International Writers Magazine:
"Not long now
dear boy" Roddy bellowed over the jeeps engine and the howl
of the dusty winds as it zipped past them.
Man in Africa
bounced along the dirt road sending Harry up from his seat and back
down again with a crash. His stomach was not happy about this. Over
in the drivers seat, Roddy Duncan AKA Our man in Africa
guffawed happily as public school boys were want to do at the sight
of suffering. Not that Harry didnt like him, the country probably
needed more men who would charge into the valley of death armed
only with a tooth pick, and Harry was glad Roddy Duncan was a man
of that ilk. As long as he was around, Harry wasnt required
to do the charge. Hed have a lie in that day.
"Good" Harry managed to reply; in-between gulps to keep the
BOAC in flight meal down.
He had been in Africa for an hour now, the old man had told him this was
a one-day job and Harry was most definitely thankful for that.
It was a simple job. Harry was representing the department in a business
matter between themselves and a group that the department favoured to
have control of the township. This group were very nice as the old man
and Roddy kept telling him, very loyal. It was imperative that a group
that was very nice and very loyal got into power rather than a group who
were KGB financed.
But, as Harry pondered on the flight over, just how nice and loyal can
revolutionaries actually be? And if we needed to keep this place on
side then why the hell did we give them independence in the first
Harry was a field agent who knew every aspect of The Cold War but this
continent was too hot, he was a Berlin boy at heart. These questions were
too hard, and like Africa, another persons problem. But as a favour
to Ross, the old man, he was diversifying. After all it was a quick in
and out deal.
Finally the jeep stopped outside a small township of crumbling brickwork
and dead dogs. Roddy jumped eagerly out and whipped off his sunglasses
to take in the vista. Harry stepped awkwardly from the jeep and gave his
NHS spectacles a clean. The sweat was dripping into his eyes, making him
feel like he was in a sauna. His blue striped shirt was slick with sweat
and he could feel a trickle run down to the small of his back. Roddy slapped
him on said back and motioned Harry to walk with him. If horses and Harry
sweat, and men perspire, then it was the female of the species and an
old African hand like Roddy Duncan who glowed.
"Well have no bother here Harry old boy, just straight in and
out, Manu Bobi, hes our man, will be very agreeable to our terms
Im sure, and hell be most pleased to see a representative
from London" Roddy explained.
"I should have worn my union jack underpants then" Harry said
"No Carnaby Street will be fine" Roddy replied running a hand
across Harrys rolled up shirtsleeve
"You must be joking!" said Harry "On my pay grade? This
is Marks and Sparks mate"
"Well the hair is Carnaby, I thought the ah, whistle
Harry ignored Roddys jovial attempt at his own Cockney accent. Like
fingernails down a blackboard it grated. Harry ironically tugged his forelock
before answering, "The old man thinks its in need of a cut
"Damn right" said the short back and sided Roddy Duncan not
entirely humorously. Harry smiled inwardly; the day this man gets home
leave will be a revelation if he thinks he is a longhaired hippy. An hour
later, and Harry was grateful for the water Bobi offered. Not only was
the heat getting to him, but the heated atmosphere in the room was beginning
to get to him too. They had been bartering backwards and forwards with
no clear sign of either side agreeing to the deal. Bobi was younger than
Harry expected and he said so, but Bobis reply was as priceless
as the locally mined diamonds; "Please, do not judge the number of
birthdays I have had, judge the life and experience I have had between
them" and Harry could see in his big white eyes a wisdom that only
a man growing up in harsh realities could ever attain.
Now those eyes flashed more wisdom as he spoke with arms outstretched
"Gentlemen, we have been here now for some time and have yet to reach
an amicable agreement. I fear that we may never do so. Maybe my people
and I should just accept the guns from our American friends and continue
our struggle with their help alone?"
Roddy shot Harry a look that said one thing; do something. Harry sighed
and reached into his breast pocket for his cigarettes. Finally he pulled
several out and offered them round to the Africans. "Gitanes, theyre
a French brand" he said by way of explanation. The assembled men
smoked them and remarked on their quality whilst jovially discussing the
French mercenaries who were pissing in the river upstream
Harry wasnt sure if they were speaking literally or figuratively,
but settled for both just in case.
"Sixty percent of the funds now, forty percent after you can prove
to Col Ross and I in London that you have control of the area" Harry
suddenly broke the silence and gave Manu Bobi the dead eye that he would
used to reserve for poker in the barracks back in his army days. He just
hoped the old man would condone his offer. Out of the corner of his poker
face he could see Roddy wasnt so sure.
Bobi narrowed his eyes and raised his head a little looking Harry up and
down. Finally he spoke; "And a degree, to be a leader I must have
"Certainly," said Roddy.
"From your Oxbridge University," Bobi said,
"Naturally, where else?" Harry butted in before Roddy would
point out the error.
Bobis dark features broke into a gleaming smile and he slapped his
palm outstretched across the table "Deal!" he boomed as Harry
took his hand "Let us take what is rightfully ours and beat these
red communist funded bastards! I look forward to it!" he said laughing
heartily. Harry sighed with relief. Right now the only thing he looked
forward to was his flight into London airport and the grey wet weather
that awaited him.
It was a similar grey wet day that Harry stormed into Ross office
some two months later without an appointment and waving that mornings
newspaper at the old man.
"Sit down Palmer" said Ross calmly after Harry had yelled out
a would you care to explain this sir?
The old man made a show of slowly finishing what he was writing before
replying to Harrys thunderous query. Finally he raised his head
up and looked at the fuming younger man.
"I take it you are referring to the Manu Bobi business in Africa?"
"I bloody well am," Harry said, "Like, why sir, have we
got white mercenaries putting him to death on the front page of the bloody
Ross sighed. "It came to our attention that Bobis men were
not sharing our concerns one hundred percent. In short, they were riddled
with communist sympathisers. It was only a matter of time before they
overthrew Bobi and took control, leaving that region back in the same
bloody mess it was that I sent you to solve two months back, so we unofficially
sent a unit in run by one Col Faulkner-"
"To kill the innocent Bobi, who you paid to run the region."
Harry interrupted. "An innocent man sir put to death by British mercenaries
on your orders." he added.
"Time was short, Palmer, we couldnt provide full identity and
therefore immunity of Bobi and his faithful to Faulkner and his men"
"So they didnt even know who they were executing
Harry said incredulously.
"Its Africa, Palmer, you can never change it. This deal went
awry for us, we could not be sure that Bobi would survive a coup against
him, not after fighting such a successful coup two months previously.
It was expedient to scratch it all and start again."
Harry was about to say something when the old man stopped him short; "Orders
from C Palmer," he said and pointed a finger to the ceiling.
The floor above was the domain of C the head of MI6 and power
plays were a daily game to him as much as crosswords were to Alice, Ross
administrator. "Neither you nor I are in the position to question
the orders of above" Ross completed.
Harry bit his lip and forced down the bitterness and anger he felt inside
him. "So what happens now?" he finally said quietly.
"Duncan find another underdog to take Bobis place, we feed
the press that this was the right decision, that Bobi was a tyrant and
had to go and thanks to Faulkner and the noble village folk who are loyal
to democracy, go he did" Ross summarised.
"The end," Harry said sarcastically
"No Palmer," Ross spat angrily "It is not the end, its
never the end. The game continues as it always bloody well will"
There was nothing more to be said. Slowly Harry got to his feet, fastened
his raincoat and made to leave.
"And where are you going?" Ross called after him.
"Berlin," Harry called back "Finland
somewhere I can bloody understand!" and with that
he was gone, leaving the door wide open
© Mark Cunliffe November 2007
Mark Cunliff's spook story
Harry trudged bitterly up the marble steps of the imposing house and
pressed the buzzer. It was gone eleven at night, he was tired and his
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