Star of Africa, p.36Scott Mariani
‘This one looks like a cockroach,’ the commander said. It wasn’t the first time Joseph had heard his people described that way. Cockroach was what the Hutu death squads had called his brother and their parents, before hacking them all to death.
‘Get on your knees, cockroach.’
Without protest, Joseph Maheshe sank down to his knees in the roadside grass and dirt and bowed his head. He knew what was coming, and accepted it peacefully. He knew the Americans might not be as lucky as this. He was sorry for them, but then they should not have come here.
The commander drew his pistol, pressed it to the side of Joseph’s head and fired. The sound of the shot drowned out Rae’s cry of horror. Joseph went down sideways and crumpled in the long grass with his knees still bent.
‘We will take these American spies to General Khosa,’ the commander said to his men. ‘He will know what to do with them.’
The soldiers tossed the camera equipment into the back of one of the armed pickup trucks. The two prisoners were shoved roughly into the other, where they were forced to crouch low with guns pointed at them.
‘You saved my life,’ Munro whispered to Rae.
Eventually, that would come to be something he would no longer thank her for. But for now, they were in one piece. Rae looked back at the abandoned Toyota as the pickup trucks took off down the rough road. Joseph’s body was no more than a dark, inert smudge in the grass. Just another corpse on just another roadside in Africa. The vultures would probably find him first, followed not long afterwards by the hyenas.
As for Munro’s fate and her own, Rae didn’t even want to think about it.
At various and frequent points throughout the ups and downs of what was turning out to be an unusually eventful existence, Ben Hope was in the habit of pausing to take stock of his life. To evaluate his current situation, to consider the sequences of events – planned or not – that had got him there, to ponder what lay ahead in the immediate and longer-term future, and to reflect on how he was doing generally.
All things considered, he had always thought of himself as being a pretty normal type of guy, and so he figured that this stocktaking exercise must be something most normal folks did, even though most normal folks probably didn’t tend to find themselves in the kinds of situations that invariably seemed to keep cropping up in his path. Just like most normal folks didn’t have to do the kinds of things he had to do in order to get out of those situations in one piece.
In his distant past, Ben’s stocktaking had involved thoughts like ‘Okay, so passing selection for 22 SAS might be the toughest challenge you’ve ever taken on, but you will not fail. You can do this. You will be fine.’
Many years later it had been more along the lines of ‘All right, so you’ve walked away from the military career you struggled so hard to build and the future looks uncertain. But it’s a big world out there. You have skills. You will make it.’
Or, some years further down the line again, ‘So she’s left you for good this time, and you feel like shit. But you won’t always feel this way. You’ll survive, like you always do.’
If there was one thing Ben had learned, it was this: that wherever the tide might carry him, whatever fate might throw at him, however desperate his situation, however impossible the task facing him, however dark his future prospects or slim his chances of survival, he would live to fight another day. He would not be defeated or deterred, not by anything, not by anyone. That spirit was what had driven him, bolstered him, enabled him to be the man he was. Or the man he’d thought he was.
But not now. Not any more.
Everything had changed.
Because at this moment, as he sat there helpless and surrounded by aggressive men with guns, slumped uncomfortably on the dirty open flatbed of an old army truck with his knees drawn up in front of him and his head resting on his hands and every jolt of the big wheels and stiff suspension on this rough road somewhere in the middle of the Congo jarring through his spine, he was fighting a rising black tide of emptiness.
If there was a way out of this one, the plan had yet to come to him. And if there was a tomorrow, it wasn’t one that he was sure he wanted to face.
Sitting next to Ben in the back of the truck, staring silently into space with a pensive frown, was his trusted old friend, Jeff Dekker, with whom he’d survived so many narrow scrapes in the past and come through in one piece. Beside Jeff was the tough young Jamaican ex-British army trooper named Tuesday Fletcher, on whom Ben had quickly learned he could absolutely depend. But Ben was barely even aware of their presence. All he could think about – all that really mattered to him at this moment – was that his son Jude, just at the point in their troubled relationship where it looked as if they were finally bonding, was lost to him and there wasn’t a single thing Ben could do about it. And that riding happily at the front of the irregular militia convoy speeding along this dusty road, wearing a self-satisfied grin and probably smoking another of his huge cigars in victory, was the man who had taken Jude from him.
That man’s name was Jean-Pierre Khosa. Known as ‘the General’ to the army of heavily-armed Congolese fighters who both feared and loyally served him. Khosa had every reason to be smiling. Most men would be, when they were carrying inside their pocket a stolen diamond worth hundreds of millions of dollars and there was nobody to stop them from gaining every bit of power that wealth like that could afford.
Ben knew little about Khosa, but he knew enough, and had seen enough, for the seeds of doubt inside his own heart to grow into a chilling conviction that here, now, at last, was an enemy he couldn’t defeat. That Khosa could beat him.
And that maybe Khosa had already won.
Has Ben Hope met his match at last?
Read The Devil’s Kingdom and find out …
Where ex-SAS major Ben Hope goes, trouble always follows…
The first part of a sensational new two-book sequence that will be the biggest and most epic Ben Hope adventure yet!
Coming May 2016
Click here to pre-order now.
About the Author
Scott Mariani is the author of the worldwide-acclaimed action-adventure thriller series featuring ex-SAS hero Ben Hope, which has sold nearly two million copies in Scott’s native UK alone and is also translated into over 20 languages. His books have been described as ‘James Bond meets Jason Bourne, with a historical twist.’ The first Ben Hope book, THE ALCHEMIST’S SECRET, spent six straight weeks at #1 on Amazon’s Kindle chart, and all the others have been Sunday Times bestsellers.
Scott was born in Scotland, studied in Oxford and now lives and writes in a remote setting in rural west Wales. When not writing, he can be found bouncing about the country lanes in an ancient Land Rover, wild camping in the Brecon Beacons or engrossed in his hobbies of astronomy, photography and target shooting (no dead animals involved!).
You can find out more about Scott and his work, and sign up to his exclusive newsletter, on his official website:
By the same author
Ben Hope series
The Alchemist’s Secret
The Mozart Conspiracy
The Doomsday Prophecy
The Heretic’s Treasure
The Shadow Project
The Lost Relic
The Sacred Sword
The Armada Legacy
The Nemesis Program
The Forgotten Holocaust
The Martyr’s Curse
The Cassandra Sanction
To find out more visit www.scottmariani.com
About the Publisher
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HarperCollins Publishers (New Zealand) Limited
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HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
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Scott Mariani, Star of Africa
Star of Africa by Scott Mariani / History & Fiction have rating 1 out of 5 / Based on2 votes