The cinema of my dreams – I never wanted to go to Africa – Episode 32

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.

We flew out of an unnamed base in an unmarked aircraft, heading for Africa.  It would be my second visit.  The first didn’t quite go as expected, but there was a chance of redemption this time around.

I was the only one who had been there before, other than our two-faced guide, Jacobi, who by now would be working out how he could double-cross us and save his skin.  I had no illusions about a man who would turn in his own mother if he had to.

We were going to need a plan b and a plan c going in with him because I had no doubt plan a had already been sent to the relevant people, who were awaiting our imminent arrival with bated breath.  Pity we would not be landing anywhere near that location.

In fact, none of us would know where we would be dropped, until minutes before it happened.  Security, this time, was going to be formidable.  Lallo explained why it was a matter of need to know, and all I had to say was, I didn’t need to know.  I suspect Monroe knew, but she was the sort who could keep a secret.

As for the rest of the team, they were a motley crew, but within the group, there was an odd sort of camaraderie between them.  Perhaps Lallo had told them that if they stepped out of line, Monroe would shoot them.

Aside from the passengers in the C47 transport, there was a pack for each of us, and enough weapons to start a war.  Since we would not be calling at any recognisable airport, I doubted we would be having any customs or immigration problems.  No one was travelling with any identification papers.  It was that sort of mission.

Bamfield met me at the airport before we took off.  Monroe had come over and told me there was a visitor in one of the rooms, the one with Operations crookedly glued to the door.  She opened the door, ushered me in, then stepped back out closing the door after her.

Mental note: the door to that room would not withstand a good kick.

There was a table, two chairs, and one of them had Bamfield sitting, looking up expectantly when I entered the room.  His eyes beckoned me to the other chair, so, after a look around the room, nothing else other than the table and chairs were in the room I casually made my way to the chair and sat.

We glared at each other over the tabletop.

”I’m guessing this is the last place you expected to be?”

“You have a funny way of issuing invitations?”

“Would you have come along if I asked you politely.”

“Probably not.”

Another minute’s silence while he looked for the words that would be anything other than an apology for coercing me into a corner.  I’d come to realise that Bamfield was far from the sort of officer I’d first thought him to be.

An excuse could be made that because he needed to find people to do a particularly dangerous and covert operation, nothing was off the table, including blackmail, in order to get the job done.  How he was justifying it using armed services personnel was anyone’s guess, but it would have been kicked higher up the food chain before approval was given.

These operations weren’t just conceived by military commanders, just the CIA on a good day, allowing the armed services to tag along.  But make no mistake, this would be a CIA operation, and the CIA to take the credit if it worked out, and the army would take a hit if it didn’t.  Either way, it would never reach the newspapers.

“You don’t need me to tell you how important this is, and that we’ve only got one shot at it.  If you get caught, any of you, we cannot acknowledge you, so you will be on your own. Your team will obey orders.  Monroe is there to maintain discipline if it’s needed.”

“So she’ll be shooting first and asking questions later?”

“Something like that.  She’s a tough officer, and worthy of your respect.”

“And the rest?”

“Good soldiers who just got into trouble.  They’re being given an opportunity for redemption, and this mission will count towards lessening their sentences.  At any rate, Monroe will have your back.”

Good to know.

“You’ll be going to a new destination, after stopping over in northern Uganda.  We’ve arranged for the plane to land at a disused airstrip when you’ll be met by Colonel Chiswick.  He’ll be arranging you and your teams travel arrangements from there.  I can’t tell you any more at this time for security reasons.”

“I have only one question.”

“Only one?”

“There is another 999 but I figure none of those will get answered.  It was the same question I asked the last time, who are these people we’re supposed to be rescuing?”

A long and thoughtful look.  Could he trust me?

“Two CIA operatives, meddling in DRC affairs without authorisation.  They were originally sent to clean up the child soldier problem but somehow got in the middle of the war between government forces and rebels, if you could call them that.  They’re mostly militia groups, and the situation was too fractured for them to do much good.  Problem is, they made promises, and now we have to bail them out.”

“Another CIA stuff up then.”

“It had good intentions, but in Africa, good intentions are often mistaken for something else entirely.  This is, however, one other possible problem you may have to deal with.”

Of course, there always was.  Nothing covert operations was involved in didn’t have a wrinkle or three.

“Good or bad?”

He shrugged.  “They might not want to go with you.  We now suspect they may have had something to do with the last fiasco, and it wasn’t entirely Jacobi’s fault.  But, that doesn’t necessarily mean he might not be working with them.  You’ll be travelling with a small fortune in diamonds as payment for their release, but it may not necessarily be what it seems.  I tell you this, so you don’t get any surprises.”

“Good to know, but I suspect there’s more to the story that you’re not telling me.  I’m sure Monroe will keep you in the loop.”

I stood.

Was I expecting a handshake or a good luck, maybe, but I don’t think that was his style?  He was probably used to sending men to senseless deaths, so another few would stir his conscience.  I shrugged, and walked out of the room, not looking back.

© Charles Heath 2019

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