tagMind ControlNight Brings the Hunter Pt. 06

Night Brings the Hunter Pt. 06


"Roland searched the continent for the man who'd done him in.
He found him in Mombasa, in a barroom drinking gin.
Roland aimed his Thompson Gun, he didn't say a word,
But he blew Van Owen's body from there to Johannesburg."
-Warren Zevon, "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner"

Contessa Helena de San Finzione sat on the cot in her cell. She held the string containing the worry beads in her left hand, between her forefinger and middle finger so that half the beads were in her palm and the other half draped over her forefinger. Helena turned her wrist and the beads behind her hand flipped over and clacked with the beads in her palm. A flick back, and the top half of the string flipped back around and made a smaller clacking sound as they hit the back of her hand. She repeated this rhythmically while she waited to act.

The noise of the beads drowned out the sound of Umiwama being joyously plowed by Igazi's men somewhere in the courtyard below, which made Helen sad. There hadn't been anything she could do to spare the girl from her fate, but she'd done her Thing so that the girl could at least enjoy the life of prostitution that David Igazi had in mind for her. And if everything went well with the assault, Helena would be certain to undo the damage and try to make the girl forget the experience.

As Helena waited for midnight, when the Ultimados would strike, she had plenty of time to think about the past few days. The African warlord's men had shot down Maria's helicopter with the intention of capturing the occupants. It wasn't likely that they just shot down every helicopter they saw and hoped something good came from the wreckage, so they somehow knew that this one would be carrying something of value. They were right: Lady Maria, her great-granddaughter, was aboard.

Maria's helicopter ride, however, hadn't been a scheduled flight from the base, but the whim of a young, wealthy girl who'd never seen the wildlife of Africa from the air and had the influence to arrange a private flight. That's why Helena had instructed Jeanne to monitor them when they left; to insure that she arrived safely. But they couldn't have known who would be in the helicopter, when it would leave, and what flight path it would take without someone on the inside feeding them information.

She'd been kidnapped with the sole purpose of luring Helena here, to Igazi's compound, where a meeting of the warlords was to take place in the morning. Igazi wanted Helena to do the thing that she and her friends learned at an early age to take control of the warlords and make them swear loyalty to him. From there, his much larger force would take over the country of Uongo. They would have to go through her own troops to take over, which would undoubtedly spark a war between San Finzione and Uongo, or whatever Igazi planned to change the name of the country to once he'd taken over. Igazi seemed unworried by the possibility.

The trick his men did with the smoke grenades and the six Humvees driving in opposite directions back on the savannah was particularly effective against satellite or aerial tracking. It was possible that Igazi might have anticipated satellite surveillance, but given all the other inside information he seemed to possess, having been tipped off about it was equally likely.

That he'd kill Helena once he got her to do what he wanted was obvious. But Maria was still unharmed, which was more than she could say for the tribal girl screaming in ecstasy down below. Why not send Maria to the Rape Basement he'd had planned for Umiwama if Helena hadn't made her happy with being a prostitute? If war with San Finzione was his ultimate goal, why not just execute Maria at the same time that he killed her?

Her thoughts answered the question for her: Because Maria was someone special. She would be Contessa after he killed Helena. Maria wasn't the kind of person that Helena was; she would certainly not send San Finzione's troops to war just to avenge her great-grandmother. Even after what he'd done to both of them, Maria would still choose to negotiate peace. It made Helena sometimes wonder which of them had more Italian in their blood.

Igazi couldn't have counted on that, though. He had no way of knowing that Maria was too good a person to seek revenge. And he'd been careful to this point, especially with how he kept Helena from using her thing to get them both out of this. No, he had some other reason not to worry about a war with San Finzione.

As Helena figured out the only explanation that made sense to her, it started outside. A few minutes before midnight, she heard the first sounds of vomiting: One person, then a second, followed by a third. Up on the walls, she could see guards dropping to their knees, clutching their stomachs, or leaning up against something as their legs began to give out.

She looked over at the Humvees, still parked where they'd stopped after bringing her to the compound, and watched as two shadows emerged from under the vehicles. Helena had expected that Igazi would have people watching the rendezvous site for anyone trying to sneak in camouflaged, however she took a gamble that Igazi hadn't seen the film "Cape Fear." The two Ultimados who'd strapped themselves to the underside of her jeep before reaching the site had concealed themselves in the savannah grass, then lashed themselves to the underside of two of the Humvees that had been sent to collect her, and were now making their move.

Helena stuffed her worry beads back into their pouch, watching the commandos make their way through the shadows and up onto the wall of the compound. As they'd pass one of Igazi's men rolling on the ground and moaning in agony, a knife would come out of the darkness and end the man's suffering before dragging the bleeding body into the shadows and then moving on. Upon reaching a clear section of the wall, they went to work cutting away the razor wire on top of the wall and tossing ropes over the side for the rest of the Ultimados to climb up.

More sounds of sickness began to fill the compound. She saw someone run into Igazi's hut. "Fuck," she said to herself. The Ultimados weren't ready to strike yet.

Helena racked the slide of her Ruger LC9 and made herself ready to move. The rest of the Ultimados were coming over the wall and beginning to fan out across the compound. As she waited for one of them to be able to make his way to the tower to unlock the shack she was being kept in, reflex caused her to check the doorknob. To her surprise, it turned easily and she stepped outside.

A siren rang out across the compound as Igazi emerged from his hut, followed by the Englishman and the goons with AKs who'd watched her do her thing to Umiwama. She gave another "fuck" under her breath as Igazi pointed toward the shack where Maria was being kept and the Englishman started running. He was too far away for a shot with the Ruger. Helena turned and ran for the stairs. When she reached the top of the stairs, a guard down at the bottom had a cigarette dangling from his lips, a pack of cigarettes in one hand, and a shotgun in the other.

Helena pointed her gun at him as he turned toward her and tried to raise his shotgun, but his muscles weren't cooperating. The man's knees buckled as the gun dropped to the ground as he doubled over. A spray of vomit poured from his mouth, and he collapsed into it. Helena ran down the stairs and collected the shotgun, stuffing the LC9 back in her waistband.

Igazi and his two goons rounded the corner. Helena said "Stop! Drop your weapons" to them in Kinyarwanda, and the three men froze. AK-47s clattered to the ground. Helena leveled the shotgun at Igazi's chest.

"You wanted a demonstration of my witchcraft, David. Here it is."

"What have you done to my men," he demanded.

"What I would have done to you if you weren't a cigar smoker." She picked up the pack of cigarettes that the man who was now rolling and moaning in his vomit on the ground behind her had dropped and tossed it to him. Igazi caught the pack and looked at it. When he looked at the back and sides of the pack, he could see the pinpricks through the cellophane and corresponding holes in the pack.

"I didn't even know you could get Botox in Uongo. Well, as you can see," she said with a smile. "I've never needed it. The tricky part was injecting it into the filters of an entire carton of cigarettes through the packs. Wanna know what happens when you smoke Botulism Toxin? Well," she gestured around at the sick men in the compound with the hand that wasn't on the trigger before returning it to the barrel. "You get all this."

A series of short, sharp sounds came from behind Igazi. The tumbling whistle-and-thump sounds of suppressed bullets hitting their targets. He turned in time to see the men who were raping Umiwama suddenly fall over dead. The girl let out a horrified scream and backed up into the compound wall. He let out a "What?" as he turned back to Helena.

"Oh, that'd be my Ultimados taking care of the men who don't smoke." She gestured with the shotgun. "Now take me to my great-granddaughter."

"KILL THE GIRL," Igazi yelled. Helena lowered the shotgun and blasted him in both knees. Two more shots from the darkness struck each of his guards in the head and they collapsed to the ground next to him, Igazi now screaming and clutching his shattered kneecaps.

Helena broke into a run across the compound. Up ahead, she saw the shack that Maria was being kept in. The door was open. She saw the two flashes of light before hearing the gunshots and stopped dead in her tracks. Time stood still until she heard the sound of two bodies hitting the ground inside. "TWO bodies," she thought, quizzically.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a vibration at the small of her back. She remembered the satellite phone she'd concealed under her shirt and pulled it out. There was a call coming in. Still in shock, Helen answered it.

"Is this Contessa Helena de San Finzione," asked the voice of the Englishman on the other end.

"Yes," she said, still stunned as she saw Maria walk out of the shack unharmed.

"We've not been properly introduced," he continued. "My name is Mander. I got your letter. I've always wanted an island."

Mander stepped out of the shack, tossed away his smoking revolver, dropped to his knees and put up his hands. She dropped the shotgun and ran to Maria. Maria ran into her arms and she held her tightly as Mander lay face down on the ground with his hands behind his head. He looked up at the two of them.

"I were gonna slip the phone in with your food if you hadn't done that thing to me, Your Countessness."

"Mander," Helen said with a big smile and tears running down her face as two of the Ultimados appeared, pointing their weapons at him. Another two were dragging the screaming Igazi toward her. The one in back "accidentally" stepped on Igazi's knee a couple of times. She motioned for the two on Mander to let him up, still holding Maria. "Pick a hemisphere."

* * *

Within half an hour, the raid was over. Those of Igazi's men who were smart enough to surrender or were too sick from Botulism to fight had been rounded up in the courtyard. One of the Ultimados was a field medic who'd bandaged Igazi's knees and stopped the bleeding. He lay on a stretcher on the ground with his hands zip-tied behind him as Helena finished talking to Maria and Umiwama and approached him.

"After some consideration," Helena said, putting her LC9 up to his eye and deliberately getting too close and poking him with it. "I've decided not to accept your terms, Mr. Igazi."

The warlord leaned back and, with a defiant grin on his face, pressed his forehead into the barrel of her gun, positioning it between his eyes, and spit at her feet. Instead of pulling the trigger, Helena pistol-whipped him across the face, then grabbed his chin and looked him in the eye.

"You don't get to go to Hell until I've put you through MY Hell! You're coming back to San Finzione with me, David. Some of the tools in my dungeon haven't seen use in centuries." She walked back up the steps to the shack, careful to step around the puddle of sickness at the bottom of the stairs. When she reached the upper level, she looked out over her prisoners and addressed them.

"So, this leaves me the question of what to do with all of you. Let you go? You'll alert the other warlords. Turn you over to the locals? Any authority this far from civilization could only survive by being so deep in the warlords' pockets that you'll all walk free the same day. Oh! How about all those horrible lies you and your leaders like to tell the public about gay people? How would you all like me to make you love doing those things? Huh? 'Eat da poopoo like ice cream,' anyone?" She gave them a few moments of terror at the thought before continuing.

"No, it's time for your life of shitty choices to catch up with you. This will be the final day of your lives, and you're going to do something useful with your last day. You won't survive it, but you're going to do some good for the world at the end. I'm sure you've all done enough bad stuff in Igazi's service to deserve it. Now, Capitano Ramirez, if you'd be so kind as to meet me in Mr. Igazi's... well, I suppose it's MY office now, it's time for that conversation. The rest of you wait here. I'll be back to explain your punishment soon." She walked down the steps and crossed the courtyard to the shack. She said something to the Capitano as she entered, Ramirez following behind her.

"You and your men have done an excellent job, Capitano," she said as the door closed. "Now, don't move."

Helena turned around and saw the man standing, unmoving, with a look of surprise on his face.

"The stories are true, Capitano. At an early age, I learned how to bend others' minds to my will. It's gotten me quite far in life; however, it doesn't bring me all the answers, unless I use it right. Then, it causes me to question things others might not. For example: Which of your men have the order to kill me if Igazi failed?"

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