Thilo

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 9

I woke to feel the duvet sliding back, then the chilly air replaced by a warm, welcoming body.

"Are you alright? Did you have a bad dream?"

"I couldn't sleep. Thoughts keeping me awake. I just needed to feel secure."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I'm not sure if there's anything to talk about. I'm sort of in conflict with myself."

"In what way?"

"Africa. Home, and what needs to be done versus what I want to happen and what I want to do."

"You mean tidy up your affairs back home?"

"Yes. It has to be done, but it would mean me going back there."

"Couldn't you get your uncle to act on your behalf?"

"It has to be me. The only way he could get involved is if I were to sign everything over to him, but then I'd have no say over anything.

It's very complicated. Everything, the farm, the house, the shareholdings in the businesses my parents had invested in including Roker Mining, were all owned by a Company set up by my father with him as the CEO together with my mother as his deputy.

In the event of their death, everything passes to me as their only child and heir, so if I were to involve Uncle Hans, I would effectively be handing him total control of those assets. It's like an all or nothing deal. I could end up with nothing, and he just sits back having gained full ownership of Roker Mining, then disposes of everything else my family worked so hard for."

"But he's your uncle. Surely he wouldn't do something like that?"

"Greed can turn an honest guy's head. That shareholding in Roker Mining alone is worth over fifteen billion Rand."

"Fifteen…… billion?

I dread to think what that is converted into pounds Sterling!"

"About nine-hundred and six million."

"Fuck me!!"

"Uh-huh.

You top, me bottom, remember?"

"Worth a stab in the dark."

"Ha-ha! Stab in the…… Forget it, but at the very least you've got me smiling again!"

"'Tis' my station in life.

Come on, we might just as well get up and brew some tea."


We checked the poultry house for eggs, then as breakfast was still a while away, we disconnected the post drill from the tractor and attached the wire feeder, loading it with pre-meshed fencing.

"Don't you run electric fences?"

"We used to, but it was labour-intensive keeping an eye on all the batteries, so we're trialling one of dad's ideas."

"And that is?"

"Cattle or sheep get a very mild jolt from electric fencing. It doesn't hurt them, but they remember it.

Electricity gives off ozone; they can smell it, so they associate that smell with something they don't want to get near.

Dad worked on ways to synthesise that odour, painted a small fence around an enclosure, and proved his theory beyond doubt.

Patent is going ahead as we speak, and he should do very nicely if he can get any takers to manufacture it.

We still have to put new stock in an area protected by electricity, but once they get the message, we put them out with the others."

"Very clever, especially given your acreage."

"It helps, but there's no fooling people. They look for insulators and batteries, and when they realise that, actually, it's a bluff? Stock can be taken very easily. We brand everything, but that's no help if all they want to do is slaughter our animals for their meat."

"We suffered from our fair share of poaching. You can't avoid it. It's easy money without the hard work."

"Tell us about it! Last year we lost over ten Grand's worth of stock. Some were sent to market, - we got those back, and the culprits prosecuted, but they were all immigrants from former Eastern-Block Countries who fucked off home as soon as bail had been granted.

We've even seen drones flying around which we assume are trying to pinpoint which fields we're using, but it's impossible to stop them if they're that determined, to the point where our insurers have agreed an amount of write-off."

"Back home, anyone caught taking stock would be on the receiving end of a bullet from a high-powered rifle. No fucking around, no messing, and everyone knew it."

"Would that we could adopt the same practice here, life would be much simpler!

But on a happier note?

Breakfast time."


"Thanks for offering to get that fence out of the way, but this is your holiday from school, - you boys should be out there having fun."

"It's okay Charlie. It's what I'd be doing if I was back home……"

"Yes well, Stephen told me a little of what happened, so if you feel like talking about it then go ahead, otherwise I won't mention it."

"Thank you."

"And Stephen? Take a couple of rifles along with you. I noticed mink in that field. The lambs are probably old enough so as not to be in any danger, but shoot a few minks and you'll be limiting the next generation."

"Yes Dad."

I turned to Thilo.

"Time to show you the gun room, and if there's anything in there that you're used to handling, grab it together with some shells."

"But I'm not licenced over here?"

"I am. So, if we get stopped, they're both for my use, but we'll be on private property so it doesn't matter."


"Okay. The combination is 73503LR. The first digit you select by turning counter-clockwise then return the selector to zero, then the next digit is by turning clockwise and back to zero and alternating for every number and letter until the green lamp lights up.

Get it wrong, and it's a fifteen-minute wait before you can try again, but three fucked attempts will set the alarms off and you'll have every copper for miles descending on us.

Give it a go."

Fortunately, Thilo got it right first time, so we opened up and walked inside to make our selection.

Mine was simple. A point three-zero-three 'scope-sighted rifle that my dad had purpose fitted for me once I'd finished with growth-spurts. A magazine that held ten bullets together with a spare clip saw me done.

I liked this weapon, plus I knew I could hit targets accurately with it.

Thilo took his time. I was interested to find out what he'd go in favour of.

A fifteen round new version nine millimetre M3 Carbine, 'scoped, but without the cumbersome rangefinders.

"What in hell made you choose that beast? It's fucking lethal!"

"That's the first reason, the second being, it's what we had back home so I'm used to them."

"There's a third though, I can almost smell it!"

"Sorry, yes there is.

Look, I know I'm as safe here as anywhere, but having one of these with me is very comforting…… you know…… just in case?"

"Then you take it, but don't go shooting anyone unless you have a cast iron and totally inboard reason.

Take another clip with you if it makes you feel better."

"You think I'm being paranoid, don't you?"

"Maybe a little, but then I haven't seen my family die right in front of my eyes, so if arming yourself makes you feel better protected then it's no bad thing.

Come on. We should think about getting out of here."


We took the same route as the day before, the only difference being I was driving, leaving the task of opening gates to Thilo. This was okay, as my only concern might've been Boris who doesn't take kindly to people he's not familiar with, but we'd covered that already, and Boris seemed to genuinely like him.

Once down by the river, we begun the task of stringing out the fencing, and using the tractor to uncoil the wire meshing, Thilo followed along using a compressed air nail gun to fix it to the posts.

This job shouldn't take that long, and lunchtime should see it completed, but then the farm-frequency VHF radio in the cab sparked up.

"Stephen?"

"What's up Dad?"

"Plenty son.

We've had unwelcome visitors who managed to get past the dogs and take one of the quadbikes. They did a good job of injuring Jeff so I've called an ambulance, but the bottom line is, they wanted to know where you were, and was there another lad with you.

They're coming your way, so stay out of harm's way and head for the copse up there on the rise. Just stay out of sight until the police get there."

"Okay, but why are they interested in us?"

"Two black guys carrying machete's, and speaking between themselves what I'm guessing is Afrikaans?

They know Thilo's here son, so get that machine off the back of the tractor and lose yourselves somewhere."

"We're gone!"

"One other thing?

Only use those guns as an absolute last resort, and even then, just sufficient to injure. Understood?"

"I hear you."

I climbed from the cab and walked to the back of the tractor.

"Get up there so I can get this thing uncoupled."

"Why? We're not even half done yet?"

"Change of plan. Please just do as I ask?"

I was more used to connecting and disconnecting on this machine, so five minutes later we were making our way towards the coppice and out of harm's way.

"Keep to the left here. The track is very overgrown but you should be able to make it out."

"What's this all about Stephen? A tractor with no implements is of fuck-all use in a forest?"

"See those large rocks? Turn around and back up against them getting as close as you're able, then I'll tell you what's going down."

Thilo parked up, and as soon as I was happy that it wasn't easily visible. I asked him to hand me the guns.

"You've seen mink then?"

"No. Just had the nod that there's a rather more dangerous target coming our way.

Dad got me on the radio. The farm was raided and a quad bike stolen, and if that wasn't enough, they gave Jeff something of a kicking, all the time asking where I was and if there was another boy with me.

Those guys were black, and according to Dad, spoke to each other in Afrikaans.

They're heading our way Thilo."

"They know I'm in England??

How?

We took a rather torturous route getting here. Pretoria to Tunisia, Tunisia to Gibraltar, Gibraltar to Turin, to Athens, to Paris and finally to Newcastle. I could've left the airplane anywhere along the way, so how the hell could they know?"

"Let's hope and pray we have the time to figure it out, but for now we have surprise in our favour.

Get down behind that rise. We can see about three miles, right across to the road by Boris' field, but Dad said not to go using the guns except as a last-ditch thing, and only then to wound."

"Back home we'd shoot first and ask questions later."

"Well, you're not back home, so stick with Dad's instructions."

"Fair comment."


It seemed like forever, but then we could see a dust trail; a quad coming our way, and not slowly.

They had to get across Boris' field which gave me hope that we wouldn't have to get too involved.

They slowed to a stop as one of the men leaped from the machine and opened the gate, then paused, as if looking to see the bull's reaction.

Boris eyed them but made no movement, maybe he recognised the noise of the bike, perhaps he was just biding his time, but then, satisfied they weren't in any danger, the gateman waved the quad through and secured the gate, and this is where things became interesting.

Possibly the men had been down-wind before, but now Boris looked agitated, stomping the ground and his head down ready to charge. The men took off on the quad, but Boris followed at a somewhat quicker pace. The pillion passenger noticed this and threw himself sideways off the machine just as Boris hit it turning it on its side.

The driver limped away, but Boris came for him again, but with nowhere to run to, took shelter behind the bike.

Not good enough.

Boris piled into it, - the man pinned to the ground by its weight as it rolled upside down on top of him.

Boris wasn't about to give chase to man number two, so stayed guarding the first guy.

Man Two climbed over the five-bar gate that separated our field from Boris', took a look around before spotting the abandoned fence-layer, then made his way towards it.

"Give me my gun. You stay here, okay?"

"Whatever you say."

"Right!

Unless you hear me scream, just sit tight.

If Lady Luck is on my side, this shouldn't take too long."

"And if she isn't?"

"Make sure there's one in the breach and kill the fuckers."

I inched forward and looked back to where we'd been working on the fencing. Our man was there studying the river, but then, probably realising that crossing it wasn't an option, first looked back at his companion; still alive but trapped under the quad before deciding that the copse was the only other place we could be.

He turned and started to walk in our direction, the machete in his right hand by his side.

He paused a couple of times to look back down towards the lane, then continued on, but then he came to a trench which he needed to cross. The tractor with its high ground clearance and four-wheel drive had negotiated it without so much as batting an eyelid, but the slippery conditions made it difficult to get past on foot.

He did what most sensible people would do, and took to higher ground where the damp soil was firmer.

He stepped cautiously, then took hold of the barbed wire fence we hadn't replaced with his right hand, and moved forward.

My moment had arrived.

With his arm outstretched, the machete was a clear target.

I crouched, took aim, and fired at the blade hitting it right in the centre and sending it spinning away into the river, breaking his wrist and dislocating his shoulder in the process, his hand and lower arm badly lacerated by the fencing.

He fell to the floor with an agonising yelp of pain.

"Thilo?

Get that tractor down here right now!"

I moved forward, never taking my eyes of this muscular black guy, my gun never pointing at anything other than him.

"Stay on the floor.

Don't even think about moving, okay?"

Thilo jumped from the cab and reaching for the M3, came over to where I was standing.

He eyed the man on the floor, then spoke.

"Strook! Ontklee, nou!" (Strip! Completely, now!) before turning to me.

"Point your gun at the base of his spine. If he has any tricks up his sleeve, shoot him through the pelvis. He'll get the message once he knows what you're doing."

Turning his attention back to our man, said.

"Vinnig! Ek het nie die hele dag te hê!" (Quickly! I don't have all day!)

Having an injured arm didn't make things easy, but he pulled his tee shirt over his head, then winced with pain as he slid it down his bad arm, then shook it way from his good one.

Next came his cargo trousers which revealed a holster strapped to his left thigh.

Thilo reached down and removed a small hand gun and tucked into the waist band of his jeans.

The guy wasn't wearing any footwear, so Thilo indicated to him to remove the trousers off his legs.

"There's some bailing twine in the cab, keep an eye on him while I go get it so I can hog-tie the bastard."

I did as I was asked, but there was still an arrogance in him despite his situation.

"Why bother White Boy? You're both going to die soon anyway?"

"Not today we're not. Given his head, Thilo would've taken you out ever before you got introduced to our bull.

Now shut the fuck-up."


The police together with my father arrived on the scene some fifteen minutes later, and so began the questions.

Yes. I had fired one shot, not to injure or kill, but to try and disarm.

Yes. Thilo knew why they had come, but refused to go into specifics.

No. He didn't recognise either men, but he understood that they were members of the Hutu tribe out of Angola. Their tribal markings proved that beyond doubt.

Yes. I was licenced to carry firearms.

No. Thilo wasn't, but we were on private land, so no problem, right?

The machete? Somewhere buried in the silt fifteen foot underwater.

Both our guns together with the hand gun were handed over for forensic examination, the men arrested and taken away in handcuffs, and we were free to go about our business, but to make ourselves available to give our statements another time.

The police would organise a team of frogmen to retrieve the machete, and if my story held good, then no charges would be considered against me.

Despite Dad's objections, we carried on and finished the fencing, getting back to the house at five in the afternoon in time for lashings of hot tea and cake.

Tonight's supper was a kitchen job, but drinks would be served in the library at seven o'clock, so we went upstairs to get showered and changed.

Thilo was full of apologies, - how he'd brought his problems along and infected our lives with them.

"What other choices were there? The school shuts down over the holidays, so you had to go somewhere?"

"I could've taken refuge in the Namibian Embassy in London, maybe even gone back to Africa, but I didn't, and now you and your family are in these people's sights, like massively."

"I suppose going back to Africa might've been an option, especially if you were with your uncle and his private army, but then come the time, what's to stop these people from following you back to England and nobbling you on the plane or once you'd touched down in Newcastle?

And as for London? Not much of a plan. You're safer here."

"How so?"

"Small rural communities notice strangers wandering around. Suspicious behaviour gets reported, whereas London is so cosmopolitan, another couple of coloured guys walking the streets wouldn't be noticed."

"Not thought about that, but it doesn't prevent me from feeling guilty."

"Forget it.

An Englishman's home is his castle, and if anything does happen, we will defend it together with all its occupants.

Let's go down for drinks, shall we?"

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