The five men were exhausted. They sat round a coffee table on low settees, two on each side and one on a single at the other end. The one on the single, Henry, raised his head and looked at the weary faces around him then made deliberate glance at the clock on the wall.
It was around 10 in the morning when they started, Henry thought, all the plans had gone smoothly until this issue-damn it had taken up a whole four hours. Henry was thinking should he adjourn- but the faces around him as much as they looked tired they didn’t look like they would be liking that very much when suddenly one of the four men talked.
“It should be now, everything is ready and the people can’t take no more. I have studied this…all throughout history it has been proven this is the best time.”
“Look Tsvan, I understand were you are coming from but it would be costly for us to do it now, so many people will die unnecessarily…”
“You don’t think our cause is necessary cause?!...” Tsvan cut in
Tinas quickly rebounded“No, you are stuffing me…less people will die if we wait a little longer. Times have changed and weapons have became more sophisticated, we cannot do it like they did it in the past-it will be sending them to a slaughter-Murg is a desperate man and will not hesitate to use maximum force.
“The people put their hope in us to deliver them and if we hesitate a longer they will feel let down and you know the consequences of that Tinas.”
Tinas paused a brief moment, and all the men looked at him expectantly, “we should wait, at least until we get major help outside.”
“We already have help from the Waits and the Cubs, we are prepared Tinas.” Tsvan lingers a while to let it sink, then continues, “I see we will not reach a decision by debate, I suggest a vote.”
Tinas looks around at the man, Grino and Patsi were backing Tsvan’s, they always did, that’s already three. Henry? I didn’t know and I won’t bother to find out, it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.
“You don’t need a vote; I withdraw my proposition from the council.”
Tinas could almost see a grin on Tsvan’s face but it was well hidden behind that face hardened by years of the dirty game.
“Glad you could see that acting now is sensible.” Grino put in, he had been quiet the last twenty or so minutes. “Its settled then, shall we call it a day”
Henry finalised the meeting and the men and ushered them out onto the porch. It was raining. Drivers with umbrellas collected then into their separate cars- one by one the cars disappeared into the long stretch of road in the haze of the rain.
Still one person remained, Tinas. Henry came a little closer. “
I want to let you know….back there…I would have voted for your proposition, it’s very sensible.”
Tinas looked at him, “Thanks, it would still be outnumbered.”
“Yes” Henry said in sort of a whisper, “And you can always count on me.”
Tinas’ driver walked up to them
“The car is ready sir.”
Tinas held Henry’s shoulder and he left.
Henry watched until the red tail light could no longer be seen.
He also hoped Tinas did not reject him for being mediocre, that remained to be seen in future meeting. Tsvan plan was a bit too ambitious and odds were against it, but it could work. He was glad he had stated his position to Tinas, the one tipped to succeed at Tsvan’s dismal. Happy with himself he went inside and poured himself a gin.
In the streets of Schlaffen Mark was making his way to the local bar, he was walking briskly and not far behind him was Salvado.
“Have you talked to her then?”
“How could I, she has been shutting me off,” Mark replied, “...and she has every right to do so.”
“Look kid, it won't help ya if you keep blaming ya'self for Stephie's death...look at me lad,” He then grabbed Mark by the shoulders and then continued,” She made her own choice to do what she did...and sadly it was the last choice she ever did...but it's not for nothing as long as YOU are alive and giving it meaning.”
Mark looked at Salvado, he was an old man now and as much as he hated to admit it, what he said made sense in a way.
“OK, lets get a move on.” Salvado added.
A few steps down the street the familiar bustle was breached by the sound of someone shouting at the top of his voice.
“It is the time to change, enough is enough. For far too long we have been living under this yoke of oppression, and for far too long we were silent. Now we the people must stand and speak. People of Stiensraum speak and make a change.” The speaker paused.
“Hey Salvado lets stop a bit,” the old man didn't need much urging as he was already stopping. There was just a handful of people around but the speaker continued.
Mark listened carefully what was being said.
“ This was a beautiful country once. We prospered, yes. But it has all gone astray because our leaders have became drunk with power. Look how they stagger, they go shopping in Europe, build houses the size of castles and these are just the little things. The government has been pumping bank notes into the market without gold backing, this has ballooned inflation to world records...Is this the kind of record you are proud of....”
A murmur buzzed through the now growing crowd but the word no could be distinguished.
“ I didn't think so, and this inflation has put the economy to rock bottom. What do the do to fix it. Freeze prices. But does it work, no. This has forced investors to go elsewhere and locals out of business The manufacturer s just stop making he goods or rebrand to avoid freezes, and don't forget that most of the directors of all companies that are still surviving are the same leaders.
And Murg does not help us, his foreign policy makes sure we get no aid from outsiders. He mocks and offends them all. He makes no effort to improve foreign relation and encourage investment, which we really need to revive our economy. This is because Murg has grown narcissistic from staying too long in power.”
He paused again from his charged speech and his eyes roved the crowd and the crowd was fixed on him.
"Why do you think every country on earth changes power every 4 or 5 years...its because power corrupts and ABSOLUTE power corrupts ABSOLUTELY ! That is why Stiensraum has sunk, it is being led by people who have been in power too long. So we need to act and change that now. And you may ask what should we do about it or what can be done about it. People of Stiensraum we need to lobby for a change in constitution that only allows a leader to stay in power no more than two terms, each term being no longer than 5 years. There are already MPs lobbying for this very thing in parliament but to succeed we must act as one and continue to demonstrate until a referendum...”
A woman's sharp voice pieced from down the street, “Riot police! Riot police!”
The crowd broke into a scuffle as panicked people tried to get away from the scene. Mark grabbed Salvado's arm and pushed along the street. In the frenzy he turned to see the speaker get down from his makeshift podium and disappear into the mass of moving bodies.
Salvado, punted heavily as the made their way, “ There is an alleyway somewhere here,”he said trying to point above the heads. Eventually they made their way to the alley opening,
few people were in in and they rushed up the narrow spaced walls. Mark quickly hurled himself over the wooden fence barricade.
“Go on, quick.” Salvado put in between deep drafts of breaths to Mark who was extending his arm over the fence. In a moment Salvado was on the other side.
“I'm not that old, lad.” he smirked.
Round the bend and they were in a different street and the strolled to their local bar. It was a shabeen actually but Salvado talked of it that way. He knocked on the oak door and someone opened to allow just a crack and then flung the door to allow the newcomers and quite as quickly it was shut again.
At the northern border three continental trucks rolled in at the check in point. The guard at the boom signalled the lead truck to stop and made his way to the drivers side.
“Where are you headed? What you got back there”
“Schlaffen. Engine parts, we got buyers in the capital.”
”Papers,” he said shinning his flash light into the interior. The driver handed a whole bunch on a clipboard. The guard flicked through them then signalled the other guards to search the trucks.
He shone his light on the other man in the truck and the man quickly shuffled his hands, not before he saw a scar on the right hand. Getting round he made round the truck.
“Its clear sir,” one of the two guards who were emerging from the back of the truck reported.
“Move on to the next ones,” He ordered, whilst he stooped down to look under the truck.
About 15 minutes later the guards returned
“Everything appears to be in order sir.”
“Well they better be, for anyone's sake.”
The chief made his way to the lead truck again, got up and said
“If you will accompany me.”
“Is there a problem sir?”, The second man asked.
“No there are some issues we need to discuss as gentlemen,” he replied and got down towards his office.
“No you stay, I will take one of the other drivers”
Grinos got out and walked towards the yellow light from the office.
The guards were making their rounds in the bay. They passed the trucks a first time, then a second time. One of the guards stole a glance in Sven's direction and Sven pretende to look at he office as the second guard stared suspeciously at him. The third time Sven saw them as the passed again and the first guard flapped his hand on his lap and Sven say that he ws holding a book. The fouth time as they passed Sven cleared his throut
“What are you reading there, are you allowed to read on duty?”
The first guard gave a shy smile.
“No sir, but sometims t gets so quit around here. It's Illiad by Homar.
“Is it good, I have feeling I will be here a while myself. Mind if i take a look”
“ I just finished it. Its about Achilles the greatest warrior in greek history. But my boss musn't know it's mine.”
“ I will give you 1 million cedas for it.”
“Yeah, that's good ridens i was growing tired of covering fo you petty hobbies” the second guard put in.
The two guards walked off but the first guard gave a slight glance back and walked off.
Sven sat for a few seconds and and then grabbed the book flicking throught the pages. At the centre of the book he found a note.
“Achilles chariot can enter troy. Hector is asleep. Tying loose ends
Sven rolled the note into a ball and swallowed it.
The oofice was a small room lit by a naked bulb with many file cabinets and workstation.
“Sit down,' he paused until they were seated and continued, “Let me spell it out to you, you have three full trucks and to clear all that stuff will take a...uh mm..one or two days.”
“With all due respect sir i thought we were almost finished here.” The second man put in.
“Yes but my clerks are not here to do the paper work to clear you, they will not be back soon...I could do it but i am a busy man you know.” he stated giving a coy look from the corner of his eye whilst lighting a cigar.
“ Besides you know that import has a 90% duty...and erhh...looking at what you got back there, you are looking at lets see...” he mused as he computed the figures,”60 billion!”
“ And as of the 23 it will be illegal to carry that kind of money. Today is the 22 and its already 8pm, which brings us full circle, so what will it be, I am a very busy man.”
Grinos had prepared for this, he signalled the driver to bring the briefcase. Grinos and the Chief sat across each other in the closed confinement, cold contact. In a moment the driver was back and placed the desk.
“I believe you will find the contents to your liking,” Grinos edged
The Chief pulled the case and opened it.
“You conduct yourself well, you know how to drive a good deal. You shall have your papers before the end of the day.” The Chief put in with a grin spread over his plump cheeks.
“It's good we have this sorted out, we are running a bit late.”
The two men stood to get out and the Chief reassured them again they will have their papers before the day is up. In the truck Grinos sat in silence for a while.
“ Just another reason to do what we are doing, huh?”
“Can you believe that guy he practically milked us. I know his name, scum must be wiped from the face of the earth.” The driver put in a disgusted voice.
“You have to go sit in the hallway, wait for him OK, I will stay with the trucks. Call me if anything develops.”
“Yes, sir.” The driver replied and got out of the truck.
10 minutes. 30 minutes. 1 hour. 2 hours. 3 hours, almost 3 hours, Grinos had been pacing up and down the trucks. His nerve was slowly getting on as the clock ticked. As he turned from his lap round the rear truck the driver emerged from the office block.
The Driver walked up to him him and handed him the papers.
“OK, lets go, signal the other drivers and get a move on.
The engine shot into life and droned out of the bay with the others trailing behind. Crossing the border booms and gates and they were now in Stiensraum. The yellow light at the outpost gave way to lush savannah vegetation and the dirt road gave in to the express capital highway and the trucks sped as they gripped on the solid tarmac.
How ironic such an infustructed country yet sunk, Grinos thought, the more he thought about it the more he felt convinced of what he was doing. He sat back and looked ahead.
Fours later the trucks slowed down and took a turn into an unmarked dirt road and disappeared into the foliage of the vegetation.
“Bloody police, what gives them the right to do that, people should be allowed to say what they think, ya'know.”
“Well, these days it now depends what you are talking about.” Mark commented. Salvado sighed a sigh of resignation and sipped on his glass of beer.
On the tv the news was showing and one of the patrons signalled the mistress to turn up the volume a bit.
“Alright love.” She responded.
The ancher informed that a group of demonstrators had been arrested for inciting violence and plotting against the Murg. This was met with a wave of sneers of disapproval from the nonchalant gathering. Someone uttered, “A**holes.” in an almost whisper.
“Do you think that it will happen like the last time.”
“What are you talking about man?”
“The uprising an...”
“Shhh, shut your trap man, they are listening this very minute. My neighbour had a tongue like yours and three nights ago he disappeared without a trace.”
“Micker was always home, he worked at home how could he just disappear?”
“I heard a car and angry voices. I heard him and the sound of shutting car doors, but I dared not look thought my curtain. God knows I did not want them to take me too.”
A hush fell in the bar.
Mark turned to Salvado and told him
“ I think I've had enough, of everything for today, am going home, see you tomorrow.” as he put a million cedas bill on the table which the mistress glided across to collect and stash it her bussom with a glowing smile and a short hug
“Take care love.”
Mark walked out of the place and the door swung shut behind him and he disappeared into the early morning mist covering the cold street.
At Gatwick airport Sean Wit walked towards the customs terminal.
“Good evening sir.” The officer accosted him
“Good evening,” Sean replied as he handed over his passport.
The officer id a couple of checks then asked
“You are here as a student, sir, which university or college are you going to attend?”
“That is correct ma'am, I will study at the University of Bradford. Its a two year PhD.”
“Alright, wish yo well in your studies and enjoy your stay in England, thank you for your patience sir.” She said after making a few more checks.
Sean passed onto the moving ramp towards the tube station. This was his first time in England, or any other country besides his own, Stiensraum. Finally he was here. He felt very excited as he looked at the infrastructure around him.
The place had a lot of directions and the needed to be there he thought, it would be all too easy to get lost in all those corridors, especially to him, a newcomer.
Finally he made his way to the tube station were he got help from the attendants and within an hour he was emerging at London Liverpool Station were he caught the next train to Bradford. Suddenly the concrete world of the underground gave way to open air and sky scrappers and as the hours passed the y gave way to smaller and smaller building, eventually merging with vast expanses of woodland and grass plains.
Sean imagined what the university would be like. He imagined a grand place with lots of young people and a maze of buildings, just like they look like in the movies. He turned from the window into the interior of the coach, there was little happening in there to interest his mind and sit slowly began daydreaming of the people he would meet at the university.
He didn't know for how long he daydreamed, but the train had arrived. He quickly found a bus that took him to the campus. It was grand alright, complete with the historic monuments and buildings.
He liked it.
Mark woke up. He looked through the gap in the curtains and saw that it was daylight. He picked the remote to turn on the tv, the screen remained gray- no elecricity. Everyday! Damn those government goons!
Had to make do with a cold shower and cold bread before he got out to collect his paycheck. The idea seemed a bit strangea nd the image of Stephie flashed through his mind. He walked even faster.
At the office the clerk handed him his white envelope and smiled at him, he smiled back and walked out. When he opened it he felt like ripping it to little shreds. More than 40% had been taken from his pay and another 5%
taken for AIDS levy as if he had it.
“Damn the government!”, Mark thought out loudly he turned sharply around to see if anyone had heard him. A few people looked at him and walked on.
Got to more careful man he said to himself.
Checking that the street was all clear he made his way to the shabeen. He Knocked at the door and the same person opened a crack the closed and swung it open only to shut it just as fast, just enough time for Mark to get in.
He made for the table Salvado was seated,he always sat there.
“Morning lad, payday blues huh,” he said after studying Marks wound up face. Mark remained silent.
“Guess you won't talk about it,” He paused and then checked around him.
“We got a big one up in Toko, son. We gonna do a money job, we leave in.....ah...three hours.”
“What! Wait , i need to get my stuff at home, where do I meet you?”
“Brench Car Park entrance in two.”
“You got it.” With that he turned and exited the shabeen.
Sure enough Mark was there in two. Salvado glanced at his watch as he saw him. He signalled the driver to go just as Mark closed the door behind him.
A nod, and the car silently pulled out and gunned out of town.
It was silent in the car. It did not feel like the usual jobs and Mark wondered why everyones faces were so tense. Salvado turned to Mark and thrust a piece of paper in his hand. It read:
Don't say a word.
The car started slowing down and turned right into a dirt track. As the car rumbled on the rough gravel mark gripped the edge of his seat with sweaty palms. A thousand thoughts flashed through his head. The cra swished to a halt infront of a rundown warehouse. Salvado nudged his head for huim o get out.
Inside was dark with the unmistakable silehette of stacked boxes in the far corners. Mark's heart was starting to beat like a drum as they entered what apeared to be a shower area. Salvado thrust yet another piece of paper into his hand.
Strip and clothes in bin. Shower and new clothes in box.
Suddenly a rush of calm ran through him as he realised what was happening. What was he thinking. The old man loved him, he would never take him out. With a mixture of embarrassment and relief an uneasy smile creased on his sweaty face.
30 mins later the four men walked out of the shower area. The driver went towards one of the boxes, opened the door and disappeared inside it. A few seconds later the rour of an engine and an SUV rolled out. Mark and Salvado entered and the third man carried the bag with the old clothes and thrust it into the boot of the sedan. He pulled a gas cannister, sprinkled it all round the car and started walking towards the SUV making a trail behind him. He lit a cigarette and dropped the match into the trail and entered the SUV. The SUV sped off and as the fiery blaze of the sedan slowly disappeared in the horizon.
Sean looked up from the flyer. This was the place, he walked in through the revolving door and he emerged into a big hall. A giant ribbon hung above that said “AfroSoc”. There were table dotted all round the room each had a littele flag and a small group of people round it. He quickly found the one for Strautraum.
“Hi, you are from Strautraum too” one of the people at the table said reaching out his hand, “I'm Tim.”
“Hi, I'm Sean”
“I haven't seen you around before are you new?”
“Yes, I got here nine months ago.”
' I am studying Aeronotic Physics, PhD. What are you studying?”
“Biochemical Engineering, PhD.”
“How wonderful, that is great, welcome.”
Sean was soon absorbed in the conversing and food he did not notice a tall man whisper something to Tim. The tall man had not said anything before. He wore a high collar jacket and had eyes like a jackel. He excuses himself and left the room.
Tim pulls Sean to the side after a while and tells him that he is invited to a meeting that night. He asks what kind of meeting and Tim tells him its important and has to do with his work and that all will be explained.
“Meet me outside this building at 11pm and I will take you there.”
The convention soon ended. Sean did not know what to make of tim's strange request. He went back to his room and waited for 11, it was just after 10. What did they want. And that man in the high collar jacket, he did not say a word. It smelled like all the wrong things but something inside him told him to go.
Sean arrived at the building at 1045. He did not have to wait long for Tim who appeared from behind. They set off round the campus blocks and into a bus.
They alighted three stops later and walked up to some apartment blocks. To Sean's surprise they passed them and instead headed for a warehouse behind it. When they got to it Sean noticed three men walking around the building.
They got to the door. Tim knocked on it and a man opened it slighty gave them a thorough look and let them in. Inside Sean was greeted by the glare of a naked red light. Around a white board a group of chairs were arranged and sitting on them were men. Mostly in their middle ages, and there in front was the high collared man.
“Mr Wit, glad you could join us. Please forgive our secrecy but there is need for that. We have been watching you for sometime now and we believe you would be a worthy ally in our cause.”
“What cause is that?”
“I am sure that you have heard of the second uprising in Strautruam. We cannot all be soldiers Mr Wit. We want to provide support with our scienctific knowledge and knowhow and set up the rebirth of Srautraum on science. Will you join us?”
He paused for a while to gauge Sean's reaction
“I know of your personal vendetta and I promise you that you will get that chance to settle it if you join us. You will also give others the same chance .”
Sean's eye winced and he gripped the armrest with a tight grip. Memories of Diana and Troy flashed before his eyes. That dreery night. Sean's thought cleared up and he uttered
“Without a moments hasitation.”
She sat there, alone at a bar. Here eyes glanced nervously across the room.
She sipped a magarita.
He walked over to where she was. He stood, opposite, right in front with an inviting smile.
"Bored with the party upstiars?"
"Business types were never my thing."
They talked, By the end of the night he was sitting next to her. She was laughing patting his lap. It was a good feeling.
They got up and left. they walked out to his car. As she walked over to the other side she stared at him and he stared back at her from across the top of the car. She blinked and put her head down and got inside.
"You are a beautiful woman Nancy."
"A lot of men have said that to me"
"I can also see something in your eyes"
"Tell me, What can u see in my eyes?"
"I can see you are tired of the way things are, you can;t carry on, you have had enough. But you are also scared."
She looked at him with deep soft eyes.
Not a word.
He drove in silence to his motel. He parked the car and they went inside. Nancy stood there with her hands around her arms. It was cold.
He turned and told her that it was ok to stop
He told her he would protect her.
He kissed her cherry lips. Full and small. with every passing moment of passion she believed him. He could feel her tense body coming alive..
He mad passionate love to her that night.
Before she slipped away into sleep she held his face in her hand, and she felt his strong arms and built chest.
She fell asleep with a smile on her face.
He sat there at the edge of the bed. He looked at Nancy sleeping continuied sitting there. He got up and took out his gun. he screwed on the silencer. He aimed it at her head.
he paused. Then he stopped. He turned and put it back. He walked over to his bag and took out a bottle of liquid. He drapped it over a napkin and placed it over her face.
He carefully washed her body. He placed it on the bed with new drappings. he looked at her, she looked like she was sleeping and would wake up in the morning. A good way to die.
Carefully he packed everything he had touched into his bag. he tok one last glance.
Nancy was happy, his contactor is happy, he will cash his cheque in the morning. everyone is happy.
Then the salesman walked out.