The Curse of the Bogenfels (# 8)

goldbar_armband“One thousand kilograms of gold? In little bars, stamped with the Reich’s insignia? Wow!” Kleinpiet lets out a long, low whistle. “That must be worth something, hey?”

Gertruida nods. “Work it out: at $50,000 a kilo? And, if you added the novelty value…collectors would fork out considerably more. The Rand being such a joke these days, you can add two more zeroes to the sum.”

Matotsi manages a wobbly smile. “Ya-a-as. A lot of loot. Out there, somewhere. Many Nkandlas…”

***

Bogenfels

//Xuiram is happy. The spirits have blessed them with a downpour of rain, filling the hollows in the rocks around them and causing little streams to run down the rock face. A pool of water collected at the back of the cave they’re sheltering in, as well.

Still observing the ritual silence, he leads his family in a slow, foot-stomping dance for a while. Later, he’ll get out the fire-sticks and wait for the embers of the twigs they collected to glow before he’ll sprinkle the holy herbs over the ashes.

Yes, he thinks, my season has gone. It’s been a good one. He glances over at his oldest son, feeling glad that he’ll be able to leave his family in capable hands.

***

Boggel’s Place

General Matotsi is much more focussed now. Boggel’s special wake-up coffee contains a Kenyan mix of freshly roasted coffee beans, a dash of hot chocolate, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a tot of Amarula.

“So…what do we do now?” Elsie sips a Green Ambulance while eyeing the general critically. She has to smile at the situation: here she was, trying to get closure on her father’s death – and suddenly it exploded into a mystery of Nazi gold, international intrigue, and the government’s greed for money. Who would have guessed…?

“I’ll tell you what I’ve pieced together. Your father was sent to Bogenfels, to look for the wreck of the City of Baroda. It was a long shot, but Captain Wilmott swore under oath that the box was left in the captain’s safe when the ship sunk. Van den Bergh an Diederichs had information that the box contained a sample of the gold and details of where it was hidden…”

“But I don’t understand what the Smit murders had to do with all this?” Gertruida holds up an apologetic hand for interrupting the small general.

“Aah…that. Yes. I’m not sure. But…assuming Smit stumbled across some irregular overseas accounts? Accounts that were used to finance a plethora of underhand activities. Accounts only known to Diederichs, Vorster and maybe van den Bergh.  Vast accounts. Accounts fed by a number of less-than-legal ways. And suppose, out of these accounts, a number of secret operations were funded. Operations, including buying rocket fuel from Pakistan; buying nuclear intel from Israel, obtaining weapons from Belgium and the US of A. Should such information be made public, a number of political faces in South Africa – and elsewhere – would have had a lot of egg all over them.” Matotsi sighs. “I think your father’s operation was financed through these funds. Anybody digging deep enough – at that time – could have unravelled the puzzle. So Smit – brilliant though he was – made a fatal mistake. A few days before his murder, he made an announcement that he would make a public statement that would shock the nation.”

“But all that was forgotten and buried in history. Nobody was interested any more. However, some time ago we were discussing the shortage of funds, one of our old agents jokingly mentioned the case of the missing millions again. The treasure, he said, was still hidden in Namibia somewhere. Now – that made a few people sit up straight. Here was an answer to some of the government’s financial woes – there for picking up and bringing home. Free.” Matotsi pauses, signals for another coffee. “The only problem being that Namibia is independent now, and we’re on friendly terms with them. And we sure as nuts don’t want to share it with them…or anybody.”

“So you had to scare me off…?”

“Yes, madam, exactly. You were getting too near something we wanted to keep secret. We couldn’t afford that.”

“The answer, then, is at Bogenfels. Find the wreck, dive the site, get the safe, get the instructions and possibly a map, get the fortune?” Gertruida, being practical as usual. “Why don’t you just locate the wreck and get it over with?”

Mototsi sighs and gives her the what-do-you-know look. “We can’t start a search without drawing attention to ourselves. A sea or air recon will definitely lead to questions being asked. The Namibians aren’t stupid. They spot a South African aircraft or boat nosing around in their waters, and we’ll have to explain exactly what we’re doing there, and why. No, this must be done quietly, without them realising what we’re doing.”

“I realise that.” Gertruida rolls her eyes. The man thinks I’m dof... “That’s why I’ve got a plan. Why don’t we become common, garden-variety tourists? One happy group of people cruising through a neighbouring country, anxious to see what’s happening next door. See sights. Drink beer. Take photographs. Have a ball….and visit Bogenfels?”

***

Bogenfels

//Xuiram sits down next to the embers, inhaling the aroma of the sacred herbs.

Send your family out. There’s a gull’s nest next to the foot of the Holy Rock. They’ll find eggs there. And your son will see the burrow of a rabbit. He’ll know what to do.

The Bushman smiles contently. Yes! More blessings on their being there. He looks up, glances at his son: what a fine young man he’s become! Their eyes meet. Then, without a word, the young man motions for the rest of the family to follow him.

IMG_3147Inhaling deeply, //Xuiram closes his eyes again. It isn’t dark when he does this: in fact, with his eyes shut, he can see quite clearly how his son leads the family down to the foot of the huge arch. Sees them find the eggs, hears the whoops of joy.

Then he sees a white man, a man with a peaked cap and a sodden, white uniform, walking towards the very cave he is sitting in. The man carries a box, a heavy box, causing him the breathe deeply. It is hot outside. Sweat drips from the man’s brow. He can see individual drops of sweat coursing down the stubbled cheeks. The man glances over his shoulder at a big ship just beyond the breaking waves, There is a smaller boat in the water, taking people to the ship.

With a last glance backwards, the man stumbles into the cave. He looks around. Fixes on a hollow in the rocks at the back of the cave. The box gets shoved into the hollow. The man drags another rock in front of the hollow. Then the man walks out to wait for the boat to pick him up.

***

Luderitz, Namibia

IMG_2909“It’s not exactly a bustling city,” Matotsi says. “Looks a bit forlorn to me.”

“Don’t be deceived, General.” Gertruida is in her element. “This used to be an important harbour. And right now, you’re next to the richest diamond fields ever discovered. Anyway, we’re not here to pubcrawl. Tomorrow we’re off to the Sperrgebiet and the Bogenfels. Who knows what waits for us there…”

“Yes, okay. At six we’ll get the helicopter at the small airfield. Low tide is at seven. The pilot is an old member of the recces – he’ll take us to the last known coordinates of the City of Baroda. According to the naval charts, the sea is about thirty metres deep there. With a bit of luck…”

3 thoughts on “The Curse of the Bogenfels (# 8)

    1. Amos van der Merwe Post author

      It’s actually a very nice place. Stayed there last year and had a great time. For the purpose of the story, I’ve been most unkind to the place. Then again…stories live in the imagination. I hope the kind people of Luderitz will understand…

      Reply

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