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Gabriels horn, p.1
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       Gabriel's Horn, p.1

           C Ross
 
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Gabriel's Horn
Awaited Meal

  The Major looked me up and down with a smirk. He scoffed at my appearance dramatically. The sun’s harsh light radiated off my forehead, my pale skin red and raw. I was sunburnt in awkward patches where my khakis didn’t quite protect me. His reaction was a clearly rehearsed performance… It may have worked to put down yuppie journalists and foreign correspondents but I was made out of tougher material.

  “You are not ready for Rwanda’s heat,” he said. And it was easy for him to say as he sat under a shaded pavilion with a frail boy cooling him by waving a palm leaf.

  It was true nonetheless, I had only taken two steps out of the plane and was sweating through my shirt in which dark patches of sweat were ever increasing in size.

  His entourage laughed after a swift glance back by their leader. Late to the cue. They were obviously not as rehearsed in this performance. Scratching my itching collar, I looked backed to the Major who now approached with an outstretched hand which I shook. His fingers were held jewels of every type, but it was his eyes that held my attention, his eyes were like glittering diamonds illuminated by the violent inferno that lay behind them. I could see he was as intelligent as my dossier had theorised. I let go of his hand as I realised he must equally be weighing my character.

  “Please come inside, my guest,” he gestured towards the concrete bunker.

  I followed him into his lair, a half destroyed aircraft hangar that had belonged to the government two regimes back. In a futile attempt, I tried to count the numerous military bangles and medals hanging off his chest. The garb would look ridiculous on anyone else but he seemed comfortable in the regalia he inspired. I made another investigation to identify which country he had stolen the ceremonial military outfit from, the nation no longer officially existed. We sat down in plush leather seats.

  “Major Bosco, thank you for your hospitality. You must know why I am here, I am Be-“

  “And I am hungry,” he interrupted, “for food of course, but other things to…”

  I made a note to kick myself later, I was a fool to try get down to business straight away without the customary pleasantries, I had lost face. First operation nerves, I guess. He glared at a man standing in the doorway who scampered hastily out of the room, who returned shortly with a gala of scantily dressed women carrying baskets of fruit.

  “Are you hungry, Ben-jah-mon?”

  He mouthed my name with a curious humour, perhaps with glee that he knew my name before I had even introduced myself. I contained the surprise from showing on my face but could feel a hot panic growing up my spine. Something was off about this.

  “For food, yes,” I replied smiling. I would play your game for now, Bosco.

  The rickety electric fan moved with an annoying click from side to side as it scanned the room. A laughed echoed up his thick neck, “And other things?”

  He wrapped his large hand around the waist of one of his female servants, whose eyes remained impassive even as she smiled, while he plucked a pear from her basket.

  “Just food.”

  “This is fortunate that God has given me someone hungry.” He stood up, “For I am the greatest cook in North Rwanda.”

  “I hadn’t heard that about you, Major.”

  Perhaps the fact had been swallowed by the numerous violent atrocities had committed in the last decade.

  “Oh… I have testimony from the Kagazi people, I brought them the best food they have ever eaten. They say this meal I delivered to them saved lives, can you believe that?”

  I couldn’t.

  He left his chair and looked out the concrete slit which was riddled with bullet holes from a skirmish long since passed. He remained staring out into the savannah until I broke the suffocating silence.

  “Well, I hope we are having the same food as the Kagazi people.”

  “Oh no.” He grinned flashing his bright teeth, the men standing guard started chuckling. “We are not having stale bread!”

  “Stale bread was the greatest food?” I asked uneasily.

  “The Kagazi people decided they didn’t want our protection anymore. We have no enemies, we won’t pay you anymore, they told me. I warned them of dangerous bandits but they still declined.

  He scratched his chin and smiled to his comrades.

  “The next day ‘bandits’ took their grain, killed their beasts and threw the rotting bodies into their wells. Unfortunate, but I warned them. So of course they returned and I cooked up a feast so magnificent they cried at my feet and thanking me for the richness and beauty of my mouldy damp bread.” He broke into a fit of obnoxious laughter.

  I was uncomfortably aware again of who I was dealing with after being lulled by his pleasantries, the man known locally as Shetani; the devil. A warlord who served under the previously ruling Free Rwanda Fighters (FRF) dictatorship Bosco eventually came to power with a brutal civil war that he had won but ultimately ripped the country apart. Surprisingly things were developing now, though slowly. Bosco’s harsh treatment of unauthorised journalists had kept the majority of his atrocities from reaching the hears of the public, this fact coincided of why I was here in the first place.

  I am Ben McGregor part of Black Swan Rescue, this is my first international operation to negotiate for the release of American foreign correspondent Harrison Turlock, normally I wouldn’t come alone but Bosco has requested it, though using the word request is an understatement. He had sent us Harrison’s ear with further threats if his requirements weren’t met. The Major had taken to a disliking to Turlock through his numerous articles exposing explicit actions by the Bosco led FRF.

  “You see Ben-jah-mon, hunger is the secret ingredient to all great meals. Just as pain is the key to pleasure. Just as how good wouldn’t exist without evil. Hunger is an important spice to life.”

  The Major inspected the pear he held briefly before sinking his teeth into its flesh and wiped the dripping fluid from his chin.

  “And I am a very hungry man, Ben-jah-mon.”

  The main meal arrived on a silver platter covered by a traditional dome cover, it was rolled in on a trolley by the same frail boy I had seen on the airstrip.

  The Major lightly tapped on the silver dome cover with the heavy jewels on his fingers.

  It stood there spotless, like a reflective beacon in this rusting shelter.

  “You are a liar. You are hungry for the journalist as well.”

  “Yes,” I admitted, “-that is my purpose here.”

  He didn’t move at all, and hardly seemed to breathe.

  He finally became reanimated.

  “Cup of tea? You are English no?” Again he gestured to the boy who left us.

  “Scottish.”

  He erupted from his chair to study a globe in the corner of the room.

  “Hungry for knowledge?” I inquired.

  He smirked at me with genuine amusement.

  Gripping the globe with one hand he lifted it to my face and proclaimed as if he could be counted among the likes of Alexander and Hannibal.

  “This is mine-“ I nodded.

  “My father gave this globe to me when I was a boy. And yes I have a hunger for knowledge.

  When I was a boy, I wanted to go to Cambridge. But of course, a boy has to grow up, and realise what he is.”

  The boy returned with the tea.

  “-Isn’t that right boy?”

  I took the cup. Okay, now I really have to force the issue and get down to negotiations.

  “So you are here for Turlock?” The Major asked as if reading my mind.

  “Yes, his safe return and delivery to his family.”

  He went still again and stared at the tea in my hand.

  I raised it to my mouth to sip when nothing but a horrible bitter ta
ste filled my mouth and sinus as I spluttered.

  “Boy!” the Major shouted.

  Obediently the lad ran to him only to receive a backhand across the face that flung him to the floor.

  The cup was wrenched from my hand.

  “You call this a cup of tea?” he splashed the remaining bile into the servants punctured and bleeding face.

  “I-I’m sorry sir,” He grabbed him by the neck with one hand and squeezed “I didn’t meanee…” his words came out in a high-pitched wheeze.

  “So Ben-jah-mon,” the Major turned to me, “you are here to save a life, because I would very much like to kill that liar Harrison.”

  “Stop this Bosco, I’ll have none of these fucking games. I am here to do a business.”

  “No games. Your business is to save a life. I have one in my hands.”

  “I am here for Harry.”

  “I’ll tell you what, you can take this boy right now and hop on your plane.”

  He smiled and squeezed tighter. I need to calm him down, but first I need to calm down.

  I need to be anywhere but here. Home, I’m back home. The green highlands stretch for miles. A cold the mists breath outs, spreading out across the loch like a white blanket.

  I open my eyes.

  “Okay, Bosco. That’s enough, we’ll talk. I am certain we can find a solution.”

  “It is not certain, what is certain is I will kill this boy.” The boy squealed like a pig at the realisation and looked at me for mercy. I avoided his terrified eyes.

  “Put him down, please…”

  “I will if you agree to leave, you can even take this boy, is his life not equal to another? You seem reluctant. Is it the colour of his skin, or is it
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