Saturday, August 8, 2009

Chapter 40: Counting the cost

Chris had just finished patching me up, when Bird appeared on the bank above us.

“Hey Boss,” he called down and both Johnny and I turned to see what he wanted. I deferred to Johnny.

"Status?" Johnny asked.

"Looks like we got most of them. Rasta's got a bee in his bonnet about some spoor he's seen heading off west, but I told him he can't go haring off on a hunt now," Bird reported. I nodded my head in agreement, although I would regret that decision later.

"We have no own-force casualties. Four of the bad guys are still breathing. We're still finding and counting the bodies."

"Thanks Bird," Johnny said, "leave the bodies for the police to recover. I think we should take the prisoners and move back to the parking lot. Ok Rupert?"

"Sounds good to me," I agreed with Johnny. "I'd like to make sure that all my people are safe, and I'd really like to find out how this arsehole, Dimitri, found out where I live. Maybe we'll have some luck with getting the prisoners to talk..."

Chris helped me stand, with Daise supporting me on the other side, and we started making our way back down to the parking lot.

It wasn't too bad walking, now that I had been all strapped up, but I was reeling from the post-combat fatigue; mostly the after-effects of an adrenaline high. I thought briefly of the amphetamines we used in the old days, then decided that those drugs should be a last resort; I had loyal friends and employees, I wasn't operating five hundred klicks into enemy territory, so I decided to keep them in mind if I really got desperate at some later time.

When we arrived at the parking lot, I was surprised to see the Landrover with all the girls in it, parked there. I turned to Cpl. Maseka, who had come to meet us halfway, and he told me that it had been his call, as the safest place where he could protect them while still acting as a reserve element for me.

Any conversation on the issue was obviously not going to take place though, not until I had dealt with the semi-hysterical bunch of women who descended on me at that moment. There were exclamations and demands for explanations thrown around in four languages. Well, at least I could understand three of them; the Russian or Ukrainian, I was sure which, was flying between Daise, Alina and Kat. I figured Daise would sort that out and I proceeded to do my best to reassure the others that I was really going to be alright, that my wound was not that serious and would everyone PLEASE relax?

Eventually, the babble subsided and we got all the cats herded I mean, we got everyone into vehicles. A quick conference with Johnny decided our story for the police, and we started out to head back to my house.

I had thought that the house might be quite a bit damaged, but it was a lot worse than I had thought.

I walked through the burnt out ruins of my house, trying to identify what could possibly be salvaged. The contents of my safes was all fine, the safes were designed for that after all, but the rest was a complete mess. What was making me more than slightly upset though, was the growing realization that a good proportion of the damage was smoke and water damage or breakage. It looked as if the firemen had destroyed my house in order to save it.

Just getting to the stage where I could walk through the house had not been a trivial exercise. The police had descended in force, hot on the heels of the fire department and they were convinced that a mini-war had taken place. Johnny was very eloquent in his explanation of the bunch of us having the weapons as part of his security companies' training program, but it was apparent that the whole lot of us were going to have to spend some considerable time in the near future providing statements and telling our versions of the story.

I tried to get hold of Roy, thinking that he would be able to assist with the whole police thing but, unusually for him, the call went to voicemail. I left a message telling him that there was a situation and that we could do with his help.

Rifleman's Zondi's body had been removed to the morgue, and I had made the call to his father. The man was devastated and didn't even try to hide it. I promised to cover the costs of the funeral and felt guilty at the amount of gratitude that offer generated. I knew how important the funeral was in the Zulu culture, so I understood this was not going to be a trivial expense. With Sgt. Major Dhlamini out of action with his wound, I had already started to rely on Cpl. Maseka.

I walked out of the ruins of the house and stood under the large Acacia tree in the front yard. Cpl. Maseka had been trailing along behind me everywhere I went, and he stood now waiting to hear what I had to say.

Daise, Alina and Katerina had been waiting under the tree for me. Bettina was running around after Lisa who was fascinated by the fire-engines and what the firemen where up to.

Once Cpl. Maseka and I had joined the group under the tree, I started going through the various things that we needed to accomplish.

"Corporal," I started, "I want you to start getting things together for Zondi's funeral. I'll leave it to your judgement, but I'm thinking we'll need at least four cows, three or four hundred kilos of mielie-meal (corn porridge) and I whatever ingredients the abafasi will need to make beer. Spend what you need and let me know how much it costs. I'll organise the chapel and the hearse."

Cpl. Maseka nodded, and I could see from his expression that he approved wholeheartedly.

"Johnny," I greeted him as he joined us, "How's it going with the cops?"

"They are a little suspicious but they are buying most of it. They have already got some confirmation that these guys were Russian, so they know that at least part of my story is correct," Johnny reported.

"That helps," I said with some relief.

"Oh, by the way Corporal," Johnny said to Cpl. Maseka, "you underestimated the numbers you were facing by at least half. Initial estimates are that there were as many as twenty five of them, not the twelve you reported."

Cpl. Maseka frowned in thought for a moment. "There were definitely only twelve who were attacking the house when I made the call. I agree that there were more, but they only got involved later."

"That makes sense," Johnny replied, "I just thought you should know."

"We have some other things we need to arrange," I interjected, "such as a place to stay for the night."

"You are all welcome at my place, as you know. Even if this place wasn't destroyed, you'd have to stay somewhere else, 'cause they know where you live. It won't be safe here until this Dimitri character is dead, and maybe not even then," Johnny offered.

"Thanks Johnny. That's great. I think we'll have to move out to the farm, but I'd like to do that tomorrow. There's too much going on now."

My phone rang just then and as I saw from the caller ID it was Roy. "Hi Roy," I answered it.

"Hi Rupert, it's not Roy, it's Gill."

"Oh, sorry Gill. Did Roy get my message?"

"That's why I'm calling, Rupert," Gill said and I could hear the strain in her voice.

"What's wrong Gill," I asked, "Has something happened?"

"Yes. Roy was beaten very badly and Sharon, my daughter dammit, was brutally raped. I'm at Westville Hospital. They've both been admitted. Roy asked me to call and tell you he's sorry. It was the first thing he said when he came round. 'Tell Roy I'm sorry.' He said that before he even asked about Sharon. What the fuck have been up to Rupert?"

"Shit. Sorry Gill. I'll do whatever I can to help. I'm really sorry this had to happen. Are they going to be OK?"

"The doctors aren't committing themselves yet. You know this is why I divorced him, don't you? I expected something to happen on the job though, not to have him attacked at home and I never expected Sharon to get caught up in it."

"I'll drop in to see you guys a bit later. Please let me know if there's anything I can do."

There was no response. Gill had hung up the phone. I told the group what had happened as well as my suspicion that this was how the had managed to find out where I lived.

We loaded everyone up in the cars and set out. I felt like Lot's wife, wanting to look over my shoulder at the ruin that was being left behind. I was putting a good face on it, but my thoughts and emotions were in turmoil inside. I was really devastated by the ruin of my house, but that could be rebuilt. Kat's rape had happened before I rescued her. The death of Zondi and what had happened to Roy and Sharon though, that was different; personal, and my fault. If I hadn't been playing 'white knight' it wouldn't have happened.

As we drove, I resolved to take this fight to Dimitri; to wipe him and his ilk out completely.

1 comment:

Fiona said...

Typo: 'Tell Roy I'm sorry.' should be 'Tell Rupert I'm sorry'