by Andrew Foote

Chapter 2

I went shooting.

I was upset and angry – possibly not the emotions best suited to handling a shotgun, but it had the desired effect as my targets received a pummelling, something not lost on our instructor.

"Very well done Stephen. Remind me to be long gone if we should ever fall out!

Anything else you'd like to use?"

"I keep eyeing that nine-millimetre in the cabinet. I'd give my eye teeth to have a go with that!"

"Restricted use I'm afraid, but I can show you how it's used if you like…… and then, oh silly me, I left a magazine in the weapon and you discharged it.

Just one mention about you handling it, and I'll give you hell and then some come the next brigade meeting."

"Never so much as looked at it Sir! Totally disinterested!"

"Nice attitude.

Let's go take a closer look shall we?"

Glock G17 nine-millimetre pistol, so called as its magazine carries seventeen rounds. Personally, I prefer the Heckler and Koch SP5K which is heavier and more akin to handling an assault weapon whereas this is just for close combat."

"Why only close combat?"

"Because to kill from a distance, you must be able to aim the thing accurately which takes time, and sometimes time gets you killed.

Let us suppose that an army patrol comes face to face with a suicide bomber. They must act instinctively to gain the initiative, so it's one shot to the spinal cortex and a second to the head in quick succession, bang-bang. The spinal round instantly paralyses the target rendering him unable to trigger the detonator, the head shot finishes the job."

"There's more to this than I imagined Sir."

"There is.

Much more.

You have to consider what ammunition to use depending on what you expect to be faced with.

Here in the UK, the police use rounds that don't exit the target. The reason for this is, there's little possibility of injuring or killing innocent bystanders. There are rounds that are designed to explode on impact; hollow tipped rounds that splay out on entry. All very messy, but, by using them, even if the shot is off target by a bit, the damage is frightening.

Do you still want to use this beast?"

"Actually, I think I'll pass Sir! It was only because I have no intention of joining the armed forces, and given that hand guns are illegal here, this might be my only opportunity to use one."

"I understand. If you have a change of mind, come and find me, but not during a brigade meeting."

I caught the school shop just as it was about to close for the morning, so with a newspaper tucked under my arm, I went to our common room.

I was bored. I hate to admit it, but there's no fun to be had when you're on your own with everyone else getting to grips with learning stuff.

The old adage, the grass is greener on the other side is rubbish, I'd much rather be with my friends.

I'd pretty much done with the newspaper when Mr Amos found me.

"You may go back to your room if you so choose. Thilo's room has been cleaned so it's just a matter of fitting new carpets and curtains, but those tasks will be done tomorrow by which time you'll be back to studying."

"Thanks Sir. I could use a shower and a change of clothes.

Has there been any news about, um, you know?"

"He's out of intensive care. They whisked him into theatre, opened up the wound and treated it before replacing the stitches. More than that? Nothing much, except that the wound infection led to blood poisoning, so he's on a strict regime of antibiotics. Once he's recovered from the effects of general anesthetises, the doctors hope he'll be able to shed some light on how he came by that cut, what caused it and what it might be contaminated with. With that knowledge, they might be able to target medication in an attempt to speed the recovery process.

Are you hungry? When was the last time you had something to eat?"

"This morning at breakfast, and yes, I'm bloody starving Sir!"

"Me too. I haven't had time to catch my breath since last night, so what if we persuaded the kitchen to rustle something up for us?"

Fish pie with plenty of garlic bread; good thing I'm not going to be kissing anyone, but it definitely filled that gap in my stomach.

"When you return to your room, might I suggest that you check your emails?

Even though we were under instructions to keep Thilo's presence here out of the public domain, Mr King has been in contact with the powers that be in Namibia, and explained that given the circumstances, you had to be brought into the fold so you might well be in receipt of something.

If you are, and if it's something not previously covered, perhaps you could share it with us."

"I will. You can be sure of that Sir."

"See you at supper then. Back to the old routine tomorrow."

"Routine never seemed so attractive!"

As I'd been told, my room had neatly stacked in a corner, what few personal possessions Thilo had managed to bring with him. A tablet computer, a few books that I didn't understand, presumably written in Afrikaans, a box of assorted clothes, one pair of smart shoes and a pair of trainers.

Fourteen and only size four shoes? He must have very dinky feet! Mine aren't massive at size six, but no matter.

I took a look at the clothing.

Again, he must be slim, as the trousers had an inside leg measurement of twenty-six and a waist of "Small".

I put them back where I'd found them as I felt guilty snooping on a boy that was in hospital and had seen so much terror.

Next, I fired up my laptop and checked for new emails.

One from my father – just the usual stuff regarding the farm, how putting the rams to the sheep early was reaping rewards with most sheep having struck lucky. Then comments, or rather his angry response to Jaguar-Landrover's plans to axe the Defender model. "Why? Don't they understand that it's the vehicle of choice for every farmer? Jesus Christ Almighty!" and so it went on. The price at market for beef cattle was on the up, and with the promise of a mild winter forecasted, perhaps the feed costs would be low.

Not boring. I intend to take over the running of the place as soon as Dad retires, but that's a way off yet. First take my 'A's, then work towards a degree in business management followed by agricultural college for another degree in animal husbandry.

All planned, and it excited me.

No other emails so I penned a reply, although the only thing of note that I desperately needed to share with Dad was something I couldn't, and shut it down.

I showered and changed ready for supper before watching crap on the telly until the bell sounded.

Back in my room, I again opened up my emails. This time there was something new as the address was Hans-Peter.Roker@

It read:

'Stephen. I have been informed by your Head Teacher of your involvement in coming to the timely aid of my nephew, Thilo. He also told me that as a consequence, he felt obliged to tell you why Thilo is with you in England rather than back here in Africa, but went on to assure me that you are to be trusted not to spread the word amongst your fellows.

What is left of my family are still deeply in shock over what took place in Namibia; something I'm sure you can well understand, but, my friend, this is Africa, and you can be sure that I have put in place sufficient funds and resources to track down and dispose of those vermin, cleanly and ruthlessly.

Now I must beg your indulgence.

Some serious errors of judgement have been made, most of which I find myself having to hold my hands up to, but also the school have to take a degree of responsibility, so once Thilo has been discharged from hospital, he will need someone strong to lean on. His emotional frame of mind has been shot to pieces, he's going to be very fragile and I need to ask you if you could take on the mantle of that strong man, be there for him when things, as no doubt they will, become too bigger burden for him to carry by himself.

I realise that the two of you are yet to meet, but you'll find him a very personable young man and easy company.

He will need everything to equip him for life in England, so I have put at your disposal, a sum of money which should cover most of the necessary expenditure, but that said, should you find it necessary, you are to wire me so I can add to that fund. Money is of no concern. What is of absolute importance is Thilo and his wellbeing.

I have added at the bottom of this communication, all necessary contact details, and with that, I await your reply.

With my grateful thanks, I am sincerely yours.

Hans-Peter Roker.'

No. I hadn't met Thilo in the accepted sense of the word, but this was something I really wanted to do.

All the time I had been at the shooting range that morning, the one thought that went through my mind was, what could I do to protect him?

Guns aren't necessary here in the UK, but even if they were, the anger I felt coursing through me told me that I could kill if the circumstances warranted.

I can do this for both him and his family!

I wrote back.

'Dear Mr Roker.

Your thanks are unnecessary. I only did what any caring person might do under those circumstances.

My room here is on the fifth floor, and when I returned following the summer recess, the only room other than my own was unoccupied, but then, after about a week, I heard noises which at first I ignored. As time progressed, these became louder and it was obvious that whoever was the occupant was either very upset or in pain.

I know now that both were the cause, but then having tried to introduce myself and failing to get an answer, one night I had to break in.

The rest you know.

I will do everything in my power to help him settle, and more than that, I'll do whatever it takes for Thilo to get to grips with the unbelievable trauma he's experienced. In short, if I'm able, I can be his support, not only in school but outside of term time.

My family are farmers. We own an estate in Worcestershire that spans in excess of twenty-five thousand acres, probably tiny by African standards, but massive by ours. He will feel at home there as both my Mum and Dad are really caring.

I do have one request?

If you agree, I think it might be good if Thilo and I meet before he leaves hospital.

I have the tacit nod from Mr King that this might be acceptable, but he needs your approval first. I'm not suggesting right now, but once he's well on the way to recovery?

If you need any background regarding my circumstances, I'm sure Mr King can provide it, but please don't hesitate to ask me if there's something not on file.

My prayers are for Thilo's complete recovery.

Stephen Broadhurst.'

I messed about for a while before reaching for my collection of CD's as I was now free to connect the active speakers without running the risk of disturbing anyone.

Eminem fitted the bill. His lyrics were outrageous and every track told a story of someone totally out of their head and mind.

Yep! Good stuff, but as I went to load it, I noticed another email had arrived from Mr Roker.

'Stephen. I read your reply and I'm very pleased to hear that you're prepared to help in Thilo's recovery and assimilation into his new life in the UK.

I agree that meeting before he's fit and well enough to leave hospital is a very good idea, and to this end I have sent my blessing for such a meeting to Mr King and covered it with a copy to your Housemaster, Mr Amos.

Since I was made aware of you finding Thilo, both you and your family have been thoroughly vetted by my security department, and I would go as far as suggesting that I know more about your background and circumstances than you do.

Given that I have absolutely no cause for concern, I am very happy to allow Thilo to travel with you to your home when the time comes. Further to that, I wish to send you an invitation to come to us here in South Africa, maybe next year come your summer holidays.

Like crashing a car, it's not wise to delay getting back behind the wheel, and so it has to be if Thilo is to get past his fear of our country, he has to return; short visits to begin with then progressing to the ultimate of returning to his estates in Namibia which he now owns outright.

If that sounds harsh to you, then you have to understand that Africa is a harsh county that requires harsh people to allow it to flourish.

Thilo is now in control of one of the largest farming complexes in Namibia and needs to demonstrate his strength of character and determination. He is my brother's son. He can make it.

My grateful thanks,

Hans-Peter Roker.'

I wondered if I should make Mr Amos aware of this new development, but remembering the time and also the fact that Mr Roker had copied his approval regarding visiting rights, I decided to leave it until the morning.

Sod Eminem. I'm tired.

Carpet fitters.

What time do they expect these guys to start work?

Six-thirty in the morning is like the middle of the night!

I dressed, then poked my head around the door so I could bark some rude and cutting remark at them for waking me.

Mr Amos was with them so I just mouthed a quiet What the Fuck? And left it at that.

"Wake you did they Stephen?"

"Good God no! I've been up and about for hours!

Yes, they woke me!"

"Can't be helped I'm afraid. They've got a busy schedule."

"Nice colour scheme. Insipid sick-green plays nicely against the puss-mustard of the curtains."

"Well, no doubt you'll be disappointed to learn that your room will remain as is then."

"It's okay. I hear that Threadbare is this year's look, not to mention Flaking Paint and Rising Damp."

"Your room's damp?"

"No. Me and early mornings have always had a troubled relationship."


Any further developments?"

"Yes. Another email came in last night. Do you want to read it Sir?"

"Please, and coffee would be good if you have some to spare."

"The kettle's just boiled. I'll see to it while the computer boots up."

"Nice to have some positive news for a change. I'll have a word and see what the school can do to facilitate your trips to Carlisle, maybe a rail pass. A member of staff could run you into Keswick so you could take the train from there."

"My only concern is, what if we don't hit it off? Under most normal circumstances, it wouldn't matter if he didn't much like me or I him, we'd just be polite to each other and leave it at that, but there's a lot at stake here."

"Just have to cross that bridge when we come to it I suppose. There's little to be gained by speculation at this juncture.

I better get to my study and take a look at my email. I meant to check last night, but a stiff whiskey saw me in bed by nine o'clock."

"Nice idea. Perhaps get the school shop to stock a decent range of single malts. A Dufftown Glenlivet works for me!"

"What? You mean to tell me you don't bring a case of the stuff up with you at the beginning of each term?

Shame on you Mr Broadhurst. You do disappoint me!

Right. I better get my skates on. Thanks for the coffee and I'll see you at breakfast."

Our common room later the same evening.

"Check and mate!"

"Eh? That's just so not fair! I mean shit! I never saw that coming!"

"Just have to reconcile yourself to the fact that I'm a genius chess player Steve!

Anyway, what's with this Air Ambulance gig then? And don't tell me you don't know 'cos it's obvious that you're party to things."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"That's just so much bullshit as well you know, so spit it out, damn it!"

"Alright already!

Yes, I know about what happened, but no way can I share it with you, or anyone else for that matter."

"Why? What's the big deal?"

"Look. Mr King has made it perfectly clear. If I breathe one word about anything, I'm history, expelled, down the road, okay?

No joke. He meant it James."


Okay, forget I asked."

"Anyway. Why did you even suspect I knew anything?"

"Simple. Appearing at breakfast looking like a fucking scally for one. Quiet words from Mr Amos, a no-show at chapel, not attending classes, and then all the activity in the room next to yours? I mean, please?? Of course you knew!"

"Yes, well, let's just say it could've been handled better.

Can we please change the subject? Thrash me at chess again, - anything, - but no more quizzing me!"

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