by Andrew Foote

Chapter 27

We substituted the shoulder holsters for leg ones so we could wear tee's rather than having to wear jackets. This was the first time we'd worn these in earnest and they were bulky and uncomfortable, but then we'd thought the same about the shoulder holsters to begin with, so maybe we could manage.

One other thing was to not be tempted to put anything in our right pockets, or rather where the right-side pocket used to be because we'd cut the bottom out of them so we could get to our guns.

We locked the villa and walked across to the barn to get the Jeep.

"I feel lop-sided!"

"Ha-ha! Me too, and what's more, I'm not so sure carrying these things is necessary here. This is the first time since Easter that I don't feel as if we're under threat."

"Funny that, because I'm of the same mind. Best not to get complacent though.

Do you want to drive?"

"No. You know where we're going, so best you do it."

"I think you only want me to drive so you can laugh at my inability to master double-declutching!"

"You need practice. There's no denying that!"

"Well, at least it runs pretty well for a bit of kit that's over seventy-years old. The Americans could definitely build a reliable vehicle.

Let me stow the Jerry cans and we can pull out."

With very little traffic on the roads we made good time.

Avola was nice, - I'd always liked wandering around the town, but now it felt friendly. The worry of being attacked wasn't something either of us were conscious of, so we filled the Jeep and Jerry cans with fuel, parked up and went for a coffee.

Despite it being only eleven in the morning, bars and restaurants were open, the markets were a hive of activity so people-watching became our pastime as we finally allowed ourselves the luxury of relaxing in the sun.

"Is there anything you want to look for in town?"

Thilo tore his eyes away from a rather good-looking boy who was waiting at table.

"Sorry. I was somewhat preoccupied!

Not really. This is my first visit to Europe outside of the UK and I wanted to get a feel for it."

"I had noticed what was preoccupying you! Look by all means, but touch, and I'll kill you!"

"Not my type. He's an out-and-out poof…… a great-looking poof I admit, but back to your question? I want to see if I can find a decent camera. Mine's alright, but it's old and I want to buy something really good."

"Okay then. I'm not at all sure where to go to get one around here though."

"Then it's an excuse to go and explore. There must be somewhere in town?"

We finished our coffee and took to the streets and alleyways in search of photographic equipment.

As Thilo browsed what few shops that might be promising, it gave me an opportunity to study him.

Since we'd met, events had catapulted us into a life of violence, hardship and worry, but now I could really see him for what he was.

Relaxed he was beautiful, almost child-like. His enthusiasm for life radiated from him, but then he could change, - go into business mode, serious and every inch the multimillionaire that he was.

I'm not given to emotional outbursts, but I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks.

"I need a cuddle."

Thilo turned to look at me.

"Come here. What's the matter? Have I done something to upset you?"

"No! It's me. I try to act the tough guy, - take it on the chin like they tell us to at school, but deep down I'm as fragile as the next man. I don't want guns, - I don't need us to be like this.

I've been watching you as you look in the shop windows, take in the sights and smells, and I see the real you, - carefree and relaxed. I loved you before, but now?

I love you Thilo, and with every bone in my body."

He reached out and pulled me into an embrace.

"And I hope you know that love is returned in equal measure and then some.

Steve? I'm not as strong as I make myself out to be. I still have flashbacks and bad dreams, - I don't think I'll ever get over what I witnessed back in Namibia, but we've got to learn to grab what happiness we can find, make the most of every opportunity to have fun rather than dwelling on the past.

What's that saying? Forget yesterday. It's gone and nothing we might do can bring it back. Don't worry about tomorrow because it hasn't happened. Just make the most of today; learn from what's gone on before and put those lessons into practice today and in the future.

Come on. I want to buy a camera!"

He bought a camera. I still don't have any idea what it is, but following lunch in a harbourside tavern and the trip back to the villa, he sat out by the pool reading through the instruction manual…… three times!

"Got to grips with it yet?"

"Fucking thing's got more functions than a space shuttle! Some are very similar to my old camera, but then there's stuff I can't use until I lose the light. I mean, what on earth is Graduated Signature Intensity? Then there's this one, Aspect Manipulation. They don't even think to show any examples, that would be too much to expect. They just believe that everyone is as clued up as Lord fucking Snowdon!"

"Is this what you meant by Grabbing every opportunity to have fun?"

"Yes! I mean maybe!

I think I might ditch the idea of farming, and instead I'll write comprehensive and understandable technical documentation for camera manufacturers!"

"Got to understand them before you can do that."


I stood up and stretched. Thilo looked up from his manual.

"Where are you going?"

"I thought I'd go and manipulate my intensity then maybe graduate my aspect for a while."


Once you're done, do you want to grab a nice cold bottle of Frascati and a couple of glasses?"

"Are you trying to manipulate my graduation here?"

"You know I said I loved you? That's likely to change unless you stop taking the piss and bring us something to drink!"

"I can do that.

Do you want something to eat?"

"No ta. Still stuffed from lunch."

We weren't bothered all the time we were on the island, and slowly we started to relax and enjoy being ourselves rather than feeling as if we constantly under siege. We'd had no word from home, no indication if the UK Government had met with any degree of success, in fact the only call we had was from James telling us that he and Mark were giving some thoughtful consideration about coming out to everyone at school once we got back after the holidays.

"We've been hiding away too long, Steve. What began with some messing around in the shower, led to me feeling very attracted to him, but no way could I acknowledge it for fear of what reprisals there might be."

"But when and how did you discover that Mark felt the same towards you?"

"After he and I had that coming together on the rugby field. I was the one who made the dirty tackle and it mortified me to think that he suffered a broken collar bone and concussion because of me.

I visited him in the sanitorium, - took one look and dissolved into tears. He wanted to know why I was in such a state. He told me that it was the price you pay for playing the game, and if I hadn't taken him down, he would've taken me.

It all came out, and I wanted to die! He told me that he thought the same about me, so from there on in we've been……"

"Beautiful story, but don't worry. You know everyone will support both of you, don't you?"

"Yes. At school they will, but that still leaves the problem of talking to our parents."

"Don't look to me for advice. Mine took it badly to begin with, but then you're not thirteen like I was, - you're old enough to understand yourself now. Perhaps you should invite him home when you're there. Do the deed together and show them that you're proud of each other."

"Thanks Steve, that's not all a bad idea.

How's Thilo?"

"He's fine. We're both learning how to chill again!"

"Make the most of it. School starts in five days' time."

"And for once I'm not dreading it either."

"Nor am I.

Look, I better get off the line as my Mum needs to talk Croquet."

"No problem.

We'll see you back at the factory next week."

"How was he?"

"Yeah, good I'd say. They're thinking about coming out at school next term."

"Nice. I'm pleased for both of them, - the only problem being…… not for them, but for us, is we've had no indication about whether or not we are going back to school for the start of term."

"I'd forgotten about what day it is, let alone what month. I really should phone and find out what's happening, but then if I get non-answers and bullshit, I might go off on one again."

"I'll do it then."

"Thanks. I know they're doing an excellent job protecting us, but political fucking around really pisses me off."

"I'm sure that knowledge about your surly and confrontational attitude has to be on file someplace, but leave it to me and tomorrow morning, okay?"

"You do that, and yes. I'm going to try and modify my attitude, but this is me, it's the way I handle pressure."

"I know that, but not so everyone else. Straight talking is one thing so why not take a leaf from the book of the one politician you do admire."

"Ah-ha! Mr Boris Johnson, may God bless him! Yeah, he's alright. At least you get a straight answer to a straight question."

"I don't know enough about him to pass comment, but if you did but play straight without that barb attached to every sentence, then you might even hit it off with Andreus."

"Andreus is a prick."

"He most likely thinks the same about you. Have you ever thought about that?"

"Not often.

Alright…… I'll do my best to be all sweetness and light then."

"The day after tomorrow, Mr Roker. Can you be ready for collection at around eleven o'clock?"

"That should be okay. I'll have to check with Stephen, but if you don't hear back from me, assume everything is fine.

One last point as I know he'll ask. Are we out of immediate danger yet?"

"We've been very busy deciphering the information you gave us and the more we understand the implications, the better we're getting at persuading those involved that it really isn't a good idea to mess with us, or you come to that.

We still have a way to go, but in the round? You're much safer now than you were at Easter."

"If you'd said that to Stephen, he would've ripped out your entrails and had them on toast for breakfast.

Give it to me straight please. On a scale of one to ten, ten being a lot of fucking danger, where are we now?"

"Four, maybe five, but like I told you Mr Roker, these things take time. Information, - cross-referenced with that already in our possession, think hard about strategy followed by making contact with people who perhaps wish to remain uncontactable.

Believe me, we're 100% on this. We wouldn't dare think about you coming back to the UK if we weren't happy about things."

"Thank you very much. That should go some distance with him, and if you keep on telling us how it is, then I can see no reason why I shouldn't allow him to mix in polite society again!"

"You are a brave man."

"He's just suffering from Bullshit Aversion Syndrome. He'll be fine given time.

Can you tell me what the travel plans are?"

"Scheduled flight direct to Birmingham International where you'll be met and taken by car to Malvern Park. No sea cruise this time, I'm afraid. We don't think it's necessary."

Air Italia. A new one on me as we always flew BA where possible, but there was no denying that the inflight service was excellent and the cabin crew, really friendly.

We had been told to go through Red at the customs gate, and once we were seen there, we were to simply say Article 18 passengers and leave it at that.

This brief exchange bought us suspicious looks from the Customs Officer as he leaned down and pressed a buzzer which resulted in us being escorted through to an ante-room by an armed policeman.

A Suit asked for our passports and our weapons, - scanned the passports then checked the serial numbers of our guns, and once satisfied, we were shown through to the arrivals hall and our ride home.

Ten minutes from leaving the aircraft to looking out for someone with our names on a card had to be a record. Normally the queue through immigration control takes at least thirty. Maybe everyone should carry concealed weaponry about their person!

Our ride was courtesy of a black Mitsubishi Shogun complete with dark windows. Our driver said nothing during the journey, - just another Suit hiding behind the obligatory reflective lens aviator shades we guessed.

I had him park up by the rear entrance rather than run the risk of disturbing Winterton. I even offered him some refreshment, but he declined. At least he managed a smile before he fucked off.

Dad was in the kitchen drinking tea and talking to Helen.

"Welcome back boys. How was your break?"

"Quiet, thank the Lord. We would have minded if you'd forgotten about us and left us there."

"Well, you've school to look forward to in a few days, and given their fees, I want to get full value for money.

Tomorrow morning at ten-thirty, your goons will be here to update you. Do you have any objections if I sit in?"

Thilo nodded his agreement.

"That's fine Dad. You're very welcome, but changing the subject for a moment, - Thilo managed to get the Jeep running."

"You did? I couldn't get the damn thing to anything else but cough at me.

What was the problem?"

Thilo looked up and replied.

"Nothing much apart from the choke, or rather the lack of it. The butterfly valve had come adrift from the actuator. Five minutes with a small screwdriver saw her running."

"Did you go for a run in her?"

"First test run was down to the sea, then the next day we ran in to Avola. No problems except the noise!"

"World War Two and mass produced to do a specific task. No point in going to all the trouble of fitting silencers. The ones over here in the UK had to be modified, but in and around Avola? No one gives a shit one way or the other."

"How's your harvesting going?"

"It's been a good year. No late frosts to worry about, no sudden downpours of rain and I'm reliably informed that the bee population is increasing. The only problem is, if we've had a good year then so has everyone else meaning the price at market is flatter than East Anglia's tits. But we're farmers and we'll moan and complain no matter how things are!

My turn to change the subject I think.

We had a surprise visit from your banker, Mr Samuels last week. What a nice chap, I really took to him! Anyway, he's left plans for your village and farm complex together with some video footage of what's already been done, but to precis, the internet connection was been upgraded and works off a DSL link rather than cable or fibre-optic. Someone has been in and brought those already computer-literate up to speed with the new operating systems and laptop's have been provided for them as individuals.

A new power generator has been installed, and the existing one has been professionally re-engineered as a standby unit. A new 10.000-gallon diesel tank has been buried in concrete ten metres underground just in case of trouble, and all your farm machinery has either been rebuilt or replaced as per your wishes."

"Good. I'll look forward to taking a look later.

Did he say how they were shaping up?"

"Not in as many words, but he did say that he understood that they were getting on with their lives now something's being done."

"Did he say if the farm account needed more funds?"

"No. But then it's nothing to do with me."

"It would be though, Charlie, if you agreed to be a director of Roker-Broadhurst?"

"That's what Alexander told me."


"Your banker, Mr Samuels."

"Wow! You really did hit it off with him!"

"Certainly did. He's agreed to handle some of my personal investments for me. He's going to look for offices in Great Malvern once he's done visiting his kids…… oh, I meant to say that his background, his contacts, passed financial dealings and accreditations are absolutely 100% as verified by our security services. Your man is a dealer of impeccable character."

"My Dad knew that. They were friends, - had been for many years. I'm pleased you like him and trust him. But are you willing, or would you consider joining us as a board member?"

"I'll consider it. Let me get the rest of the harvest in and then we'll sit down and discuss it."

"Am I missing something here, Dad? You said that Mr Samuels would be looking for office premises in Malvern, so how might that effect his position with the bank?"

"He resigned; gave them six months-notice, so rather than messing around, his board of directors offered him Gardening Leave for the duration of his notice. Unofficially he's supervising an internal audit of their UK operations so he can justify his salary, but it's a tax dodge really. As of the first of this month, he's been free to fly his own kite."

"I just hope he manages to settle here. Malvern's like a life way from Windhoek."

"I'm sure he will. He's already made one friend here."

"Who's that?"

"Try Martyn Ericson?"

"Mr Ericson? Surely not!"

"Why not? They're both very fine accountants to the point where I got lost in their conversation, so I left them to it and went out and fed the chickens."

"Sweet. Mr Ericson told me that work aside, he was all about Mahjong, chess and am-dram."

"Probably difficult to meet someone who matches his intellect which might be why they hit it off…… could have something to do with their shared taste for Bourbon as well."

"He drinks something else besides tea?"

"They did three parts of a bottle of Jack Daniels between them in the space of just over an hour!

Yes, it surprised me as well. Perhaps now he'll come out of his shell; he's been outside of the fold for far too long, and that's something we need to address son."

"Wakey-wakey Steve. We've got this meeting in just over an hour, so rouse yourself!"

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and yawned. Thilo was fresh out of the shower and a fluffy towel was hardly covering his modesty.

I looked to his crotch, and yeah….. Boner time!

"Fuck off, you! Damn it, we don't have time, otherwise I'd get straight back into bed with you!"

"You've got a hangover?"

"Massive one, so please will you get showered and dressed?"

"Okay. I don't want it to be me who keeps them waiting."

"Good morning gentlemen. How was your drive up from London, or did you stay locally last night?"

"The drive was good thanks. Unfortunately getting all the paperwork together took rather longer than we anticipated, otherwise the Cottage in the Wood Hotel might have got our custom."

"Nice place that.

Has anyone offered you refreshments?"

"We've only just arrived, so no, they haven't."

"Tea or coffee?"

"Either would be perfect thanks."

"Thilo and I are tea freaks until lunchtime, so I'll get that organised for us.

Breakfast? Have you eaten yet?"

"No, but we're…… "

I rang the service bell, and a minute later Sarah appeared.

"Could you organise tea for eight and keep the kettle on the boil? Breakfast for the four of us would be nice too."

"Tea, no problem Sir. What would you like for breakfast?"

"I dunno. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and toast and marmalade please Sarah."

"Would you like me to set places in the dining room?"

"Sod that love! Shove it in a hostess trolley and we can help ourselves. And by the way. Once you've brought it through, no interruptions please as this is a private meeting."

"No worries. Just give us ten minutes."

After Sarah left the room, Mr Askwith turned to me.

"There really isn't any need to offer me breakfast you know?"

"What with all the trouble you're taking to protect us, I think it's the least we can do, - and besides, I'm hungry as well!"

The conversation turned to all sorts of trivial things until Sarah came through with our breakfast trolley. Once she had left the room, so the real conversation began.

"Right then. Our people have been taking apart all the information contained on your laptop, Thilo.

Most of it concerns people who are no longer around to be of any influence. They're either dead or in prison, but of course there are exceptions, so what we've done is to warn them off from taking any action against you or others, or risk a very long prison sentence. Further to that, we've left these individuals in no doubt that if they ignore our warnings, certain bits of information might well be leaked to those who might seek to put in place their own type of justice together with our tacit approval."

"So, does that mean it's all but over?"

"Sadly not. We have uncovered a rather more significant issue, and one that right now, we're unsure how to approach.

Have either of you ever heard of an organisation called Al Shabaab?"

Thilo nodded. "They're like an extreme radical Terrorist organisation, right?"

"Well…… yes and no.

Al Shabaab are extremists for sure, but what they're all about is their pursuit of influence within certain counties to the point where their grip on the government is such that they can demand Sharia Law is introduced throughout the entire population.

Many Muslim counties are under Sharia Law, and as such, they're ruled fairly if very strictly. Sharia Law is placed in the hands of a group of high ranking judges and clerics, and they are free to set punishments and penalties as they see fit, such as very long prison sentences for crimes, that, over here would lead to community service or probation. Beatings are common, sometimes they behead rapists and murders, but Al Shabaab have notched it up a peg or three making these types of punishment look like a mild slap across the wrist.

Not two months ago there was a report of a seven-year-old girl who was seen playing in her own back yard but without wearing that all-over covering she should've been wearing.

They dug a hole in the city square, put her in it so only her head was visible, packed wet sand around her so she couldn't move, then the town stoned her to death. By all accounts it took two hours before she died, and all because her face could be seen to others outside of her family.

Another instance was a man who stole an apple from his neighbour's tree.

They sliced off his right arm just below the elbow then dipped the stump into boiling tar. They say he died of heart failure before they could force him to eat his own arm."

"Dear God! Where did this take place?"

"Somalia. Mogadishu to be precise."

"But Somalia is well north and east of Namibia. East of Kenya and sort of next stop the Gulf of Aden, so what threat do they pose to us?"

"Quite so, Stephen. But two of their hierarchy fled the fighting in Angola and joined Al Shabaab and are now very senior officers within their ranks.

What we're worried about is this. If they catch a whiff of us knowing about their past, they just might turn their attention to you in order to save themselves."

"So, warn them off like you did the others?"

"We can't get close to them. Somalia is a no-go unless you're either a pirate or Al Shabaab. We have no means of contacting them which is why that country is being so fucked over."

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