Friday, April 3, 2009

Chapter 28: Adding responsibilities

The song ended and I paid Bettina for the ‘dances’ she had done for me. While I did so, she told me where she was going to take Katerina and I told her to do what she had to do and that I would meet her somewhere along the way.

Once she had left the booth, I left enough money on the table to pay for my drinks and to tip the waitress, then I got up and walked out of the club. I gave Roy and Maseka a slight nod as I walked past their tables on the way out.

I crossed the parking-lot and jumped into the Land Rover, once Sgt Major Dhlamini had shifted over into the passenger seat. I didn’t say a word; just started up and drove off.

“What now?” the Sgt Major asked quietly. I guessed he was responding to my dark mood.

“We have a rescue to plan and execute.”


“Two of the women who work there.”


“Wait one. I’m thinking. I’ll brief you now.” My mind was working furiously, trying to cover all the angles. I was sure that the actual rescue of the women would be fairly trivial to arrange, but the longer term consequences were a little more serious. We had come to a water-shed moment. Everything to this point had been at arms length, and I thought that while Dimitri might be pissed off about Alina and Daise disappearing, we hadn’t had any direct confrontation. It was possible, unlikely, but possible, that Dimitri would eventually let their defection to me slide … eventually. Stealing two of his women right from under his nose was something different entirely. I suspected that he would see it for what it was; a direct threat to his authority and control.

I pulled into the parking lot of the City Hospital and turned off the Land Rover. “Ok,” I said, “here’s the story. I met one of the dancers in there, Bettina, and she told me a story. She is being blackmailed to stay there and to work as a prostitute, rather than as just a dancer. She is going to bring a woman called Katerina to this hospital in about an hour. Katerina was violently sodomised earlier and needs medical attention.”

“Oh,’ Alina flinched when she heard that.

“Sorry Alina. No way I could make that sound any better than what it is.”

“No problem Rupert. I just keep getting reminded of Dimitri and …”

“Yes, I realise that. It seems to be his signature.”

“It’s also clever of him,” Daise interjected, “it means that the woman can continue to work.”

“True, although from what Bettina tells me, this was so bad that she needs to receive medical attention.” Just then my phone rang. I saw that it was a call from Roy so I answered it, “Howzit Roy. You out of the club?”

“Yes. You see what you needed?”

“Yes. Meet us at the City Hospital.”

“Ok, be there in a few minutes.”

I told the Sgt Major to SMS Cpl Maseka to get out of the club and call us when he was out, then climbed out of the Land Rover and told Daise and Alina to come with me. We walked into the entrance to the Emergency Room and looked around. There was the usual crowd for that time of night; victims of the usual shootings, stabbings and hijackings mixed in with the kids with high fevers and drunken idiots who had crashed their cars. We sat down and watched the operation for a few minutes.

“Alina, go to the bathroom please and wait there with Daise. When Bettina and Katerina arrive, I will send them in there to you. You can tell them that you are with me and keep them there till I call you. Ok?”

“Sure,” Alina responded and got up. Daise bent over, draped her arms round my neck and gave me a kiss, then followed Alina into the ladies’ bathroom.

I got up and went out to the parking lot again. Roy was there talking to the Sgt Major and as I joined them, Cpl Maseka and his crew pulled up. I briefed them all on what had happened and laid out the Ops Order that I had come up with. I could see that they had all put on their ‘war faces’, so I used the standard format for verbal orders. I knew that the familiar ritual would make things seem familiar to them and settle everyone done.

“Orders. Situation: Enemy,” I began and saw a slight smile flash briefly across the Sgt Major’s face. He obviously recognised what I was doing and why. When he nodded faintly at me, I was reassured that he approved.

“Our enemy in general is Dimitri and his crew. Current indications are that the crew consists of between twenty and thirty men with unknown training. They are armed with hand-guns and, possibly, with AK-47’s and variants.

“Own Forces. Two females inside and those of us standing here. Attachments/Detachments. None unless you count Roy as a cop.” I paused for the expected laughter. I could see that the tension was slightly relieved and carried on a little more informally.

“Ok, the situation is that we have two women who will be escorted by at least one of Dimitri’s crew from the club. As far as I know, Dimitri has no idea that anyone is interested in the women, and the guy is being sent along just to ensure that the women don’t run away. When they get into the Emergency Room, I will be sitting there and I will try to get the women to go to the bathroom, where Alina and Daise are waiting. Once they’re out of the way, then I want Roy to pull his police ID and ask the goon to go outside with him. I’ll cover his back by remaining in the background inside, and once the goon leaves, I’ll escort the women out to the vehicles. Sgt Major, you’ll run the outside operation. I want the car that they arrive in to be watched, and as soon as they are inside, it must be disabled. When Roy and the goon exit, they need to be covered and I want over-watch cover for me when I bring the women out. You need to assign a driver for my vehicle so that as soon as we come out, we can be picked up at the entrance with as little exposure as possible. Roy will search the goon, and I am sure he will pick up on something that he can use as a pretext to arrest him. Once he has the goon loaded up, and we have been picked up, then everyone is to saddle-up and make for my place. Questions?”

“Yes, what do we do if there is more than one ‘goon’?” Sgt Major Dhlamini asked.

“Ok, two possibilities. I guess that there won’t be more than two of them. If there are two, then either one or both will go inside. If one stays outside, then once the other is inside, you take out the one who stays outside. If they both go inside, then I’ll have to provide support for Roy. Make sense to you Roy?”

“Actually, no. I think we should just block the women off in the bathroom and get the guys out here to make a loud racket to draw the goons out, then handle them when they are out here. I am a little concerned with getting too far outside my jurisdiction and also a bit nervous about getting too closely identified with something so far off the books,” Roy said.

“Sorry, I didn’t think of that. Ok, rethink. I don’t want to tangle with these guys, even if it is just one, without separating them from the women. I don’t want to have them caught in any cross-fire or used as hostages,” I thought out loud.

“Major,” Cpl Maseka interjected, “why don’t we take the goon at the car when he arrives? We can act as car-guards and he shouldn’t be suspicious when we approach him. I can take the driver, and if there is more than one, Rifleman Ndlovo can come up on him from the other side. You can be the ‘snatch team’ and the Sgt Major and the rest of the guys can provide cover.”

“Good call. Probably a lot cleaner that way. Ok, make it so. Let’s set up for them now.” It took me only a few second to recognise that the Cpl was better placed to make a tactical call at this level. I had just been subtly reminded of that fact and I made a mental note to be more aware of it in future.

I called Daise and told her to bring Alina and wait in the Land Rover, then in conjunction with Cpl Maseka and Sgt Major Dhlamini, we set up our ambush and settled in to wait.

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