tagMind ControlNight Brings the Hunter Pt. 05

Night Brings the Hunter Pt. 05


"Well, I can saw a woman in two,
But you won't want to look in the box when I'm through.
I can make love disappear.
For my next trick, I'll need a volunteer."
-Warren Zevon, "For My Next Trick, I'll Need A Volunteer"

David Igazi was sitting in front of three televisions. One was tuned to CNN, one was tuned to the local news in Uongo, and the third was tuned to BBC World News. The two bigger news services, as was often the case, knew four or five facts and were rewording those facts in every conceivable way until more information came in.

They knew that Lady Maria Louisa Francesca de San Finzione's helicopter had failed to rendezvous with a military supply convoy at a refugee camp two days ago, that the helicopter had been found with three dead and two unaccounted for, including Lady Maria herself. No ransom demand had been made or video released to the media, but the area where her helicopter went down was near the territory of the brutal warlord David Igazi.

Igazi smiled at the mention of his name as they reworded as much as possible the other things they knew: That search parties were underway and that Contessa Helena de San Finzione had been unreachable for comment. The newscaster for the local news had nothing on the story and was instead talking about glorious production outputs for the next quarter. Behind him, the door to the hut opened and the large Englishman escorted Helena into the room. Igazi turned from the TV as reporters were commenting about the recent disappearance of Russian Grandmaster Garry Kasparov.

He pulled two bottles of beer out of a cooler and set one before the empty chair that Helena walked over to while he opened his own with his teeth. She sat down and opened hers against the edge of the poker table.

"The world has learned of your disappearance, Demon." Igazi told her, lighting a new cigar. Helena produced a pack of cigarettes and lit one herself.

"I prefer MSNBC," Helena responded, taking a drink. She hadn't had a Budweiser since she was a teenager. She hadn't missed much. "That Rachel Maddow, umm, you just KNOW she knows how to eat pussy."

David Igazi smiled and let out a big laugh. A smile and laugh that made Helena think he was about to extol the virtues of 7-Up over cola-based soft drinks.

"So," Helen said in English, taking a drag. "You've got me here. Maria seems to be ok. Now we should get to WHY you want me."

"Just so. But first, I require a demonstration of the power that they say you possess." He nodded to the Englishman, who motioned to someone outside and stepped out of the building. Two more men entered and tossed a scared young woman into the room. She fell to the floor, looking up in horror at Igazi. Igazi walked over to the girl and looked at Helena, the guards keeping their guns on her.

"This," he said, clapping his hand on the girl's shoulder. She let out a yelp, but he looked down at her and she cringed back. "is Umiwama. Her village's tribute was inadequate, so I took her instead. As you can see, she is terrified of what I have in store for her; making money for me. You will use your witchcraft to make her enjoy her new life as my most devoted and profitable whore."

Helena looked at the girl and looked back up to meet Igazi's gaze.

"I'd tell you to eat my shit, but I took care of that when I got here."

"You do not understand, Demon. This girl's holes are going to bring me money. What is up to you is whether or not they do so freely out on the streets or chained to a bed in a basement. On the street, she may bring in enough to make me forgo collecting her village's tribute for a few months. In the basement... well, she has sisters that could join her. Together they may bring in enough."

Helena put out her cigarette. At any moment, she could simply do her Thing and command Igazi to release Umiwama with her and Maria and order all of his men to drop their weapons and surrender to her, but the guards watching Maria had been ordered to shoot her if Igazi appeared to be "bewitched," and there was no guarantee that she could stop them in time. She steeled herself and knelt before the girl.

"Umiwama," she said calmly, laying her hands on the girl's shoulders more gently than Igazi did. "That name's Kinyarwanda, isn't it? Doesn't it mean 'Daughter of God'?" She'd asked in that language and the girl nodded. Igazi stepped back and sat in a pappasan chair as he watched them.

"Umiwama, this man," she pointed at Igazi. "And despite everything that you have heard, he IS only a man, is going to make you do things. Things with strange men that I'm pretty sure you've never done before. Are you a virgin?" The girl nodded. Helen sighed before continuing.

"If I find a way to bring you home, I will do it. But for now, for your family's safety and mine, I must tell you that you will enjoy the tasks he gives you to perform. They will be uncomfortable at first, but you will learn quickly, and you will perform these tasks as happily as you are able. You will look forward to the things that he and the men who pay tell you to do. You will not worry, you will not be afraid. This is your life now, and you will love it."

Umiwama's tears stopped and the look of fear on her face turned to a look of contentment as she nodded agreeably with Helen's words. Helen turned to the man with a look of contempt as she mentally added this moment to the ever-growing list of "Reasons to Kill David Igazi" in her head.

"She's yours now. Command her as you will."

"Undress," he told the girl. Umiwama rose to her feet and slid the simple dress she wore off her shoulders, letting it fall to the ground. Igazi raised his finger and Umiwama started walking toward her. The guards showed some interest, but kept their guns pointed at Helen.

He pointed down, and the girl knelt gracefully. He pointed to the fly of his trousers, and the girl reached for the zipper when Helena spoke up.

"Stop," she told the girl. Umiwama froze. Igazi turned his head toward her as the two guards flipped off the safeties on their weapons. "Unless you want your friends with the guns to start making out, I think I've given you a sufficient demonstration. You can humiliate the girl on your own time. Let's get back to our business."

"As you wish, Contessa," he chuckled and motioned for the guards to take her away. This time, Umiwama went willingly out the door with the two men. "My men can take over her... training from here."

Helena got up and returned to her chair, producing another cigarette and taking a large drink of her beer as the Englishman returned. "You have someone else that you want me to do that to, I'm guessing."

"Not quite the same thing, but yes. The tent my men have been setting up is for an important meeting tomorrow. Warlords from six factions will be coming to my compound to settle a territorial dispute."

"Is Kony coming," Helena asked. Igazi nodded in the negative. She took another drag. "Won't be much of a party if Kony's not going to be there."

"Kony will be a thing of the past once you have used your witchcraft to compel the other warlords to pledge their loyalty to me and unite their forces under my banner. After you have done this, the girl will be released unharmed." Helena mentally accessed her knowledge of the region.

"Hmm... I suppose with the right six factions behind you, you'd have the strength to take on Kony directly. Or no... Kony's forces are too far north from here. He'd be a long-term goal for you. But the capital of Uongo is less than a day's drive. Kiburi's army would definitely be overmatched by your New Mongol Horde. The only military force that could lend him aid in time to stop you taking the city would be..."

Igazi grinned and continued the sentence. "The convoys of San Finzione's troops delivering your country's aid packages through our blockades around the refugee camps, yes; which will be easily overcome once the six factions' forces are united with my own."

"You know we have other troops, right? Not just the ones here. You're not a stupid man, you know you'd be starting a war with my country and we'd send everything we have to remove you from power. You should take a dip in one of Kiburi's swimming pools while you'll have the chance. I recommend the one in the East Wing; beautiful view at sunset."

Igazi chuckled under his breath again. "You need not concern yourself with that. Just do as I command at the meeting tomorrow and I will concern myself with your forces."

"All right, then. And thank you for not lying about any intention of letting me go after you've got what you want as well." Helena said. Igazi grinned as she put out her cigarette. "Set Maria free and I'll make you a king and give you your little war."

"You just finished telling me that I am not a stupid man. The girl remains my prisoner until I get what I want. Then she is free to go. My men shall deliver her to your embassy. For now, you have been on a long journey, and tomorrow will be a busy day for you. Make whatever preparations your magic requires." He turned to the Englishman. "Take her to the Tower for now."

The Englishman pulled out his revolver and pointed it at her, indicating with it that she was to come along. Helena got up and walked toward him, then stopped and turned to Igazi.

"If you expect me to prepare my magic, I'm going to need my fetish."

The warlord thought for a moment, then reached into his pocket and pulled the leather pouch out, tossing it to her. Helena opened the pouch and made sure the beads were still on their string. She closed it and put it in her pocket.

"I told you I'd want these back," she said as she allowed the Englishman to escort her out.

* * *

The Tower was somewhat misnamed. A small metal shack stood on top of a larger shack with some hastily crafted stairs leading up to it. The Englishman led Helen across the courtyard and up the stairs as she took note of the guards watching them from the walls, their guns trained on her. Lights were being turned on around the compound as the sun set.

As she walked, Helen thought that she might be able to yell a command to everyone in earshot and the guards might abandon Maria and join the rest of the men in storming Igazi's hut and tearing him to pieces with their bare hands or being compelled to eat him alive. That "might" didn't outweigh the risk that they might not hear, see the others behaving strangely, and carry out Igazi's orders to shoot Maria. The Englishman broke the silence as they ascended the stairs.

"So, hearing the other fellas round the campfire, you're supposed to be some kind of spirit or witch. That what the Big Man wants ya for?"

Helen nodded. From the vantage point of the top of the stairs, she could see Umiwama surrounded by three men undoing their pants, a big, welcoming smile on her face. She looked away and let the Englishman lead her to her room.

It looked a lot like the shed they were keeping Maria in, but with some changes. There was only the cot inside, and the walls had thick plastic windows all around so the guards on the towers could see in during the day. A slot on the door for sliding food trays, and other smaller slots around the surface could only be opened from the outside. Helen reasoned that the smaller slots were about the right size for sticking gun barrels through and executing the occupant from outside the room. Helen entered the shack and sat on the cot.

"I'll arrange some food and water to be brought to ya," The Englishman said as he was about to close the door.

"Wait," Helen said before he shut it. He opened it back up again a little. She gave him a sweet smile. "You should give me back my phone. And the battery. You saw your boss give me back my beads, so it must certainly be ok for me to have my phone."

The Englishman thought for a second, then said "Yeah, all right," and retrieved the satellite phone and battery he'd taken from Helena's bag and handed it to her. She gave him the sweet smile again.

"Thanks. Remember, we're not telling the Big Man about this." He nodded his understanding and closed the door, the wiggling knob on the closed door indicating that he'd locked her in.

When he was gone, Helena popped the battery back in the phone and waited for it to power up. An unforeseen benefit to removing the battery was that it hadn't drained much since she'd charged it before leaving the embassy. When it didn't sound like anyone was walking around outside, she dialed a number.

"Si," said the voice of Capitano Ramirez on the other end.

"I'm in," she replied. "I know where they're keeping Maria. This is my first moment not at gunpoint to be able to talk, and I don't know how long we have."

"I understand, Contessa. We were able to follow the tracker you swallowed."

Helena took the phone away from her ear and walked to the window overlooking the toilet. There was no light in her room, so she covered the screen with her hand to keep any guards from spotting the phone's light. On the walls, she could see the men enjoying the cigarettes they'd taken from her bag when she arrived.

"Yeah, I don't think we're going to get that one back. Listen, Igazi has a summit meeting of the warlords tomorrow. That's what he wants me for: to get them to agree to make him their king. The shack that Maria is being held in is right next to the water tanks. There were two guards armed with AK-47s watching her when they let me see her. Have you found a way in?"

"The perimeter is well-guarded. Strangely, many of them are looking toward the compound rather than away from it."

"Oh, those are probably the ones with their weapons trained on the room I'm in. Apparently, putting one shack on top of another makes it a tower. I'm being kept in the shack on top."

"And they gave you a telephone?"

"We're getting closer to that talk about the things I can do, Ramirez, but not now. My part of the plan should kick in around midnight. Though it sounds like if we wait until morning, we can take out Igazi and wipe out most of the warlords in the region."

"And what if the other warlords bring their own men? Who knows how many we may be facing then?"

Helena took in his words, thinking of how her friends had told her in the past about her tendency to push things too far. She decided he was right; getting Maria to safety was the top priority. Bloody vengeance on Igazi and cleaning up Africa could wait until she was out of harm's way. From out the window, she could see men laughing and smoking, a few of them walking toward where Umiwama was servicing the three men to take their turn.

"All right, screw the summit. Maria comes first. How are the others?"

"They made it in," Ramirez replied. "They'll emerge when the time is right."

Helena took a deep breath. It wasn't time to relax yet, but even here, in the cell, things were happening. She was doing something now. She heard the sound of footsteps on the wooden stairs.

"Someone's coming. Go for midnight." She hung up and stuck the phone behind her back, under her shirt as the food slot opened in the door and a tray slid in. Between the glass of dirty water, the fried leg of an animal she didn't recognize, and a handful of wild grubs was a note. She picked it up and read it: "Present for you under the cot."

The Moon moved across the sky and its light began to enter the shack. Helena bent down and looked under the cot. Strapped underneath by two pieces of duct tape was her gun. She pulled it loose and checked it. The gun was still loaded. Helena smiled. Her wild card was still in play. She tucked the gun into her waistband and checked the time on the phone. Four hours until midnight.

She lit a cigarette of her own and produced the worry beads from the pouch. Nothing to do but wait. Helena took a sip of the almost tea-colored water that she knew contained no tea. Not the hot cocoa she would have preferred about now, but it would suffice.

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