The Fish's Belly, p.1Craig R. Kirkby
The Fish’s Belly, Chronicle III
The Dayspring Adventure Series
Copyright 2012 Craig R. Kirkby
All Scripture references are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
It is my sublime joy to be “Daddy” to two beautiful daughters.
This series is dedicated to Hannah and Jenna.
Thank you for your inspiration.
A special thank you to the many teams I have been involved with in ministry work in various African countries. The people involved, the projects and the initiatives we tackled have deepened my love for Africa.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About the Author
NOTE ON CHRONICLE III:
While the first book, The Lions’ Den received widespread appeal, the second book, A Fiery Furnace didn’t. Although this third book was well-received by a beta audience, due to the enormous investment of time and resources in writing, editing and publishing a book (and the focus required on a young-adult trilogy that I signed up with a publisher), I decided to make the final draft of the Dayspring Adventure available to readers—without the frills and furnishings of the first two books. And with this decision, the choice was to offer it in e-book format only.
Please excuse then, the lack of a map, Daniel and Rachel’s Journal Notes, and such like. I trust reading the story itself will be enjoyable and provide a satisfactory conclusion to this trilogy.
Finally, as in the first two books, the characters in this book are fictional.
Running in pitch darkness is no easy task…
…especially when you’re seventy-two years of age.
…especially when you’re weak having been drugged and imprisoned.
…especially when you’re fleeing for your life.
This was, however, Doctor Harold Scott’s predicament.
And with that, he tripped and came crashing to the ground, grazing his hands and exposed arms, ripping his trousers at his right knee—losing his right shoe in the process.
“Come on Harry!” he castigated himself as he hurriedly got to his feet, wheezing and reeling with dizziness. His hands and arms stung, the skin torn by sharp stones and hardy bush; his knee throbbed having smashed against a sizeable rock. It was too dark, and there was no time, to find his missing shoe.
He had only covered about five hundred metres before his captors realised he had escaped. And they were sure to be on his trail in force and haste—their lives depended on it. The man, the monster, to whom they had to give an account, would not tolerate failure. The frantic voices of Harry’s three captors now carried through the dark, cool night air.
As Harry shuffled on, his aching knee in terrible pain, and every breath laboured, he now heard the dogs.
At least two of them … perhaps three or four.
They growled and snarled eager to give chase, trained to hunt without mercy by a sadistic and cruel owner. During his imprisonment, Harry had heard the dogs being fed, but he had not seen them. Whatever breed they were; they were ferocious—goaded and groomed into fierce, killing-machines.
Then, either to terrify Harry or to whip the dogs into a further frenzy, or perhaps both…
A bullet sailed into the African night sky.
Harry wasn’t entirely sure how long he had been imprisoned for. He certainly didn’t know where he was. Somewhere in Uganda … more than likely; he thought to himself.
What he did know, was that he was in a race for his life and within the next hundred metres, he should reach a river. At least, that is all that he could make out from the limited viewpoint the bathroom window had given him—from where he had plotted his make-shift escape over the last two days.
“Run, Harry run!” he chided himself. “Help me, Lord!”
Another two bullets whistled through the darkness, torturing the night air.
The clamour of the pursuing dogs and chasing men grew louder in Harry’s ears, his pursuers quickly reducing the gap between him and them. And they could afford to make all the noise they wanted; their hideout was many kilometres from civilisation or even any neighbour for that matter.
No one would hear Harry scream.
He had to make it to the river.
The question shot through Harry’s mind even as his aching body hobbled along, his right leg now a definite liability in his race for survival.
He hadn’t thought beyond getting to the river line.
If I get there, then what?
Certainly, he had hoped feigning sickness in his bid to escape would have bought him more time.
Harry had spent hours at the foot of a toilet bowl, pretending to throw up. It was the only way he could shrug the fulltime attention of his captors—the three soldiers took shifts watching him day and night.
He hoped to have at least an hour head start. Something must have alerted them prematurely—now he had less than two minutes lead.
At his age, in his condition, against armed soldiers and dogs trained to kill, he would need a lot more than that.
The dogs’ snarls and soldiers’ jeers now seemed almost on top of him.
“Oh, God,” Harry huffed. “Deliver me!”
Although he heard the sound of the river, he didn’t see it—so distracted on those chasing him, and lost in his thoughts was he.
Tripping over the embankment’s shrubbery, Harry tumbled head-first into the cold, muddy water of the Lugogo River.
The shock was enormous as he swallowed a mouthful of river water, and came up gasping for air. Coughing and spluttering violently, the cold water stung the fresh wounds on his hands and his arms … and his knee, his aching, fast-swelling knee.
If he had had the time, he would have chastised himself again.
The noise his plunge made would now alert his pursuers to his exact location.
His escape attempt was doomed.
His one shot was gone.
The beam of a powerful flashlight danced on the spot he had tumbled into the river.
Any moment now, the dogs would be onto him.
That is, if the beasts of the river didn’t find him first.
He hadn’t even considered what may be lurking in the river waters.
“Oh, Father God…”
His prayer was quickly interrupted as he suddenly became aware that he wasn’t alone.
Something else was in the water with him … behind him.
In the pitch darkness of a moonless sky, he couldn’t tell if it was a crocodile, snake or human … friend or foe.
Then strong arms gripped his shoulders.
With the noise of the dogs drawing ever closer, whipped into a frenzy of the hunt, and the soldiers discharging their guns into the air at regular intervals, the voice that spoke into Harry’s ears was both powerful and haunting.
“Come with me…” it ordered “…if you want to live.”
And with that, Harry passed out.
THREE DAYS EARLIER
Monday 14th March 2011
Harry sat in front of his computer filled with excitement. Although born and raised in Portland USA, Harry had served as a missionary doctor in Africa for nearly four decades; however, now he felt like a kid anticipating Christmas morning.
He and his close friend Dr. William McArthur, known fondly as Mac, worked for World Care International (WCI)—an organisation devoted to assisting in, for the most part, third-world impoverished countries, treating disease and helping to develop local self-sustaining community
While they were currently based in Zimbabwe, establishing a hospital base just north of the small town of Gokwe, forty-three-year old Mac had designed a project called “New Hope,” an initiative to tackle the orphan epidemic in central Africa. To be located in northern Uganda, the project included a missionary hospital in which young doctors would be trained, and Mac had asked Harry to spearhead the hospital, fulfilling a lifelong desire he had to train a new generation of missionary doctors.
Harry sighed and looked at his desk calendar.
Then his eyes wandered over to the clock on the wall.
It was late on Monday night, the 14th of March 2011.
Mac, Daniel, Rachel and Donald had left for Japan early on Saturday morning, and after a soul-jarring 45-hour trip via South Africa, England and on to Japan, he figured they must be arriving soon in the land of the rising sun. Japan was eight hours ahead and, after several attempts, Harry gave up trying to work out what time it must be there.
Mac’s skill-set lay in strategic planning, and was deployed by WCI to assist in the wake of a natural disaster of epic proportions; an earthquake-driven tsunami had struck the east coast of Japan on Friday the 11th of March.
Mac had taken the children with him to offer every hand they could to serve the people of Japan in their desperate hour of need.
Staying up later than usual, feeling a little anxious for Donald and the McArthur Clan, and a touch lonely having so enjoyed working in team with them over the past nine weeks since they met, Harry had opened his computer to check his emails.
Once the slow dial-up connection had engaged, his inbox contained just one message … an email that had brought Christmas early.
The email was sent from WCI headquarters, from the boss, Roger Johnson himself. Roger asked Harry to fly to Uganda to meet governmental officials about the launch of the “New Hope” project. Surprisingly, the message requested that he travel with Dr. Julius Marco, the other lead-doctor working with him in the Zimbabwe project.
Dr. Marco was a fantastic doctor but, contracted by another relief organisation, was not involved with WCI and their “New Hope” initiative. In fact, his organisation had a new post for him; he was supposedly on his way to Mozambique within the next month.
Still, the excitement overcame any suspicions; a travel companion would be most welcome, especially since Mac was on the other side of the world. The “New Hope” project seemed ahead of schedule, and Harry was delighted to go in person to Uganda to finalise the plans.
“Yes, this makes sense,” he assured himself.
Even a firm but gentle tightening in his stomach, a foreboding sense of unease, didn’t dissuade him. Usually, Harry took such hunches seriously. It was often through this ‘lack of peace’ that God warned him. Due to the lateness of the hour, the loneliness he felt and the overwhelming thrill of the trip to come, he quickly put the caution on hold.
Harry tapped away at his keyword with great excitement, quickly composing an email for Mac, mentioning the email from HQ, and that he was going to Uganda to meet with various officials in both the capital city Kampala and the site of their proposed base, just north of Pakwach—a small town in the northwest of the country.
TWO DAYS EARLIER
Tuesday 15th March 2011
By 10:00am the next morning, leaving the very competent Dr. Jonas Mtulu—one of the assistant doctors in the Zimbabwe project—in charge, Dr. Marco and Harry were on the road, heading for Harare International airport; their plane tickets booked and paid for by HQ.
Harry could feel his dream becoming a reality.
Harry and Dr. Marco spent the entire day en route to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. They had managed the six-hour drive to Harare without incident, travelled by plane from Harare to Johannesburg, South Africa, before having to catch a horribly delayed flight from there to Entebbe International airport in Uganda—which was another forty-minute drive to Kampala. Needless to say, they arrived well after a blood-red sun had set in the stunning African sky.
Exhausted, they checked into the Blue Angus Hotel, 4-star accommodation in the heart of the city Kampala. Harry was a little surprised at the quality of their overnight stay; WCI would usually make a more modest choice. But he was too tired to think, and too caught up with the excitement of their scheduled Wednesday morning meeting with the Ugandan government representatives. He couldn’t wait to make the five-hour journey to Pakwach, to view the proposed site of their “New Hope” project—which was planned for Thursday.
Harry fell asleep the moment his head kissed his pillow; his night filled with sweet dreams and pleasant thoughts of the days ahead.
He had no idea of the nightmare to come.
ONE DAY EARLIER
Wednesday 16th March 2011
Waking up early and enjoying a hot shower—a luxury in Africa, although an expected part of any 4-star hotel experience—Harry shaved his chin, groomed his thick white broom-like moustache, and neatly combed his grey hair.
Although he was seventy-two years old, skinny and slight of frame, he was strong and sinewy from decades of hard work in tough African conditions. He couldn’t help but wink at his own reflection in the mirror, grateful for the new opportunities to make a difference in the world at this stage of his life.
“You’re not finished yet Harold James Scott,” he smiled at his reflection. “A new season dawns for you Ol’ Boy.”
As he quietly stepped out of the bathroom expecting Dr. Marco to still be a sleep—they had separate rooms but shared a bathroom and a spacious lounge area in their hotel room—he got a mild fright to see Dr. Marco awake, dressed and standing next to the four-seated dining table. Rummaging through his doctor’s bag, Dr. Marco pulled out a bottle, a surgical mask and some cottonwool.
“All okay?” Harry smiled. “Cut yourself or something?” he asked squinting; his weak, deteriorating eye-sight unable to discern the contents of the bottle of medication.
Dr. Marco said nothing, but covered his mouth with the surgical mask, unscrewed the bottle and dabbed the cottonwool.
He was a clean shaven, stout-built man of Italian descent with dark hair. A little less than six feet tall, he looked older than his forty-six years. His shoulders were slightly hunched as though he carried some terrible burden, but he was a brilliant doctor, and few were as hard-working as he was. Harry often wondered whether he worked so hard in order to forget something, something dark in his past.
“Julius?” asked Harry concerned as he strolled into the living room and up to Dr. Marco, putting a warm hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Without a hint of what was to come, as calm as a master surgeon making a flesh cut, Julius Marco put down the bottle, reached out and took hold of Harry’s arm in a tight grip.
“Ouch!” gasped a surprised Harry. “What’s going on, Julius? Are you okay?”
“Yes,” he replied through the surgical mask, “but you’re not.”
Harry’s face contorted with bewilderment, twisting with horror, as Dr. Marco’s grip tightened further still … and with brute force, jammed the chloroform-laced cottonwool over his mouth and nose.
“What?” blurted Harry, his voice muffled. Dr. Marco held the old man’s face with such force; Harry couldn’t get out his next word, “Why?”—but it was etched all over his distraught face and anguished eyes. Why friend, why?
As Harry blacked out, the chloroform inducing unconsciousness, what surprised him most was the pleasure Dr. Marco seemed to get from his horror.
Harry woke up startled, nursing a cracking headache. And for some reason, he felt beaten and bruised. Every muscle, bone and joint ached.
He wasn’t sure where he was, but h
“What? Where am I?” he asked himself momentarily forgetting what had happened.
“At last you’re awake.” Dr. Marco’s voice brought the reality and horror of his predicament crashing back into Harry’s memory.
Uncertainty and fear welled up in him; feeling a bout of nausea, he nearly gagged. Sitting up fast, too fast, brought on a sudden fit of dizziness.
“Easy now, Old Man,” mocked Dr. Marco.
Harry looked up, his eyes came into focus, and he saw Dr. Marco standing in the doorway of his small room. Harry gasped. Behind the Italian doctor stood five or six other men dressed in military uniforms.
“Julius? Dr. Marco … why?”
“Do you really think I’m a doctor, first and foremost?” he smirked.
“Ye…?” Harry thought of Julius Marco as a doctor, a brilliant doctor with perhaps a dark secret. “You’re not?”
“Like your friend Mac, being a doctor is merely an alias for me.”
“Mac?” Harry was confused for a moment, “No, Mac is a doctor. Really—”
“Still singing that tune, are we Harry? Come on … Mac is an agent working for some international police bureau, and I work for the General…”
“The General?!” Harry was devastated.
Just nine weeks earlier, Mac had been sent by the WCI to assist the challenges that the team of doctors at the Base Camp in Zimbabwe were facing. Dr. Marco and Harry were having problems with a third doctor by the name of Sam Hunter, who unbeknownst to Harry, worked for a gun-running warlord known only as the General.
Mac’s expertise lay in strategic and operational development. He had a remarkable track record in managing incredibly complex situations. The twisted Sam Hunter and his tyrant-boss, the General—equally paranoid—had assumed Mac was some super-agent deployed to expose them.
To survive, Mac was forced to play on their suspicions. And in so doing, he unintentionally thwarted the General’s plans for war-mongering in Southern Africa—leading to the confiscation of billions of dollars worth of illegal weapons and drugs.
The Fish's Belly by Craig R. Kirkby / Actions & Adventure have rating 4.3 out of 5 / Based on17 votes