General Ngobeni watches Beauty Mahlangu over the rim of the crystal glass. The champagne was served at exactly the right temperature and its effect on Beauty is exactly what he hoped for. He’s had an eye on this new secretary for some time now – she’s quite a modern little miss. He guesses her age to be in the middle of her twenties; she’s smart; and she lives up to her first name with her perfect skin and doe-like eyes. As for the rest…he closes his eyes and imagines undressing her…slowly.
“And what, my General, are you thinking about?” There’s no mistaking the playful tone of the question.
“The road ahead, Beauty, the road ahead. A general’s job is to plan strategy, analyse weaknesses and strengths, organise logistics, make sure any advance is safe and secure.” He leans back, catches the eye of the discreetly hovering waiter, and orders another bottle. “Being a general is hard work, Beauty. Very important work. One can never relax and just have lunch like this. Hardly ever, I mean. To sip champagne in the presence of a beautiful young lady – and intelligent, educated and extremely pretty one at that – is such a privilege.”
“You’re an important man, general.” It’s a flat statement, not aimed to please, but to state a fact.
“I suppose I am.” He just loves it when these young girls appreciate that he, Jacob Ngobeni, has risen from herding cattle for his father to being the highest ranking general in the Republic. “But with important jobs comes important responsibilities, Beauty. And a man such as I…well, we need a bit of time off, every now and then. More champagne?”
“I was hoping for more, General…but not only champagne.” She drops her voice an octave and lets out a soft giggle as her hand travels up the crease of his neatly pressed pants. “Young girls have to let off steam too, you know?” Now she watches for his reaction. Was her timing right?
It was. Ngobeni suggests they’d be more comfortable in a room. She lights up, clapping her hands together.
“You’re too high-profile, General,” she says coyly, “I’ll quickly go and arrange it.” Putting a soft finger on his lips, she skips from the room to talk to reception. This has to be organised just right. A lot depends on it..
“I ordered a Don Pedro for you,” he tells her when she’s back. She rewards him with a brilliant smile.
Twenty minutes later they’re in the suite on the top floor, where Beauty lets her hands wander over the once-trim body of General Ngobeni. Why is it, she wonders, that older men stop worrying about their bodies? Look at the general, for instance: no woman can think this tub of lard is desirable, surely? Sighing softly, she loosens the clasp of his belt.
All in the line of duty, she reminds herself, that’s what they told her. At least try to look excited. Never shirk your responsibilities…
From the hilltop, Paul watches as one of the men in the Land Rover gets out. He seems to be shouting and gesticulating toward the big man at the door. He can just make out The Boss, who’s remained seated inside the vehicle. Two more men alight, and now they’re all obviously involved in a shouting match.
He’s not sure who starts the fight – he’s too far away and the incident happens too fast. All of a sudden the men are rolling in the dust, trading blows and kicks, as the occupants of the Hummer storm in to join the fray. The action is fast and furious…and then suddenly they all seem to freeze. Paul doesn’t understand until the distinct crack of a pistol shot reaches him. The glint of sun of metal makes him guess it was one of The Boss’ men for a second, but then he sees more guns in more hands. More cracks…a lot of them….and then silence.
The large man that got out of the Hummer initially, now walks around the Land Rover, opens the door, and takes out a square, black object.
He kneels down next to each of the bodies on the ground, searching pockets. Paul guesses he’s removing evidence? ID’s?
Then he limps back to the Hummer to make a U-turn and drive off slowly.
“Dead? They’re all dead?”
“Yes, I checked. They had one helluva shoot-out and got the laptop. Three government agents, The Boss, and his three men…” he snaps his fingers, “gone! They were almost on top of each other when the shooting started, and when it did, it was fast and furious. It’s a miracle that the one guy survived.”
Boggel is serving Cactus Jack again. They all need it. Vetfaan arrived just before Paul got back and Gertruida has just explained how lucky they had been.
“Boggel’s plan was simply to take them by a circular route back to Grootdrink. If The Boss couldn’t find Rolbos, he wouldn’t find Paul. But with sheer luck – let’s call it a miracle – the secret service guys rock up, they meet The Boss out there in the veld, and the rest is history. The government has the precious laptop, and The Boss is dead. Hopefully they’ll leave us alone now.”
“But that still leaves Paul here. Won’t they come looking for him?”
The general flops back on the bed, sweat streaming down his body. Damn! This Beauty is good! She made him do things he never imagined to be possible. Wow!
The shrill beeping of the phone in the pocket of his tunic interrupts his blissful reverie. It’s that phone. The emergency one. The untraceable, direct line between the top officials in government, only used under the worst of circumstances. Throwing the sheets to one side, he fishes out the instrument and presses the green button. Then, while he listens, he feels blood draining from his face.
“Yes, my President, I’ll be over. Right away, sir. Give me ten minutes.”
Jacob Ngobeni is not a man who panics. Never. But now as he runs from the room, still dressing as he goes, he doesn’t even say goodbye to Beauty Mahlangu. She’s not sure what scared the general like this, but at least it got rid of the detestable man. She wraps the sheet around her perfect body, walks over to the flower arrangement on the little table, and switches off the camera.
Then, after a long and very hot shower, she takes out her own very special phone to call her handler in Washington. Won’t they be absolutely overjoyed with her news? Another corrupt general in the pocket of the CIA! Surely her reward won’t be small…
“The helicopters have gone,” Servaas says unnecessarily. For a while it was almost impossible to hear each other in Boggel’s Place while the engines droned overhead.
“They’ve cleaned up the scene.” Paul, with his long association with international intelligence services knows this was routine after such incidents. “The bodies will have been removed and the Land Rover will end up in a scrap yard. If we go there now, you’ll find nothing. No tracks, no bloodstains, no spent cartridges. There won’t be anything on the news, either. This never happened.”
“It was supposed to be a simple operation, General.” The president ‘s usual, well-articulated voice is strained as he addresses the slightly dishevelled general in his office. What has the man been doing? “And now we’re faced with seven dead men and a lot of explaining to do. How, General, are you going to fix this.”
“I-I’m not sure, my President. I gave orders to clean up the scene. That’s easy. And we got the laptop – it’s on its way here now. By tomorrow the IT people will have it…”
“Have you lost you mind?” Ngobeni flinches as the venom in the president’s voice hits its mark “That laptop comes here! Straight away! I do not want so young man with thick glasses poring over those files! Is. That. Clear?”
“Certainly, sir.” Ngobeni takes a deep breath. “A-and we have to sort out the Afrikaner Freedom Front, sir. Three of their members, including their leader, are dead. There are sure to be repercussions.”
The president has had enough. Taking giant steps (surprisingly agile for his age and weight) he storms around his desk to deliver a resounding slap on the cheek of the flabbergasted Ngobeni. “You will sort it out. Today! Now get out, you miserable creature, before you end up like those men did.”
Paul was wrong about the radio. It’s on the six o’ clock news…
…Police spokesman, Caspir Koevoet, told reporters on the scene that crime doesn’t pay. He was speaking after the four men, apparently from the Afrikaner Freedom Front, were killed while they were trying to blow up an ATM at a remote garage near Kimberley. He stated that they are following up clues and that the AFF will be investigated.
The names of the deceased criminals have not been released, and Koevoet expressed his concern about identifying the remains of the men, who were severely mutilated by the massive explosion. Anybody with information, must call…
“See,” Paul tells the group huddled around the radio in Boggel’s Place, “it never happened.”
Far away in Washington, another general watches the surprising gymnastics of Jacob Ngobeni in a series of rather explicit positions. We’ll wait a while. Let him clean up the mess he’s in. Then, when he least expects it, he’ll get a visitor. A visitor with a gift. Not the original, though, just a copy.
Whistling happily, he leaves his office. It never ceases to amaze him how easy it is to influence global affairs. He likes the tune. It’s an old favourite…