‘The kinder with disease, they put them over the wall. We put the mattress so that they are not so hurt. The staff, they sit here at night and wait for the kinder. But the kinder bounce off the mattress and onto the floor, so always some problems.’
I pointed. ‘That fucking wall is six feet high!’
‘Yah, they swing the kinder over the top.’
‘The locals? They throw the kids with AIDS over the wall?’
Sister Woman nodded, none too phased. I couldn’t move.
My face wanted to laugh out loud at the absurdity of it, my jaw stuck tight so that I would not appear to be laughing at anyone’s misfortune, my eyes watering.
I fought for a breath. ‘Why not … why not lower the wall?’
‘Then they come and steal the food. It’s OK, the kinder bounce.’
Jimmy nudged me out the main entrance, kicking empty paint tins as we went. I had just had a crash course in the African’s sense of practicality: mattresses to catch the children. Still, it seemed to work.
Back in Nairobi we diced with death - we caught a taxi across town, and entered a nondescript office block. The guard on the door did not challenge us; white folk I guessed. Soon, we were seated before a perplexed looking Dutchman in a nice office, air conditioning and a mini-bar; this was the United Nations. And Mister Van Den something-I-could-not-pronounce was one of a very small team of people who organised the clearing of mines and ordinance after wars and conflicts. I figured Jimmy would give him some money and we’d leave for the hotel rooftop pool.
‘I’m Jimmy Silo, a wealthy British stock market trader. I will be buying a hotel or two in Kenya.’
Van Den Something was puzzled. ‘There is ordinance near the site of your hotel? It is near the border?’
‘No, that’s not why I am here. I have taken charge of an orphanage … and it’s terrible to see the children with no limbs…’ Van Den was now following and looking very sympathetic. ‘So I wish to give some money for mine clearance. But, more than that, I wish to be actively involved in fund raising and awareness.’
Now we were talking Van Den’s language, not double Dutch, and he fetched us both cold drinks. But I could not remember seeing any kids with missing limbs at Smurf central.
‘What would you like to do, exactly?’ our host enquired.
‘It strikes me … that the best people for mine clearance in any country are the locals themselves – suitably trained and supervised.’
Our host brightened. ‘Yah, yah. I have this idea also, but always the former mercenary with the bad attitude. And they want so much money for the work.’
Jimmy nodded sympathetically. ‘If you can find a training facility … I can offer you ten or twenty thousand dollars a month.’
‘A month? My God.’ Our host gave it some thought.
‘There is a place, near the Somali border. There are former soldiers there, old grey men, but they do not want much money to help. They have an airfield – not used – that the government allows them to occupy. They have trained a handful of locals, and some Somalis, in mine clearance.’
Jimmy handed over a wad of dollars. ‘Please, give them this money. And, until I’m back in a few months time, would you draw up some simple plans – something we can work to?’
‘Yah, yah, of course,’ our host excitedly got out.
And it turned out that our host would be leaving the service of the UN in six months time, but wanted to stay in Kenya with his family, his wife a local, his kid’s half-caste.
Jimmy hinted at a job for the man and we left a very excited pen pusher behind.
In the taxi, Jimmy said, ‘I first met that guy at the rooftop bar. He told me about the mine clearance efforts and his family, when he would stop working for the UN, the camp on the border. I just wanted it to appear to be his idea.’
‘And the orphanage gave you the credibility and the way in.’ I nodded to myself.
‘Step by step. I’m working to a very detailed plan with twenty thousand boxes to tick.’
‘How many so far?’
‘About a hundred.’
‘Long list,’ I grumbled. ‘Are the answers in the back of the book?’
Jimmy laughed. ‘No, but I have taken the test before.’
‘So why mine clearance?’
‘Mine clearance staff need medics on hand, in case they blow a limb off.’
‘Ah … and medics means those Rescue Force people you mentioned. Small acorns.’
‘Small acorns, my lad, are easy to move … or to stop growing. The problem comes when they’re sixty feet tall!’
‘Too late to do anything,’ I concluded.
Colonel Pointer, US Marines. (Retd)
Colonel Thadius J. Pointer started his service life as a pilot in the Marines, serving with distinction in Vietnam, three tours.
He progressed to be an instructor before becoming a test pilot for General Dynamics, for Northrop, and eventually NASA.
He was accepted into the space programme by NASA in 1976
but never got the chance to fly into space, returning to test pilot work for a few years, in particular the stealth bomber programmes. In 1982 he hung up his wings and became a consultant to the CIA, advising on spy plane tactics and operations, and continued to act as consultant to the USAF on stealth matters. 1986 found Thadius working as a part-time consultant to the CIA on remote drone spying.
Today’s trip to the Pentagon was different, an urgent summons, something he had not encountered before. Since his work was in research it was a tantalising intrigue that had kept him awake the night before. He now knocked on the door of his principal contact, Air Force Colonel Summers.
‘Thad, come on in,’ Summers urged, waving him forwards.
‘Where’s the fire, Bob?’ Thad joked. ‘You need me for a mission that no young buck can handle?’
‘Nothing so dramatic,’ Summers said as he literally man-handled Thad by the shoulders and into his own chair. He took a breath, stood at Thad’s elbow. ‘This is classified Top Secret.’
‘Ain’t it all?’ Thad baulked, a quick glance up.
Summers tapped a blue file on his desk. ‘I’ve got to be somewhere for two hours. While I’m gone I want you to read the letters in this file – they’ll explain themselves. At the end I want a conclusion, not least because you’re one of only a handful of men still serving who’ve touched upon a… certain topic.’ He grabbed his hat and left, his enigmatic smirk lingering in Thad’s mind.
Thad opened the file, finding a typed letter, an odd signature at the bottom. ‘Magestic, the man in the …
middle?’ With a heavy frown he read the first letter, the detail of a train derailment that would happen. ‘What in God’s name have they got me doing now?’
The second letter detailed a terrorist attack in the Mid East, a warning of a few months given. The third outlined the problems with a railway bridge that would collapse in a year or two.
The third letter detailed an Israeli spy working for the CIA.
He flicked pages, stopping at the collapse of communism after the fall of the Berlin wall. It held his attention for many minutes as he read and re-read it. Slowly, very slowly his face contorted in a surprised smile. ‘God damn … they did it.
They actually … sons of bitches … did it.’
Summers returned with an expectant look, sitting opposite a smug looking Thad.
Thad asked, ‘You got any whiskey in this place?’
With a huge smile, Colonel Summers opened a cabinet and retrieved two glasses and a bottle. ‘Special occasions.’ He poured out two drinks.
Thad took his glass and raised it. ‘Project Magestic.’
‘To Magestic,’ Summers offered, the drinks downed. With his glass lowered, Summers asked, ‘Any doubts?’
‘None.’ Thad was adamant. ‘There are key words and phrases in here that only those of us who worked on Magestic knew about. Hell, some of these phrases I made up myself!
And the fact that he can predict the future...’ He tapped the file. ‘These letters were received ahead … of the events mentioned in it?’ Summers nodded. Thad added, ‘This letter about the end of communism…’
‘Has already upset a few, who see it as a Russian trick.’
‘Yeah, that figures,’ Thad let out with a sigh.
know about the letters, old
friend. They were posted in London, all of them. British Government has been getting letters.’
‘London?’ Thad repeated. He eased back and peered into his glass. ‘Would make sense, actually. We drew up scenarios of what would happen if someone just appeared out of time and knocked on the White House door. Best we could figure they’d lock the guy up … forever!’
Summers suggested, ‘London is close enough, yet far enough away from us, and if the British Government were to hide him…?’
Thad found himself nodding as he reflected on the abandoned old project, a project to look at the possibilities of time travel. ‘You know how it got that name? Some secretary here in the Pentagon spelt it wrong. We thought it was funny so we kept it. Because of the other Majestic project – the UFO misinformation project – we figured no one would ever find our project.’
They laughed in unison.
Thad explained, ‘We always figured that anyone going back in time would have to proceed carefully, or he’d upset the time line. We also knew that too much information – too soon – would be a problem to the government of the sixties, or earlier. They may not have listened.’
Summers put in, ‘Imagine turning up in 1941 and warning of the Jap attack. You’d be shot as a loony!’
Thad lifted his eyebrows and nodded. ‘So it makes perfect sense. This guy is hiding out and drip-feeding us what we need to know, Brits as well. Just hope he looks both ways when he crosses the damn road.’
we … sent him back through time?’
‘The evidence is all there, the manner of the warnings and the code phrases we thought up,’ Thad insisted.
‘But what if … what if in fifty years or so time someone got access to those old files and used them for a … grand deception?’
‘Burn them! Today! If this is a deception based on those files then our friend would disappear in a puff of smoke, so too the letters, since they could never have been written in the first place.’
Summers smiled. ‘They were accidentally burnt a while back. We can’t find any record of them.’
‘There you go then. No deception. And the end of communism? Hell, he ain’t working for their side, for sure.
And time will prove it so.’
‘Would he be under orders to report in, do you think?’
‘Being under orders was something we considered. If he wanted to he could just sit back and bet the World Series, make a fortune and live the life. Who’d know? Guy is probably alone, so who’s going to stop him having a great life, eh? It was the one thing we considered a problem area: whoever got sent back would be alone, no backup, no return ticket. He’s an astronaut for sure, mental faculties strong enough to survive the trip and a moral compass big enough for the Titanic; no one else could be trusted. And I’m sure he will make contact in time.’ Thad tapped the file. ‘With one letter a month for a few years he’s going to work up the credibility. It shouldn’t be a problem after that.’
‘You may even get the chance to debrief him,’ Summers suggested.
‘So these phrases and stuff … that you put into the letters to the Americans, that’s to make then think you’re an astronaut
… sent by the US Air Force?’ I queried with a worried frown.
Jimmy nodded. ‘When I was in Canada I got access to all sorts of info, spoke to some real old soldiers and CIA types.
After a few beers they were more than happy to reminisce.
And why not; fucking world had come to an end, America gone, so who cared?’
‘So why’d you want the Americans to think that?’
‘So they won’t want to shoot me. If they think I’m one of theirs it’ll keep them off my back for a while. Problem comes when I start telling them stuff that they won’t like – stuff about future American presidents and what they get up to.’
I shrugged. ‘What we doing tonight?’
Jimmy also shrugged. ‘Curry, lap-dancers, nightclub?’
We set our moral compasses in the right direction.
A pineapple office
The new offices for Pineapple were rented, Jimmy suggesting that they would stay two years and then move on. They were in a glass-fronted three-storey building in Putney, a view of the river if you stood in a far corner.
‘Like the motif,’ I told Oliver. ‘Where did you get the idea for that?’
Oliver laughed as I prodded a giant plastic pineapple hung from the ceiling. We stepped across the new open-plan offices, a dozen waist high cubicles spread out, a large square of sofas in the middle for would-be artists to chill out on. We settled in Oliver’s new office, closing a glass door whilst maintaining a view of the entire office through glass walls.
‘How’s it going?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Six hits in four months – all top ten – and one number two,’ Oliver enthused. ‘Making very good money. You certainly seem to have an ear for the hits.’
‘Staff OK?’ Jimmy enquired.
‘One left to go back to college, two new members, one off after a car wreck.’
‘Up the pay five percent,’ Jimmy suggested. ‘We can afford it now.’
‘Will do. On a side note, we had this arrive.’ Oliver handed Jimmy a letter. ‘It’s a formal offer to buy the business from an industry giant.’
Jimmy handed it back after barely glancing at it. ‘In the years to come we’ll buy them. File it away.’
‘Not looking to get rid of us already?’ I asked Oliver, but jokingly.
‘No, no. But had to let you know about it.’
Jimmy said, ‘I think we should rent some recording studio space, get a good deal and get our people in there.’
‘I’ve got someone in mind,’ Oliver said, rifling through files. ‘A good price if we block book it.’ He handed us the advertising flyer.
‘Fine,’ Jimmy said. ‘Book a block and see how it goes.
Then we need a marketing manager.’
‘Cathy is doing that with me –’
‘We need a big hitter,’ Jimmy cut in with. ‘Someone flamboyant … who can spend his time travelling around the distributors. And I’m sure that you don’t want to spend all day doing that.’
‘Well … no.’
‘And Cathy can act as deputy, office backup and appointment setter,’ Jimmy added.
‘I’ll advertise the post, see what turns up.’ Oliver made a note on a pad.
‘And then we need a better relationship with a video company,’ Jimmy added. ‘As with the studios, get a good block deal for video shoots, start on a good working relationship.’
Oliver made another note.
‘Don’t be afraid to spend money, or to ask for more. What we don’t want is to lose artists when they grow ... because we can’t support their growth.’
‘That has been on my mind,’ Oliver admitted. ‘The big producers have the clout to handle things like large concerts.’
‘And so will we in time,’ Jimmy confidently suggested.
‘I’m transferring another million into the account, so use it.’
Old dogs, new tricks
Two months after meeting Van Den Something, the U.N.
man with the nice office, we were back in Nairobi with a purpose, Jimmy telexing him a good three weeks notice of our pending arrival.
That first night we chilled out in the rooftop bar, all the staff remembering us, and I was starting to like the place; beer at sunset was becoming a tradition for us. We met the keen Dutchman the next day for lunch, a place around the corner from his offices, and presented a modest cheque towards any charity the man liked. As expected, Van Den had arranged a trip to see the airfield near the border, vehicles booked for the next morning.
We rose early, just about sunrise, and found a white UN
jeep waiting outside the hotel, Van Den excited like a schoolboy on a fieldtrip. I was warned in advance not to take the piss out his forename, or his wife. Turned out that Van Den Something was actually Rudd Van Den Something, pronounced ‘rude’. His Kenyan wife was called ‘Virgin’, and I had to work hard at keep my trap shut. We set off, my only comment being about the use of UN jeeps.
Van Den explained, more for the benefit of the UN driver, that such large benefactors were always treated well. At a roadside stop to use the bathroom, he admitted that he had stretched the reason for the using vehicle in the paperwork, but was leaving in three months and didn’t give a crap. We got back into the jeep as the sky turned dark, the heavens opening for a quick downpour.
It took a good four hours to reach the airfield, what was left of it. The perimeter fence had just the lonely concrete poles remaining, a clothesline hung between two. I noticed what was left of a control tower, the glass missing, and a few single story buildings reminiscent of films about Second World War prison camps. A modestly well-preserved hangar defied gravity and rust, stood proud in the distance, and some new low buildings formed the square into which we now parked up. We were expected, three men walking out to greet us, squinting against the bright midday sun. Two were silver haired, one bald, all appearing tanned and weather-beaten and in their late forties or early fifties.
‘How’s ya doon?’ the first asked, a Scotsman.
Rudd introduced us, unsure of how to describe our occupations.
Jimmy took charge, taking off his sunglasses and shaking their hands in turn. ‘Robin McPhearson - known as Mac, Booby Feet – known as Handy, and Micky Hutches – known as Rabbit.’ The men were surprised, as was our host. Jimmy explained, ‘I checked you all out thoroughly. I like to know who I’m dealing with.’
‘Ya get a letter from my mum?’ Mac testily enquired, glancing at his colleagues.
‘You never knew your parents, Mac, so no.’ Mac did not look pleased. ‘I got a note from The Regiment, which recommended all three of you – although I was warned that you never like to pay for a round.’
The men laughed, the ice broken.
‘Come on inside, out the heat,’ Mac urged, leading us into a hut. ‘We’s got us some cold ones … courtesy of the UN.’
We cracked open cans of chilled lager, sat on threadbare chairs arranged in a circle.
The walls of this windowless hut were adorned with various badges, medals, and unit emblems, a few pictures of aircraft, of helicopters and weapons, a few technical posters in Chinese detailing mines and grenades. Other than the military décor there was little of anything else in the hut; a makeshift half-moon bar and a fridge that protested its lack of maintenance.
‘So,’ Mac began, the obvious group leader. ‘You’s some sort of city slicker with a few quid to spend.’
‘We’re very rich stockbrokers … and yes, we have a few quid to spend,’ Jimmy explained. ‘We’ve taken over an orphanage down here and I’ll be buying a hotel on the coast.’
The men glanced at each other, clearly unsure about us. ‘At the orphanage there are a few kids with missing limbs –’
‘Mines,’ Mac cut in with.
‘Yes. I understand there are a lot of kids in Africa like that.’
‘Around here they don’t clean up after a wee battle, they leave it for the kids ta find,’ Mac stated, some anger in his voice. ‘Have a few three legged cattle around here too.’
‘And you guys teach mine clearance,’ Jimmy prompted.
‘When the funding is there,’ Rabbit put in. ‘Rude Boy here–’ I tried not to smile. ‘- gets us what contracts he can.
Man has three kids, but his wife’s a Virgin!’
We laughed, the bastard stealing my joke.
‘From now on you’ll be fully funded,’ Jimmy suggested.
The men straightened in their seats, glances exchanged.
‘To do what … exactly, big fella?’ Mac delicately enquired.
‘To set-up a training school right here, well equipped and well funded. To train Africans in mine clearance, as well as others I’ll send down – medics and doctors.’
‘Doctors?’ Mac challenged, his surprise evident.
‘I read an article about a doctor who had his leg blown off,’ Jimmy explained. ‘He was working in a remote village -
didn’t know what to look out for. Another was handed a grenade by a kid and blew himself up. If medics are going to work in remote locations they need awareness training, and they need to know what to do if they wander into the wrong field.’
The old dogs exchanged looks, nodding in approval.
‘Well … aye,’ Mac conceded.
‘And the UN –’ Jimmy gestured towards a keenly attentive, yet quiet Rude Boy. ‘- will want medics close at hand when people are clearing mines, for when they make mistakes.’
Rude Boy nodded. ‘Yah, yah.’
Jimmy put on his superior voice. ‘So this is what I would like: new buildings, new fence, some classrooms, a nice big sand pit to put fake mines in and practice, plenty of mine clearing equipment – the latest kit.’
‘I can get that,’ Rude Boy keenly offered. ‘No cost.’
Jimmy gestured towards him, but addressed the Old Dogs.
‘And how will you gentlemen feel about having Rudd as your administrator?’
‘Fine,’ Mac answered with a shrug. ‘Been working with the lad for years.’
‘I see a clear division of labour here,’ Jimmy explained.
‘Rudd does the managing, you get a tan outside – doing the training. He sharpens the pencils and keeps the lights on, you crawl around the sandbox.’
We waited. The men were in approval, not least because they could not have even afforded a plane ticket home. We wandered back out into the heat and flies, the existing sandbox pointed out, some dummy mines retrieved and keenly explained; if you stood on one it went bang, but you didn’t lose your leg. The runway was still operable, the odd aircraft making a forced landing from time to time, scattering the goats of the local farmers and scaring the odd camel.
Water came from a well and food was either bought local or grown, Rabbit quite the gardener. No lettuce growing in his patch, wrong climate altogether - I asked.
The outlying areas, surrounding the base, were a contrast.
Along the road we came down the locals were living in huts, a few trees for shade and the odd field of produce. The far side, across the runway, levelled off to a desert-like expanse of nothingness. I put a hand over my eyes and peered through the shimmering heat to see if Lawrence of Arabia was heading towards us on a camel. I saw only a local woman balancing a large silver container on her head.
‘How far to the border?’ I asked Rabbit, conscious of what Jimmy had said about Somalia.
‘Not far, laddy. Thirty miles or so.’
‘With the Somalis? No, they’s a proud people.’
I figured I’d best not reveal the future. Away from the others, I asked Jimmy if it was wise to be this close to the border.
He grinned. ‘If there’s trouble here, it’ll justify a security detail under our control – paid and trained by us.’ I waited.
‘That group will be the forerunner to an army I’ll raise.’
‘Our own Army? Tidy. What’ll the Kenyans say?’
‘They’ll be happy for the help to patrol this border. Ten years from now this’ll be war zone central.’
We gave the three old dogs twenty thousand dollars, informing Rude Boy that he had a job any time he wanted it, although it would involve a lot of travel. He planned on coming out on a Monday and going back each Friday to start with. It sounded like a plan.
The Old Dogs, as they were now referred to openly, had three months to get ready, twenty thousand dollars going a long way in that part of Kenya in the 1980s. We had given Rudd another ten thousand towards a jeep for himself and for any start-up expenses, for a computer and a fax line at home.
Rudd would also have to tackle the Kenyan Government and the red tape, I figured, till Jimmy explained why not.
The Old Dogs held onto a license, had done for ten years or more, so we – as the new sponsors – did not need one.
Rudd was also on good terms with all the relevant people and so a process that could have dragged on for years would require no further thought.
A sandbox in the desert
Two months later, as we arrived back at the airfield, originally called RAF Mawlini by the British in 1956, we noticed that the place was now a hive of activity. The fence and front gate had been fixed, at least the gate and ten sections of fence either side had been fixed. Anyone wanting to get inside would be surely disheartened by having to walk a hundred metres around the completed sections. I would sleep well at night knowing that.
We passed through the imposing front gate, a look exchanged with Jimmy, getting a salute from a local teen manning his post. At least he had a military hat on. Scrub had been cleared and fires were still burning to reduce the dried shrubs. The old air traffic control building had a lick of paint and some new windows, a few signs fixed to the wall: Ablutions, NAAFI, HQ Block. I guessed the old dogs were feeling nostalgic. That or they did it one night when drunk.
Rabbit’s cabbage patch was now ten times larger, a rusted water truck parked at the edge and slowly dripping, a brown puddle being lapped at by goats. There were more camels than I had noted before, locals driving sheep across the dusty runway.
Mac stopped us with a hand. We jumped down as he said,
‘Up the control tower, lads. You can see the lot from there.’
We followed him into the building, the cool interior being decorated by a local man, his young son asleep on the floor below him. On the roof of the control tower we caught a cooling breeze, stood now in the shade of the tower’s overhanging structure.
‘Gate’s done,’ I prompted.
‘Aye, but only so much fencing. We’s awaiting on the rest.’
‘And a bigger vegetable patch,’ I noted, peering down at it.
‘Aye, food around here is limited, so you grow your own where you can.’
‘That the sandbox?’ Jimmy asked, pointing into the distance at a section of sand fifty yards square and taped into smaller quadrants.
‘Aye, twelve inches deep and plenty a room for ten or so lads in there.’ He pointed at the hangar. ‘Side of the hangar -
we’s building classrooms, in the shade of the big bloody thing.’
‘Those yours?’ Jimmy enquired, pointing at two old Land Rovers.
‘To fetch people from the nearest train stop, fetch supplies.
They wus cheap.’
The convoy that had been following us now arrived, having stopped to cool a radiator or two.
‘Who’s that?’ Mac asked.
‘Help,’ Jimmy informed him.
Rudd led the convoy in a UN jeep that he had borrowed, kind of permanently, another jeep and three lorries following him past the diligent teen at the gate, now saluting each truck.
Jimmy explained, ‘Wood, wooden panels, pitch for the roof, wire, some chicken wire, generator, another fridge, tins of food, blackboards, chalk, hammers and nails, saws. And fifty chicks.’
‘Chicks?’ Mac repeated.
‘They grow up into chickens,’ I pointed out. ‘Brought two cocks as well.’
Jimmy gave me a look.
‘Fuck me, you don’t hang about,’ Mac let out, a hand over his eyes as we watched the convoy park up and start unloading, a wave towards us from Rudd.
On the way down from the roof the painter’s son was complaining of paint flecks on his head.
‘Don’t grumble,’ I said. ‘If you were in our orphanage we’d put you in a blue dress.’
The next day, three self-assembly portakabins arrived as ordered, albeit a day late. For Kenya, that was ahead of schedule by a week. Packed onto the trucks were also several
“liberated” large tents, “UN” stencilled on the top and sides.
Well, it gave the operation an air of authority and credibility.
When the circus-sized tents were up we walked inside, finding room enough for fifty people. Camp beds were laid out, twenty of them, for the recruits to sleep on; this was a residential course. The dirt was swept, weeds pulled up, snake holes blocked. The floor was ready, the goats grateful of the shade. With a flurry of activity over the next three days we got the place ready. In reality, we dragged it from 1956 to around 1970. It was basic, but functional.
With the money we gave Rudd he paid the government and they in turn paid twenty local recruits, as had been done previously when Rudd was official; about five dollars a day each for the men. And Rude Boy, he may have neglected to tell the government that he had stopped working for the UN –
and nicked their tents. The recruits slept in the tents, not at all fussed by the conditions, and ate well, meals served in one of the portakabins. The classrooms in the shade of the hangar were cool all day and the sandbox got plenty of use, a puff of sand followed a second later by an echo off the hangar scaring the camels every thirty minutes or so.
‘If those trainees were in a real mine field … they’d be fucking mincemeat by now,’ I told Jimmy.
The three Old Dogs now had new green khaki shorts and shirts and strode around with clipboards barking instructions.
For much of the time, Jimmy and me sat on the control tower roof on deckchairs, sipping cold beers and watching the activity, till Friday morning came, time to drive back with Rudd to his Virgin wife. We left to dull echoes scaring the camels.
A hurricane, a Chinaman and a bubble
In the weeks leading up to October 1987 we sold all of our stock, ready for a big market crash. I had no doubt about Jimmy’s prediction, but I had never seen such a crash, none of the current generation of traders had, and all the experts were predicting a good end to the year on the British FTSE
We had advised Wang Po to sell all his stocks and bet the down side, our man in Hong Kong trusting every detail we gave him and making a fortune in the process. For the big show, Jimmy invited him over. Wang Po booked into the Hilton up the road and we met his party for a meal at a Chinese restaurant that his family owned. He could have told us before. Still, he made it clear to the staff that we were always to get the best table – no waiting – and never to pay.
We ate, drank, and laughed to the small hours, meeting at noon the next day at the apartment for a planning session.
Wang Po had brought two bodyguards, not trusting London much. They were settled into the kitchen, given newspapers and left to their own devices.
Po understood the basics of buying index options, a bet on the market falling, but did not fully understand, nor trust, derivatives. Just as well that Jimmy had it all written down for him, the optimum series and price to select. Po rang his broker back in Hong Kong to place a few trades, but had also transferred a million pounds to HSBC London, opening a dozen accounts here as we had advised him to. Soon he was carefully placing orders down our phone, reading the script Jimmy had prepared and given him. It took an hour. With the business taken care of from the comfort of our lounge, we sat behind the screens and watched coloured stocks ticking over, Po now keen to get a live link for his own office. Today was Tuesday, and Jimmy came out with strange suggestion.
‘Weather forecast says it’ll be very bad weather for Thursday and Friday, so there’ll probably be many stockbrokers not able to get into work. If this coincides with a crash on the American markets it’ll be all the worse here. I think Friday will be the day, British market makers deliberately crashing the stock to make themselves some money.’
Po was fascinated by how the market makers worked, how they set prices – and how they forced prices up and down artificially. I, on the other hand, was fascinated by the weather forecast, since the news had not indicated that there was particularly bad weather due to us. I figured Jimmy had a good memory, but to remember detail like that surprised me.
Po spent Wednesday shopping with his daughters, their first trip to London, but Jimmy was surprisingly quiet.
Thursday at noon, we met up as the weather worsened rapidly. Soon the tickers were all red on thin volume traded.
It had begun.
Po was fascinated, quoting and re-quoting figures, and at 3.30pm Jimmy called McKinleys. Unknown to me he had made his feelings known to them about the crash and, for the most part, they had taken his advice. They had not, however, recommended to their clients that they sell their stocks.
Instead, they had bet the down side in a modest way, enough to protect exposed positions and make a few quid on top. I was to learn later that Jimmy’s advice saved the firm from certain bankruptcy, elevating Jimmy to Godlike status with them.
Placing the phone down, Jimmy faced us. ‘They can see it in the market, lots of rumours. Something big is up.’
By close of play the market was down, but not crashing, the DOW sliding modestly. We ordered in from Po’s family restaurant, Po not wishing to miss a beat as he watched the DOW slide. We munched away, mostly without Po, as his fascination with our software grew. When our bellies were full the DOW was down over a hundred points, the move now significant. Po’s Hong Kong broker called to say that the Asian markets were down significantly, following the DOW
south. With the close of the DOW, Jimmy reconfigured the software and we gained a live feed of the Asian markets. The spare room was already made up, Po wanting to stay put. A bodyguard was sent back for some clothes and personal effects, the second offered Jimmy’s bed.
Our explanation of Jimmy’s lack of sleep worried Po greatly, who offered acupuncture, green tea and everything short of Tiger’s Penis to cure it. Jimmy explained it away as a benefit, since he could read many financial reports overnight.
Still, our guest was concerned for Jimmy’s welfare.
I went to bed, being a mere mortal, Po catching an hour or two as Jimmy kept an eye of the Asian markets. At 7am the Hang Seng Index was down significantly, but not crashing by any means. He woke Po and me at nine o’clock, the UK
market sliding from the start. The morning news was on, reporting the storm and the closed railway lines around London.
Jimmy pointed at the TV screen. ‘Most people won’t be at work in the city today, they can’t get in.’
Po was amazed, but I was concerned. And even the bodyguards were watching the screens, discussing the moves, their boss explaining some of the detail. After all, the men turned out to be family. It was mesmerizing, especially when you remembered how much money we had placed to bet the down side. And the FTSE was already below the point where McKinleys made a few quid. Their head trader had walked in to work, he didn’t live far, and had called Jimmy – no doubt with a huge grin. When off the phone, Jimmy explained that McKinleys had left all their phones off the hook – none of their customers could sell.
By four o’clock we were the best part of a million pounds better off, Jimmy keeping the trades small so that the regulators would not notice us on their radar. Po had bet over two million pounds, and on more leveraged positions than us, and was now sitting on a five million pound profit. Jimmy stopped Po calling his broker, explaining that now the slide had begun it would be bigger on Monday. Well, Po was stunned into silence, his staff worried for him.
‘Not sell?’ he repeated many times. ‘More big fall?’
Two people I had never heard of rang, sounding very pleased with themselves, asking for Jimmy.
‘Hold till Wednesday,’ Jimmy had told them. ‘Besides, you won’t get through to any UK broker till then. Relax.’
‘Relax?’ I repeated, Po so quiet that he worried me. The little Chinaman was sitting on around ten million quid in profit, not to mention what he saved from selling his stock portfolio in time. It was fair to say we’d never pay for a meal in that restaurant again.
With the close of the UK market we watched the DOW as it slid further, finishing well down. This was now officially a crash and creating news headlines. Jimmy told Po to have a relaxing weekend – not much chance of that – and sent him packing, politely but firmly, a place on our sofa booked in for him at 8am Monday morning. With big hugs and a million thanks issued we keenly pushed him out of the door.
‘Fuck, I’m knackered,’ I let out, slouching down. ‘Like being back at the firm.’
Jimmy eased down. ‘Po will reward us well next week, so too a few others I persuaded. So next month we can spend some money.’
‘Medical Genetics?’ I asked.
‘No, need to make a start on a few other things in Kenya.
We’ll use the money quickly enough.’
‘We out tonight?’ I asked with a yawn.
‘Not in this weather. Besides, they’ll be fuck all people about. Get some rest, watch the TV.’ He stood. ‘I’m going to change the sheets and get an hour or two.’
‘How long can you go? Without sleep?’
‘Five days at least, but then I get cranky and my co-ordination goes wobbly. I once did a whole month at one hour a night, but felt like shit and slept for twenty hours in a single stretch. Four hours is the optimum, more than that and I get a headache. Anyway, we just passed a significant milestone; now we have the money to start Rescue Force, or at least its predecessor.’
‘It’s as if you’re working to a plan,’ I joked as he headed for his bedroom.
Sat there alone, various odd feelings surfaced, something odd about the exactness of the plan and the storm outside.
Hell, he’d always been mysterious. I cracked open a can and watched the news about today’s action.
After a lazy weekend, Po turned up early, the little bugger ringing the bell at 7am. Jimmy was already up and welcomed the gang in, the two daughters accompanying, and the commotion woke me.
‘For fuck’s sake,’ I yawned, still in my pants.
The two girls giggled as I slammed my bedroom door, needing another hour; I was not fully cooked.
I joined them at 8.30am; showered, awake and smartly dressed. The girls were still giggly, and looking even more gorgeous than the first time I had set eyes on them. ‘Morning all,’ I said with a bow, the bodyguards smirking, and headed to the kitchen for breakfast and several coffees. The girls joined me, sat staring with fixed grins. By time I joined Po and Jimmy the FTSE was again sliding heavily, as predicted.
An hour later we had a coffee and a conference around the aptly named coffee table.
‘No more trades for four weeks at least,’ Jimmy informed us. ‘No good short term trades for three months at least.’ We were both surprised. Jimmy explained, ‘The market will be volatile, staying low and then recovering in three months.
Now is a good time for investments, one or two years.’ He offered to give Po a list, gratefully acknowledged. Problem was, Po liked to be active and to trade.
‘Discipline, like me,’ Jimmy firmly pressed. ‘Make money when the time is right.’
Po accepted the advice, planning on selling some options on Wednesday, some later. What we didn’t know at the time was that he had already sold some via the Asian exchanges and was sitting on a tidy profit. His extended family, having sold all of their stocks in advance of the crash, were now gleefully buying them back for a quarter of their former price.
The name ‘Jimmy Silo’ was starting to spread.
When Po got around to promising Jimmy some money,
‘Jimly’ stopped him dead.
‘There will be a charity that I wish to start in Hong Kong in a few years time,’ Jimmy explained. ‘I would like you to put any money that you would like to give us into that charity, so that when we are ready it is there to use.’
We were ‘vely’ strange men, but most respected, Po said, swearing that he would itemise it and send statements. Fair enough, we knew where it was. By end of play the FTSE had plummeted, Po and Jimmy far richer than the week before, a few stockbrokers biting the dust, but none of ours. Jimmy explained to Po that the excitement was over and now we could relax, dinner at the restaurant arranged.
Keeping my hands off his two daughters was the hardest thing I ever did, especially after a drink, but I also desperately wanted to keep my hands attached to my arms.
Stepping up a gear
Jack Donohue read the letter with a hidden grin.
Sorry for not warning you about the market crash, but it was necessary that I use the opportunity to tip off a few people I know, so that they could make some money. A good percentage of that money has now been earmarked for several charities, here and abroad.
Since the crash did not affect UK politics and no one was hurt - I hope you understand my reasoning.
And I hope you took my advice about the Fastnet Yacht Race.
When finished, he raised his head to the assembled COBRA meeting.
‘Opinion?’ the Prime Minister asked.
Jack said, ‘Like he says, nothing political or deadly about the market crash and, more importantly, would the Government have taken any action?’
‘It would have been nice to have the option, I suppose,’ the P.M. commented.
‘Is he drifting towards financial motivation?’ the MI5
Jack put in, ‘He could do so without letting us know, and by now would be the richest man in the UK.’
‘Fair point,’ the same man conceded.
The P.M. opened a file and handed the letter to Jack. ‘This
… we have not shown you yet.’
Jack scanned the letter. ‘Bloody hell.’
‘Quite,’ the P.M. agreed.
PM, a Mid East terrorist group is well advanced in their planning of a spectacular hijacking in the years ahead. They have selected twenty young men, mostly for their clean passports, and are giving the selected men flying lessons. Their aim is simple in its audacity.
They aim to highjack several aircraft at the same time, ideally 747s with full manifests, and to fly these aircraft to Western capitals. There, they will kill the crew, take their places and crash the planes into built-up areas, principally city centres.
Try, if you will, to imagine half a dozen 747s crashing into London; Buckingham Palace, Westminster or Oxford Circus.
The solution comes in two parts. First, and quite straightforward, you must reinforce cockpit doors, provide inside locks only and perhaps a peephole.
Second, and more difficult, you must instruct pilots never to give up the cockpit, even if cabin crew are threatened or killed.
Since giving up the cockpit will, most certainly, result in everyone in the aircraft being killed – and hundreds on the ground being killed - the pilots must sacrifice the passengers and cabin staff and land the aircraft, disabling it.
‘So,’ the P.M. began. ‘Opinions?’
‘It would be devastating -’
‘The biggest single loss of life -’
‘We must act –’
The P.M. nodded. ‘Set up a working group to review aircraft security procedures with this in mind. We do, apparently, have a few years at least.’
The next meeting, held three weeks later, had a different tone altogether.
Jack read the letter quickly, but twice. ‘Dear God.’
The P.M. stated, ‘Given the nature of this … I have decided to join forces with the Americans. Jack, you’ll get a liaison at some point. As to the subject matter of this latest letter … well, we can all hope it’s true.’
‘Ma’am, he’s never been wrong up to now,’ Jack pointed out.
‘That may be, but this is … incredible. The end of communism?’
Sykes put in, ‘We are seeing a rapid increase in dissent right across the Warsaw Pack countries, particularly the GDR.’
‘Dissent in those countries is not the issue, it’s what Moscow would do in response,’ the P.M. pointed out. ‘That
... has always been the issue. And a re-unification of Germany could seriously destabilise that country – and our bases within it. There’s also the consideration of a unified Germany – which way they would lean?’
Two weeks later Jack got his liaison, Colonel Thadius Pointer. He met the tough-looking white haired man in a hotel bar, all very ‘cloak and dagger’. Not to mention great fun being out of the office.
They shook. ‘Jack Donohue.’
‘Thad Pointer, Colonel. Retired.’ They sat.
‘Air Force?’ Jack enquired.
Thad nodded before ordering a drink from a waiter.
‘Just a pen pusher. Psychology. So, how did you go from an honest living … to this?’
Thad laughed. ‘Jets, NASA, spy planes, CIA, desk work. I even worked on the original Majestic project – that’s why I got called back for this.’
‘You think there’s a link?’ Jack broached.
‘Not really. Your guy is the real thing, we never found anyone with any real powers. Sure, they drew pictures of places they’d never been, but not much else.’
‘If I may be so bold … does Uncle Sam think that Magestic is on the level, as you say?’
‘Sure, everything pans out so far.’
‘And the end of communism?’
Thad raised his eyebrows. ‘What you have to keep in mind, is that some rich and powerful folks back home don’t really want an end to communism: they’re making a buck selling tanks to the Army, planes to the Air Force.’
choose not to believe it,’ Jack stated with a disappointed tone.
Thad shrugged. ‘Politics.’
‘There’s no need to swear.’ They laughed. ‘May I enquire,’ Jack delicately began, ‘if your side are trying to find him?’
‘If they are, they haven’t told me,’ Thad suggested. ‘Are you looking for him?’
‘In a small way. They check for fingerprints, where the letters were posted – that sort of thing. But I don’t think our friend is the sloppy type.’
‘No, he sure isn’t,’ Thad agreed, Jack puzzling that statement.
‘So, do you think he’s British, or an American living here?’ Jack asked.
‘Oh, British for sure - linguists say so.’
An hour later Jack was stood before the Prime Minister.
‘Well?’ the P.M. asked.
‘Lying through his teeth, Ma’am.’
The P.M. reflected on that statement. ‘Pity. Still, we must co-operate on NATO matters.’ She retrieved the latest Magestic letter. ‘Guess we’d better not show this to anyone.’
PM, you will soon have an American Liaison, a Colonel Thad Pointer, US Marines, Retired. He worked on the original 1960s Magestic project (experimental time travel).
The Americans, having analysed the letters, fully believe me to be an astronaut, sent back through time to assist the US to dominate the world in the decades ahead. They believe this because it allows them their pride, and who else might build such a thing as a time machine but NASA? You might consider that the CIA have used this story to make it easier for them to present my story to the White House. A British clairvoyant would be mistrusted.
Your servant, Magestic.
P.S. I get vertigo if up too high. Still, as a child I liked the idea of being an astronaut. So, in some small way, I have achieved new heights in the eyes of some.
‘Astronaut,’ the P.M. repeated. ‘Where do the Americans get these ideas?’ She handed Jack the letter. ‘File that somewhere where no one else will see it.’
‘Yes, Prime Minister.’
The first medics
Back in Nairobi, in mid November, we met up with Rudd. As Jimmy had requested, Rudd had advertised for a Kenyan doctor to provide medical cover at the airfield and to teach first aid. At our lunch meeting, Rudd handed over a shortlist of candidates that he had also faxed to us the week before.
Jimmy ran an eye over the list and selected the man he wanted, named Adam, the perplexed Rudd delicately enquiring as to how he knew which man to employ.
‘I know people down here who can check backgrounds,’
Jimmy explained. ‘I want to meet him as soon as possible.’
‘He’s here in Nairobi, looking for work, staying with a brother. He has been doing UN rotating contracts – which, I guess, you know…’
Jimmy nodded. ‘Call him, please. Bring him here.’
Rudd interrupted his lunch to make a quick call. After lunch we retired to the bar area and waited, the dark-skinned and portly medic appearing in little more than half a pint’s waiting time, recognising Rudd and striding over. We stood.
Jimmy greeted the large man in his native dialect, shocking the medic. They clasped hands.
‘You know my region?’ Adam asked in a baritone voice.
‘Yes,’ Jimmy acknowledged. ‘I am … a well-travelled man. Please, have a seat.’
We sat back down, Jimmy ordering fresh drinks from a hovering waiter, a black tea purposefully selected for the medic – again surprising the man.
‘So, Adam, you have finished with your last contract?’
Adam nodded. ‘Yes, a month ago. I was in Zaire.’
‘And has Rudd indicated what type of work we need you for?’
Again Adam nodded. ‘Teaching the young men about medicine and being the base doctor for emergencies.’
‘It’s not much of a base at the moment, but will grow over the years,’ Jimmy explained. ‘Each year more and more recruits will attend training there. When there are no courses you can come back here to Nairobi, you’ll still be paid. Next year I want you to start a training programme for field medics, people who can – like you – go to Zaire and other places and provide basic medical help.’
Adam straightened. ‘This will be a permanent position?’
Jimmy nodded and smiled. ‘Yes, Adam. You were on eleven thousand dollars for the UN. We will pay fifteen thousand - and travel costs.’
I put in, ‘We’ll even give you your own allotment.’
‘Allot – ment?’
Jimmy explained, ‘At the base, at the airfield, the men grow their own food.’
‘Ah, yes. I like the gardening. I have the green fingers.’ He didn’t, I looked.
‘Can you start in a few days?’ Jimmy asked.
‘Yes, yes, I am available now.’
‘Then pack a bag and we’ll take you out to the base tomorrow,’ Jimmy suggested. ‘You can come back with Rudd every weekend.’
We stood again, shook, and arranged to meet at our hotel the next morning. Reclaiming our seats Jimmy handed over a document and chequebook to Rudd.
‘I’ve opened an account for our operations … in a local bank. Later, we’ll pop along and they can meet you and get your signature for cheques.’
Rudd held a finger to the detail of the document with a heavy frown. ‘This says that there is … two hundred and fifty thousand pounds in it?’
‘That’s correct,’ Jimmy casually explained. ‘From now on we’ll start to increase what we do. Once Adam has seen the base I want a small clinic built across the road from the base, for the locals. I want it well equipped, staffed with a local nurse – and a jeep for them to do house calls with.’
The stunned Dutchman nodded. ‘With this much money you could build a hospital.’
‘There are other things I need you to do as well,’ Jimmy explained. He sipped his beer. ‘Find a local lawyer we can use, someone good. I’ll be buying a hotel on the coast.’
The next morning we set-off early, before the day warmed up, and headed North. At the local town for the base we halted, a dusty and dirty place, Jimmy dropping off Rudd with a shopping list and expecting him to get a taxi the remaining nine miles to the base. We continued on, passing one of the Old Dogs’ green Land Rovers as we progressed.
The fence had grown another ten sections and I was surprised to find an armed police officer on the gate, another in a small watchtower.
Mac greeted us with, ‘Back again?’
‘Someone has to keep an eye on you,’ Jimmy retorted. He introduced Adam. ‘This is your new doctor.’ They shook hands. ‘He’s been in Zaire, doing field work for the UN.’
‘Got some of your tents over there,’ Mac said, pointing out the large UN tents.
Jimmy faced me and said, ‘Show Adam around, would you?’
I did my bit, leading Adam away as Mac and Jimmy chatted. After a meandering half-hour stroll around the base we climbed the stairs to the control tower roof, in need of a cool drink. Since the roof now offered an outdoor fridge - all wired up, we were in the right spot. I fetched two cans, one each for me and Doc Adam, Jimmy and Mac already supping theirs as they sat in deckchairs.
I eased down. ‘What’s with the local police?’
Mac explained, ‘We pay the local police chief, he takes his cut and pays the lads. They get a better deal than the town, better food and drink with us. They stop the locals nicking stuff, or they’d have the buildings away.’
‘Where’s the new clinic going to be?’ I idly enquired.
Jimmy pointed to an abandoned mud hut, over the road from the main gate. ‘Right there. Doc will be close enough to provide medical cover here.’ Adam took a keen interest, Jimmy facing him. ‘Before it’s built, your office will be below us. It’s the best room - and we can lock it.’ Facing Mac, he said, ‘Double the length of your courses, pad it out with comprehensive first aid from the Doc.’
‘And I’d like you to start to introduce an all-weapons course, get them making safe every kind of weapon and ordnance you can think off.’
‘Be a three month course,’ Mac cautioned.
‘That’s OK, it’ll keep you out of the local bars. I’d like a tank or two, fifty cals – mounted, AKs, the works. When they leave here they should be able tackle any ordnance they find.
Then you can start a demolition school.’
‘Have to be way over there,’ Mac pointed. ‘But we’ve already a license for demolition.’
‘Build a few sunken bunkers for the plastic explosives, and get that fucking fence finished.’
‘I’ll have to drive down ta the city and fetch some, locals are useless,’ Mac complained.
‘My brother, Seth, in is construction,’ Adam put in, swiping away flies. ‘He has fenced many football grounds.’
‘There you go,’ Jimmy told Mac. ‘Get Rudd to meet his brother and buy some fencing - I’ve given Rudd a bank account.’
Two trucks trundled noisily closer, checked by the police at the gate and allowed in. Rudd had dragged the local merchant along with more supplies.
‘Looks like cement bags,’ I suggested. ‘Got any sand, Mac?’
‘I’ll check with Stores,’ Mac retorted.
Jimmy told Mac, ‘There’ll be a shit load of cement, so get the trainees doing a few hours a day, give them a few quid.
Have a go at the airfield, fill in any small holes.’
Mac turned his head. ‘You planning on using it?’
‘Of course, be flying people in an out,’ Jimmy explained.
‘When we’ve got some recruits worth a damn we’ll hire them out to the UN, fly them into Mozambique and other places.
Whenever that is … is up to you. We need people who can disarm anything, medically trained and switched on.’
Mac carefully observed Jimmy. ‘You sure you’re not ex-military?’
As we sat there, relaxing, the lorry’s cargo was slowly unloaded by a local who needed a rest after each bag of cement.
‘C’mon,’ Jimmy called. ‘Let’s unload the trucks.’ He took off his shirt, surprising the locals and Mac alike, before grabbing two bags at a time, placing them in a pile. We all took one, trying to keep up with him.
‘Jimbo works out, eh?’ Mac puffed out as we progressed.
A man came running; a recruit in a uniform blue shirt.
‘Doctor man, doctor man!’
Adam reached for his bag and we all followed at the jog, into one of the smaller tents. What greeted us was a recruit sprawled out on a bed and appearing quite dead, his leg swollen to twice the normal size, his skin splitting. It turned my stomach.
‘Snake bite,’ Adam said as he knelt down.
‘Serum?’ Jimmy asked Mac.
Mac shook his head.
‘In the town,’ Adam hurriedly suggested. ‘He may have an hour.’
Jimmy sent Mac, telling the recruits to fetch water and make a fire.
Adam checked the man’s vitals. ‘He will not live much longer.’
I made eye contact with Jimmy and pointed at the leg.
‘Could … you?’
‘Yes,’ he softly admitted. ‘But it’s a risk, at this time.’
Adam was not following.
‘Well,’ I nudged, time passing.
‘It’s a risk,’ Jimmy repeated.
‘So was the orphanage,’ I reminded him.
He took a breath. ‘Watch the tent flaps, no one comes in.
Adam, get a syringe.’
Adam fetched a syringe from his bag, looking puzzled.
‘You have serum?’
‘Yes, but not in the form you’re used to. Do what I ask, or you’ll have no job.’ He offered his upturned forearm. ‘Take a syringe full. Quickly, man.’
Adam glanced at me as I policed the door, before drawing the blood.
Jimmy snatched the syringe off the doc. ‘Say nothing, do nothing, stand back.’ He injected the leg, above and below the obvious bite mark, finally injecting the remainder into the man’s arm.
When done, Adam closed in. ‘What do you do?’
‘I was born with a rare genetic condition,’ Jimmy lied.
‘My blood can … cure many things.’ He faced Adam. ‘If you speak about this I’ll kill you.’
Making Adam stay with the patient, we stepped out as the other instructors arrived.
Jimmy told them, ‘It’s touch and go, see what happens when Mac gets back. In the hands of the Gods now.’ He cleaned up without saying anything, put his shirt back on and returned to the tent without a word.
Adam jumped up. ‘He is getting stronger.’
Jimmy didn’t respond. He just sat on a bed, his head lowered. I checked the leg over, and even I could see that the swelling was going down.
‘Adam,’ Jimmy softly called from a dark corner, the doc turning his head. ‘I am sorry … for threatening you.’
Adam swung his head around to me, not knowing what to say or do, clearly still terrified. We sat in silence, pestered by flies, the patient’s vitals checked every five minutes; they were getting stronger. Mac re-appeared a full forty-five minutes later, serum thrust into Adam’s face, quickly injected into the patient.
‘I think he will make it,’ Adam solemnly stated. ‘We …
need to move him to the local clinic … and inform his family.’
‘Yes, of course,’ Jimmy stated as he stood. He carried the man himself, out to a jeep, placing him in the rear. Adam jumped in and the jeep disappeared in a cloud of dust.
‘You think he’ll … Adam … he’ll talk?’ I delicately broached.
Jimmy sighed. ‘No, he’s a good man. Some day I’ll inject him. Still, it was a risk.’
‘C’mon, you look like you need a cold beer.’
Adam returned in the evening, Jimmy sat quietly and not reacting.
‘The man will be fine,’ Adam enthused, avoiding eye contact with Jimmy.
After a minute, Jimmy eased up. ‘Doc, walk with me, please.’ They stepped out into the cooler night air.
Jimmy explained, ‘If the world knew … knew about my blood … I would not have a life, I would be in a clinic being experimented on. I would be … a freak. Everyone would want my blood, and I only have so much. Do you understand this?’
‘Yes, I’m a doctor. If we knew of such a person he would not be left alone.’
‘So you can see my dilemma, Doc. If I try and help people, I end up helping no one because I would be locked up by the British or Americans, experimented upon.’
‘It is a dilemma, yes,’ Adam softly admitted.
‘And once again, Doc, I apologise for threatening you.’ He stopped and faced Adam. ‘But you must be aware that I can, very easily, make people disappear.’
Adam nodded his understanding through the moonlight.
‘There is something you need to know, Doc,’ Jimmy said as they progressed. ‘If I inject you … your blood will be like mine.’
Jimmy nodded. ‘The orphanage we have taken over is an AIDS orphanage. In a few years the people will notice something very odd.’
Jimmy stopped. ‘The children no longer have AIDS.’
‘They have your blood!’ he realised.
Jimmy confirmed with a quick nod.
‘How many … how many can you cure?’
‘I am only one man, Doc. How many could you cure, if you were like me?’ They walked on.
‘This man, today –’ Adam began.
‘Will live a very long time … and in very good health.’
‘Your friend –’
‘He’s not like me,’ Jimmy quickly cut in with.
Adam finally said, ‘If I take the blood, I will be like you?’
‘First, my friend, study the man who we helped today.
Before taking a decision like that you must think about it, your life will not be the same.’
Adam took Jimmy firmly by the arm and halted him. ‘I was raised a Christian. What you have … it is a miracle!’
‘You may believe … in what you please, Koufi.’
Adam was shocked. ‘Koufi? My mother called me that …
when I was very young. How … how can you know this?
And how do you speak like you were born in my village?’