Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chapter 39: Interlude III

Dimitri's day wasn't going well. It had started on such a high note, and then rapidly gone to shit.

He had managed to find out who the bastard was who had stolen girls from him and killed some of his men.

A piece of luck, finding out that the cop on the scene that night was a friend of the arsehole, then a little chat with him had soon gotten that they needed. It turned out that breaking his legs wasn't enough, but when his teenaged daughter arrived home from some party or other, a threat to her had gotten him to talk quickly enough. She had provided a little fun for him and his two lieutenants afterwards, and her father's cries of protest had been sweet music indeed. I had been a bit of a surprise to see find that she had been a virgin, considering the way she had been dressed; but that had simply added some spice.

Gathering a group of his men had taken some time, as most of them had gone to ground after working most of the night.

Dimitri had been a little surprised to discover that there were guards at the guys house, and for a few seconds he had considered backing off to observe for a while before moving in, but quickly decided that it wasn't necessary; these weren't any {I}mujahedin {/I} that knew how to fight. It was just some rich white guy with a couple of security guards.

It started off very well with the gate guard walking right up to their vehicle with no suspicion that anything was wrong. He went down easily enough. After that Dimitri had gotten the first inkling that things were not as they appeared.

The first sign was the speed with which the rest of the guards reacted, but even more telling was the way in which they reacted. None of them made the amateur's mistake of rushing out to see what was wrong, instead they all went to ground, and then within a few seconds, they were delivering fire from well concealed positions.

Five of his men were blown away in that initial exchange of fire, and that was with hand guns against their assault rifles. The twenty two of his men that were left after that started to waver, and for a second he thought that they might actually defy his order to attack and run away.

A few well phrased threats, backed up by his known propensity to shoot subordinates who disobeyed him, gave them the necessary backbone, and they formed up in a ragged skirmish line and started sweeping towards the house, firing at any possible cover.

Dimitri found himself almost nostalgic for the days in Afghanistan, where he had at least known that all the men were trained to fight like soldiers. This bunch was mostly just thugs, with only a few veterans among them.

The guards certainly acted like soldiers, and Dimitri was forced to re-evaluate his opinion of them as they fell back towards the house in good order; firing and moving backwards, something he knew most soldiers didn't do well, even the best trained ones.

As far as he could see, they only managed to wound one of them, while he lost another three of his men.

Once they were in the house, it became even more difficult, and Dimitri discovered, to his dismay, that the white guy's vehicle was gone. He decided that it was still worth his while attacking the house however, because it was one way that he could hurt the guy.

Dimitri considered his options for a while as his men traded pot-shots with the men in the house, then decided that he needed to take a couple of prisoners and destroy the house.

One of his men reported that he had seen the soldiers, as Dimitri had started to think of them, escaping from the back of the house into the bush. Dimitri ordered his best lieutenant to take fifteen of the men and follow after them, while he remained behind and set fire to the house.

It only took Dimitri and the four men with him ten minutes to sweep through the house searching for anyone who might have been left behind, and then to set it alight.

Once the house was burning properly, Dimitri set out to follow on the trail of the others into the bush. He had deliberately kept the experienced soldiers close to him; they shared a bond from their days in the terrible mountains of Afghanistan, and still remembered the skills learnt there.

It was soon obvious that the bunch he had sent ahead weren't much use outside the city doing their normal jobs of enforcing, extorting and pimping. The soldiers were moving quickly and leaving booby-traps on their spoor which were catching more than their fair share of victims.

Dimitri directed his small group to move parallel to the spoor and at a distance of around fifty meters from it, and they managed to avoid all the booby-traps. When the inevitable ambush came, Dimitri's group was largely unaffected by it, but the soldiers moving away from the ambush surprised him by moving in his direction, almost ninety degrees from there previous direction of travel. The two groups practically stumbled into one another, and in the short, sharp, fire-fight that followed, Dimitri lost one of his group.

Once the soldiers had broken contact and moved off down the hill, Dimitri was forced to deal with another incipient mutiny, as the seven men left in the original group, and the three in his, were very reluctant to continue.

It took Dimitri almost fifteen minutes to calm them all down and convince them that he had a plan to accomplish what he intended.

Dimitri counted on the fact that the soldiers would have reported back to the white guy, Rupert, as soon as the first shots were fired, and that he would come running back. He suspected that his intention was to meet up with his soldiers, deal with the wounded, and then launch a counter-strike.

Dimitri was coming to think of the man as a soldier and a commander of soldiers, and use that to predict his actions. One of the best indications of the nature of a man is the quality and training of the people who work for him and this performance had convinced him that Rupert was a soldier.

Dimitri proceed to set up an ambush in the position that he felt offered the best chance to catch Rupert and his men when they came up the hill. One of the most important factors for choosing the site of the ambush was the best guess as to where they would climb the hill. He selected a spot that provided good cover for his men, as well as good fields of fire, and they settled in to wait.

The inexperience of his men provided the next cock-up of the day. Rupert had confounded him yet again, by coming up the hill on the other side of the stream-bed, and they were well spaced out. One of the idiots that worked for him set off the ambush too early, taking a shot while they were still too far away for it to do any good. Dimitri saw one man go down, before the rest of his men opened up, blazing away with no effect that he could see. Of course, Rupert and this new bunch of men he had with him chose this situation to prove that they were no neophytes when it came to situations like this. Their return fire came back incredibly quickly, with almost no pause that could be taken advantage of, and it was surprisingly accurate.

Once Dimitri saw that the men that were initially pinned down took cover in the stream-bed, he grabbed one of the men closest to him and started moving around to the right to see if he couldnt out-flank them and shoot them from behind.

They moved as fast as they could through the tangled under-growth, while he listened to the battle stalling; only sporadic fire coming from both sides.

When they reached the stream-bed, Dimitri sent his companion ahead with instructions to sneak up on Rupert while he provided cover from the top of the bank. He watched with satisfaction as his companion set up to take a shot around a corner of the stream-bed and then got off a shot that took Rupert down. Just as he started moving along the bank to get into position to fire himself, he got the most incredible shock: his man went down, shot in the head. He dived for cover hoping that he hadnt been spotted, and then watched in amazement as a woman emerged from the bush and ran towards Rupert, carrying an old .303 rifle. From what he could make out, it was Alinas girl-friend, the one that had got them into this whole mess.

Dimitri lay quietly and watched; not sure now whether it would be safe to move. His caution was vindicated after a few minutes. The whore started fucking Rupert, and shortly after they finished, two others emerged from the bush on the far side of the stream-bed and joined Rupert.

Dimitri crawled slowly back into the bush until he was far enough away, before getting to his feet and starting to run for the road. He decided that he was going to cut his losses and abandon the men that were there. He could hear that there had been a further assault on their position and he held no hope that it had gone well for his men.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chapter 38 - Exploitation

There was only sporadic fire coming from above us in the tree-line. That didn't surprise me at all considering that from their perspective, we had basically disappeared. There was no way that they could see us in the stream-bed, and when we popped up to fire every few seconds, we were well protected by the undergrowth and the fact that we didn't appear in the same place twice.

We had won the initial fire-fight, the uncontrolled phase and then created and won the controlled phase. I had a maneuver element that was moving in to perform a flanking attack, and my fire-support element was well setup and protected. With all those elements taken care of, I decided that I could spare some time to see if I could get acasevac going and move Cpl. Maseka into position to follow up any retreat.

I got out my phone and called Chris. I didn't get a chance to get the first words out.

"I'm on your tail with my medical bag. How badly do you need me?" Chris asked as soon as he answered his phone.

"Thanks Chris. Johnny is down. They got him with the first volley. I have no idea what his status is, I haven't had time to check on him. He's pretty exposed, though if you close up as much as possible, we should be counter-attacking in the next few mikes."

"Ok. I have one rifleman with me for protection and as a stretcher bearer. Cpl. Maseka was bombing up when I left the parking area."

"Excellent. You'll know when we go. Probably in the next three minutes."

I hung up and dialed Cpl. Maseka's phone.

"Major," he answered, "where do you need me?"

"Get on the road and go round towards the house. If any of them run from us, I expect them to west and head for Everton Road. See if you can set up some OPs along there and ambush them if they come through."

"Will do Major."

I hung up the phone, pretty happy that I had got that set up. As I started to turn back to the fire-fight, I was hit low in the side by a round fired from somewhere down-stream; from behind our position. The round knocked me the rest of the way around as it threw me against the bank.

As I slumped down, I saw one of Dimitri's men emerge cautiously and take aim at me again. Rasta and Bird didn't notice anything amiss, as they were still busy shifting position and firing, and they were further up the stream. From where they were, there was no chance that they could see the guy that had shot me, never mind bring their weapons to bear.

I struggled to lift my rifle, and as I did, I got the terrible feeling that I had come to the end of the road, as I could see that the round that had hit me had ricocheted off my weapon before hitting me. I figured that might have postponed my death, but it had damaged my rifle in the process.

I let my rifle drop, and started making the transition to my hand-gun, but slowly, so slowly. I was focused on the man taking aim at me, while a voice in my head was screaming, 'faster, faster you idiot'.

I had barely gotten my hand on the butt of the weapon, when the man's head seemed to explode. He toppled in what felt like slow motion, falling forwards into the sand and mercifully hiding the ruin of what had been his face.

I was completely confused for a few seconds, still tensed for the impact of the shot that my body expected, and fumbling to pull my hand-gun from the holster and jacking a round into the chamber. I noticed, as a vaguely interesting piece of trivia, that I hadn't needed to do so, as a bright shiny round was ejected from the weapon and arched away to fall to the ground.

I came back to myself suddenly; the sounds around me suddenly become clear and sharp again, and my mind started working.

Daise! I had completely forgotten about her. Now I could see her emerging from the bush further down the stream, standing poised on the top of the bank for a second before plunging down the bank and running towards me.

"Bird," I shouted, "take over, I've been shot."

"Are you gonna be OK?" Bird shouted back.

"Yes, medic on the way. You know what to do."

"Yes," Bird shouted one last time, and I swear it sounded as if he was laughing.

Daise reached me just then, and she dropped to a knee next to me and started pulling at my shirt to get to the wound.

"Hey, Daise. Thanks for that," I greeted her, "I'd forgotten you were even there."

"Forget about that Rupert, let me see where you were shot." She sounded seriously pissed at me, almost as if it was my fault for getting wounded. I pulled up my shirt so she could see what I had already figured out, that it wasn't more than a grazing shot. I suspected, from the way that it hurt to breath, that I had at least one rib cracked or broken, but it certainly wasn't life threatening.

As Daise started to look at my wound, I got distracted by what I knew immediately was Spyker and Moose's flanking attack. The sounds of the short bursts from their R5's sounded distinctly different from the sporadic AK shots.

Bird and Rasta waited a few moments before clambering up the bank and starting an attack in support, and I was deeply regretful that I wasn't with them.

My attention was snatched back suddenly as Daise, looking for something to use to clean the blood away from my wound, pulled her T-shirt off over her head.

My adrenaline was already pumping, and the sight of Daise in only a skimpy bra in the middle of a fire-fight, was suddenly the most erotic thing I had ever seen in my life.

I reached out one arm to grip her neck and pull her close into an intense kiss, and slipped the other hand under her bra to grasp at her breast.

Daise was startled by my actions, and pulled back from me at first. Then she changed direction completely, and started kissing me with incredible hunger, trying to bore into my mouth with her tongue and devour me with her mouth.

I slipped my hand down under her skirt and cupped her between her legs. Daise moaned loudly, and reached to unbuckle my pants and free my penis. Once she had accomplished that, without separating our dueling tongues, she flung her leg over me and settled herself down, impaling herself on me.

I shifted my hands to hold her buttocks, guiding her up and down my shaft. I was vaguely aware that my side was extremely sore, and I would suffer for this later, but in the heat of the moment I didn't care.

There was no finesse, just 'hot monkey sex', which didn't last long. With a shudder that ran through her whole body, Daise came, and I erupted into her a few seconds later.

"Oh god, that was intense," Daise said once she had caught her breath. I just nodded helplessly.

"Well, I hate to disturb you ..." I heard and almost died of fright. It was Chris, and he was supporting a smiling, wan Johnny.

Daise went bright red, and buried her face in my neck.

"Good to see you up Johnny. How are you," I asked.

"Hit my head on a tree when I took cover," he answered, obviously struggling to suppress his amusement at my predicament.

"Shit, you weren't shot?" I asked in surprise.

"No, but unless she was a virgin, that blood must be from you," he answered.

I laughed and pushed Daise up. She just stood and her skirt fell back into place, leaving her completely covered again. She took her T-shirt with her and clutched it to her chest. I had to tuck myself away, before Chris bent over me to check out my wound.

"It doesn't look too bad," he told me, and then proceeded to start patching me up, ignoring all my protestations and complaints.

Chapter 37: Into the Bush

As I took my first few steps, I found that I was back into the rhythm. Once it has been pounded into you by instructors and experience, you never forget it. Eyes flick from right in front of your feet to check your footing, up and to the right, scan right to left, close to far, and back again in a never-ending cycle. Walking slowly and stepping high so that you clear any obstacles; checking every few steps that your spacing is correct to avoid the natural tendency to gravitate inwards towards your comrades; checking back at the section-leader; checking up in the trees to break the cycle and avoid getting into a rut that allows your concentration to drift from what you’re doing. Breathing deeply to counter the effects of adrenaline; using the butterflies in your stomach to help keep you sharp. As your eyes scan, remembering to look for shape, silhouette and movement. Checking, checking, and checking constantly.

As I settled into it, the conscious drills faded into the background. I kept doing them, but I didn’t have to think about doing them, just move, slowly and steadily. I had calculated that if Dimitri’s men had followed the predictable pattern, they would have taken about twenty minutes to recover from the fear of ambush as they advanced slowly and found that the way was clear of booby-traps and soldiers, and started to pick up confidence again.

We reached the stopper group that Cpl. Maseka had left behind, and they got up and retreated once we were past.

As we moved further along, the undergrowth thinned out a little, and we spread out a bit further.

I spared a few seconds to search the bush behind me, and saw that Daise was walking with her rifle butt tucked into her shoulder, and a fixed serious expression on her face. I didn't seriously expect her to be engaged, but I felt it was her right to be a part of what was going on. Johnny noticed my inattention, and gestured furiously at me to indicate that I should concentrate on what we were supposed to be doing. I smiled at him and focused back towards our axis of advance.

We had moved more than five hundred meters through the bush in the last twenty minutes, and passed the scene of Cpl. Maseka's last ambush, with no sign of any of Dimitri's men. I wasn't too concerned because I guessed that they had retreated back to the house and probably to their vehicles.

We couldn't move too quickly though, because that was just asking for trouble. We needed to spot any possible ambush before we triggered it, and our extended V-formation was designed to foil any such attempts.

Just as I was about to suggest to Johnny that they had bugged out, everything went to hell in a hand-basket.

It started with the distinctive snap-crack of an incoming round. That gave us the warning, and we all went to ground instantly, just before the hailstorm of fire started lashing the foliage of the trees around us.

The old drills kicked in without thought, 'dive-down-roll-observe-sights-fire'. Without any conscious thought, I found myself in a prone firing position looking over the iron sights of my rifle. I was orientated at about fifty degrees left of our line of  advance, as the fire was coming from our left front.

We had been moving up the right side of a stream, and the muzzle flashes showed that the enemy were on the other side of the stream, about two hundred meters in front of us to the left.

I was firing single shots into the base of the bushes in the general area that the muzzle flashes appeared; one shot to the left, one to the right and one in the center, then moving to the next bush.

Once we were fully engaged, I took a look around, because Johnny should have been taking control of the fire-fight by then, issuing fire-control orders, getting us ready to maneuver.

When  I looked back, I was horrified to see that Johnny was down. The first shots must have got him.

I did a quick appreciation, shifting mental gears back to being a Section Leader (small team commander). Moose and Spyker weren't engaged; they were on the right, and sufficiently far over to be obscured from sight both by the vegetation and by the fact that the slight curve of the side of the hill we were moving up, put them into dead-ground. Bird, on point, was pretty much pinned down, and Rasta and I, while in direct line of sight from the ambushers, had both found good cover behind trees.

At this point there was fairly  sporadic fire from across the stream. I guessed that our immediate response to the ambush had caught them by surprise, and our disciplined return fire had been very effective in keeping their heads down.

Time was compressed, as usual, and the whole process took no more than a minute or so. I hadn't even finished my first magazine, when I started issuing orders.

I shouted, in Afrikaans to avoid having my words understood by Dimitri's men.

"Moose, Spyker. Right around flank attack. Move now." (Regsom kantaanval. Beweeg nou) Bird, break contact. Individual fire and movement left on my command.(Breek kontak. Onderlinge vuur en beweeging links op my bevel.) Rasta, covering fire for Bird, then fire and move to the left into the dead ground. (Dekkingsvuur vir Bird, daarna vuur en beweeg na links tot in dooie grond.)"

I paused between each command for the 'battle talk' process, basically everyone shouted the commands back to me, so I could be sure they had all heard and that there were no misunderstandings.

I couldn't see Moose and Spyker moving, but I got a shouted report, "On the way (Op pad)" so I put them out of my mind.

"Swapping magazine (Wissel magasein)" I shouted, to alert Rasta. I pressed the magazine release catch and shoved the empty magazine down the front of my shirt, grabbed a new one, clicked it into place and was firing again within a few seconds.

As soon as I was done, Rasta did the same.

"Move Bird", I shouted, as Rasta started firing again.

Bird came running past behind me, and a few seconds later he started firing.

As soon as I heard Bird firing, I rolled back then ran, crouched over, behind Rasta and Bird, and took up a firing position (Vuurstelling) on his left flank. Rasta followed suit once he heard me firing, and then Bird did the same.

When it was my turn to move again, I was finally able to jump into the stream-bed and get some decent cover against the far bank. Rasta and Bird were soon in the same position, and I could finally take some time, in relative safety, to think about our situation.

I would really appreciate comments on this chapter, especially from Vets, about how true the combat sequence rings.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chapter 36: Rendezvous

I put my foot down, racing back towards home. My mind was spinning even faster as I considered all the possible actions and consequences.

Dimitri and his henchmen had stepped firmly over the line; they had killed one of my own, and wounded another.

It took me closer to twenty minutes than thirty to get to the RV point. I pulled into the little grass picnic area slowly, keeping an eye out for anyone who might be there. The place looked deserted, which was a stroke of luck.

I stopped the Land Rover under some trees at the edge of the bush, killed the engine and got out with a curt order to "stay in the car" directed in the general direction of the occupants.

Once I was away from the Land Rover, I hauled out my hand-gun, checked that there was a round in the chamber, and then stood and waited for a few minutes. I couldn't bear to wait without knowing what was going on, and worse than that, with no cover or all-round defense.

I walked to the rear of the Land Rover and opened up, unlocked my special storage compartment and hauled out the Lee Enfield that was stashed there. As I was loading the clip into the ten round magazine, Daise climbed out and joined me.

"Let me," she said, removing the rifle from my hands. I looked at her with a raised eye-brow and saw the determined expression on her face. I just shrugged and reached back into the storage compartment and removed my 'fishing knife'. The fact is I hated fishing. That was a combat knife, but I had had to justify the expense of ordering a US Marines K-Bar from a specialist supplier somehow, so 'fishing knife' was how I had explained it to my wife.

I attached the scabbard to my belt and tied the bottom to my left leg.

I checked my watch, and only four minutes had passed. I reached back into the storage box and grabbed a box of .303 rounds which I handed to Daise.

"Get up in that big tree," I told her, "the fork over there should form a stable enough firing platform and you'll be able to provide us with top-cover from there throughout this area.

Without a word, Daise trotted off and climbed the tree. Just as I checked my watch another time, I heard the sound of an approaching vehicle. A quick glance told me it was Chris arriving. 'Damn,' I thought, 'you can always rely on the medics.'

Chris pulled up next to my Land Rover and pulled his medical bag out after him.

"They still in the bush?" he greeted me.

"Ja. Should be getting here any minute."

"We got backup?"

I gestured to the tree. Chris tracked his eyes up into the branches and did a double-take when he spotted Daise. I just smiled and nodded when he turned to look at me. He shook his head and looked around the area.

"Anyone else?" he asked finally.

"Johnny's on his way. He'll probably call Bird, Rasta, Moose and Spyker."

"The old team."

"Ja. He should be here soon too. Dunno 'bout the others."


Just then my eye caught some movement in the long grass under the trees. I turned to look at Daise, and saw she was tracking it with her rifle. Satisfied that she knew, basically anyway, what she needed to do, I dialed Cpl Maseka's cell phone.

"Ready to come in Major," he said into his phone before I could say a word.

"You in the long grass?"

"Some of us."

The phone went dead as he hung up, then the grass started moving again and within a few seconds two of the Cpl's riflemen emerged carrying the Sgt Major on a makeshift stretcher.

Chris hurried over to meet them and as he did, Cpl Maseka emerged from the bush ninety degrees further around the edge along with one of his riflemen, and three others emerged opposite him. If we'd been hostile, they would have flanked us on both sides.

I didn't say a word, just watched as the Cpl Maseka deployed his soldiers into an all-round defense using hand gestures. When he'd finished, he looked at me.

"Stopper group?" I asked.

"Yes Major, two of them in a quick ambush about two hundred meters out."

"Ok, well done Cpl. We have some reinforcements coming in and you can debrief when they arrive. I just want to know bow, did they chase you into the bush?"

Maseka's white teeth gleamed as his grin split his black face. "Yes, but we made it a little hot for them. Probably three or four won't be going anywhere ever again."

"Ok, but are the rest still on your trail?"

"Coming very slowly, yes."

"Good. Ah, here's Johnny," I said as a battered old, dirty green, Ford Cortina pulled up.

Johnny had made an absolute fortune the past seven or eight years working for a PMC company in Iraq, but almost every cent he had was invested off-shore. He was used to living a frugal life, and making money hadn't changed that at all. He had once let slip that he was making around forty thousand US$ a month, and spending next to nothing.

Johnny pulled his car around so that it was facing to the nine O'clock position, if mine was the twelve. Old habits die hard, and he was instinctively following the laager drill. I knew that he hadn't even thought about it, jus done it instinctively.

Johnny unfolded himself out of the driver's seat, and stretched out to his full 6 foot five inches. I knew that most people watching him would never have guessed that in those few seconds he had scanned the situation and his mind had processed every scrap of terrain, calculating and storing possible tactical actions and reactions.

Johnny was an instinctual tactical genius. He had no formal schooling beyond high-school, and all the army courses he had been on, he had aced the practical and failed the written theory exams. He was such an incredibly soldier though, that he had been promoted in spite of the courses, but because of the way he performed in the bush. He was an NCO, and became an officer only under great duress, and then only right at the end of the war in Angola.

"Howzit Captain," I greeted him. Using his old rank was an old way of teasing him, because he still thought of himself as an NCO with the traditional disdain for Officers. He returned my greeting with a grunt, and turned a raised eyebrow to Cpl Maseka.

With a glance at me for my permission, Cpl Maseka proceeded to go through his debrief. Johnny and I listened intently without interrupting until he finished with how he joined up with me.

"Ok, to summarize," Johnny began, "this is a bunch of criminals with AKs and hand-guns. They have a basic knowledge of tactics based on the way they fire and move, but they are not used to the bush. They are also not fit. Correct?"

"Yes Captain," Cpl Maseka replied. As usual, Johnny was able to extract the essentials.

Just then, a double-cab Nissan bakkie pulled into the picnic area, turned and stopped in the Three o'clock position, and four guys got out. Bird, Rasta, Moose and Spyker, for smallish guys with no really outstanding features. Definitely no bulging muscles. They were like Whippets, quick and lithe and could go forever. Like Johnny, the Sgt Major and I, they were in their mid forties, but physically, would put them up against any bunch twenty years younger. The fact that the seven of us had each won fifteen bronze medals in the Comrades Marathon, was just proof that some people aged like brandy; getting better with age.

Bird opened the canopy that covered the back of his bakkie, and handed out R5's to the other three, then brought two over, one each for Johnny and I. Owning his own private security firm made it both easy and legal for him to own these weapons.

I cocked mine, checking that the chamber was clear and that the working parts were all ... Well ... Working, before walking over and helping myself to a fifty round magazine in the back of the bakkie. There were six pre-loaded and a box of empty thirty round magazines. I attached the loaded magazine to my weapon, shifted the firing selector to 'R', racked back the cocking handle and released it under control, forcing the first round from the magazine into the chamber, then shifted the firing selector back to 'S' with my thumb. Once that was done, grabbed a few boxes of 5.56 rounds and started loading magazines.

I wasn't the only one, the rest of the bunch were standing around the bakkie, loading magazines quickly with deft fingers.

Cpl Maseka had followed me over. “Cpl, we’re going into the bush after them. I want you to send assign someone to drive this bakkie, and someone else to either drive or ride along in my Land Rover. Bettina might want to drive. The two guys who carried the Sgt Major can go with Chris as protection. You stay here with the rest of your guys as backup for us. Get the vehicles out of here now. Tell your guy to find a place to stop where they can wait out of sight until they’re called.”

“What about her?” he asked with a jerk of his head in Daise’s direction. Johnny looked at me expectantly, also interested to hear my answer to this.

“She’s made it clear she wants to be involved. Leave her with us.”

Cpl Maseka saluted and went walking off. Johnny just waited, not taking his eyes off me as he continued to load magazines.

“She’s earned it. She shoots that 303 like a dream and she was cool as hell the other night. I told you about that.” I answered his unspoken query.

“Ok, if you say so.” One of the nice things about Johnny is that he doesn’t do sarcasm. If he said something, then that is what he meant. Just that, no more, no less.

I checked my watch again. We’d been busy for just on eleven minutes. Cutting it fine.

“Ok, Opsaal.”

Everyone grabbed their magazines and weapons and we headed off to the edge of the grass area and formed up without any thought or signals into an extended skirmish line; Bird on point in the center, Rasta and I to his left and Moose and Spyker to his right. Johnny stood slightly behind the line in the center where he could control our movement with small tapping noises on his weapon to and hand signals.

I moved the selector on my rifle to ‘R’ for semi-automatic fire, and tucked the butt into my shoulder, then stepped off as I heard the sound of Johnny tapping his magazine twice. I looked left and right to ensure that the spacing was right, and shifted slightly until it was about fifteen meters between us.

This chapter is dedicated to Cpl (Acting Platoon Sgt) Johan "Vaaitjie" Schoeman. RIP.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chapter 35: Contact, Contact. Wait. Out.

I decided to take the old road that wound up the coastline as it was more scenic, so we were right near Virginia Airport when my cell phone started playing Mike Batt’s “The Ride to Agadir”, so I knew it was the Sgt Major calling.*

“Hi Sgt Major,” I answered the call by pressing the button on my Bluetooth headset.

“Major …” I heard, then my skin started crawling as I heard the unmistakable sounds of an AK47 firing on full automatic in the background.

“Contact, Contact. Wait. Out”

I pulled over to the side of the road and shouted for everyone to “Shut the fuck up” and then focused my entire attention on the phone. I could hear the sounds of heavy breathing, and more firing then “Oh Shit” and then nothing for a while. I pounded my fist on the steering wheel in frustration. I had no idea what was going on, other than it sounded like a major fire-fight. I needed to know what was happening. I reached out to Daise and gestured for her to hand me her cell phone. Just as she passed it over, I heard Cpl Maseka’s voice on the other end.

“Major, is that you?”

“Yes Cpl. Contact Report!” I demanded impatiently. This should be second nature to them after the many times we had been through the drill. I was scared now; it didn’t seem good that Cpl Maseka had taken over the Sgt Major’s phone.

“The Sgt Major’s down. He’s been shot in the upper chest, but we think we’ve got the bleeding under control. Rifleman Zondi is dead.”

“The enemy and situation Corporal, tell me what’s happening.”

“About twelve of them. They arrived at the gate in a Toyota Hi-Ace. We thought it was just a taxi, but when Zondi asked them what they wanted; one of them just shot him in the chest with a hand-gun.”

“What’s happening now,” I asked, thinking that no matter what, we were going to practice Contact and Situation reports again when this was over. I shouldn’t have to drag this stuff out of him. “Are you still engaged?”

We got into a fire-fight with them. I think they under-estimated both our numbers and the fact that we were ready to shoot back. We’ve had to drop back to the house though, they’re in the front garden and they take pot-shots at anything that moves. We’re trying to stop them from surrounding us completely.”

“Ok. Abandon the house. Leave Zondi’s body, it’ll be picked up faster if you leave it behind. I have all the woman with me, so it’s just you guys there. You know the route down into the Kloof, go there and lose yourselves in the bush. I’m heading back now; I’ll call you as soon as I can.”

“What about the Sgt Major?”

“Make a stretcher for him and take him with. You know this; we’ve practiced it enough times. Now MOVE.”

“Yes sir. Out.”

I dialled the emergency services number, and as soon as it was answered, reported “Someone’s shooting like crazy. Please send the police to help.” And gave them the name of my road before hanging up.

Next call was to Chris. “I need a medic. Gunshot wound to the upper chest. Can you meet me?” As usual he was completely on the ball. He wasted no time with extraneous nonsense.


“7.62 AK 47”


“The Sgt Major. Cpl Maseka tells me they’ve stopped the bleeding, but they’re loading him on a stretcher and are bugging out under fire from my house into the bush.”

“Ok. He’s a tough bastard. Been shot before, so I think he’ll handle the shock OK. Meet you at the river in the Kloof?”

“Yes. Come armed Chris. These fuckers have attacked my home. Zondi’s dead. This has escalated beyond a game now.”

“Damn right. You gonna put out the call to some of the others?”

“Next call. Thanks Chris, see you in a few.”

I hung up and gave the girls a quick summary of what was going on. I told them that we were going to go back and collect the guys and then we would find a safe place for them to stay while I took the battle back to the bad guys. Daise got a stubborn look on her face, and I knew that there was going to be an argument from her, but decided that it could be postponed. There were more important things to take care of for now. I dialled another number on my phone.

“Johnny, you packed?” I asked when the phone was answered.

“You mean like in the old days?”


“What’s the situation?”

“Twelve guys plus. Russian Mafia types. Attacked my house with AK 47’s and handguns. One rifleman is dead. Sgt Maj Dhlamini is wounded. I’ve got Chris on the way to RV at the river in the Kloof below my house. You know the spot?”

“Yes. I took my kids there on a picnic a few weeks back. You want me to call around, get some of the others?”

“Absolutely. I’ll brief you properly later. For now I have a bunch of civilians with me and I need to make pickup. I need some protection for that and some transport. After we’ve got them, we can go to that place on the Bluff.”

Johnny laughed. “Yes, JUST like the old days. Ok. RV at the river. My ETA is twenty-five mikes. I’ll call the others on the way.”

“Ok. My ETA is more like thirty mikes. Thanks Johnny.”

* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oENOe711jM Boney M’s Version and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfkuYvR3f1Y for Mike Batt’s original with the London Philly.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chapter 34: Moving on

I was actually very happy to have Lisa in the house. I loved kids, always had. Against many people’s expectations, I had actually spent some time baby-sitting as a teenager, and I had experienced absolutely no problems looking after my own daughters when they were growing up, right from the diaper stage. You know: when you feed them at one end and wipe it off at the other.

Sitting at the breakfast table, I looked around and found that I was happy. Having all these people in my life added something to it, it didn’t take anything away. I loved the sound of everyone talking and watching them made me feel good. I suddenly realised that no matter what else had happened, I wasn’t lonely any more.

I had been dragged along into this situation, without planning much of it at all, and that bugged me in a lot of ways, but I decided that I was far from unhappy with the results. I had no idea what was still ahead of me, and in a lot of ways that was a large part of the reason why I was unhappy. Predictability is a killer. Boring makes you old. Having young people in the house also made me feel a lot younger. Of course, the fact that most of them were young beautiful women had something to do with that.

I decided to shake things up a little though so I calmly dropped a bombshell. “We’re leaving in an hour to go shopping.”

The squeals of protest that followed my announcement just made me grin. I knew that women liked to have more time to prepare, especially if they were going out, but I knew that some sort of ultimatum on time was the only way to get everyone moving in the same direction at the same time. Herding cats? Pah! They’re simple compared to herding women and children.

Did I say that I knew what I was doing when it came to women? If so, someone remind me never to do that again. It wasn’t even ten minutes after my breakfast table announcement that everyone was in the Land Rover waiting for me.

I had gotten up from the breakfast table and gone straight to the shower. When I came out of the shower, I found some clothes laid out on the bed, ready for me to pull on. I could see neither hide nor hair of any of the women when I came down the stairs. Not even Nqobile.

Sgt Major Dhlamini was sitting on one of my lounge-suites and he smiled at my confusion. “They’re waiting for you,” was his laconic comment with a gesture over his should at the door to the garage.

I climbed into the Land Rover to a chorus of teasing cat-calls about how long MEN took to get ready, which I took in good spirit, and with a large smile plastered to my face.

Once we were moving, the interrogation started. Daise had been appointed the spokesman ... umm spokesperson … for the group, and she wanted to know where we were going, why, what we were going to do there and …. I had to interrupt her flow of questions before it got too much, so I just told her to calm down and started exmplaining.

“I thought that we could go up to Gateway Mall. It’s right the other side of Durban, to the north near Amanzintoti, and I think that it should be fairly safe, especially at this time of the morning. My gut feeling is that Dimitri and his crew are primarily night owls. I want to go there because it is a really large mall with a wide variety of shops, and there are some things that I thin we haven’t thought through properly which we can solve there.”

“What did you have in mind?” Daise asked. I glanced across at where she was curled into the passenger seat, with her legs tucked under in her in that wonderful way that girls do, and I could see the gleam in her eyes… I laughed at her, and a little at myself. She had experienced my version of shopping before, where I decided what I wanted and then went and got it, ignoring the cost completely.

“I was thinking that if the bunch of you are going to be living with me, even semi-permanently, then you will all need some clothing and female products. I also see that Nqobile has a fixed and determined look in her eye, and I am sure she intends stocking up her larder to the max!”

“Oh, OK.” Daise was happy with that, and after sharing what I had said with the rest, the whole crowd settled down a bit and I got on with driving.