June 01, 1960, Western Rhodesia
June 01, 1960, Western Rhodesia
When he awoke it was to the delicious smell of fresh cooked meat, burning tobacco and the quiet but pleasant rumble of conversation. It took him a moment to open his eyes and when he did he was not disappointed. He was lying on his side and some fifty feet away two young women were bathing in a creek, naked and bent at the waist, their most private places exposed to him. He felt a small smile begin to creep across his face until he remembered where he was.
He sat up carefully, eyes darting around the small clearing he shared with at least fifteen to twenty other people, There wasn't a white face to be seen that brought a measure of calm to him. Of the group, about half were women, most of them were walking freely and moving about the camp with laughs and smiles. Two others, he knew they had been captured from a neighbouring tribe, were naked and tied to a tree. Though they were unmolested at the moment, Andrew knew that the men had been taking turns raping the women. It was a tribal thing apparently.
That, ironically, only made the situation he found himself in more unbelievable. His rescuers were a motley collection of "Freedom Fighters" that had managed to find each other and form a sort of rough community in the bush. They all seethed against the injustice of the White Man, his hold on Rhodesia, and how they had been turned into second class citizens. The irony of hearing that from men who, only moments before, might have been savagely raping one of the two captives was so painful it almost made Andrew sick. He was hardly a saint, but a hypocrite, he was not.
"Morning Andrew." A cultured voice addressed him as a handsome man with shaved head, well groomed beard, and green fatigues sat next to him. Wilbur Mudiwa had been educated in Rhodesia before being sent to Britain to attend University. There he had learned economics, politics, and found a taste for rebellion and dissent. He had returned home from University, where his opinion and voice had raged freely, to a country that threatened to lock him up if he did not desist. "A fine day. Have you thought about our offer?" He continued.
The offer. It had been made by Wilbur and his main henchman, Robert Mugabe, two nights before. They had plied him with women and wine as they did, clever moves on their part, but hardly two things Andrew had not enjoyed greatly in his lifetime. He had been a crime lord of some repute after all. They wanted his help, his connections, most of all, they wanted to try and access whatever money he might have left squirrelled away.
The two men had painted a picture of freedom. A Rhodesia without the Whites. A land they called Zimbabwe. Their plan involved turning the populace against the Whites with propaganda, even force if needed. They seemed blithely unaware that the Rhodesian Government paid excellent money to those who were willing to turn over would be revolutionaries. He also had his most recent experiences to reflect on. He had been wealthy, well connected, and well hidden, or so he had thought. Now he was sitting in the dust discussing the freedom and rights of black men while one of the two bound women began to sob quietly. It was ridiculous.
"I have. I think you underestimate the Rhodesians. I already said this. And I don't have all my money buried under a house in chests..." Andrew was exasperated. His fortune had been in business connections and a bank account or two in Switzerland. If and when he managed to make it to civilization he would be able to access them again, providing the Rhodesians hadn't found a way to shut them down or freeze them. He had to grudgingly admitted that they were far better counter-insurgency operatives than the Americans. The product of being a minority in their own country he supposed.
And that, right there, was the problem. He viewed Rhodesia as a White country in Africa. So did many other Europeans and Americans. Sure, everyone knew that Blacks lived there, but there were no great massacres to stir up public opinion, no savage injustices to fuel the righteous. The Rhodesians treated the Blacks well, and elevated some of them to proper citizenship when they proved their loyalty and worth. It was a brilliant system and he hated himself for admiring it. If he had managed to keep his nose clean he could probably have risen high but instead he had done what he had always done, the quick money scheme, and now he life burned all around him.
"We know that." Mudiwa said, waving away the concerns as if they didn't matter. "But you must understand that we need all the help we can get. We are small in number now, but we will grow stronger!" The man slammed his fist into the earth. He was passionate if nothing else. His point was somewhat lost since he was the only one wearing real clothes other than Andrew, the group had five rifles amongst them and no explosives or way of making them that Andrew was aware of. Apparently the two men he had seen fleeing into fields just before his rescue had been coming to join this group. Mudiwa had been certain one of them was an explosives expert but Andrew doubted that very much.
"Mugabe seems certain that we will receive some more recruits today as well." Andrew said, changing the subject. Mugabe was, at that moment, out of the camp with two other men, hoping to guide in a small group that they had been warned was coming in that evening with supplies. Supplies seemed to mean "literally anyone or anything not nailed down", all taken from surrounding villages, not a single one of which had a White person in it. "Are you not concerned that the locals might not like you... "Borrowing" their things, or their women?" He made air quotes and then jerked his thumb at the two battered women.
"It is for the greater good, they understand." Mudiwa said dismissively. Andrew was convinced he was an idiot, despite all his education. All the education in the world and he thought he was owed something by the common folk for his voluntary leadership role. Mugabe on the other hand had seemed more switched on when it came to not making a statement or drawing attention to himself, yet.
"I'm going for a swim." Andrew said and stood, walking towards the water where the other free women had finished their business and moved along after laughing at the desperate pleas of the captives behind them.
He stripped down on the edge of the water and knelt in the shallows, splashing water on his face and upper body, slapping at the dust that had collected as he slept. He splashed his face again and then became motionless. Someone was staring at him. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end and he felt a chill crawl down his spine. He had been watched before, he was a handsome man, but this was different. Someone was staring intently at him.
Slowly, pretending to splash water on himself again, he turned his head, eyes sweeping the clearing behind him. Then his eyes met the intense gaze he was seeking. It was one of the captive women. She was on her knees, buttocks exposed to the world, hands tied above her head so that her small breasts and their bite marks, were facing him. The others had attempted to coerce him into "Training" the women the previous night and he had seen the piteous thanks in her eyes when he declined. Now there was something else, fear perhaps? Yes, fear, but something more. Her eyes were moving frantically from his towards the tree line and back. He quickly shot a look that way but could see nothing.
"They're coming." She mouthed the words, not a sound coming from her lips as she desperately shot a look at the tree line again. Again he saw nothing. He quickly stood up, water cascading across down his body as he did so and strode toward her. He saw terror flash across her face as he grabbed her wrists and pulled her to her feet, turning her to face the trees and pulling her tight against him. She gave a small scream and a hoot of encouragement came from the other men as they paused to watch. He slipped his hands around her waist as if to pull her even closer and then leaned in to whisper into her ear.
"Who is coming?" He felt her relax slightly against him despite the panic that had engulfed her, but there was no hiding the fact that her body was shaking.
"The White Man."
Andrew's blood ran cold at the words. Still pretending to bite at her neck he ran his eyes along the edge of the clearing and that was when he saw the man. Standing back, deep in the shadows, almost completely invisible, was distinct human shape. He was nothing but a shadow against the darkness of the foliage. Andrew ran his hands along the captives body and, despite the situation, felt himself growing hard against her. "How do you know he is a White Man?"
"He has a gun and hides, I saw his shape, just for a moment. But you knew they would come."
So she had heard him talking to Mudiwa! She was more clever than her captors had given her credit. His brain raced quickly, a thousand ideas flashing through them as discarded them one after the other. He wanted to run, to flee, to vanish into the brush, but now he owed this woman his life and Andrew Walls never failed to repay a life debt. Then he hit on an idea. "Play along with me. It won't be hard." He whispered quickly.
He stepped back and gave her a gunshot slap across the buttocks. She gave a shriek of pain and surprise. "You need a bath, little slut." He said the words in English but the meaning was clear enough as he walked to his things, drew a knife from his pants, and walked back toward her. He felt terribly exposed and for a moment felt ashamed at the genuine look of betrayal in her gaze. The look vanished instantly as he slashed her rope and she collapsed to the ground, screaming again as he grabbed her by the hair and began to drag her towards the water. She grabbed his wrist with both her hands and hung on, preventing him from tearing her hair out by the roots. It would look real enough to those watching.
With a grunt he heaved her into the shallows behind the reeds and stomped in after her, swearing loudly in English and slapping her across the buttocks again. She gave another pained shriek and the laughter from the camp doubled. Then he knelt next to her in the water where they were hidden from those in the camp. He quickly cut the rope about her wrist and watched as she massaged the blood back into her hands.
"Can you swim?" He asked. She nodded. "Okay, on your belly then, follow me."
She did so without question, the two of them slithering like snakes through the water just at the edge of the reeds to avoid making them move. They paused once as a camp dog barked nearby. Andrew realized with a start it was the only animal sound he had heard in the last few minutes. The jungle had gone deathly silent. Only the sounds of the camp reverberated around them.
They reached a deep pool soon enough and Andrew slid head first into it. He felt rather than saw the girl follow him. He remained underwater as long as he could before surfacing for air. He was halfway across the pool now. The girl was a much better swimmer than he and made it to the far bank without surfacing.
When he joined her they huddled under the bank in the darkness of a small cave created by the high water season. They dared not try to climb the bank, it was in full view of the camp. The girl was shivering and he, ever so carefully, drew her into his arms. She resisted for a moment and then, with a small moan, she collapsed against him and began to sob.
They sat there for ten minutes before he saw one of the men shout a question toward the water where he had vanished. When no reply came the man shouted again. His angry tone startling the second captive awake. She glanced around and gave a small shriek when she found herself alone. More shouts and two men began to walk toward the reeds where Andrews clothes still lay. It took them fifteen steps to reach the water and they looked about in confusion as their feet touched the mud and they found no one. One turned to shout back toward the camp, and died.
Guns blazed from the brush and both men toppled into the stream. Men and women, even the dogs, tried to run but gunfire erupted from another angle and the piteous rebels, caught in the crossfire, were slaughtered. The girl had pressed herself closer to him as the shooting began and he found himself clinging to her as much as she to him. Unified by their terror, they didn't move even when a stray bullet slapped into the mud above their heads.
The shooting lasted no more than sixty seconds. As it died away the attackers appeared from the brush. Andrew was surprised to see primarily black police officers and then, to his stunned horror, Robert Mugabe strode into the clearing next to a white man dressed in Rhodesian Security Force fatigues. Four other white men followed and even the two white police officers gave them a polite berth. Andrew pegged them for Feds at once. He watched as Mugabe picked his way through the bodies, turning over the dead and dying, and shaking his head as he went. Andrew was stunned. Mugabe, the rebel leader he had heard so much about, was working with the Rhodesian's, not against them.
The girl obviously recognized him as well as she moaned quietly. "Quiet, little honey bee." He whispered urgently. Three more white men had appeared and there was no mistaking the tall, sleek shapes of Ridgebacks that trotted along at their side.
Mugabe gave an exclamation of satisfaction and waved the Federal Agent over. Using his boot he turned over a body and Andrew did not have to see it to know that the dead man was Mudiwa. The Agent nodded, took several photos, and then stepped back, gesturing at the captive who was still tied to her tree and sobbing loudly now. Two black officers quickly stepped forward and cut her loose, one of them taking a blanket from nearby and covering her nakedness before escorting her back the way the attackers had come.
Mugabe was speaking to the Agent now, shaking his head and gesturing at the jungle around him. Andrew could guess who he was looking for. He silently cursed himself for ever using his real name when he had been rescued. If he survived this he would take a new name immediately. He did not wish to die for the sake of being lazy. He watched as the Agent ordered the police officers to begin a search of the area. They did so, half heartedly, enough to make the man think they were trying. They found Andrews clothes, which meant nothing to them, and Mugabe had either forgotten, or failed to note, that there had been a second female captive present. The Ridgebacks scoured the edges of the camp for any fresh scents but found nothing. Mugaba had been gone for nearly two days, with any luck he would think Andrew had already left the camp.
For two hours they huddled under the riverbank, a fallen crime lord and a sex slave. Andrew could almost see the dime store novel he could write when he returned to America. The idea hit him like a Thunderbolt. If he survived, that's what he would do, he would be a writer! No more crime, no more dead bodies, just a nice cottage somewhere and a typewriter. It sounded awfully appealing given the last two weeks he had just gone through. He was still lost in the dream when the girl touched his face gently.
"They are leaving." She said so quietly that he almost could not hear her. He glanced across at the camp. The police had long given up their search and had stacked the bodies of the dead rebels in the middle of the clearing and set fire to them. What the fire did not eat, the Jungle would consume when night fell. Predators would come, as would the ants, and little would be let in the morning. The police left first, weapons casually slung as they walked away, eating rations taken from the camp. The white men and their Ridgebacks followed a short time later, leaving only the Agent and Mugabe standing next to the smoldering pile of corpses. Mugabe said something Andrew could not hear and the Agent nodded then the two turned and walked away into the brush.
The girl began to move but Andrew stopped her, holding her tight against him, eyes slowly sweeping the clearing. They waited for an hour, and then another, until, after what seemed like an eternity, the brush moved on the far side of the clearing and two white men stepped into the opening. They brushed dirt from their fatigues and slung their rifles, gave a final glance around the clearing and then vanished after their comrades.
He waited another fifteen minutes and, taking the girl by the hand, he slid into the water and swam slowly toward the camp. Nothing moved. The birds in the trees around them began to pipe up again and the smaller sounds of the Jungle came rushing back suddenly. The enemy was gone. The two exhausted fugitives staggered onto the bank and lay there for a moment breathing deeply, glad to be free of their mud prison. They didn't have much time until dark however and Andrew stood. He quickly began to go through everything left behind by the dead. He retrieved his own clothes, the knife from the streambed, and found his boots. The girl had been quick to take his cue and dressed herself with what was left of the womens possessions.
Andrew was rooting through discarded canisters for anything the police might have left behind in the way of food when he tripped over something imbedded in the earth. He cursed and turned to find a small metal spike that had been concealed beneath the now scattered fire pit of one of the cook sites. Curious, he took his knife and dug down, pulling the stake free along with a small rope attached to it. He heaved on the rope and, after several more tugs, a long case came free of the dirt. He knelt next to it, heart pounding, and found it to held closed by only a few rusty nails. Using his knife he pried the lid off and almost wept with gratitude. There was a rusty old rifle but, nestled next to it in the hay, was a six shot revolver with a box of ammunition.
Twenty minutes later they were headed west into the Jungle, to where he did not know.