of South African agents 7 might
succeed in spiriting the child to the British embassy in Madrid. He knew
that Red Rose possessed a British passport and dual nationality. Spain was
no longer secure enough to satisfy Ram6n.
Of course, he could arrange the meeting in either Havana or Moscow. This
entailed considerable logistical problems in getting Red Rose to those
locations. It would also reveal to her beyond any doubt who were her
ultimate masters. He wanted to avoid that if at all possible.
The most secure location outside Cuba or Russia was Tercio base on the
Chicamba river. It was remote and heavily guarded. There was no foreign
embassy within a thousand miles. Nicholas was already installed there. Red
Rose could be brought in with very little inconvenience. Once she was at
Tercio she would be more completely under his control than in any other
place on this earth.
Tercio it would have to be.
Isabella came fully awake with a guilty start. For a moment she did not know
where she was or what had woken her. Then she remembered, and realized that
it was the change in the sound of the Ilyushin's engines and the canting of
the deck beneath her that had woken her. Despite her best intentions, she
had fallen asleep in the uncomfortable jump-seat.
She glanced quickly at her wristwatch. Two hours fifty minutes since
take-off from Lusaka.
She lifted herself slightly in her seat and checked the instrument-panel
over the pilot's shoulder. They were still on the same heading, but they
were beginning their descent. The altimeter began to unwind steadily.
She looked ahead through the windscreen of the cockpit. It was late
afternoon and hazy, but suddenly the low sun flashed on a large body of
water ahead.
Lake? she thought, and searched her memory for one that large. The African
lakes all lay along the Great Rift Valley, thousands of miles in the
opposite direction. Then suddenly it occurred to her.
'The Atlantic! We have reached the west coast.' She reassembled the map of
Africa in her mind. 'Angola or Zaire, or the Enclave.'
The Candid banked on to an approach heading. The undercarriage whined and
vibrated as it was lowered. Ahead she saw white coral beaches, and the
shape of the reefs beneath the blue Atlantic waters.
There was a river mouth, with a low surf breaking on the bar and a deeper
serpentine channel crawling into the lagoon. The river was broad and brown,
but not large enough to be one of the major African drainages, not the
Congo nor the Luanda river. She tried to memorize every detail. A few miles
above the lagoon the river formed a distinctive ox-bow, a double S. Dead
ahead was a long red clay landing-strip, and she made out the thatched
roofs of a large settlement in the bend of the river beyond it.
The Candid touched down and taxied to the far end of the strip. As the
pilot shut down the engines, a convoy of

346
trucks trundled out to surround it. She saw many armed men in camouflage and
combat fatigues.
'Wait,' the pilot told her. 'Men come fetch.
Two officers entered the flight-deck. One was a major. They were both
swarthy and wore moustaches. They were dressed in camouflage with no
insignia apart from their badges or rank.
South Americans, she thought. Or Mexicans. And this was confirmed when the
major addressed her in Spanish.
'Welcome, sehora. You will please come with us.'
'My suitcase.' She indicated her luggage with all the hauteur she could
muster, and the major snapped an order at his junior. The lieutenant
carried her baggage down the ramp and loaded it into a waiting truck.
They drove her in silence for twenty minutes, passing the barbed-wire
stockade beyond which stood the thatched buildings she had first seen from
the air. There were armed guards at the gate. They followed a single track,
and she caught glimpses of the river through the trees. The track became
progressively softer and sandier, and she guessed that they were headed
towards the river mouth and the sea.
They reached another smaller stockade. The gate was guarded, but they were
allowed to pass straight through. The huts were thatched, but seemed
smaller and neater than the others she had seen. There were nine of them
along the edge of the beach.
As she stepped down from the truck she looked around her. It was a pretty
spot, and reminded her of one of the brochures for a Club Mdditerrande
holiday - sea, sand, palms and thatched huts.
The major escorted her politely into the largest hut, and as soon as
Isabella saw the two uniformed females who were waiting to meet her she
felt her flesh crawl. She remembered the degrading deep body-search that
had been inflicted on her on the previous occasion.
Her fears were without substance. The two young women were almost
apologetic as they searched her suitcase

347
ahd handbag. They patted her down, but did not force her to undress for a
body-search.
There was minor consternation when they discovered her camera. It was a
small 'Swinger' type Kodak. They discussed it with obvious alarm, and
Isabella resigned herself to losing it.
'It is of no value,' she told them in Spanish. 'You may take it if you
wish.'
In the end, one of the women took the camera and the two spare rolls of
film and disappeared with them through the door at the back of the room.
Ram6n was watching through the peep-hole in the wall as the two women
signallers conducted the search. He had ordered them to behave with
circumspection and not to give unnecessary offence, so he nodded with
approval when one of them came through and handed him the camera and film.
He examined them quickly but thoroughly. He exposed a single frame to
ensure that the trigger mechanism functioned and that the film wound on
properly. Then he nodded and handed the camera back to the woman.
Isabella was surprised and obviously pleased when it was returned to her.
Through the peep-hole, Ram6n studied her expression with interest. She had
grown her hair longer, and her features had matured and become stronger.
She was even more poised and self-possessed than she had been when last he
had seen her in Spain. She carried authority and success well, and he
reminded himself of her considerable achievements and the high place that
she had carved for herself in a few short years.
She had obviously kept herself in top physical condition. She was slim and
fit-looking. Her legs and arms under the short cotton blouse and Bermuda
shorts were tanned and shapely. Her muscle tone was as taut as that of a
professional athlete. He considered her objectively and he thought that she
was probably one of the three or four physically most attractive women of
the hundreds he had known. He was highly pleased with her. She was in large

348
measure responsible for his own career success.
The two women finished the search and repacked and closed Isabella's
suitcase. One of them picked it up and asked Isabella to follow her. She
took her to the end of the compound to a gate in the screen fence made of
dried palm-fronds. Isabella found herself in a small enclosure that
contained only two huts.
The woman led her to the nearest of these and ushered her into a single
large living-room, with a mosquito-netted bed in a side-alcove. She
deposited the suitcase on the bed and left Isabella alone.
Isabella explored quickly. There was a shower-room and earth toilet at the
rear. All very bucolic but more than adequate for her needs. It reminded
her of one of Sean's hunting camps in the Chizora concession.
She began unpacking her suitcase. There were hangingspace and shelves
behind a curtain, but before she could finish the chore a sound carried to
her through the open window overlooking the beach.
It was a sound that pierced her soul, the high joyous shout of a child that
she would have recognized wherever or whenever she heard it.
She rushed to the window.
Nicholas was on the beach. He wore only bathing-trunks, and at first glance
she saw that he had grown inches since their last meeting in Spain.
He had a puppy with him, a black and white spotted mongrel with a thin
muzzle and a long whippy tail. Nicholas was holding a stick out of reach as
he raced along the water's edge, and the puppy gambolled and leapt beside
him trying to reach the stick. Nicholas was shrieking with laughter, and
the puppy yapped hysterically.
Nicholas hurled the stick out into the sea and shouted, 'Fetch!' And the
puppy plunged in gamely and swam out to the floating stick. It picked it up
in its jaws and turned back.
'Good boy! Come on!' Nicholas encouraged him, and as the puppy came ashore
it shook a gale of waterdrops over
349
him. Nicholas howled with protest, and seized one end of the stick. Boy and
dog began a laughing growling tug-ofwar.
Isabella found her vision misting over, and she had to blink rapidly to
clear her eyes. She left the hut and went down softly to the high-water
mark. Nicholas was so absorbed with his pet that she was able to sit still
and observe him for almost ten minutes before he noticed her.
Immediately his manner altered. He pushed the puppy away. 'Down!' he
commanded sternly, and it obeyed. 'Sid' he said. 'Stay!'
He left it at the water's edge and came to Isabella.
'Good day, Mamma.' He held out his hand solemnly. 'How goes it with you
today?'
'Did you know I was coming?'
'Yes. I am to be good and kind to you,' he replied frankly. 'But I will not
be allowed to go to school while you are here.'
'Do you like school, Nicholas?'
'Yes, Mamma, very much. I can read now. And we are learning in English,' he
replied in that language.
'Your English is very good, Nicky. Luckily I have brought you some English
books.' She tried to make up for denied pleasure. 'I think you will like
them.'
'Thank you.'
She felt rejected, an interloper in his compact little world.
'What is your puppy's name?'
'July Twenty-Six.'
'That is an odd name for a puppy. Why do you call him that?'
He looked astonished at her ignorance. 'July TwentySix. It is the date of
the beginning of the revolution. Everybody knows that.'
'Of course. How foolish of me.'
He took pity on her. 'I call him just plain Twenty-Six.' He whistled the
puppy, and it came bounding up the beach. 'Sid' he ordered. 'Shake hands.'
350
The puppy offered her its paw.
'Twenty-Six is very clever. You have trained him well.'
'Yes,' he agreed calmly. 'He is the cleverest dog in the world.'
'My baby,' she lamented silently, 'what are they doing to you? What tricks
are they playing on your susceptible young mind that you call your puppy
after some violent political event?' She did not know what revolution
Nicholas was referring to, but the anguish must have twisted her features,
for he asked: 'Are you all right, Mamma?'
'Oh, yes.'
'I will take you to meet Adra,'he invited. As they walked back through the
palms she casually tried to take his hand, but he firmly and politely
disengaged her fingers.
'I still have the soccer ball you gave me,' he mollified her. She knew she
would have to win his confidence and liking all over again, and the
knowledge made her eyes sting once more.
'I must take it very easily,' she cautioned herself. 'I mustn't press him
too hard.'
She was totally unprepared for the shock of first seeing Nicholas in his
combat fatigues. With the cap cocked over one eye and his thumbs hooked in
his belt, he swaggered like a legionnaire and strutted for her approval.
She covered up her distress and made suitable noises of admiration.
She had brought with her a selection of books that she hoped might appeal
to a boy of Nicholas's age. By a fortunate chance one of these was the
African classic lock of the Bushveld, a story of a man and his dog.
The illustrations intrigued Nicholas immediately, and he professed to see
in Jock a resemblance to his own Twenty-six. They discussed this at great
length, and then Nicholas wanted to read the text. It was a simple story,
but beautifully written. He read aloud. Despite herself she was impressed
by his ability, although once or twice he appealed to her for help with a
dffficult word or the name of an African animal with which he was
unfamiliar.
By the time that Adra came to fetch him to bed, they

351
had made up most of the lost time and ground, and were once again on the
slippery footing of tentative friendship.
'Don't push too hard,' she had to keep warning herself.
As he said goodnight and shook her hand formally, he suddenly blurted out:
'It is a good story. I like Jock the dog, and I am glad you have come to
see me again. I don't really mind not going to school.' His outburst had
clearly embarrassed him, and he hurried from the room.
Isabella waited until she saw the light go out in his bedroom, then she
went to find Adra. She wanted to speak to her alone, and try to make some
estimate of just what part she had played in Nicholas's abduction and where
her sympathies now lay. She also wanted news of Ram6n, and to find out from
Adra when she would see him again.
Adra was in the kitchen, washing the dinner-dishes, but as Isabella entered
her expression went dead and she withdrew behind an iron-cold reserve. She
replied to Isabella in monosyllables and would not meet her eyes. Very
shortly Isabella gave up the effort and went back to her own hut.
Despite the fatigue of travel she slept fitfully and woke in the dawn
light, eager for her first full day with her son.
They spent the entire day with Twenty-six on the beach. In the bag of gifts
that Isabella had brought with her was a tennis ball. This kept boy and dog
amused for hours on end.
Then they swam out to the reef. Nicholas showed her how to hook the
sea-cats out of their holes in the coral. He was delighted by her horror of
the writhing slimy legs of the miniature octopuses and the huge luminous
eyes which gave them their name.
'Adra will cook them for dinner,' he promised.
'You love Adra, don't you?' she asked.
'Of course,' he replied. 'Adra is my mother.' He caught himself as he
realized his gaffe. 'I mean you are my mamma, but Adra is my real mother.'
The hurt made her want to weep.
On the second morning Nicholas came to her hut and

352
woke her while it was still dark. 'We are going fishing,' he exulted. 'Jos6
is going to take us out in the boat.' ,
jos6 was one of the camp guards she had noticed on her arrival. He was a
dark-skinned young man with crooked teeth and pock-marked face. He was
obviously one of Nicholas's favourites. The two of them chatted easily
while they readied the boat and the fishing-lines.
'Why do you call him Pele?' she asked Jos6 in Spanish, and Nicholas
answered for him.
'Because I am the champion soccer-player in the school - not so, JOS6?'
Nicholas showed her how to bait her line, and was patronizingly indulgent
of her inability to remove the hook from the mouth of a leaping, quivering
fish.
That evening they read another chapter ofyock together. When Nicholas was
in bed, Isabella tried once again to engage Adra in friendly conversation.
She received the same taciturn and hostile response. However, when she gave
up and left the kitchen, Adra followed her out into the darkness and
gripped her arm. With her lips almost touching Isabella's ear she hissed:
'I cannot talk to you. They are watching us every minute.'
Before Isabella could recover, Adra had disappeared back into the kitchen.
In the morning Nicholas had another surprise for her. He took her down to
the beach where Jok waited for them. At a word from Nicholas he handed over
his weapon and stood by grinning with crooked teeth while the boy stripped
the AKM. Nicholas's fingers were nimble and fast. He called out the name of
each separate part of the weapon as he detached it.
'How long?' he demanded of jos6 as he finished.
'Twenty-five seconds, Pele.' The guard laughed with admiration. 'Very good.
We will make you a para, yet.'
'Twenty-five seconds, Mamma,' he repeated to Isabella proudly, and although
she was appalled by the demonstration she tried to make her congratulations
sound sincere.

353
'Now, Jos6, you must time me again when I reassemble,' Nicholas ordered.
'And you must take my photograph, Mamma.'
The camera was a great attraction, and she obeyed. Then Nicholas posed with
the rifle and demanded another photograph. Watching him through the lens,
she was reminded strongly of the photographs she had seen of the child
warriors trained by the Vietcong. They were children dwarfed by the weapons
they carried, little boys and girls with faces like cherubs and big
innocent eyes. She had read also of the atrocities committed by these
aberrant little monsters. Was Nicholas being turned into one of these? The
thought made her physically sick.
'Can I shoot, Jos6?' Nicholas wheedled him, and they argued playfully until
at last Josd allowed himself to be won over.
He threw an empty bottle out into the lagoon, and Nicholas stood at the
edge of the water and fired with the selector of the rifle on single shot.
The sound of gunfire brought half a dozen paratroopers and the women
signallers from the compound. They stood at the high-water mark and cheered
him on. On the fifth shot the bottle exploded and there were shouts of
'Viva, PeleP and 'Courage, Pele!' from the onlookers.
'Take my picture again, Mamma,' Nicholas pleaded, and posed with his
admirers on either side of him and the rifle held at high port across his
chest.
Adra gave them a picnic lunch of fruit and cold smoked fish to eat on the
beach. As they sat together Nicholas remarked suddenly through a mouthful
of food: Jos6 has fought in many battles. He has killed five men with his
rifle. One day I will be a true son of the revolution - just as he is.'
That night she lay under her mosquito-net and tried to fight off the dark
waves of despair and helplessness that flooded over her.
'They,are turning my baby into a monster. How can I stop them? How can I
get hijin away from them?'

354
She did not even know who they were, and her sense of helplessness was
overwhelnung.
'Oh, where is Ram6n? If only he would come to me. With his help, I know I
can be strong. With him beside me, we can see this dreadful thing through.'
She tried to approach Adra again, but the woman was cold and intractable.
Nicholas was becoming restless. Although he was still polite and friendly,
she could tell that he was becoming bored with her company alone. He spoke
of school and soccer matches and his friends and what they would do when he
was allowed to return to them. She tried desperately to distract him, but
there was a limit to the games she could devise, to the fascination of the
books and stories she provided for him.
A kind of wild desperation came over her. She dreamt of escaping with him
to the safe and sane world of Weltevreden. She imagined him dressed in the
uniform of a firstclass public school, rather than in military camouflage.
She fantasized making some bargain with the mysterious powers that
controlled their destinies so completely.
'I would do anything - if only they would give my baby back to me.' Yet,
even as she thought it, she knew it was in vain.
Then in the dark and hopeless watches of the night her imagination became
morbid. She thought of ending it, ending the torment for both herself and
her son.
'It would be the only way to save him, the only way out for both of us.'
She could use josd's rifle. She would ask Nicholas to show it to her, and
once she had it in her hands ... She shuddered at the thought and could
take it no further.
Colonel-General Ram6n Machado recognized the change in her. He had been
anticipating it.
For ten days he had been observing her closely. There were cameras and
microphones in the huts which Isabella had not discovered. While she and
the child had been together on the beach or in the boat they had been
filmed

355
with a high-powered telescopic lens. For hours at a time Ram6n studied her
through binoculars from carefully prepared vantage-points above the beach.
He had watched her first wild elation change slowly to simple single-minded
enjoyment of her son, and then slowly sour into despair and corroding
discontent as she came to appreciate fully the invidious circumstances in
which she was trapped.
He guessed that she had probably reached the stage when she could try
something desperate that would destroy all the beneficial results that had
been achieved by the visit so far.
He gave Adra new orders.
As she served dinner that evening, Adra abruptly sent Nicholas on an errand
that got him out of the hut for a few minutes. Then, as she spooned thick
fish soup into Isabella's bowl, she leant so close to her that a loose
strand of her hair brushed Isabella's cheek.
'Do not speak or look at me,' she whispered. 'I have a message from the
marqu6s.' Isabella dropped her spoon with a clatter. 'Careful. Give no
sign. He says that he will try to come to you, but it is difficult and
dangerous. He says that he loves you. He says to be brave.'
All thought of suicide was driven from her mind. Ram6n was close. Ram6n
loved her. She knew deep down in her heart that it would be all right as
long as she had the fortitude to brave it through, and Ram6n's help.
The knowledge kept her going through the next two days. There was a new
sparkle and zest in her that she was able to share with Nicholas. The
restlessness and creeping ennui which had begun to affect their
relationship evaporated. They were happy again together.
In the nights she lay awake in her hut, no longer devoured by doubt and
brooding fears, but waiting for Ram6n.
'He will come. I know he will.'
Then one of the women who had met her and searched her luggage on arrival
came to her, but with a message.

356
'There is an aircraft departing at nine o'clock tomorrow. You will leave
with it.'
'The child!' she demanded. 'Nicholas - Pele?'
The woman shook her head. 'The child remains. Your visit is terminated.
They will fetch you at eight o'clock tomorrow morning. You must be ready.
Those are my orders.'
She wanted to take some memento of her son with her. After she had showered
and changed for dinner she took a pair of nail-scissors from her toilet-bag
and hid them in the pocket of her Bermudas. When Nicholas was seated at the
dinner-table she came up behind him and before he could pull away she
snipped a thick dark curl from the back of his head.
'Hey,'he protested half-heartedly. 'Why do you do that?'
'I want something to remember you by when I am gone.'
He thought about that for a while and then asked shyly: 'Can I have some of
your hair as well - to remember you?'
Without a word she handed him the scissors. He stood in front of her and
streamed one of her tresses between his fingers.
'Not too much,' she warned him. He laughed and cut a lock and curled it
round his finger.
'Your hair is soft - and pretty,' he whispered. 'Do you really have to go,
Mamma?'
'I am afraid so, Nicky.'
'Will you come and visit me again?'
'Yes, I will. I promise you that.'
'I will keep this piece of your hair in my lock book.' He fetched the book
and pressed the curl between the pages. 'Every time I read the book I will
think of you.'
The moon was almost full. The silver radiance sifted in through the open
sides of her hut and cast stark shadows that moved softly across the floor
to mark the passage of the hours.
'He must come,' she told herself, lying rigid with fearful hope on the hard
mattress. 'Please let him come.'
Suddenly she sat bolt upright. She had heard nothing,

357
seen nothing, but she knew with utter certainty that he was close. She had
to force herself not to call his name aloud. She waited with every sense
alert, and then suddenly without sound he was there.
He appeared like a wraith in the silver moonlight, and she gagged the cry
that rose in her throat. She threw back the mosquito-net and with three
quick steps had crossed the hut and was in his arms. Their kiss seemed to
last a moment and all of infinity; and then, still without a word, he drew
her down the front steps of the hut and into the sanctuary of the palm
grove.
'We do not have long,' he warned her softly, and she choked back a sob and
clung to him.
'What is happening to us, darling?' she pleaded. 'I don't understand any of
it. Why are you doing this to us?'
'For the same reason that you are forced to obey. For Nicholas, and for
you.'
'I don't understand. I cannot go on, Ram6n. I have reached the end of my
strength.'
'Not much longer, my darling. I promise you that. Soon it will be over, and
we will be together.'
'You said that last time, darling. I have done all I can....
'I know, Bella. What you have done has saved us. Both of us, Nicholas and
me. Without you we would have long since been destroyed. You have bought
time and life for us.'
'They have made me do terrible, terrible things, Ram6n. They have made me
betray my family and my country.'
'They are pleased with you, Bella. This visit is proof of that. They have
given you two weeks with Nicholas. If only you can last a little longer -
give them just a little more of what they want.'
'They will never let me go, Ram6n. I know that. They will hold me for ever,
and bleed the last drop.'
'Bella, darling.' He stroked her body through the thin silk of her
nightgown. 'I have a plan. If you can keep them happy just a little longer,
next time they will be more

358
lenient. They will trust you a little more. They will start to become
careless - and then, I promise, I will bring Nicky to you.'
'Who are they?' she whispered, but he was beginning to make love to her and
the question faltered.
'Quiet, my love. Don't ask. It is best you don't know.'
'At first I thought it was the Russians, but the Americans acted on my
Skylight message. The Americans used my information on the Angola raid. Is
it the American CIA, Ram6n?'
'You may be right, my love, but for Nicky's sake don't provoke them.'
'Oh God, Ram6n. I am so unhappy. I didn't believe that any civilized people
could treat others in this way.'
'Not much longer,' he whispered. 'Be strong. Give them what they want for
just a little longer, and then Nicky and I will be with you.'
'Make love to me, Ram6n. It's the only thing in the world that can keep me
from going mad.'

Nicholas drove her to the airstrip the following morning. He was
tremendously proud of his driving skill, and she was effusive in her praise.
Josd and the regular driver were in the back of the jeep, and she overheard
a remark that one made to the other that at the time made little sense but
stuck in her memory like a burr.
'Pele is the true cub of the fox, El Zorro.'
At the ramp of the Ilyushin they said goodbye to each other.
'You promised to come to see me again, Mamma,' Nicholas reminded her.
'Of course, Nicky. What present should I bring you?'
'My soccer ball is worn and leaking. We have to pump it many times during
the match.'
'I will bring you another.'
'Thank you, Mamma.' He offered her his hand, but she

359
could not restrain herself. She dropped to her knees and hugged him to her
breast.
For a shocked moment he stood very still in her arms, and then he tore
himself violently from her embrace. His face was scarlet with humiliation.
He glared at her, then whirled and ran for the jeep.
She peered down from the small side-window in the flight-deck of the
Ilyushin, but Nicholas was gone. She saw the fine pall of dust still
hanging over the road to the beach. He left a great emptiness in her soul.
She disembarked from the Ilyushin in Libya where it landed to refuel, and
caught a Swissair flight to Zurich. She airmailed postcards to everybody in
the family including Nanny, and used her credit cards to establish her
presence in Switzerland. She even called on Shasa's bankers in Lausanne to
withdraw ten thousand francs and thus allay any suspicions that her father
might have about her holiday.
The photographs she had taken of Nicholas were beautiful. She had captured
his typical expressions and moods and characteristic poses. Even those of
him in his camouflage fatigues handling that dreadful assault-rifle gave
her more pleasure than distress.
She was keeping a journal for Nicholas. It was a thick bound book with
pockets inside the covers, and it contained every memento of Nicholas that
she had accumulated over the years.
There was a copy of his official Spanish birth certificate and adoption
papers. She had hired a London firm who specialized in this type of work to
trace the Machado family back three centuries. A copy of the family tree
and the Machado heraldic arms were in the front pockets of the journal.
There was also the baby bootee that she had retrieved from under his cot in
the flat in Milaga. She had pasted in the copies of the reports from his
nursery school and the paediatric: clinic, together with every photograph
they had ever sent her. She wrote her own comments and a descrip
360
 tion of her feelings of love and hope and despair on alternate pages.
When she returned to Weltevreden she added the lock of his hair and the
photographs she had taken of him to her hoard, and included a description
of their interlude together. She even recorded their conversations and
every amusing or poignant comment he had made.
When she felt deeply depressed and unhappy she locked herself in her suite,
retrieved the journal from her personal safe and gloated over every item in
it.
It gave her the strength to go on.

The Beechcraft banked into a steep descending turn and the release of
gravity made Isabella feel light in the rear seat.
'There,' Garry shouted from the pilot's left front seat. 'See them? At the
foot of the hill. Three of them.'
Isabella stared down at the forest-top and the broken ground along the rim
of the escarpment. The rock was fractured into battlements and turrets,
wild cliffs and tumbled towers like the ruins of some fabulous fairy
castle.
The forest filled the valleys and the ravines between the rocky castles
with splendid chaos; great tree-trunks towered up a hundred feet or more
with widespread branches clothed in autumn livery, gilded with all the
amalgams of gold and copper and bronze. Other great trees were already bare
of leaf; the bloated baobabs with reptilian bark squatted grotesquely as
creatures from the age of the dinosaurs. At the very wing-tip of the
Beechcraft a giant African ebony flashed by, its leaves still dark shining
green and its top branches studded with ripe yellow fruit.
A flock of green pigeons hurled themselves in wild alarm into the air, and
darted by so close that she could see their bright yellow beaks and the
beady shine of their eyes. Then abruptly the forest ended and a glade of
pale winter grass
361
stretched below them. The Beechcraft roared straight at the tall cliff of
rock on the far side.
'There! Can you see them, Bella?' Garry called again.
'Yes! Yes! Aren't they magnificent?' she shouted back.
At the far end of the clearing, three bull elephants ran in single file.
Their ears were spread wide as the lateen sail on an Arab dhow. Their backs
were humped so that she could see the curved and crested ridge of the spine
beneath the grey hide and the gleam of long curved ivory carried high.
As they flashed twenty feet over him, the lead bull turned to confront
them. He reached up with a long serpentine trunk as though to pluck them
from the sky. Then Garry pulled back on the control column. Gravity sucked
at Isabella's bowels, and the aircraft hurtled up to skim the raw blue
granite and then bore up high into the cloudless African sky.
'That big one would go all of seventy pounds.' Garry was judging the weight
of the bull's tusks as he twisted in the seat, looking back over his
shoulder, flying by instinct alone, even in this critical angle of climb.
'Are they in our area, Pater?' he asked, as he rotated the nose down and
eased back on throttle and pitch to resume level flight.
'On the edge of it.' Shasa was relaxed in the right-hand seat beside him.
He had taught Garry to fly and knew his capabilities. 'That's the National
Park over there - you can see the cut-line through the forest that marks
the boundary.'
'Those old jumbo are heading straight for it.' Isabella leant on the back
of her father's seat, and he turned and grinned at her.
'You bet your sweet life, they are,' he agreed.
'You mean they know which is hunting concession and which is the
sanctuary?'
'Like you know the way to your own bathroom. At the very first hint of
trouble they head for home and mother.'
'Can you see the camp?' Garry asked.362
'Just south of that kopie.' Shasa pointed ahead through the windscreen.
'There, now you can see the smoke. The landing-strip runs parallel to that
patch of dark Jesse bush.'
Garry eased the power again, sinking back towards the wilderness, winging
low over the rough bush strip to check that it was clear.
A small herd of zebra that had been grazing on the grass strip scattered at
their approach and plunged away at full gallop. Each of them towed a
feather of pale dust behind it.
,Damned donkeys,' Garry muttered. 'Hit one of those and he'll take your
wing off.'
Below her Isabella saw an open truck parked near the crude windsock. She
looked for her elder brother at the wheel, but it was one of his black
drivers. She felt a tingle of disappointment. She hadn't seen Sean in over
two years, and she missed him.
Garry turned the twin-engined Beechcraft on to final approach and lined up
with the strip. He lowered the undercarriage, and three green lights lit up
on the dashboard. His hands were powerful and sure on the controls as he
completed his landing checks and brought her in at a steep angle to avoid
the tree-tops that crowded the strip.
'He is a marvellous pilot,'Isabella admired his technique. 'Almost as good
as Pater.'
Garry had flown them up from Johannesburg in the company jet. They had
stayed over in Salisbury at the Monomatapa Hotel. Shasa and Garry had had
a meeting with Ian Smith, the Rhodesian prime minister. Then they had flown
this last leg in the smaller Beechcraft. The jet needed a thousand metres
of metalled runway to make a safe landing, whereas the twin-engined
Beechcraft could sneak into the short grass strip at Chizora with a skilful
pilot at the controls.
It was a full-flap landing, and Garry set her down firmly, no float or
bounce. The machine jolted and pitched to the rough surface. He thrust on
maximum safe braking as the wall of trees at the far end of the strip
rushed towards

363
them. Then he wheeled her with another burst of engine and taxied in a blown
dust-devil to where the truck waited for them.
The camp staff swarmed around the Beechcraft the moment that Garry cut the
motors. Shasa opened the hatch and jumped down off the wing to shake their
hands and greet each one of them in strict order of seniority. Most of the
safari staff had been with the company from the beginning, and so Shasa
knew each of them by name.
The pleasure of the camp staff was even greater when Isabella jumped down
off the wing, and those marvellous white African smiles stretched to the
limit. Although her visits to Chizora were intermittent, she was a firm
favourite amongst them. They called her Kwezi, the Morning Star.
'I have fresh tomatoes and lettuce for you, Kwezi,' Lot, the head gardener
assured her. The garden at Chizora camp was fertilized with buffalo and
elephant dung and yielded fruit and vegetables that would have won prizes
at any agricultural show. They all knew Kwezi's weakness for salads.
'I put your tent at the end,- Kwezi,' Isaac, the camp butler, told her. 'So
you can listeh to the birds in the morning. Chef has got your special
rooibos tea for you.' The herbal tea from the Cape mountains was another of
Isabella's weaknesses.
Garry ran the Beechcraft into its jackal-wire hangar to prevent the lions
and hyenas gnawing on the tyres during the night. The staff loaded their
baggage on the back of the open truck. Then with Garry at the Toyota's
wheel they bumped along the rough track through the combretum forest.
It had been a good rainy season, and game was plentiful. The sandy track
was dimpled with their spoor. When they came out into the wide glade in
front of the camp, there were herds of zebra and sleek red-brown impala
standing out unafraid on the silvery winter-grass pasture. It was one of
Sean's strict rules that no shot was ever fired within two miles of the
camp. This was no inhibiting restriction, for

364
the Chizora concession spread over ten thousand square kilometres.
The camp overlooked the glade and the muddy waterhole at its centre. Later
in the season, when the water dried up, the game would migrate. Then Sean
would be obliged to pack up this entire camp and follow them down the
escarpment to his other camp-site on the shore of Lake Kariba.
The row of green tents was set back discreetly within the forest, each with
its own shower and earthen toilet standing behind it. The dining-tent was
surrounded by a thatch-walled boma which was open to the sky. The canvas
camp-chairs were set around the camp-fire, great logs of leadwood and
mopane which were kept burning day and night. The camp servants all wore
crisply starched uniforms, and Isaac, as camp butler, sported a crimson
sash over one shoulder.
The portable generator provided lighting and power for the bank of
refrigerators and deep-freezers in the mudwalled pantry. From his thatched
kitchen the chef conjured up a sequence of gourmet dishes. There were all
the refinements of what was known as a 'Hemingway camp'. Chief amongst
these were the tubs of ice on the bar table and the regiments of
liquor-bottles drawn up in ranks. There were five different brands of
premium whisky and three of single malt. A grand cru Chablis Vaud6sir
reposed in a silver ice-bucket. There were also the ingredients for Pimm's
No. i and Bloody Mary, to cater for those with more mundane tastes. All the
glasses were Stuart crystal. The type of clients who could afford the
safari fees expected and made damn sure they got these basic necessities of
life.
The uniformed attendants had filled the tanks of the individual showers
with piping-hot water. While the guests washed off the dust and grime of
their travels, they unpacked and laid out their safari clothes in each
tent.
Bathed and refreshed, the family gathered at the campfire, and Shasa
glanced at his wristwatch.

365
'Bit early for a peg?'
'Nonsense,' said Garry. 'We are on holiday.' He called the barman to take
their orders.
Isabella sipped her cold white wine. For the first time in almost two years
she felt safe and at peace, and incongruously she thought of Michael. He
was the only thing missing. She watched the procession of beautiful wild
animals coming down to drink at the waterhole and listened to her father
and Garry with only half her attention.
They were discussing Sean's client. He was a German industrialist named
Otto Heider.
'He's twenty years older than Sean, but they are soulmates. Both of them
are thrusters. God, they take some chances together,' Shasa told them. 'The
more hairy and dangerous the action, the more old Otto loves it. He won't
hunt with anybody except Sean.'
'I had Special Services run a full report on him,' Garry nodded. Special
Services was a closed section of Courtney Enterprises whose director
reported directly to Garry. It was his private intelligence system. It
dealt with everything from company security to industrial espionage. 'Otto
Heider is a player all right. The list of his assets runs to four typed
pages, but he is a wild player. I don't think we should get financially
involved with him. He takes too' many chances. According to my
calculations, he is undercapitalized by at least three billion
Deutschmarks.'
'I agree,' Shasa inclined his head. 'He's an interesting character, but not
for us. Do you know he brings his own blood-bank on safari, just in case he
gets stamped on by an elephant or hooked by a buffalo?'
'No, I didn't know that.' Garry sat forward in his campchair.
'Fresh sweet blood,' Shasa smiled. 'On the hoof, so to speak.
Self-administering transfusions.'
'What does that mean?' Even Isabella was interested.
'He brings two qualified nurses with him. Both blonde, both beautiful and
under twenty-five years old, both blood-type AB Positive. If he needs
blood, he can tap it 366
straight off one of them and at the same time have expert nursing care.'
Garry let out an admiring snort of laughter. 'And, even if he does not need
blood, they are still extremely useful items to have on a safari. The
transfusions simply flow in the opposite direction.'
'You are disgusting, Garry,' Isabella smiled.
'Not me! Old Otto is the disgusting one. I think I am changing my opinion
of him. We might still do business together. Such forethought is most
commendable.'
'Forget it. Otto is flying out first thing in the morning with his two
nurses. The client we are really interested in arrives tomorrow afternoon.
Sean will drop Otto in Salisbury and bring the other one back-' Shasa broke
off and shaded his eyes, staring out across the wide glade in front of the
camp.
'I hear Sean's truck. Yes, there he comes.'
The tiny shape of the hunting vehicle darted out of the forest edge a mile
away across the open grassland.
'Master Sean is in a real hurry.'
The sound of the truck engine mounted to a roar. A tau column of dust rose
into the still evening sky. The animals at the waterhole panicked and
galloped for the trees.
As the distance closed rapidly, they could make out the occupants of the
open Toyota. The cab and the bodywork had been removed and the windscreen
laid flat over the engine bonnet. On a high rear seat were four figures.
Sean's two black trackers in khaki fatigues and two white women. These,
Isabella presumed, were the German nurses, for they fitted the description,
young and blonde and pretty.
In the front passenger-seat was a middle-aged dressed in custom-tailored
safari clothing. He wore goldrimmed spectacles and a leopard-skin band
around his Stetson. He exuded the air of jaunty confidence that marked him
as Otto Heider, the client they had been discussing.
Sean was at the wheel of the speeding Toyota, and Isabella could not
restrain herself. She jumped up from the camp-chair and ran to the gate of
the boma.

367
Scan wore a bush shirt with two heavy-calibre brass cartridges in the loops
on his breast. His shirt-sleeves had been cut away at the shoulders, so
that his arms were bare. The muscles were tanned and glowing with abundant
health as though they had been oiled. His shoulder-length hair was cut in
a Prince Valiant bob. The Comanche-stylc leather thong around his forehead
could not restrain the shimmering jet-black locks that danced and fluttered
like a flag around his head as he drove the truck at high speed up to the
entrance of the boma.
He hit the brakes so hard that the heavy vehicle spun into a broadside and
came to a halt in a billowing cloud of its own dust. Sean leapt out and
strode towards them. His khaki shorts were cut away high on the thighs, and
his sockless feet were thrust into kudu-skin velskoen.
'Sean!' Isabella let out a happy cry, but he brushed past her with an
expression of dark fury on his face. She stared after him in bewilderment.
Sean ignored his father as he had his sister and stopped in front of his
younger brother.
'Just what the hell do you think you are playing at?' he asked in a voice
that rang with cold fury, and Garry's happy grin faded.
'And I'm glad to see you also.' Garry's tone was mild, but his eyes
sparkled with annoyance behind his spectacles.
Sean reached down and seized the front of Garry's shirt. With one clean
jerk, he lifted his brother out of the canvas chair. It was a feat of
brutal strength, for Garry was a big, solidly built man.
'Let me tell you a little secret,' Sean said. 'I spend four days getting
into position for a shot at the only decent bull I've seen all season. At
the critical moment you come barging in like von Richthofen and rev the
hell out of us!'
'Look, Sean, I didn't.... Garry tried to placate him, but Sean wasn't even
listemng.
'You goddam pen-pushing office wallah. You soft-arsed tourist playing tough
guy. Who the hell are you trying to impress?'
369
'Scan.' Garry held up both hands, palms open. 'Come on, be reasonable. How
was I to know?'
'Reasonable? When you shoot up my concession and chase the hell out of my
jumbo. Reasonable? When you screw up my best client and the last shot we
will get at a big bull this safariF
'I said I'm sorry.'
'If you're sorry now, just think how sorry you're going to be five minutes
from now,' said Sean. With his left hand still gripping Garry's shirt, he
shoved him backwards. Instinctively Garry resisted. Instantly Sean reversed
the pressure, and it took Garry by surprise.
Sean did not cock his right hand. He threw the punch only five inches, but
the full power of his broad muscled shoulders was behind it and Garry was
moving into it. Garry's teeth clicked together in his jaw. As he staggered
backwards his spectacles spun from his head. The campchair caught him at
the back of his knees; he went over backwards, falling heavily and
awkwardly.
'Damn it, that felt good,' said Sean, clenching and unclenching his right
hand as he moved around the overturned chair to reach him again.
'Sean!' Isabella recovered from her shock. 'Stop it, Sean! Leave him aloneV
She ran forward to interpose herself between her brothers, but Shasa caught
her arm to restrain her. Although she struggled to be free, he held her
easily.
Garry struggled into a sitting position. His expression was dazed. A little
trail of blood crept out of one nostril, and he tried to sniff it back.
Then he lifted his hand and smeared it across his upper lip. He held the
bloodied hand close to his myopic eyes and inspected it with disbelieL
'Come on, Big Shot.' Sean was standing over him. 'Get on your feet. I've
been saving up for this.'
'Leave him alone, Sean. Please!' Isabella hated the violence and the blood
and this terrifying anger between two people she loved so dearly. 'Stop it!
Stop itV
'Quiet, Bella!' Her father shook her sharply. 'Keep out of this.'

369
Still sitting in the dust, Garry shook himself like a great St Bernard dog.
'Come on, Mr bloody Chairman of the Board,' Sean taunted him. 'Get on your
feet, Mr Businessman of the Sodding Year. Let's see your style, Mr Fortune
Magazine 500.
'Leave them, Bella.' Shasa still held her. 'This had to come. It's been
brewing for twenty years. Let them work it out.' Suddenly Isabella
understood. Sean's choice of jibes was an expression of the envy and
resentment that he had accumulated over a lifetime.
Sean was the firstborn, the golden princeling, the pick of the litter. All
those honours and titles should have been his. He should have been the
prime recipient of his father's favour and approbation, and yet he had lost
it all. It had been stolen away from him by the runt.
'Piss-bed,' said Sean. 'Four-eyes.'Those were childhood insults. Isabella
had a vivid memory of the lordly superiority of the elder brother. She
remembered how in the Cape winters of their childhood, when the snow lay
thick on the Hottentots Holland mountains, Sean would turn Garry out of bed
in the dawn and send him to sit on the toilet to warm the seat for him. She
remembered a hundred other episodes of humiliation and casual bullying by
which Sean had reinforced his domination over the weakling.
Garry came to his feet. He had applied twenty years of unremitting labour
to building up the sickly body that he had been born with. Now his chest
was a barrel of muscle, and the coarse body-hair curled out of the V of his
shirtfront. His limbs were almost grotesquely over-developed. However, he
stood almost four inches shorter than his elder brother as they confronted
each other.
'That,' he said quietly, 'is the last time. It will never happen again. Do
you understand?'
'No.' Sean shook his head, his anger contained behind the mocking smile. 'I
don't understand, Piss-bed. You are going to have to explain it to me.'
The German client and his two nubile nurses had

370
climbed down from the Toyota and followed Sean into the boma. Now they were
watching with delighted anticipation.
Garry blinked like an owl without his glasses, but his teeth clenched so
hard that humps of muscles, like walnuts, bulged on the hinges of his jaw
below his ears. Sean leant forward, balanced on the balls of his feet and
slapped his cheek lightly, still smiling mockingly, and Garry went for him.
He was fast for such a heavy man, the way a bull buffalo is fast, the way
an old mugger crocodile is fast, but Sean was fast as a leopard. He ducked
under Garry's rush, and threw a left-hander into his belly just below the
sternum of his ribs. It was like throwing a brick at a battle-tank. Garry
did not even grunt. He merely hunched his shoulders and came in again.
Sean weaved and danced ahead of him, the insolent grin still on his lips.
He was letting Garry come to him, and counter-punching with the rushes. His
blows thudded on rubbery muscles as though he were beating a truck tyre
with a baseball bat.
The German nurses were squealing with happy horror. The camp servants came
running from the kitchen lines. Their heads bobbed up in a row along the
low boma wall, wide-eyed with fascination.
'Stop them, Daddy,' Isabella pleaded, but Shasa was assessing his sons with
a calculating eye. So far, this was the way he would have expected it to
go.
Sean was all flash and style, tossing back his glossy locks after each
exchange, taking a moment to glance at his audience, especially the blonde
nurses.
Garry, on the other hand, was plugging away solidly, making Sean dance and
weave to keep out of range of those massive arms. He was obviously willing
to take all the body shots that Sean could throw at him. However, it was
surprisingly difficult for Sean to land on Garry's head. He had a trick of
hunching those muscled shoulders at the final instant and deflecting Sean's
fists.

371
He was also very quick with his arms, and some of Sean's best punches to
the head were caught on Garry's heavy biceps or on his hairy forearms.
At first, Garry's rushes seemed to be without purpose. Then Shasa realized
that he was remorselessly driving Sean back into the corner wall of the
boma, attempting to pin and grapple him there. Each time, Sean managed to
break clear and Garry would begin all over again. He was as patient as a
sheep-dog, working him into the position he wanted, grimly accepting the
punishment Sean was inflicting. Blood from his nostril was running into his
mouth and dripping from his chin into the front of his khaki bush shirt.
By this time Sean's mocking grin was becoming a little strained, and the
flow of taunts had long since dried up. His movements were no longer so
crisp. On the other hand, Garry moved with the same ponderous rhythm and
momentum, pushing Sean back, back, always backwards. Sean's punches were
losing their snap, and he threw them less prolifically.
Then Garry blocked him as he tried to pirouette away to the right, at last
anticipating his move precisely. Sean back-pedalled quickly to regain
poise, and felt the thatch of the wall touch his back. He ducked to go
under Garry's outstretched arm, and Garry let his first punch fly.
All the spectators gasped, and one of the nurses squeaked shrilly. Garry's
punch was a thunderbolt, with two hundred pounds of muscle and bone and
determination driving it. It hissed through the air and, although Sean
caught it on his guard, it drove on through. It crashed against the curved
dome of his skull, high above the hairline, with a force that made his long
shining hair swirl and flicker as though a gust of wind had caught it.
For an instant Sean's eyes rolled fully backwards in their sockets, giving
him a blind white stare. His knees buckled and sagged under him. Then he
partially recovered, but his face was frosted with pain and his mouth was
twisted with panic, as he tried to avoid the next bear-like rush.

372
Garry charged in, eagerly seizing the moment for which he had worked so
doggedly. His arms were spread as though to welcome an old friend or a
lover. Suddenly he kicked and spurted like a long-distance runner hearing
the bell for the final lap. He had fooled them all, including Sean. They
had thought that those ponderous rushes were all the speed he had, but
suddenly there was more, much more.
A buffalo bull charges in for the kill in the same fashion, crabbing across
the front of his victim, lulling him, making him doubt that he is really
the focus of all that mountainous aggression. Then at the last moment he
turns in with bewildering speed to hook and gore and trample.
Half-stunned, Sean could not avoid him. Garry's arms snapped around him in
a murderous hug, and the momentum of his charge carried them both onwards
into the dining-tent. The bar table went over in a shower of ancient
spirits, noble wines and precious crystal. They trampled the glittering
splinters underfoot, and a heady cloud of fumes enveloped them for a moment
before they barged onwards.
The long dining-table, spread with Madeira lace, crashed over. The
Rosenthal dinner service burst into ten thousand expensive splinters. As
they went out through the back of the tent, they ripped out the guy ropes
and the canvas sagged in weary folds. The servants scattered with cries of
alarm and excitement and encouragement.
In a ferocious waltz, they whirled each other in erratic circles. Garry's
grip was unshakeable. He had doublelocked his own wrists behind his
brother's back. His arms convulsed, rippling with muscle as they tightened
like a python crushing its prey.
One of Sean's arms was trapped in that deadly circle. With the free fist,
he beat wildly at Garry's head, but he lacked purchase and the blows had no
sting. Although one caught Garry in the mouth and split his lip, it left
his big white teeth intact. He merely ducked his head and slitted his eyes
and squeezed and squeezed.

373
With an approving roar from the black audience and feminine squeals from
Sean's admirers, they lunged into the far side of the thatched boma wall
and it burst open.
The two of them, still locked together, came storming back on to the
central stage. One of the nurses was not quick enough to avoid them. She
was knocked over in a tangle of long tanned legs, flaring skirts and lacy
underwear that might have stopped any lesser show. Nobody even glanced at
her.
Garry was trying to swing Sean off his feet, lifting him high with each
turn. Although Sean's face was swelling and darkening with blood from the
constriction of his chest and breathing, he managed like a cat to come down
on his feet after each wild swing until Garry steered him into the middle
of the camp-fire. Sean's legs were bare, and the flames licked at them,
frizzling the hair off his calves, scorching the thin kudu-skin velskoen.
Sean let out a howl of anguish and bounded high in his brother's arms. He
managed to jump clear of the fire, but Garry's grip was inexorable.
Grunting with the effort, he forced Sean slowly backwards, bending him like
a longbow. Sean's scorched legs buckled, and he sank lower and lower. His
knees touched the ground, and Garry bent over him and grunted again as he
tightened the circle of his arms another inch.
The air was forced from Sean's lungs in a long hollow groan, and his face
suffused with dark blood. Garry grunted again, and his grip tightened
another notch, remorseless as a mechanical steel press. Sean's eyes began
to bulge from their sockets, and his jaw fell open. His tongue lolled out
between his teeth.
'Garry! You are killing him!' Isabella screamed, her concern moving from
one brother to the other. Her father held her, and Garry showed no sign of
having heard her. He grunted yet again and squeezed.
This time they heard Sean's ribs crack like green twigs. He cried out and
went slack as a half-empty bag of wheat
374
in Garry's arms. Garry dropped him and stood back, breathing heavily. His
own face was flushed and swollen with the effort.
Sean tried to sit up, but the pain of the cracked ribs lanced him and he
moaned again and clutched his chest. Garry smoothed back his hair with both
hands, but the unruly crest at the crown of his scalp sprang up again
immediately.
'Right,'said Garry calmly. 'From now on you will behave yourself. Do you
hear me?'
Sean managed to push himself up on to his knees with one hand, clutching
his chest with the other.
'Do you hear me?'Garry asked again, standing over him.
'Screw you,' Sean whispered, and the effort hurt his chest.
Garry leant over and prodded his injured chest with a thick hard thumb.
'Do you hear me?'
'OK, OK,' Sean yelped. 'I hear you.'
'Good,' Garry nodded, and turned to the hovering nurses. 'Frdulein,' he
said in passable German, 'I think we have need of your professional
services.'
They rushed forward clucking. One on each side of him, they raised Sean to
his feet and led him away to his tent.
Shasa released Isabella's arm.
'Well,' he murmured. 'That seems to have sorted that out at last.' And then
he glanced at the shambles of the dining-tent.
'I do hope that wasn't the last bottle of Chivas.'

Garry sat on the camp-bed, stripped to the waist while Isabella anointed his
bruises with arnica salve from the first-aid box. The hectic blotches left
by Sean's fists covered his arms and upper body like the dappling of a
giraffe's hide. His nose was swollen, and his lip was lumped and crusted
with fresh scab.

375
'I think it's an improvement,' Isabella told him. 'Before your face was
only half-nose, now it is all nose.'
Garry chuckled and pinched the end of it gingerly. 'We have taken care of
Master Sean. Now it seems as though you are next on the list to be taught
a little respect.'
She kissed the top of his head where the tuft stood up from his crown.
'Teddy Bear,' she said. 'You know, Garry, Holly is a lucky girl; you are
one hell of a man.'He blushed, he actually blushed, and her love for him
was confirmed and strengthened. He was no longer comical, even with the
bloated nose and thick upper lip.

Sean groaned again theatrically, and Otto Heider threw back his head and
laughed.
'HereP He poured another three fingers of whisky into the tumbler that
stood on the bedside table. 'This is for the pain, like chloroform.'
Sean leant across to take the glass and tossed back the whisky. 'I've been
jumped on by buffalo and kicked by jumbo, but this one! Hey, Trudi, take it
easy.'
Trudi paused with the surgical tape in her hand, and kissed him full on the
lips.
'Be quiet,' she said. 'I am fixing you.' She had a sexy German lisp and
soft red lips.
'You are a great little fixer,' he admitted. She tinkled with laughter and
resumed work on his injured chest, passing the tape under his armpit to
Erica who sat behind Sean on his king-size bed.
'No more bumsen for you.' Erica smiled severely. 'Not for many long times.'
And passed the tape under his other armpit, back to Trudi.
Otto Heider laughed again. 'Are you going to retire injured and leave me to
take care of these two little vixen all on my own?'Otto was amazingly
generous to his friends, and Sean was an old friend. Otto shared with his
friends. The four of them - Otto, Trudi, Erica and Sean - had

376
done more than merely hunt together. It had been a fim safari. Except for
the elephant that Garry had messed up, they had all enjoyed themselves
immensely.
'You no good any more. But your brother - he strong like a bull.' Trudi
slanted her eyes wickedly. 'He fight good. You think he bumsen good?'
Sean stared at her thoughtfully for a moment, and then he began to grin.
'My brother is a prude, a prig. He was almost certainly a virgin when he
married that po-faced wench of his. I doubt he would know what to do with
a good piece of bumsen if you waved it under his nose.'
'We show him what to do with it,' Trudi promised. 'Me and Erica, we show
him good.'
'What do you think, Otto?' Sean looked across at his client. 'Can I borrow
the ladies tonight? It shouldn't take long? I'll have them back at your
tent by midnight.'
Otto shook his head with admiration. 'My friend, you are one funny man. You
always make such good jokes. Hey, girls, you like it? What you think? It's
a funny joke, hey?'
Sean was laughing with them, holding his injured ribs to cushion them.
However, there was a vindictive gleam in his eyes.
Sean understood better than any of them what had happened that day. It had
been much more than another brotherly brawl that he had provoked. It had
been the ultimate territorial contest of two young bulls in the final
battle for dominance and rank. He had lost, and the defeat rankled deeply.
He knew that he could never seriously challenge again. Garry had beaten him
in every sphere, from the boardroom to the physical arena. Garry was at
last unassailable. All Sean could do now was adulterate his power. He
wanted to lay in a little insurance against the stormy days that he was
sure lay ahead.
Garry was having a dream. It was extraordinarily vivid and real. He was
being pursued across an open meadow by a horde of dancing wood-nymphs, and
his legs were lead beneath him. Each pace was an effort as though he waded
through a swamp of hot treacle.
He could see Holly and the children standing at the far side of the meadow.
She was holding the baby in her arms, and the other children crowded about
her legs, clinging to her skirts. Holly was calling something to him,
although he could not hear the words. Tears poured from those lovely
bi-coloured eyes of hers.
He tried to reach her, but then he felt the soft warm hands of the nymphs
on his body holding him back. He tried to shrug off the hands, but the
effort was unconvincing. In despair, he saw Holly and the children turn
away from him. She gathered the little ones closer around her, and they
faded away into the woods beyond the meadow.
He tried to call to them to wait, but his own thoughts and feelings were
confused. The hands on him were exciting. Suddenly his own arousal was
overpowering. He no longer wanted to escape. He didn't want the dream to
end, for even in his sleep he realized that it was a dream.
He let himself flow with the fantasy, and there were smooth warm bodies
pressing close around him. The smell* of excited young womanhood was sweet
and irresistible in his nostrils. He heard their laughter muffled by his
own flesh and the startling sensation of their hot lubricious mouths upon
him.
Holly and the children were gone; he had forgotten them, their images
wereerased by his lust. He felt himself surrendering to it completely.
Then suddenly he was wide awake and he realized that it was not a dream.
His bed was filled with squirming bodies. They swarmed over him. He did not
know how many hands were stroking and pressing and tugging and caressing
him. Silky hair washed over his face like seawater. Hot wet little tongues
licked and probed at him. Long smooth limbs wrapped and enveloped him.

378
For a moment longer he lay quiescent, and then he let out a cry and sprang
upright. The moonlight poured into his tent. The naked feminine bodies
glowed like opals as they clung to him.
His elder brother was sitting on the end of his bed. Sean's chest was
wrapped in white tape, but there was a boyish grin on his face. 'You have
won first prize, Garry old fruit. To the victor the spoils. Enjoy, lad,
enjoy!'
'You bastard!' Garry reached for him.
But Sean was gone with an alacrity that discounted the injuries to his
chest. The two girls scrambled out of his rumpled bed in a confusion of
limbs and bouncing bosoms and bobbing white buttocks.
Garry grabbed them, one under each arm and lifted them as easily as he
would a pair of kittens. He carried them out of his tent. They squealed and
kicked in the air ineffectually.
He saw his father in the doorway of his tent belting his dressing-gown.
'I say, old chap, what's going on?'
'My darling brother put a bunch of vermin in my bed. just getting rid of
thern,' Garry told him politely.
'Pity,' said Shasa. 'Awful waste.' But Garry marched on. Shasa sauntered
along behind him, hands in the pockets of his dressing-gown, grinning with
amusement.
Isabella was in a short lace nightie, wide-eyed with sleep as she stumbled
out of her tent. 'Garry, what on earth have you got thereF
'I should have thought that was fairly obvious.'
'Two, Garry? Isn't that a bit greedy?'
'Ask Sean; it was his idea.'
'What are you going to do with them? May I come along?'
'Delighted. You and Pater can report to Holly for me.'
Garry led the small procession out of the camp, across the glade and down
to the edge of the waterhole. It was a cold night; the frost crunched under
their feet. The approach to the waterhole had been trampled into a greasy
black porridge by the hoofs of the game that drank from it.

379
'Please, we make little joke,' Trudi trilled from under Garry's arm,
wriggling weakly.
'It is joke,' Erica agreed tearfully. 'Please to let go.' She had slipped
around and hung head-down in Garry's grip. Her bare bottom flashed in the
light of the moon, and she bicycled her legs in the air.
'Me, too,' Garry told them. 'I make little joke. I think my joke better
than your little joke.'
His first throw was not his best, a mere twenty feet. But, then, Erica was
the plumper and heavier of the two and she classed as a ranging shot. His
second throw was much better, all of thirty feet, and Trudi shrieked in
flight. The sound was cut off abruptly as she plunged below the icy water.
Both girls came up spluttering and wailing miserably under a coat of
glistening black mud.
'Now, that,' said Garry, 'is what I call a real joke.'

Sean was late for breakfast. He paused in the entrance to the dining-tent,
and his eyes narrowed as he glanced around.
The servants had made good most of the damage. The broken furniture had
been repaired during the night by the camp handyman. Isaac had put together
a scratch dinner service to replace the breakages. Trudi and Erica had
washed off most of the mud, but their hair was still drying in coloured
plastic curlers. However, none of this held Sean's attention.
He looked to his place at the end of the long table. It was his camp, and
that seat was his by tradition and custom. Everybody knew that. His name
was printed on the canvas back of the chair.
Garry sat in his top chair. The swelling of his nose had subsided
considerably. He had repaired the side-frame of his damaged spectacles. His
hair was still wet from the shower. He looked big and cocky and
self-satisfied, and he was sitting in Sean's chair.
390
He looked up at Sean from his hunter's breakfast of impala liver and onions
and scrambled eggs. 'Morning, Sean,' he said cheerfully. 'Get me a cup of
coffee while you're up.'
There was a sudden silence at the table. Every one of them watched Sean for
his reaction. Slowly Sean's scowl faded and he smiled.
'How many sugars?' he asked as he went to the sideboard and took the
coffee-pot out of Isaac's hands.
'Two will do.' Garry resumed eating, and an audible ripple of relief ran
down the table. Everybody started talking again at the same time.
Sean brought his younger brother the coffee-mug, and Garry nodded. 'Thanks,
Sean. Sit down.' He indicated the empty chair beside him. 'We have got a
few things to discuss.'
Isabella wanted desperately to listen to that conversation, but the two
German girls were giggling and chattering, flirting with Shasa and Otto
indiscriminately. She knew that Garry was setting out the programme of
meetings that would be taking place in this camp over the next few days.
The names of the visitors and every detail about them would be important to
her, and to Nicky.
'What about this Italian woman? You've had her as a client before. What's
she like?' she heard Garry ask, and Sean shrugged.
'Elsa Pignatelli? Swiss Italian. She shoots well, when you can get her to
shoot. Never takes a chance, but when she pulls that trigger something
falls down. I've never seen her miss.'
Garry thought about that for a moment, then nodded. 'Anything else?'
'She's bloody-minded. Wants things done her way, and you can't slip
anything over on her - eyes in the back of her head. I tried to pad the
bill a little. She picked it up right away.'
Garry nodded. 'Doesn't surprise me. She's one of the richest women in
Europe. Pharmaceuticals and chemicals.
381
Heavy engineering, jet engines, armaments. She has run the show since her
husband died seven years ago. She has a tough reputation.'
'Last season we took a full-out charge from a wounded jumbo in thick Jesse
bush. She stood her ground and put him down with a frontal brain shot at
twenty paces. Then she turned on me and chewed me up. Accused me of firing
at her elephant. She's tough all right.'
'Anything else? Any weaknesses? Liquor?' Garry asked.
Sean shook his head. 'One glass of champagne every evening. Fresh bottle of
Dom P6rignon each time. She drinks one glass and sends the rest away. Fifty
dollars a bottle.'
'Anything else?' Garry stared at him through his thick spectacles, and Sean
grinned.
'Come on, Garry. She's an old aunty - must be all of fifty. P
'Actually she is forty-two,' Garry contradicted him.
Sean sighed. 'OK, you want to know if we played hide-the-sausage together.
Look, I made the offer. Hell, it's expected of me. That's part of the
service. She laughed. She said she didn't want to be arrested for child
abuse.' He shook his head. Sean didn't like admitting to sexual failures.
'Pity! We have to do business with her,' Garry pointed out. 'I need any
leverage I can lay my hands on.'
'I'll bring her in at five this afternoon,' Sean promised. 'Then she's all
yours, and the best of British luck to you.$
They all drove out to the airstrip to give Otto and his nurses a send-oft.
The mood was gay.
Not only had the German girls forgiven Garry for their midnight dunking,
but he also seemed to have won their esteem and piqued their interest by
his forthright refusal of their offer. They made a huge fuss of him,
kissing and hugging him and ruffling his hair until he blushed again.
'Next time, we make good jokes again,' they promised 382 -
him. They waved furiously through the side-windows as the Beechcraft roared
down the airstrip and flashed into the air. Half a mile out and two hundred
feet high, Sean threw the aircraft into a maximum-rate turn and came diving
back on them, flashing barely twenty feet over their heads. The girls in the
back seat were still waving.
'Cowboy!'gruffed Garry, as he climbed behind the wheel of the Toyota. 'Are
you coming, Bella?'
'I'll drive back with Pater,'she called. She knew it would be easier for
her to pump her father than her brother. She ran to the second truck and
jumped up into the seat beside Shasa.
They were halfway back to the camp before she got her chance.
'So who is Elsa Pignatelh?' she asked sweetly. 'And why haven't I heard of
her before?'
Shasa looked startled. 'How did you find out about her?'
'Don't you trust me, Pater? I am your personal assistant, aren't IF
Cunningly she saddled him with guilt, and immediately he began trying to
exonerate himself. 'Forgive me, Bella. It's not that I don't trust you.
It's all rather hush-hush.'
'She is the main reason for us all being here, isn't that so?'
But Shasa was still being evasive.
'Elsa Pignatelli is an avid huntress, a veritable Diana. She has hunted
with Sean for the last three seasons. Her passion is hunting the cats -
lion and leopard. You know that Sean has a reputation for bringing-in big
cats.'
'We haven't come to watch her kill cats,' Isabella pressed him, and Shasa
shook his head and relented.
'Amongst the Pignatelli assets are a number of chemical factories -
pharmaceuticals, agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, plastics and
paints. They hold certain patents that we are interested in.'
'So why didn't Garry fly to Geneva or Rome, or wherever she lives?'
'Lausanne actually.'

383
'So why didn't he go to her, or why didn't she send one of her people to
meet him in Johannesburg, instead of this Tarzan setting in the jungle?
What precisely is all the mystery?'
Shasa slowed the truck and gave all his attention to negotiating the rocky
ford of the river. He did not reply until they climbed the steep opposite
bank in four-wheel drive.
'Forgive me for not letting you in on it. I was going to tell you. Our
interests are not confined entirely to agricultural pesticides. There would
be a lot of unfriendly people out there in the big wide world who would be
very interested in any discussions between Pignatelli Industries and the
chairman of Armscor.'
'Ah, you are wearing your Armscor hat, so it must be armaments or weapons.'
Speculatively Shasa glanced across at her. She had a brightly coloured
scarf bound around her hair like a turban, and the wind had rouged her
cheeks. She was very lovely, and Shasa felt a prickle of guilt that he
should have mistrusted her. She was part of hirn; he should trust her as he
did his own self.
'You and I have discussed the weapons of last resort,' he murmured.
'Not nuclear weapons?' Isabella said. 'You have the bomb already. All that
fuss over Operation Skylight.)
'No, not nuclear weapons,' he sighed. 'Something just as nasty, I'm afraid.
You know that I share your distaste for weapons of mass indiscriminate
destruction. However, such weapons are not intended ever to be used. Their
effectiveness lies in their mere existence.'
'If they exist, then sooner or later some madman is going to use them,' she
said flatly, and again Shasa shook his head.
'We've been over this before, my darling. But the bare fact remains that I
have been entrusted with the job of providing our nation with all possible
means of protecting

384
itself. I have not been given the option of deciding which weapons are
morally acceptable.'
'Do we really need some other nastiness?'she insisted.
'There is a groundswell of hatred running against our little country. It is
being cunningly orchestrated by a small vicious group of our enemies. They
are brainwashing an entire generation of young people around the world to
regard us as monsters who must be destroyed at all costs. Very soon these
young people will be in positions of authority and command. They are the
decision-makers of tomorrow. One day we could see an American naval task-
force blockading our coast. We could face a military invasion of, say,
Indian troops backed by Australia and Canada and all the members of the
Commonwealth.'
'Oh, Papa, that is far-fetched. Isn't it?'
'Still remote,' Shasa agreed. 'But you met influential members of the
British Labour Government while we were in London. You spoke to members of
the American Democratic Party - Teddy Kennedy for one. Do you remember what
he told you?'
'Yes, I remember,' said Isabella, and the memory subdued her.
'We must make absolutely certain that no nation - not even one of the
superpowers - can ever with impunity consider armed intervention in our
internal affairs.'
'We already have the bomb,' she pointed out.
'Nuclear weapons are expensive, difficult to deliver and impossible to
limit or control in their effects. There are other effective deterrents.'
'Elsa Pignatelli is going to provide an alternative? Why should she help
us?'
'Signora Pignatelli is a sympathizer. She is a member of the Italian South
Africa Society. She knows and understands Africa. She is a huntress and she
has other ties with this continent. Her father was on General de Bono's
staff when he invaded Abyssinia in 1935. Her husband fought in the Western
Desert under Rommel and was captured at Benghazi. He spent three years as
a POW in South Africa

385
and developed an affection for the country that lasted his lifetime. He
transmitted those feelings to her. She visits Africa regularly, either to
hunt or to do business. She understands the problems we face and rejects, as
we do, the simplistic solutions which the rest of the world would try to
force upon us. This meeting was arranged at her suggestion.'
Isabella wanted to ask questions, but she knew it was wiser to let him come
to it in his own time.
She sat silently staring at the rutted track, barely noticing the herd of
impala antelope that crossed ahead of the vehicle in a series of lithe
bounds. They were lovely but insubstantial as blown smoke through the
forest.
'Only four people know about this meeting, Bella. Signora Pignatelli has
not trusted her own staff. Apart from Garry and I, only the prime minister
is aware of the subject of our meeting.'
Isabella suppressed that sickening sense of treachery that lay at the pit
of her stomach. She wanted to warn him not to tell, then she thought of
Nicky and she sat quietly.
'Five years ago, NATO had contracted with two chemical companies in Western
Europe to develop a nerve gas that could be used under battlefield
conditions. Last autumn the contracts were cancelled, mostly due to press-
ure from the socialist governments of Scandinavia and Holland. However,
much work had already been done on the development of these weapons, and
one company had produced and tested a gas that met all the original
criteria.'
'That company was Pignatelli Chemicals?' Isabella asked. When Shasa nodded,
she went on: 'What were the criteria that NATO laid down?'
'The weapon has to be safe to store and transport. Pignatelli developed two
separate substances, each on its own absolutely inert and harmless. They
can be transported in bulk tankers by road or by rail without any risk
whatsoever. But when they combine they form a heavier-than-air gas which is
approximately eleven times more toxic than the cyanide gas used in American
execution-chambers.'
396
Shasa pulled off the track and parked the truck on the verge beneath the
outspread branches of a flowering kigelia tree, that lovely sausage tree
with its gigantic pods the size and shape of polonies.
He lifted Sean's double-barrelled .577 Gibbs rifle off the rack behind the
driver's seat and loaded it with two fat brass cartridges from the
bandolier.
'Let's go down to the hippo pool,' he suggested, and Isabella followed him
down the footpath to the deep green pool of the river. The rifle was
insurance, for the hippo has killed more human beings in Africa than all
the snakes and lions and buffalo combined.
Yet they did not look dangerous as they wallowed under the bank, only their
backs exposed like great black riverboulders. Then the bull opened his jaws
in a pink and cavernous gape and showed the curved ivory tusks that could
scythe the papyrus reeds or guillotine a full-grown oxen into separate
pieces. He turned his piggy eyes upon them and regarded them with a
bloodshot malevolence.
They sat side by side on a dead log, and Shasa propped the rifle close at
hand. After a moment, the bull hippo closed his jaws and sank back below
the surface so that only his eyes and the tip of his small round ears were
exposed. Shasa stared back at him as balefully.
'Eleven times more toxic than cyanide gas,' he repeated. 'It is terrifying
stuff.'
'Then, why, Pater? It is heinous. Why do it?'
He shrugged. 'To protect ourselves from hatred.' He picked up a pebble from
between his feet and lobbed it at the hippo. The pebble splashed twenty
feet short, but the bull submerged completely. Shasa went on speaking.
'The gas is code-named CyndeX 25 and it has other desirable properties
apart from its ability to deal swift and silent death.'
'How heartening,' Isabella murmured. 'What are they?'
'It is odourless. There is no warning; death comes unannounced. However, it
can be given a signature, any signa-

387
ture one chooses - the smell of ripe apples, or jasmine, or even Chanel
Number Five if you so wish.'
'That's macabre, Pater. Not your usual style.'
He did not respond to the rebuke. 'It is also highly unstable. Decay time
is a mere three hours after mixing. Thereafter, it is absolutely harmless.
This is extremely advantageous. You can gas an opposing army, and then move
your own troops in to occupy the area three hours later.'
'Charming,' Isabella whispered. 'I have no doubt that the political
possibilities have not entirely escaped the prime minister. Say, if a
million blacks went on the rampage.'
Shasa sighed. 'It doesn't bear thinking of'
'But you have thought of it, haven't you, Pater?' He was silent,
acquiescing. 'You say that NATO cancelled the contracts. Only Pignatelli
Chemicals are manufacturing this CyndeX 25F
'No. They manufactured and tested the gas. It was the twenty-fifth
prototype, hence the numerical designation. But when the NATO contract was
cancelled they discontinued production and allowed the original stocks to
degenerate.'
Isabella glanced sideways at him. 'Degenerate?'
'As I said before, it is a highly unstable product. It has a very short
storage-life - six months. New stocks have to be constantly manufactured to
replace those that deteriorate.'
'Lucrative for Capricorn Chemicals,' Isabella pointed out, but Shasa
ignored the remark.
'Signora Pignatelli will be able to supply us with blueprints for the
plant; it is a complicated manufacturing procedure with very delicate
manufacturing tolerances.'
'When will you begin to manufacture?' Isabella asked, and Shasa chuckled.
'Hold your horses, young lady. It isn't even certain that Signora
Pignatelli can be persuaded to sell us the blueprints and the formula. That
is what we are going to chat about
388
now.' He glanced at his wristwatch. 'Almost lunchtime and we are still half
an hour from camp.'

Sean called up on the camp radio on the'unmanned airfield' frequency when he
was still forty minutes out. So they were waiting on the airstrip when the
Beechcraft slanted in towards the field that evening.
Shading his eyes against the low-lying sun, Shasa made out the head of
Sean's passenger through the windscreen as she sat in the right-hand seat.
He felt an electric tickle down the back of his neck that was more than
simple curiosity. It was extraordinary that he and Elsa Pignatelli had
never met, for they came from the same world - that exclusive world of
wealth and rank and privilege that knew no national boundaries. They had
literally dozens of mutual friends and acquaintances, and he was aware that
on several occasions over the years they had been within a few minutes or
kilometres of meeting each other. Shasa had been on friendly terms with her
husband.
The two men had skied in the same party one afternoon at Klosters and had
run the notorious Wang together, that terrible ice wall that hangs above
the village. At the time, Bruno Pignatelli had apologized for his wife's
absence but explained that she had flown to Rome that weekend to visit her
elderly mother. She and Shasa must have passed each other at Zurich
airport, travelling in different directions.
On another occasion, during Shasa's tenure at the embassy in London, they
were invited separately to a dinner at the Swiss embassy. He learnt
afterwards that they would have been table companions, but Elsa Pignatelli
had been obliged to cancel for family reasons only days before the
engagement.
Since then, Shasa had heard Elsa Pignatelli's name mentioned and discussed
in detail at many a society dinner or weekend house-party, often spitefully
and vindictively but often again with admiration and open envy. He had seen

389
her photograph in the glossy women's fashion magazines to which Centaine and
Isabella subscribed religiously. Courtney Industries had dealt with
Pignatelli interests for twenty years to the benefit and satisfaction of
both parties. So in the weeks since this meeting had been arranged Shasa had
studied all the considerable information about her contained in the file
that Special Service's had provided.
Sean taxied the Beechcraft to the hard stand of compacted red clay and
switched off the engines, and Elsa Pignatelli stepped out on to the wing,
then jumped down to earth. She moved with the supple grace of a young
gyrrmast, and yet she was tall and long-limbed. Shasa knew she had modelled
for Yves St-Laurent before she married Bruno Pignatelli.
Although he felt that he knew her, Shasa was unprepared for his own
reaction to her physical presence. The electric tickle spread from his neck
to the back of his arms, and he felt the hair there come erect as she
looked around. Her dark gaze swept over Garry and Isabella and the servants
and fastened directly on him.
Her hair was very dark, with an almost bluish gloss in the late-afternoon
sunlight. It was drawn back severely and secured behind her head in a neat
tight coil. This emphasized her fine bone structure, the high, slightly
domed forehead and vaulted cheekbones. And yet her features were full and
feminine. Her lips looked soft, and her mouth was wide.
'Shasa Courtney,' she said his name as she came towards him with a free
hip-swinging model's gait. She smiled, and he saw that her jaw-line was
clean. He knew that next year in July she would celebrate her forty-third
year. However, her skin was flawless and lovingly cared for under light
natural-toned make-up.
'Signora Pignatelli.' He took her hand. It was cool and firm with long
narrow bones. Her grip was swift, but strong, the kind of hands that could
hold a rackct-handle or the reins of a thoroughbred.
He regretted that the contact had been so fleeting, but

390
her eyes were compensation. They were starred with rays of brown and gold
that radiated from the central pupil. They were bright intelligent eyes, and
the lashes were long and black and curled.
'It is my regret that we have not met sooner,' Shasa said in awkward
Italian, and she smiled and answered in faultless English, tinged with only
an intriguing hint of an accent.
'Oh, but we have.' Her teeth were startlingly white, but one incisor was
just crooked enough to suggest that they were her own and not some
orthodontist's artifice.
'Where?' Shasa was surprised.
'Windsor Park. The Guards'Polo Club.' She was amused by his confusion. 'You
were playing number two for the Duke of Edinburgh's invitation team.'
'My goodness, that was ten years ago.'
'Eleven,' she said. 'We were never introduced, but we met for approximately
three seconds at the buffet after the match. You offered me a smoked-salmon
sandwich.'
'You have a marvellous memory,' he admitted defeat. 'Did you accept the
sandwich?'
'How ungallant of you not to remember,' she teased, then turned to the
others. 'You must be Garrick Courtney?' And Shasa hastened to introduce
first Garry and then Isabella.
The servants were loading Signora Pignatelli's luggage into one of the
trucks. It was heavy leather luggage with brass-bound corners, and there
was plenty of it. Only people who flew in their own jets and were not
subjected to the caprice of the commercial airlines' check-in could afford
that type and quantity of luggage. There were four long gun-cases amongst
it.
'You'll ride with me, signora,' Sean tossed back his hair and called to her
as he stepped up into the high driver's seat of his hunting vehicle. She
ignored the suggestion and fell in naturally beside Shasa as he crossed to
the second truck.

391
Isabella started to follow them, but Garry caught her hand and steered her
towards the seat in Scan's truck which Elsa had refused.
'Come on, Bella. Wise up!' Garry murmured. 'Three's a crowd.'
Isabella started. It hadn't occurred to her - not Pater and the widow! Then
she leant briefly against Garry's arm.
'I didn't realize that you included match-making amongst your many
talents.'

At sundowner time, Isaac brought Elsa Pignatelli a seething tulip-shaped
glass of Dom Pdrignon from a freshly opened bottle, without being ordered to
do so. He knew all the foibles of each of their regular clients.
While they sat in the half-circle round the camp-fire, keeping above the
drift of blue smoke, Sean called his two trackers to the evening
conference. This ritual was mainly for the benefit of the client, for
everything of importance had been discussed previously and well out of
earshot. However, the average client, and especially the first-timers, were
impressed by the flow of Swahili between Sean and his trackers. In
addition, being included in the ritual gave them a sense of being part of
the hunt, and not merely excess baggage.
The trackers, both of whom had been with Sean since he had been an
apprentice in Kenya at the time of the Mau Mau rebellion, were natural
actors and hammed it up splendidly. They squatted respectfully on either
side of Sean's camp-chair and called him Bwana Mkubwa, or Big Chief They
mimed the animals they were discussing and drew their spoor in the dust
between their feet, and rolled their eyes and shook their heads, then
hawked and spat in the fire for emphasis.
They were an oddly assorted pair. One was a tall taciturn Samburu with
shaven head and classical Nilotic features,

392
Maria Theresa silver dollars set in the enlarged lobes of his ears. The
other was a gnome with a puckish face and bright beady eyes.
Matatu was one of the few surviving members of the forest Ndorobo tribe, a
people famous for their magical bushcraft, adepts of forest lore who had
unfortunately been unable to withstand the impact of progress which had
destroyed their forests and contaminated them with all civilization's
ailments and diseases, from tuberculosis to alcoholism and venereal
disease.
Sean had named him Matatu, or Number Three, because his tribal name was not
pronounceable and because he was the third tracker whom Sean had hired. The
other two had not lasted longer than a week each. Matatu had been with Sean
more than half Sean's lifetime.
Matatu said, 'Ngwi,' and rolled his eyes as he drew the perfect imprint of
a leopard's spoor in the dust. Sean questioned him in sonorous Swahili, to
which Matatu replied in his piping lyrical voice and at the end spat
explosively in the fire. Sean turned to Elsa Pignatelli to translate.
"'A week ago I hanged five leopard baits, two on the river and the others
along the rim overlooking the National Park."'
Elsa nodded; she knew the area well from her previous trips.
"'We had one strike a few days ago. An old tabby that came out of the park.
She only fed once, and then left it, and we tracked her back into the park.
Since then it has been quiet."'
Sean turned back and asked Matatu another question. The little Ndorobo
answered at length, obviously enjoying the attention.
'Matatu checked the baits today, while I was fetching you from Salisbury.
You are in luck, signora. We have had another strike on one of the river
baits. Matatu says it's a g . ood tom. He ate well last night. The impala
bait has been hanging for a week, and even with the cool weather it has

393
ripened nicely. if he feeds again tonight, then we'll sit up for him
tomorrow evening.'
'Si,' Elsa nodded. 'That's good.'
'So tomorrow morning we can check the bait and shoot a few more impala,
just in case we need them. Then after lunch we'll have an hour's lie-down
and then we'll go into the hide around three o'clock tomorrow afternoon.'
'You check the bait. You shoot the impala,' Elsa told him. 'Tomorrow
morning I have a meeting to attend.' She smiled at Shasa in the chair
beside her. 'We have much to discuss.'

The discussion took up most of the morning. Garry had made the arrangements
with deceptive simplicity. He had sent Isabella off in the Toyota with Sean
to check the leopard baits, and had then ordered Isaac and his staff to set
up three chairs and a folding table under a msasa tree at the edge of the
glade, but well away from the camp itself.
Under the msasa tree, the three of them, Garry, Shasa and Elsa Pignatelli,
were as secure from eavesdropping as at any spot on the planet. It was
bizarre, Shasa thought, to be discussing such a terrifying subject in such
tranquil and beautiful surroundings.
On the other hand, the negotiations did not follow the course that either
Shasa or Garry had hoped for. Although Elsa Pignatelli had with her a
handsome pigskin attach6 case, it remained locked and unopened while they
delicately circled around the central issue.
Almost immediately it became obvious that Elsa had not yet made up her mind
to proceed with the Cyndex 25 enterprise. On the contrary, she was
obviously having serious doubts and misgivings, and would need a great deal
of persuasion.
'It is a hideous thing to let loose in the world,' she said at one point.
'My relief when NATO rescinded the original contract and ordered us to
allow the existing stocks to

394
degrade and to dismantle the plant was immense. I cannot imagine what
possessed me even to consider equipping another plant, especially one over
which I would have no direct control.'
All that morning, Shasa and Garry worked to allay her fears. They tried to
devise between them some arrangements that would satisfy her demands on
control and the ultimate rules of engagement under which Cyndex could ever
be used.
'If you were to begin manufacturing, any NATO expert who ever inspected the
plant and analysed a sample of the gas would know immediately where the
technology was obtained,' she pointed out. 'If that happened and it was
traced back to Pignatelli . . .'
She did not finish the sentence, but merely spread those long graceful
hands in an expressive Italian gesture. Gradually, as the discussion
continued, Elsa moved round in her chair to face Shasa. She began to direct
all her remarks and questions to him alone.
It was subtly, almost subconsciously, that she excluded Garry from the
exchanges. Beneath his bluff exterior Garry was an intuitive and sensitive
negotiator. Before even they realized it, he had detected the currents that
ran between these two. He recognized that, belonging to the same generation
and the same caste, they shared values and understood a special code that
he could not comprehend.
He sensed that Elsa Pignatelli wanted to be reassured not by him, but by
the man to whom she was inexorably being drawn. Tactfully he withdrew into
silence and watched them fall in love with each other without realizing
what was happening to them.

The hum of the engine of the returning Toyota startled them. Shasa glanced
at his watch with disbelief.
'Good gracious, it's lunchtime already, and we have settled nothing.'

395
'We have two weeks in which to talk,' Elsa pointed out, and rose to her
feet. 'We can pick up again from here tomorrow morning.'
As the three of them came back into the boma, Sean was already at the bar
table mixing Pimm's No. i in a crystal jug. He prided himself on his
personal recipe.
'Good news, signora,' he called. 'Can I wheedle you into a festive Pimm's?'
She smiled a refusal. 'I'll have my usual Badoit water with a slice of
lemon. Now, tell me the good news.'
'The leopard fed again last night. judging by the sign, he came in early,
half an hour before sunset. So he's starting to get careless and bold, and
he's huge. He's got paws on him like snow-shoes.'
'Thank you, Sean. You always find good cats for me, but never so soon. This
is the first day of safari.'
'Take a nap after lunch, just to settle your nerves, and we'll go into the
hide around three this afternoon.'
Isaac offered Elsa her mineral water on a silver tray, and then distributed
the tall glasses of Pimm's to the musical accompaniment of tinkling ice,
and Sean gave them a toast.
'To a big old tom leopard death at the base of the tree.' The professional
hunter's horror was the cat down from the tree and waiting wounded in the
tall grass.
They all drank the toast, and immediately afterwards Shasa and Elsa fell
into a quiet but intent conversation that excluded the younger Courtneys.
Garry seized on the opportunity to take his elder brother's arm and gently
lead him out of earshot.
'How are you feeling, Sean?' he asked.
'Fine. Never better.' Sean was puzzled by this uncustomary brotherly
concern.
'You don't look fine to me.' Garry shook his head. 'In fact it is fairly
obvious that you are sickening for a go of malaria, and those ribs-'
'What sort of crap is this?' Sean was getting annoyed. 'There's nothing
wrong with my ribs that a couple of codeine won't fix.'

396
iYou won't be able to hunt with Signora Pignatelli this evening.'
'The hell I won't. I've set up this cat, and he's a beaut--2
'You will stay in your tent this evening with a bottle Of chloroquine
tablets beside your bed and, if anybody asks, you have a temperature of a
hundred and four in the shade.'
'Listen, Big Shot, you've screwed up my elephant already. You're not going
to do the same with my leopard.'
'Pater will hunt with the client,' Garry said firmly. 'You are staying in
camp.'
'Pater?' Sean stared at him for a moment before he started to grin. 'The
randy old dog! Pater has the hots for the widow, has he?'
'Why do you always make it sound so vulgar?' Garry asked mildly. 'We are
trying to do business with Signora Pignatelli, and Pater needs to develop
the relationship to a point of mutual trust. That's all there is to it.'
'And when those two geriatric nymphos mess up the leopard, old S)ean will
be the one who has to go in to clean up.)
'You told me that Signora Pignatelli never misses, and Pater is as good a
hunter as you any day. Besides which, you aren't frightened of a wounded
leopard, not the fearless Sean Courtney - surely not?'
Sean scowled at the jibe, and then bit back his response. 'I'll go set it
up for them,' he agreed, and then smiled. 'To answer your question - no,
Garry, I'm not frightened of a wounded leopard, or of anything else. Bear
that in mind, old son.'

Shasa lay stretched out on his camp-bed with a book. The safari camp was one
of the few places in his existence where he had the opportunity to read for
pleasure rather than for business or political necessity. He was reading
Alan Moorehead's Blue Nile for the fourth time and savouring

397
every word of it, when Garry popped his head into the tent.
'We have a little problem, Pater. Scan's having a go of malaria.'
Shasa sat up and dropped the book with alarm. 'How bad?' He knew that Sean
never took malarial suppressants such as Paludrine or Maloprim. Sean
preferred to build up his immunity to the disease and only treated
symptoms. Shasa, knew also that there had recently appeared along the
Zambezi a new strain of 'P Falciparum' that was resistant to the usual
drugs, and which had a dangerous tendency to mutate into the cerebral and
pernicious form. 'I should go to him.'
'Don't worry. It's responding to chloroquine already, and he's asleep. So
you shouldn't disturb him.'
Shasa looked relieved, and Garry went on smoothly: 'But somebody will have
to hunt with Signora Pignatefli this evening, and you have more experience
than I do.'

The hide was in the lower branches of a wild ebony tree, only ten feet above
ground-level. Sean had raised it, not to protect the hunter, for a leopard
could climb and be in the tree. with him before he drew breath, but rather
to provide a wider field of view across the narrow stream to the bait-tree.
Sean had chosen the bait-tree with infinite care, and Shasa nodded approval
as he surveyed it. Most important, it was above the prevailing easterly
evening breeze, so the hunter's scent would be wafted away. Also it was
surrounded by dense shoulder-high riverine bush that would give the leopard
confidence in his approach.
The main trunk leant out over the riverbed at a slight angle to give the
cat an easy climb to the horizontal branch twenty feet above the ground
from which the carcass of the impala antelope was suspended by a short
length of chain. The foliage of the ebony tree was dense and green.

399
That would also give the leopard confidence to climb. However, the
horizontal branch was open, with a window of blue sky beyond it which would
silhouette the leopard as he stretched out and reached down to pull the
stinking bait up to him.
The hide was exactly sixty-five yards from the bait-tree. Sean had measured
it with a builder's tape, while earlier that afternoon Elsa Pignatelli had
sighted and fired her rifle at the marked range behind the main camp. Shasa
had set up the target at precisely sixty-five yards, and she had put three
shots into the bull's-eye, forming a perfect clover-leaf pattern with the
three bullet-holes slightly overlapping each other.
The hide was built of mopane poles and thatch, and was a comfortable little
tree-house. Inside were two camp-chairs facing the firing-apertures in the
thatch wall. Matatu and the Samburu tracker laid out blankets and
sleeping-bap, 2 tucker-box with snacks and a Thermos filled with hot
coffee.
Their vigil could last until the dawn, so they were provided with a
powerful flashlight that drew power from a twelve-volt car battery; a
hand-held two-way radio to communicate with the trackers; and even a china
chamberpot with a tasteful floral pattern to allow them to last out the
night without discomfort.
When Matatu had set up the furnishing of the hide to his satisfaction, he
scrambled down the ladder and he and Shasa had a last brief conference
beside the Toyota.
'I think that he will come before dark,' Matatu said in Swahili. 'He is a
cheeky devil and he gorges like a pig. I think he will be hungry tonight,
and he will not be able to withstand his greed.'
'If he does not come, we will wait through until the dawn. Do not return
here until I call for you on the radio. Go in peace now, Matatu.'
'Stay in peace, Bwana. Let us pray that the memsahib kills cleanly. I do
not want this spotted devil to feast on my liver.'

3"
The trackers waited until the hunters had climbed into the hide and settled
down, before they drove the Toyota away. They would park on the crest of
the valley two miles distant, and wait for the sound of gunfire or the call
on the two-way radio.
Shasa and Elsa sat side-by-side in the two camp-chairs. Their elbows were
almost, but not quite touching. The sleeping-bags were spread over the
chair-backs, ready to draw over their shoulders when the temperature began
to drop. There were rugs over their laps. Both of them wore leather
jackets, some protection not only against the cold, but also against sharp
curling claws in an emergency.
Elsa had her long rifle-barrel thrust through the firingaperture, ready to
raise the butt to her shoulder with the minimum of movement. It was a
7-millimetre Remington magnum loaded with a 175-grain Nosler bullet that
would cover the sixty-five yards to the bait-tree at three thousand feet
per second. Shasa had the big eight-bore shotgun as a back-up weapon.
Designed for shooting wild geese at long range, it was a devastating weapon
for close work.
As the beat of the Toyota engine faded, the silence of the bushveld
descended on the river valley. It was a silence that whispered with tiny
intimate sounds: the gentle sigh of the breeze in the leaves above their
heads, the stir of a bird in the undergrowth along the river, the far-off
booming shout of a bull baboon that echoed faintly along the rocky cliffs
at the head of the valley and the tiny ticking sounds of the termite
legions gnawing away at the dry mopane poles on which they sat.
Both of them had brought books to while away the hours until dusk, but
neither of them opened them. They sat very close to each other, and they
were vitally aware of each other's proximity. Shasa felt as comfortable and
companionable in her presence as though they were old and trusted friends.
He smiled at the fancy. He turned his head surreptitiously to glance at
Elsa, and she had anticipated and was smiling at him already.
She turned the hand that lay on the arm of the chair

400
between them palm uppermost. He took the hand in his own, and was surprised
by the smooth warm feel of her skin and by the sharp emotion her touch
evoked. He hadn't felt like that for many a long year. They sat side by side
holding hands like a pair of teenagers on their first date, and waited for
the leopard to come.
Although all his senses were tuned to the subtle sounds and signs of the
wilderness, Shasa's mind was free to wander through the junk-room of
memory. He thought about many things in those quiet hours as the sun turned
across the blue dome of sky and sank towards the jagged line of hills. He
thought about the other women he had known. There had been many of those.
He had no way of knowing how many, the passage of time had rendered most of
them faceless and nameless. just a very few would remain with him for ever.
The first had been a sly-faced little harlot. When Centaine had caught them
at it, she had scrubbed him in a scalding tub of Lysol and carbolic soap
that had taken the skin off his most tender parts. He smiled at that
far-off memory.
The other that stood out in his memory was Tara, mother of all his
children. They had been antagonists from the very beginning. He had always
thought of her as the beloved enemy. Then love had wrested the upper hand,
and for a time they had been happy together. Finally they had become
enemies again, true enemies. Their enmity had been inflamed rather than
mitigated by that brief illusory period of happiness.
After Tara there had been fifty or a hundred others - it did not really
matter how many. Not one of them had been able to give him what he sought,
nor had they been able to alleviate the loneliness.
Recently, in middle age, he had even fallen into the age-old trap of
seeking immortality in those young feminine bodies that were themselves in
the flower of their youth. Though the flesh was sweet and firm, he had
found no contact of the mind, and could no longer match their

401
energy. Sadly he had left them to their booming mindless music and their
frenetic search for they knew not what. He had walked on alone.
He thought of loneliness then, as he did so often these days. Over the
years, he had learnt that it was the most corrosive and destructive of all
man's ills. Most of his life he had been alone. Although there had been a
half-brother, he had never known him as a sibling and Centaine had raised
Shasa as an only child.
In all the multitude of humankind that had filled his life, the servants
and business associates, the acquaintances and sycophants, even his own
children, there had been only one person with whom he had been able to
share all the triumphs and disasters of his life, one who had been constant
in her encouragement and understanding and love.
However, Centaine was seventy-six years old and ageing fast. He was sick to
his soul of the loneliness and afraid of the greater loneliness which he
knew lay ahead.
At that moment, the woman who sat beside him tightened her grip on his hand
as though she empathized' with his despair. When he turned his head and
looked into her honey-golden eyes, she was no longer smiling. Her
expression was serious, and she held his gaze without shift or
embarrassment. The sense of aloneness faded, and he felt calm and at peace
as he seldom had in all his fifty-odd years.
Outside their little tree-house, the light mellowed and flared into the
soft glow of the African twilight. It was a time of magical stillness, in
which the world held its breath and all the forest colours were richer and
deeper. The sun sagged like a dying gladiator, and bowed its bloody head
below the forest-top. The light went with it, the outlines of the forest
trunks and branches faded and softened and receded.
A francolin called in the gloom. Shasa leant forward in his seat and looked
through the firing-aperture in the thatch wall. He saw the dark
partridge-like bird perched on a dead branch on the far side of the river.
Its bare cheeks

402
were bright scarlet, and it cocked its head and looked down from its perch
and made that creaking sound like a rusty hinge which was the special
warning: 'Beware! I see a killer cat.'
Elsa heard the call and, because she also knew the African wild and
understood the meaning of it, she squeezed Shasa's hand briefly and then
released it. Slowly she reached forward for the pistol grip of the rifle,
and achingly slowly lifted the rifle to her shoulder. The tension in the
hide was a palpable charge that held them both in its thrall. The leopard
was out there, silent and secretive as a dappled golden shadow.
They were both adepts in the art of the hunter, and neither of them moved
except to blink their eyelids and keep their vision clear in the failing
light. They drew and released each breath with infinite care, and heard the
pulse of their racing hearts beat in their eardrums.
The light was going faster, while the unseen leopard circled the bait-tree.
Shasa could imagine him in his mind's eye, each deliberate stealthy pace,
the paw raised and held aloft and then laid down again softly, the yellow
eyes endlessly turning and darting, the round black-tipped ears flicking to
catch the faintest sound of danger.
The outline of the bait-tree receded, the carcass of the impala hanging on
its chain was a dark amorphous blob. The open window of sky above the bare
branch dulled and bruised to the shade of tarnished lead, and still the
leopard prowled and circled in the dark thicket.
Shooting light was almost gone, night came on apace, and then suddenly the
leopard was in the tree. There was no sound or warning. The abruptness of
it was a little miracle that stopped both their hearts and then sent them
racing away at a mad pace.
The leopard stood on the branch. However, he was only a darker shape in the
darkness, and even as Elsa laid her cheek to the polished walnut wood of
the butt-stock the darkness was complete and the shape of the leopard was
swallowed up by the night.
403
Shasa felt rather than saw Elsa lower the rifle. He stared through the
aperture, but there was nothing to see, and he turned his head and laid his
lips against Elsa's ear.
'We must wait until morning,' he breathed, and she touched his cheek in
agreement.
Out in the darkness they heard the clink of the chain links. Shasa imagined
the leopard lying belly down on the branch, reaching down with one front
paw to hook the carcass and draw it up, holding it with both front feet,
sniffing the putrefying flesh hungrily, thrusting its head into the belly
cavity to reach the lungs and liver and heart.
In the silence they heard the tearing sound of fangs in flesh, the grating
and splintering of rib bone, the ripping of wet hide, as the leopard began
to feed.
The night was long, and Shasa could not sleep. As the hunter, his was the
responsibility of monitoring each of the leopard's movements. After the
first few hours, Elsa's head sagged against his shoulder. Moving
stealthily, he slipped his arm around her, pulled the down-filled
sleeping-bag up snugly over her shoulders, and held her close while she
slept.
She slept quietly, like a tired child. Her breathing was light and warm
against his cheek. Even though his arm went dead and numb, he did not wish
to disturb her. He sat happy and virtuous in his discomfort.
The leopard fed at intervals during the night, the chain tinkling and bones
grating and cracking. Then there were long periods of silence when Shasa
feared it had left, before the sounds began again.
Of course, he could easily have turned the powerful spotlight on the tree
and lit the leopard for her. It would have probably sat bemused, blinking
those huge yellow eyes into the blinding beam. The idea never even occurred
to him, and he would have been bitterly disappointed if Elsa had even
contemplated such unfair tactics.
Deep down Shasa disliked the technique of baiting for the great cats. He
had personally never killed one of them on a bait. Although in Rhodesia it
was perfectly legal,

404
Shasa's own sporting ethic could never come to terms with luring them into
a prepared position to offer a carefully staged broadside shot to a hidden
marksman shooting from a dead rest.
Every lion and leopard he had ever taken, he had tracked down on foot,
often in the thickest cover, and the animal had been alert and aware of his
presence. In consequence he had experienced a hundred failures and not more
than a dozen kills in all those years as a hunter. However, each success
had been a peak of the hunting experience, a memory to last his lifetime.
He did not despise Elsa or any of the other clients who took their cats
over bait. They were not Africans, as he was, and their time in the
bushveld was limited to a few short days. They were paying huge sums of
money for the privilege, and much of that money was channelled back into
the protection and conservation of the species they hunted. Therefore they
were entitled to the best-possibic chance of success. He did not resent
them, but it was not his way.
Sitting beside her in the dark hide, he realized suddenly that his own
hunting of the cats was over for ever. Like so many old hunters, he had had
his surfeit of blood. He loved the hunting game as much, probably more than
he ever had, but it was enough. He had killed his last elephant and lion
and leopard. The thought made him glad and at the same time sad, a kind of
sweet warm melancholy that mingled well with the new emotion he had
conceived for the lovely lady who slept on his shoulder. He thought how he
would in future take his pleasure in the hunt through her, the way he was
doing now. He dreamt happily of travelling with her to the hunting-fields
of the world: Russia for the sheep of Marco Polo, Canada for the polar
bear, Brazil for the spotted jaguar, and to Tanzania for the great Cape
buffalo with a spread of horn over fifty inches wide. These vicarious
pleasures sustained him through the long night.
Then a pair of Heughlin's robins chorused a duet from

405
the undergrowth along the river, a melodious entreaty that sounded like
'Don't do it! Don't do it!' repeated over and over, at first softly and then
rising to an excited crescendo.
At this certain harbinger of the dawn, Shasa glanced upwards and made out
the uppermost branches of the ebony tree against the lightening sky. It
would be shooting light in fifteen minutes. The dawn comes on swiftly in
Africa.
He touched Elsa's cheek to wake her, and immediately she snuggled against
him. He realized that she must have been feigning sleep for some time. She
had come awake so secretively that he had not realized it. Since then she
had been lying against him there savouring their intimate contact, just as
he had been doing.
'Is the leopard still there?' she asked, a breath of a whisper very close
to his ear.
'Don't know,' he answered as softly. It was almost two hours since he had
last heard it feeding. Perhaps it had left already. 'Be ready,' he warned
her.
She straightened mi her chair and leant forward to where the rifle was
propped in the forked rest. Although they were no longer touching, he felt
very close to her and his arm tingled with the flow of returning blood
which her head on his shoulder had impeded.
The light strengthened. Vaguely he could make out the open window through
the foliage of the ebony tree. He blinked his eyes and stared into it. The
outline of the branch formed out of the gloom. The branch appeared bare,
and he felt the swoop of disappointment for her. The leopard was gone.
He turned his head slowly to tell her so, but he never took his eyes off
the branch. He checked the words on his lips and stared harder, feeling the
tiny ants of excitement crawl along his nerve ends. The outline of the
branch was harder, but it was strangely thickened and misshapen.
Now he could just make out the blob of the dangling impala carcass. Most of
it had been devoured. It was a ravaged bundle of bared bones and torn skin,
but there was

P6
something else hanging from the branch, a long snakelike ribbon. He could
not decide what it was, until it curled and swung lazily, and then he
realized.
'The tail, the leopard's tail.' Like the hidden creature in the puzzle
picture, the whole jumped into focus.
The leopard was still draped on the branch, lying flat, its neck
outstretched. Its chin was propped against the rough bark. It was sluggish
with the weight of meat in its belly, too lazy to move from its perch. Only
its long tail swung below.
He felt Elsa stiffen beside him as she also made out the shape of the
leopard. He reached across gently to restrain her. The light was still too
poor; they must wait it out. As he touched her arm, he felt the tension in
her through his fingertips. She seemed to vibrate like the strings of a
violin lightly touched with the bow.
The light bloomed. The shape of the leopard hardened. Its hide turned to
buttery gold, studded with black rosettes. Its tail swung gently like a
metronome set to its slowest beat. It lifted its head slightly and pricked
its ears. The light caught its eyes, a flare of yellow, like a distant
flash of sheet lightning. It looked towards them and blinked sleepily in
regal indolence, so beautiful that Shasa felt his chest squeezed for
breath.
It was time to make the kill. He touched Elsa, a light imperative tap on
her upper arm. She settled down behind the telescopic sight of the rifle.
Shasa braced himself for the shot and stared at the leopard, willing the
bullet into its heart, hoping to see it topple and tumble lifeless from the
high branch.
The seconds drew out, each of them a separate age. The shot did not come.
The leopard rose to its full height, standing easily erect on the narrow
branch. It stretched, arching its back deeply, digging its extended claws
into the bark.
'Now!' Shasa commanded her silently. 'Shoot it now!'
The leopard yawned. Its pink tongue curled out between

407
the gaping fangs. Its thin black lips drew back into a fierce rictus.
'Now!' With telepathic effort Shasa tried to force her to make the shot. He
dared not reinforce the command with a word or touch for fear that he
disturb her concentration in the very act of firing.
The leopard straightened and flicked its tail over its back. Then, without
further warning, it launched itself into flight and dropped from the branch
twenty feet to the soft mulched floor of the forest. It was a leap so
controlled and graceful that there was no sound as it landed. The
undergrowth swallowed it instantly.
They sat for almost a minute in total silence. At last Elsa set the
safety-catch with a click and lowered the unfired rifle and turned her head
towards him. In the dawn fight, the tears shone like seed pearls on the
long curled lashes of her lower lids. 'He was so beautiful,' she whispered.
'I could not kill him, not today, not on this day.'
He understood instantly. This day was their day, their very first day
together as lovers. She had declined to desecrate it.
'I dedicate the leopard to you,' she said.
'You do me too much honour,' he replied, and kissed her. Their embrace was
strangely innocent, almost childlike, devoid as yet of sexual passion. It
was a thing of the spirit rather than of the body. There would be time for
that later, all the time in the world, but not today, not on this blessed
day.

Sean had made a miraculous recovery from his malaria and was waiting eagerly
at the boma gate to welcome the returning hunters. The reputation of a
safari company was built upon the quality of trophies it produced for its
clients, especially for its important clients.
As the Toyota pulled up he glanced hopefully into the back and his mouth
tightened with disappointment. He
408
spoke first to Matatu, and the little Ndorobo tracker shook his head
gloomily. 'The devil came late and left early.'
'I'm sorry, signora.' Sean turned to her, and handed her down from the
truck.
'That is hunting,' she murmured, and he had never seen her so philosophical
before. Usually she was as angry and as impatient with failure as he was.
'Your shower is ready, hot as you like it. Breakfast will be waiting as
soon as you have cleaned up.'
The rest of the party were full of condolences when Shasa and Elsa appeared
in the dining-tent, both of them showered and dressed in freshly laundered
and crisply ironed khaki. Shasa was shaved and redolent of aftershave
lotion.
'Bad luck, Pater. So sorry, signora,' they chorused, and were puzzled that
the couple looked smug and self-satisfied and fell on their breakfast with
as much gusto as if there were a world-record leopard in the skinning-shed.
'We can continue our meeting after breakfast,' Garry suggested over coffee.
'And I'll renew the baits this morning.' Sean came in. 'Matatu says the
leopard was never alarmed or spooked. We can try again tonight. This time
I'll hunt with you, signora. It takes the touch of the master.'
Instead of accepting the suggestions immediately, Elsa glanced across at
Shasa and then lowered her eyes demurely to her coffee-cup.
'Well, actually,' Shasa began, 'to tell the truth, we rather thought, that
is, Elsa and 1, rather Signora Pignatelli and 1. . . .' As Shasa floundered
for words, all three of his brood stared at him in astonishment. Was this
the master of savoir-faire? Was this Mr Cool himself speaking?
'Your father has promised to show me the Victoria Falls,' Elsa came to his
rescue, and Shasa looked relieved and rallied gamely.
'We'll take the Beechcraft,' he agreed briskly. 'Signora Pignatelli has
never seen the falls. This seems like a good opportunity.'

409
The other members of the family recovered from their confusion as rapidly
as Shasa had. 'That's a lovely idea,' Isabella enthused. 'It's the most
awe-inspiring spectacle, signora. You'll adore it.'
'It's only an hour's flight,' Garry nodded. 'You could have lunch at the
Vic Falls Hotel and be back here for tea.'
'And you can still be ready to go into the leopard-hide at four this
afternoon,' Sean agreed, and waited expectantly for agreement from his
client.
Once again, Elsa glanced at Shasa, and he drew a deep breath. 'Actually, we
may stay over at the Vic Falls Hotel for a day or two.'
Slowly various degrees of comprehension dawned on the three young faces.
'Quite right. You'll need time,' Isabella recovered first. 'You'll want to
walk in the rainforest, perhaps take a raft trip down the gorge below the
falls.'
'Bella is right; you'll need three or four days. So many interesting things
to do and see.'
'That, Garry old boy, is the understatement of the week,' Sean drawled, and
both Garry and Isabella glared at him furiously.

In the cool clean air, not yet sullied by the smoke of the bush fires of the
late winter season, the spray cloud of the Victoria Falls was visible at
sixty miles distance. It rose two thousand feet into the sky, a silver
mountain as brilliant as an alp of snow.
Shasa shed altitude as they approached. Ahead of them the great Zambezi
glinted in the sun, broad and tranquil, studded by its islands on which the
forests of graceful ivory nut palms stood giraffe-necked.
Then the main gorge opened beneath them and they peered down in wonder as
they watched the great river, well over a mile wide, tumble over the sheer
edge of the chasm, and fall three hundred and fifty feet in a welter of

410
foaming waters and blown spray. Along the brink of the chasm, black castles
of rock split the flow of the river. Over it all towered the immense
spray-cloud which was shot through with rainbows of astonishing colour.
Below the falls the entire flood of the river, a staggering thirty-eight
thousand cubic feet a second, was trapped between vertical cliffs of rock
and charged, raging at this restraint, into the narrow throat of the gorge.
Shasa banked the aircraft into a tight right-hand turn, pointing one wing
into the abyss, so that Elsa could gaze down with her view unobstructed.
With each circuit he allowed the Beechcraft to drop lower until they were
in danger of being engulfed by the splendid chaos of rock and water. The
silver leaping spray blew over the canopy, blinding them for an instant
before they burst once more into the sunlight and the rainbows garlanded
the sky around them.
Shasa landed at the small private airfield of Sprayview on the outskirts of
the village, and taxied to the hard stand. He switched off the engines, and
turned to Elsa. The wonder of it was still in her eyes, and her expression
was solemn with an almost religious awe.
'Now you have worshipped in the cathedral of Africa,' Shasa told her
softly. 'The one place that truly embodies all of the grandeur and mystery
and savagery of this continent.'

They were fortunate enough to find the Livingstone Suite at the hotel
vacant.
The building was in the style and dimensions of a bygone era. The walls
were thick and the rooms immense, but cool and comfortable.
The suite was decorated with prints of the drawings that the old explorer
Thomas Baines had made of the falls only a few years after David
Livingstone first discovered them. From the windows of their sitting-room
they looked across the gorge and the railway bridge that spanned it. The

411
steelwork of the arched bridge seemed delicate as lace, and the entire
structure was light and graceful as the wing of an eagle in flight.
They left the suite and wandered down the pathway to the brink of the gorge
and walked hand in hand through the rainforest, where the spray fell in an
eternal soaking rain and the vegetation was green and luxuriant. The rock
trembled beneath their feet, and the air was filled with the thunder of the
falling waters. The spray soaked their clothing and their hair, and ran
down their faces, and they laughed together with the joy of it.
They followed the rim of the gorge downstream, out of the spray-cloud. The
bright sunshine dried their hair and clothing almost as swiftly as the
spray had drenched them. They found a rocky perch on the very edge and sat
side-byside, dangling their legs over the terrifying chasm while the mad
waters churned into green whirlpools far below.
'Look!' Shasa cried, and pointed upwards as a small bird of prey stooped
out of the sun and fell on whistling knife-blade wings into the flock of
black swifts that swirled along the cliff face below them.
'A Taita falcon,' Shasa exulted. 'One of the rarest birds in Africa.'
The falcon struck one of the -swifts in flight, killing it instantly in a
burst of feathers. Then, binding to its prey, it fell into the void and
disappeared from their view in the gloom far below.
That evening they dined on steaks of crocodile-tail that tasted like
lobster, but when they went up to the suite they were suddenly both shy and
nervous. Shasa drank a Cognac in the sitting-room. When finally he went
through into the bedroom, Elsa was already propped up on the pillows. Her
hair was down on the shoulders of her lace nightdress, and it was thick and
black and glossy.
Shasa was overcome by a sense of panic. He was no longer young and there
had been one or two occasions recently with other women which had shaken
his confidence.

V2
She smiled and lifted her arms to him in invitation. He need not have
worried. She manned him as no other wo
ever had. In the morning, when they awoke in each other's arms, the sun was
streaming in through the high windows.
She sighed and smiled with a slow and languorous contentment and said: 'My
man.' And kissed him.

Their illicit honeymoon drew out from one day to the next. They did things
together, silly little things for which for many years Shasa had had neither
the time nor the inclination.
They slept late each morning and then spent the rest of it loafing in their
swimming-costurnes beside the pool. They read for hours in companionable
silence, stretched out in the sunlight. At intervals, they anointed each
other with sun-tan oil, making it a fine excuse to touch and examine each
other in leisurely detail.
Elsa was lean and smooth and tanned. The condition and tone of her muscle
and skin were the rewards for endless hours of aerobics and callisthenics
and beauty care. She was obviously proud of her body. Shasa came to share
that pride as he compared her to the other semi-naked bodies sunning
themselves under the msasa trees on the green lawns.
Only up very close were the stigmata that life and childbirth had left upon
her visible. Shasa found even those small blemishes appealing. They
emphasized her maturity and bespoke her experience and understanding of
life. She was a woman, ripe and complete.
This was made even more apparent when they talked. They talked for hours at
a time. These were lazy contented conversations during which they explored
each other's mind in the same way they had explored each other's body in
the double bed upstairs in the Livingstone Suite.
She told him about herself with an engaging candour. She described Bruno's
slow cruel death as the crab of

413
cancer ate him alive, and her own agony as she watched helplessly. She spoke
of the loneliness that followed, seven long years of it. She did not have to
tell him that she hoped that was now behind her. She merely reached out and
touched his hand and it was understood.
She told him of her children: a son, also named Bruno, and three daughters.
Two of the girls were married, the youngest was at university in Milano,
and Bruno junior was an MBA from Harvard, now working for Pignatelli
Industries in Rome.
'He does not have his father's fire,' she told Shasa frankly. 'I do not
think he will ever fill those shoes; they are many sizes too large for
him.'
She made Shasa think of his own sons. They spoke of the heartaches and
disappointments that their children had brought them and of the rare joys
that some had bestowed upon them.
They explored together their love of horses and hunting, of music and art
and fine things lovingly crafted, of books and music and theatre. Finally
they spoke of power and money, and openly admitted their addictions to all
these things.
They held nothing back, and at one point Elsa regarded him solemnly. 'It is
too early to be absolutely certain, but I think that you and I will be good
together.'
'I believe that also,' he replied as gravely, and it was as though they had
made a vow and a commitment.
They danced in the balmy African nights. They laid their cheeks together
still hot and brown from the sun, and swayed to the beat of the steel band.
After midnight, they at last climbed the broad stairway, hand in hand, to
their suite and the wide soft bed.
'Good LordV Shasa said with genuine amazement. 'It's Thursday. We have been
here four days. The kids will be wondering what on earth has happened to
us.' They were at brunch on the open terrace.
'I think they will guess.' Elsa looked up from the mango she was peeling
for him and smiled. 'And I don't think
414
that "kids" is the correct description for that rumbustious Utter of yours.'
'Van Wyk will be arriving at Chizora tomorrow,' Shasa pointed out.
'I know,' she sighed. 'I hate the thought of ending this, but we must be
there to meet him.'

Sir Clarence Van Wyk was one of those extraordinary creatures that African
evolution sometimes throws up.
He was a pure-bred Afrikaner. His father had been chief justice of South
Africa when it was part of the British Empire, and he had received his
hereditary title when it was still permissible for a South African to
accept that honour.
Sir Clarence was a product of Eton and Sandhurst. He had been an officer in
a famous Guards regiment, and was heir to the considerable family estates
in the Cape of Good Hope. He was also the minister in Ian Smith's
government specifically charged with funding the debilitating guerrilla
warfare in which Rhodesia was engaged, and in evading the comprehensive
mandatory sanctions that the British Labour Government, the United States
and the United Nations had placed upon these perpetrators of unilateral
independence.
Garry and Shasa had arranged this meeting during their stop-over in
Salisbury on the way to Chizora. Sir Clarence was an avid big-game hunter,
and they had promised him a bit of sport in the intervals between their
deliberations.
Sir Clarence arrived at Chizora in a Rhodesian air-force helicopter. He had
with him two of his aides and a pair of bodyguards, all of whom threatened
to put a strain on the safari camp. The staff and facilities were geared to
entertaining a much smaller number of guests. However, Sean had been given
plenty of notice, and additional equipment, staff and stores had been sent
down from Salisbury by truck.

415
The conference-table under the msasa tree was extended and additional
chairs set out for Sir Clarence and his team. Isabella joined them as her
father's personal assistant. From the beginning Sir Clarence made no
attempt to conceal his interest in her.
At six foot five inches, Sir Clarence towered above even Shasa or Sean. He
was a most impressive figure of a an whose plummy upper-class English
accent and classical features belied his Afrikaner origins. He had a
brilliant financial and political brain and a reputation as a lady's man.
Under the msasa tree, they negotiated the marketing and transportation of
a nation's wealth and produce, and the commissions and handling fees due to
each of them.
Rhodesia was a primary producer, which simplified these deliberations
considerably. Her small-scale mines that worked narrow quartz reefs
nevertheless turned out a considerable gold production. This did not
concern them here, for gold was anonymous'. There was no 'Made in Rhodesia'
stamp upon it, and its high value-to-bulk ratio made it readily
transportable and disposable.
It was different with the other primary products of the country: tobacco
and rare metals, chiefly chrome. These had to be transported in bulk, their
country of origin had to be concealed and then they must be disseminated to
the markets of the world.
From Rhodesia, the railways ran southwards to the harbours of Durban and
Cape Town in the Republic of South Africa. That was the natural route for
these treasures to go. For years now, ever since the Smith Government's
declaration of independence, Garry Courtney and Courtney Enterprises had
played a leading r6le in helping Rhodesia evade the sanctions campaign
against it.
Now there was to be an ambitious new strategy. After carefully studying the
Pignatelli group of industries, Garry and Sir Clarence were offering Elsa
Pignatelli the lucrative opportunity of taking part in these anti-sanctions
activities.
Pignatelli Industries owned the second-largest tobacco

06
company in Europe, after the British American Tobacco Company. In addition,
they had a controlling interest in Winnipeg Mining in Canada, and operated
a stainless-steel mill and vanadium refinery in southern Italy near Taranto.
All this dovetailed neatly with Rhodesia's need to find a market for her
products, but there was hard bargaining ahead.
Although it was conducted in a superficially civilized and friendly
atmosphere, these were all shrewd and merciless financial predators locked
in a contest of minds and wills. Isabella watched them with awe. Her
brother used his bluff, almost bumbling manner, his myopic ingenuous gaze
and hearty laugh to conceal the steely calculating mind.
Elsa Pignatelli, poised and beautiful, shamelessly exploited her looks and
her charms and used the feminine rapier against their masculine cutlasses.
She matched and met them with ease.
Sir Clarence was suave and his manners courtly. He held the line like the
Guardsman he was and made them pay dearly for every inch he was forced to
yield. Then he counter-attacked with consummate timing.
Shasa sat aloof at his end of the table, leaving most of the bargaining to
Garry. However, when he spoke, his comments were pithy and apposite, and
very often served to break a log-jam in the negotiations and to propose the
equitable compromise.
The sums of money they were discussing were of numbing magnitude. While
Isabella recorded the minutes of this conference, she amused herself by
calculating two and a half per cent of three billion dollars. That would be
the Courtney Enterprises share of the loot in the coming twelve months
alone, all of it earned without any additional capital investment on their
part. When she had the total worked out, she looked at her brother with
renewed respect.
At noon the conference adjourned for an elaborate lunch. In the air-force
Alouette helicopter Sir Clarence had brought with him a selected baron of
the finest Rhodesian beef. Sean and his chef had passed the morning in
barbe-

417
cueing it to golden-brown perfection over a fire of mopanc coals. They
cleared their palates with a glass of Dom P6rignon while they watched Sean
carve pink slices from the joint and the juices spurted and sizzled from
around the blade.
During the luncheon, Sir Clarence demonstrated as great a skill and finesse
as he had at the conference-table in his attempts to cut Isabella out of
the herd and put his brand upon her.
Isabella was flattered by his attentions and more than a little tempted. He
was a superior man, a dominant herd bull. Power is a wonderful aphrodisiac
for any woman. In addition, he had thick wavy dark hair with just a touch
of grey at the temples. She liked his eyes. He was so tall, and he amused
her with his urbane wit.
She found herself smiling at his sallies, and once she glanced down at his
feet. They must be size fourteen in those gleaming hand-made chukka boots,
and she smiled again thoughtfully. Perhaps that was a fallacy, but never-
theless the possibility was intriguing.
She could almost hear Nanny's rebuke ring in her cars. 'All the Courtneys
got hot blood. You must be careful, missy, and remember you are a lady.'
She knew he was married, but it seemed a long time since she had taken
comfort from a man's body, and he was so big and powerful. Perhaps, if Sir
Clarence continued to demonstrate the requisite amount of class and s
- then perhaps, just perhaps he stood a chance.
After lunch they returned to the conference-table. It seemed to Isabella
that their minds had been stimulated rather than dulled by the Dom
P6rignon.
At four o'clock Garry glanced at his watch. 'If we aren't to miss the
evening flight, then I suggest we adjourn until tomorrow morning.'
They drove down to the pools in both trucks to shoot the evening flight of
ring-necked doves coming in to drink.
Sir Clarence had contrived, without making it too obvious, to seat himself
beside Isabella in the leading truck. 418
However, at the last moment just as they were about to pull away, she jumped
down and ran back to sit beside Garry in the second truck. She didn't want
to make it too easy for Sir C. She sensed that he enjoyed the chase as much
as the kill. Garry was in an ebullient mood. As he drove he slipped one arm
around her shoulders and squeezed her.
'God, I love it,' he exulted. 'I love Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and
all those, sanctimonious little bleeding hearts in the General Assembly of
the United Nations. I love being a sanctions-buster. It's exciting and
romantic. It makes me feel like Al Capone or Captain Blood. Yo ho ho, and
a bottle of rum. It gives me a fine feeling of patriotism and the
opportunity to make a telling political statement, while at the same time
I can pocket seventy-five million pounds in lovely hard cash that the
taxman will never see. It's beautiful. I love all sanctioneers and
prohibitionists.'
'You are incorrigible.' She laughed at him. 'Isn't there any limit to your
appetite for riches?'
At that he sobered and removed his arm from her shoulders. 'You think I'm
avaricious?' he asked. 'It's not so, Bella. The truth is that I am a player
in the great game. I don't play for the monetary prize, I play for the
thrill of winning. I was a loser for too much of my life. Now I must be a
winner.'
'Is that all there is to it?' She was also serious now. 'You are playing
with the wealth and well-being of millions of little people to gratify your
ego.'
'When I win, then those little people win. The sanctioneers; seek to
inflict starvation and misery upon millions of ordinary people in order to
enforce their particular political vision. That, in my view, is a crime
against humanity. When I frustrate their efforts, I strike a powerful blow
for the little people.'
'Oh, Garry, you aren't a white knight. Don't pretend to be one - please!'
'Oh, yes, I am,' he contradicted her. 'I am one of the white knights of the
capitalist system. Don't you see that?

419
The only way out of our dilemma in southern Africa is through the education
and upliftment of the people, particularly the blacks, and by the creation
of wealth. We must steer for a society based not on class or caste or race
or creed, but on merit. A society in which every person can pull his full
weight and be rewarded in proportion to that effort - that is the
capitalistic way.'
'Garry, I have never heard you speak like that before, like a liberal.'
'Not a liberal, a capitalist. Apartheid is a primitive feudal system. As a
capitalist, I abhor it as much or more than any of the sanctioneers.
Capitalism destroyed the ancient feudalism of medieval Europe. Capitalism
cannot co-exist with a system that reserves power and privilege to a
hereditary minority, a system which suppresses the free-market principles
of labour and goods. Capitalism will destroy apartheid if it is allowed to
do so. The sanctioneers would deny and inhibit that process. By their
well-intentioned but misguided actions they bolster apartheid and they play
into the hands of its perpetrators.'
She stared at him. 'I've never thought about it that way before.'
'Poverty leads to repression. It is easy to oppress the poor. It is almost
impossible to oppress an educated and prosperous people for ever.'
'So you will point the way to freedom through the economic rather than the
political kingdom.'
'Precisely,' Garry nodded and then he boomed out that big laugh. 'And I'll
set a fine capitalistic example by making myself seventy-five million
pounds a year in the process.'
He braked the truck and turned off the track, following the leading Toyota
with Sean at the wheel down to the pools in the mopane forest.
These were shallow depressions, known in Africa as pans, filled with a
muddy grey water. They were warmed by the sun and heavily laced with the
pungent urine of the elephant herds that regularly bathed and drank in
them. Despite the temperature and flavour of the water the flocks

420
of doves preferred them to the clear running water of the river only two
miles distant.
The birds came in the hour before sunset in flocks that filled the air like
blue-grey smoke. In their tens of thousands they winged in along
established flight-lanes.
Sean set up his guns on these lanes, five or six hundred
metres from the water. He did not wish to prevent the
birds from drinking by plac - ing the guns over the pans.
Instead he forced them to run the gauntlet to reach the
water. As a matter of honour, each gun was expected to
observe strictly the daily bag-limit of fifty birds, and to
attempt only the difficult challenging shots at high, swiftly
flying doves.
The guns were placed in pairs. Not merely for company, but also to check
each other and see fair play, and to provide an appreciative audience for
those finely taken doubles or that beautifully led shot at a blue streak
passing a hundred feet overhead at seventy miles an hour.
Quite naturally, Elsa paired with Shasa, and their cries of 'Bello! Molto
bello!' and 'Jolly good shot! Well doneV rang through the mopane as they
encouraged each other.
Garry and Sean made a pair on the west side of the pans. Deliberately they
placed themselves behind a tall stand of timber so that the doves were
forced high and hurtled into their view over the tree-tops without warning,
presenting a shot so fleeting as to call for lightning reflexes and
instinctive calculation of lead.
Once Sean missed his bird, shooting two or three feet behind it. Garry
swivelled with the long Purdy mounting to his shoulder and brought the
escaping dove tumbling down on a trail of loose feathers. Then he looked
across at his older brother with his spectacles glinting gleefully and
boomed with laughter. Sean tossed back his hair and tried to ignore him,
but his face darkened with fury.
Isabella was left with Sir Clarence at the south end of a grassy glen out
of sight of the rest of the party. She was shooting the gold-engraved
2o-gauge Holland & Holland that her father had given her. However, she had
not fired

421
it for almost a year, and her lack of practice showed up in her shooting.
She clean missed the first three birds in succession and then pricked one.
She said: 'Damn! Double damn!' She hated to wound them.
Sir Clarence took an accomplished double, then set his shotgun against the
trunk of a mopane tree and crossed to where she stood.
'I say, do you mind if I give you a few tips?' he asked.
When she smiled at him over her shoulder he came up behind her. 'You are
allowing your right hand to overpower the gun.' He folded her in his arms
and took her hands in his huge fists. 'Remember, your left hand must always
dominate. The right hand is there only to pull the trigger.'
He mounted the gun to her shoulder for her and squeezed her left hand on to
the forestock for emphasis.
'Head up,' he said. 'Both eyes open. Watch the bird, not the gun.'
He smelt masculine. The perfume of his aftershave lotion did not entirely
conceal the odour of fresh male sweat. His arms around her felt very
agreeable.
'Oh,' she said. 'You mean like this?' And she pushed backwards gently with
her hard round buttocks as she aimed over the barrels.
'Precisely.' There was a catch in his voice. 'You have got it exactly
right.'
'Goodness gracious me!' She used one of Nana's cherished expressions to
herself 'He is size fourteen all over.' She had to work hard to prevent
herself giggling like a schoolgirl.
Sir Clarence was warming rapidly to his self-appointed task as tutor, and
Isabella told herself firmly: 'That's enough already. We don't want to
spoil him.' And gently freed herself from his embrace.
'Let me try it,' she said, and shot the next dove so cleanly that it did
not even flutter a wing.
'You are a natural,' he murmured, and she turned her head away to conceal
her smile at the double entendre.

422
'I understand from your brother that you are also a first-class
horsewoman,' he pursued relentlessly, not waiting for her reply. 'I have
recently purchased a magnificent Arab stallion. I doubt there is another
like him in Africa. I'd love to show him to you.'
'Oh?' she asked with feigned lack of interest, concentrating on loading the
shotgun. 'Where is he?'
'On my ranch at Rusape. We could have the Alouette drop us off there on the
way back to Salisbury tomorrow afternoon.'
'I might enjoy that,' she agreed. 'I'd like to meet your wife. I've heard
that she is a delightful lady.'
He fielded it without a blink. 'Alas, my wife is in Europe at the moment.
She'll be away for another month at the least. You'd have to put up with me
alone.' He gave the last sentence another subtle emphasis, and this time
she could not prevent herself smiling.
'I'll have to think about that, Sir Clarence,' she said. 'I imagine that
you are rather a large handful to put up with.' And this time his grave
expression cracked and he smiled back at her.
'Nothing that you couldn't handle, my dear.'
She wondered what the reward from her mysterious masters would be if she
could present them with not only the anti-sanctions strategy but also the
complete Rhodesian order of battle. 'All in the line of duty,' she assured
herself.
'Full bag!' Shasa called across to Elsa. He broke open his shotgun and
placed it across the crook of his arm. He called to the two black children:
Takamisa! Pick them UPV
They scampered away to pick up the last two doves. Shasa and Elsa sauntered
back to where the trucks were parked beyond the pan. The sun was almost on
the treetops, and the thin stratum of cloud above it was gilded to
brightest gold - the colour of a wedding ring, Shasa decided for no
apparent reason.
'All right,' Elsa said suddenly, as though she had reached a difficult
decision.
423
'Forgive me' - he was puzzled -'what is all right?'
'I trust you,' she said. 'There will be conditions attached, but I will
give you the blueprint for the plant and the formula for CyndeX 25.'
He drew a slow breath. 'I will try to be worthy of your trust.'
That evening, as they sat at the camp-fire withdrawn from the rest of the
party, she set down the conditions.
'You will,give me your personal guarantee that Cyndex will never be used
except on the express authority of the prime minister or his successors in
office.'
Shasa glanced across the flames to make certain that they were not
overheard. 'I swear that to you. I will obtain the prime minister's written
agreement.'
'Now, as to the rules of engagement, Cyndex will never be used on any
section of the South African people,' Elsa went on carefully. 'It will
never be used in internal political or civil conflict. It will never be
used to quell an uprising of the populace or in a future civil war.'
'I agree.'
'It may be used only to repel a military invasion by troops of a foreign
power. Then only when the use of conventional arms fails.'
'I agree.'
'There is one other condition - a little more personal.'
'Name it.'
'You will come to Lausanne personally to arrange the details.'
'That will be my particular pleasure.'
It was the last morning of safari. The guests had packed and were ready to
leave Chizora. Their luggage was stacked outside each tent, ready for the
camp staff to collect.
The business was done, and the contracts signed. Elsa Pignatelli had agreed
to assist with the marketing of Rhodesian tobacco and chrome - for a
princely fee - while Garry Courtney had undertaken to provide shipping and
false documentation for these materials from South African ports. His
rewards for these services would include exten-

424
sion of the Chizora hunting concessions as well as his monetary commissions.
The entire party was due to be ferried back to Salisbury in the Rhodesian
air-force helicopter. The helicopter had already been in radio contact with
the camp when it was airborne and only a hundred nautical miles out. They
had expected it to land in the glade in front of the camp thirty minutes
ago. It was overdue, and they were worried.
In small groups they stood around the camp-fire in the boma sipping a final
Pimm's No. i. Instinctively they kept glancing to the sky and listening for
the sound of the Alouette's rotors.
Sean and Bella were together. 'When are you coming to Cape Town?' she asked
her eldest brother.
'I'll try to get down at the end of the season, if you promise to line up
some crumpet for me.'
'Whenever did you need help?' she asked, and Sean grinned and kissed her.
'I'm not as bad as Pater,' he protested. 'Look at the old dog. He's off to
Europe with the widow, I hear.'
They both looked across at Elsa and Shasa.
'It's puke-making at their age,' Sean teased, and Isabella came loyally to
her father's defence.
'Daddy is one of the most attractive-'
'Cool it, Bella.' He squeezed her arm. 'Worry about Sir C. You'll be lucky
to escape with your virtue. They don't call him Cantering Clarence for
nothing.'
As if in response to his name, Sir Clarence drifted across to Isabella and
quietly spirited her aside.
'We'll drop the others off at Salisbury,' he murmured, leaning over her
solicitously. 'Then the helicopter can take the two of us on to my ranch.
We don't have to make a fuss about our little excursion, do we?'
'Of course not,',Isabella agreed sweetly. 'We don't want my papa - or Lady
Van Wyk - spoiling our innocent interlude of horse appreciation.'
'Exactly,' he agreed. 'Some things are best . . .' He
425
broke off as the radio in Sean's tent crackled urgently and then burst into
life.
Sean bounded from the boma and disappeared into his tent. More than any of
them, he had been worried by the overdue helicopter. They heard him
acknowledging his call-sign from the approaching helicopter.
'Tugboat, this is Big Foot. Go ahead.'
'Big Foot. We have a change of plan. Please inform the minister that this
ffight is being diverted to hot-pursuit operations. We will pick you up
with your recce team in sixteen minutes. I have ten Scouts on board.
Alternative arrangements will be made for ministerial transport as soon as
possible. Over.'
'Roger, Tugboat. We will be ready for pick-up. Standing by.9
'War is such a damned nuisance,' Sir Clarence sighed. They had overheard
every word of the radio exchange. 'We will have to sit around here until
they can send another chopper to fetch us.'
'What has happened?' Isabella demanded.
'Terrorist action,' Sir Clarence explained. 'Probably an attack on a white
farm somewhere. Our helicopter is being diverted. The pursuit takes
precedence over all other traffic. Can't let these murderous swine get away
with it -have to keep the morale of the farmers up.'
He didn't mention how desperately short of military helicopters the
Rhodesian air force was, but shrugged instead.
'It does look as though the Fates are conspiring against us.'
'Perhaps we'll just have to postpone our little arrangements-' She broke
off as Sean came out of the tent shrugging on his light pursuit-harness,
with its canvas pockets for ammunition and grenades and water-bottles. His
FN rifle was slung over one shoulder, and he was bellowing.
'Matatu, come on, you skinny little bugger. We've got real work to do now.
Hot pursuit.'
426
The diminutive Ndorobo tracker appeared like a grinning black
jack-in-the-box.
'Hai, Bwana,' he piped in Swahili. 'We will roast some ZANLA testicles on
the camp-fire tonight.'
'You bloodthirsty little devil. You love it, don't you,' Sean grinned with
his own fierce joy, and then turned to the others clustered in the centre
of the boma.
'Sorry, folks. Have to leave you to make your own way back to Salisbury.
Matatu and I have a date.' He singled out Garry in the group. 'Why don't
you ferry them up to Salisbury in the Beechcraft? With all that luggage it
will take you a couple of trips, but it's better than sitting around
waiting for the chopper to be free.'
He broke off and cocked his head to listen. 'Here she comes now.'
He moved quickly amongst them, shaking hands in brief farewell.
'Will we see you again next season, signora? Next time, I promise you a big
leopard . . .'
'Sorry to bump you off the flight, Sir Clarence.'
'Cheerio, Dad. Keep out of mischief . This with a wink and a glance at Elsa
Pignatelli.
"Bye, little sister.' He kissed Isabella, and she clung to him for a
moment.
'Be careful, Sean. Please don't let anything happen to

YOU. I
He hugged her and laughed at the absurdity of that idea. 'You are in more
danger of receiving incoming fire from Sir C,' he chuckled.
He looked up at the sky, and the helicopter was a black insect shape above
the trees.
He crossed to shake his younger brother's hand. 'D it, Garry. Who wants
your job - when I can be doing this?'
While they waited for the helicopter to settle Sean stood in the gateway of
the boma with Matatu.
Isabella felt her throat close up and tears prickle her eyes. They made
such an incongruous pair, the tall heroic figure of her brother with
flowing locks and tanned muscu-
427
lar limbs and the wizened black gnome at his side. As she watched, Sean
dropped one hand on the little man's shoulder in an affectionate embrace, an
affirmation of the trust bred between them in a hundred desperate adventures
and the mark of the special bond between these two warrior hunters.
Then they were racing forward into the blown dust-cloud of the hovering
helicopter, ducking low under the spi i g blur of the rotors, and
scrambling into the open hatchway.
Immediately the machine rose and went boring away into the south-east,
keeping low over the tree-tops, not wasting a moment in the climb for
altitude.

The ten Scouts were seated along the benches in the cabin of the helicopter,
each of them heavily pregnant with their body harnesses and packs, draped
with belts of ammunition and grenades and water-bottles, their bare arms and
legs blackened. Only their teeth sparkled in faces that were either smeared
with camouflage cream or were naturally dark. At least half the Ballantyne
Scouts were loyal Mat2bele.
It was well known that blacks and whites fighting together as comrades
tended to bring out the best qualities in each other as warriors. The
Ballantyne Scouts were the crack unit of Rhodesia's fighting forces,
although the Selous Scouts and the Special Air Services and the Rhodesian
Regiment would split your crust if they heard you say it.
As Sean clambered into the cabin, he recognized every man of them, and
greeted them by name. They returned the greeting with a laconic economy of
words that belied their awe and respect. Sean and Matatu were already a
living legend in the Scouts. The two of them had trained most of these
tough young veterans in the subtle skills of bushcraft.
Roland Ballantyne, the founder and commanding colonel
428
of the Scouts, had tried every ruse to inveigle Sean in as his
second-in-command - so far without success. In the meantime he called upon
Sean and Matatu whenever there was a heavy contact in the offing.
Sean dropped on to the seat beside him now. He snapped on his seat-belt.
While he began rubbing camouflage cream into his face he shouted above the
clatter of the rotors: 'Greetings, Skipper. What's the rumble?' .
'Bunch of terrs hit a tobacco farm outside Karoi yesterday evening. They
ambushed the farmer at the homestead gate. Shot him down as his wife came
out on the veranda to welcome him. She held them off alone all night in the
farmhouse - even under rocket-fire. Gutsy bird. Some time after midnight
they pulled out and gapped it.'
'How many?'
'Twenty plus.'
'Which way?'
'North into the valley.'
'Contact?'
'Not yet,' Roland shook his head. Even under the cama cream he was
lantern-jawed and impressive. He was probably five years older than Scan.
Like Sean he had built a hell of a reputation in the few short years since
the bush war began.
'Local unit is following up but making heavy weather, losing ground every
hour. The gooks are running hard.'
'They'll bombshell and try to lose themselves amongst the local black
population in the Tribal Trust area,' Sean predicted as he bound a grubby
scrap of camouflage-net over his shining shoulder-length locks. 'Get us to
the follow-up unit, Skipper.'
'We'll be in radio contact any minute-' Roland broke off as the flight
engineer beckoned him to the radio handset. 'Come on.' He unbuckled his
safety-belt and led the way down the vibrating, bucking aisle between the
benches. Sean followed him. He stood beside Roland, bracing himself against
the bulkhead and craning his head to listen to the tinny disembodied voice
in the microphone. 'Bush-
429
buck. This is Striker One,' Roland spoke into the mouthpiece. 'Do you have
contact?'
'Striker One. This is Bushbuck. Negative. I say again negative on contact.'
'Are you on the spoor, Bushbuck?'
'Affirmative, but chase has bombshelled.' That meant that the terrorist
gang had split up to hinder the pursuit.
'Roger, Bushbuck. As soon as you hear our engines give us yellow smoke.'
'Confirm yellow smoke, Striker One.'
Forty-five minutes later, the helicopter pilot picked out the smokc-signal,
a canary-yellow feather drifting over the dark green roof of the forest.
The helicopter dropped towards it, and hovered above the grass-tops in an
open glade between the trees standing in the tree-iine. They saw the police
unit who had pushed the pursuit thus far. It was obvious at a glance that
these were not 61ite bush fighters, but garrison troops from Karoi. They
were townies and reserves doing their monthly call-up duties and not enjoy-
ing the chase one little bit.
Sean and Matatu exited together, jumping the six feet to earth and landing
like a pair of cats, in balance with hot guns. They spread out swiftly and
took cover while the helicopter soared and hovered two hundred feet above
them.
It took them fifteen seconds to make certain that the police had the drop
area secure, then Sean ran across to the leader of the pursuit unit.
'OK, Sergeant,' he snapped crisply. 'Hit your bottle. Drink, man, drink.'
The sergeant was red-faced, burnt by the sun, and overweight. Even in the
valley heat, he had stopped sweating. It had dried on his shirt in
irregular white rings of salt. He didn't know enough to keep himself from
dehydrating. Another hour and he would be a casualty.
'Water is finished.' The sergeant's voice was hoarse. Sean tossed him a
precious water-bottle, and while the man drank asked; 'What's the line of
spoor?'

430
The sergeant pointed to the earth ahead of him, but already Matatu had
picked up the sign left by the fleeing gang. He scampered along it, cocking
his head to study the fine details which were invisible to any but the
truly talented eye. He followed it for a mere fifty paces and then doubled
back to where Sean waited.
'Five of them,' he chirped. 'One wounded in the left leg ... 5
'The farmer's widow must have given them a good run.'
'. . . but the spoor is cold. We must play the spring hare.'
Sean nodded. The 'spring hare' was a technique that he and Matatu had
worked out between them. It could only be effective with a tracker of
Matatu's calibre. They had to be able to guess where the chase was heading.
They had to have a good idea of the line and rate of march before they
could leap-frog - or spring-hare - down the line.
Here there was no doubt. The band of terrorists must keep northwards
towards the Zambezi and the Tribal Trust lands where they could expect to
find food and shelter and some rudimentary medical treatment for their
wounded. There were many sympathizers amongst the black Shona and Batonka
tribesmen who lived along the valley rim. Those who would not co-operate
willingly would be forced to do so at the muzzle of an AK 47 assault-rifle.
All right, so they would keep on northwards. However, the wilderness ahead
was vast. There was hard going and broken terrain, rocky valleys and
jumbled granite kopjes. If the fleeing band turned only a few degrees off
the obvious line of march, they could disappear without trace.
Sean ran out into the open glade and signalled the circling Alouette,
holding his arms in a crucifix. The helicopter responded instantly.
'OK, Sergeant.' Sean called. 'Keep after them. We'll go ahead and try to
cut the spoor. Maintain radio contact -and remember to drink.'
'Right on, sir!' the sergeant grinned. The brief meeting
431
had given him and his men fresh heart. They all knew who Sean was. He and
Matatu were legend.
'Give them hell, sirP he yelled up at Sean, and Sean waved from the open
hatch of the Alouette as they soared away.
Sean swallowed half a dozen codeine tablets for his ribs, which. were
beginning to ache, and washed them down with a swig from his spare
water-bottle. He and Matatu crouched together in the opening of the
hatchway, peering down at the canopy of the forest five hundred feet below.
Only at moments like these, when the hunt was running hot and hard, could
Matatu subdue his terror of flying.
Now he leant so far out of the hatch that Sean had an arm around his waist
to hold him from the drop. Matatu was positively shivering in his grip, the
way a good gun-dog shivers with the scent of the bird in his nostrils.
Suddenly he pointed, and Sean yelled to the flight engineer: 'Turn ten
degrees left.'
Over the intercom the engineer relayed the change of course to the pilot in
the high cockpit.
Sean could see no possible reason for Matatu's turn to the west. Below them
the forest was amorphous and featureless. The rocky kopies that broke the
leafy monotony were miles apart, random and indistinguishable one from the
other.
Two minutes later Matatu pointed again, and Sean interpreted for him: 'Turn
back five degrees right.'
The Alouette banked obediently. Matatu was performing his special magic. He
was actually tracking the fugitives from five hundred feet above the canopy
of trees, not by sight or sign, but by a weird intuitive sense that Sean
would not have credited if he had not seen it happen on a hundred other
chases over the years.
Matatu quivered in Sean's grip and turned his face up at his master. He was
grinning wickedly, his lips trembling with excitement. The blast of the
slipstream had filled his eyes with tears, and they streamed down his
cheeks.
'Down!' he yelped, and pointed again.

432
'DownP Sean yelled at the flight engineer. As the helicopter dropped, Sean
looked across at Roland Ballantyne.
'Hot guns!' he warned, and Roland signalled his men. They straightened up
on the hard benches and leant forward like hunting dogs on the leash. As
one man they raised their weapons, muzzles high, and with a metallic
clatter that carried above the roar of the turbo engines they locked and
loaded.
The helicopter checked and hovered six feet above the baked dry earth. Sean
and Matatu jumped together, and cleared the drop zone.
As soon as they were clear they went down into cover, facing outward.
Sean's FN was at his shoulder as he scanned the bush around him. The Scouts
came boiling out of the hatchway, and scattered to adopt a defensive
perimeter. The helicopter climbed away empty.
The second they were in position Roland Ballantyne signalled across to Sean
with clenched fist 'GoV
Well separated, Sean and Matatu went forward. The Scouts spread out and
covered them, eyes glinting and restless trigger-fingers cocked. Matatu had
brought them down in a bottle-neck where a series of steep rocky ridges
formed a funnel. The apex of the V was cut through by a dry riverbed. Storm
water over the millennium had sculpted a natural staircase that climbed the
ridge, and the elephant herds that used this natural pass had worn the
contours and levelled the gradients.
Would the fleeing band have traded time for stealth? Would they have chosen
the elephant highway, rather than toil up the jagged rocky ridge at
another, less obvious point?
Matatu flicked his fingers underhand, signalling Sean to cast the eastern
approach to the pass. Sean was as good a tracker as any white man alive. To
save precious time Matatu would trust him with such a simple cast as this.
Sean moved across the sun, placing it between him and the ground he was
searching. It was the old tracker's trick to highlight the spoor. He
concentrated all his attention on

433
the earth, trusting the hovering Scouts to cover his back. They were all
good men; he had trained them himself.
He felt the little electric thrill of it as he picked it up. It was close
in against the cliff-face. One of the round water-worn river-boulders had
been displaced. It was sitting a quarter of an inch askew in the natural
dish of earth that had held it. He touched it with a fingertip just to
check. He would not call Matatu and risk his scorn until he was certain.
'Little bugger will mock me for a week if I make a bum call.'
The boulder was the size of his head and it moved slightly under his
finger. Yes, it had been recently dislodged. Sean whistled, and Matatu
appeared at his side like the genie of the lamp. Sean did not have to point
it out. Matatu saw it instantly and nodded his approbation.
The file of fugitives was anti-tracking skilfully. They had moved up the
water-course in Indian file, keeping in close'under the precipitous rocky
side. They had used the river-boulders as stepping-stones to hide their
tracks, but this one had been slightly dislodged by the weight of the men
passing over it.
Matatu darted forward. A hundred or so paces further on he found the spot
where the wounded terrorist's foot had slipped off one of the
stepping-stones and touched the soft white sand. The foot had left a
brush-mark. Only the highly trained eye would have noticed the faint shade
of colour difference between the surface grains and the freshly exposed
grains of sand from below.
Matatu knelt over it and studied the faint scuff-mark, then he blew gently
on the surrounding sand to gauge its friability. He rocked back on his
heels while he pondered the factors that had effected the colour difference
in the grains - the moisture content of the sand, the angle of the sun, the
strength of the breeze and, most important, the time elapsed since the sand
had been disturbed.
'Two hours,' he said with utter finality, and Sean accepted it without
question.

434
'Two hours behind them,' Sean reported to Roland Ballantyne.
'How does he do it?' Roland shook his head in wonder. 'He brought us
straight here, and now he gives us the exact time. He's gained us eight
hours in fifteen minutes. How does he do it, Sean?'
'Beats me,' Sean admitted. 'He's just a chocolate-coated miracle.'
'Can he spring-hare us again?' Roland demanded. He spoke no Swahili; Sean
had to translate.
'Spring-hare, Matatu?'
'Ndio, Bwana,' Matatu nodded happily, and preened under the patent
admiration of the colonel.
'Leave four men to follow up on the ground,' Sean advised. 'Tell them to
follow the water-course and there's a good chance they will pick up the
spoor at the top.'
Roland gave the orders, and the four Scouts moved away up the funnel in
good order. Sean called down the helicopter, and they scrambled aboard.
They flew on into the north. However, they had not been airborne for more
than ten minutes before Matatu wriggled in Sean's grip and yelped: 'Turn!
Turn backV
Under Sean's direction the helicopter made a wide circle, and Matatu was
leaning halfway out of the hatch. His head swung quickly from side to side
as he peered downwards, and for the first time he seemed uncertain.
'Down,' he cried suddenly, and pointed to a long streak of darker-green
vegetation that filled a shallow kidneyshaped depression in the terrain
ahead of them.
The Alouette descended gently, warily. Matatu pointed out a landing-zone at
the far side of the depression.
The scrub below them was dense and thorny, and the ground was studded with
ant-heaps. These were bare towers of concrete, hard red clay each as high
as a man's shoulder, like headstones in a cemetery; they would make the
landing difficult and dangerous.
Little bugger is taking us into the worst-possible LZ,

435
Sean thought bitterly. Why does he have to choose this particular spot?
The helicopter checked in mid-air, and Sean turned his head and yelled at
Roland: 'Hot guns, man!' And then followed Matatu. They landed side by side
and scurried forward, dropping into cover behind one of the antheaps.
He did not turn his head to watch the other Scouts come out of the hatch.
He was watching the tangled thorn scrub out ahead, sweeping his flanks with
a darting penetrating scrutiny, holding the FN levelled and his thumb on
the safety. Although it was a million-to-one chance that there was a
terrorist within five miles of the LZ, still the landing drill was second
nature to all of them.
'No gooks here,' Sean assured himself. And then incredibly, stunningly they
were under fire.
From the thorn scrub on their left flank AK fire raked them. The sharp
distinctive rattle of the fusillades swept over them. Dust and chips of red
clay flew from the side of the ant-heap only inches in front of his face.
Sean reacted instantly. He rolled and re-aligned, and as he brought the FN
to bear he glimpsed from the corner of his eye a grisly little cameo of
death.
One of the Scouts, the last man out of the hatch, was hit. As his feet
touched the ground, a burst of AK fire caught him across the belly. It
doubled him over and drove him backwards three sharp paces. The bullets
exiting from his back pulled his body out of shape. They sucked half his
guts out of him, and blew them in a misty pink streak through the stark
sunlit air. Then he was down and gone into the scrub.
As Sean returned fire the realization flashed in upon him: Matatu has
dropped us into direct contact. He punctuated his thoughts with short
measured bursts of the FN. The little bugger has been too bloody good this
time. He has dropped us right on their heads.
At the same time he was assessing the contact. Obviously the gang had been
taken as unaware as they were. They

436
had not been able to prepare any kind of defence, nor had the time to set up
an ambush. Probably they had heard the roar of the approaching helicopter
and then only seconds later the Scouts had begun dropping amongst them.
Surprise, Sean thought, and shot at the muzzle-flashes of an AK that were
fluttering the leaves of a thorn bush only thirty paces ahead.
From experience he had learnt that the Shona guerrillas facing him were
first-class soldiers, doughty and brave and dedicated. They had two
weaknesses, however. First, their fire-control was poor; they believed that
sheer weight of fire made up for inaccuracy. Their other weakness was the
inability to react swiftly to surprise. Sean knew that for another minute
or so the terrorists in the scrub in front of him would be disorganized and
flustered.
Hit them now, he thought, and snatched a phosphorus grenade from his
webbing. As he pulled the pin from the grenade he opened his mouth to yell
at Roland Ballantyne: 'Come on, Roland. Sweep line! Charge the sods before
they settle down.'
Roland beat him to it. The same thoughts must have raced through his mind.
'Take them, boys! Sweep line -on the charge!'
Sean leapt to his feet and in the same movement hurled the grenade in a
high arcing trajectory. It fell thirty yards ahead of him, and the thorn
scrub erupted in a blinding white cloud of phosphorus smoke. Flaming
fragments, burning with a dazzling white radiance, showered over the area.
Sean raced forward, conscious of the small dark shape that ran at his
heels. Matatu was his shadow. Other grenades were exploding across the
front, and the thorn scrub was thrashed by the blasts and lashed by the
sheets of automatic fire that the Scouts threw down as they charged.
The gang broke before them. One of them ducked out of the bush ten paces
ahead of Sean, a teenager in tattered blue jeans and a soft camouflage-cap.
Burning globules of phosphorus had adhered to his upper body. They sizzled

437
and flared, leaving smoking black spots on his arms and torso. The smoke
smelt like barbecueing meat.
Sean shot hijrn, but the burst was low. It broke his left hip, and the boy
dropped. The AK rifle flew from his grip, and he rolled on to his back and
held his hands in front of his face.
'No, Mambo!' he screamed in English. 'Don't kill me! I am a Christian - for
the love of God, spare me!'
'Matatu,' Sean snapped without checking or looking round. 'Kufa!'
He jumped over the maimed guerrilla. The magazine of his FN was half-empty.
He could not afford to waste a single rounds and Matatu had his
skinning-knife. He spent hours each day honing the blade. If he had been a
section leader, Sean might have saved him for interrogation; but Matatu
could cut this one's throat. Cannon-fodder like him was of no use to them,
and medical attention was expensive.
The Scouts swept the bush, and it was over in less than two minutes. It was
no contest. It was like pitting Pekinese puppies against a pack of wild
dogs. The Scouts charged through and then whirled and came back.
'Secure the area,' Roland Ballantyne ordered. He was standing less than
twenty yards from Sean. He held the muzzle of his rifle pointed at the sky,
and the heated metal distorted the air around it in a watery mirage. 'Well
done, Sean. That little black devil of yours is a charm.' He glanced across
at Matatu.
Matatu was straightening up from the corpse of the hip-shot terrorist. He
had slit his throat with a single stroke, across the side of the throat and
up under the ear to catch the carotid artery.
He was wiping the blade of his skinning-knife on his thigh as he scurried
back to his rightful place at Sean's side, but he grinned an
acknowledgement at Roland Ballantyne. Both of them were distracted, still
heady with the euphoria of violence and blood.
The corpse of one of the other guerrillas lay in the scrub between them.
The flesh and clothing still smouldered

438
with burnt-out phosphorus, and the man's clothing was splattered with bright
blood from his gunshot wounds. Roland Ballantyne walked past him with barely
a glance. It was impossible that the terrorist could have survived such
terrible injuries.
The terrorist rolled over abruptly. He had been concealing a Tokarev pistol
under his shattered chest. With his last flutter of life he lifted the
Tokarev and he was close enough to touch Roland with the muzzle.
'Roland!' Sean screamed a warning, and although Roland reacted instantly it
was too late. The shot would take him in the spine from a range of three
feet.
Sean did not have time to raise the FN to his shoulder. He fired from the
hip, pointing and aiming instinctively. The bullet caught the terrorist in
the face. His head burst like an over-ripe water-melon hit with a
Pick-handle, and he flopped over on his back. The Tokarev slipped unfired
from his nerveless fingers.
Roland Ballantyne straightened up slowly, and for a long moment he stared
down at the corpse. The man's legs were kicking and trembling convulsively.
Roland contemplated his own mortality and saw the agony of his own death
reflected in the man's bulging eyeballs.
He tore his gaze away and looked across at Sean.
'I owe you one,' he said curtly. 'You can collect any time.' And he turned
away to shout orders at his Scouts to gather the kill. There were green
plastic body-bags in the hovering Alouette.

Le Morne Brabant was a jagged mountain of black volcanic lava that seemed to
tower over them threateningly, even though they were almost four miles out
on the oceanic stream.
These sapphire currents that eddied around the toe of the island of
Mauritius created an enrichment of marine life that big-game anglers around
the world recognized as

439
a 'hot spot'. There were other famous grounds such as those off the ribbons
of the Great Barrier Reef, at Cabo San Lucas on the Californian peninsula or
in the lee of the island of Nova Scotia. At all these points the
concentrations of vast shoals of bait-fish attracted the ocean predators
-the giant marlin and the tuna species. The sports anglers of the world came
to pit their skill and their strength against these sleek monsters.
Shasa Courtney always insisted on chartering the same boat and the same
island crew. Each boat sets up its own individual vibration in the water,
a combination of engine and propeller and hull configuration which is as
unique to that boat as a fingerprint is to the man. That vibration either
attracts or repels fish.
Le Bonkeur was a lucky boat. She pulled fish, and her skipper had eyes like
a gannet. He could spot the flash of a single sea-bird diving on a school
of bait-fish on the horizon, or at a mile's distance pick out the
sickle-shaped dorsal fin of a cruising marlin and estimate the fish's
weight to within ten kilos.
Today, however, they were desperate for a bait. They had been out for
almost two hours without putting a bait on the outriggers.
Everywhere they looked there were shoals of bait-fish. The Indian Ocean
seemed to swarm with their multitudes. They darkened the surface of the
water like patches of cloud shadow, and dense flocks of sea-birds circled
over them, screaming and diving in avaricious hysteria. Every few minutes
a volley of leaping bonito would burst through the surface and arc in
glittering silver parabolas through the brilliant tropical sunshine.
They were being panicked and driven up by the great pelagic fish that
circled in the depths below the shoals. It was one of those crazy days that
occur all too seldom in a fisherman's life when there are simply too many
fish. The ravenous predators were harrying the shoals so viciously that
they were unable to feed. All their energy was diverted to avoiding the
voracious charging monsters that tore

440
through the shoals. They ignored the small finger-length feather lures with
which the crew of Le Bonheur were trying to tempt them.
Standing on the flying bridge fifteen feet above the deck, Shasa could see
deep into the limpid blue waters. He could clearly make out the hordes of
bonito, like fat cigars as long as his forearm, dodging and ducking through
Le Bonheur's wake. They almost touched the feather jigs as they darted past
them.
'We need one - just one bait,' Shasa groaned. 'On a day like this it's an
iron-clad guarantee of a marlin.'
Elsa Pignatelli leant over the bridge rail beside him. She wore only a tiny
flaming scarlet bikini and she was tanned and smooth as a loaf of honey
bread crisp from the oven.
'LookV she cried, and Shasa whirled just in time to see a marlin come out
of the water alongside Le Bonheur. It was driven high into the air by the
speed and power of its own charge as it split a shoal of bonito. Its eyes
were the size of tennis balls, and its spike was the length and thickness
of a baseball bat. The water streamed from its flanks in silver cascades,
and it wagged its great head in the air. In the excitation of the feeding
frenzy, it had changed colour, like a chameleon, and burnt with bands of
electric blue and lilac that turned the tropical blue of the sky pale in
contrast.
'A granderP Shasa shouted the colloquial name for a fish that would push
the scale beyond the mystic thousandpound mark.
The marlin fell back and hit the water flat on its side with a report like
a shot of cannon.
'A bait!' cried Shasa, clutching his brow like a Shakespearian tragedian.
'My kingdom for a bait.'
The other half-dozen boats of the Black River fleet that they could see
scattered to the horizon were suffering the same agonies. They could hear
the frustrated lamentations of their skippers on the ship's radio. Nobody
had bait, while out there the marlin were waiting to commit suicide.
'What can I do?' Elsa demanded. 'Do you want me to

441
propound a little of my witchcraft and weave a spell for
you?
'I don't know if that would be strictly ethical,' Shasa grinned back at
her. 'But I'm willing to try anything. Weave away, my lovely witch!'
She opened her purse and found her lipstick. 'Tom Thumb, Thomas i Becket,
Rumpelstiltskin!' she mitoned solemnly, and drew a scarlet hieroglyph on
his naked chest which had a distinctly phallic outline. 'I diddle you! I
fiddle you! I doddle you! I doodle youP
'Oh yes. I love it,' Shasa laughed out loud. 'I could get seriously hooked
on your type of magic.'
'You have to believe in it.' she warned him, 'or else it just won't work.'
'I believe,' said Shasa fervently. 'Oh, how I believe in doodling youP
Down on the deck below them one of the crew squealed suddenly, and they
heard the tinny whirr of the ratchet on one of the small bait-rods.
,Shasa's laughter was cut off abruptly. For an instant he stared at her
with awe. 'Damn me! You really are a witch,' he muttered, and he dived for
the ladder and slid down to the deck.
The deck-hand brought the skipjack bonito over the side and cradled him
lovingly in his arms. The fish quivered and struggled, but he cushioned its
fat round body against his chest. It was a pretty metallic blue and silver,
with a pointed snout and sharp-bladed tail-fins. Its lower body was laced
with lateral lines of black. Shasa saw with relief that it was lightly
hooked in the hinge of the jaw. There was no damage to its gills.
He slipped the small hook from its jaw and ordered the deckie: 'Turn himV
The deckie inverted the bonito, and immediately its struggles ceased.
Holding it upside down was a trick that disorientated and quietened it.
Shasa had his bait instruments laid out like those of a surgeon. He
selected the long crochet-hook and worked it carefully into the front of
the bonito's eye-socket. The

442
blunt steel tip pushed the eyeball aside and did not damage it in the least.
He steered the needle into the natural canal through the bone of the fish's
skull. The tip emerged from the same spot in the opposite eye-socket. The
fish showed no sign of distress and lay quietly in the deckie's arms
Shasa hooked a loop Of 120-lb Dacron line over the steel crochet-hook and
gently drew the line back through the wound. He dropped the crochet-hook
and snatched up the huge 12/0 marlin-hook. With a series of quick deft
turns he had attached the hook firmly between the bonito's eyes. The fish
was stiff alive and virtually unharmed. Its eyesight was unimpaired.
Shasa stood back and nodded to the deckie. He knelt on the gunwale and
lowered the bonito over the side, solicitous as a nursemaid. As soon as it
was released, the fish darted away, drawing the heavy steel trace and the
attached Dacron line behind it. It disappedred almost instantly into the
blue depths.
Shasa stood beside the fighting-chair. The stubby rod was set in the
gimbal. The Fin-Nor Tycoon reel was made of gold-anodized marine-grade
aluminium alloy. Still it weighed over five kilos and held over a
kilornetre of the braided Dacron line. The line hissed softly as it
streamed off the reel. Shasa adjusted the tension on it with a light touch
of his fingertips.
He had marked the line with wraps of silk thread at intervals of fifty
yards. He let out a measured hundred yards before he tightened the drag
lever of the reel.
The deckie was already lowering the halyard of one of the twenty-foot
outriggers that protruded like whippy steel antennae from each side of the
hull. The purpose of the outriggcr was to hold the lines separated and to
allow the slack bight of line to drop back when the marlin struck.
'No,' Shasa stopped him. 'I will hold it myself.'
This was a more precise method of determining the depth of the bait and
amount of drop-back. However, it required patience and experience and
fortitude to hand-

443
hold the line rather than merely to loll in the chair and leave it in the
clip of the outrigger.
Carefully Shasa stripped a hundred feet of line off the big Fin Nor and
coiled it on the deck. Then he perched on the stem of Le Bonheur and called
to the skipper: 'Allez!'
The skipper engaged the gear lever, and the propeller began to turn lazily.
The diesel engine was ticking over at idling revs and Le Bonheur began to
inch forward against the scend of the swells.
Slowly she built up to a leisurely walking speed. The tension on the line
in Shasa's hand increased. He could feel the weight of the bonito on the
other end. The fish began to follow the boat like a dog on a leash. Shasa
judged the depth of the bait by the angle at which the 11ne entered the
water. He could tell the condition and liveliness of the bonito by the
faint vibration of its tail and the intermittent tugs and jerks it gave as
it attempted to turn or dive.
Within minutes Shasa's arm was numb and cramping, but he ignored the
discomfort and called up to Elsa on the bridge: 'How about a little more of
your "fiddle me diddle me" magic?'
'It only works once.' She shook her head. 'From here on you are on your
own.'
At slow speed Le Bonheur rolled sluggishly over the swells, and at Shasa's
order began a wide and gentle turn up into the north.
Halfway through the turn, the line went slack in Shasa's hand and he stood
up quickly from his seat on the gunwale.
'What is it?' Elsa called down eagerly.
'Probably nothing,' he grunted, but all his concentration was on the feel
of the line.
It came taut again, but now the bonito's movements were altered. He could
feel its frantic struggles transmitted through his fingertips. It ducked
and dived and tried to turn, but the gentle progress of Le Bonheur drew it
forward remorselessly.
'Attention!' Shasa alerted the crew.
'What's happening?' Elsa asked again.
444
'Something is frightening the bonito,' he answered. 'It's seen something
down there.'
He could imagine the terror of the small fish as the gigantic shadow
circled it stealthily in the blue underworld of the ocean. The marlin would
be wary. The bonito was behaving unnaturally. It should have darted away
instantly. The marlin stalked it gingerly, but soon its appetite would
exceed its caution. Shasa waited a minute and another minute, crouched over
the transom, rigid with excitement.
Suddenly the line was plucked from his fingers, but for an instant he felt
the mighty weight and majesty of the marlin as it struck the bonito with
the broad blunt edge of its spike.
'StrikeP Shasa howled, holding both arms above his head. 'Stop engines!'
Obediently the skipper slipped the gear lever into neutral, and Le Bonheur
wallowed, dead in the water. Shasa picked up the line again and held it
with the lightest pressure of his fingertips. It was slack; no sign of
life. The. bonito had been killed instantly by that massive blow.
Vividly he imagined what was happening in those mysterious blue depths. The
marlin had killed and now it circled again. It might lose interest, or
become alarmed by the unnatural movement of the carcass. It was essential
that no movement or drift on the line scared it off.
The seconds dripped like treacle, slow and sticky.
'He is making another circle,' Shasa tried to encourage himself. Still
nothing happened.
'Il est parti,' the skipper announced lugubriously. '11 a refusd.'
'I'll kick your pessimistic butt if you wish it on me,' Shasa told him
furiously. 'He hasn't bloody well parti-ed. He's coming around for another
circle.'
The line twitched in his fingers, and Shasa let out a shout of relief.
'Le voilk! There he is!'
Elsa clapped her hands. 'Eat, fish. Smell that lovely sweet flesh. Eat it,'
she implored.

445
The line jiggled and tugged softly, and Shasa let a few inches slide
through his fingers. He could imagine the marlin picking up the carcass in
its horny beak and turning it head-first to swallow it down.
'Don't let him feel the hook,' Shasa whispered a prayer. The loop of line
should allow the point of the hook to lie flat against the bonito's head as
it slid down the marlin's gaping maw. If, however, the loop had twisted or
hung up - Shasa did not want to think about that.
There was another long pause, and then the line came taut again and began
to move off with sedate but purposeful momentum.
'He's swallowed it,' Shasa exulted, and let the line flow through his
fingers; coil after coil unwound from the deck and slipped away over the
transom.
Shasa leapt to the swivel chair and swung himself into the seat. He clipped
the harness to the rings on top of the glittering Fin-Nor reel. The harness
formed a hammocklike sling around his lower back and buttocks and was
attached directly to the reel.
Only the ignorant, or the deliberately misinformed, believed that the
angler was buckled into the chair like a fighter pilot and that this gave
him some sort of unsporting advantage. The only thing that kept him in the
chair was his own strength and balance. If he made a mistake, the fish,
weighing over a thousand pounds, as fast and powerful as a marine diesel
engine, could pluck him and the rod effortlessly over the side and give him
a very swift trip down to the five-hundred-fathom mark.
As Shasa settled behind the rod and engaged the brake, the line came up
short against the spool and the rod-tip bowed over, as though it was
kow-towing to the fish's brute strength.
Shasa thrust his feet against the footboard and took the strain with his
legs.
'AJlez!' he yelled at Martin the skipper. 'Go!'
The diesel bellowed as Martin opened the throttle wide and a dense cloud of
oily black diesel smoke belched from

446
the exhausts. Le Bonheur leapt forward and crashed her shoulder into the
swell.
No man had the strength to drive the point of the huge Mustad hook into the
iron-hard mouth of the marlin. Shasa was using the power and speed of the
boat to set the hook, to bury the barb deep in the horny beak. The spool of
the reel hummed against its own massive brake-pads, and the line streamed
away in a white blur.
'Arr8tez-vous!' Shasa judged that the hook was in. 'Stop!' he cried, and
Martin closed the throttle.
They stopped and hung in the water. The rod was arched over as though the
line were attached to the bottom of the ocean, but the reel was still '
held by the brake.
Then the fish shook his head, and the power of it crashed the butt of the
rod back and forth in its gimbal as though it were a twig in a high wind.
'Here he goesP Shasa howled. The fish had been taken aback by the
unexpected drag of the line, but even Le Bonheur had been unable to move
his massive body against the drag of the water.
Now at last he realized that something was seriously wrong, and he made his
first mad run. Once again the line poured off the reel in a molten blur,
and Shasa was lifted high off the seat like a jockey pushing for the post.
So great was the friction in the massive Fin-Nor reel that it began to
smoke. The grease on the bearings melted and boiled. It bubbled and spurted
from the casing in steaming jets.
Leaning back with the full weight of his body, Shasa kept both hands well
clear of the humming reel. The Dacron line was as dangerous as the blade of
a butcher's bandsaw. It would take off a finger effortlessly or slash skin
and flesh and muscle to the bone.
The fish ran as though there was no restraint upon him. The line on the
spool melted away, three hundred yards were gone, then four, and in seconds
half a kilometre of line had gone over the side.
'He's a goddam. Chinaman and he's going home to daddy,' Shasa yelled. 'He's
never going to stop!'

447
Abruptly the ocean parted in a maelstrom of white water, and the fish came
out. Such was his girth and mass that he gave the illusion of moving in
slow motion. He rose into the air, and the water poured from his body as
though from the hull of a surfacing submarine. He came all the way out and,
though he was five hundred yards from Le Bonheur, he seemed to blot out
half the sky.
'Qu'il est grand!' shrieked Martin. Je n'ai jamais vu un autre comme qaP
And Shasa knew it was true - he had never seen a fish to match this one,
not by half. He seemed to light the heavens with a reflected blue radiance,
a flash of distant lightning.
Then, like a steeplechaser taking a fence, the fish reached the zenith of
its leap and curved back to the surface of the ocean. It opened in a
shockwave to his bulk, and then he was gone, leaving them all shaken by the
memory of his majesty.
The line was blurring from the reel. Though Shasa had the brake dangerously
heavy, pushing the drag up near the 12o-pound breaking-strain, it still
streamed away as though there were no check upon it.
'Tournez-vous! Turn!' There was an edge of panic in Shasa's voice, as he
yelled at the skipper; 'Turn and chase him!'
With full rudder and opposite engine-thrust Martin spun the boat on its
heel and they roared away in pursuit of the fish. Le Bonheur was rushing
into wind and current, and the swells battered her. She dug her nose into
them and burst them open in white spray. Then as she leapt over the crests
she was almost airborne, and came pounding down into the troughs on her
belly.
In the chair Shasa was thrown around mercilessly. He hung on to the arms of
the chair, and rode the swells with his legs, his backside not touching the
seat. The rod was bent like a longbow at full stretch. Even though Le
Bonheur was running at full throttle, he was still losing line. The marlin
was outrunning them by ten knots. The line on the reel wasted away, and
Shasa watched helplessly as the spool seemed to shrink.

448
'ShasaP Elsa shrieked from the bridge. 'He has turned!' She was so excited
that she spoke in Italian. Shasa had by now enough practice with the
language to understand her warning.
'Stop! Arr8tezP he howled at the skipper.
For no apparent reason the marlin had suddenly turned completely about and
was charging back towards the boat.
This was not yet apparent from the direction that the line was running into
the water. The marlin had thrown a half-mile loop in the line, which was
potentially catastrophic. The side-drag of the loop in the water could snap
the heavy line like cotton when the marlin came up tight on it. Elsa had
spotted the turn in the very nick of time.
Shasa had to pick up that loop before the marlin passed under the boat. He
pumped with his legs in a powerful mechanical rhythm, coming up to gain a
foot of line, sinking down to give himself slack to take it on to the reel
with two quick turns of the handle. Up and down he bobbed, grunting for air
with each cycle, legs and arms working together, and the wet line coming on
to the spool under such tension that a fine haze of droplets sprayed from
the braid. The line was cutting sideways through the water, slicing a tiny
feather from the surface. The loop was shrinking. The fish passed under the
boat. The line began to straighten.
Shasa pumped with a frantic rhythm, getting those last few turns of line on
to the reel.
'Turn now!' he gasped. Sweat was pouring down his naked chest. It mingled
with the lipstick design that Elsa had drawn and ran down to stain the
waistband of his shorts. 'Turn quickly! Quickly!'
The fish was tearing away in the opposite direction, and the skipper got Le
Bonheur around just as the line came up tight again. The full weight of the
fish came down on the rod-tip, and it whipped over like a willow tree
struck by a gale of wind. Shasa was levered up out of the chair to the

449
full stretch of his legs, and the strain on the line was ounces short of
snapping it.
He thumbed off the brake, releasing the tension, and the line crackled off
the spool at fifty miles an hour. With despair he watched as those precious
feet of line which he had won back with so much effort blurred effortlessly
over the side.
'Chase him!' he blurted, and Le Bonheur pounded after the fish.
It was exquisite teamwork now. No single man could subdue a fish like this
alone and unaided. The handling of the boat was critical, each turn and run
and back-up had to be quick and precise.
Precious seconds before it was apparent to the men on the deck below, Elsa
called out to warn of each new wild evolution of the great fish. For an
hour those irresistible rushes never ceased. Every second of that time the
thin strand of Dacron was under immense pressure, and Shasa stood in the
chair and used his weight against it, pumping the rod and churning the
reel. He took turn after agonizing turn on to the spool and then watched it
dissipate again as the fish made another charge.
One of the deck-hands spilled sea-water from a bucket over his shoulders to
cool him. The salt burnt the abrasions around his waist where the nylon
straps of the harness had rubbed through his skin. The blood seeped from
the injuries and stained his shorts watery pink. Every time the fish ran,
the harness cut in a little deeper.
The second hour was bad. The fish showed no sign of weakening. Shasa was
streaming with sweat, his hair was sodden as if he stood under a shower.
The galls of the harness around his middle were bleeding freely. The work-
ing of the boat hammered his thighs against the arms of the chair, and he
was bruising extensively. Elsa came down from the bridge and tried to pack
a cushion between the harness and his torn flesh. She gave him a handful of
salt tablets and made him drink two cans of Coke, holding them to his mouth
while he gulped them down.

450
'Tell me something,' he grinned crookedly at her with agony in his single
eye. 'What the hell am I doing this for?'
'Because you are a crazy macho man. And there are some things a man must
do.' She towelled the sweat off his face and kissed him with a fierce
protective pride.
Some time during the third hour Shasa got his second wind. Twenty years ago
it would have come sooner and lasted longer. The second wind was an
extraordinary sensation. The pain of the galling harness receded, the
cramps in his arms and legs smoothed away, he felt light-headed and
invincible. His legs stopped juddering under him, and he planted his feet
more firmly on the footboard.
'All right, fish,' he said softly. 'You have had your innings. Now it's my
turn.' He leant back with all his weight against the rod, and felt the fish
give.
It was only a tiny check on the rod. A shudder of movement, but down there
in the blue depths the great fish had stumbled slightly.
'Yes, fish,' Shasa whispered, as his spirits soared, 'it's hurting you,
too, now, isn't it?' He pumped with legs that were once more strong beneath
him and laid four tight white coils of line on the reel - and he knew that
they would stay there this time. The fish was coming at last.
By the end of the fourth hour the fish had no more wild dashing runs to
make. He was fighting deep and dogged, making slow, almost sedate circles
three hundred feet below the drifting boat. He was working on his side,
offering as much resistance as possible to the pressure of rod and line. He
was almost four feet deep across the shoulder and he weighed nearly
three-quarters of a ton. The great half-moon of his tail swept back and
forth to a stately beat, and his enormous eyes glowed like opals in the
semi-dark. Waves of Mac and azure flame rippled across his body like the
aurora of the Arctic skies. Around he went, and around again in steady
sweeping circles.
Shasa Courtney was crouched in the fighting-chair, bowed over the rod like
a hunchback. All the euphoria of the second wind had evaporated. He bent
and straightened

451
his legs with the deliberate agony of an arthritic, and every muscle and
nerve screamed a protest at the movement.
Fish and man had established a dreadful pattern in this final phase of the
struggle. The fish went out on the far lap of its circle, and the man hung
on grimly, his sinews strained to the same pitch as the Dacron line. Then
the fish swung through the circle and came back in under the boat; for a
few moments the tension on the line abated and the arc in the rod
straightened.
Shasa took two quick turns of line and then hung on again as the fish swung
on to the outward leg. With each circle he recovered a few feet of line,
but he paid the full price for it in sweat and pain. Shasa knew he was
coming to the end of his endurance. He thought about the risk of doing
permanent damage to his body. He could feel his heart pulsing like a
swollen fragile sac in his chest, and his spine was shot through with fire.
Soon something must snap or burst inside him, but he pulled with all his
remaining strength and felt the fish give again.
'Please,' he whispered to it. 'You are killing us both. just give up now,
please.'
He gathered himself and pulled again - and the fish broke. It rolled like
a waterlogged tree-trunk and succumbed to the pressure of the rod. It came
up, sluggish and heavy, and thrust its head through the surface so close to
the stem of the boat that it seemed to Shasa that he could reach out and
touch one of its great glowing eyes with the tip of the rod.
It stood on its tail and pointed its nose spike to the sky and shook its
head the way a spaniel coming ashore shakes the water from its cars. The
heavy steel trace whipped and whistled around its head, and the rod was
battered and slammed from side to side. The butt clattered and banged in
the gimbal, and the line flashed and looped and traced sweeping designs in
the air.
Still the fish stood in the water and opened wide its mighty triangular
beak and kept shaking its head, and Shasa was helpless in the face of such
power. He could not

452
control it. The rod was jerked back and forth in his grip, and he watched
the steel trace flog like the lash of a bullwhip.
With a sense of despair he saw the long shank of the hook twist and flick
in the hinge of the open jaw. The gyrations of the fish were working it
loose from the bone.
'Stop it!' he gasped at the fish, and tried to haul it over on its side. He
felt the hook come loose and slip and skid across the bone, before it
caught again. The fish gaped at him, and he saw the hook still holding
lightly on the very lip of the iron black beak. One more shake of the head
and the hook would be catapulted away on the swinging steel trace.
Shasa rose up in the chair and gathered the last of his strength. He hauled
the marlin backwards, and it toppled and crashed back into the sea in a
smother of foam.
'The trace,' he croaked at the deckie. 'Get the trace.' A direct pull on
the steel wire trace would bring the fish under control.
During all four hours of the struggle, no person other than the angler had
been permitted to touch the rod or the line to assist in the capture. Those
were the rules of the sporting ethic laid down by the International Game
Fishing Association.
Now with the fish played out and lying beaten on the surface the crew were
permitted to handle the thirty-foot steel trace, which was attached to the
end of the line, and to hold the fish with it while the flying gaff was
driven into its flesh.
'TraceP Shasa pleaded, as the deckie with heavy leather gloves reached out
over the stern and tried to get a hand to the top swivel of the trace. It
was just beyond his fingertips.
The marlin wallowed on the surface, rolling and pitching like a dead log in
the swells.
'One more time.' Shasa rose up and braced ilimself behind the rod. He
pulled with a steady even pressure. The hook was holding only by its needle
point, the barb

453
was not buried - the slightest twist or jerk could free it.
The second deck-hand stood ready with the flying gaff, a massive
stainless-steel hook on the end of a detachable pole. Once that hook was
plunged into the marlin's shoulder, the struggle would be over.
The top swivel of the trace was six inches from the fingertips of the
gloved hand, and the marlin fanned its tail, a last exhausted effort. The
tip of the rod gave a little nod, almost as though approving the gallant
spirit of the fish - and the hook came free.
The rod snapped straight and the hook flicked through the air and clattered
against Le Bonheur's gunwale. Shasa fell back with a crash into the chair.
Only forty feet away the marlin lay on the surface with its back and the
tall dorsal fin exposed. It was free but too spent to swim away; its tail
made only convulsive spasmodic movements.
They all stared at it, until Martin the skipper recovered his wits. He
slipped Le Bonheur into reverse and backed her up on the wallowing monster.
'On I'aura! We will have himV he yelled at the gaff man, as the marlin
bumped against the stem. The deck-hand sprang to the transom and raised the
gleaming hook high to drive the point into the fish's unprotected hump.
Shasa tumbled from the chair, his legs buckling weakly under him. Only just
in time, he managed to seize the deckie's shoulder and arrest the blow
before it was struck.
'No,' he croaked. 'No.' He wrested the gaff from the man's hand and flung
it on the deck. The crew stared at him in astonishment and chagrin. They
had worked almost as hard as Shasa had done for this fish.
It did not matter. He would explain to them later that it was unethical to
free-gaff a fish. The moment the marlin threw the hook, the contest was
over. The fish had won. To kill him now would be a deadly offence to all
the ethics of sportsmanship.
Shasa's legs could no longer support his weight. He collapsed across the
transom. The fish stiff lay on the surface beneath the stern. He reached
down and touched

454
the colossal dorsal fin. The edge was sharp as a broadsword.
'Well done, fiih,' Shasa whispered, and his eyes stung with the salt of his
own sweat and with other things. 'It was a hell of a fight. Good for you,
fish.'
He stroked the fin as though it were the body of a lovely woman. His touch
seemed to galvanize the marlin. The strokes of his tail became stronger and
more regular. His gill plates opened and closed like a bellows as he
breathed and he moved away slowly.
They followed him for almost half a mile as he swam upon the surface with
his fin standing in the blue like a tail tower. Shasa and Elsa stood
hand-in-hand at the rail in silence and watched the strength and vigour
return to the great fish.
Faster beat his tail, and he steadied in the water and pressed against the
swells with all his former majesty. Gradually the tall fin sank below the
surface, and they saw the long dark shape of his body recede into the
depths. There was one last flash of light like the reflection from a miffor
deep in the blue water and then the fish was gone.
On the long run back to port, Shasa and Elsa sat very close together. They
watched the lovely emerald gem of the island grow before them, and once or
twice they smiled at each other in quiet and perfect accord.
When Le Banheur ran into the Black River harbour and came into the dock,
the other boats of the fleet were already tied up alongside. On the
scaffold in front of the clubhouse hung the carcasses of two dead marlin.
Neither of them was half the size of the fish that Shasa had lost. A small
admiring crowd was gathered around them. The successful anglers were posing
with their rods. Their names and the marlin's weights were chalked on the
glory-board. The Indian photographer from Port Louis was crouched over his
tripod recording their moment of triumph.
'Don't you wish that your fish was hanging there?' Elsa asked softly, as
they paused to watch the scene.
'How beautiful a marlin is when he is alive,' Shasa

455
murmured. 'And how ugly he is when he is dead.' He shook his head. 'My fish
deserves better than that.'
'And so do you,' she said, and led him to the bar in the clubhouse. He
moved stiffly, like a very old man, but his bruises gave him a strange
masochistic pride.
Elsa ordered him a Green Island rum and lime.
'That should give you strength to get you home, old man,' she teased him
lovingly.
Home was Maison des Aliz&s, the House of the Trade Winds. It was a rambling
old plantation-house, built a hundred years ago by one of the French sugar
barons. Shasa's architects had renovated it and restored it in authentic
detail.
It sat like a glistening wedding-cake in twenty acres of its own gardens.
The old French baron had begun a collection of tropical plants, and Shasa
had added to these over the years. The pride of the collection was the
Royal Victoria waterlilies whose leaves floated on the gleaming fish-ponds.
The leaves were four feet across and curled at the edges like enormous
platters, and the blooms were the size of a man's head.
Maison des Aliz6s was situated below the massif of Le Morne Brabant, only
twenty minutes' drive from the clubhouse at Black River harbour. This was
the main reason that Shasa had purchased it. He referred to it as his
fishing shack.
As they drove up under the spreading canopy of the ficus trees, Shasa
remarked: 'Well, it looks as though the rest of the party has arrived
safely.'
Half a dozen cars were parked along the curve of the driveway, in front of
the main portals of the house. Elsa's pilot had ferried the two engineers
from Zurich in her personal jet. They were the technical directors of
Pignatelli Chemicals who had developed the process and designed the plant
for manufacturing CyndeX 25. Shasa had met Werner Stolz, the German
director, during the delicate preliminary discussions in Europe. These had
gone smoothly, under Elsa's skilful direction.

456
The technical directors and engineers of Capricorn Chemical Industries had
come in from Johannesburg to attend this conference. Capricorn Chemical
Industries was a fully owned subsidiary of Courtney Industrial Holdings.
Under Garry's chairmanship, Capricorn was the largest manufacturer of
agricultural fertilizers and pesticides on the African continent.
The company had its main plant near the town of Germiston in the industrial
triangle of the Transvaal. The existing plant already incorporated a
high-security section which manufactured highly toxic pesticides. There was
adequate space available to double this facility. The Cyndex plant could be
set up without any fuss or undue public speculation.
The technical representatives of Pignatelli and Capricorn had come together
here to discuss the blueprints and the specifications for the new plant.
For obvious reasons, it would have been unwise to conduct this meeting on
the site in South Africa. In fact Elsa had insisted that none of her staff
should ever visit the plant or have any connection with the enterprise that
could be traced back to Pignatelli.
Mauritius had offered a perfect venue for this meeting. Shasa had owned
Maison des Alizds for over ten years. He and his family and their guests
were frequent visitors. Their presence here was unremarkable, and Shasa was
on excellent terms with the Mauritian government and most of the
influential figures on the island. The Mauritians treated the family as
honoured and privileged guests.
Before his illness Bruno Pignatelli had also been a keen big-game angler
who visited Mauritius regularly. So Elsa was also well known and respected
on the island. Nobody was going to pry into her affairs or make awkward
enquiries about her reasons for being at Maison des Alizds with a team of
her engineers and consultants.
Shasa and Elsa were still keeping up appearances and exercising elaborate
decorum, even to the extent of occupying separate, but interconnecting,
suites on the top floor of Maison des Aliz6s. The family thought this
little charade

457
was hilarious. They were all waiting for the two of them in the gazebo on
the lawn above the fish-pools when they came down for evening cocktails.
Elsa had bathed Shasa and anointed his bruises and scrapes, so he looked
very dapper and refreshed, and limped only slightly as they strolled down
the front steps together. He was dressed in a cream tropical silk suit with
a crisp new eye-patch, and she wore a full-length gauzy chiffon with a
frangipani spray in her hair.
'Look at the little devils. Do you really believe that they are just jolly
good pals?' Garry demanded with a twinkle in his eye, and Isabella and
Holly had to cling to each other for support. Even Centaine covered her
smile with the Japanese fan and turned away to speak to one of the
engineers.
Isabella had every reason to be at Maison des Aliz6s even though the Senate
was in session. She was on the board of directors of Capricorn Chemicals.
Since the trip to Chizora Concession when she had first learnt of the
Cyndex project, Isabella had shown a sudden interest in CCI. She had
succeeded in having herself appointed to the Senate standing committee on
agriculture, and after that it had required only a few subtle hints for
Garry to offer her a seat on the CCI board. She had rapidly become an
active and valuable addition to the management team of Capricorn and had
never missed a meeting of the board. She had taken a particular interest in
the Cyndex project, and Garry had naturally included her in this gathering.
Garry had also seized the opportunity of bringing Holly and the children
along for an unscheduled holiday. Although he would be heavily occupied
with the technical discussions, he hoped to be able to spend some time each
day with his family. Holly had been complaining recently that they saw so
little of him, and the children were growing up so quickly that he was
missing a big slice of their childhood. These days Centaine
Courtney-Malcomess never missed a chance to be with her
great-grandchildren, and she had insisted on boarding the Lear when it took
off

458
from Lanseria private airport outside Johannesburg.
Indeed, so large had been the family contingent and the weight of their
luggage that the other Capricorn directors had been obliged to catch the
next commercial flight.
Maison des Alizds was bursting at the seams, every bed was occupied and
they had set up two extra cots in the nursery for the babies. Centaine had
borrowed extra trained staff from La Pirogue, the five-star beach resort
just down the coast at Flic and Flac to deal with the invasion. Then she
had sent the Lear back to Johannesburg to bring in supplies of such
essentials as Imperial caviare and vintage Krug and fresh fruit and
baby-foods that were unobtainable on the island.
The Krug was flowing freely now as Shasa and Elsa joined the party under
the frivolous fretwork roof of the gazebo. There was an exuberant orgy of
kisses and handshakes and back-slapping and happy cries of greeting.
Elsa had been presented to Centaine only briefly the previous evening when
the old lady arrived at Maison des Aliz6s. Even though Centaine had been
tired by the long jet flight, they had warmed to each other immediately.
Centaine had squinted at her in that particular way she had when she was
concentrating deeply. Then her eyes had straightened and she had smiled and
held out her hand.
'Shasa has told me many good things about you, but I suspect that's not
half of it,' she said in Italian, and Elsa had smiled with pleasure at the
compliment and at Centaine's command of her language.
'I did not know you spoke Italian, Signora CourtneyMalcomess.'
'There is still much we have to learn about each other,' Centaine nodded.
'I look forward to that,' Elsa replied. They had recognized kindred spirits
and now, under the gazebo, Elsa moved naturally to Centaine's side and
kissed her cheek.
Well, Centaine thought complacently as she took Elsa's arm, Shasa took long
enough to find this one, but she was well worth waiting for.

459
Garry's children were chasing eich other around the gazebo, and their
shrieks and howls detracted a little from the sophisticated ambience of the
gathering.
'I must admit,' Shasa remarked as he regarded his grandchildren balefully,
'that I'm becoming more like Henry the Eighth every day - I prefer small
children in the abstract.'
'As I recall, at that age you were every bit as bad,' Centaine rallied
immediately to the defence of her brood of great-grandchildren, but at that
moment a particularly piercing squeal made Shasa wince.
'For that one alone you would have boiled me in oil. Mater, you are in
danger of becoming a doting greatgranny.'
'They'll soon have enough of it,' Centaine smiled down on them fondly.
'Not before I do, I assure you,' he muttered, and went off to where Bella
was chatting to the Pignatelli engineers.
Isabella had set out to be charming to the German director, and by this
time he was throwing off sparks. For Isabella there was a bizarre sense of
unreality about the scene. She felt like an actress in a Franco Zeffirelli
movie. The gleaming ivory house, the weird shapes of the trees and tropical
plants, the gigantic fronds of the Royal Victoria waterlilies floating on
the ponds and the shoals of multicoloured ornamental carp sailing beneath
them, all contributed to a fantastic dreamlike setting. The laughter and
the disjointed enigmatic conversations in different languages and the cries
of the children were all so inconsequential when set against the true
reason for this gathering.
There was Nana holding court like a dowager empress, and Holly and Elsa
Pignatelli wearing precious chiffons and silks that cost a working man's
wages for a year. While somewhere far away her little Nicholas dressed in
combat camouflage and played with the ghastly weapons of war, with soldiers
and terrorists for companions.
Here she flirted with this balding middle-aged man who looked like a grocer
or a barman, but who was in reality the purveyor of death in one of its
least attractive guises. 46o
Here she smiled at her big teddy bear of a brother and linked arms with her
beloved father while she conspired to betray them both, and her country to
boot. Here was the shell, the beautiful, groomed, intelligent, successful
young woman, fully in control of her destiny and the world around her. While
within was the terrified confused creature, suffering and bereaved, the pawn
of powerful shadowy forces in a game that she did not understand.
'One day at a time,' she warned herself. 'One step at a time.' And the next
step was the CyndeX 25 project.
Perhaps this would be the ultimate endeavour that Ram6n had promised her.
Once she had given them the Cyndex project, perhaps they would be able to
escape from the web - she, Ram6n and Nicholas. Perhaps then the nightmare
would end.

The conference began the following morning in the diningroom of Maison des
Aliz6s. They sat beneath the revolving punkah fans at the long walnut table
which extended to seat thirty persons and they talked about death. They
discussed the mechanics and the chemical structure of death. They argued the
packaging and the quality control and the cost-efficiency of death, as
though talking about manufacturing potato crisps or face cream.
Isabella steeled herself to show no reaction mthe things she heard
discussed at the long table. She had learnt never to underestimate the
powers of observation of her brother Garry. Behind the horn-rimmed
spectacles and bluff genial faqade he missed very little. She knew that he
would pick up any sign of horror or revulsion that she showed. That would
probably be the end of her involvement in the project.
The Pignatelli technicians had prepared a dossier. The copies were
contained in untitled but handsome pigskin folders which were placed on the
dining-room table in front of each of them. The dossier was exhaustive and
covered
461
every aspect of the problem of manufacturing, storing and deploying the
nerve gas.
Werner Stolz, the technical director, took them through the dossier a
paragraph at a time. As horror unfolded on horror, read out in Werner's
clipped sibilant German accent, Isabella found that she had to exercise all
her self-control to keep her expression neutral and businesslike.
'CyndeX 25 is a volatile gas consisting of an organophosphorus compound of
the Alkylphosphonic Fluoridic Acid Group. Gases of this composition are
known as G agents and include Sarin and Soman.
'However, CyndeX 25 has desirable features that differ distinctly from
these older types of nerve gas. . . .' As he enumerated these features
Isabella was appalled by his choice of the adjective 'desirable', but she
nodded thoughtfully and kept her eyes on the dossier.
'CyndeX 25 has a unique and highly aggressive combination of properties.
These are high toxicity, rapid action, percutaneous effectiveness as well
as absorption through the lungs and mucous membrane of the human body.
Other advantages are high cost-effective ratios. By reason of its dual
chemical structure, it is safe to manufacture, store and handle. Once the
two agents which make up* CyndeX 25 are mixed, the gas becomes highly
unstable and has an extremely short effective lifespan. Thus it is more
readily controlled in the field. After the elimination of the threatened
population, the treated terrain can be more swiftly taken under friendly
control.'
He beamed down the table at them benignly. 'I would like now to discuss
each of these properties in greater detail. Let us take the question of
toxicity. Cyndex in either vapour or aerosol form absorbed through the
lungs has an LDI dosage' - he smiled apologetically - 'which means that it
will kill fifty per cent of the threatened population of moderately active
adult men in two minutes, and a hundred per cent of the population in ten
minutes. This is not significantly more rapid than Sarin, but it is in its
percutaneous effect that Cyndex comes into its own. It is
462
absorbed much more rapidly through the skin, the eyes, the nose, the throat
and the digestive system than Sarin. One microlitre of Cyndex - and I remind
you that is a millionth part of a litre - applied to naked skin will
incapacitate a man in two minutes and kill in fifteen minutes. This is
approximately four times more potent than Sarin. Although atrophine injected
intravenously within thirty seconds may inhibit the process and reduce some
of the symptoms, it will not arrest spontaneous collapse of the respiratory
system and subsequent death by suffocation. I will come later to the
specific symptoms of exposure to the agent, but let us now discuss the cost
of manufacture. Please turn to page twelve of the dossier.'
They obeyed like schoolchildren, and Werner Stolz went on: 'You will see
from the bottom line of our estimate that at this point in time the plant
will cost in the region of twenty million US dollars and the direct cost of
manufacture will amount to twenty dollars per kilo.'
Isabella wondered, even in the stress of listening to these horrific
details, why the use of newspeak clich6s such as 'bottom line' and 'this
point in time' annoyed her so. I wish he would speak plain English, she
thought, as if that would somehow make the facts more palatable. Werner was
still speaking.
'Translated into comparative terms that means that the entire plant would
cost the same as a single Harrier jet fighter from British Aerospace and
the cost of manufacture of a stock of Cyndex sufficient to ensure the
defence of the country for twelve months would be equivalent to the
purchase of fifty Sidewinder air-to-air missiles . . .'
'That's an offer we just can't refuse,' Garry chuckled, and Isabella felt
a stab of hatred for him that shocked her with its intensity.
How can he joke about something like this? She dared not look up at him. He
might have read her thoughts. Werner nodded and smiled agreement with
Garry.
'Of course, Cyndex needs no special vehicle for dissemination. Ordinary
crop-sprayer aircraft such as those in

463
day-to-day use in agricultural situations can be readily adapted for the
purpose. The gas may also be delivered by artillery projectile. The new G5
long-range howitzer being developed at present by Armscor would be ideal.'
At noon they broke for a swim in the pool and a buffet lunch on the
terrace. The discussion dwelt largely on Elsa and Shasa's recent visit to
the Salzburg Festival where Herbert von Karajan had directed the Berlin
Philharmonic Orchestra. They went back into the dining-room to listen to a
description of the symptoms of CyndeX 25 poisoning.
'Although it has never been tested on human subjects, we have determined
that the symptoms of a moderate exposure to Cyndex aerosol will not differ
greatly from other G agent nerve gases,' Werner told them. 'These would
commence with a sensation of tightness in the chest and difficulty in
breathing, followed by copious running of the nose and a burning, stinging
pain in the eyes and a dimming of vision.'
Isabella felt her own eyes begin to sting in sympathy, and she dabbed at
them surreptitiously.
'As these symptoms become progressively more intense, there will be heavy
salivation and frothing at the mouth, sweating and trembling, nausea and
belching, sensations of heartburn and stomach cramps which will lead
swiftly to projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhoea. These will be
followed by involuntary urination and bleeding from the mucous membrane of
the eyes, nose, mouth and genitalia. Trembling, twitching and giddiness and
muscle cramps will lead to paralysis and convulsions.
'However, the immediate cause of death will be total collapse of the
respiratory system. Cyndex owes its superior toxicity to the ease with
which it penetrates the bloodbrain barrier in the central nervous system.'
They were silent and subdued for a full minute after Werner finished, and
then Garry asked softly: 'If Cyndex has never been used on human subjects,
how do you anticipate these symptoms?'
'Initially by extrapolation with the effects of other G

464
agent nerve gases, Sarin in particulan', Wemer Stolz paused, for the first
time showing some sign of embarrassment. 'Thereafter the gas was tested on
primate subjects.' He cleared his throat. 'Chimpanzees were used in labora-
tory tests.'
With an effort Isabella prevented herself making some gesture of disgust
and outrage. However, her horror became almost uncontrollable as the
director went on remorselessly: 'We found, however, that chimpanzees are
extremely expensive laboratory animals. You are fortunate in that you have
access to an almost unlimited supply of cheap and entirely satisfactory
laboratory animals in the shape of Papio ursinus, the chacma baboon, which
is indigenous to South Africa and still occurs there in large numbers.'
'We aren't going to test on live animals?' Isabella's voice was shrill even
in her own ears, and immediately she regretted the outburst and tried to
recover her poise. 'I mean, is it really necessary?'
They were all staring at her now, and she flushed with anger at her own
lack of self-control. It was Garry who broke the silence.
He spoke lightly, but there was a steely glint behind the lenses of his
spectacles. 'The baboon is not my favourite animal. I have seen them kill
the newborn lambs at Camdeboo to eat the milk curds in their-stomachs. Nana
will tell you about their depredations on her roses and vegetable garden.
I am sure we all share your distaste and your reluctance to see unnecessary
suffering inflicted on any living thing.' He paused. 'However, in this
instance we are considering the defence of the country, the safety of our
nation - and the expenditure of many millions of Courtney money.'
He looked across at Shasa, who nodded agreement.
'The short answer is, I am afraid, yes. We must test. Better that some
animals should die than our own people. It is not a pretty thought, but it
is essential. I'm sorry, Bella. If it offends you, then you don't have to
have

465
anything further to do with the project. You can resign your seat on the
Capricorn board and we'll say no more about it. We will all understand and
respect your feelings.'
'No.' She shook her head. 'I understand the necessity. I'm sorry I raised
the subject.' She realized how close she had come to letting Nicholas and
Ram6n down. Their safety and freedom were worth any price she might be
forced to pay. She forced herself to smile and speak lightly: 'You don't
get rid of me that easily. I'll keep my seat, thank you very much.'
Garry studied her face for a second longer, then he nodded. 'Good. I'm glad
we have settled that.' And he turned his full attention back to Werner
Stolz.
Isabella composed her expression into one of polite attention and clasped
her hands in her lap. 'This is one project that Red Rose will have no
qualms about reporting,' she promised hcrself.

Isabella sent the Red Rose despatch three days after she arrived back in
Cape Town.
Over the years a routine had developed between her and the forces that
controlled her. When she had information she sent a Red Rose telegram to
the address in London and usually within twenty-four hours she received
instructions for a dead drop. These always took the same form. She was
given the time and location at which to park her Porsche. The location was
always a public carpark. Sometimes the Parade at the old fort, or a
drive-in cinema, or one of the large supermarkets in the suburbs.
She wrote out her message on sheets of the one-time pad and left them in an
envelope under the driver's seat with the door unlocked. When she returned
to the Porsche half an hour or so later the envelope was missing. When they
had a message or instructions for her the same method was employed, except
only that when she returned to the
466
Porsche there was an envelope containing typed instructions under the
driver's seat.
At the end of the conference at Maison des Aliz6s Garry had personally
collected all the leather-covered dossiers and seen to the shredding of the
contents. He was very concerned that no detail of the Cyndex project fall
into unauthorized hands. Isabella had made a few careful notes during the
discussions, but he had relieved her of these also.
'Don't you trust me, Teddy Bear?' She had made a joke of it, and though he
chuckled he had been adamant.
'I don't even trust myself.' And he had held out his hand for her notepad.
'You want to remember any details, you come and ask me, Bella, but you
don't write down anything - I mean anything.'
She knew better than to make an issue of it.
Even though she had no notes to refer to, the Red Rose report that she sent
was shaky only in the area of the chemical composition of CyndeX 25. She
knew that it was an organophosphate of the G group of nerve gases but could
not recall the exact atomic structure of the constituent parts or the
sequence of manufacture. However, she gave them the proposed location of
the plant and the tentative timetable for construction. The forecast was
that the plant would be in production within seven months.
At this stage the only ingredient that needed to be imported was a
phosphate precursor - again she was uncertain of the exact chemical
structure of this agent. However, she was able to report that the reason
that this catalyst could not be manufactured in South Africa - at least,
for the time being - was that the correct grade of stainless steel for the
redoubt in which it was mixed was not obtainable locally. However, the
state-owned steel works of ISCOR would work on the production of this grade
of steel and it was anticipated that they would be able to supply within
eighteen months. After that time Cyndex would be a hundred per cent locally
manufactured. In the meantime the precursor would be supplied through a
Pignatelli front
467
company in Taipei who were already holding stocks sufficient for the first
year of operation of the Capricorn plant.
Apart from the problem with the supply of chemicalgrade stainless steel,
the other difficulty that the conference had foreseen was the availability
of skilled technicians to operate the plant. Pignatelli Chemicals had
declined to provide any personnel. It was anticipated that these would be
recruited in Britain or in Israel. The conference had placed emphasis on
the security clearance of any foreign technicians who were thus engaged.
The rest of Isabella's report covered the transportation, storage and
dissemination of the gas in battlefield situations. Both Puma helicopters
and Impala jet fighters of the South African air force could be adapted to
serve as delivery vehicles. In addition, work would begin immediately on
the design and testing of a shell for the G5 howitzer which would be
designated '155 mm CW (Chemical Warfare) ERFB Cargo'. This shell would
deliver eleven kilos of CyndeX 25 to a maximum range of thirty-five
kilometres. The rotation of the shell in ffight would centrifugally open
valves in the cargo-head and mix the two constituent ingredients of the gas
prior to impact in the target area.
She was fully aware of the value of this information and so she was
emboldened to add a final line to the twenty-six pages of her report.
'Red Rose requests access as soon as possible.'
She waited anxiously for a reaction to her request after she had delivered
it. There was none.
As time passed with no reply she understood that she was being punished for
her impertinence, and at first she was defiant. Then as the weeks became
months she started to become truly worried. At the end of the second month
she sent an abject apology to the London accommodation address.
'Red Rose regrets importunate request for access. No insubordination was
contemplated. Awaiting further orders.'
It was another month before those orders came. She was 468
instructed to use any means necessary to ensure that she was a member of the
team from Capricorn Chemicals that would travel to London and Israel to
interview and recruit personnel for the operation of the Cyndex plant.
Isabella had difficulty imagining how she could justify any claim to be a
member of the recruiting team. What possible reason could she give Garry
that-would not immediately arouse his suspicions as to her motives? She
agonized over this for weeks before the next board meeting of CCI, and then
at the meeting itself it all fell into place with an ease that amazed her.
The subject of recruitment came up at the meeting, even though it was not
on the agenda, and Isabella saw her opportunity and gave her views on the
subject in an impromptu but articulate and well-reasoned address.
When she finished, she saw that she had impressed Garry, and he remarked in
not entirely jocular fashion: 'Perhaps we should send you to do the job, Dr
Courtney.'
She shrugged, not to appear over-eager. 'Why not? I could fit in a little
shopping - I need a few new frocks.'
'Typical woman,' Garry sighed, but six weeks later she found herself back
in the Cadogan Square flat. The personnel manager of CCI was ensconced in
the Berkeley Hotel, only a short walk from Cadogan Square. The two of them
conducted the preliminary interviews in the dining-room of the flat.
The night she arrived in London, there was an anonymous phone caller. She
did not recognize the voice. The message was simple.
'Red Rose. Tomorrow you will interview Benjamin Afrika. Make certain that
he is selected.'
She couldn't place the name, so she looked up the application in her file.
To her surprise she found that Benjamin Afrika had been born in Cape Town.
This, however, seemed to be his strongest claim to the job on offer.
Despite the fact that his academic qualifications were good, he was really
too young - only twenty-four years of age. He had four A-levels and a BSc
in chemical engineering

469
from Leeds University with two years' experience as a scientific assistant
with Imperial Chemical Industries at one of their factories near Liverpool.
At the salary they were offering she could have found a hundred applicants
with similar or better qualifications in South Africa.
She could not squeeze him into any of the vacant senior posts. There were,
however, two more junior positions to fill.
Benjamin Afrika was the third interviewee on the morning's list. He walked
into the Cadogan Square dining-room at eleven o'clock in the morning, and
Isabella felt herself go icy cold with panic.
Benjamin Afrika was a coloured man, but this was not what caused her
consternation. Benjamin Afrika was her half-brother, the man whom she knew
as Ben Gama, bastard son of her mother and the notorious terrorist and
black revolutionary Moses Gama.
So great was the shock of seeing him that she was unable to utter a word.
A host of turbulent thoughts tumbled in confusion through her mind as she
stared at Benjamin. She thought how his name, and the name of Tara
Courtney, their mother, was never mentioned at Weltevreden - even after all
these years the scandal and tragedy ~surrounding them cast a darlk shadow
over the family. How would it be possible for her to secure employment for
Benjamin in one of the Courtney companies? Nana would have a hernia, and
Pater would throw a blue fit. Then there was Garry ...
Fortunately for Isabella, the CCI personnel manager was also evincing
symptoms of acute distress, but the source of his concern was much more
straightforward than Isabella's. It was merely the colour of Benjamin's
skin. In the long pregnant pause that followed Benjamin's entry, Isabella
was able to take control of hirself again and bring some order to her
jumbled emotions. Benjamin had shown no sign of recognition, and she took
her lead from him.
Abruptly the CCI manager leapt to his feet. To compensate for his initial
reaction he now became over-effusive and ducked round the desk to seize
Benjamin's hand.

470
  'I'm David Meekin, head of personnel at CCI. I'm delighted to meet you,
young man,'he babbled enthusiastically, and pulled out a chair for
Benjamin. 'We have been studying your credentials and your CV. Very
impressive -I mean truly impressive.'
He seated Benjamin and offered him a cigarette. 'This is Dr Courtney who is
a director of CCI,' Meekin introduced them.
Benjamin half-rose from his seat and made a small bow. 'How do you do,
ma'am.'
Isabella did not trust herself to speak. She nodded and then gave all her
attention to Benjamin's letter of application while Meekin began the
interview.
He asked the usual questions about the work that Benjamin had done at ICI,
and his reasons for wanting this job, but clearly Meekin's heart was not in
the task. He wanted to get it over with. Meanwhile, Isabella was working
out her own plans. If she had not recognized Ben's name, Afrika, then it
was highly unlikely that anyone else athome would do so, either. Apart from
Michael, no other member of the family, as far as she knew, had ever met
Ben. There was no reason why they ever should. He would be a junior
employee in one of a hundred factories in a town over a thousand miles from
Weltevreden. Michael, of course, could be relied on to support her and Ben
completely.
David Meekin had no more questions to ask, and he glanced at Isabella
enquiringly.
'I see you were born in Cape Town, Mr Afrika,' she spoke for the first
time. 'Do you still have South African citizenship? You haven't taken
naturalized British citizenship?'
'No, Dr Courtney,' Ben shook his head. 'I am still a South African. I have
a passport issued by South Africa House here in London.'
I 'Good. Can you tell us something about your family? Do they still live in
Cape Town?'
'Both my father and my mother were schoolteachers.

471
They were killed in a motor accident in Cape Town in 1969.'
'I'm sorry.' She glanced down at her file. It was possible that Tara, their
mother, had tried to conceal the facts of Ben's birth by contriving a false
birth certificate. She could check that easily enough. She looked up again.
'I hope you will forgive my next question, Mr Afrika. It may sound
impertinent. However, Capricorn Chemicals is a defence contractor to
Armscor, and all its employees are vetted by the South African security
police. It would be best if you tell us now if you are, or have ever been,
a member of any political organization.'
Ben smiled softly. He really was a good-looking young man. By some
fortunate chance he seemed to have inherited the best features from both
sides of his racial ancestry.
'You want to know if I am a member of the ANC?' he asked, and Isabella's
mouth tightened with annoyance.
'Or any other radical political organization,' she said curtly.
'I am not a political creature, Dr Courtney. I am a scientist and an
engineer. I am a member of the Society of Engineers, but of no other body.'
So he was not interested in politics?
She remembered the bitter political argument they had become embroiled in
at their last meeting - when was that? Almost eight years ago, she realized
with surprise. Of course, the Red Rose instructions that she had received
gave the lie to his protestations. None the less, she had to cover herself
'Again you must pardon the personal nature of my questions, but your frank
replies now may save us all a great deal of embarrassment later. You must
be aware of the racial situation in South Africa. As a coloured person you
will not be allowed to vote, and furthermore you will be subject to a body
of legislation and a policy known as apartheid, which, to say the least,
restricts many of the freedoms which you will have taken as your natural
right here in England.'

472
'Yes, I know all about apartheid,' Ben agreed.
'Then, why would you want to give up what you have here and return to a
country where you will be treated as a second-class citizen, and where your
prospects of advancement will be limited by your skin tone?'
'I am an African, Dr Courtney. I want to go home. I think I can be of
service to my country and my people. I believe I can make a good life for
myself in the land of my birth.'
They stared at each other for long seconds, and then Isabella said softly,
'I can find no fault with those sentiments, Mr Afrika. Thank you for coming
to talk to us. We have your address and telephone number. We will contact
you one way or the other, just as soon as we are able to do so.'
When Ben had left neither she nor Meekin spoke for a while. Isabella stood
up and moved to the window. Looking down into the square she saw Ben leave
the front door of the building. As he buttoned his overcoat he glanced up
and saw her in the second-floor window. He lifted one hand in farewell and
then set off towards Pont Street and turned the corner.
'Well,' said David Meekin beside her, 'we can cross that one off the list.'
'For what reason?' Isabella asked, and Meekin was flustered. He had
expected her to agree immediately.
'His qualifications. His experience . . .'
'The colour of his skin?' Isabella suggested.
'That, too,' Meekin nodded. 'He would be in a position at Capricorn where
he might have to give orders to white employees. He might actually have
white females under him. It would cause ill-feelings.'
'There are at least a dozen black and coloured managers in other Courtney
companies,' Isabella pointed out.
'Yes, I know,' Meekin acceded hurriedly, 'but they have coloureds and
blacks under them, not whites.'
'My father and my brother are both very eager to advance

473
blacks and coloureds; to managerial positions. My brother in particular
feels that bringing all sections of our community to prosperity and
responsibility is the only recipe for long-term peace and harmony in our
country.'
'I would agree with that one hundred per cent.'
'I found Mr Afrika a most personable young man. I agree that he is a little
young and lacking in experience for either of the senior posts, however-'
Meekin changed tack, like the corporate survivor he was. 'I'd like to
suggest that we short-list Afrika for the post of technical assistant to
the director.'
'I agree with your suggestion wholeheartedly.' Isabella smiled her
sweetest, most winning smile. Her estimate had been correct. David Meekin's
most firmly held principles were subject to negotiation.
They finished the interview with the - last candidate at four o'clock that
afternoon and, as soon as Meekin had left Cadogan Square to return to the
Berkeley Hotel, Isabella telephoned her mother.
'The Lord Kitchener Hotel, good afternoon.' She recognized her mother's
voice.
'Hallo, Tara. It's Isabella.' And then for emphasis, 'Isabella Courtney,
your daughter.'
'Bella, my baby. It's been ever so long. Let's see now -eight years at
least. I thought you'd forgotten your old mamma.' She always made Isabella
feel guilty, and she made a lame excuse.
'I'm sorry, Tara. The pace of life - I don't seem to have time for anything
. . .'
'Yes, Mickey tells me that you have been ever so successful and clever. He
says that you are Dr Courtney now, and a Senator,' Tara gushed on. 'Mind
you, Bella, how you can bring yourself to have anything to do with that
bunch of racist bigots that call themselves the National Party? In any
civilized society, John Vorster would have been sent to the gallows years
ago.'
'Tara, is Ben there?' Isabella cut her off.
'I thought it was too good to be true that my own

474
daughter wanted to talk to me.' Tara's tone was mart I yred
and long-suffering. 'I'll call Ben.'
'Hello, Bella.' He came on the phone almost immediately.
'We must talk ' 'she told him.
'Where?' he asked, and she thought swiftly.
'Hatchards.'
'The bookshop in Piccadilly? OK. When?'
'Tomorrow, ten in the morning.'
Ben was in the African Fiction section, thumbing through a Nadine Gordimer
novel. She stood beside him and picked a book at random from the shelves.
'Ben, I don't know what this is about.'
'I'm applying for a job, Bella. It's as simple as that.' He smiled easily.
'I don't want to know, either,' she went on quickly. 'Just tell me - do you
really have valid papers in the name of Afrika?'
'Tara registered my birth in the name of a coloured couple, friends of
hers. She was never married to my father - and of course their relationship
was illegal. She could have been imprisoned for being in love with Moses
Gama and giving birth to me.' His tone was easy; there was even a light
smile on his lips. She looked for some sign of bitterness or anger, but
found none. 'Officially my name is Benjamin Afrika. I have a birth
certificate and South African passport in that name.'
'I have to warn you, Ben. There is terrible bitterness and hatred in the
Courtney side of the family. Your father was convicted of murdering Nana's
second husband, I mean Centaine Courtney-Malcomess's husband.'
'Yes, I know.'
'You and I will never be able to acknowledge each other in South Africa.'
'I understand.'
'If Nana, if my grandmother or my father ever found out about you - well,
I just don't know what the consequences would be.'

475
'They won't find out about it from me.'
'If it was up to me, I would not . . .'She broke off, and lowered her
voice. 'Ben, be careful. We have never had a chance to become close; a
chasm divides us. Nevertheless, you are my brother. I don't want anything
to happen to you. ~
'Thank you, Bella.' He was still smiling softly, and she knew that she
could never penetrate the curtain.
She went on quietly, 'I will warn Michael that you are coming home. Please
believe me that I will help you in any way that I can. If you need me, let
Michael know. It would be best if we do not contact each other once you
arrive in the country.'
Impulsively she dropped the book she was holding and embraced him.
'Oh, Ben, Ben! What a terrible world we live in. We are brother and sister,
and yet ... It's cruel and inhuman - I hate it.'
'Perhaps we can help to change the world.' He returned her embrace quickly
and then they drew apart.
'There are many things that I can never tell you, Ben. Forces beyond our
control. If we try to oppose them, we will be crushed. They are too
powerful for us.'
'Still, some of us must try.'
'Oh God, Ben. You terrify me when you speak like that.'
'Goodbye, Bella,' he said sadly. 'I think we might have been good for each
other - if only things had been ordained differently.' He placed the
Gordimer novel back on the shelf and without looking back walked out into
Piccadilly.

Over the years it had become traditional that whenever Isabella was in
Johannesburg she stayed with Garry and Holly.
Before she gave up her career to become a full-time wife and mother, Holly
had been one of the leading architects in the country. Her designs had won
international awards.

476
When they came to build their own home, Garry, who was never one to stint,
had given her an open budget and egged her on to design her final
masterpiece. She had managed to combine opulence and space with such good
taste and invention that their home was Isabella's favourite retreat. She
preferred it even to Weltevreden.
As always the family breakfasted on the man-made island in the centre of
the miniature lake. On a morning such as this, when the highveld sunshine
decked the world in splendour, the roof of the pagoda had been rolled back
by its electrically powered machinery and was open to the sky. The flocks
of pink flamingo on the lakeshore were free-ranging birds, persuaded to
interrupt their continental migrations by this jewel-like stretch of open
water.
The older children were in school uniform ready to leave for their daily
penance. Isabella was feeding the latest addition to Garry's family, her
year-old god-daughter - an exercise which they both enjoyed immensely. It
aroused all Isabella's frustrated materrial instincts.
Garry, in his shirt-sleeves and broad, brightly coloured braces at the head
of the breakfast-table, had just lit his first cigar of the day.
'Who was the one that accused me of being squeamish?' Isabella demanded of
him as she shovelled a teaspoonful of egg into her god-daughter's mouth and
then scraped up the overspill as it trickled down her chin.
'It's not a case of squeamishness at all,' Garry protested too loudly.
'I've got five meetings this morning, and Holly's charity ball this
evening. Give me a break, Bella.'
'You could have cancelled any one of those meetings,' Isabella pointed out.
'Or all of them.'
'Look, Mavourneen, there'll be so many politicians and generals crowding
the place that there is nothing I could add to the proceedings.'
'Don't come over all Irish with me, begorrah. You are funking it, Teddy
Bear, and we both know it.'
Garry let out one of his evasive guffaws, and turned to
477
Holly. 'What time do we have to be there this evening, lover?' But Holly was
on Isabella's side.
'Why are you making Bella go through with this awful business?' she
demanded.
'I am doing no such thing,' Garry was unconvincingly indignant. 'It's her
decision entirely.' He glanced at his wristwatch, and then growled with
theatrical menace at his children.
'You monsters are going to be late for school. Get out of itV They showed
not the least sign of terror as they lined up to kiss him goodbye, and then
clattered off over the bridge like a squadron of cavalry.
'Me, too.' Bella wiped her god-daughter's face and stood up, but Garry
stopped her.
'Look, Bella, I apologize. I know I hinted that you couldn't take it. You
are as tough as any man I know. You don't have to prove it.'
'So you admit you are chickening out, then)' she asked.
'All right,' he capitulated. 'Hell, I don't want to watch it. You don't
have to, either.'
'I am a director of Capricorn,' she said, and gathered up her handbag and
briefcase. 'I'll see you at eight.'
As she climbed into the Porsche she felt a twinge of guilt. The true reason
for her determination to witness the Cyndex 25 tests was not one of duty,
not even to demonstrate her toughness. The last Red Rose communiqu6 she had
received had promised her access to Nicky as soon as she reported that the
tests had been successfully carried out.
The drive down to Germiston took her a little over an hour on the new
highway. Holly had designed the Capricorn Chemicals plant, and her taste
and touch were distinctive. It did not look like a factory. There were
lawns and trees, and a cunning exploitation of the terrain so that the
least pleasing features of the industrial buildings were disguised or
concealed. Those buildings that she had been able to clothe in glass and
natural stone were given promin-

478
ence. The various units were scattered over many hundreds of acres.
The prancing goat figure of the Capricorn logo surmounted the main
entrance-gateway. Isabella pressed her electronic key-card into the lock
and the gates trundled open. The uniformed guards saluted her as she drove
through.
All the visitors' slots in the carpark behind the main administration block
were filled. Most of the visiting vehicles were black limousines sporting
ministerial numberplates or military pennants on the bonnet.
She rode up in the lift, and as she stepped into the director's suite she
surveyed the room swiftly. It was a small, almost intimate gathering. Not
more than twenty persons were present, and she was the only woman. The
politicals and the civil servants were in regulation dark suits, and the
military were in uniform. There were all branches of the service
represented, including the security police, and they were all of staff or
general rank.
She knew more than half those present, including the cabinet minister and
the two deputy ministers. A refreshment-table had been laid out, including
alcohol, but nobody was drinking anything stronger than coffee. The
conversations were exclusively in Afrikaans, and she was struck once again
by the major difference between the two white races. The English section
was preoccupied with luxury and material possessions, with finance and com-
merce. The Afrikaner lived in the halls of political and military power.
Here were gathered some of the most powerful men in the land. Though
paupers compared to the Courtneys, their political influence dominated the
entire society. ~ Compared to them the Courtneys were of little account.
Within the citadel of power the military men, rather like their Russian
equivalents, formed a caste of their own before whose strength even the
state president bowed his head.
Within seconds she had singled out the most influential men in the room and
made her way towards them, exchang-

479
ing greetings and hand-shakes and smiles with the others as she passed. In
this patriarchal society she had carved an unusual niche for herself. They
accepted her as almost an equal.
'I'm a sort of honorary male,' she smiled to herself, and shook hands with
the minister of defence, then turned to his deputy with a controlled and
friendly smile.
'Good morning, General De La Rey,' she greeted him in fluent colloquial
Afrikaans. Lothar De La Rey had been the first grand passion of her life.
They had lived together for six months, before he had dropped her and gone
off to marry a good Afrikaner girl of the Dutch Reformed faith. If he had
not, he would not now be a deputy minister, and a man who it was whispered
had no ceiling on his political future.
'Good morning, Dr Courtney.' He was as polite, but he could not keep his
eyes on her face. They slid over her body in swift appreciation.
Go ahead, lover boy, she thought, knowing that she had never looked better
in her life. Eat your heart out - then go home to your fat little
farm-girl.
Despite her fingering resentment she had to admit to herself that he also
was looking good. So many Afrikaners put on weight once their Rugby-playing
days were over. Lothar was as lean and hard and clean-cut as he had been
ten years before. He was probably just about ripe for a little fling, she
thought, and he would certainly have some interesting pillow-talk.
I'd love to have my revenge on you, she thought. She had once contemplated
suicide for him. It would give her pleasure to place him on the list of Red
Rose's informers. Then quite suddenly she thought of Ram6n, her Ram6n, and
her physical interest in Lothar subsided.
Only in the line of duty, she decided - and at that moment the Capricorn
general manager caught her eye.
She made a short welcoming address to the company and apologized for the
absence of the chairman. Then she 48o
invited them through into the projection room for the presentation.
The video film that Capricorn had prepared was of high professional
quality. It included computer-generated simulations and artist's
impressions of the deployment and dissemination of CyndeX 25 under combat
and battlefield conditions. As the video ran, Isabella glanced round the
semi-darkened room. She could see that all the military men were
passionately excited by this new weapon. They watched the screen with a
deadly concentration and when the tape came to an end they broke into
animated discussion amongst themselves.
When Paul Searle, the Israeli technical director whom Isabella had
recruited in Tel Aviv, stood up and called for comm6t, they bombarded him
with searching questions. Isabella noticed that up to this time there had
been no sign of Ben. His brown face had been discreetly kept in a back room
somewhere. Inevitably one of the generals asked the question that Isabella
had been dreading. He put it bluntly.
'Has this gas ever been used on a human population? If so, can you give us
details?'
'Perhaps the general can provide us with a few surplus Cuban POWs from
Angola?' the director asked, and they laughed delightedly at the graveyard
humour.
'Seriously, General, the answer to your question is no. However, it has
been tested extensively overseas under laboratory conditions with excellent
results. In fact we have arranged for you to witness our own first test
today.'
The pesticide and poisons division of Capricorn Chemicals was situated half
a mile from the administrative block. The party drove down in a convoy with
the minister's black Cadillac in the lead. Isabella sat beside him in the
back seat and pointed out features of the Capricorn plant.
'This section here is the uranium enrichment plant. You see how we have
made it appear to be merely an extension of the main bulk phosphate
refinery . . .'
The minister of defence had the reputation of possessing a fiery temper.
However, she had always got on well with

481
him, and respected him for his dedication and political acumen. They chatted
in friendly fashion during the short drive until they drew up at the front
gate of the pesticide and agricultural poisons plant. This was a separate
compound within the main complex.
It was surrounded by a twelve-foot diamond-mesh fence. There were prominent
warning notices placed at intervals along the fence. These featured red
skull-and-crossbones designs with warnings in three languages: 'Danger!
Gevaar! Ingozil'
The guards at the main gate had Rottweiler guard-dogs on leads. The plant
was screened by a grove of trees. The building was long and low, the walls
were of natural stone and all the external windows were smoked one-way
glass. There was a further security check at the entrance, and even the
minister was asked to pass through the electronic scanner.
The Israeli director led them down a series of carpeted corridors, each
separated by steel fire- and gas-proof doors, until finally they entered
the new Cyndex extension. The building was still so new that it smelt of
raw concrete. They assembled in a small entrance-lobby. The gas-doors
closed behind them, and the director addressed them.
'Strict safety procedures are in force in this section of the building. You
will notice the air-conditioning.' He gestured at the panels in the walls.
'The quality of air in the building is strictly monitored at all times. In
the highly unlikely event of a leak developing, the air can be pumped out
and changed within ten seconds.' For a few minutes more he elaborated on
the building's safety features. 'However, for your further safety, before
entering the main plant you will be required to don protective suits.'
There were separate changing-rooms for the sexes. In the women's room a
coloured female attendant assisted Isabella to strip to her underwear, and
then she hung her suit in one of the lockers for her. She helped Isabella
into the one-piece white protective overall that had been laid out for her.
There were white plastic boots and gloves, and 482
she showed Isabella how to place the helmet over her head and switch on the
compressed-air supply. There was a clear plastic visor, and the air-cylinder
was contained in a neat back-pack that formed part of the helmet attachment.
There were built-in headphones that permitted normal conversation.
Isabella returned to the lobby and rejoined the rest of the party.
'If we are all ready, my lady and gentlemen?'The director turned to the
door in the far wall. It slid open, and they trooped through. There were
four technicians to welcome them. Isabella noticed that, while the visitors
wore white suits, the four technicians were in chrome yellow and the
director's suit was tomato red for easy identification.
One of the yellow-suited technicians ushered them down yet another short
corridor. As they went, he fell in beside Isabella.
'Good morning, Dr Courtney,' he said softly, and with a small shock she
recognized his voice and she looked into his yisor.
'Hello, Mr Afrika,' she murmured. 'How are you enjoying your job with
Capricorn?' It was the first time she had seen him since London.
'It is very interesting, thank you.' That was all that passed between them
before they entered the test-room, but Lothar De La Rey had been watching
her. As they seated themselves in the row of padded leather armchairs
Lothar took the seat beside Isabella and asked: 'Wie is die kaffir? Who is
the nigger?'
'His name is Afrika. He has a degree in chemical engineering.'
'How do you know him?' Lothar insisted.
'I was on the selection committee who recruited him.'
'He has security clearance, of course?'
'Of course. He was cleared by your own department,' she added artlessly. He
nodded, and they turned their attention back to the director.
'These are the test-cubicles.' At the end of the room

483
were four windows that looked in upon separate chambers; each was the size
of a telephone booth - or a toilet cabinet was a better description,
Isabella decided.
'The windows are of double armoured glass,' the director pointed out. 'And
you will notice the monitors above each.' He pointed to the electronic
panels on which vital life functions were displayed in green LED printout.
Behind the windows, strapped to bare white plastic chairs were four small
humanoid figures. For a moment Isabella thought they were children - and
then the director explained.
'The test subjects are baboons of the genus Papio ursinus. They may seem
unfamiliar to you, because they have been shaved to resemble human subjects
more closely. You will notice that Number One is almost completely
unprotected.'
The naked shaven body strapped to the chair in the first cubicle was
pathetically vulnerable-looking. The infant's disposable nappy which was
its only garment added to the poignancy.
'Number Two is wearing clothing that resembles normal military uniform.'
This baboon was dressed in a miniature suit of combat fatigues, but the
arms and head were unprotected.
'Number Three is fully covered except for eyes, mouth and nose.' The animal
wore gloves and a soft plastic hood which left only its face bare.
'Number Four is equipped with a fully protective suit, similar to those
which have been issued to you. These will be worn by friendly forces when
handling or disseminating CyndeX 25.' He paused. 'I may add that subjects
One, Two and Three have been sedated. There will be physical symptoms
apparent upon application of the test agent, but these are reflexive
reactions of the central nervous system and should not be construed as
indicating the degree of suffering that the animal is undergoing.'
Isabella felt her stomach muscles tightening, and despite the filtered air
she was breathing her chest felt tight and constricted.

484
'CyndeX 25 is colourless and odourless. However, for safety reasons we have
added the scent of almonds to our gas. There will be no aerosol mist or any
other indication of its application, except via the monitoring equipment.
The readout will show parts of CyndeX 25 in one hundred thousand parts of
air.' He paused and cleared his throat. 'Now, gentlemen - and my lady - if
you are ready, we will proceed with the demonstration.'
The minister nodded his helmeted head, and the director gave a terse order
into the microphone on his desk. Isabella imagined Ben or one of the other
technicians adjusting the controls in the back room.
For a few seconds nothing happened. The breathing and the heartbeats of the
four baboons continued sedately tracing regular luminous green patterns on
the screens.
Then the panel registering the concentration of Cyndex 25 in the inflowing
air ffickered and moved up from zero to 5 - five parts of nerve gas in one
hundred thousand parts of air.
Within seconds the displays began to alter - all except that above the
fully suited baboon. The heartbeats accelerated swiftly, the breathing
became rapid and deep. The changes were most violent on the display panel
above the naked ape.
Isabella stared at it in horror. She saw its eyelids fficker, and tears
began to run down the shaven face. It mouthed the air, its tongue lolling
and rolling between its lips. Strings of silver saliva drooled down on to
its chest.
'Fifteen seconds,' intoned the director. 'Subject Number One is now
incapacitated. Number Four is unaffected, Two and Three are registering
medium to acute symptoms.'
The naked baboon began to writhe and struggle against the retaining straps.
Isabella tasted the bitter bile rising in the back of her throat and
swallowed it down.
Suddenly the baboon opened its mouth wide and shrieked. The thin agonized
cry carried to them even through the double-glazed windows. It ripped along
Isabella's nerve-endings. She clenched her fists and felt

485
cold sickly sweat break out beneath the clinging white suit. Beside her she
felt Lothar De La Rey stir, and all around her the other men made small
instinctive gestures of revulsion and discomfort. They were soldiers and
policemen hardened to atrocity and suffering, yet they shuffled their feet,
clenched gloved hands or made ducking, twisting movements of their heads.
All three of the exposed animals were twitching and kicking, rolling their
heads, arching their spines in spasmodic convulsions. The mucou4 linings of
their tongues and of their open screaming mouths turned a bright boiled
scarlet, their fluttering streaming eyeballs glazed over with a network of
bloodshot veins. They began to vomit. The nappy that the first baboon wore
was soiled by a spreading stain of urine and faeces.
Isabella fought down the waves of nausea that rose to engulf her. She
wanted to scream, to run, to hide from the horror of it.
'One minute five seconds. Number One all vital life-signs terminated.' The
pathetic childlike corpse hung against the straps. Its shaven nakedness was
aberrant and obscene.
'Two minutes fifteen seconds. Number Two terminated.'
'Three minutes eight seconds. Number Three terminated.'
'You will notice that Number Four is totally unaffected. The suit has
afforded complete protection.'
Isabella rose to her feet. 'Excuse me,' she blurted. She had been
determined to outlast any of the men in the room. Her vow was forgotten
now. She fled down the corridor and burst into the women's changing-room.
She ripped the helmet from her head and dropped on her knees and clutched
the cold porcelain of the toilet-bowl with both hands. She choked and
sobbed, and her horror and pity and guilt shot up her throat in a thick
bitter acid stream and spewed into the bowl.
After what she had just experienced Isabella could not bring herself to
return to the blissful domestic environment of Garry and Holly's home.
She left the Capricorn plant without seeing the minister or Lothar or any
of the other officials. She drove without attention to her surroundings.
She drove fast, too fast, pushing the Porsche up near its top speed. She
was trying to expurgate her shame in the elemental and purifying sensation
of speed. The attempt was not successful. After an hour she turned back
towards Johannesburg and slowed the Porsche to a more moderate pace.
The fuel-tank was almost empty, and she pulled into the next service
station that she reached. While the attendant refuelled her tank she
realized that she had lost track of her whereabouts. This was not her home
town. She knew only that she was somewhere in the network of roads and the
maze of residential suburbs that surround the huge industrial and mining
complex of the city of Johannesburg.
She asked the attendant which was the quickest route from here back to
Sandton. As soon as he explained where she was, she realized that fate or
her own subconscious had guided her. She was only two or three miles from
Michael's home. A few years previously, Michael had bought himself a
smallholding of fifty acres on which stood a dilapidated farmhouse. It was
close enough to the offices of the Golden City Mail for him to commute to
work. Michael had set about renovating the house on a do-it-yourself basis.
He planted a hundred or so fruit trees, much to the delight of the birds
and locusts and aphids, and he kept a flock of chickens that wandered into
the kitchen and defecated on the sink and down the refrigerator door.
'Well, it's their home, too,' Michael had explained to her when she
remonstrated. 'A turd or two never hurt anybody.' Although Michael's
original intention had been to convert the birds into an endless series of
poulet r6ti and coq au vin, he had so far not been able to bring himself to
chop off a single head. Some of the birds had already died of old age.

487
'Michael!'Isabella felt her spirits lighten and she checked her wristwatch.
It was after six. He should be home by now. 'Michael is exactly the person
I need right now.'
As she drove along the winding track through the scraggly blue-gum
plantation that marked the boundary of Michael's estate, she saw his
Volkswagen Kombi parked in front of the house. Michael's old Valiant had
finally passed away. She smiled as she remembered Michael's description of
how an electrical short-circuit had selfignited in rush-hour traffic and
the ancient vehicle had given itself a Viking's funeral and created a
five-mile traffic-jam as its own cort6ge of mourners. She noted that the
Kombi, acquired secondhand, seemed not to be in much better shape.
One half of the tin roof of Michael's home was painted in fresh sparkling
apple green, the other half was in genuine red rust. He had lost heart in
the middle of the renovations.
Michael had also cleared a landing-strip down one boundary of his property
and had registered it as a private airfield with the directorate of civil
aviation. He kept his old Cessna Centurion aircraft in a hangar at the far
end of his fruit orchard. The building was constructed with secondhand
corrugated-iron sheets that Michael had purchased cheaply from a scrapyard.
The resulting edifice was very much in keeping with Michael's usual style.
She found him in the hangar working in the interior of the blue and white
aircraft. She tugged at the leg of his overalls, and he crawled out
backwards and registered surprise and pleasure. They hadn't seen each other
for almost a year.
After he had kissed her, he fetched a bottle of wine from the rusty old
refrigerator in the corner and filled two tumblers. Only then did Isabella
notice that he seemed nervdus and distracted. He kept glancing at his watch
and going to the door of the hangar. She was hurt and disappointed.
'You are expecting somebody,' she said. 'I'm sorry, 488
Mickey. I should have phoned you beforehand. I hope I haven't put you out.'
'No, of course not. Not at all,' he assured her, but stood up with alacrity
and obvious relief. 'But ... well, to tell the truth . . .' his voice
trailed off, and once again he glanced over her head towards the door.
One of his lovers, she thought bitterly. He's worried that
I will meet his ' latest fancy boy. She resented him not being
available when she needed him so badly, and cut short
their farewells.
She watched him in the rearview mirror as she drove back through the trees.
He looked lonely and vulnerable, and her anger at him evaporated.
Poor dear Mickey, she thought. You are as lost and unhappy as I am.
She checked the Porsche at the gate to the property, and then pulled out
and turned eastward on to the main tarmac highway heading back towards
Sandton. There was another vehicle approaching. It was a nondescript grey
van. As it drew level, she casually glanced sideways at the driver and
immediately straightened up in the seat. The driver was her brother Ben. He
had not noticed her and was in conversation with the black man who sat in
the passengerseat beside him. The passenger was much darker-skinned than
Ben, a full-blooded Zulu or Xhosa, with striking features and a smouldering
expression. It was not the kind of face that one would readily forget.
She slowed the Porsche and watched the departing vehicle in her rearview
mirror. Suddenly the rear brake-lights of the van glowed red, and then the
turning-indicator began to flick on and off. The van turned into the track
leading to Michael's house and disappeared amongst the blue gums.
'Mystery solved,' Isabella muttered, and accelerated the Porsche. 'Although
I don't understand why Michael didn't want me to see Ben. He knows that I
arranged the job at Capricorn for him.' She considered it for a moment
longer. 'It must be the man with Ben. That's a face to remember. I wonder
who he is?'

489
It was almost eight and the sun had already set when she pulled into the
garage under Garry's house in Sandton.
'Damn it,' Garry greeted her as she entered the livingroom. 'Where the hell
have you been? Do you know what the time is?' Both Garry and Holly were in
evening dress. It was not often she saw Garry angry.
'Oh my God! The ball! I'm sorry.'
Then Garry saw her face, and immediately his anger smoothed away. 'Poor
Bella. You look as though you have had a lousy day. We'll wait while you
change.'
'No, no,' she protested. 'Go ahead. I'll follow you.'
For Isabella the evening was a disaster. The partner who Holly had arranged
for her was a university professor and a total bore. Because she was a
senator he wanted to discuss politics all evening.
'Don't you think I get enough of that?' she asked tartly, and he sulked at
the rebuke. She lcft early. The rest of the night was troubled and
nightmare-ridden. She dreamt of the shaven ape dressed in military
battledress and strapped into the white chair.
Somewhere in her dreams the tortured creature changed identity and became
her own little Nicky in his suit of camouflage. She woke in a cold
trembling welter of sweat and horror.
She could not risk sleep again, nor the fantasies that sleep might bring.
She sat in a chair and read until dawn defined the outline of the windows.
She ran a bath, but before she could step into it there was a knock at the
door of her suite. When she opened it, Garry stood on the threshold in a
silk dressing-gown. His hair was in disarray and his eyes were bleary and
swollen with sleep.
'I have just had a call from Pater at Weltevreden,' he told her.
'At this hour? Is everything all right? Is it Nana?'
'No. He told me to tell you that both of them are well.'
'Then, what did he want?'
'He wants you and me to fly down to Weltevreden immediately.'

490
'Both of us?'
'Yes. You and me. Immediately.'
'What on earth for?'
'He wouldn't say. just that it's a matter of life and death.'
She stared at Garry. 'What can it be?'
'How soon can you be ready to leave - half an hour?'
'Yes, of course.'
'I'll ring Lanseria Airport and tell them to have the Lear ready and the
pilots standing by.' He checked his watch. 'We can be in Cape Town before
ten o'clock.'
When they landed at Cape Town's D. F. Malan Airport, Klonkie the chauffeur
was waiting for them. He drove them directly to Weltevreden.
Shasa and Centaine were waiting for them in the gun-room. By family
tradition the gun-room was where the most dire and unpleasant subjects were
addressed and thrashed out, both figuratively and literally. For it was
here, across the big leather armchair, that Shasa had administered corporal
punishment to his three sons. A summons to the gun-room was never taken
lightly, and Isabella felt a prickle of apprehension as she and Garry
entered.
Nana and Shasa stood shoulder-to-shoulder behind the old desk, and their
expressions were so bleak that Isabella stopped dead in her tracks and
Garry bumped into her from behind. She hardly felt it.
'What is it?' she asked fearfully, and then she realized that Nanny was
also in the room, standing in front of the stone fireplace. The old
coloured woman had been weeping. Her face was swollen with grief, and her
eyes were bloodshot. She clutched a sodden handkerchief in one hand.
'Oh, Miss Bella,' she sobbed. 'I'm so sorry, child. I had to do it - for
your sake. . . .'
'What on earth are you talking about, Nanny?' Isabella started towards her,
to comfort her - and then she stopped again.

491
A dreadful sense of disaster overwhelmed her as she realized what lay on
the desk in front of Nana and Shasa.
'What have you done, Nanny?' she whispered, chilled and stricken with
despair. 'You've destroyed us.'
On the desk was her leatherbound journal. Nanny had been into her safe.
'You have destroyed me and my baby. Oh, Nanny, how could you do this to
us?'
The journal was open at the page which contained the lock of Nicky's hair.
On the desk-top beside it lay his knitted baby bootee and the copy of his
birth certificate.
'Oh, you stupid prying old woman.' Isabella's anger boiled over. 'You'll
never know what harm you have done. You've killed my Nicky. I'll never
forgive you for this, never.'
Nanny wailed with despair, then covered her mouth with her wet handkerchief
and fled from the room.
'She did it because she loves you, Bella,' Shasa told her sternly. 'She did
what you should have done eight years ago.5
'It was none of her business. It's nothing to do with any of you. You don't
understand. If you meddle with this, you will put Nicky and Ram6n in
terrible danger.'
She ran to the desk and snatched up the journal and clutched it to her
chest. 'This is mine. You have no right to interfere.'
'What is happening here?' Garry stepped up beside Isabella. 'Come on,
Bella. If you are in trouble, then it concerns all of us. We are a family.
We stand together.'
'Yes, Bella, Garry is right. We stand together.'
'If only you had come to us right away-'Centaine broke off, and sat down
behind the desk. 'Recriminations will not help us now. We have to work this
thing out - all of us together. Sit down, Bella. We can guess most of it.
You must tell us the rest of it. Tell us about Nicky and Ram6n, all of it.'

492
Isabella swayed on her feet, confused and torn by the torment of her
emotions. Garry wrapped a thick muscular arm around her shoulders to steady
her.
'It's OK, Bella. We are all here behind you now. Who is Nicky? Who is
Ram6n?'
'Nicky is my son. Ram6n is his father,' she said softly, and buried her
face against the great comforting barrel of his chest.
They let her cry for a while, and then Centaine lifted the telephone. 'I'll
call Doc Saunders. He can give her a shot to calm her.'
Isabella spun towards her. 'No, Nana. I don't need anything. I'll be all
right. just give me a minute.'
Centaine set the telephone back on its cradle, and Garry led Isabella to
the buttoned-leather sofa and sat beside her. Shasa came to sit on her
other side, and they held her between them.
'All right,' Centaine said at last. 'That's enough. You can weep later. Now
we've got work to do.'
Isabella straightened up, and Shasa handed her the handkerchief from his
breast pocket.
'Tell us how it happened,' Centaine ordered.
Isabella took a deep breath. 'I met Ram6n at the Rolling Stones concert in
Hyde Park when Daddy and I were living in London,' she whispered. Her voice
strengthened as she went on. She spoke for almost half an hour. She told
them why she and Ram6n had been unable to marry and how they had gone to
Spain for Nicky's birth.
'I was going to bring him here to Weltevreden. Ram6n and I planned to be
married here just as soon as he was free. '
She told them how Ram6n and Nicky had been abducted. She told them of the
water torture of the infant she had been forced to witness and the
nightmare of her existence since then.
'What did they want from you, these mysterious people? What price did you
have to pay for Ram6n and Nicky's safety? What did you have to give them in
exchange for

493
the chance to visit Nicky? Shasa demanded harshly.
Centaine thumped her cane on the wooden floor.-'That is not important at
the moment. We'll deal with that later.'
'No,' Isabella shook her head. 'I don't mind answering. They wanted nothing
from me. I think that they were forcing Ram6n to perform some service for
them. They rewarded him by allowing me to visit the two of them, Ram6n and
Nicholas.'
'You are lying, Bella,' Shasa accused her harshly. 'Ram6n Machado is using
you. You are being forced to work for him and his masters.'
'No.' She was appalled that he had seen through her lies so easily. 'Ram6n
is as helpless as I am. We are being threatened and blackmailed-'
'Stop it, Bella,' Shasa cut her short. 'You are the one being forced to pay
the price. Nicholas is the hostage. Ram6n is the evil puppet-master who
pulls the strings.'
She cried out with anguish: 'No! You are wrong! Ram6n is-'
'I'll tell you who Ram6n de Santiago y Machado is. Yes, you provided us
with his family-tree and his full names and date of birth,' Shasa pointed
out, and Isabella clutched the journal protectively. 'You know that I have
friends in Israel. One of them is the director of Mossad. I telephoned him.
He ran Ram6n's name through their computer. They fink into the CIA
computer. Our own security forces also have an open file on Ram6n de
Santiago y Machado. In the three days since Nanny brought your journal to
us, I have been able to discover quite a few interesting facts about your
Ram6n.' He jumped up from the sofa and crossed to his desk. He pulled open
one of the drawers and returned with a thick file which he slammed down on
the coffee-table in front of her. Press cuttings and photographs and
documents and reams of computer sheets spilled out from between the bulging
covers.
'This came in last night in the Israeli diplomatic bag from Tel Aviv. I
didn't call you until I had studied it. It makes interesting reading.'
Shasa picked out a photograph

494
from the pile. 'Fidel Castro's victorious entry into Havana in January 1959.
Those are Che Guevara and Ram6n together in the second jeep.' He ffipped
over another glossy black-and-white print. 'The Congo, 1965. Patrice Lumumba
Brigade. Ram6n is the second white
from the left. The corpses are executed Simba rebels.' He picked out
another. 'Ram6n with his cousin Fidel Castro after the Bay of Pigs.
Apparently, Ram6n was instrumental in gathering the advance intelligence of
the landing.' He scuffled through the pack of photographs. 'This one is
fairly recent. Colonel-General Ram6n de Santiago y Machado, head of the
African section of the fourth directorate of the KGB, receiving the award of
the Order of Lenin from General Secretary Brezhnev. Very handsome in his
uniform, isn't he, Bella? Look at all those medals.'
She cringed away from the photograph as though her father held a black
mamba.
Garry leant across and took the photograph out of Shasa's hand. 'Is this
Ram6n?' he demanded of her, holding it before her face. She dropped her
eyes but would not answer.
'Come on, Bella. You must tell us. Is this your Ram6n)'
Still she refused to reply. Shasa had to shock her into acceptance. 'It is
all an elaborate deception. He probably singled you out as his victim. He
almost certainly arranged the abduction and the water torture of your son.
He has been toying with you ever since then. Did you know that his nickname
is El Zorro Dorado? It seems that Castro himself selected the name, the
Golden Fox.'
Isabella's head jerked up. She remembered the remark made by Jos6, the
paratrooper, that had puzzled her at the time. 'Pcle is the cub of the fox,
El Zorro.' Somehow that was the last tiny detail that forced her to face
the truth.
'El Zorro - yes.' Her expression hardened. The first gleam of burning
hatred showed in her eyes. She looked instinctively towards her
grandmother.
'What are we going to do, Nana?' she asked.

495
'Well, the first thing we are going to do is rescue Nicholas,' she said
briskly.
'You don't know what you are saying, Nana,' Garry objected. His expression
was stunned.
'I always know what I'm saying,' Centaine CourtneyMalcomess told him
firmly. 'I'm putting you in charge, Garry. This takes precedence over
everything else. You can have whatever you need. I don't mind what it
costs. just get me that child. That's all that counts. Do I make myself
clear, young man?'
Garry's bemused expression cleared slowly. He began to grin.
'Yes, Nana, you make yourself abundantly clear.'

Garry converted the gun-room at Weltevreden into his operations-room.
He could have chosen any of a dozen better-equipped facilities in one of
the Courtney conference-centres or boardrooms. Somehow none of these had
the secure family atmosphere of this room, which had for so long been the
centre of their lives. None of the others queried his choice.
'This is restricted to the family. We bring in nobody from outside until it
is absolutely necessary,' he warned them.
He set up two large boards on easels, one each side of the desk. On one he
hung a large-scale map of Africa, south of the Sahara. The second board he
left blank for the time being, except for a photograph which he pinned at
the top.
It was one that Isabella had taken of Nicholas on the beach. He was in
bathing-trunks, his hair tousled by seasalt and wind as he was laughing
into the camera.
'That's to remind me what this is all about,' Garry told them. 'I want to
imprint that face on my mind. As Nana has said - from now on that is all
that counts. That face. That child.'

496
He scowled at it. 'All right, young Nicky, where are you?' ,
He turned to Isabella, who was seated at the desk, and placed the heavy
volume of 7ane's All the WorWs Aircraft in front of her.
'OK, Bella. Let's presume that it was a Russian military freighter that
flew you from Lusaka to this base where you met Nicky. Let's find what type
it was.' He opened the book in front of her and began turning the pages.
'That's it,' she said, and stabbed at one of the illustrations.
'Are you certain?' he demanded, and leant over her shoulder.
'11yushin 1176. NATO reporting name Candid,' he read aloud. 'Yane's lists
its estimated cruise speed as 750 to 8oo kilometres an hour.'
He jotted it down on his navigation-pad. 'OK, you say the course was 3oo
degrees magnetic and the flying time was two hours fifty-six minutes. We
know it was on the Atlantic coast - let's mark that up on the chart.'
He went to the map and set to work with the dividers and protractor.
'Garry' - Isabella was worried -'just because Nicky was there last year
does not mean that he will still be there, does it?'
'Of course not,' he agreed without looking round from the chart. 'However,
from what you tell us, Nicky seemed to be settled at that camp. He was in
school and had been there long enough to make friends and build a
reputation as a soccer-player - Pele?' He turned and beamed at her through
his spectacles like a friendly goldfish. 'We know from both Israeli and
South African intelligence reports that your friend El Zorro is still
operating in Angola. He was spotted in Luanda by a CIA agent as recently as
fourteen days ago. And we have to start planning somewhere. Until we find
out for sure that Nicky is not there, we'll presume he is.'
He stepped back from the map. 'There we go,' he

497
muttered. 'It looks like somewhere north of Luanda and south of the Zaire
border. There are five, no, six rivermouths in that general area within a
hundred miles of each other. Cross-winds could have made a ten-degree
deviation in the Candid's course either way.'
He came back to the desk and picked up the large sheet of art paper on
which Isabella had sketched from memory a map of the airstrip and
river-mouth. He studied it dubiously, and then shook his head. 'It could be
any one of the six rivers shown on the map.' He peered closely at the map.
'They are the Tabi, the Ambriz, the Catacanha, the Chicamba, the Mabubas
and the Quicabo - do any of those names ring a bell, Bella?'
She shook her head. 'Nicky called the base Tercio.'
'That is probably a code-name,' said Garry, and pinned her sketch-map
beside Nicky's photograph on the second board. 'Any comments so far?'He
looked across at Centaine and Shasa. 'What about it, Pater?'
'It's a thousand kilometres from the Namibian border, which is our nearest
friendly territory. We can forget about any overland attempt to reach
Nicky.'
'Helicopters?' Centaine asked. Both men shook their heads simultaneously.
'Out of range, without refuelling,' Garry said, and Shasa agreed.
'We'd be flying over a battle zone. According to our latest intelligence
the Cubans have a solid radar chain covering the Namibian border and at
least a squadron of MiG-23 fighters based just north of the border at
Lubango.'
'What about using the Lear?'Centaine insisted, and both men laughed.
'We can't outrun a MiG, Nana,'said Garry. 'And they've got more guns than
we have.'
'Yes, but you can circle around them, fly 'way out over the Atlantic and
come back in behind them. I know fighters can't fly very far, and the Lear
can go to Mauritius.'
They stopped laughing and looked at each other. 'You

498
think she got rich by being stupid?' Garry asked, and then addressed her
directly.
'Supposing we could get there in the Lear, then what? We can't land or take
off - the Lear needs a thousand-metre runway. From what Bella tells us,
it's a short strip and a guerrilla training base with South American or,
more likely, Cuban paratroopers guarding it. They aren't going to hand
Nicky over to us, not without an argument.'
'Yes. I expect we'll have to fight,' Centaine nodded. 'So now it's time to
send for Sean.'
'Sean?' Shasa blinked. 'Of course!'
'Nana, I love you,' said Isabella, and picked up the telephone.
'International, I want to put an urgent call through to Ballantyne Barracks
at Bulawayo in Rhodesia.'
The call took almost two hours to come through, by which time Garry had
telephoned the airport and spoken to his pilots. The Lear was already on
its way to Bulawayo when Sean finally came on the line.
Garry said, 'Let me talk to him,' and took the telephone out of Isabella's
hand. They argued for less than a minute, and then Garry snarled: 'Don't
give me that crap, Sean. The Lear will be at Bulawayo airport within the
next hour to pick you up. I want your hairy arse on board, but pronto. I'll
phone General Walls or Ian Smith if necessary. We need you here. The family
needs you.'
He hung up and looked at Centaine. 'Sorry, Nana.'
'I have heard the expression before,' she murmured. 'And sometimes a little
strong language works wonders.'

Major Sean Courtney of the Ballantyne Scouts stood before the makeshift
situation-board in the Weltevreden. gunroom and studied the photograph of
his nephew. His promotion to major and second-in-command of the Scouts was
only three months old. Roland Ballantyne had finally manoeuvred him into a
full-time billet with the regiment.
'You can see he's Bella's boy. Takes after her. Ugly little

4"
brat.' Sean grinned at her. 'No wonder she's been keeping him up her
sleeve.'
She stuck out her tongue at him. He was good for her; he gave her hope
again. He was so hard and competent and tough-looking, he brimmed with such
sublime confidence in his own strength and immortality that she had to
believe in it, too.
'When will they let you see Nicky again?' he asked, and she thought for a
second. She could not tell him about the promise to give her access as soon
as the CyndeX 25 tests were completed. That would mean admitting to all of
them that she was a traitress.
'I think it will be soon. I haven't seen Nicky for almost a year. It must
be soon. Days rather than weeks from now.'
'You won't go,' Garry cut in. 'We aren't going to give you into their
clutches again.'
'Oh, shut up, Garry,' Sean snapped. 'Of course she has to go. How the hell
will we know where they are holding Nicky, if she doesn't?'
'I thought . Garry began, his face flushing with anger.
'OK, matey. Let's make a bargain here. I run the actual operation - you are
responsible for all the logistics and back-up. How about it?'
'Good!' Centaine cut in. 'That's the way we'll do it. Go on, Sean. Tell us
how you'll carry out the rescue.'
'OK. In broad outline, this is it. We will work out the details later.
First of all we have to accept that it's a fully offensive operation. We
are sure as hell going to run into heavy opposition. They are going to try
to kill us - we've got to kill them first. We are not going to mess around.
If we want Nicky, we have to fight for him. However, if things go wrong, we
might have to face a political and legal storm both here and abroad. We
might be deemed guilty of anything from terrorism to murder. Are we
prepared to accept that?'
He looked around the circle of attentive faces. They all nodded without
hesitation.

500
'Good. That's settled. Now for practicalities. We assume Nicky is being
held in northern Angola at this coastal base. Bella goes in as she did last
time. Once she is in position with Nicky she calls us in.'
'How?' Garry demanded.
'That's your problem. You have Courtney Communications at your beck and
call. Get them to come up with some kind of miniature radio or even a
transponder. As soon as she is in position, Bella will activate it and give
us a fix.'
'OK,' Garry agreed. 'We have those electronic positionmarkers that we use
for flagging aerial geological surveys. We should be able to adapt one of
those. How will Bella smuggle it in?'
'Again, that's your problem,' Sean told him brusquely. 'Let's get on with
it. So Bella is in the target area. She gives us a fix. We go in-'
'How?' Garry asked again.
'There is only one way - from the sea.' Sean swept his hand across the map
of the southern Atlantic and down to the nose of the African continent.
'We've got the trawling and canning factory at Walvis Bay. One of those new
long-range trawlers of yours, Garry, the ones you send down to Veerna
Seamount. They'll do nearly thirty knots, and have a range of four thousand
miles.'
'Dairm it, yesP Garry beamed. 'Lancer has just finished a major refit in
Cape Town docks. She is at sea at this very moment, on her way back to
Walvis Bay. I'll tell them to hold her there, fully refuelled and ready for
sea. Van Der Berg, the skipper, is a first-class seaman.'
'Tell them to unload the nets qnd all the other heavy items we won't need,'
Sean added.
'Right. I'll also arrange extra war and all-risks cover on the insurance
policy. I know the way you bang up equipment.' Garry was becoming
indignant. 'Hell, you went through four Landcruisers last year.'
'That's enough squabbling.' Centaine brought them

501
firmly back on track. 'Tell us, Sean. Are you going to sail Lancer into this
river?'
'No, Nana. We'll use landing-craft to run into the beach, inflatables with
outboard motors. Do you know anybody at Simonstown naval base?'
'I know the minister of defence,' Bella cut in. 'And Admiral Keyter.'
'Beauty!' Sean nodded. 'If you get the boats, see if you can also get
permission for a dozen or so boat-handlers to volunteer for a little
extra-curricular fun and games. Those naval commandos are hot babies, and
they will fall over themselves for a chance at a good barney. Play up the
fact that it's an ANC training base that we are going to hose down and that
we'll be doing them a good turn.'
'I also know the minister. I will go with Bella to see him,' Centaine
agreed. 'I guarantee you all the special equipment you need. just give me
a list, Sean.'
'I'll have it ready by tomorrow morning.'
'What about weapons - and men?'
'Scouts,' Sean told them. 'They don't come any better. I trained them
myself. I'll need about twenty men. I know exactly who I want. I'll talk to
Roland Ballantyneright away. Things are pretty quiet up there in Rhodesia
at the moment, the rainy season. He'll let me have them. I might have to
break one of his legs, but he'll let me have them. They'll need a couple of
days of boat training, but they'll be ready to go by the end of next week.'
He looked across at Isabella. 'It all depends on you now, Bella. You are
our hunting dog. Lead us to them, lass.'

Eleven days after she sent the Red Rose coded confirmation that Capricorn
ChenAcals had successfully tested Cyndex 25, Isabella received permission
and instructions for a visit to Nicholas. She was instructed to take the
South African Airways flight to London that refuelled in Kinshasa on the

502
Congo river and to disembark at this stop-over instead of continuing on to
London.
She would be met at Kinshasa airport.
'It's looking good.' Sean was jubilant as he placed his finger on the map.
'Here's Kinshasa. It's within three or four hundred kilometres of the
expected target area. They are going to pick you up on the doorstep, not
the roundabout route via, Nairobi and Lusaka that they sent you on last
time.' He looked across at Isabella. 'So they want you to take next
Friday's flight? If it works out, that means you will probably be in
position on Saturday, or Sunday at the very latest. We will sail from
Walvis Bay in Lancer just as soon as I can get up there. The boys have
finished their training, and all the equipment is on board Lancer. They
have been sitting around doing nothing for almost a week - they'll be glad
to be on their way.'
He studied the map and then punched his calculator. 'We can be in position
one hundred nautical miles off the mouth of the Congo river by Monday the
twelfth. How does that suit you, Garry?'
Garry stood up and went to the map. 'I'll be waiting with the Lear at
Windhoek Airport - here. I will make my first fly-over on the night of
Monday the twelfth. I'll have to head out to sea at least five hundred
miles before I can turn back. That's the estimated range of the Cuban radar
net in southern Angola. Five hundred miles is well beyond the operational
range of the MiG squadron at Lubango.' He touched the Cuban base on the
map. 'All right, then I'll hit the coast at the mouth of the Congo here and
fly south down the coast until I pick up the signal of Bella's
transponder.'
'Hold on, Garry,' Shasa intervened. 'How's that working out?'
'The boys at Courtney Communications have done a damn fine job in the short
time they had available.' He opened his brief-case. 'This is itP
'A bicycle pump?' Shasa asked.
'Apparently Nicky is a soccer star. He asked Bella to

503
bring him a new ball, and he complained that they had to keep pumping his
old ball. The pump is a natural accessory to go with the ball. It should
arouse no suspicion. This one is in perfect working order.' He demonstrated
a few strokes of the pump, and the air hissed out in a satisfactory manner.
'The transponder is fitted into the handle of the pump. It has a thirty-day
battery life. It is activated simply by twisting the handle like this.' He
showed them. 'There is one drawback. We have had to make the transponder
small enough to fit into the handle, and in the process we have been forced
to reduce the power of the signal. It has a range of less than twelve
kilometres, even with the very sensitive antenna that we have fitted into
the Lear. I'll have to fly in that close before I pick up the signal.'
'What about Cuban fighters in the north?' Shasa asked anxiously.
'According to South African intelligence, the nearest squadron is based at
Saurimo. I will make one quick run down the coast. As soon as I pick up
Bella's signal, I'll head back out to sea. I've worked it out on paper;
even if Cuban radar picks me up as I enter Angolan airspace and they
immediately scramble a flight of MiGs from Saurimo, I should be able to
turn out and run for it before they can catch me.'
'What about SAMs?' Shasa persisted.
'Intelligence reports the Cuban SAM regiments are all in the south.'
'And if Intelligence is wrong?'
'Come on, Pater! Sean's running a hell of a lot more risk than I am.'
'This kind of thing is Sean's job, and he has not got a wife and a flock of
kids.'
'Do we want to get Nicky out - or what?' Garry turned his back on his
father, ending the exchange. 'All right, where was I? Yes, I pick up
Bella's signal. I turn out to sea and make radio contact with Lancer as she
lies off the Congo mouth. I give them the fix on the base, and then I just
come on home.'

504
'I rather think,' Shasa drawled nonchalantly, 'that I'll go along with you
for the ride, Garry!'
'Come on, Pater, you're Battle of Britain vintage. Act your age.'
'I taught you to fly, my boy, and I can still fly circles around you any
day of the week.'
Garry glanced across at Nana for support. Her expression was stony. He
threw his hands in the air and be
.gan to grm.
'Welcome aboard, Skipper,' he acquiesced.

'Goodbye, Nana.' Isabella hugged the old lady with a sudden despairing
strength. 'Pray for us.'
'You just bring my great-grandson here to me, missy. He and I, have got a
lot of catching up to do.'
Isabella turned to her father. 'I love you, Daddy.'
'Not as much as I love you.'
'I have been so stupid. I should have trusted you. I should have come to
you right in the beginning.' She gulped. 'I've done terrible things, Daddy.
Things I haven't told you about yet. I wonder if you'll ever be able to
forgive lne.$
'You are my girl.' His voice was husky. 'My very special, my only girl.
Come back safely - and bring your baby with YOU- )
She kissed him and held him hard. Then she whirled and almost ran through
the international departures gate of Jan Smuts Airport.
Centaine and Shasa stood staring after her long after she had disappeared.
Overhead the airport loudspeaker system was already calling her flight.
'This is the final call for all passengers travelling on the South African
Airways SA 5 16 to Kinshasa and London.'
Centaine turned away and took Shasa's arm. She limped heavily on her stick.
Her leg always seemed to get worse when she was worried or under unusual
strain.
The chauffeur had the car parked at the main entrance,

505
although one of the traffic constables was trying to move him on. Shasa
settled Centaine in the back seat and then went round to the other door and
climbed in beside her.
'There is something we haven't talked about yet.' Centaine took his hand.
'Yes,' Shasa agreed. 'I know what you are going to ask. What have they
extorted from Bella? What price have they made her pay?'
'She's been working for them for years, ever since the birth of the child.
That is obvious now.'
'I don't want to think about it,' Shasa sighed. 'But I know we'll have to
face it, sooner or later. This bastard who has tied her up is a general in
the KGB - so we know who Bella's masters are.'
'Shasa.' Centaine hesitated, and then her voice firmed. 'You recall the
Skylight scandal?'
'I'll never forget it.'
'There was a leak - a traitor,' Centaine pressed on doggedly.
'Bella knew nothing about Skylight. I was very careful to keep her out of
it,' Shasa said hotly.
'Do you remember the Israeli nuclear scientist who came down to Dragon's
Fountain? What was his name - Aaron somebody? Bella had a little fling with
him. You told me that her name was in the security register at Pelindaba.
She spent the night with him.'
'Mother, you aren't suggesting ... F Shasa broke off. 'My God, do you
realize what information she has had access to over the years? As a
senator, and as my assistant, most of the sensitive Armscor projects have
passed over her deskV
'The Cyndex project at Capricorn,' Centaine nodded. 'She was at the tests
only a few weeks back. Why is she being allowed to see Nicholas now? Has
she given them some special piece of information, do you think?'
They were silent for a long time, and then Shasa asked softly: 'Where does
loyalty to the family and to one of our 5o6
children end - and loyalty and patriotic duty to our country begin?'
'I think that you and- I will have to face that question very soon,' she
sighed. 'But let's see this other business through first.'

Lancer was tied up at the hospital jetty alongside the Courtney canning
factory in Walvis Bay. She was a 250400t stern trawler but she had the sleek
lines of a modern cruise liner. She had been built to work in any fishery in
any ocean, to get there fast, stay at sea for months at a time and then to
get back to port just as fast.
Sean stood on the jetty and looked her over. He did not like her bright
yellow paintwork; it was much too visible. On the other hand, her stem
chute would make for easy launching and recovery of the landing-boats.
Anyway, it was much too late to do anything about the paintwork now, he
decided.
Half the Scouts were lining the rail of the trawler, and as soon as they
recognized him they launched into a chorus of 'Why Was He Born So
BeautifulF.
Sean gave them the finger. 'No goddam respect,' he lamented, and ran up the
gangway. They were delighted to see him and crowded around him to shake his
hand. Much of their enthusiasm was a symptom of boredom; for these highly
trained fighting men a week of inactivity had been almost insupportable.
They were all dressed like trawlermen in worn and faded jeans, tattered
woollen jerseys and an assortment of caps and balaclava helmets.
Sergeant-Major Esau Gondele was a full-blooded Matabele, an old comrade in
a dozen desperate contacts and battles. He saluted Sean and then grinned as
Sean punched his arm.
'You're out of uniform, Esau. Take it easy, brother.'
Twelve of the twenty Scouts that Sean had chosen were

507
Matabele, the others were young white Rhodesians - nearly all of them the
sons of ranchers and game wardens and miners who had been brought up in the
bush.
In the Scouts there was no awareness of colour. As Esau Gondele once
remarked to Sean: 'The best cure for racism is have somebody shoot at you.
Man, it does not matter ,then what colour the arse is that comes to save
yours -black or white, you're ready to give it a big fat kiss.'
Sean had worried about the naval commandos from Simonstown who were
handling the inflatables. They were all tough young Afrikaners. They might
have trouble fitting into this multi-racial team.
'How are you getting on with the rock spiders?' Sean asked Esau Gondele,
using the pejorative slang for an Afrikaner.
'Some of them are my best friends already, but still I wouldn't want one of
them to marry my sister,' he chuckled. 'No, seriously, Sean, they're all
right. They know their job. I told them they don't have to call me Baasie,
and they saw the joke.'
'OK, Sergeant-Major. We are leaving port at nightfall. It's unlikely that
there'll be anybody here taking an interest in us. But we'll take no
chances. You and I are going to check equipment before we sail, and then
we'll brief the boys as soon as we cast off.'
The crew accommodation was cramped and spartan. The Scouts and the six
commandos crowded into the mess, perched on the table and the bunks. Within
minutes the air was fogged with cigarette smoke and Lancer pitched and
rolled heavily to the thrust of the cold green Benguela current.
All the Scouts that Sean had chosen were proven sailors who had done boat
patrols on the choppy waters of Lake Kariba. Mal de mer was the reason that
he had not sent for Matatu. The little Ndorobo would have been puking his
heart out by now. It felt strange going into an operation without Matatu at
his side, like going on a journey without a St Christopher. Matatu was his
good-luck charm. He put
508
that thought out of his mind, and looked round the crowded Mess.
'Can you all see?' Sean had tacked the maps up on the bulkhead. There was
a chorus of assent.
'We are heading up here.' He prodded the map. 'And the mission is to pick
up two prisoners, a woman and a child.'
There were groans and raspberries of mock disappointment, and Sean grinned.
'It's OK, don't panic. There'll be plenty of gooks. It's hot guns all the
way, gentlemen, and open season.'
The groans turned to ironic cheers, and Sean waited for them to settle
down.
'This is a sketch-map of the target area. As you can see, it's pretty
rough, but it gives you some idea of what to expect. I expect to find the
prisoners being held in this compound here, near the beach. Probably in
this hut. I will lead the rescue party. We will go in with three of the
boats.'
He noticed Esau Gondele squatting on one of the bunks with a South African
naval commando squashed up on each side of him. The three of them were
sharing a cigarette, passing the butt from hand to hand as they listened to
his briefing. 'What price apartheid now?' Sean smiled to himself, and went
on.
'If there is going to be any serious trouble, it's going to come down this
road alongside the. river from the terrorist camp near the airstrip, here
and here. Sergeant-Major Gondele will lead the support unit up the river in
the other three boats and set up a road-block to prevent any gooks coming
through. You will have to hold there for thirty minutes after you hear the
first shot fired. That will give us time to spring the prisoners. Then you
pull out and get back down-river and hotfoot out to sea to RZ with Lancer.
It's simple, and it must be quick. We aren't going to hang around a second
longer than necessary, but if you can sort out a few of the uglies while
you are about it nobody is going to complain. OK, now we'll go over it
again in

509
detail and tomorrow we'll practise launching the boats and recovering them
again in rough water. We'll do that every day, plus weapons drill and
equipment checks - you aren't going to have much time to write home before
we hit the beach on the night of Tuesday the thirteenth. Keep that date
open. Write it down.'.

The commercial flight landed at Kinshasa in the middle of a tropical
downpour. Rainwater cascaded down the windows as the aircraft taxied to its
berth, and Isabella was soaked in the few seconds that it took to leave the
aircraft and board the airport bus.
As she had been promised, there was someone to meet her as she came through
the Customs and Immigration barrier. He was a good-looking young pilot in
plain khaki flying-overalls without any insignia or rank. When he greeted
her in Spanish she was able to detect the Cuban accent, now that she knew
to listen for it.
He insisted on carrying her suitcase and the box of gifts for Nicky and
flirted with her brazenly in the ramshackle* taxi that drove them from the
main airport building down to the private and charter section of the
airfield.
By the time they got there, the rain had stopped. Although heavy cloud
still covered the sky, it was stiflingly hot and humid. He loaded her
luggage into the back compartment of a small single-engine aircraft. She
did not recognize the type. It carried no insignia other than an enigmatic
number, and was painted an overall drab sandy colour.
'Are we going to fly in this weather?' she asked him. 'Isn't it dangerous?'
'Ah, sehora, if you die you will die in my arms - what a glorious passing!'
As soon as they were airborne he placed his hand on her thigh, the better
to point out the passing scenery.
'Keep your hands on the wheel. Keep your eyes on the

510
road.' She lifted his hand and gave it back to him. He flashed his teeth and
his eyes and laughed as though he had made a conquest.
She could not remain angry for long. Every minute they kept on this heading
confirmed the fact that she was being taken to the base where last she had
seen Nicky. Two hours later she made out the grey expanse of the Atlantic
beneath the lowering cloud-banks ahead.
The pilot turned south along the coast, and then she sat up straight in the
seat and her spirits took wing. She recognized the oxbows in the river and
the open mouth to the sea. The pilot pulled on flap and lined up for a
landing on the red clay strip.
Nicky, she thought. Soon now, my baby. Soon we'll be free again.
As they taxied in, she saw him. He was standing on the front seat of the
jeep. He had shot up at least another two inches, and his legs seemed too
gawky and coltish for his body. His hair was longer than she remembered and
curled out from under his camo-cap, but his eyes were the same. That
marvellous clear green that sparkled even at this distance. As soon as he
recognized her behind the windscreen, he waved both hands over his head,
and his teeth flashed in the darkly tanned and beautiful face.
In the jeep with him were the driver and Josd, the Cuban paratrooper. They
were grinning as widely as Nicky as she climbed out of the front seat of
the aircraft.
Nicky jumped out of the jeep and ran to meet her. For a heady moment she
thought he might rush into her arms, then he got control of himself and
offered her his hand.
'Welcome, Mamma.' She thought the strength of her love might choke her. 'It
is good to see you again.'
'Hello, Nicky.' Her voice was husky. 'You have grown so much I hardly
recognized you. You are becoming a man now.'
It was the right thing to say. He hooked his thumbs into his belt and
called imperiously to Josd and the driver: 'Come and take my mother's
luggage.'

511
'Right away, General Pele.'Josd gave him a mock salute, and then to
Isabella: 'Greetings, sefiora. We have been looking forward to your visit.'
I'm everybody's favourite aunt now, Isabella thought cynically.
From her box of goodies she gave Jos6 and the driver each a two-hundred
pack of Marlboro cigarettes, and her popularity was enhanced a hundredfold.
In Angola, Western cigarettes were hard currency.
As Nicholas drove them down to the beach he chattered happily, and though
she showed flattering interest in everything he had done and achieved since
their last meeting she was checking her surroundings with a much more
businesslike eye than she had previously. She realized that she had made
serious errors in the sketch-map that she had drawn for Sean. The training
base had been enlarged since her last visit. There must now be several
thousand soldiers here, and she saw some kind of artillery parked under
camouflage-nets. They looked like long-barrelled antiaircraft guns. Further
on she noticed parked trucks with dish-shaped radar antennae pointed
skyward, and she thought of her father and Garry bringing the Lear in
overhead. There was no way to warn them of these changes.
When they reached the beach compound, Isabella checked the distance
registered on the speedometer. It was only 3.6 kilometres from the airstrip
to the beach - much closer than she had estimated. She wondered just how
this might endanger the rescue operation. Reinforcements could be rushed in
more swiftly than Sean had allowed for.
Josd carried her luggage into the guard-house. Waiting for her were the
same two women who had met her before. However, their attitude was
friendlier and more informal.
'I have brought you a gift,' Isabella greeted them, and gave them each a
bottle of perfume which she had chosen for size rather than for subtle
aroma. They were delighted and sprayed themselves so liberally that the air
in the room was difficult to breathe. It was some minutes before they could
get around to searching Isabella's luggage.

512
This time the camera was passed without comment, though they lingered
longingly over her cosmetics. Isabella invited them to try a little of her
lipstick, and they accepted with alacrity, and admired the results in the
mirror of Isabella's compact. The atmosphere was more that of a gathering
of old friends than of a security screening.
By the time they came to examine the box of gifts for Nicholas their hearts
were obviously no longer in the task. One of them picked out the deflated
soccer ball. 'Ah, Pele will like this,' she cried, and then Isabella's
nerves prickled with tension as she handled the pump.
'For the ball,' she explained.
'Sf. I know, to pump air.' The woman gave it a few desultory strokes and
then dropped the pump back into the box.
'I am sorry to have inconvenienced you, sefiora. We only do our duty.'
'Of course. I understand,' Isabella agreed.
'You will stay with us two weeks. That is good. Pele has been very excited
that you are coming. He is a good boy. Everybody likes him very much.
Everybody is very proud of him.'-
She helped Isabella to carry her cases across to the same hut that they had
given her on her last visit.
Nicholas was sitting on her bed, already in his swimming-trunks.
'Come, Mamma, we will go for a swim now. I will race you out to the reef.'
He swam like an otter, and she was hard-pressed to keep up with him.
That evening when just the two of them were alone in her hut, she gave him
his gifts from the box. Although the soccer ball was the greatest hit, he
also enjoyed her choice of books and clothes. She had brought a selection
of colourful surfer's baggies and T-shirts which delighted him. There was
also a Sony cassette-playcr and a box of music cassettes. His favourites
were Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Beatles.

513
'Can you rock 'n' roll?' she asked. 'I'll show you.' And she put a Johnny
Halliday tape on the player.
They gyrated around the hut in their bathing-suits, shrieking with
laughter, until Adra called them for dinner. Adra was as taciturn and
withdrawn as ever, and Isabella ignored her and concentrated all her
attention on Nicholas. She had stored up a selection of elephant, jokes for
him.
'How do you know that the elephant has been in the refrigerator? You see
his footprints in the butter.' He loved that one. In return he told her a
joke that he had heard from Jos6 the paratrooper. It left her gasping for
air.
'Do you know what that means?' she asked in nervous trepidation.
. 'Of course,' he told her. 'One of the big girls at school showed me.' And
Isabella thought it prudent not to pursue the subject.
After they had seen him to bed, Adra walked with her to the hut and
Isabella whispered: 'Where is Ram6n, the Marquds? Is he here?'
Adra looked around carefully before replying. 'No. He will come soon. I
think tomorrow or the next day. He says he will come to you. He says to
tell you he loves you.'
Alone in her hut, Isabella found that she was trembling at the prospect of
meeting Ram6n again, now that she knew him for what he was. She doubted
whether she would be able to act naturally towards him. The thought of
making love to him terrified her. Surely he would sense the change in her
feelings towards him. He might take Nicholas away, or have her imprisoned.
'Please, God, let Sean reach me before Ram6n does. Keep him away until Sean
comes.' She lay awake that night, cold with dread that Ram6n would suddenly
appear out of the darkness and she must take him into her bed.
As before, she and Nicholas spent the next two days swimming and fishing
and playing with Twenty-Six on the beach. The puppy had grown into a lanky,
long-tailed, cross-eyed dog with floppy ears that Nicholas adored. It

514
shared his bed with him; Isabella did not have the authority to forbid it,
even though Nicholas's long legs were speckled with flea-bites.
On the Monday night, while she watched Nicholas prepare for bed, she
reached up casually and took down the bicycle pump from the shelf above his
bed on which the new soccer ball held pride of place. She twisted the
handle and heard the faint internal click as the transponder switched on.
She replaced the pump on the shelf just as Nicholas came back from -the
bathroom smelling of the peppermint toothpaste she had brought from Cape
Town for him.
As she leant over the bed to tuck in the mosquito-net he reached up
unexpectedly and threw both arms around her neck. 'I love you, Mamma,' he
whispered shyly, and she kissed him.
His mouth was soft and moist and warm and tasted of toothpaste, and she
thought her heart would burst with love of him. Quickly embarrassed by his
own display, Nicholas rolled over, pulled the sheet up to his chin, closed
his eyes tightly and made ostentatious snoring sounds.
'Sleep well, Nicky. I love you, too - with all my heart,' she whispered.
As she walked back to her own hut, thunder growled and lightning flickered
across the night sky. As she looked up, a heavy drop of warm rain struck
her on the centre of her forehead.

It was very quiet in the cockpit of the Lear. They were at forty thousand
feet, almost service ceiling, as high as they could get for maximum
endurance and speed.
'Enemy coast ahead,' Shasa said softly, and Garry chuckled.
'Come on, Pater. People only say things Re that in World War Two movies.'
They were high above the cloud mass in a world of

515
enchanted silver moonlight. The cloud below them shone with the peculiar
brilliance of an alpine snowfield.
'One hundred nautical miles to run to the mouth of the Congo river.' Shasa
checked their position on the screen of the satellite nav system. 'We
should be almost exactly overhead Lancer's station.'
'Better give them a call,' Garry suggested, and Shasa switched radio
frequencies.
'Hello, Donald Duck. This is the Magic Dragon. Do you read?'
'Hello, Dragon. This is the Duck. Reading you ten and ten,' the reply was
immediate, and Shasa smiled with relief as he recognized his eldest son's
voice. 'Sean must have had his thumb on the button,' he murmured and keyed
his microphone. 'Stand by, Duck. We are heading for Disneyland.'
'Have a nice trip. Duck is standing by.'
Shasa swivelled in the co-pilot's seat and looked back into the Lear's
passenger-cabin. The two technicians from Courtney Communications were
crouched over their equipment. It had taken them ten days to install all
the special electronics. Much of it was state-of-the-art equipment which
was still under test with Armscor and had not yet been issued to the air
force. It was not built into the Lear's body, but strapped and screwed to
the cabin floor. Their intent faces were painted a witch's green by the
glow from the display panel, and the enormous headphones distorted the
shape of their heads.
Shasa switched to the intercom. 'How you doing, Len?'
Ile head engineer glanced up at him. 'No radar lash. We are receiving
normal radio traffic from Luanda, Kinshasa and Brazzaville. No signal from
the target.'
'Carry on.' Shasa turned. He knew that the new frequency-search equipment
was skipping through the bands. It should pick up any military traffic from
Luanda or Saurimo military bases. The antenna mounted under the Lear's
belly would warn them if they were detected by 5x6
hostile radar. Len, the radio engineer, had been chosen for his command of
Spanish. He would be able to monitor any Cuban radio traffic.
'OK, Garry.' Shasa touched his arm. 'We are overhead the Congo mouth. Your
new heading is 175 .'
'New heading 175.'Garr-y stood the Lear on one wing-tip as they turned east
of south to run parallel with the coastline.
By some freak of wind and weather, a deep hole opened in the cloud mass
beneath them. The moon was directly overhead and only two days from its
full. Its light beamed down into the chasm, and forty thousand feet below
they saw the platinum gleam of water and the dark shape of the African
coast.
'Ambriz river-mouth in four minutes,' Shasa warned.
'We have initiated search for target signal,' Len confirmed in his
headphones.
'Overhead Ambriz,' Shasa intoned.
'No target signal received.'
'Catacanha river-mouth in six minutes,' Shasa said.
He hadn't really expected the Ambriz to yield results. It was the outer
limit of their search-cone. He looked ahead and grimaced. Directly in their
track a gigantic mountain of menacing black cloud rose hammer-headed into
the stratosphere. He estimated its height at sixty or seventy thousand
feet, 'way above the Lear's ceiling.
'How do you like that Charlie Bravo?' he asked, and Garry shook his head
and looked down at the screen of the weather radar set. The enormous
tropical thunderstorm showed up as a lurid and ferocious crimson cancer on
the screen.
'Ninety-six miles ahead, and it's a real Lulu. Looks like it's sitting
right over one of our target river-mouths, the Chicamba.'
'If it is, it will wipe out any signal from Bella's transponder.' Shasa was
looking worried.
. 'We wouldn't be able to fly through that anyway,' Garry growled.

517
'Overhead the Catacanha, Len. Are you picking up anything from our target?'
'Negative, Mr Courtney.' And then his voice changed. 'Hold on! Oh shit!
Somebody is hitting us with radar lash.'
'Garry' - Shasa reached across to shake his shoulder -'they've picked us up
on radar.'
'Switch to the international frequency,' Garry said, 'and listen.'
They sat frozen in their seats listening to the static of that great
turbulent storm ahead.
Suddenly the carrier band hissed and a voice cut in clearly. 'Unidentifi6d
aircraft. This is Luanda control. You are in restricted airspace. Identify
yourself immediately. I say again, you are in restricted airspace.'
'Luanda control, this is British Airways Flight BA 051. We have an engine
malfunction. Request a position fix.' Shasa began a garbled delaying
argument with Luanda. Every second he could gain was crucial. He asked them
for a clearance to land at Luanda, and pretended not to be receiving or
understanding their refusals and urgent orders to vacate national airspace.
'They haven't fallen for it, Mr Courtney,' Len warned him as he swept the
military frequencies. 'They have scrambled a flight of MiGs from Saurimo,
airfield. They are vectoring them in on us.'
'How long before we cross the Chicamba river-mouth?' Garry demanded.
'Fourteen minutes,' Shasa snapped back.
'Well, Lordy, LordyP Garry grinned. 'We are on a head-on course with those
MiGs. They are coming in at Mach 2. This is going to be fun.'
They sped southwards into the silver moonlight.
'Mr Courtney, we have more radar lash. I think the MiGs have got us on
their attack radar.'
'Thank you, Len. Chicamba river in one minute thirty seconds.'
'Mr Courtney.' There was a strident tone to Len's voice. 'The MiG leader is
reporting target acquisition. They are

518
on to us, sir. The attack radar lash is increasing. The MiG leader is
requesting weapons-free.'
'I thought you said they couldn't intercept us,' Shasa asked Garry mildly.
'I thought we were out of their operational range.'
'Hell, Dad, anyone can make a mistake.'
'Mr Courtney!' Len's voice was a shriek. 'I have the target signal, weak
and intermittent. About six kilometres. Dead ahead!'
'Are you sure, Len?'
'It's our transponder for sureV
'The Chicamba river-mouth. Bella is at the Chicamba!' Shasa shouted. 'Let's
get the hell out of here.'
'Mr Courtney, the MiGs are weapons-free and attacking. Radar lash is very
strong and increasing.'
'Hold on,' Garry called. 'Grab your hats.'
He rolled the Lear wing-over into a dive.
'What the hell are you doing?' Shasa shouted as he was pressed back into
the co-pilot's seat by the G force. 'Turn and get out to sea.'
'They'd nail us before we'd gone a mile.' Garry held the Lear in the dive.
'Christ, Garry, you'll tear the wings off us.'
The airspeed indicator revolved swiftly up towards the 'never exceed'
barrier.
'Take your choice, Pater. We tear the wings off her - or the MiGs shoot the
arse off us.'
'Mr Courtney, the MiG leader reports missile-lock.' Len was stuttering with
terror.
'What- are you going to do, Garry;" Shasa grabbed Garry's arm.
'I'm going in there.' Garry pointed at the soaring moonwashed mountain of
the thunderstorm. It was a sheer precipice of turbulent cloud that obscured
the heavens ahead of them. The cloud-banks boiled and seethed with the
great winds and air-currents within. Lightning flashed and glowed deep in
the belly of the storm.
'You are crazy,' Shasa whispered.

519
'No MiG will follow us in,' Garry said. 'No missile will hold its lock with
all that energy and electrical discharge burning around us.'
'Mr Courtney, MiG leader has fired a missile - and another. Two missiles
running .
'Pray for us sinners,' Garry said, and held the Lear down in its
death-dive; the airspeed needle went through the 'never exceed' barrier.
'I think this is it.' Shasa's voice was matter-offact, and as he said it
something struck the Lear a crashing blow. She flipped over on to her back,
the ball of the flight director spun like a top in its cage, and then they
were into the storm.
All visibility was wiped out instantly and thick grey cloud like wet
cottonwool engulfed them. They were thrown on to their safety-harnesses as
the storm attacked the Lear. It was a ravening beast that clawed and lashed
them.
The Lear tumbled and swirled like a dead leaf in a whirlwind. The
instruments on the control-panel spun and toppled, the altimeter yo-yo'd as
they dropped into the void and then hit a vicious updraught that hurled
them up two thousand feet and twisted them wing over wing.
Suddenly the cloud was lit by internal lightning. It dazzled them, and
rumbled through their heads, drowning out the agonized shriek of the Lear's
jets. Blue fire danced on the metal skin of the aircraft as though she were
aflame. They hit the bottom of another hole with a force that plunged them
against the padding of their seats and buckled their spines. Then they were
hurled aloft only to plunge once again. All around them the bodywork of the
Lear creaked and groaned as the storm tried to rip her apart.
Garry was helpless. He knew better than to fight the wheel and rudders and
increase the brutal stress on her control-surfaces. The Lear was fighting
for her life. He whispered encouragement to her and held the controlwheel
with a light and loving touch, trying to ease her nose up out of the
graveyard spiral.

520
'Courage, darling,' he whispered. 'Come on, baby. You can do it.'
Shasa was clinging to the arm-rests of his seat and staring at the
altimeter. They were down to fifteen thousand feet and still dropping. None
of the other instruments was making any sense. They jerked and wavered and
kicked.
He concentrated on the altimeter. It unwound jerkily. Ten thousand, seven,
four thousand. The strength of the storm increased; their heads were
whipped back and forth, threatening to snap their spines. The
shoulder-straps cut painfully into their flesh.
Something broke in the fuselage with a tearing crash. Shasa ignored it and
tried to focus on the altimeter. His vision was starred and disorientated
by the Lear's vicious plunges.
Two thousand feet, one thousand - zero. They should have hit the ground,
but the tremendous changes of barometric pressure within the swirling body
of the storm had thrown out the reading.
Suddenly the Lear steadied, the turbulence abated. Garry pressed on rudder
and stick, and she responded. The flight director stabilized and rotated
towards the vertical as the Lear rolled back on to even keel and they burst
out of the cloud.
The change was stunning. The noise of the storm gave way to the low hum of
the jets. Moonlight flooded into the cockpit, and Shasa gasped with shock.
They were almost upon the surface of the sea, skimming over it like a
flying fish rather than a bird. A drop of another hundred feet would have
plunged them beneath the green Atlantic rollers.
'Cutting it a little fine, son.' Shasa's voice was hoarse, and he tried to
grin, but his eye-patch had been shaken loose and hung down under his ear.
He adjusted it with fingers that trembled.
'Come on, Navigator,' Garry chuckled unconvincingly. 'Give me a course to
fly.'
'New course is 26o degrees. How is she handling?'

521
'Like a breeze.' Garry turned gently on to the new heading. The Lear came
round serenely and sped out into the Atlantic leaving the dark continental
mass astern.
'Len.' Shasa turned in the seat and looked back into the cabin. The
technicians' faces were pale and washed lightly with the sweat of terror.
'What do you make of the MiGs?'
Len stared at him like an owl as he tried to adjust to the shock of still
being alive.
'Pull yourself together, man,' Shasa snapped at him, and Len stooped
quickly to his control-panel.
'Yes, we still have contact. MiG leader is reporting target destroyed. He
is short of fuel and returning to base.'
'Farewell, Fidel. Thank the Lord that you are a lousy shot,' Garry
murmured, and kept the Lear low down in the surface clutter where the shore
radar would have difficulty picking them up. 'Where is Lancer?'
'Should be dead ahead.' Shasa thumbed the microphone.
'Donald Duck, this is the Magic Dragon.'
'Go ahead, Dragon.'
'It's the Chicamba. I repeat the Chicamba. Do you copy that? Over.'
'Roger. Chicamba. I say again Chicamba. Did you have any trouble? We heard
pom-pom. jet traffic south-east of here. Over.'
'Nothing to it. It was a Sunday-school picnic. Now it's your turn to visit
Disneyland. Over.'
'We are on our way, Dragon.'
'Break a leg, Duck. Over and out.'
It was half-past five on Tuesday morning when Garry put the Lear down on
the tarmac at Windhoek Airport. They climbed down stiffly and stood in a
group at the foot of the steps, overcome by a sense of anticlimax. Then
Garry walked to the nearest engine which was softly crackling and pinking
as it cooled.
'Pater,' he called. 'Come and have a look at this.'
Shasa stared at the alien object that had buried itself in the metal
fuselage below the pod of the Garrett turbo-fan

522
engine. It was painted a harsh industrial yellow, a long finned arrow-like
tube, that protruded six feet from the torn metal skin of the Lear.
'What the hell is that?' Shasa asked.
'That, Mr Courtney,'said Len, who had come up behind him, 'that is a Soviet
ATOLL air-to-air missile that failed to explode.'
'Well, Garry,' Shasa murmured, 'Fidel wasn't such a lousy shot after all.'
'Bless Russian workmanship,' Garry said. 'Perhaps it's a little early, Dad,
but could you stand a glass of champagne?'
'What a splendid idea,' said Shasa.

'The Chicamba river.' Shoulder to shoulder, Sean and Esau Gondele leant over
the chart-table. 'There she is.'
Sean laid his finger on the tiny insignificant nick in the outline of the
continent. 'Just south of Catacanha.' He looked up at the trawler skipper.
Van Der Berg was built like a Sumo wrestler, squat and heavy, with a
leathery skin burnt and desiccated by sun and wind.
'What do you know about it, Van?' he asked.
'Never been in that close,' Van shrugged. 'Just another piss-willy little
river. But I'll get you as close as you want to go.'
'A mile.off the reef will do very nicely.'
'You've got it,' Van promised. 'When?'
'I want you to keep below the horizon all of tomorrow, then at nightfall
you can take us in at o2oo hours.'
For the Scouts, the witching hour was always two hours after midnight. It
was then that the enemy would be at his lowest ebb, both physically and
mentally.
At one o'clock in the morning Sean held his final briefing in the crew mess
of Lancer. He checked each man separately. They were all dressed in
navy-blue fisherman's jerseys and jeans, and black canvas rubber-soled
combatboots. On their heads were knitted black woollen caps, and

523
all their faces and hands were black, either naturally or with camo-cream.
The only uniform items they wore were their webbing, all of it supplied by
the South African defence force from Cuban equipment captured in the south
of Angola. Their weapons were Soviet AKM assault-rifles, Tokarev pistols
and Bulgarian M75 anti-personnel grenades. Three men in Esau Gondele's
section would carry RPG 7 anti-rank rocket-launchers. Part of the agreement
with the South Africans for their co-operation was that nothing would ever
be traced back to them.
One at a time, they stepped up to the table and handed over all their
personal items, signet rings and dog-tags and pay-books, wallets and
wristwatches, and any other form of identification. Esau Gondele sealed
them in separate envelopes and issued each of them with an identical black
waterproof digital wristwatch to replace their own.
While this was happening the trawler captain called on the intercom from
the bridge: 'We are seven nautical miles off the river-mouth. Bottom is
shoaling nice and gently. I'll have you in position a few minutes before
time.'
'Good on you,' Sean told him, and then turned back to the ring of black
faces. 'Very well, gentlemen, you know what we are after. just a few airy
thoughts to occupy those busy little minds of yours - if you are going to
cull anybody, just make sure that you don't take out the woman or the
child. She's my sister.' He let that sink in for a moment. 'Thought number
two. The sketch-maps I have shown you are more fantasy than fact. Don't
rely on them. Thought number three. Don't get left behind on the beach when
we pull out. Chicamba is no place to spend a holiday. The food and, the
accommodation are rotten.' He picked up his rifle from the bunk. 'So, my
children, let's go and do it.'
Lancer groped towards the shore with radar and depthsounder. All her
running lights were extinguished. Her engines were ticking over, so she
barely maintained steerage. In the darkness ahead Sean could make out the
intermittent luminous flare of the surf breaking on the outer

524
reef. There were no lights ashore. The land itself had been absorbed by the
night. The cloud overhead was unbroken. No glimmer of star or moon came
through.
Van Der Berg straightened up from the radar-hood. 'One mile off,' he said
quietly. 'Water is six fathoms and shoaling.' He glanced across at the dark
figure of his coloured helmsman. 'Stop engines.'
The tremble of the engines through the deck beneath their feet ceased, and
Lancer wallowed like a log.
'Thanks, Van,' Sean said. 'I'll bring you back a nice present.' He ran
lightly down the companionway to the main deck.
They were waiting in the stern, each team standing by its own black rubber
landing-boat. Sean smelt the musky odour in the air and grimaced. He didn't
like it, but the use of 'boom' before a contact had become a tradition in
the Scouts.
'It's an old African custom,' he consoled himself. 'The mad Mahdi's
fuzzy-wuzzies smoked it before they revved old Kitchener at Khartoum.'
'Sergeant-Major, the smoking-light is out,' he grated, and he heard them
shuffle in the darkness as they rubbed out their cannabis cigarettes on the
deck. Sean realized that the smoke dulled the edge of their fear and
bolstered that reckless bravado that was also part of the Scouts tradition,
but he had never used it. He relished the sensation of fear; it throbbed in
his blood and beat in his brain. He was never more alive than at a time
like this, going into battle and mortal danger. He would not wish to shade
that pure clean flame of fear.
One at a time the flexible rubber hulls, laden with men and equipment, slid
down the stern chute of the trawler and splashed softly on to the water.
The boatme~ started the Toyota outboards and they burbled gently in the
night. Even on a still and windless night like this, the sound would not
carry a hundred yards.
They formed up into a long black snake, a boat's length between them. Sean
was in the leading inflatable with three
525
of his best men. The boatman shone a hooded pen light' over the stern to
keep the boats that followed on station.
They moved off quietly towards the land.
Sean was standing in the stern. On a lanyard around his neck was a small
luminous compass, but he relied mainly on the nightscope to bring them into
the shore. It was a Zeiss image-enhancer. It looked like a large pair of
plastic-coated binoculars.
Ahead of him the breaking surf flared green fire in the lens, and he made
out clearly the dark spot in the line that marked the river-mouth. He
touched the boatman's shoulder to redirect him. The next wave lifted and
shoved them as it slid by under the hull, and they heard its hoarse
susurration on either hand as they ran through the pass into the calmer
waters of the lagoon.
Through the Zeiss lens he saw the shaggy tops of the palms silhouetted
against the cloud-banks and the open throat of the river ahead. He flicked
the pen light, and Esau Gondele's boat moved up alongside.
'There she is.' He leant over to whisper to the big Matabcle and pointed
out the river-mouth.
'I see it.' Esau had his own nightscope held to his eyes.
'Tear their nuts outV The pod of three attack-boats moved off together, and
Sean watched them disappear into the river and merge with the loom of the
land.
He whispered to the boatman and they turned parallel with the beach. As
they ran down the lagoon, Scan scanned the shore through the Zeiss lens.
Half a mile from the mouth he made out in the gloom of the palm grove the
square outline of a hut and then beyond it a second. 'It fits with Bella's
description,' he decided.
They ran towards the beach. Now he saw the gleam of metal above the nearest
hut. It was the tall Christmastree antenna and dish of a satellite
communications centre.
'That's it.'
Sand grated softly beneath the keel of the inflatable and they leapt over
the side into blood-warm water that reached
526
to their knees. Sean led them ashore. The beach sand was so white that he
could see the little ghost crabs scuttling away ahead of them. The men raced
to the edge of the palm grove and dropped into cover below the high-water
ridge.
Sean took a few moments to check his bearings. According to Isabella's
description of her first visit, the communications centre was where they
had received and searched her. She told him there were two or three female
radio operators running the centre. In addition she had counted
approximately twenty para guards who were billeted in the barracks beyond
the wire.
The gate to the compound was always locked at sunset. She had warned him of
that. There was always a sentry posted there. He patrolled the wire, and
they changed the guard every four hours.
'Here he comes now,' Sean murmured as he saw the dark shape of the sentry
moving along the barbed-wire fence. He lowered the nightscope, and
whispered to the Scout who lay beside him: 'Twenty paces ahead, Porky. He's
moving left to right.'
'Got him.' Porky Soaves was a Portuguese Rhodesian whose speciality was the
slingshot. He could hit a dove on the wing at fifty metres. At ten metres,
he could drive a steel ball-bearing clean through the bone of a man's
skull.
He slid forward like a night adder, and as the Cuban sentry came level he
rose on one knee and drew like a longbow man. The double surgical-rubber
strands of the slingshot snapped, and the sentry collapsed without a sound
into the fluffy white sand.
'GoV said Sean softly, and the second Scout ran forward with the heavy
wire-cutters. The strands of barbed wire made little musical pinging sounds
as they parted. Sean ran to the opening.
As each of the Scouts slipped through the hole in the wire, he slapped
their shoulders and pointed them to their targets. He sent two of them to
the main gate to take the sentries there, two to shut down the
communications centre

527
and the rest of them to hose down the barracks at the rear of the compound
and to cull the garrison guards.
If the arrangements were the same as last time, the first hut on the right
of the radio room should be Isabella's. Nicky would be in the second one
with his Cuban nursemaid. Isabella called her Adra. From Sean's estimate of
the situation, the nursemaid was one of the uglies. She would have to go.
He would cull her at the first opportunity.
Sean ran towards the line of huts, but before he reached them a woman
started to scream in the communications hut. The sharp hysterical bursts of
sound raked Sean's nerve-endings. The screams were cut off by a short burst
of automatic fire.
Here we go! Sean thought, and the night erupted with gunfire and flame and
the mortal thrill of combat.

Isabella slept fitfully and woke a little before midnight to the sound of
thunder and of jet engines passing at altitude overhead. She threw aside the
mosquito-net and ran out into the night.
The wind generated by a mighty thunderstorm that was moving up- from the
south flapped the skirts of her nightdress around her bare legs and rattled
the palm fronds.
The sound of jet engines rose and fell as wind and cloud blanketed it. It
seemed to her that there was more than one aircraft up there above the
cloud. She hoped that one of them was the Lear with her father and Garry
aboard.
'Have you picked up the signal?' she wondered, as she strained her eyes
into the black heavens. 'Can you hear me, Daddy? Do you know I'm here?'
She saw nothing, not even the shine of a single star, and the sound of
engines overhead faded and left only the soughing of the wind and the
rumble and crash as the thunderstorm fired its opening broadsides.
528
The rain began to fall again, and she ran back into the hut. She dried her
hair and her bare feet and stood at the window looking down towards the
beach.
'Please God. Let them know we are here. Help Sean to find us.'
At breakfast, Nicholas said to her: 'I haven't had a chance to try out my
new soccer ball.'
'But we've played with it every day, Nicky.'
'Yes, but ... I mean with good players.' And then, realizing what he had
said: 'You are a good player - for a girl. I think you would make an
excellent goalkeeper -with some more practice.. But, Mamma, I would like
some of my friends from school.'
'I don't know.' Isabella looked at Adra. 'Are your friends allowed here?'
Adra did not look round from the wood-stove. 'Ask Jos6,' she said. 'Perhaps
it will be allowed.'
That afternoon Jos6 and Nicholas arrived at the compound with a jeep-load
of small black boys. The soccer match on the beach was noisy and
passionately contested. On three occasions Isabella and Jos6 had to
untangle a knot of punching and kicking bodies. After each battle, play was
resumed as though nothing had happened.
Isabella was selected as goalkeeper for the Sons of the Revolution. But
after she had let through five goals Nicholas, the team captain, came to
her tactfully. 'I think you are tired, Mamma, and would like to rest now.'
And she was sent to the sidelines.
The Sons of the Revolution beat the Angolan Tigers twenty-six goals to
five, and Isabella felt very guilty about those five. After the final
whistle Isabella produced a twokilo bag of toffees and chocolates from her
gift-box, and her lack of athletic prowess was immediately forgiven by her
captain and both teams.
At dinner Nicholas chatted easily, and Isabella tried to act as naturally,
but her eyes kept straying to the window of the hut and the beach. If Sean
were coming, he would come tonight. She noticed Adra watching her
thoughtfully.

529
She made another effort to follow Nicky's conversation, but she was thinking
about Adra now.
Could they take her with them? she pondered. Would she want to come? Adra
was such a reticent and secretive person that she could never even guess at
her true feelings, except her love for Nicky - that was all that was
certain.
Could she trust her enough to warn her of the rescue? she wondered. Should
she give Adra the choice of coming away or remaining? In fairness, could
she take Nicky from her after all these years of devotion to him? Surely it
would break her heart, and yet could she trust her enough to tell her?
Could she risk their freedom, hers and Nicky's, and could she risk the
lives of her brother and all those other gallant young men who were
attempting to rescue them? More than once during the meal she was on the
point of speaking to Adra, but each time she shied away from it at the last
moment.
When she tucked Nicky into bed he lifted his face to her and she kissed him
quite naturally. He held her tightly for a moment.
'Do you have to go away again, Mamma?' he asked.
'Would you come with me, if you could?' she countered.
'And leave Padre and Adra?' He lapsed into silence. It was the first time
he had ever spoken to her of Ram6n, and it troubled her deeply. Was it
respect or fear she had detected in his voice? She could not be certain.
On an impulse she began: 'Nicky, tonight - if anything happens, don't be
afraid.'
'What will happen?' He sat up with interest.
'I don't know. Probably nothing.' He looked disappointed and dropped back
on the pillow.
'Good night, Nicky,' she whispered.
Adra was waiting for her in the darkness between the huts. It was the
opportunity Isabella had waited for.
'Adra,' she whispered. 'I have to talk to you. Tonight . . .' she broke
off.
'Tonight?' Adra prompted her, and when still she hesitated Adra went on:
'Yes, tonight he will come. He says

530
to expect him. He could not come before, but tonight he will come to you.'
Isabella felt panic rise to wash reason away. 'Oh God -are you sure?' Then
she caught herself. 'That is wonderful. I have waited so long.'
All thoughts of warning Adra of the rescue attempt were wiped from her
mind. How could she face Ram6n - now that she realized what a cruet and
evil monster he truly was? How could she let him touch her without
trembling?
'I must go now,' Adra whispered, and slipped away into the darkness,
leaving her alone with her terror. She had planned to wear jeans and a
jersey beneath her nightdress ready to 1~ave when Sean- came, but she dared
not do that now.
She lay so long alone in the darkness beneath the mosquito-net that at last
she began to hope that Scan would come to her before Ram6n did, or at least
that dawn would save her.
Then suddenly she knew that he was in the hut with her. She smelt him
before she heard him. The faint but distinctive odour of his body that had
always aroused her so readily. Her nostrils and every nerve in her body
jumped tight. Her breathing seized up in her throat.
She heard the whisper of his feet across the floor of the hut, and then his
touch upon the bed.
'Ram6n.' Her breath escaped on an explosive gust.
'Yes, it is me.' His voice struck her like a blow in the face.
She felt him lift the mosquito-net and she lay rigid. His finger-tips
brushed her face, and she thought she might scream aloud. She did not know
how to act, what to say to him. 'He will know.' She realized that she was
panicking. She dare not move or speak.
'Bella?' he said, and she heard the first suspicion in his tone. In sudden
inspiration she reached up and seized him.
'Don't talk,' she whispered fiercely. 'I cannot wait another moment - don't
say anything. Take me now, Ram6n.'

531
She knew she was not acting out of character. Often in that distant happy
past she had been like this - urgent, wild with desire, brooking not an
instant's delay.
She sat up and began to tear at his clothing. I have to keep him from
talking, from asking any questions, she thought desperately. I have to
quieten and reassure him that nothing has changed.
With terror in her heart and the smell of him filling her head she let his
hands lift her nightdress and then the hard smooth naked length of him
slide into the bed beside her.
'Bella,' he whispered harshly. 'I have wanted you too much for too long.'
And his mouth covered hers. It felt as though he were sucking out her very
being from between her lips, the way he might suck the juice and flesh from
a ripe orange.
With shame at the perversity and treachery of her own body she felt herself
overwhelmed by raw sexual passion. She was making love to a sleek and
beautiful animal, something inhuman and cruel and infinitely dangerous.
Fear mingled with lust to spur and goad her. She felt like that doomed
creature in the bull-ring of Granada whose tragic struggle and lingering
death had moved her so when long ago she and her love had been fresh and
young.
At last when they were spent together, he lay on top of her as though he
were dead. She could not move; her guilt and his weight threatened to
suffocate her. She hated herself almost as much as she hated him.
'It was never like that before,' he whispered. 'You never did that to me
before.'
She could not trust herself to reply. She could not know what might come
out once she began to speak. She realized that she was on the verge of a
terrible destructive madness - and yet when he lay beside her and he
stroked her and gently touched the most intimate parts of her body her
thighs fell apart and she felt her flesh melt and her bones soften.
He began to speak softly. He told her how he loved her.

532
He spoke ab6ut the future, when the three of them would be safe and happy in
some secure and secret place. His lies were beautiful; they conjured up
wonderful pictures in her mind. Although she knew that they were false, she
wanted desperately to believe them.
When at last he fell asleep with his face pressed between her naked
breasts, she stroked the crisp springing curls of his head with a terrible
regret and a longing for things which she knew did not exist. So deep was
her distress that it had driven from her consciousness all other thoughts,
until abruptly and shockingly the night was ripped through by the screams
of a woman and the sound of gunfire.
She felt Ram6n come awake and at the same instant spring from the bed,
naked and lithe as a jungle cat. She heard the metallic snicker of a
firearm as he snatched the pistol from the holster that lay on the floor
beside the bed. The night was lit by flame and explosion. She saw Ram6n
silhouetted against the light from the window. He held the pistol at the
level of his eyes, pointed at the roof, ready for instant use.
Then she heard Sean's beloved voice, shouting for her in the darkness
beyond the window: 'Bella, where are you?'
She saw Ram6n's dark shape dart to the window, and the pistol glinted in
the light of an exploding grenade as he levelled it.
'Look out, Sean!' she screamed. 'Man with a gun!'
Ram6n fired twice, changing position between each shot. There was no
answering fire from beyond the window. She realized that Sean dare not fire
for fear of hitting her or Nicky.
She rolled from the bed and dropped to the floor on hands and knees.
Frantically she crawled towards the door. She wanted to get to Nicky, she
had to get to Nicky.
Halfway across the hut she felt Ram6n's muscular bare arm whipped around
her neck from behind, and he forced her to her feet. With the last of her
breath, she screamed: 'Sean! He has got me!'
'Bitch,' Ram6n hissed in her car. 'Treacherous bitch.'

533
And then he raised his voice. 'I'll kill herV he shouted. 'I'll blow her
head off.'
Then he dragged her to the door and forced her down the steps. 'Move,
bitch,' he grated. 'Keep moving. I know who Sean is. He won't fire - not
with you as a shield. Move!'
The pressure on her throat was choking her. She could not resist it. He ran
with her towards Nicky's hut. The communications hut was in flames. From
its thatched roof flame and sparks towered into the night sky. It was as
bright as a stage. The serpentine shadows of the palm trunk writhed upon
the pale sandy earth.
They burst into Nicky's hut. Adra and the child were crouched in the centre
of the floor. Adra was covering Nicky with her body.
'Padre!' Nicky shrieked.
'Come with Adra,' Ram6n snapped at him. 'Keep close to her. Follow me.'
In a tight group they left the hut and moved towards the carpark. Ram6n
held Isabella from behind; with his free hand he pressed the pistol to her
head.
'I'll blow her head off,' he called into the dancing. shadows. 'Keep your
distance.'
'Please, Padre, do not hurt Manuna,' Nicky wailed.
'Keep quiet, boy!' Ram6n snarled at him; and then, raising his voice again:
'Call your dogs off, Sean. Unless you want your sister and her son to die.'
After a moment, Sean's voice bellowed out of the shadows: 'Hold your fire,
Scouts! Back off, Scouts!'
Ram6n kept them moving towards one of the jeeps. Isabella was choking for
breath, the muzzle of the pistol was pressed so hard into her ear that the
tender skin tore and a drop of blood ran down her neck.
'Please, you're hurting me,' Isabella gasped.
'Don't hurt Mamma,' Nicholas cried, and twisted out of Adra's grip. He ran
to Isabella's side, and for a moment Adra was isolated, offering a clear
shot.
In the darkness beyond the firelight a yellow flower of

534
gun-flame bloomed, and a single bullet whiplashed across twenty yards of
open ground.
The side of Adra's head dissolved in a liquid red smear. She was snatched
over backwards to hit the earth with her arms flung wide open.
'Adra!' Nicky screamed, but before he could run to her Ram6n grabbed him
around the waist.
'No, leave Adra,' he snapped. 'Stay close to me now, Nicky.'
The three of them were in the centre of a brightly lit stage. There was no
other living soul in view. The corpse of one of the Cuban woman signallers
lay curled against the wall of the burning building, and two dead
paratroopers lay at the gate to the compound.
Ram6n called out an order in Spanish to any of his paratroopers that might
still be alive, but he knew it was a vain effort. He knew the quality of
the attackers. He had recognized the name of her brother the instant
Isabella called it out. Sean's shouted order addressed to the Scouts had
confirmed it. He guessed that his men were all of them dead. They had
probably died in that first storm of gunfire.
These were the notorious Ballantyne Scouts, he was certain of that, but how
they had got here eluded him. He knew only that Isabella had somehow
managed to call them in. They were out there in the shadows, and they would
strike the same way they had killed Adra, swiftly and with deadly accuracy,
if he gave them the faintest chance.
The only advantage he had on his side now was time. He knew that Raleigh
Tabaka would have heard the gunfire and would be leading a relief column of
his guerrillas down from the airfield. They would be here in minutes. He
backed towards the nearest of the three parked jeeps in the motor pool.
Sean watched them over the sights of the AKM. He lay at the base of one of
the palms, the outline of his head broken by a pile of dead fronds. At this
range of forty yards the assault-rifle with the rate-of-fire selector on
single shot

535
was only accurate enough to put a bullet into a two-inch circle. He had
aimed for the bridge of Adra's nose and hit her in the left eye. The bullet
had sheared off the side of her skull.
That kind of accuracy was not sufficient to risk a shot at Ram6n Machado.
The man was good. He was using his two hostages for maximum cover, ducking
and weaving like a boxer so that Scan could never hold a steady bead on his
head.
To Scan, his sister's naked body was disconcerting and shocking in the
yellow firelight. Her breasts were very pale and tcndcr-looking; the stark
black triangle stood out clearly at the base of her belly. He knew that his
Scouts were watching her.
Even in the stress of battle, the way that Ram6n Machado held her against
his own naked body infuriated Sean and threatened to impair his judgement.
He was tempted to risk a shot. His finger on the trigger lacked only an
ounce of pressure, but Ram6n ducked his head behind Isabella's shoulder as
they reached the jeep.
Ram6n slid into the driver's seat and dragged Isabella and the child in
with him. The engine started with a bellow, and sand spun from beneath the
rear wheels as Ram6n accelerated towards the gate.
Sean fired a burst, low at the nearest back wheel, and saw a bullet strike
sparks from the spinning steel hub. Then the jeep crashed into the barrier
gate and ripped out one of the poles. The gate crumpled before its rush,
and the vehicle bounced through the wreckage and roared down the track
dragging a tangle of wire and fencc-poles, behind it like a sleigh.
Sean leapt to his feet and raced to the second jeep. Four of his Scouts
were pelting for the same vehicle and they piled into the back of it as
Sean started the engine. He spun it in a wide circle and then gunned it
through the ruined gate. They jolted over the mangled frame and then roared
in pursuit of Ram6n and his hostages.
If Isabella's skctch-map was accurate, this track would

536
take them down along the river towards the airstrip, and Esau Gondelc's
road-block.
Esau would hose anything that came down the track, from either direction.
An RPG 7 rocket would turn Isabella and her son to mincemeat.
Scan thrust the palm of his hand down on the horn-ring and blew a long
wailing blast. He hoped that Esau Gondelc might understand the warning and
hold his fire, but he knew it was a forlorn hope. Smoked up with boom, the
Scouts would be hot and quick on the trigger.
He had to overtake them. He shoved the pedal flat and roared into the
standing wall of white dust left by the vehicle ahead of him on the narrow
track. The track turned abruptly right, and for a second he lost it and
slewcd over the verge. The jeep canted over on its outside wheels and they
crashed and tore through the light brush before he got her back on to the
track.
The angle of the breeze altered as they turned, and the dust was blown
aside. Only fifty yards ahead he saw the tail-lights of the escaping
vehicle, and he hit it with the full beam of his headlights.
In the front seat Ram6n Machado was driving with one hand. His other arm
was locked around Isabella's shoulders, holding her in an awkward cramped
position. Her head was twisted around on the long column of her neck. Her
hair fluttered and rippled in the wind, and her eyes were dark and wide
with terror in the pale oval of her face. She was shouting something at
him, but the words were whipped away by the wind.
Nicky was clutching the back of Isabella's seat. He was dressed in a white
T-shirt and shorts. He was also looking back at the pursuing jeep, and even
in these desperate moments Sean was struck by the resemblance of the child
to thc~ mother. His fury at the man who threatened them smoked in his
brain, and armed him with reckless courage.
Then he realized that the other jeep was down on one side. The burst of
fire he had given it had ripped the nearside rear tyre. Long tattered
shreds of black rubber

537
peeled from the spinning rim. The tangle of fencing wire and the crumpled
pipe-frame of the gate dragged behind the damaged vehicle like a drogue,
tearing up a spray of sand and dust from the track and slowing it down.
He was gaining on them rapidly. The track had turned away from the beach
and was running alongside the steep bank of the river. The mangrove trees
loomed in the headlights of the two racing vehicles, and between their
trunks the dark water glinted sullenly.
Ram6n glanced back over his shoulder and realized that the other jeep was
only three feet from his tail-gate. He ducked his head and released his
grip on Bella. He snatched the pistol from his lap and twisted around to
aim at Sean's face. The range was under twelve feet, but both jeeps were
pounding and swerving over the rough track. The bullet struck the side-post
of the windscreen and ricocheted away into the darkness.
One of the Scouts thrust his rifle forward to return fire, but Scan struck
the barrel upwards.
'Hold your fire,' he shouted, and drove into the back of the other jeep
with a ringing clash of metal.
The impact snapped their heads backwards, and Nicky was thrown over the
rear seat with his legs kicking in the air as he struggled to regain his
balance.
Jump,' Sean howled at Isabella, but before she could react Ram6n grabbed
her again and pulled her close.
Once again Sean butted his jeep into the back of the other vehicle. It
crushed in the tail-gate and slewed it half off the track.
Ram6n was struggling one-handed to hold it on the road. The back end was
swinging wildly. Dust boiled out from the rear wheels in a cloud,
half-blinding Sean. Isabella was screaming, and Nicky scrambled up and
crouched on the rear seat. His face was white and terrified.
Another bend in the track flung the leading vehicle up on to the verge.
While Ram6n tried desperately to control it, Sean saw his chance and gunned
his own jeep up

538
alongside it. For a second they were racing side-by-side like a team in
harness.
Ram6n Machado and Sean Courtney looked into'each other's eyes at a distance
of six feet, and hatred flashed between them like a discharge of static
electricity. It was a primeval emotion, a deep atavistic understanding as
two dominant males met and recognized that one must kill the other.
Sean spun the wheel hard left and swerved into him, forcing his far wheels
off the track. The bole of a palm tree wiped off the paintwork and smeared
the metal down the length of the vehicle. Ram6n swerved back and hit Sean
as hard.
Then Ram6n released his grip on Isabella and once again snatched the pistol
from his naked lap and thrust it into Sean's face, reaching out between the
speeding jeeps. Ram6n's face was a dark mask of fury and hatred.
Isabella threw herself sideways and grabbed the steering-wheel. As Ram6n
fired she wrenched it over with all her strength. The bullet flew away into
the night, and the jeep whipped into a murderous skid and plunged over the
riverbank.
In the instant before it disappeared Sean saw both Isabella and Ram6n
hurled head first against the windscreen, and from the back seat Nicky's
small form was catapulted high into the darkness. Then he was past, braking
hard, wrestling with the wheel as the jeep slewed into a broadside skid.
The moment he had her under control, Sean snapped the gear lever into
reverse and roared backwards to the point where the other vehicle had
disappeared.
Dust still hung in the air, and the earth at the crest of the bank was torn
by the spinning tyres. Sean leapt from the driver's seat and ran to the top
of the bank. The jeep was in the river below him. The headlights were still
burning beneath the surface, like two drowned moons. She had capsized, and
her rear wheels were spinning in a froth of white foam. Nicky's small
crumpled body lay on the bank at the water's edge.

539
Sean launched himself down the bank. Sliding and slipping, he kept his
footing like a cat and used his momentum to carry him out in a long clean
racing dive. He hit the water flat like an Olympic racer.
He drove himself down deep. The headlights burnt through the murk, and his
underwater vision was blurred and distorted. He reached the carcass of the
submerged jeep and pulled himself down under it. The air in the rear
fuel-tank was holding it just clear of the muddy bottom, and he wriggled
into the opening.
Something pale loomed in front of him, and he reached out and touched a
naked body. Quickly he ran his hands over it and touched large smooth
breasts. He reached up and seized a handful of the long floating hair and
dragged Isabella out from under the wreck.
He surfaced with her in his arms and found with relief that she was choking
and gasping and struggling weakly. He dragged her to the bank. One of the
Scouts had shown enough presence of mind to drive the jeep to the lip of
the bank so that the beam of the headlights shone down and gave them light.
Isabella crawled naked and running with water to where Nicky lay and drew
him into her lap. He began to struggle and kick.
'My father,' he wailed. 'Mi padreP
Knee-deep in the mud, Sean peered down into the water. Water had flooded
the engine of the jeep and stalled it, but the lights still burnt in the
depths.
Swiftly he weighed the need for haste against his desire to find Ram6n
Machado. He knew that reinforcements must even now be on the way from the
guerrilla camp. They had only minutes in hand. He was about to turn away
and go to help Isabella, to get her and the child up the bank, when he saw
a flash of movement in the water. A shadow passed as though a shark had
swum between him and the submerged headlights.
Bastard! he thought, and shouted to his men on the bank above him: 'Bring
me my rifle.'

540
One of them came sliding down the bank. Before he could reach Sean and hand
him the AKM, there was a swirl in the muddy water. It was far out in the
river at the edge of the light, and Ram6n's head burst through.
'Get himP roared Sean. 'Nail the bastard!'
Ram6n's hair was slicked down over his eyes, and water streamed down his
face as he gasped wildly for air. One of the Scouts on the bank fired a
short burst, and the bullets flickered a spray of water from the surface
around Ram6n's head. Ram6n drew another breath, and ducked under. For a
moment his bare feet showed above the surface, kicking in the air, and then
he was gone.
'Bastard! BastardV Sean swore, and snatched his own AKM from the hands of
his Scout as the man reached him. He fired a long angry frustrated burst
into the river, and the bullets chopped up a patch of dancing froth on the
spot where Ram6n had disappeared.
Then he checked his fury and waited for Ram6n's head to show again, but the
tide was ripping downstream carrying everything with it. Out there were
dark and twisted mangroves behind which Ram6n could shelter, and beyond the
beams of the headlights the waters were dark and obscure.
After another minute he knew he had lost him. He had to let him go. He
crushed down his frustration and his hatred and turned back to Isabella.
She was wet and smeared with mud. The edge of the windscreen had opened a
cut in her hairline, and a trickle of blood diluted by river-water was
spreading down her face.
Sean shrugged out of his sodden jersey and helped her into it.
As she thrust her arms through the sleeves she gasped: 'What happened to
Ram6n?
'The bastard gapped it.' Sean hauled her to her feet. 'Time is wasting.
We're out of here.'
Nicky broke from his mother's grip and darted to the edge of the water.
'My father - I will not. leave my father.'

541
Scan -grabbed him by one arm. 'Come on, Nicky.' Nicholas whirled and sank
his small white teeth into Sean's wrist.
'You little swine.' Sean clouted him open-handed across the side of his
head, almost knocking him off his feet. 'No more of your little dago
tricks, matey.'
He picked him up, kicking and fighting, and slung him over his shoulder.
'I will not go. I want to stay with mi padre.'
Sean grabbed Isabella's hand and, carrying Nicky easily, he pulled her up
the bank. There were other figures around the jeep, and for a moment Sean
did not recognize them. He dropped Isabella's hand and lifted the AKM by
the pistol grip.
'Hold it, Sean,' Esau Gondele cautioned him as he ran forward.
'Where did you spring from?'
'You almost ran into our ambush,' Esau told him. 'You were just one second
away from getting an RPG rocket up your backside. We are back there.' He
pointed up the track.
'Where are your boats?'
'Two hundred yards up-river.'
'Pull your men out - we'll hitch a ride back with you.' He broke off and
cocked his head.
'Douse those fights,' Esau Gondele snapped at one of his men. He leant into
the parked jeep and hit the switch. The headlights faded.
In the darkness they stood listening.
'Trucks coming fast from the direction of the airstrip.' They all heard
them clearly in the stillness.
'More gooks,' Esau agreed.
'Take us to the boats,' Sean ordered. 'Tout de suite - and the tooter the
sweeter.'
They ran in a group, keeping to the track. A hundred yards along, Esau
Gondele whistled, the sharp double flute of a night-flying dikkop, one of
the Scouts' recognitionsignals. The whistle was repeated from the darkness
just

542
ahead, and Sean stumbled over the dead palm trunks that they had dragged
across the track as a road-block.
'Come on,' Esau Gondele called them off the track. 'The boats are this
way.'
As he spoke they saw the moving headlights through the trees ahead. A
convoy of vehicles was speeding down the track towards them from the
direction of the airstrip.
Nicholas was still kicking and struggling in Sean's grip, and Isabella was
trying desperately to reassure him.
'It will be all right, Nicky darling. These people are our friends. They
are taking us home to a safe place.'
'This is my home - I want my father. They killed Adra. I hate them! I hate
you! I hate themV he screamed in Spanish.
Sean shook him violently. 'One more peep out of you, my old China, and I'll
knock your cocky little head right off your shoulders.'
'This way.'Esau Gondele led them at a run away from the road-block. Within
fifty yards they reached the riverbank where the boats were moored.
Sean glanced back and saw the convoy of trucks come rumbling around a bend
in the road. The beams of their headlights swept overhead, but they were
hidden from them by the angle of the riverbank. In the lights Sean saw that
the back of each truck was crowded with armed men.
Sean lifted Isabella into the nearest inflatable boat, and she tripped on
the wet folds of the jersey that hung around her legs and sprawled in the
bilges.
'Clumsy bint,' he grunted, and threw Nicky into the boat after her. It was
a mistake.
Nicky rebounded like a rubber ball, and as Sean tried to grab him he ducked
under his arm and shot up the bank.
'You little devil.' Sean whirled and went after him.
'My baby,' Isabella cried, and jumped out of the boat. She sloshed through
the mud and raced up the bank in pursuit of the two of them.
'Come back, Nicky - oh, please, come back.'
He was running towards the approaching convoy. Like 543
a hare he ducked and dodged through the brush ahead of Sean. He was twenty
feet short of the track when Sean dived and caught him by the ankle. Seconds
later Isabella tripped over them and sprawled full-length on the soft sandy
earth.
The headlights of the convoy swept over them, but the three of them were
lying behind a clump of low bush, concealed from the men in the cab of the
leading truck. Nicky screamed again and tried to crawl away, but Sean
pinned him and covered his mouth with the palm of one hand.
The trucks bore down upon them and then braked as they saw the palm trunks
that blocked the road. The leading truck in the convoy drew up only twenty
feet from where they lay in darkness.
Still smothering Nicky under him, Sean reached out and pushed Isabella's
face down to the earth. A white face shines like a mirror.
From the cab of the truck a man jumped down and ran forward to inspect the
road-block, then he turned and shouted an order. A dozen guerrillas in
combat camouflage swarmed from the back of the truck and seized the tree
trunks.
As they lifted and dragged them clear, the headlights lit the face of the
officer who commanded them. Isabella lifted her head and saw his features
clearly. She recognized him immediately. It was not a face ever to forget.
The last time she had seen this man he had been a passenger in the van
driven by her half-brother, Ben Afrika. The two of them had been on their
way to a rendezvous with Michael Courtney. He was probably the
finest-looking black man she had ever seen, tall, regal and fierce as a
hawk.
He turned his head and, for a moment, seemed to stare directly at her. Then
he turned again to watch his men roll the logs aside. The moment the road
was clear he strode to the cab of the truck and vaulted into it. He slammed
the door, and the truck roared forward.
The troop convoy followed it. As the last pair of head-
544
lights swept past them, Sean tucked Nicky under his arm, pulled Isabella to
her feet and hurried her back towards the riverbank.
Sean kept a firm grip on the scruff of Nicholas's neck in the leading boat
~ as the flotilla ran back down-river. The glow from the burning huts lit
the underbelly of the clouds, and even above the sound of the outboard
motors they heard the shouts and the sound of automatic gunfire.
'What are they shooting at?' Isabella asked, as she huddled against Sean
for warmth.
'Probably at shadows - or at each other,' he chuckled softly. 'Nothing
quite like a nervous gook with a rifle in his hand for burning up ammo.'
The outgoing tide sped them through the mouth into the lagoon. Through his
nightscope Esau Gondele picked up the wake of the other flotilla of
inflatables, heading back from the beach. They came together as they
reached the pass in the reef and in line ahead headed out into the open
sea.
Lancer in her bright yellow paint showed up through the lens of the
nightscope at half a mile distance.
As soon as they had recovered the last inflatable through the stern chute
of the trawler, she opened up her engines and ran for the open Atlantic.
Sean turned to Esau Gondele. 'What was the butcher bill, Sergeant-Major
Gondele?'
'We lost one man, Major Courtney,' he replied as formally. 'Jeremiah
Masoga. We brought him back with us.' The Scouts always retrieved their
dead.
Sean felt that familiar sickening pang; another good man gone. Jeremiah was
only nineteen years old. Sean had already decided to give him his second
stripe. He wished now that he had done it before this. You can never make
amends to the dead.
'Three wounded; nothing bad enough to make them miss the party tonight.'
'Put Jeremiah in the refrigerated hold,' Sean ordered.

545
'We'll ship him home as soon as we reach Cape Town. He'll get a regimental
burial with full honours.'
When they were still two hundred nautical miles from Table Bay, Centaine
Courtney sent out a Courtney helicopter to pick up Sean and Isabella and
Nicky. The old lady could not wait any longer to meet her greatgrandson.

Ram6n clung to the roots of one of the mangrove trees to steady himself
against the drag of the outgoing tide as it funnelled through the
river-mouth. The razor-edged shells of the fresh-water mussels that covered
the stem cut into his hand, but he hardly felt the pain. He was staring out
across the river.
The reflection from the flames of the burning compound flecked the surface
of the water with sovereigns of gold.
The boats passed within fifty feet of where he crouched chin-deep in the
mud and slime of the mangroves. Their motors buzzed softly in the stillness
of the night. Their outlines were indistinct, three dark hippo shapes that
passed swiftly on the tide heading for the mouth and the open sea - but he
imagined that one of the figures in the leading boat was smaller than the
others and wore a pale T-shirt.
It was only then, in the moment of losing him, that he realized that he
was, after all, just another father. For the first time in his life he
acknowledged his love and dependence upon that love. He loved his son and
he was losing him. He groaned in anguish.
Then rage boiled up in him and burnt away all other feeling. It was a
consuming anger against all those who had inflicted this loss upon him. He
stared into the empty darkness that had swallowed his son, and the fire of
vengeance burnt through every fibre of his being. He wanted to shout this
fury after them. He wanted to rail against the

546
woman, he wknted to curse and scream out his frustration, but he caught
himself. That was not his way. He must be cold and sharp as steel now. He
must think clearly and with icy purpose.
The first thought that came into his mind was that he had lost his hold on
Red Rose. She was no longer of any value to him or the cause. Now she was
the sacrifice. He knew how to destroy her and all those around her. The
hilt of the weapon was in his head; it only remained to unsheathe it.
He pushed off from the mangrove and let the tide sweep him into the curve
of the river, swimming across it with an easy breast-stroke. The bottom
shelved gently under him, and he touched sand and waded ashore.
Raleigh Tabaka was waiting for him beside the burnt-out ruins of the
communications centre. Ram6n dressed hastily in borrowed trousers and
jacket; his hair was still damp and matted with river-mud.
Smoke from the smouldering buildings hazed the first grey light of dawn.
Raleigh Tabaka's men were recovering the corpses and laying them out in a
long row under the palms. In rigor mortis they were locked into the
attitudes in which they had met their deaths. It was a grotesque charade
show.
Jos6, the paratrooper, had one arm thrown over his face
as though protecting his eyes. His chest was mangled by
grenade shrapnel. Adra's arms were extended as though
she hung on a crucifix, and half her head was mi ' ssing.
Ram6n glanced at her without particular interest, as he
might at a worn-out article of clothing which no longer had
any utility for him.
'How many?' he asked Raleigh Tabaka.
'Twenty-six,' he replied. 'All of them. There were no survivors. Whoever it
was, they did a thorough job. Who were they? Do you have any idea?'
'Yes,' Ram6n nodded, 'I have a very good idea.' And before Raleigh could
speak again Ram6n told him: 'I am taking over the Cyndex project -
personally.'

547
'Comrade-General' - Raleigh frowned with affront -'that has been my
operation from the very beginning. I have controlled the two brothers.'
'Yes,' Ram6n agreed implacably. 'You have done very well. You will receive
all the recognition that you deserve. But I am taking over the direction of
the project. I will leave for the south as soon as an aircraft is
available. You will accompany me.'

'It doesn't end here, Bella,' Shasa said gravely. 'We cannot just pretend
that nothing else happened. I did not want to complicate the rescue attempt
by considering the full murky depths of this whole dreadful business.
However, now Nicholas is safe here at Weltevreden we are forced to do so.
Many people, including the members of your family, risked their lives for
you and Nicholas. One gallant young man, a stranger, a trooper of Sean's
regiment, died to save you. Now you owe us the truth.'
They were assembled in the gun-room once again, and Isabella was on trial
before the family.
Her grandmother sat in the chair to one side of the fireplace. She sat very
straight. Her hand on the ivory head of her cane was blue-veined beneath
the thin parchment of skin. Her hair, once a thick unmanageable bush, was
now the purest silver cap washed with a hint of blue. Her expression was
severe.
'We want to hear it all, Isabella. You will not leave this room until you
have told every detail.'
'Nana, I am so ashamed. I had no choice.'
'I did not ask for excuses and self-abasement, missy. I want the truth.'
'You must understand, Bella. We know that you have done terrible damage to
the national interest, to the family, to yourself Now it is our duty to
contain and control that damage.' Shasa stood in front of the fireplace
with his hands clasped under the tails of his blazer. His tone had

548
moderated. 'We want to help you, but we must know the truth before we can do
so.'
Isabella looked up at him with a hunted expression. 'Can I talk to you and
Nana alone?' She glanced at her brothers. Garry lolled in the armchair
under the window with thumbs hooked in his gaudy braces. He rolled an unlit
cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. Sean sat on the windowsill,
his legs thrust straight out in front of him. His bare arms, tanned and
sleek with muscle, were crossed over his chest.
'No,' said Centaine firmly. 'The boys have risked their lives for you and
Nicky. If you have stored up more trouble for yourself and the family, they
are the ones who will be called upon to bail you out. No, you don't get out
of it that easily. They deserve to hear everything you have to tell us.
Don't leave anything out - do you hear me?'
Slowly Isabella lowered her face into her hands. 'They gave me the
code-name Red Rose.'
'Speak up, girl. Don't mumble.' Centaine banged her cane on the floor
between her feet, and Isabella started and looked up.
'I did everything they told me to,' she said, looking the old lady in the
face. 'When Nicky was still an infant, just over a month old, they made a
film and showed it to me. They-almost drowned my baby. They held him by the
feet and ducked him . . . 'She broke off, and then drew a deep breath to
steady herself. 'They warned me that in the next film they would cut off
parts of his body and then send them to me his fingers, his toes, his arms
and legs and then . She choked on the word. 'And then his head.'
They were all silent and appalled until Centaine spoke.
'Go on.'
'They told me I must work for Daddy. I must inveigle myself into his
Armscor work.' Shasa winced, and Isabella twisted her fingers together.
'I'm sorry, Daddy. They told me that I must enter politics, stand for
Parliament, use the family connection.'

549
'I should have suspected your sudden political aspirations,' Centaine said
bitterly.
'I'm sorry, Nana.'
'Don't keep saying you're sorry,' Centaine snapped. 'It does not contribute
anything worthwhile and it is damnably irritating. just get on with it,
child.'
'For a while they asked nothing of me - for almost two years. Then the
orders started to come. The first was the Siemens radar chain.'
Shasa grunted and was about to speak, then he checked himself and reached
for the handkerchief in the breast pocket of his blazer.
'Then they wanted more and more.'
'The Skylight project?' Shasa asked, and when she nodded he glanced at
Centaine.
'You were right, Mater.' He looked back at his daughter. 'You will have to
write it all down. Everything you ever gave them. I want a list - dates,
documents, meetings, everything. We must know everything that is compro-
mised.'
'Daddy . Isabella began, and then for a moment she could not go on.
'Spit it out, missy,' Centaine ordered.
'CyndeX 25,' Isabella said.
'Oh God - noP Shasa breathed.
'That was why they gave me access to Nicky this last time - the Cyndex
specifications and Ben.'
'Ben?' Garry straightened up in his chair. 'Who is Ben?'
'Ben Gama,' Centaine said harshly. 'Tara's little black bastard, the son of
Moses Gama. The man that killed my Blaine, the man that disgraced this
family.' She looked at Isabella for confirmation.
'Yes, Nana. My half-brother, Ben.' She looked'at her brothers. 'Your
half-brother, too, only he doesn't call himself Ben Gama now, he calls
himself Benjamin Afrika.'
'Why do I know that name?' Garry asked.
'Because he works for you,' Isabella said. 'They made me arrange a job for
him. I recruited him for Capricorn

550
when I was in London. He works for Capricorn Chemicals as a laboratory
technician, in the poisons division.'
'In the Cyndex plant?' Shasa asked with disbelief. 'You didn't get him in
thereF
'Yes, Pater, I did.' She was about to apologize again but then looked at
her grandmother's face.
Garry leapt out of his chair and strode to the desk. He seized the
telephone and spoke to the operator on the Weltevieden exchange.
'Get me a call to Capricorn Chemicals - you've got the number, haven't you?
I want to speak to the managing director immediately - it's urgent, very
urgent. Call me back here the moment you have him on the line.'
He replaced the telephone. 'We'll have to have him, Ben, we'll have to have
him taken in for questioning right away. If they placed him in the plant,
it was for some good or, rather, for some nefarious reason.'
'He is one of them,' Centaine burst out. None of them had ever heard such
bitterness in her tone or seen such hatred on her face. They all stared at
her in horror. 'He is one of the revolutionaries, the destroyers. With that
black Satan as his father and Tara to poison his mind over all the years,
he must be one of them. God grant that we can prevent whatever terrible
thing they are planning.'
They were all of them subdued by the horror of their imaginings.
The~ telephone split the silence, and Garry snatched up the receiver. 'I
have the managing director of Capricorn on the fine.'
'Good. Put him on. Hallo, Paul. Thank God, I got you. Hold on one second.'
He pressed the 'conference' key on the telephone so that they could all
hear the conversation.
'Listen, Paul. You have an employee in the poisons division. In the new
pesticide plant. Benjamin Afrika.'
'Yes, Mr Courtney. I don't know him personally, but the name is vaguely
familiar. Hold on, let me get the computer print on him. Yes, here we go.
Benjamin Afrika. He joined us in April.'

551
'OK, Paul. I want him arrested and held by the company security guards. He
is to be held completely incommunicado, do you understand that? No phone
calls. No lawyers. No press. Nothing.'
'Can we do that, Mr Courtney?'
'I can do anything I want to, Paul. Bear that in mind. Give the order for
his arrest now. I'll hold on while you do it.'
,It will take two seconds,' the managing director agreed. They heard his
voice in the background as he spoke to security over the internal circuit.
'All right, Mr Courtney. They are on their way to get Afrika.'
'Now, listen, Paul. What is the position with the Cyndex manufacturing
programme? Have you started to ship to the Army yet?'
'Not yet, Mr Courtney. The first shipment is due to go out next Tuesday.
The ordnance are sending their own trucks.'
'OK, Paul. What stocks are you holding at the moment?'
'Let me check the computer.' Paul's voice was starting to betray his
agitation. 'At the moment in the five-kilo artillery canisters we have 635
each of Formula A and B, in the fifty-kilo aerial cylinders we have
twenty-six of each of both formulas. They will go to the Air Force at the
end of next week-'
Garry cut him off. 'Paul, I want a physical count of every canister and
cylinder. I want some of your senior men in the storage area right away to
check the serial numbers of each piece against the plant manifest - and I
want it done within the next hour.'
'Is something wrong, Mr Courtney?'
'I'll tell you that when you have the results of your stock-take for me.
I'll be waiting at this number. Come back to me as soon as you can - or
come back a damned sight sooner than that.'
As he hung up Sean demanded: 'How soon can you get us to Capricorn?'

552
'The Lear is out of action. DCA want a full overhaul of the airframe and a
new airworthiness certificate after that missile strike.'
'How soon, Garry?' Sean insisted, and Garry thought for a second.
'The Queen Air is so slow, but it will be quicker than waiting for the
scheduled flight to Johannesburg. At least we will be able to fly directly
to the airstrip at the Capricorn plant. If we leave in the next hour, we
could be there early this afternoon.'
'Shouldn't we notify the police?' Shasa asked, and Centaine banged her
stick imperiously.
'No police. Not yet - not ever, if we can help it. Grab Tara's black
bastard and beat the truth out of him if we have to, but we must try to
keep this in the family.' She broke off as the telephone rang.
Garry picked it up and listened for a few seconds. Then he said: 'I see.
Thank you, Paul. I'm flying up right away. I should be at the Capricorn
strip by one this afternoon.' He hung up and looked around their anxious
faces. 'The little brown bird has flown. Benjamin Afrika hasn't showed up
at the plant for the last four days. Nobody has heard from him. Nobody
knows where he is.'
'What about the stocks of Cyndex?' Shasa demanded.
'They are checking them. They'll have the results when we land at
Capricorn,' Garry told him. 'Pater and Nana must stay here at Weltevreden
to liaise at this end. If you need to get a message to us while we are in
the air, you can telephone Information at Jan Smuts Airport control and get
them to relay.' He looked across at his brother.
'Sean will come with me. I might need some muscle.'
Sean sauntered across to his father and held out his hand. 'Keys of the
gun-safe, please, Pater.'
Shasa handed them over, and Sean turned the lock on the heavy steel door
and swung it open. He stepped into the safe and studied the rack of
revolvers and pistols for a moment before he selected a .357 magnum Smith
& Wesson revolver. He took down a packet of ammunition from the

553
shelf above it and thrust the revolver into the belt of his jeans.
'I'd better take one as well.' Garry went to the safe.
'Garry,' Isabella called after him, 'I'm coming with you and Sean.'
'Forget it, Mavourneen.' Garry didn't even look round at her as he selected
a Heckler & Koch 9-millimetre parabellum from the rack. 'There is nothing
further that you can contribute.'
'Yes, there is. You don't know what Ben looks like. I can recognize him -
and there is something else I haven't told you yet.'
'What is it?'
'I'll tell you when we arc in the air.'

Garry levelled the twin-cngine Beechcraft Queen Air on her northerly heading
and turned in his seat to beckon to Isabella where she sat in the main
passenger-cabin.
She unfastened her seat-belt and went up to the cockpit, and Icant over the
back of Garry's scat.
'OK, Bella. Let's hear it. What else can you tell us?'
She looked across at Sean in the co-pilot's so-at.
'Do you remember the night at the Chicamba river when Nicky tried to escape
and you and I ran back to catch him?'
Sean nodded and she went on: 'You remember the guerrilla officer in the
first truck, the one who supervised the clearing of the road-block? Well,
I got a really good look at him and I knew I had seen him before. I was
absolutely certain of it, but it didn't make any sense, not until now.'
'When and where had you seen him?'
'He was with Ben - and they were going into Michael's farm at Firgrove.'
'Michael?' Garry cut in. 'Our Michael?'
'Yes,' she confirmed. 'Michael Courtney.'
'You think Michael is mixed up in this?'

554
'Well, don't you think so? Otherwise what would he be doing with that ANC
terrorist commander - and Ben?'
They were all silent thinking about it for a while, then Isabella went on:
'Garry, you obviously suspect that Ben has stolen a cylinder or two of
Cyndex. If he's mixed up with terrorists, how do you think they would use
it? Spray it from an aircraft perhaps?'
'Yes, that is the most likely way.'
'Michael has a plane at Firgrove.'
'Oh shit,' Garry whispered. 'Please don't let it be true. Not Mickey -
please, not Mickey.'
'Michael has been publishing that commie rag of his for years,' Sean
pointed out grimly. 'And he's got very chummy with a lot of the uglies in
the process.'
Nobody answered him. Garry said: 'Bella, get us each a Coke, please.'
She went back to the refrigerator in the bar and brought two cans. They
drank, and Sean lowered the can and belched softly. 'The Rand Easter Show
opened this morning,' he said, and Garry looked at him.
'What the hell has that got to do with it?'
'Nothing.' Sean grinned at him wickedly. 'The Rand Easter Show - the
biggest, glitziest show in the country. Half a million people all in one
place. All of industry showing its products, the farmers, the businessmen
- every goddam tinker, tailor and Indian chief will be there. The grand
opening this evening at eight o'clock, the fireworks display, and the
military tattoo and the stock-car racing and the show jumping. The prime
minister making a speech, and all the big shots in their dark suits and
carnation button-holes. Hell, of course, it means nothing.'
'Don't fool around, Sean,' Garry grated at him.
'You're absolutely right, Garry.' Sean kept on grinning. 'I mean, at heart
the ANC are really decent civilized fellows. Just because they let off a
few car bombs, and put burning motor-car tyres around people's necks,
doesn't mean they don't have beautiful souls. Hell, don't let's judge them
too harshly. A Russian limpet mine in a crowded supermarket

555
is one thing, but they'd never dream of spraying the Rand Easter Show with
CyndeX 25 would they?'
'No.' Garry shook his head. 'I mean, Ben and Mickey are our own brothers.
They wouldn't - no . . .' His voice trailed off, and then he said angrily:
'Damn it, if only we had the Lear, we'd be there by now.'
The radio squawked, and Garry adjusted his headphones.
'Charlie Sierra X-Ray, this is Jan Smuts Information. I have a relay for
you from Capricorn. Are you ready to copy?'
'Go ahead, Information.'
'Message reads: All stocks and serial numbers tally. Message ends.'
'Thank God,' Garry breathed.
'Tell them to check what's inside the cylinders,' Sean suggested mildly,
and Garry's expression altered. .
'Information, please relay to Capricorn. Message reads: Take samples from
all containers. Message ends.'
Garry removed his headphones. 'I want so badly for it not to be true,' he
said. 'But you're right, Sean. They aren't idiots. It would be simple
enough to stamp a couple of empty cylinders with false numbers and
substitute them in the stock-room.'
'How much longer?'
Garry checked his navigation. 'Another hour - thank the Lord for this
tail-wind.'
Sean looked round at his sister. 'Do me a big favour, sweetheart. Next time
you fancy a little bit of nooky, pick somebody a mite tamer - like Jack the
Ripper.'
The Capricorn airstrip was marked by the gigantic figure of the goat laid
out artistically in white quartz. It stood out clearly on the brown veld
from a distance of five miles. Garry touched down smoothly and taxied to
the hangar building where four vehicles and a group of Capricorn employees
headed by Paul, the managing director, were waiting to receive them.
As Garry and Sean jumped down from the Queen Air

556
and turned to give Isabella a hand, Paul rushed forward.
'Mr Courtney, you were right. Two of the small canisters contain only
carbon dioxide gas. Somebody has switched them. There are ten kilos of
Cyndex 25 out there somewhere!'
They stared at him in total horror. Ten kilos could wipe out an army.
'It's time to call in the police. They've got to pick up Ben Afrika. Do we
have his address?' Sean asked.
'I have already sent somebody to his home,' Paul cut in. 'He isn't there.
His landlady says she hasn't seen him for the last few days. He hasn't
eaten or slept there.'
'Firgrove,' Isabella said softly.
'Right,' Garry snapped. 'Sean, you'd better get out there right away. Take
Bella with you to show you the way and to identify Ben if you run into him.
I'll run things from this end. I'll be in the boardroom. Call me as soon as
you get to Firgrove. I'll get police back-up for you and raise hell all
round. We've got to get hold of those missing canisters.'
Sean turned to Paul. 'I need a car - a fast one.'
'Take mine.' He pointed to a new BMW parked next to the hangar. 'The tank
is full. Here are the keys.'
'Come on, Bella. Let's go.' They ran to the BMW.
'Don't get stopped by the traffic cops, Fangio,' Bella warned him, as he
pushed the BMW hard along the highway. 'We should have sent the cops out to
Firgrove before we left Cape Town. God, it's three o'clock already.'
'We couldn't do anything until we were sure that someone had ripped off a
couple of Cyndex tanks,' Sean pointed out.
He leant Across and switched on the car radio. Bella glanced at him
enquiringly.
'Three o'clock news,' he explained and turned to Radio Highveld. It was the
third item on the newscast.
'Since this morning record crowds have been passing through the gates of
the Rand Easter Show. Today is the opening day. A spokesman for the show
committee stated

557
that by noon today more than two hundred thousand visitors had already
entered the grounds.'
Sean switched off the set and then slammed his clenched fist against the
dashboard of the BMW.
'MichaelP he shouted. 'It's always the bleeding hearts that are capable of
the wildest excesses. How many innocents have been tortured and murdered in
the name of God, peace and the fellowship of men?' He hit the dashboard
again, and Bella reached across to touch his arm.
'Slow down, Sean. You take the next exit right.' Bella hung on to the
door-handle as he swung the BMW into the bend.
'How much further?'
'Only a couple of miles.'
Sean pulled back the tail of his coat and drew the Smith & Wesson from his
belt. With his thumb he spun the chambers.
'What are you going to do with that?' Bella asked nervously. 'Ben and
Mickey-'
'Ben and Mickey have got nice friends,' he said, and slipped the revolver
into his belt.
'There it is.' Bella leant forward in the seat and pointed ahead. 'That's
the gate to Mickey's place.'
Sean slowed the BMW and turned off on to the dirt track. He drove sedately
through the blue-gum plantation until they glimpsed the buildings ahead.
Then he stopped and reversed the BMW across the track.
'Why are you doing that?' Bella asked.
'I'm going in on foot,' Sean told her. 'No point in announcing my arrival.'
'But why are you parking across the road?'
'To stop anybody trying to leave in a hurry.' He pulled the keys from the
ignition and jumped out. 'You wait here. No, not in the car. Hide in the
trees over there, and don't even stick your head up until I call you out,
do you hear?'
'Yes, Sean.'
'And don't slam the door,' he told her as she slipped out

558
of the passenger-seat. 'Now, give it to me. Where does Mickey keep his
plane?'
'Behind the house at the end of the orchard.' She pointed. 'You can't see
it from here but you won't miss it. It's a big corrupted-tin shed, all
rusty and ramshackle.'
'Sounds like our Mickey,' Sean muttered. 'Now, remember what I told you.
Stay out of the way.' He began to run.
He stayed off the track and kept the trees of the orchard and the
chicken-shed between him and the buildings. It was only a few hundred yards
to the veranda of the main house. There were chickens clucking and
scratching around his feet as he crouched behind the wall and quickly
surveyed the building. The front door and all the windows were wide open,
but there was no sign of the occupants.
Sean vaulted easily over the wall and slipped through the front door. The
sitting-room and kitchen were empty, although dirty dishes and glasses were
piled in the sink. There were three bedrooms, and all of them had been
recently occupied. The beds were unmade, and there was discarded clothing
on the floor and men's toilet items in the bathrooms and on the
dressing-tables.
Sean picked up a shirt and turned the collar. A name-tag embroidered in red
thread was stitched into the inside of it: 'B. Afrika.'
He dropped the shirt and ran back silently to the kitchen door. It stood
open on to the orchard of scraggly insectravaged fruit trees. Beyond them
rose the corrugated-iron roof of a large shed, and from a stubby roof-mast
a sadlooking wind-sock drooped like a used condom.
Sean darted into the orchard and dodged between the fruit trees until he
reached the wall of the shed. He flattened himself against it and laid his
ear to the thin corrugated galvanized sheet. Through it he heard the murmur
of men's voices, too indistinct to understand the words. He checked the
revolver in his belt, making certain the butt was at hand for a quick draw,
and he eased himself along the back wall of the shed towards the small
green wooden door.

559
Before he reached it, the door swung open and two men stepped out into the
sunlight.

Ben Afrika was good with his hands and prided himself on the quality of his
workmanship. He knelt on the pilot's seat of the Cessna Centurion aircraft
and tightened the final bolts that held the twin cylinders to the deck in
front of the right-hand passenger-seat.
He had drilled the bolt-holes with care so as not to damage any of the
control cables which ran under the floorboards. Of course, he could have
let the cylinders lie loose on the cabin floor, but that would have
offended his engineering sense. There was always a danger of air turbulence
in flight that might damage the valve or the tubing. He had positioned the
steel bottles so that, while in flight, either the pilot or his passenger
could reach the valve-handle readily.
The bottle that contained element A was painted in a black-and-white
chequered pattern with three red rings around the middle. Element B was in
a crimson bottle with a single black ring. Each bottle was stamped with its
unique serial number.
It had taken all Ben's skill to forge two ordinary medical oxygen-bottles
to exactly the same exterior appearance. He had engraved the serial numbers
by hand. The bottles were small enough to be smuggled in and out of the
Capricorn plant in pockets specially sewn into his overcoat. It had called
for ingenuity and immaculate timing to get them through the security check
at the main gate of the plant.
The bottles were joined by a stainless-steel T-piece that screwed into the
special left-hand thread in the necks. Ben had turned the fittings on' the
small secondhand lathe in the rear of the hangar. To operate them, first
the taps on each bottle were screwed open, and after that a half-turn on
the swinging valve-handle of the T-piece allowed the twin elements to
mingle and become active. From there the 56o
nerve gas flowed under pressure into the flexible armoured hose. The hose
led back between the front seats into the rear luggage-compartment.
Ben had drilled a three-centimetre hole clean through both the floorboards
of the compartment and the outer metal skin of the Centurion. The end of
the gas-hose passed out of this hole and protruded ten centimetres below
the fuselage. He had fixed the hose in place, and sealed the narrow gap
where it passed through the fuselage with Pratleys putty that dried as hard
as iron.
The gas would spray from below the aircraft well behind the line of the
front seats, and would be carried back in the slipstream without any danger
of reaching the occupants of the Centurion. However, as an added protection
they would wear safety-suits and breathe bottled oxygen during the release
of the gas.
The suits hung on the hangar wall, ready to be donned in minutes. They were
commercially marketed full-length protection-suits approved by the Fire
Department for use by proto rescue teams in the gold mines.
For a second time Ben put a spanner on each of the hose connections and the
joints of the T-piece to satisfy himself that there were no leaks. At last
he grunted with satisfaction and backed out of the open cabin-door. He
wiped his hands on a piece of cotton waste and went across to the workbench
against the nearest wall.
The other two men were leaning over the bench studying the map. Ben came up
behind Michael Courtney and draped his arm affectionately over his
brother's shoulders.
'All set, Mickey,' he said in his incongruous south London accent.
Then he gave his full attention to Ram6n Machado. Ben hero-worshipped this
man. When he was alone with Michael he often discussed him with the awe of
an acolyte discussing the omnipotence of the Pope. Michael, on the other
hand, realized the hideous nature of their mission, and it had taken many
months of soul-searching for him
561
to convince himself that this was something that had to be done if the
struggle was to succeed.
Ram6n seemed to sense his lingering reluctance and turned to him now.
'Michael, I want you to ring Met and get a final weather forecast for this
evening.'
Michael picked up the telephone from the bench in front of him and dialled
the number of the weather information services at Jan Smuts Airport and
listened to the prerecorded announcement.
'Wind is Still 29o degrees at five knots,' he repeated. 'No change since
this morning. Weather is settled. Barometric pressure steady.'
'Very well.' Ram6n picked up his red marker-pencil and circled the position
of the showgrounds on the large-scale aeronautical map. Then he marked in
the wind direction.
'OK. This will be your line of approach, about a mile up-wind of the
target. Try to maintain a thousand feet above ground-level. Open the
gas-valve as you pass the water-towers. They are very prominently lit with
navigational warning lights.'
'Yes,' Michael said. 'I flew over the area yesterday. The stadium will be
floodlit, and there will be a laser show - I can't possibly miss it.'
'Well done, Comrade.' Ram6n gave him one of his rare irresistible smiles.
'Your preparations have been excellent.'
Michael looked down, and Ben interjected: 'I heard on the one o'clock news
that by noon more than two hundred thousand visitors had already passed
through the showground turnstiles. It will be more like half a million by
the time Vorster starts his official opening speech. What a blow we'll
strike for freedom today.'
'Vorster's speech is scheduled to start at seven p.m.' Ram6n picked up one
of the advertizing brochures issued by the show committee. He studied the
opening programme. 'But it might be a few minutes late. We must allow for
that. He will probably talk for between forty minutes and an hour. The
military tattoo begins at eight p.m. When will you take off?'
562
'If we take off from here at 1845 hours,' Michael worked it out, 'it's4bout
forty-eight minutes' flying. I timed it yesterday. That will get me over
the target at thirty-three minutes past seven.'
'That would be about right,' Ram6n agreed. 'Vorster should still be
speaking. You will make two passes across the range. A thousand feet above
ground-level, one mile up-wind. After the second pass you turn west and
head directly for the Botswana border. What is your estimated flying time
to the rendezvous with Raleigh Tabaka?'
'Three hours fifteen minutes,' Michael replied. 'That gets me there
approximately eleven o'clock tonight. By that time any residual gas will
have degraded.'
'Raleigh Tabaka will light the airstrip with flares. As soon as you land
remove all the gas equipment and set fire to the plane. From there it's up
to Raleigh to get you out to Zambia and Tercio base.'
Ram6n studied their faces. 'That's it, then. I know that we've gone over it
a dozen times, but are there any questions?'
The brothers shook their heads, and Ram6n smiled wryly. Despite the
difference in the colour of their skins and the texture of their hair,
there was a strong resemblance.
The revolution could never go forward without this kind of obedience and
unquestioning faith, Ram6n thought, and he felt an unaccustomed envy of
such uncomplicated trust. Let them believe that this single act would
change the world and herald the perfect dawn of universal socialism and
brotherly love. Ram6n knew that nothing was so simple.
He envied them their faith, but he wondered if they truly had the stomach
to live through the stark reality of the slaughter of half a million lambs,
and the Red Terror which must follow the successful onslaught of the revol-
ution. Sublime belief in the ultimate rightness of their action might
permit them to turn the valve on a pair of innocent-looking steel bottles,
but could they endure the

563
reality of half a million corpses twisted and contorted in piles of hideous
death? he wondered.
Only the steel men survived. These two were not of that temper. The Red
Terror would claim them as it did all weaklings. After tonight their
usefulness would be reduced. They would be expendable.
He touched Michael's shoulder gently. He knew that Michael liked to be
touched by another man. He let the touch become a caress.
'You have done wonderfully well. Now you must eat and rest. I will leave
you before you take off this evening. I salute you both.'
They walked in a group to the door in the rear of the shed, but before they
reached it Michael stopped.
'I want to look at Ben's installation of the bottles, and go over my own
checks,' he said diffidently. 'I want to be absolutely certain.'
'You are right to want everything perfect, Comrade,' Ram6n agreed. 'We'll
have something for you to eat when you come up to the house.'
They watched him climb into the cockpit of the Centurion, and begin
checking the instruments before they walked together to the door.
Ram6n threw open the small back door in the rear wall of the hangar, and as
he and Ben stepped through into the sunlight together Sean Courtney was
crouched against the side-wall on their left-hand side, staring at them.
Only six feet separated Ram6n and Sean, and their mutual recognition was
instantaneous. Sean reached under his coat and plucked out the big magnum
revolver. The double-action pull on the trigger delayed the shot a fleeting
part of a second, and Ram6n seized Ben Afrika's arm and pulled him forward
between them. With a muzzle-flash that was bright even in the sunlight,
Sean's shot crashed into Ben's body.
The hollow-point bullet struck him on the tip of the left elbow and
mushroomed instantly. It ploughed through his arm and into his flank. The
entry-wound into his body was

564
the size of an egg-cup. The bullet struck his last rib and began to break
up. Fragments were deflected into his lung; others tore through his
entrails. A splinter of the copper jacket cut between the vertebrae of the
spine and halfsevered his spinal cord.
Ben was flung sideways by the impact and he slid down the wall, leaving a
bright smear of his blood across the rusty corrugated iron. Ram6n Machado
ducked back into the hangar before Sean could bring the revolvei down from
the head-high recoil. He kicked the door closed behind him and snatched the
Tokarev automatic from his shoulder holster.
He snapped two quick shots through the thin wall, aiming for where he
judged Sean was standing. Sean had anticipated this, and had dropped flat
and flipped over twice. He estimated Ram6n's stance from the sound of the
shots and the angle of the bullets cutting through the corrupted-iron wall.
He fired double-handed, and the heavy bullet punched a hole through the
wall and missed Ram6n's head by a foot.
Ram6n ducked behind a drum of Avgas and shouted across the hangar at
Michael as he sat at the controls of the aircraft.
'Start upV
Michael had been frozen with shock in the pilot seat of the Centurion, but
at Ram6n's order he recovered and flipped on both master switches and both
magnetos and turned the key. The Centurion's engine fired and caught. He
pushed the throttle open, and she roared eagerly and strained against the
wheel-brakes.
'Get her rolling,' Ram6n shouted, and fired two more shots through the wall
at random.
The Centurion moved forward towards the open hangar-door, gathering speed
swiftly, and Ram6n raced after her, ducked under the wing and jerked open
the passenger-door.
'Where is Ben?' Michael shouted at him as he scrambled into the seat.

565
'Ben is finished,' Ram6n shouted back. 'Keep going.'
'What do you mean, finished?' Michael twisted in the seat and closed the
throttle. 'We can't leave him.'
'Ben is dead, man.' Ram6n caught his hand on the throttle. 'Ben has been
shot. He's finished. We have to get out of here.'
'Ben-'
'Keep her going.'
Michael pushed the throttle open once again and swung the Centurion on to
the runway. His face was twisted with grief.
'Ben,' he whispered, and let the speed build up until the Centurion was
taxi-ing tail-up along the strip. They reached the end, and he used brake
and engine to swing her around, facing back down the runway into the wind.
'The engine is cold,' he said. 'She hasn't had a chance to warm up.'
'We've got to chance it,' Ram6n told him. 'The police are going to be
swarming in. They're on to us; somehow they've tumbled to it.'
413en?y
'Forget about Ben,' Ram6n snapped. 'Get us into the air.$
'Where are we going - Botswana?'Michael still hesitated.
'Yes,' Ram6n told him. 'But first we are going to finish this operation.
Head for the showgrounds.'
'But ... but you say the police are on to us,' Michael protested.
'How can they stop us now? It will take an hour to get an air-force Impala
into the air - go, man, goV
Michael pushed the pitch fully fine and opened the throttle wide. The
Centurion bounded down the strip.
As the speed built up they saw a figure run out from behind, the hangar.
Michael recognized his brother.
'Sean!' he exclaimed.
'Keep going,' Ram6n told him.
Sean dropped on one knee at the verge of the runway, and as the Centurion
raced towards him he thrust out both 566
arms towards it in the classic double-handled grip and fired three
deliberate shots. Each time the heavy recoil threw the muzzle of the
revolver towards the sky.
The last shot struck the windscreen, and they both ducked instinctively. It
left a silver cobweb in the Perspex pane, and then Michael rotated the
Centurion's nose and they skimmed over the boundary fence and bore up into
the clear blue highveld sky.
At two hundred feet the cold motor stuttered and coughed, then it caught
again and ran smoothly.
'Head for the showgrounds,'Ram6n repeated. 'We won't get Vorster, but it's
still a good target. There are two hundred thousand of them.'
Michael levelled out at a thousand feet and turned on to his track.

As the Centurion soared overhead, Sean emptied the revolver, blazing up at
its belly. He saw no sign of his bullets striking, and the landing-wheels of
the Centurion retracted as she rose unharmed into the sky.
Sean jumped to his feet and sprinted into the hangar. He saw the telephone
on the workbench.
'Thank GodV He ran to the bench and snatched it up.
As he dialled the Capricorn number, he noticed the open map under his hands
and the Rand Easter Show brochure. The red-marked notations on the map
ringed the location of the showgrounds, and a broad arrow indicated the
wind direction and speed.
The operator on the switchboard answered on the third ring. 'Capricorn
Chemical Industries, good day. How may I help you?'
'Get me Mr Garry Courtney in the boardroom. I'm his brother. This is an
emergency.'
'He is expecting your call. You are going straight through.'
As he waited Sean glanced quickly around the hangar.

567
He saw the safety-suits hanging on the wall beside the door.
'Is that you, Sean?' Garry's voice was strained.
'Yes, it's me. I'm at Firgrove. It's as bad as we feared. Michael and Ben
and the Fox. The target is the showgrounds.'
'Did you stop them, Sean?'
'No. Michael and the Fox are airborne. They took off two minutes ago. They
are almost certainly heading for the showgrounds.'
'Are you sure, Sean?'
'Of course I'm bloody sure. I'm in Mickey's hangar and I'm looking at a map
right now. The showgrounds are marked and the wind speed and direction.
There are two smoke-proof suits hanging on the wall - they didn't have a
chance to get into them.'
'I'll warn the police, the Air Force.'
'Don't be a prick, Garry. It will take an order from the chief of the
defence force and the minister before they'll send up a fighter or a
helicopter gunship. That could take a month of Sundays. By then two hundred
thousand people will be dead.'
'What must we do, Sean?' At last the administrator deferred to the man of
action.
'Take the Queen Air,' Sean told him. 'She's faster and bigger and more
powerful than the little Centurion. You have to intercept them and force
them down before they reach the show.'
'Describe Mickey's Centurion,' Garry ordered crisply.
'Blue on top. White belly. Her markings are ZS - RRW, Romeo Romeo Whisky.
You know the location of Firgrove and their course to reach the show.'
'I'm on my way,' said Garry, and the connection clicked and went dead.
Sean picked up the Smith & Wesson from the bench-top where he had dropped
it, and spilled the empty cases from the chambers. From his pocket he
pulled the box of ammunition and reloaded swiftly. He ran back to the door
568
and with the revolver held ready he stood clear and kicked it open.
Immediately he dropped into a gunfighter's crouch and aimed through the
doorway.
Ben had dragged his paralysed legs only a few yards before he collapsed. He
lay in a huddle at the foot of one of the peach trees. He was bleeding
copiously; bright arterial blood had soaked his shirt and the tops of his
trousers. His left arm hung by a tatter of mangled flesh. The shattered
bone was spiked through the meat like a skewer.
Sean straightened up and safed the Smith & Wesson. He walked through the
door and stood looking down at Ben.
Ben was still alive. He rolled over painfully to look up at Sean. His eyes
were brown as burnt sugar and filled with a dreadful anguish.
'They got away, didn't they?' he whispered. 'They will succeed. You cannot
stop us. The future belongs to us.'
Isabella came running through the trees. She saw Sean and swerved towards
him.
'I told you to keep out of the way,' he growled at her. 'Why can't you ever
do as you're told?'
She saw Ben lying at his feet and stopped short.
'It's Ben. Oh God, what have you done to him?'
She started forwa - rd again and dropped to her knees
beside the prostrate body.
Carefully she lifted Ben's head into her lap, but the movement tore
something in his injured lung and he began to cough. A mouthful of blood
spilled between his open lips and poured down his chin.
'Oh God, Sean. You've killed him!' Isabella sobbed.
'I hope so,' Sean said softly. 'With all my heart, I hope SO.'
'Sean, he's your brother.'
'No,' said Sean. 'He's not my brother. He's just a lump of shit.'
As Garry Courtney started the engines of the Queen Air, he was calculating
furiously.
Capricorn was almost sixty miles closer to the showgrounds than Firgrove,
and in addition the Queen Air was seventy or eighty knots faster than the
Centurion at the cruise. It was seven minutes since Sean had called him,
nine minutes since Mickey had taken off.
It was all running very close. He dared not try to guess where to intercept
the Centurion and try to cut its track. There was only one sure course open
to him. He had to fly directly to the showgrounds, then turn and head back
on the reciprocal of Michael's heading. He had to risk everything on a
head-on interception.
As he opened the throttles and ran the Queen Air out on to the runway, he
found with mild surprise that he still had a half-smoked cigar between his
teeth. In the panic of getting to the aircraft he had forgotten all about
it. As he lifted the big twin-engined machine into the air, he drew deeply
on the cigar. It was the very best Havana, and he smiled at the irony. The
fragrant smoke calmed his nerves a little.
'I'm not as good at this as Sean is.' He spoke to himself. 'Give me a
hectic day on the Stock Exchange or a nice bloody takeover deal any day.'
He pushed the Queen Air right over the manual, squeezing an extra fifteen
knots out of her.
He picked out the showgrounds from almost seven miles out. A pod of giant
balloons floated above it like colourful. whales. The vast carparks were
a-glitter with reflected sunlight from thousands of vehicles.
He turned back on to a direct heading for Firgrove and leant forward in his
seat, peering ahead through the windscreen and puffing on the fat cigar. He
was still running calculations of speed and time and distance through his
head.
'If I'm going to meet them, it should be five or six minutes-' He broke off
as a beam of sunlight reflected from something ahead and below caught his
eye. He pushed his horn-rimmed spectacles up on his nose, once again

570
hating his weak myopic eyes and peered fretfully down, trying to find it
again.
He had left the built-up residential areas behind, and was flying over the
open countryside, studded with small villages and criss-crossed with roads.
The patterns of ploughed lands and plantations of trees disturbed his eye,
and threw up a hundred decoys and optical tricks to confuse him. He
searched frantically, sweeping the open sky briefly and then concentrating
on the earth below. He expected the Centurion to be well under him.
He saw the shadow first. It flitted and jumped like a grasshopper across
the fields. A moment later he saw the tiny blue aircraft. It was a thousand
feet below him and two miles directly ahead. He pushed the nose of the
Queen Air down into a dangerous altitude and dived to intercept.
The two aircraft were converging at almost five hundred knots, and before
Garry could get the Queen Air down to the same altitude as the Centurion it
had passed like a blue flash below him.
Garry hauled up one wing into a maximum-rate turn and came round behind the
Centurion. He used the Queen Air's superior speed and the dive to overhaul
the smaller aircraft.

'We'll be there in about ten minutes,' Michael warned Ram6n. 'You'd better
get ready.'
Ram6n leant forward and reached down to the gaudily painted cylinders
bolted to the floorboards between his feet. Carefully he opened the tap on
the neck of each of the bottles. He felt the rush of internal pressure
checked immediately by the gate of the main valve in the connecting
T-piece.
Now it needed only to thumb the valve-lever across, half a turn in an
anticlockwise direction, to send the mixed and activated gas hissing into
the long hose and spraying out through the nozzle under the Centurion's
belly.

571
Ram6n straightened up and glanced across at Michael in the pilot's seat
beside him.
'All set-' he began, and then broke off and stared with astonishment
through the side-window beside Michael's head.
An enormous silver fuselage filled the entire frame of the window. Another
aircraft was flying wing-tip to wing-tip with them, and the pilot peered
across at them. He was a large baby-faced man with dark horn-rimmed glasses
and the stub of a cigar clamped in one corner of his mouth.
'Garry!' shouted Michael in consternation. Garry lifted his right hand and
stabbed downwards with his thumb, an unmistakable gesture.
Instinctively Michael flung the Centurion into a tight descending turn, and
dropped away towards the earth like a stone. He levelled out just above the
tree-tops.
He glanced in his rearview mirror and saw the Queen Air's round silver nose
a hundred yards from his tail and closing rapidly. He hauled the Centurion
up and around hard, but the moment he levelled out the silver machine
loomed up beside him. Garry had always been a far better pilot than he was,
and the Queen Air had the wings to outfly him.
'I can't get away from him.'
'Fly straight for the target,' Ram6n ordered brusquely. 'There is nothing
he can do.'
Michael had hoped that Ram6n would abandon the operation now, but
reluctantly he turned back on to his original track. He was down to two
hundred feet above the tops of the tallest trees. Garry followed him round
and came up alongside him. Their wing-tips were only a yard apart.
Once again Garry signalled him to land. Instead, Michael snatched up the
microphone of his radio, knowing that Garry would be tuned to i 18,7
megahertz.
'I'm sorry, Garry,' he cried. 'I have to do it. I'm sorry.'
Garry's voice boomed through the radio speaker into the cabin. 'Land
immediately, Mickey. It's not too late. We can still get you out of this.
Don't be a fool, man.'

572
Michael shook his head vehemently and pointed ahead. Garry's expression
hardened. He dropped back, and before Michael could react he slid in
sideways and thrust the Queen Air's wing-tip under the Centurion's tail.
Then he came back hard on the control-wheel and flicked the smaller plane's
tail up, so she tumbled forward into an almost vertical dive.
The Centurion was too low and the dive too steep for Michael to recover
before he hit the top branches of a tall blue-gum tree.
Michael threw up his hands as he saw it coming, but a dry branch as thick
as a man's arm stabbed through the windscreen that had been weakened by
Sean's bullet. The point of the branch caught Michael at the base of his
throat. It found the notch between his collar-bones and went through with
the ease of a hypodermic needle, transfixing his upper torso and coming out
between his shoulder-blades.
The momentum of the falling aircraft snapped the branch off, and the jagged
butt protruded from his throat like an ugly twisted lance.
The Centurion drove on, crashing and crackling through the tree-tops. First
one wing then the other were ripped away, braking the aircraft's speed,
until it fell clear of the trees and the wingless fuselage hit the ground,
and bounced and skidded to rest at the edge of a field of standing maize
stalks.
Ram6n Machado dragged himself upright in the seat, amazed that he was still
alive. He looked across at Michael. Michael's mouth was wide open in a
silent shriek; the jagged branch stuck out of his throat, and a fountain of
his blood spurted over the remains of the shattered windscreen.
Ram6n released the catch of his seat-belt and tried to lift himself out of
his seat. He found himself anchored, and he looked down. His left leg was
broken. It was twisted like a piece of boiled spaghetti between the seat
and the gas-cylinders. The leg of his trousers was ripped up to the knee,
and the stainless-steel valve-handle was buried deeply in the flesh of his
calf.

573
As he stared at it, he became aware of the faint hiss of escaping gas. His
leg had twisted the valve-handle into the open position. CyndeX 25 was
spurting into the hose and spraying from the nozzle under the fuselage.
Ram6n grabbed at the door-handle and threw all his weight upon it. It was
jammed solid. He placed both hands under the knee of his injured leg and
hauled upon it, trying to pull it free. The leg elongated, and he heard the
ends of shattered bone-shards grate together deep in his flesh, but it was
held inexorably as in a bear-trap by the stainless-steel valve-handle.
Suddenly he smelt the odour of almonds; his nostrils began to burn and
sting. Silver mucus flooded from both nostrils and drooled over his lips
and down his chin. In their sockets his eyes turned to coals of fire and
his vision dimmed.
In the darkness the agony assailed him. It surpassed any conception that he
had ever had of pain. He began to scream. He screamed and screamed sitting
in a puddle of his own urine and faeces until at last his lungs collapsed
and he could scream no more.

Centaine Courtney-Malcomess sat on a fallen log at the edge of the forest
and watched the puppy and the child at play.
The puppy was the pick of Dandy Lass of Weltevreden's last litter before
Centaine had been forced to have the gallant old bitch put down. The puppy
had inherited all her mother's best points. She would be a champion also,
Centaine was convinced of it.
Nicky was working her with an old silk stocking stuffed with guinea-fowl
feathers. He learnt as quickly as the puppy. He seemed to have a way with
dogs and horses.
It's in his blood, Centaine thought complacently. He's a true Courtney,
despite the name and the fancy Spanish title.

574
She went on to think of her other Courtneys.
Tomorrow Shasa and Elsa Pignatelli were marrying in the little slave church
that Centaine had so lovingly restored. It would be one of the biggest
weddings to be held in the Cape of Good Hope for at least a decade. Guests
were coming from England and Europe and Israel and America.
There would have been a time not so many years ago when Centaine would have
wanted to make all the plans and supervise all the preparations for the
wedding herself Now she was content to leave it all to Bella and Elsa
Pignatelli.
'Let them get on with it,' she told herself firmly. 'I've got my hands full
with my roses and my dogs and Nicky.'
She thought about Bella. Bella was contrite and chastened, but Centaine was
not satisfied that it was enough. She had debated long and hard with
herself and with Shasa before at last agreeing to cover for the girl and
shield her from the full consequences of her treason and the righteous fury
of the law.
Still, she has a penance to perform. Grimly Centaine justified her
leniency. Isabella will dedicate the rest of her life to 'Making amends.
She owes a lifetime of service to every member of this family and to all
the people of this wonderful land of ours whom she betrayed. I'll see to it
that she pays all her debts in full, she thought purposefully, and then
turned to watch the puppy find the feather-bag that Nicky had hidden in the
reeds down by the stream, the puppy's long silky tail waving like a
triumphant banner as she came to deliver it to her young master.
At last the boy and the dog came to sit at her feet together, and Nicky
putone tanned bare arm around the puppy's neck and hugged her.
'Have you decided on a name for her yet?' Centaine asked. It had taken her
almost two years to break down the child's resistance to her, but she felt
that now she had at last won him over from his memories of Adra and his
previous life.

575
'Yes, Nana. I want to call her Twenty-Six.' Nicxy's English had improved
vastly since she had enrolled him at Western Province junior School.
'That's an unusual name. Why did you choose it?'
'I had another dog once - he was called Twenty-Six.' And yet Nicky's
memories of that other time had almost faded.
'Well, that is an excellent reason - and it's a fine name. Dandy Twenty-Six
of Weltevreden.'
'Yes! Yes!' Nicky hugged the puppy's neck. 'Dandy Twenty-Six.'
Centaine looked down on him fondly. He was still a mixed-up and confused
little boy, but he was a thoroughbred with the blood of champions in his
veins.
Give us time, she thought. just give me a little more time with him.
'Shall I tell you a story, Nicholas?' she asked. She had the most wonderful
family stories, of elephant hunts and lions, of wars with Boers and Zulus
and Germans, of lost diamond mines and of fighter planes and a thousand
other things to thrill the soul of a small boy.
So now she told him a story of shipwreck and of a castaway on a burning
shore. She told him of a journey through a cruel desert with little yellow
pixies as companions - and he walked every step of the enchanted way beside
them.
At last she looked at her wristwatch and said: 'That's enough for today,
young master Nicholas. Your mother will be wondering whatever has become of
us.'
Nicholas sprang up to help her to her feet, and the two of them walked down
the hill towards the big house with the puppy gambolling around them.
They walked quite slowly, because Nana had a sore leg, and Nicky took her
hand to help her over the rough places.
576

Wilbur Smith - Courtney Series

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