Thilo

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 6

I dreamed my way though that day. I must've looked like a total idiot, - I couldn't wipe the smile from my face!

No one commented, but I couldn't have cared less even if they had. I was happier than I could ever recall. I was complete. I now had someone very special in my life. Someone I could love and protect.

All the boys in my year had sat their Ordinary Level exams the previous Christmas, so now we were studying for our advanced, but Thilo, technically still in our year, was expected to follow our lead, meaning he had no classes with us.

We passed in the corridors a number of times, and it was obvious he too was in dreamland, but when we got close, he'd sidestep towards me, look me in the eye as he brushed his fingers against my hand before walking on with his classmates.

So good.

So erotic!


After lunch and with no sign of Thilo, I manged to persuade four of my friends to come clay shooting with me.

Clays aren't my best discipline, I needed practice, however this afternoon I was up to the challenge.

"Weapon Stephen?

"What do you have suited to my stock Sir?"

"Your Murukku should take those in that cabinet. Take what you like, sign the register and collect how many shells you think you might need."

I went for Cylinder and Skeet with a barrel length of twenty-one inches.

His only comment was to question my choice if distance targets were selected.

I didn't care. I just needed to get out there and do some damage.

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with shotguns, the more open the muzzle, the wider the shot pattern.

Cylinder is the widest, followed by Skeet, then in descending order, quarter choked, half and full with the length of barrel making a significant difference.

I had gone for the shortest legal barrel length and the least choking effect. I would have my work cut out if they put on distance targets!)


"PULL."

Fuck me!

A pair hit!

"PULL."

Too good to be happening.

"PULL."

In a minute, I'm going to wake up!

"PULL."

I'm going to die!...............


"Last pair Mr Broadhurst. Don't let it spoil a perfect score or I'll have you on the parade ground in full fatigues and marching you double-quick for the rest of the term!"

"Fuck you! I'm so fired up, if I miss, then the barrel of this gun will be shoved so fast and so far up your arse, you won't have time to say 'That feels nice!'"

"Now PULL!"

I collapsed.

Well, I dropped to my knees.

One hundred.

Not one Clay Pidgeon left to fly back to its nest!

I'd done it!

I'd straighted it!

RSM Collins strode over to me.

Shit!

My language!

Fuck!

Now I'm for the high-jump!

"Mr Broadhurst? Give me that gun and get yourself to my office like, right now!"

Yep.

I'm about as dead as a mummy's Mummy.

About as thoroughly fucked as if I were the only whore in Barnsley town centre on a Saturday night following the death of all other women-folk within a ten-mile radius.

Hello train station, goodbye Keswick Priory and hello Malvern.


"Interesting."

"Yes Sir."

"Yes Sir what."

"Yes Sir. Interesting."

"Interesting what."

"I haven't got a clue Sir."

"Very well. Your choice of barrel length coupled with the choking."

"Yes Sir."

"For Christ's sake Stephen?

Fine, if you were tackling a dedicated Skeet layout, but to go with that on a Sporting? Madness lad! But then you went on to fuck it to pieces. Dear God boy? You straighted it!"

"Very true Sir.

Am I to be expelled?"

" What?"

"Expelled Sir. Are you going to recommend my expulsion?"

"Why?"

"Why not?"

"Is that what you want?"

"No Sir. Definitely not."

"So…… why? What in God's name are you talking about!"

"My language, or rather my comments Sir."

"Ah. Now I get it?

Suffice to say, I'm rather pleased that you chose short barrels. They would've caused some serious damage to my internal organs, but set that against say, thirty-two-inch Olympic trench trap jobs, I'd be dead by now!

Expelled? Forget it! Celebrated maybe.

Today you've eclipsed a record set almost twenty years ago, and one that can never be beaten, only equalled.

Congratulations!


We made our way back to school. I wasn't living in dreamland, it was more as if I was walking through fog.

What a twenty-four-hours! I had kissed the perfect boy, and now this!

We took the corridor that passed by the Great Hall. On the walls were hung the High Achievement boards, you know the sort of thing, names of past captains of the First Eleven cricket team, First Fifteen Rugby, the list goes on.

Needless to say, my name didn't appear on any of them, but seeing the champion shooters board, I slowed to take a look at it.

Top Gun 1996. Anthony William Palmer. Score out of 100 birds (Sporting), 96.

Well, Mr Anthony Palmer, your reign is over, because now the name Stephen Leon Broadhurst will be inscribed in gold leaf above yours. Score out of 100 birds (Sporting), 100!


"Ben old chap? I think this boy is in need of a stiff drink!"

"It's a tad early isn't it Stuart?"

"Somewhere around the world, the sun has passed over the yard arm, and besides, you weren't there to witness the finest exhibition of clay shooting this school has ever seen.

Stevie-boy here, straighted a one hundred bird sporting layout!"

"Bloody-hell. Well, I suppose that does put a rather different complexion on matters.

What's your poison Steve?"

"Um…… shit, I don't know. Scotch over ice maybe?"

"Bells, Famous Grouse or Jonny Walker?"

"Grouse seems fitting under the circumstances."

"Wise choice, especially as we're running low on the other two.

Anyone else partaking?"


Not needing to go down to supper appearing to be under the influence, we slowly sipped our drinks and chatted.

"Anyone seen Thilo?"

"Yes. He's gone up to his room. They've given him enough prep to keep him occupied until holidays and he wanted to make serious inroads into it."

"He seemed okay though?"

"He asked where you were, but yes, he seemed happy enough."

"Good.

I'm going to finish my drink and go find him. I need to get changed anyway."

"You rather like him, don't you!"

"And, so what are you implying?"

"You're gay, he's cute. All adds up."

"Right on both counts, but there's nothing going on between us."

"You wish there was though?"

"None of your business. Now cut it out, you're making me blush!"

"Sorry Steve. You're right, it isn't my business."

"No need to apologise to me, I can take the heat, we're mates after all, but a word of caution. You go upsetting Thilo and there'll be all hell to pay."

"No worries. We all like him, and have no wish to do anything other than give him our support and friendship."

"Thanks. See you at supper."


"Hey! How was your day? Looks as if you've enough work there to last you a lifetime."

"Day good, and this prep? Not as bad as it appears. Most of it I've covered before so it's easy, and another hour will see it done.

I've missed you."

"I've been thinking about you all day, and you touching my hand in the corridor? Let's just say I might need to have the services of a Cardiologist if my heart doesn't settle down!"

"Both of us know that together we can find ways to make it jump out of your chest! But for now, let me get this work out of the way before supper. Afterwards, we enjoy a drink or two with the guys, then make our excuses and grab an early night. Sound reasonable?"

"Not just one quick kiss to tide me over?"

"I want, but it's the thin end of the wedge and most like we'll miss supper, and I hungry!"

"You're mean!

Okay, you get back to work while I get cleaned up and changed."

I got as far as taking off my shoes and removing my pullover and unbuttoning my shirt before a thought occurred to me.

"Before I forget, I better show you where I hid your tablet."

"No need, and in truth, I'd prefer not to know."

"Why?"

"Stephen? I can't tell you why. Just pretend you don't even know it exists."

"I don't understand? How come it's so important that I need to forget about it."

"It just is, that's all.

Is it safe though? I mean, no one would find it?"

"I sealed it in an airtight plastic bag, and unless they demolish the building, which they can't as it's Grade Two listed, no one could guess where it was.

Don't tell me, let me guess.

You've been downloading naughty photos, haven't you!"

Thilo didn't even smile. He just shut down his laptop and stared at me for a moment, studying my face.

"If I tell you, how do I know if I can trust you to not breathe a word to anyone, and especially not to my uncle?"

"I don't know. All I can say is that I could never betray your trust. I'm more than just a little bit fond of you to upset you."

"I know that, I'm not stupid, but that machine, or rather the information it contains had already cost lives, and in telling you, I'd be putting your life in danger."

"But you know, so does that mean that you're in danger?"

"Yes.

The information was the reason for our complex being raided. The resulting loss of life, our workers, their families and those of my own parents, was as of a direct consequence of what is on that machine."

"Then I'll take my chances alongside you."

"Why would you do that?"

"Because I think I'm in love with you, and before you tell me not to be so juvenile and naïve, it's the only way I can explain my feelings towards you.

If, as you say, your life is at risk, then I need to be with you on this, and as for telling anyone?

Forget it!

Not going to happen!"

Thilo stood and walked over to where I was standing and slipped his hands under my shirt, smiling broadly.

"Time for that kiss. I can't risk having you falling out of love with me now!"


Eleven o'clock and we were lying in bed cuddled up close.

We had just had sex.

I would like to say that we had made love, but fumbling about like the two completely inexperienced people we were, I don't think that Making Love is quite the right term.

It had been wonderful for both of us, but we knew things would get better given time, so then it would really be making love.

"What I don't understand, is why do you need to keep this information secret from your uncle?"

"Because I know what he'd do. He's already sent his men out pursuing those who raided our farm. Whether he catches up with any of them is hard to say, but if he did, it would be a bloodbath, so imagine what might happen if he got his hands on that tablet?

Forget a bloodbath Stephen.

We're talking civil war."

"I don't know what information might lead to that sort of thing, you haven't told me, and just maybe I don't want to know."

"I'll have to tell you at some point, but not now, not tonight. Let's not spoil our first real night together?"


One month on, and Thilo decided to educate me in all things Namibia. He told me that to understand the enormity of what had been stored on that tablet, I had to be up to speed with the history of South West Africa. Namibia wasn't so important, it was under democratic rule by a democratically elected government, but Angola was a different matter and being as it was, a neighbouring country, it was here that he started.

"It's an old story, a story that is much of Africa. Invaded and colonised, wealth plundered and the people enslaved is something that not many countries were spared. Naturally this lead to uprisings and violent protests, however these were put down quickly and forcefully, but that said, a rule of law of sorts was the order of the day.

I'm going to sight Angola as a good example.

They were colonised by the Portuguese, not sure when, but anyway, they left in 1975 leaving the two rival factions, who together had forced the Portuguese exit, to squabble over the power vacuum that had been left.

I say squabbled, but rather it was outright war with the MPLA on one side and Unita on the other. This war raged for twenty-seven years and millions died, then in 2002, other countries managed to broker a ceasefire, and since then, an uneasy relationship with the MPLA forming what most countries look upon as the legitimate government based in Luanda, and Unita, backed by the FNLA, forming a rival administration based in Huambo has been the situation since.

Angola isn't a poor country. They have vast oil resources, both on and off-shore, but these are in the province of Cabinda which is like a separate State and not part of mainland Angola, but it's here that the decades-long separatist conflicts still rumble on.

Trouble is brewing.

The President, one Jose Edwardo dos Santos, is widely believed to be salting away, enormous sums of money before he steps down from office rather than distributing the country's wealth more evenly, indeed his daughter Isabel is thought to have a personal fortune in excess of three billion US Dollars."

"I understand, but he's not the first despot to plunder his Country's wealth?

What makes this different?"

"Absolutely nothing, but there's going to be trouble with a capital T when he leaves power."

"So, as your operations are close to their border, you're worried about the possible impact to you. Is that it?"

"No. If whatever happens spills over into Namibia, then the Namibian Army together with those of South Africa will force them back over the border.

No, what bothers me is what's stored on that bloody tablet."

"What marries the two together?"

I'm coming to that. I told you it was a long story."

"You did. I apologise."

"Look.

Neither side in that civil war acted under any rules of engagement.

Genève Convention? I doubt they'd ever heard of it.

It was blood-letting of epic proportions. Both sides committing atrocities that we can't even contemplate Stephen!

But that'll be nothing compared with what might happen if this information ever sees the light of day.

You see, there were these two journalists in Angola, visitors from Canada whose official reason for being there was to film and document the family life of African elephants, but their main focus, albeit covert, was to film and document the war.

By all accounts, what they managed to get hold of was horrendous footage of massacres and much, much more.

Children being tortured to death in front of their parents, then being made to eat their flesh before they themselves were burnt alive?

There's more, but that serves to give you an indication of the brutality that went on.

These journalists were caught and subsequently beheaded, but not before they managed to get their evidence on to a light plane and out of the country.

The next thing we knew, we had a parcel delivered together with a letter.

In that parcel was an early digital account of what had gone on, films and still photos to back everything up.

In the letter was a request from the son of one of the journalists, that we keep them hidden until such time my father believed it right to make everything public."

"Why your father?"

"Because they'd been at school together, and he didn't know who else to turn to."

"But they're stored electronically now.

Who did that?"

"My father. It made him sick. He didn't eat for weeks. He almost lost his mind, but he had to do it or risk losing the evidence due to the climate."

"But now someone knows it's out there."

"Obviously."

"How might they have got that information do you think?"

"Impossible to say. A careless remark, maybe if this son had Alzheimer's or similar and mouthed off? Who knows."

"Why don't you just destroy it? Remove the hard drive, put an angle grinder through it and walk away?"

"Because, not only do I owe it to those brave if crazy journalists to protect it, I owe it to our community, my parents and to myself.

One day it might be possible to publish it so the world can learn from the past, but not now, not anytime soon."

"I still think you should consider your uncle as an option?"

"You jest! He's a ruthless business man. His attitude would be one of publish and be damned!

Forget it!

I keep it.

Christ. If that were to happen, it wouldn't just be Angola in flames, much of Africa would erupt in a massive fireball.

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