Kidnapped 6 – Meeting O’Hara

Just before leaving London Cyclops produced a file he had managed to put together on our little friend O’Hara. He was a t pains to stress that it had to be considered carefully because he had been unable to verify a lot of what he had found. In a nut shell this is what he could tell me. Of Irish decent (no shit Sherlock with a name like O’Hara I would never have guessed) had been raised in Virginia. Dad was in the CIA but exact capacity not confirmed. His son had gone to University before going into the Marine Corps. After the military he went to the Washington DC Police department. He had married a woman called Sue who was a data analyst who worked at Langley. That was it.

We flew from London to N and then had to get an internal flight to PH. On arrival at the first international airport we were given the customary welcome from the customs. True to form various items of scuba gear were “Confiscated” but this meant that we had a better story for going to dive shops and asking for other stuff to be sent from the UK. Have to be honest I would love to see the poor bastard trying to use my old regulator 30m down. You have to laugh.

After a long slog we eventually got to PH and this is where we split up. I got a taxi on my own to the hotel and checked in separately. The others followed on separately. By the time we had all got sorted out and settled in it etc it was time to eat and then hit the sack. We all needed to be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the next day.

It was going to be a busy first day, and we needed to acclimatise to the heat and suffocating humidity. Two of the team would rest up and take it easy ready to cover the late shift. Two would follow me with a view to following O’Hara and two would baby sit me. The other two would start sniffing out things we would need if we had to go and rescue JR. We would need to hire two boats for diving, plus at least one 4×4 (preferably a Toyota Hi-Lux) plus some essential gear such as flares, diver recall flashes and other bits and bobs.

I intended to visit O’Hara first thing, which is just what I did. I set off early with my two baby sitters and surveillance car following. I tell you something car hire is bloody outrageously expensive in N. A little VW polo was about £600 for a week, PH did say we only wanted to rent it, not buy the fucking thing.

I rang O’Hara from outside the offices of the company. He told me that there had been contact from the kidnappers and that they had sent a video showing JR.

“JR says he is OK and that we should comply with the kidnappers wishes to the letter or they will kill him. He was very nervous and his agitation showed as he could hardly keep his hands still” O’Hara said reassuringly.

“Oh well I will be able to see it for myself soon won’t I” I said

“It will take ages for it to get the tape to you by post” He said dismissively

“Best you don’t send it then” I said

“Yes probably best” he agreed.

“Come and sign me in and you can show it to me”

“What do you mean” he said

On the third floor a man appeared at a window. He was quite big, late forties, sandy coloured hair and he looked very Irish. It had to be O’Hara. I smiled and gave a little childish wave and he lifted his left hand limply in acknowledgment. A pained expression crossed his face. I think he was trying to smile but I wouldn’t put money on it.

“I thought you were going to contact me before you came” He rasped

“Did I say that, sorry I didn’t realise. Oh well, now I am here perhaps you could get me signed in and let me see the video.”

I hung up.

I presented myself at reception and almost immediately O’Hara was there and signed me in. He seemed anxious to keep anyone from seeing me and hustled me into a lift up to his office. He prattled on about positive developments and progress etc and kept offering me drinks, tea, coke, coffee, fanta, tea. He was a big man, well over 6’2 and must have weighed in at about 17/18 stone. As a younger man he must have been a bloody strong fit bloke but he had gone slightly to seed. He was just a touch podgy and had a couple of chins plus he was a little out of breath. I noticed he had very slight limp and that his right leg did not bend too easily.

He eventually regained his composure and after much prevaricating about the bush showed me the video. There was JR sitting on a wooden chair in a grubby building made from whitewashed blocks. His hands were moving relentlessly. There were some bits and pieces in the background. The video was not bad quality and there was no shake which indicated that the camera had been mounted not hand held. His face was badly bruised and there appeared to be crusty blood around his eye. He said he had been captured by freedom fighters, who wanted a fairer share of the oil wealth and that they wanted to highlight the plight of the ordinary people who were starving. His hands kept moving and touching each other. He went on to say that no specific demands for a ransom had been made but a generous contribution to the people of the area was expected. All the time he spoke he stared at the camera emotionless and all the time his hands kept moving.

Trained soldier.

O’Hara switched off the TV.

“Poor guy’s shitting himself and who can blame him huh?”

“I would like a copy of the tape please” was my response

“Well gee I don’t know if I can do that” he said

“Why not?”

“Well its company property” he said quickly

“Is it. How exactly do you work that out Mr O’Hara?”

“Well he is our employee and they sent the tape to us, that’s how”

“Good, well that means I wont have to part with any money and that you and your company have presumably made arrangements to make a generous donation as requested” I said very quietly and politely.

He looked at me open mouthed

“Have I said something you don’t understand Mr O’Hara?” I asked.

“Well no but look you’ve kind of gotten the wrong end of the stick” He said amiably.

“Have I, how’s that” I asked all innocently.

“Well…” He paused for a minute “Look I tell you what I will get you a copy of the tape but for Chrissakes don’t go telling anyone please” he said in hushed conspiratorial tones

“I would really appreciate it Mr O’Hara it will be our little secret” I said in an ever so English way.

O’Hara took the tape and went out of the room and came back a few minutes later. About five minutes after that there was a knock at the door and a young woman handed O’Hara two tapes. O’Hara put one on his desk and handed me the other . I took the tape, stood up and walked to the video player and pushed the tape into the machine. I prodded the on button and the television bonged into life. The tape appeared to be blank and then there was JR. I watched the tape in its entirety and then pressed eject and took the tape.

“What did you do that for?” asked O’Hara

I looked at him very hard.

“What do we do now” I asked

“Well, we wait till they contact us again with more details” He said

“Where do you think he is?” I asked

“Jeez I wouldn’t have a clue, this place is a giant swamp with a mild infection of mankind” he quipped.

“Could you show me where JR was snatched from please?” I asked.

“I suppose I could, but gee I don’t know what good it will do you”

We left the office and went to an underground car park which stank of car fumes and piss. We approached a large black Mercedes which O’Hara opened and got into. Talk about keeping a low profile in a place where just being white is a good enough reason to get snatched. Any way I got in and as I did was able to pop a vehicle tracker under the seat without O’Hara noticing. Then we we were off.

The traffic was a bloody nightmare but in the air conditioned comfort of the Merc it was a minor irritation. I saw our cars behind us. They stayed with us as we made our way out of the city. In the hazy distance I could make out the twisted silver pipes and towers of a massive refineries. Flames flickered high above the industrial mass. The area was a sprawl of small houses mad from concrete block with corrugated metal roofs. In between the houses and communes there was thick green trees and bushes.

Eventually the houses started to thin and the vegetation became more prolific. We came to a stretch of road with a wide muddy river on one side and less permanent looking shacks on the other. There were sort of wooden moorings at the bank of the river.

O’Hara stopped the car in a sort of lay by where an old woman was cooking food on a wood fire.

“I don’t know exactly where it happened but I think it was about here” O’Hara said.

“Have you been here before?” I asked

“Err no, no I haven’t” He admitted.

“Was Jr alone when he was taken” I asked

“No he was with another guy, a Belgian” Said O’Hara

“What were they doing here?”

“I have to level with you, I don’t know”

“What happened to the vehicle JR was travelling in”

“What do you mean?” He asked

“Well Mr O’Hara JR and the Belgian just didn’t beam down from the fucking Star ship Enterprise did they? I bet a pound to a pinch of shit they didn’t walk here either, so what happened to the vehicle they were in” I asked fairly forcefully.

“It was a barge” he admitted

“A barge, as in floats on the fucking water?”

“Yeah we use for moving supplies, JR and the Belgian were employed to guard it”

I got out of the car. The heat and humidity engulfed me like a massive hot wet flannel or mega sauna. It don’t take no genius to work out why they have always called West Africa the White mans grave. I could smell food, wood smoke and vegetation, but cutting through those odours was the unmistakable smell of sulphur and noxious gas. The air filter of the executive Mercs keep the real smell of this part of Africa from intruding too much on those rich bods who drive around in them. Of course the poor bastard who live there have to put up with the gas, but hey, who at petroleum HQ gives a toss.

I looked over the wide muddy river and almost on que a large barge came into view. It was in the centre of the river. So, JR was not in a car as I has believed but on a big fuck off barge in the middle of a river. So how on Earth did he get involved in dealing with a moody accident”

I walked over to the food stall. The old woman looked at me as if I had beamed down form Mars. I asked for some moi-moi which are white beans wrapped in leaves and cooked on the fire. She didn’t have any. but she did have akara which is a bean cake and usually cost about 5 naira a slice thats about 20p or 39cents. I have to be honest and say that I don’t care too much akara but I wanted to buy something. She gave me a slice and asked for 15 naira. I told her it was expensive. she gave me a beady look and a crooked smile and told me that if I could afford to ride around in a nice big car like that pointing at the Merc, I could afford 15 Naira. I laughed and said it was not mine and that if I could afford a big car like that I wouldn’t quibble about the price. She threw her head back and laughed a big good humoured sort of witches cackle. I gave her the 15 naira anyway and she said thank you very much and I was walking back to the car but turned round and went back to the woman.

I asked here if she had seen anything of JR’s abduction. She looked down and mumbled ” I not seen anything Sir.”

“My name is Norman the man who was taken is my nephew”

“I am sorry Mr Norman but it is too dangerous, I have five children and when my husband died I was left with nothing. I cook here to make us money. It is not much but we eat and and shelter and I can buy water to wash the children. If I talk to you, these people will hit me and not let me sell food and we will starve. They might even kill me or my children.”

“I understand. Do have a coke?”

“Yes Norman but it is warm because I have no ice” she said

“That doesn’t matter will you give me one please”

She passed me the coke and I passed her 2000 naira which is probably what she would make in a day.

“I do not have change for that money Mr Norman”

“Its not for the coke its for you and your kids”

“I cannot take it from you Mr Norman”

“What’s your name madam”

“Mary”

“Please take it Mary, I used to live in this country when I was a boy and my sister is still here, please take it as a little present”

She protested some more but I blew her a kiss and said goodbye.

“Mr Norman there are some huts way down the river one has a silver piece of roof”

“Thank you Mary. Stay lucky”

“You too Norman and God be with you”

“And with you”

I walked back to the car, where O’Hara was sitting impatiently. I got into the cool car. It was like diving into a fridge.

“Jeez you gonna eat that shit?” said O’Hara with disgust.

“What do you think I do with it?” I snorted.

“You could get sick eating that stuff” He huffed “You gotta be careful eating shit like that and talking to these people, this aint London you know its a real dangerous place”

“Oh I know that O’Hara believe you me, I know that. But I will tell you something you never quite know where danger is going to come from”

I ate my grub. It was bloody awful, but all the time we sat there in one place will have given Cyclops and the others time to plot where we were from the tracker.

“Would you mind taking me back to my hotel please” I asked

“Anything else you would like me to do for you sir” he said in a slightly mocking tone.

“Not for the moment O’Hara, but I will let you know when that changes.”

6 Responses to “Kidnapped 6 – Meeting O’Hara”

  1. Brigitte says:

    So how was JR taken? Was it an accident or was he taken from the barge? The lady took a big risk talking to you.

  2. This is brilliant Norman..
    I am utterly riveted.
    It reminds me of our days in Indonesia where a lot of business, and information, took place under the table, via the brown envelope, the exchange of small notes, and big…
    I am impossibly irritated by the beaurocracy.
    O’Hara – Hah!!

    You are as cool as a cucumber – on the surface.
    Love it!
    xx

  3. John Humphries says:

    Courageous woman.

    I have this horrible feeling that you were dipping your toes into something murkier than the river!

    By the way thank you for all the info you have sent. I have spoken with authority with my HR department again and told them just what is what! Thanks.

  4. It was good of the woman to even tell you she knew the kidnappers. She could have just shaken her head.

  5. Uncle says:

    Courage takes many forms and it never ceases to amaze me that people like this woman will risk so,uch for people they dont know. Maybe it becaue despite all the bad things we hear about people know what is right.

  6. dl says:

    Yet another gripping tale. I presume the final outcome is a happy one. Can’t wait to find out how the sage unfolds in the meantime – once you get back from France.

    Enjoy your holiday!

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