Thilo

by Andrew Foote

Epilogue

They kept me under sedation for six days following the explosion. My leg had been crushed from below my ankle to just above the knee. Early predictions indicated that I might be able to regain some use but it was going to take years of surgery and assessments before they could be certain.

For at least six months I would be in a wheelchair; either in a plaster-cast or heavily bandaged; fed a diet of antibiotics and suffering a regime of physiotherapy before the doctors could make a final judgement.

When at last I regained consciousness, the first face I saw was Thilo's.

He looked old all of a sudden and admitted to me later that he hadn't had a good night's sleep since Julian, Charlie and Henry (here-on-in referred to as 'H') had me strapped to the side of the Sherman and taken back to school where a military helicopter was waiting to take me to hospital.

He hadn't been allowed to accompany me, and that had hurt him.

The area where the action had taken place was searched.

There were no survivors.

A tidy arsenal of weapons had been found and the remains of seventy-one bodies removed for forensic examination, but then I was grilled about that final suicide bomb.

"I'll tell you everything, but not before you let me spend time with Thilo.

This is very personal and he might not take it very well so I want you to look out for him.

Jesus Christ! As if he hasn't had enough to deal with already!"


"How you holding up?"

"I'm alive…… well, parts of me still function!"

"You're a total prick! Why did you confront some guy wearing a suicide vest in the first place!"

"And you're an arsehole if you honestly believe I'd be so reckless!

He confronted me!"

"Why didn't this guy kill himself before? You said he was horribly injured, so why wait?"

"When did I say that?"

"Apparently, you were babbling away like an idiot when H got to you; that's when!"

"Yeah, well. It's over now. We can disarm and try to make something of our lives."

"Over?

What do you mean?"

"That bloke…… the one who blew himself to fuck and almost took me with him was Moses."

" MOSES!"

"I KNOW!

WE DISCOUNTED HIM.

But the fact remains that it was him who was responsible for all those attacks.

He obviously caught wind of those documents given to your Dad and decided that he could profit from them. He knew that they'd been stored electronically but didn't know where those files were stored, so he organised a raid on your farm in Namibia, and well…… the rest you know.

When he didn't find anything, he took off after you; killed the people in the village you ran to, but then realised that you were back in South Africa and subsequently sent to England.

This caused him immense problems.

He was thirsty for power and influence, - desperate enough to do anything that might lead him to the information."

"But what I don't understand is, by taking us out of the picture; the only two people that knew where the tablet was hidden, how did he think that would benefit him?

"I can't answer that, although I can understand that as soon as it became obvious that you'd handed it over to the authorities, and the subsequent realisation that any thoughts of being a big hitter had all but evaporated, he just wanted revenge. But why go to all the bother of mounting such complicated raids as opposed to just inviting us out to lunch and simply gunning us down is beyond all logic."

"Is that what you'd have done in his position?"

"I reckon. Grandiose and over complicated schemes go wrong, but had he simply called us to say he was in the area and how's about diner one night, we wouldn't have suspected a damn thing. Just shoot us and bury our bodies at the quarry under six foot of rubble. Fool proof!"

"Maybe it was his way of sending a message, not to us, but to Africa. Sort of saying 'here I am, and if I can get away with doing this in Britain, just imagine what I am capable of achieving in Africa.'"

"You're probably right. We'll never know for certain."

"Anyway, Mechanoid Boy, the security service blokes need to talk with you and I have to get back to school."

"Please don't go?"

"Steve, I have to, but I've had the head's-up to visit you every afternoon. Your Dad drove up as soon as he heard the news and he's given Alun the use of his Landrover so he can drive me over here."

"Alright…… I guess.

Anyway. What's with calling me Mechanoid Boy then?"

Thilo giggled. "Two parts flesh and blood, - one part titanium! You've got that much metal in that leg, the share price of Tata Steel has reached an all-time high!"

"Thanks a fucking bunch! I dread to think what it looks like!"

"Like you once said to me. I've not long finished my lunch, so I'm not about to look!"

"I remember that.

Can I have a kiss before you go?"

"I was beginning to think you'd never ask. If it helps to get you back to school, then take as many as you like."


Two weeks on and I was back in school; excused gym and brigade for obvious reasons, but sadly, not chapel!

We had stumped up the cash to install a wheelchair lift to our room via our all-important common room and it was nice to see that Jules, Charlie and H were now permanent fixtures.

Boredom could have been an issue, but I ploughed head long into my studies rather than letting it get to me.

DNA sampling confirmed Moses' involvement, and getting the green light from the authorities, the lads handed in their weapons although Thilo and I still carried the Berettas as they were our personal property, but mostly we kept them locked away in our gun safe.

By Christmas I was on crutches, so we took the train back to Malvern while Al had to drive back with the Landrover. He stayed with us for a couple of days before he took his own car home to Wales.

Our SAS contingent were now back in Hereford and all un-necessary security systems had been dismantled. Fortress Malvern Park gave way to being once again, just a nice country house and a busy farm.

We had three weeks holiday over the Christmas period, so I used one of those weeks to attend an intensive driving course so I could get my licence. Tempting though it was, I didn't go buying anything too expensive, in fact I settled on a two-year-old Toyota Landcruiser minus a personalised number plate!

My leg was holding up well, and despite the agony of physiotherapy, or perhaps because of it, by the time we sat our A's I was walking unaided but with a distinct limp. This was something I had to learn to live with, mainly because my knee joint had to be completely rebuild or suffer yet more surgery and have it replaced. I wasn't in any discomfort, so sod it, I'd manage.

Our exam results came through with both of us gaining two A's and a B, and in September we went back to Keswick to attend the formal graduation ceremony.

Dad was right, it was rather upsetting and we would miss the comradeship.

We took a year out to concentrate our efforts into the rebuilding of Thilo's estate in Namibia. The main house had been completely rebuilt, modern housing for the estate workers together with schools, a medical centre, a runway that could cope with medium sized jets like the 737, and a helipad. Roadways weren't dirt tracks, but tarmacked, and land had been set aside for more development as the population increased.

We both thought that the late Mr and Mrs Roker would've been proud. My parents thought it was an amazing place and threatened to retire there!

We succumbed to pressure and did three years at Reading University. Their faculty of Agricultural Sciences was one of the best in the country, and we left there having graduated with first class honours degrees.

The following year we went back to South Africa to get married. South Africa is the only nation in that continent that allows for same sex marriages, so it was either that or in the UK.

We took over an entire floor at one of Pretoria's best downtown hotels so we could invite everyone we were close to. All the guys from school were there, including our three medics, Mr King, Mr Amos, Mr Collins together with their wives or partners.

Hans-Peter was there together with Mr Samuels and Mr Ericson, Winterton and Helen who, surprise-surprise, had baked our wedding cake!

Perhaps the most significant thing about getting married, was the person who officiated. Jan had graduated and was now 'A Man of The Cloth'.

To get married is awesome in itself, but to have a close friend conduct the ceremony is just unbelievable!

Back at Malvern, we managed to persuade my reluctant father to join Roker-Broadhurst Limited as a Director together with Mr Ericson as Chief Financial Officer. Mr Samuels would deputise for him, but declined a full-time position as his accountancy practice kept him pretty much occupied.

Thilo and I took on the project of turning 'Sniper Alley', the south-facing bit of hillside where Alun had positioned himself, into a vineyard. It would take a few years before it matured, but then, - that's farming for you!

Two years on, and Mum and Dad retired to Sicily but made regular visits to Namibia.

Thilo's village or township had been officially named as Roker Valley by the Namibian Authorities, and a small airline, Mabuko-Air, ran twice-weekly scheduled flights between there and Windhoek in a converted jet that took a 50% payload of cargo as well as passengers. 'Get the stuff to market' used to be my Dad's line. 'Bugger-all good leaving it here to rot."


So, we're now full-time farming. One part of which happens to be north of the equator, the other to the south, which makes for some very interesting logistical challenges.

We're happy together. Still very much in love. We've thought about adoption and decided we'd go through the Namibian system rather than the endless drag in the UK, and besides. There are so many African kids who need a good home, love and attention, how could we not take that route? Who cares about the colour of their skin? A child is a child, no matter what.

Keswick Priory taught me resilience, self-preservation and the need to have close bonds with your peers.

I'm stroppy and ill-tempered still, but those relationships formed there are strong and unbreakable friendships that will see me though for the rest of my life.

We won, and we will again.

Stick with your mates, even if you think they're going off the rails like I used to do.

Even us bad tempered, thoroughly objectionable people need support!!

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