I ran around the yard there was no sign of a human being. I rushed back to the front and something caught my attention from the corner of my eyes.
Something was burning some meters away from Ackims house.” Son of a bi*ch !” I yelled angrily realising my truck we noticed wasn’t in the yard where i left it parked had disappeared.
” Ackim! Come see man , those b******s have burnt my truck!” I called him when i saw him walk out his face calm i knew he found his wife and kids intact.
” oh this sucks man” he sighed shaking his head as we watched what had remained of my truck turning into ashes.
” they will pay a high price for this truck man. I loved this car. It was one of the properties i valued the most cause it could touch down any sort of road. Now its gone. If he thinks sending his dogs to destroy my car will stop me from heading back to Lusaka then he’s way out of his mind. It will take more than this for me to give up” i spat furious.
” you know what? I am beginning to think these guys know more about you than you think they do. Jacob and his friends knew you were alive way before you returned and they have you set up. ” Ackim spoke and i believed his analysis.
” you could be right man. But if that was the case why hasn’t anyone tried to kill me before except now?” I asked myself in particular.
” thats a good question soldier and it should be the first mystery you have to sort out. You might end up getting in a trap.
” the snippers followed us all the way to the bushes, meaning they are watching your every move. ” he added.
” dammit, i hate feeling cornered Ackim. It’s a damn bad feeling. What do i do now?” I asked him as we walked back to the house.
” am glad my kids and wife are okey. I found them fast asleep meaning they didn’t hear anything at all. My wife will freak out knowing what am doing so lets do this, i will take my family out of this place. You find your way back to Lusaka then let me know how things will be in a couple of days.”
” sure man” i nodded getting inside the house.
I sat down trying to figure out what was going on after Ackim went to join his wife. Taking a quick glance at the wall watch, it was almost 3am .
I shut my eyes but was still awake. Since i couldn’t get myself to sleep i thought staying on the couch and having a moment of reflection would do me good.
” Steve, hey man come on every one is having their moment man why are you so quiet?” Mberere had shouted above the loud music in the night club we had gone to. That day the guys had decided to take the us out. It was a month after the Mozambique operation and so we were all loaded. they decided to spend on women and beer.
I have always been a drug person, never women or beer. The guys sometimes made fun of me but i gave no s*** about it.
They would call me junk but i had decided better a drug junky than drink beer and become a drunkard like my father.
” am cool man go on have fun!” I yelled back at Mberere.
” no no man come on you my brother is loaded and money is meant to be enjoyed. We just cracked the most dangerous men in the world and we deserve this little break. Just look at the guys there” he said pointing at Jacob and other guys shouting and drinking some night girls seated on their laps.
” that my friend is a good way for a soldier to take his mind off the bloody s*** we have gone through. ” he spoke his mouth spitting some saliva in my face as he was so jerked out.
” i said am cool man, you know am not a fun of all that. Am cool with this baby” i smiled showing off my white staff on my palm.
” suit yourself you junky!” He hit my head playfully but it irritated me so much that i raised up pushing him down the floor.
” what the hell Steve. Did you just push me?!” He stood up sizing up his fists at me.
” yeah i said leave me alone dammit. ” i yelled back and before i knew it he was right in my back punching me.
I turned back now feeling pissed and kicked him off to the floor sending left and fight blows before the others ran to his rescue to his face.
” what is this man? You are hitting your friend like an enemy. What the hell is wrong with you?” Jacob shouted holding me to the wall as i panted angrily.
” i told you man this guy is nuts. He was probably having one of those tantrums about his childhood like a woman. We cannot trust him with anything serious” Makasa added but with a tone of seriousness. What puzzled me most was not the words he said but how he said them. It was like they had been talking about me before.
A couple of days later, i found the three of them talking with a certain general. Upon seeing me they all dispersed walking in different directions.
” hey Mberere wait up” i called him as he walked towards the entrance door at the military offices.
” whats up man?. I see you and the guys talking to the General. Whats going on it looked serious and tense there” i shrugged standing in his way as he seemed eager to leave my side.
” it was nothing. He was just giving us a briefing and don’t worry it doesnt concern you man” he faked a smile.
” well well, since when do the three of you do what doesn’t concern me man?, we are a squad man. ” i looked at his face trying to get him to say something.
” well since you decided to act like a child and jerk out hitting me in front of everyone in that bar.” He frowned
” what ? You fooling me? oh no, we were both knocked out then man, i was dopped and you drunk so whats the big deal? Okey fine, am sorry man. ” i told him seeing him looking so serious.
” so we good right?” I asked patting his shoulder.
” yeah we good man, just prepare we going out again in a couple of days. Am sure we will be briefed soon. Something to do with the previous operation” he said as he walked away but i couldn’t help feel he was hiding something from me.
A couple of days later we were joined by Ackim and were dropped via a chopper in the woods. Surprisingly they had put another colonel to accompany us.
I woke up in the middle of the night again finding the guys talking outside whilst they drunk some beers.
” what’s going on here?” I asked feeling the chills of the night as i stepped out of the cabin to join them.
” oh man, we thought you were asleep. Nothing we just talking. Its a cool night right?” Jacob responded shifting the gun that hanged on his shoulders.
” yeah it is” i sighed looking at them from one to another.
” well i thought of checking around. I bet i will leave you guys to it. We have a long day tomorrow” i shrugged waving at them
” yeah sure man, rest easy we on guard” Makasa spoke this time and they all giggled.
The next time i woke up the whole cabin was in flames i choked as i awake.
I looked around me and everything was burning the roof almost falling down.
I wondered how i could sleep so deeply and not to hear anything else before i woke up. I was never a deep sleeper and for a second i cursed myself for taking some dope before sleeping. It must have messed my head a little bit.
I tried to crawl out the fire but it was so fierce. With a lot of effort i struggled to get myself out pouring a container of water i saw in the corner on my thin blanket and covering my back. I dodged the falling roof and got myself out but that was after the fire had gotten to my skin already.
I recall, screaming and coughing in agony before passing out.
I woke up hours later in a grass thatched house with the face of an old man looking at me.
I startled sitting up,
” who are you and where am i?” I asked him looking around the small room.
” calm down son, you are safe here. Am kholopa and you are in my house” he smiled exposing his numbered teeth and empty gums.
I looked at his white head and beards shaking my head.
” old man, how the hell did i get here? Where are the other soldiers ?” I asked confused
” oh i said it. I told my grand daughter you are a soldier but she didnt listen. She told me it was old age catching up with me.
I didnt see your combat but i could tell you were no ordinary man, otherwise you couldnt have survived that fire” he smiled certainly appealed by his right revelation.
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” okey okey. So you saying… oh s***!” I shouted recalling the fire and the smoke.
” yeah son, your cabin was burnt down and you are lucky i got in the woods early this morning and found you battling for life. Lucky my father taught me how to use herbs and i saved your life.” He smiled which i noticed he did a lot, pointing at my naked body which was smeared in some green staff i realised had a very strong stench.
” who else was there… am um…” i stammered trying to figure out his name again as i stood moarning in pain feeling my whole body like i was still on fire.
” you better sit down young man. You will need a few days before you could do anything like that” he pulled me back to the small bed.
” no one was there. Yeah i remember now..” he paused looking at me.
” there was one man, but he was dead already, in fact burnt to ashes” he added coughing as he walked to some small corner and deeping a cup and walking back to me.
“Here, have some water” he sighed calmly.
” Thank you.” I said taking all the water in one gulp, he went back for more.
” so i was right?” He asked almost like a statement.
” about what?” I placed the cup down.
“You are a soldier?” He smiled nodding his head.
” no sir, am just an ordinary man.” I nodded back at him.
” mmmmhmhm.. sure you are son, otherwise you wouldn’t have hidden it” he laughed coughing again.
” but what are you doing here alone, and you speak Chikunda meanwhile i am meant to believe this is Mozambique territory” i asked him.
” you are wrong soldier, we are 500 kilomters away from that country. Believe me i have lived here for over fifteen years. I like living alone. But my grand daughter decided to ran here and hide from the world too.” He laughed softly.
” your grand daughter?” I asked and before he could answer my question i saw a girl of about 20 or so walk in carrying a can of water.
” oh he’s awake finally” she sighed placing down the can and walking towards us.
” yeah sure he is, i told you my herbs can work wonders” the old man smiled at his grand child.
” she looked at me and smiled.”
” am Queen” she extended her hand to greet me…
” Steve ! Come on man its time to move” i heard Ackim’s voice pulling me out of my memory.
” what? Its morning already?” I asked looking at my watch.
” yeah. Its 20 minutes passed 4 am. We need to start going. I used a friend to book a plane and he arranged something for me. We need to be in Ndola by 7am. ” he explained.
” yeah sure, i just figured something Ackim” i held his shoulder before he could leave.
” what’s that?” He asked turning back to look at me.
” the name of a general am suspecting was involved. I stayed up thinking and i have just remembered i saw him talk to the guys before the operation. Something seemed off back then and now it makes a bit of sense. This s*** goes deeper you were right” i sighed.
” yeah it is Steve, we have to stay focused for now. Take it easy and plan your moves smart and objectively” he patted my shoulder and went to pull out a large bag as his wife and their three kids walked out.
” am sorry to put you through this Paula” i started looking at her.
” kim take your siblings to the car.” She told the kids instead and stood right before me.
” he was okey. He had left that kind of life and he was doing fine. Just hours after you show up we start running like criminals” she spoke almost spilling tears from her eyes.
” am so sorry. I just wanted him to give me some information i had no idea it will end this way.” I told her honestly.
” well, i hope this was worthy it” she said walking away.
I looked up as Ackim walked in. ” am sorry for that man i…”
” yeah, she’s pissed. I promised her i won’t be doing this anymore and now ” he shrugged
” but i thought you going with them?” I asked surprised he didn’t seem prepared to leave.
” nope i will go after them later. I have to…” he almost said but i raised my hand.
” no way, you were right. I have no family to worry about man, but look at this” i said pointing around.
” this is beautiful Ackim and i won’t let you destroy it. Besides you won’t be as active having to worry about them. No man, i know you mean well but no, this is my story like you said last night. Go on with them i will keep in touch. You have done more than enough man”
” are you sure? ” he asked looking at me.
” 100%” i smiled.
” i got this man, go on and make that woman smile again” i let a laugh and he smiled at me.
” right then let me grab my small bag. We will drop you in Ndola” he smiled walking away.
” great!” I raised my hand at him taking one last look around the house and walking out to the car.
…to be continued