Kidnapped 8 – Icarus

I went back to my room after O’Hara left the hotel and reflected on things so far. From the word go I had been uneasy about the taking of JR. Maybe it was because I knew him and knew what he was like. You see when you looked at the evidence it would be quicker and easier to just pay the ransom and have JR released. After all these oil companies and the insurance people seems happy to shell out $150,000 at regular intervals and nobody apparently gset killed. I had to be sure we were not embarking on a very risky mission just because of pride or some macho thing just because one of our cronies had been snatched. I went to bed with Lisa Jewell. Actually it was Lisa’s book which was more the pity. Still enjoyable though.I woke early and in a much better mood. I had a long hot shower but like the other blokes in the team did not use any soaps, shampoos or deodorants, The reason for this is, that when people shower and use products the perfume carries for miles. You can smell clean people a lot easier than people with natural odour. I know this doesn’t apply on a bus or in an office but here it does. I was pretty sure that very soon we would have to move into position and strike. So despite my shower and feeling refreshed I was not entirely as fresh as a daisy.

Anyway I had had a rather hefty breakfast the world was a much brighter place.

The surveillance team for the day would have left well before sunrise to sit on O’Haras gaff.

I got to my meeting with miss J’Kano early. She was a pretty but very serious local girl with round glasses. I sensed she was intimidated by me. I wanted to put her at her ease, so I yakked on a bit about myself and the nieces and nephews. Eventually she relaxed and told me her younger brother had been deaf and that is why she learnt sign language. I complimented her and said he was lucky to have a sister like that. She gave me that thin weak little smile people use to try to hide the worst pain. Its a smile I have seen so often and have used myself. It was the smile that told me that her heart was breaking and that her brother was dead. She got a spotless white hankie out and dabbed her eyes. I held her hand and told her about Alison and the girls. We had a bond and with that came trust. I explained that JR was my nephew and that he had been kidnapped and that a video had been sent and I thought he was trying to tell us something using sign language. She nodded and said she would do her best to help us get him back.

As soon as she started to watch the video she started translating what JR was saying or trying to say, as in some cases his actions were apparently hard to read.

There are 12. They all have arms. AK and he has not seen pineapples or Charlie G. New piece of roof. There was something about beer and whiskey and piss, a vehicle but she could not make out what he was trying to say…he was is in a building away from village …with a silver bit of roof and there were a couple of dogs. There was one bit she really struggled to make sense with but there seemed to be a reference to somebody else called Gordan. It was clear that she thought most of this was gibberish but to me it all made sense except the bit about Gordan. All in all it was pretty good news as there were only 12 blokes, armed with AK47s, no grenades or evidence of any nasty little missiles or rocket propelled grenades.

Gordan was a puzzler.

What if it wasn’t Gordan but Jordan as in Arab, Middle East, ie the chappie that O’Hara had been to see yesterday?

On leaving the insurance company I went back to the hotel pondering the possibility of a direct connection between the Jordanian and JRs captors. I will grant you it was a bit of tenuous connection, but hey who knows. It was something to consider.

It was bloody hot and humid and I was not too disappointed to get into the air conditioned lobby of the hotel. As I got into the lobby there was a group of British blokes. My Blokes but they were in dive club/blokes on holiday mode. Oscar nominations all round please.

“Hey mate!” shouted one

“You mean me?” I replied

“Yeah” He lumbered over towards me.

“Look mate we have booked a little flight over the swamps this afternoon and our mate is sick. Do you fancy making up the numbers. I know its a bit of a cheek but we saw you at dinner on you Jack Jones and thought you might want a bit of a jolly and to be honest it would make it a bit cheaper for us” He continued.

“Yeah I suppose so, how much?”

“About 35 quid give or take” he replied with a cheery grin

“Yeah OK, I’m not doing much so why not. I just need to go to my room for a couple of minutes and then I will be with you”

This charade played out in front of the hotel staff gave me a reason to be with the team in public and it also gave them a chance to check whether I had company. I didn’t, which tended to suggest that O’Hara and anyone else for that matter did not suspect me of any foolhardy plans. For the moment.

I rejoined the group and we introduced ourselves in front of the main desk. They were a scuba club from Kensington in West London and I said I was there on business but did not say what. A few minutes later a VW minibus turned up. A skinny local with a big smile and a dodgy personality came into the reception area. He was to take us to our “craft” for the “voyage of de life time”. He sounded ever so slightly pissed but its hard to tell sometimes.

We got to the airfield. Just, and I had slight misgivings about the afternoon ahead. Our smiling friend was either an escapee from a nut hutch, a graduate of the Ayrton Senna School of motoring or well on the way to being pissed. With hindsight I now suspect all three. As I said we arrived at the airfield more or less intact, but I I use the term air field very lightly. Field – yes, airfield – non. Don’t get me wrong, our little party have all been on dubious aircraft and we have all arrived and left from some less than ideal locations, but even by our standards this was pretty piss poor.

Still, we had survived before and there was no reason to suggest we should not survive this little jaunt. The craft was, now what is the word I am looking for, ahh, yes, ancient. It was an American twin engine prop driven relic. I am not much of a plane spotter, and any knowledge I have stems from doing Airfixes as a lad. One of the lads said he thought it was a DC1. someone else said DC4 but we all agreed it was a flying museum piece. For the record we have not actually been able to identify exactly what kind of plane it was. I reckon it was an African aviation cut and shunt job.

Now, as I said before, we had all experienced the bottom end of the African airline business on several occasions. It is not an experience you forget, especially if you are making a less than dignified tactical withdrawal and some bastard is shooting at you with a heavy machine gun. Funny term, as most machine guns are heavy.

We were herded up into what can be best described as a flying shed. It smelt of chicken shit, sweat and goats, but that is not uncommon in this neck of the woods. The seats were sort of iron framed garden chairs with canvas seats and backs. Like those directors chairs except they didn’t fold. The seat belts resembled elasticised snake belts that I used to have as a kid to hold up my strides and had bugger all restraining qualities at all.

Our mini van driver staggered up into the fuselage and pulled shut the door. He then proceeded to give us a safety demonstration. Unique. That is the only word that describes the prancing and yabbering on the part of the driver now turned air hostess which constituted his safety demonstration. At the end of it he bowed and said “Thank you” before diving behind the curtain into the cockpit. There was silence and a lone voice said what we were all thinking.

“What the Fuck!”

Any further discourse, had there been any, would have been silenced as the two ageing engines wheezed almost into life. They coughed, farted, spluttered belched and made less than encouraging noises before blowing out clouds of dubious smoke and a few flames before the props started to turn. Turn might be too strong a word for the slack arsed movement that followed. Against all odds, the flying shed started to creak and groan across the long grass and vegetation. The engines picked up noise but rather worryingly the plane did not really pick up speed until there were several more spectacular bursts of flame and then we were trundling along at more of lick. To my horror I realised we were actually trying to take off.

There was grass and shit flying past the grubby portholes and it was a good job we could not see out the cockpit windows as I am sure the sight of trees getting nearer would have been quite frightening. Suddenly there was a crash a graunch and a terrible creaking and the whole aircraft staggered and lurched up and down and despite all of gravities best efforts, we were by some fucking miracle airborne. Sort of. Ish. We wallowed and bumped and slowly but surely gained height. To be honest is wasn’t the surely bit that got me, but the slowly bit. Gawd it was a slow climb, but climb we did and eventually were high enough to fly over the tree. I don’t think I scare easily but I reckon had it not been so surreal this would have been one of the most frightening moments of my life.

Our take off and journey was not made any better by the fact that there was a dodgy connection on the pilots head set so that every now and then the intercom would come on and you would here his broad west African accent. Technical aviation speak would crackle through a speaker which looked as if it had come from an antiquated car stereo system. Things like

“Dat were close” and “be careful we bedder try and not hid de tree oder der” ” Maybe we dont really need to ged de weels up” “Whad you mean day am stuck and wont come up”. The chat went on like this and it was just too bizarre to record here.

The aircraft clanked and gasped across the tree line for about 20 minutes. BF had told them where we wanted to go as we were looking for wildlife for a photographic trip or something like that. The curtain moved and the driver/safety demonstration bloke came out and approached BF. He spoke in a quite and confidential way. Well he would have done, but because of the friggin noise form the engines – engines are a term I use very loosely – he had to shout and asked where we wanted to go again. BF shouted back at him and eventually the bloke staggered back towards the curtain. In my opinion he looked a touch unsteady on his feet.

The car stereo crackled and intermittent conversation could be heard

“You de bloody navigator you supposed to know where we dar” ….”I dont care if you dont feel well and if dat last drink made you feel sick you bedder ………………” Then it went dead for a little while “I think 5 is de safe amount to have before flying…..I dont touch that stuff… double vision … headache……beer….make me go do sleep.”

“Heelo dis is your captain and we welcome you to your pleasure flight above our wonderful swamp and de mangrove” crackle, hiss, crackle, roar of engine “Today we are going to fly you over……..over …….Oh yes over…….whatsdid you call it again river and Munkayy hiland. Munkayy hiland is famous for de munkayys and udder tings as well” “I am now going to take us down lower so dat you get a good view od de local fishing villages and de wildlife”…..”I cant se no damn wildf life can you? only dose blokes running about like munkhayys…hehehehehe” Unmistakable drunken laughter came from the speaker and from the other side of the curtain. “Dat is bluudy funny, you is funny bloke”

Yeah fucking hilarious.

The captain started to tell his mate a joke about a woman from Cameroon with three tits. I cannot tell you the whole joke even if you wanted to hear it because we only got snippets. However I can tell you both Biggles and his mate found it hilarious. I have to be honest, from what I heard, he was a worse comedian than pilot if that was possible. I was beginning to regret not booking with the black Richard Branson look a like and his wonderful balloon. Maybe next time, if there is a next time.

More guffaws from Morecambe and Wise at the Front.

The plane dropped like a stone towards the river and then I would swear it zigzagged across the sky. However despite man and machine not being in perfect harmony we did by some bloody miracle find ourselves over the place from where O’Hara had told me that JR had been snatched from and following the river. Actually the zig zaging was handy because any idiot on the ground could see the pilot was not looking for anything or flying with any real sort of purpose.

Then, there is was, a building with a red corrugated tin roof but with one panel that was silver. I say silver it was slightly rusty, but the point was it was not red like the other bits of roof. Cameras out snap snap snap. quickly scribbled notes. sketch maps. There were two little roads, one little more than a tack through the dense vegetation. three little jetties in the village one with a rib moored to it. Two more jetties above and below the village. Vehicle access possible. Very dense vegetation a few people around but not many. Those that were around appeared to be sort of patrolling but they looked pretty lack lustre.

Then there was a disconcerting bang and popping noise for the starboard engine.

“Wot de bluddy hell wad dat” the captain said reassuringly. There was white smoke coming from said engine. I am no mechanic but even I know the white smoke meant a seal had gone and that water was mixing with oil or that oil was burning in the piston.

“we on fire we on fire mayday mayday mayday” yelled the other bloke.

Sounds of panic and pandemonium from the cockpit. Never reassuring at the best of times, but with smokes pouring from the engine it was even less so.

“Oh for fucks sake” It was Boris the blade. Boris has been called Boris for as long as I can rembember, even though this is not his real name. Although he may have been from Russian parentage many generations back and looks sort of Russian he is not actually Russian, but is in fact from Battersea. The funny thing is that the character of Boris the Blade in the film snatch is a dead ringer for our Boris. I wonder if they are related and I think we should be told. Our Boris served with the 2nd REP which is one of the Parachute divisions of the Foreign legion to the likes of you and me. Boris got up and stuck his head through the curtain. He has a way with words does Boris, and this coupled with his overall appearance tends to lend more weight to such words.

And so it was that Boris spoke unto the crew.

“Will you two fucking idiots stop poncing about and take us back. The fucking engine ain’t on fire but it fucking will be soon if we don’t land. And let me tell you something, If we don’t land fucking soon, you will wish it was on fucking fire cos I will come in there and kick your sorry black arses out of this plane and land the fucker myself. Do you understand?”

Clearly they did, because we were soon plummeting out of the sky with all the control and finesse of a dead crow. By some miracle we reached terra firma and the plane came to a merciful halt. We are not a religious group, but there was a combined prayer of gratitude for our safe return, as we all got up and opened the door and threw out the steps and abandoned the flying shed. We walked towards to minibus and the pilot and driver came to the door. One of them called something and raised his hand, almost as if to wave, but lost his balance and the two jokers fell out of the open aircraft door. It don’t do you no good falling out of aircraft, even when they are on the ground and our crew lay on the ground in a drunken heap. Boris got into the drivers seat of the the minibus and got it going.

“Fucking Muppets” growled Boris as we drove off in our newly acquired jalopy.

I had an over riding urge to get back to the delightful Lisa Jewell and let her take me to Ralph’s Party, but somehow I felt we were about to push up the ante.

2 Responses to “Kidnapped 8 – Icarus”

  1. What a horribly close call.
    Monkeys indeed!!!
    I much prefer the sound of Ralph’s Party…
    sounds safer at least.

    This is such a brilliant romp, Norman.
    Loving it. xx

  2. John Humphries says:

    I will never complain about Ryanair again, although I think Boris could get a job with them as an air hostess!

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