Our hero knows he’s in serious trouble.
The problem is, there are familiar faces and a question of who is a friend and who is foe made all the more difficult because of the enemy, if it was the enemy, simply because it didn’t look or sound or act like the enemy.
Now, it appears, his problems stem from another operation he participated in, and because of it, he has now been roped into what might be called a suicide mission.
I spent another hour trading stories of Army life, none of mine bearing any resemblance to the truth, before the party started.
I said to him, several times, that in my estimation, a part would start at a particular time. He seemed intrigued by how that could be possible when all my men were locked up and guarded.
The Captain, it seemed, was a man of limited intellect.
Or just plain overconfident that he had quelled the incursion and attempt to take the prisoners home.
I was under house arrest, just not in the house with the rest of the men. The Captain decided, being the ranking officer of our group, that I should be accorded facilities befitting my rank. It didn’t change my opinion of the Captain, but it did raise the respect level slightly.
As an officer and a gentleman, as he described himself, he was also a student of Army procedures and practices, not only of his own army but that of others. I admired his hobby out of working hours.
We were just discussing aspects of the first World War, and the part Africa played in it, when both of us suddenly heard gunshots. So did the guard and picked his gun and carefully went out the front door.
The Captain pulled his pistol from out of the top drawer and made sure the magazine had bullets in it. Just in case he needed to use it. All the men, suddenly increased to six, armed and dangerous, in that room had a gun, similar to the Captain. They were commanded by another soldier dressed in fatigues, perhaps a Colonel or higher.
I’d notice some Africa countries had a higher proportion of Generals, to say Lieutenants, and deduced from that, field promotions were a regular thing. That was not my experience here. So far.
I heard another gunshot, this time closer to the hut. Was it my people, mounting their attack? Or was it the Commander, back to retake what was his.
There would be no love lost between the Captain and the commander, and if was a betting man, in a fight, my money would be on the commander.
The sounds of gunfire continued for about ten minutes, then it became sporadic, then none at all. There were footsteps on the boards at the front of the hut, and then a cautious entry, gun barrel first, then, “if you have a gun pointed at the door, I suggest you put it down.” Monroe.
Having caught the Captain’s attention from the front, the Colonel came in the rear, and had his gun barrel pointing to the small of the Captain’s back. “Drop it now.”
The Captain did as he was told.
“You had more men on the perimeter?” he said with a sigh.
“Yes. I thought it prudent to have more than one sniper, a fact that the Militia commander hadn’t given a thought to.” I looked over at Monroe. “Have we secured the airfield?”
“Yes. 10 surviving soldiers, some of them in a bad way, are in the second barracks. They won’t be mounting a counterattack.”
I heard an engine; a large plane engine being started.
“That will be Davies playing with her new toy. Someone is on the runway lights; the rest are heading for the plane. Where are the hostages?” She glared at the Captain.
Shurl burst in the door. “Out, back through that door,” I said. “Be careful there isn’t a guard waiting for you.”
Monroe looked at me. “Can I shoot the insubordinate bastard?”
A look of surprise, not terror, crossed the Captain’s face.
“Just take him back to the cells and lock him up.”
Shurl came out with the two hostages, just as the second plane engine fired. Monroe took the Captain back to the cells and returned a minute or so later. Shurl had taken the hostages to the plane. Baines would be waiting to switch on the lights at the last minute, and hopefully, the rest were on board.
They would be waiting for Monroe and me.
The both engines were running smoothly, and Davies was testing the rudder and flaps. Suddenly the runway lights came on, and Baines came running towards the plane. Monroe and I jumped aboard, then Baines followed, pulling the door shut behind him.
I heard the engine noise increase, and then we were moving.
I headed up to the cockpit and joined Davies. She was now in her element, her fact a picture of concentration. We were slowly moving to the end of the runway, and I could see her working her way through the preflight checklist.
I tried to speak to her, but she couldn’t hear. She had headphones on. There was a pair near the co-pilot’s seat. I sat down and put them on.
“Nearly. Be quiet for a minute.”
We were at the end of the strip and she turned the plane. She would have checked the wind, not that I’d felt any, and adjusted the take-off direction accordingly.
Then, after what looked like a deep breath and slow exhale, she pushed the engine controls to maximum, and we started moving, slowly gathering speed. The runway surface wasn’t exactly flat, but it was enough not to impede forward motion. Not long after the rear of the plane rose, then in what seemed effortless, we were in the air.
Odd then, when we passed through 2,000 feet, I wondered who this plane belonged to.
© Charles Heath 2020