Archive for the ‘Kidnapped’ Category

Kidnapped 14 – Karma

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

fter my visit to O’Hara everything went a bit quite. JR got back to the UK safe and sound and after a few weeks R&R was up and running again.

We all made our way home without incident really. I had another trip to make to visit my sister.

The Belgian authorities collected Mr Rogirst and we made him out to be victim and hero. It would seem that his luck changed after this. The authorities decided there was insufficient evidence to link him to his brothers ill fated business venture In fact he even got some of the money back that he had leant him, but had to pay some tax that was due. He had got back together with his wife, but to be honest I am not sure how long that was going to last

Marianne the French Journalist was fairly shaken up. The two days she was with us before we left she was in a bad way mentally, but improved. She had not been raped fortunately but this incident proved to be an emotional watershed for her. You will forgive me if I don’t go into anymore details than that. I can tell you that she came from a fairly wealthy family and they had put up a reward for her safe return, which was an added bonus. However when it came to her being handed over to the French authorities she was not willing to go with them and insisted on staying with me. It is not that uncommon in hostage cases for them to bond to their rescuers. Trauma and stress take their toll in different ways. In the end she came with me on the trip to visit my sister and I returned to the UK via France and took her home. It was the first time in my life that I have ever remotely resembled a babe magnet. I am pleases to say that she has spent the summer recovering and is doing very well indeed.

As for Arthur Daley, well the following tells its own story

ABUJA, July 20 (Reuters) – Suspected armed robbers shot dead a Lebanese businessman in the southern Nigerian city of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta, the local police commissioner said on Friday.

He said the robbers locked the apartment block’s security guard inside his post and entered the Lebanese man’s house, took some of his belongings and shot him dead.

Kidnappings of foreigners are frequent in the oil-producing delta but it is unusual for expatriates to get killed.

Since September there was a military crackdown by the military on the main group believed to be responsible for the kidnapping. After a couple of weeks there was cease fire but that did not last long and by October it had all kicked off again, with a full on attack on an oil installation which left three people dead and several other seriously injured.

The Army has continued to try to stamp its authority on the region, but unless there is a politicla and social change I cannot see much progress being made. This has all the ingredients of becoming Africa’s next big civil war.

So what about O’Hara?

Well, I tried ringing him a couple of times to say goodbye, but it would seem he was unavailable to take my call. Strange that.  So I rang the company and they said that he was “in the field”.  Then his car was found abandoned by a police patrol and it would appear he had been kidnapped.  A ransom demand was made to the company, but apparently “they had no protocol for dealing with these people” What the fuck! who the hell are they trying to kid? Anyway he didn’t have kidnap insurance and his missus was having trouble stumping up the ransom. It would seem that the US property crisis had taken its toll on their little nest egg and she could not or would not raise the wedge to get him released.

The following Reuters report was brought to myattention

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Nigerian troops found the corpse of a man believed to be a foreign hostage floating in a creek on Saturday near a village where five people died in fighting this week, a military spokesman said.

Kidnapping of foreign workers has become commonplace in the Niger Delta, a vast wetlands region which is home to Africa’s largest oil industry, but hostages are almost always freed unharmed in exchange for money.

“The joint task force were in operation around the creeks of Ogbogoro and Ozuoba when they sighted a corpse of a white man floating on the river,” said Sagir Musa, a spokesman for the military in the Niger Delta.

There was no positive identification of the victim, he said, but his hands were tied behind his back and his mouth was obstructed.

“He apparently died from being tortured because he was kidnapped,” Musa said.I dont know for sure that this was O’Hara, but apparently two subsequent reports tend to suggest it was, especially the one saying that the only thing he had on him was a playing card.

If it was O’Hara I dont know what could have happened.  He was fit and and well when we left him.

Not very happy I will grant you, but alive.

Oh come on, you didn’t think we would be so nice as to just give him a quick end did you?

Karma, what goes around comes around.

Kidnapped 13 – The Ace Of Spades

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

After my chin wag with the Belgian I went back to my room. My French guest was well away in the land of nod. I was tired band just needed to review what was what now. I had a long shower and let my thoughts wander. When I got out of the shower I started jotting down the billy basics so I could see what was what.

Objectives

1. Locate and free JR.

2.Locate and free the Belgian on behalf of the insurance company.

3 A bonus would be to get paid or at least cover the cost.

Well, we had found and extracted JR and the Belgian plus we had a bonus hostage and money in the bank. That was it, all three objectives achieved plus one.

Problems

Rogirst the Belgian

Marianne the French Journalist

Arthur Daley the Arab

O’Hara the Yank

1. Well, the Belgian was the property of the insurance company & his employer so they called the shots on what happened to him. On reflection I think it would be better to go to the Insurance company and let them deal. That hand over might be tricky if O’Hara was on the scene. Hmm O’Hara.

2. Marianne, the French journalist. Apart from O’Hara she had no real enemies in the locality that I knew of so she could be handed to the French without any problems. Then it suddenly struck me, what about her family. I bet there’s beaucoup de frogs worrying their little green legs off about her. Maybe it would be a good Idea to get a message to them. I made a note to do this later. But there was no doubt she was a threat to O’Hara because of what she knew and was therefore in danger from him.

3. The wheeling and dealing Arab was easy. He had no real direct connection to our job and unless that changed dramatically then we could ignore him. Irksome bad guy yes, but relevant to us at this point? No, I really didn’t think so, besides which what could we do anyway? I suppose we could launch world war three with his security team, and unlike the rescue of the hostages this would be like fighting ourselves. Bloody and pointless.

4 Last but not least, there was left O’Hara. Now I know O’Hara had been a bit of tosser, but were we really interested in him? Stay objective. Yes I was pissed off that he had put one of our lads in danger, but JR had been an arse for coming here in the first place. Jeeez everyone knows that this part of Africa is up shit creek. As far as JR was concerned O’Hara was not a real risk at the moment. However, as far as the Belgian was concerned, even if only 50% of his story was true, he had to be at risk simply because he knew too much. The same applied to the Marianne. O’Hara would have to ensure that they did not talk. To do this he could either kill them or buy them off. The Belgian could be bought as I am sure so could JR, but what about our journalist friend?

Okay, so Rogirst definitely and possibly Marianne were in danger form O’Hara and whilst they were in our custody that meant we were at risk as well, assuming of course that O’Hara made the connection. I had no doubt that O’Hara would be feeling the heat soon and that would make him a very dangerous beast. He really doesn’t need three freed hostages running around and blabbing to God knows who. His only starting point as far as I was aware was me.

So then the question is, if you were O’Hara what would you do? In the trade its known as clearing, to put it less delicately you eliminated anyone and everyone who could point a finger at you and obviously that would include me.

No point prevaricating about the bush, O’Hara was a problem, and soon to be a very big problem, and this needed to be dealt with quickly.

I dozed off in the chair and was woken by the sound of my mobile ringing.

“Hello”

“Hi Norman did I wake you, its O’Hara, how you doin” He was very very friendly and breezy. Almost too friendly.

“Oh hello, yeah ok” I said dopily.

“Hey Norman I got some great news for you”

“You have?”

“Yeah we have had a communication from the kidnappers and if your ready with some of the money they will release your boy today” He enthused.

“Oh really!” I squawked rather loudly.

“Are you OK you dont sound to happy?” O’Hara asked with what sounded like genuine concern for once.

“Yeah, fine er no sorry er got some er fruit stuck in my throat” I croaked

“Take it easy big fella, don’t want you choking before we done the deal now do we” He laughed, but it sounded a bit hollow and forced. I wonder why!

“Yeah ” He continued “Just got a call a few minutes ago, from their side saying they want to do deal today”

“Oh I see and errr what do we need to do, you know because this has all come as a bit of shock, because I thought they wanted the money paying into that account you gave me” I rambled on.

“Well, yeah, they did, but a few things have happened and I sort of managed to get them to change their minds, you know to speed things up. Its sweet, you can get your boy and get out of this shit hole and head for home real soon. I gotta tell you it wasn’t easy but I got them to change their minds and they settle for cash up front.”

“What about the Belgian guy?”

“Well ” said O’Hara in a laboured sort of way “He had some Kinda insurance and they have paid up and he is already free on and on his way back to Belgium”

“Oh right, is he,well err that’s great. So erm do I have to pay the intermediary or you”

“Nah as I said everything’s sweet Norman. You pay me direct and I’ll make the call to the other side and your boy will be on his way. If I have the money that’s good enough for them. Its a shame the way things are here, but good in that there is still some honesty and trust between people. It’s a sad fact Norman but I have to do a lot of business with these guy, but because we do a lot of business together we have a bond, mutual respect and trust. Lord, there has to be some trust, even here doesn’t there!”

“I suppose so” I said, mildly amused not just at his balls for trying this on but for his philosophical and moral observation “So how do we do this?” I asked.

“Well, you will need to pick up the money of course, from which ever bank you are using, and then we need to get together and do the deal. I will make the call and your boy will be released in the next 12 to 24 hours”

“Oh right, that simple”

“Yes indeedy” He enthused sounding like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. “Oh which bank did you say you are you using?”

I never said which bank I thought quickly

“First Bank on Aba Road I have an appointment for 11” I lied

“Okay great”

This phone call put everything into sharp focus and now I had no doubt that I was in a lot of danger from O’Hara. He must know that the hostages were free, and that he and his chums stood to loose a lot of money. Hence why he was pushing things along. As far as I could tell he still had no reason to tie the escape of the hostages to me – at the moment. However, you would not need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that he was going to lure me to his place, do me in and pick up the wedge. This would happen whether or not he suspected me of being involved in freeing the hostages. Clearly he wouldn’t doing anything until he knew I had the money. Then I would either be kidnapped en route or as I said before taken out after our meeting. Either way he would be looking to eliminating one problem and picking up the money as well. Of course I might be doing him an injustice, but based on what I had seen so far, I was prepared to run that risk.

“Where do you want to do the deal O’Hara?” I asked

“Some place private and discreet. The company is very aware of the political sensitivity in how we resolve these matters without loss of life, I am sure you can appreciate the delicate nature of it all.”

“Yes indeed, so where would suite you?”

“How about my place about 12.30 , nice and discreet and we could have some lunch and few drinks to celebrate” He said

“If you’re sure that’s not being an inconvenience” I said sounding very British and polite. He laughed and gave me the address and said he would see me at 12.30

I rang reception and said I wanted an executive car for about 4 hours. It was to pick me up at 10.30 to take me to the First Bank on Aba road and then to an address at XXXXX, but I would confirm that later.

I rang Cyclops and told him the news. I asked him to contact Platt at the insurance company to confirm that we had freed JR and the Belgian and to get instructions about handing the Belgian over. I also told him about the third hostage and to see if he could pick up a bonus payment for her. No harm in asking. Cyclops for his part confirmed that BF and JR were airborne and that we were booked to PH the evening of the following day.

As an aside, Cyclops said that apparently BF & JR had had a little problem with either the authorities or the airline who would not let them on the flight until he had been seen by a doctor. The cover story was that JR had been injured in a road accident. The quack who turned up was dubious about how he got his injuries, but a donation to his kids education fund convinced he that the injuries were consistent with an accident and that he was fit to fly.

I told Cyclops to do a ring round with the following information. We needed two OP lads to baby sit the two other freed hostages. Benny the boat could go straight out and watch Arthur Daley the Arab just in case. Scouse Git would take Bob in the 4×4 to the bank and wait for me. Bob is a very similar age, height and size to me. Not as good looking I would say and two years older, but hey who’s counting. He was going to be in the bank before me and would come out of the bank in my place and head back to the hotel. Boris would go to keep O’Haras gaff under surveillance and to cut the power before I got there. SG would then take me to O’Haras for the meet.

Marianne had been woken by the telephone and had gone to the toilet. She was perturbed that I was talking to O’Hara but I explained I was under contract to the Insurance company and we were going to make arrangements for the safe hand over of herself and Rogirst. I reassured her that we would not hand them over to O’Hara, but I explained that we needed to protect our own security interests which is why we had none handed either of them over just yet. She was too done in to care really.

I told her I was going out and that somebody would be coming down to sit with her while she slept. She seemed a little anxious but when OP1 came in she relaxed. He is a pleasant friendly looking bloke with a ready smile and disarming charm. His exterior belies the touch man beneath. She went back to bed and was soon asleep again. OP1 settled down read his book, which reminded me I still had my Lisa Jewell book to finish. Tonight maybe.

Everyone went their separate ways and anyone watching would have had difficulties to establish any association between us. I went down to the reception with an attaché case under my arm and passed Bob carrying a similar case in the lobby, we exchanged pleasantries as one does but that was as far as it went. I had about a ten minute wait before the car arrived, a black Merc with tinted windows. Perfect. The receptionist said it would be added to my bill, I said that was fine and that I would probably be leaving the following day.

The drive to the bank was uneventful. I had no appointment with the bank but was sure I would be followed or ambushed after I left. I was fairly sure I was not being followed but it was hard to tell from the back of the car and I did not want to draw the drivers attention to myself by peering out of the back window every 10 seconds.

Aba Road is one of the main roads through the city. Its a busy, chaotic African mish mash, where the Western world collides head on with Africa. It is sort of like a motorway or freeway, but then again it is not. Its sort of like an African Oxford street. There are beggars and robbers, street markets and traders as well as flash office blocks and hotels and shanties and market stalls. It is typical of the country.

Today it was busy, although to be honest its always busy. It was a really hot and muggy day and the place was like a heaving, crowded, smelly sauna of humanity. We were able to park almost outside the bank. As I got out of the car I saw a NIssan bluebird or something like that, two white blokes inside gave me a good once over as it drove slowly past and parked up. I saw a second car, a red Toyota pull up about 20 m behind my car. I could not see very well but it looked as if there were 2 or 3 blokes in the second car. I went into the bank and saw Bob already there. I rang SG and told him about the cars, he knew what to do. I caught Bobs eye and nodded. He saw me and we went through a routine of old friends not having seen each other for awhile and in conversational tones I was able to tell him about the cars. Exactly 5 minutes after speaking to The Scouse Git my phone rang. Bob picked up the attaché case and walked out of the bank and towards the merc.

I gave Bob about 5 seconds start and then went out through the main doors. There was thick orange and white smoke pouring from from two smoke canisters SG had dropped between the Merc and the red Toyota before walking casually back to his 4X4 which was parked in front of the Nissan. People didn’t know what the hell was happening. People wwere shouting and yabbering, dogs were barking and beast bleated. Instant mega chaos was breaking out as people unable to see stopped their vehicles and honked their horns and shouted. Then there was a flash and a very loud bang, SG had let off a diver recall flash. People screamed and those vehicles that had stopped were hit by the thickos who didn’t think to stop. People were running about like headless chickens and there was the sound of vehicles crashing into each other. A policeman went running into the smoke and there was more excited hollering and all in all it was a right to do.

As all this was kicking off Bob simply got into the back of the Merc as if there was nothing wrong. The driver fearing for his valuable jam jar and no claims bonus was off like a long dog with the nissan following. Bobs instructions were to go straight back to the hotel pay driver a good tip and then await any further instructions.

As Bon was getting into the Merc I walked purposefully from the bank and got into the Toyota 4×4 and the Scouse Git did what he is good at. I rang Bob to tell him he had a tail but he knew that. It was not long before I got a phone call from Cyclops to say Bob was back at the hotel safe and sound and I confirmed we were en route to my meet with O’Hara. This would Boris some time to work his magic with O’Hara electricity supply and security.

The team all knew where O’Haras house was and the layout of the area etc from from their previous sorties earlier in the operation. It turned out that O’Hara’s house was on a sort of executive estate. IT was a very pleasant place to live. The houses were large bungalows of different styles and very spread out. Each sat in its own large plot which I suppose were about 130m X 130m. At a guess I would say there was maybe 50m of garden between the house and each boundary fence, so there was at least 100m between houses. The gardens were landscaped and full of shrubs and bushes which meant they were very private and more often than not it was impossible to see the houses themselves from the road. Of course they all had their security cameras, but in O’Haras case Boris would have dealt with those and sorted the electricity.

I called Boris up on the radio and he told me that O’Hara was in the house and that as far as he could tell he was alone.

SG dropped me a few houses away from O’Haras house and I walked up to the gates. It was hot really hot and I had some difficulty putting on a pair of latex gloves. In the distance I could hear the shouts of children somewhere and the splash of water in a swimming pool. From the sounds of the voices I would have said they were White kids, no doubt familly of some of oil company executive. I pressed the buzzer at O’Hara gate. Nothing happened. I tried again. The main gates were locked, but I tried the side gate and found it unlocked. What is it with people? they spend a bloody fortune on security and then leave the gate unlocked. Mind you, don’t know why I am complaining because often it makes my life so much easier.

I walked up the drive with the attaché case under my left arm and my right hand by my side holding my new best mate Mr Glock.

I clicked off the safety and approached the house. The front door was open. I glanced tentatively in. I could see a large hallway which appeared to open out into a big airy living room. I could hear someone inside moving about. Boris had said he thought O’Hara was alone, but I knew he would not take offnce at me checking this out for myslef. I did a very quick tour of the house to see if I could see of hear any signs of life. There was nothing. I went back to the front door. Fuck me it was hot and my hands were sweaty in the latex gloves.

I walked silently into the hallway O’Hara was standing at a dinning table with his back to me and he appeared to be looking at a map. He dressed in a white short sleeve shirt and dark blue light weight trousers as if he was on his way to work, apart form the fact he was also wearing a shoulder holster which contained what looked like a fairly hefty automatic. On the table apart from the map there were loads of papers scattered about with papers around him. He was shuffling through the papers and looking at the map as if desperately trying to find something.

The place looked a mess with papers all over the place and clothes on the floor. On closer inspection they were ladies clothes and I tell you something, she most have been a trim craft to get in to the skimp panties that were abandoned on the rug. O’Hara had clearly being having fun with a young lady. So where was she? had she left before Boris got here or was he still in the house?

It was a very nice house both in its style and how it was furnished and decorated. It was stylish and expensive without being flash, but more importantly it was comfortable, a house meant for living in not just showing off. There was other evidence of a woman or women. The lingering smell of perfume and a hairbrush on a hall table near a mirror. The hair brush had long blonde hairs on it.

“Hello O’Hara have you lost something” I said brightly

He spun round and I am sure his hand started to go for the gun, but stopped just in time.

“Jeez Norman you gave me fright!” He said with visible disbelief and stood up “What are you doing here, how the fuck did you get in?”

“We have an appointment remember, surely you hadn’t forgotten” I replied all sweetness and light “I rang the bell, but nobody answered, so I came in through the side gate which was unlocked. I hope you don’t mind”

“Err no I er just thought erm you had been held up” he stammered.

“Why on Earth would you think that?” I asked. He suddenly got all excited.

“Gee I dunno ….hey the powers out, its always goin’ out” then he shouted ” FUCKING CHRIST ALMIGHTY WHY THE FUCK DOESN’T ANYTHING IN THIS GODAMN AWFUL MOTHER FUCKIN COUNTRY WORK AS IT FUCKIN WELL SHOULD”

The glock in my right hand stayed down by my side just behind my leg and I think O’Hara was too preoccupied to notice it.

“Good question O’Hara and if I was in your position this morning I would probably be thinking the same thing” I commiserated “Now then, why don’t you stop shouting and sit down before you give yourself a heart attack”

He looked tired and rather troubled pulled a chair out from under th table and sat down side on to the table so he was facing me.

“Now lets start again shall we? Why did you think I wasn’t coming” I said quietly.

“Well…as I said the powers out ….and you know …with the traffic an all” He said more normally.

“Oh I see, It wasn’t because the blokes you had follow me thought I had gone back to the hotel after being to the bank did you?”

“I dunno what you mean” he said in a slightly bemused tone but still fronting me out. “Okay so you been to the bank and got the money” He said regaining some composure and trying to regain the imitative. I had to admire his front if nothing else. I said nothing.

I put the attaché case on the table in front of him and he looked at. He was tense and he knew all was not right, but I don’t think he had put two and two together at this point.

“Open the case O’Hara I have something in there for you”

He smiled and opened the attaché case but as soon as it opened his smile dropped of his face and a deep angry scowl took its place. Instead of the money he expected he took out a single playing card and a mobile phone and looked at them.

“What the fuck! Is this some kind of Joke Norman because it aint going to help your boy?” He said crossly

“O’Hara, I asked you if you had lost something but you didn’t answer me” I carried on

“Like what?” He snapped aggressively.

“Like three hostages, a tin hut, one boat, three vehicles and about 10 black henchman”

“You….”

“Press the call button on the phone please” O’Hara pressed the call button.

“You….”

“Press the call button you slag or I will blow your fucking face off”

If this had been a cartoon I am sure a light bulb would have come on over O’Haras head. Unfortunately for O’Hara it wasn’t a cartoon, it was real life and he was now looking at the wrong end of the Glock which was level with his face. He pressed the call button.

To my delight and relief a mobile telephone on the table started ringing. Its electronic chirruping was piercing. O’Hara jumped from his chair and almost fell over. He looked at the telephone and then at me. It carried on ringing

“Its not my phone” He bluffed “Its my girlfriends”

“I know it not your phone you lying cunt, its my boys. Why has it been in your office the last few days and what the fuck is it doing on your table?”

He addressed his answer to Mr Glock

“I can explain”

“Look at the card O’Hara, what is it?”

The Ace of Spades was face up.

“Looks like you’ve got the dead mans hand”

His face drained of expression and colour and his hand dropped and fell open.  The telephone clattered on to the table and then fell to the floor.

If you like to gamble, I tell you I’m your man
You win some, lose some, it’s still the same to me
The pleasure is to play, it makes no difference what you say
I don’t share your greed, the only card I need is
The Ace Of Spades.

Playing for the high one, dancing with the devil,
Going with the flow, it’s all a game to me,
Seven or Eleven, snake eyes watching you,
Double up or quit, double stake or split, it’s
The Ace Of Spades

You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools,
But that’s the way I like it baby,
I don’t wanna live for ever,
And don’t forget the joker!

 

Pushing up the ante, I know you’ve got to see me,
Read ’em and weep, the dead man’s hand again,
I see it in your eyes, take one look and die,
The only thing you see, you know it’s gonna be,

The Ace Of Spades

Kidnapped 12 – The Belgian

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

The news that the Belgian was involved in this saga other than as just a hostage came as a shock. I was in a bit of tizz. On reflection I don’t know why, but for a moment I had this panic that he was in with the kidnappers and I don’t mean in any sort of Stockholm syndrome way and sitting in our hotel. You always have to be so bloody careful. You try to take things at face value but there is always this doubt.

I rang Cyclops as he was the communications hub so everything went through him. This may seem long winded, but it is as secure as it can be and you have one person with all the info and he is detached and objective. Sometimes it is hard to remain objective when you are trying to dig your way out of a pile of shit. Anyway, before I could say anything, he said that Boris had rung him and that the Belgian had something interesting to tell us. I told him to ring Boris and tell him I would be with him shortly. The good news from BF was that JR was in good spirits having been sprung, and was probably OK to be put on plane home. BF and Bob would sort all that out. They were on their way to JR’s accommodation to get his things and sort anything out there.  The other bit of good news was that the money was in the account from the insurance company.  Its always nice to get paid.

With some help from moi,  my new room mate was able to get out of the bath and started to dry her self and seemed almost oblivious to me. I lent her a tee shirt and some boxers, which being cut for a chap with the fuller figure were a touch baggy on her. She was very stiff and sore and so her movements were quite limited. Her backside, thighs and genitals were blistered and red raw with nappy rash from sitting in her own urine and dirt. Fortunately for her, being a good boy scout (which I wasn’t) and ever since having the kids I always carry a small tub of Sudacreme in my first aid kit. You never know when it will come in handy, remember the chaffed nuts!

I did her bum and she was able to do the other bits. I made her eat some chocolate even though she said she wasn’t hungry and just wanted to go to sleep. I wanted to give some some painkillers and an anti-inflammatory and I didn’t want her taking them on an empty stomach. Once she started eating though, she decided that, maybe, she was a bit peckish. The chocolate went down along with the medication and a large glass of water and a double dose of Dioralite (re hydration salts). Ten minutes later she was fed and watered and ready to kip.

I told her I had to go out but would be back later to check on her. If she needed anything to eats she was to ring room service.

She got into bed and lay down and then all of a sudden said to me “Monsieur Norman, it is possible if ….you could put your arm around me please, I would like to be held, it has been so long since anyone held me or was nice.”

Its that getting your mum to give you the cuddle and make it better again syndrome. We all need it at some point.

I lay down next to her with her back to me and put my arm around her and held her close. It reminded me of holding the girls when they had been sick. You can feel that fragile, scared, vulnerable alone feeling.

“Thank you Monsieur Norman.”

I think because I had thought of the girls that I gave her a little kiss on the temple

“Sleep tight chicken”

She snuggled up to me under the sheet and slipped into a shallow fitful sleep to start with . I stayed with my arm around her for about 5 or 10 minutes by which time fatigue and the drugs had taken over and she was well and truly asleep. I suddenly had memories of bed time stories and kids shenanigans, looking for dolly and blankie. It all seemed so very far far away like a distant dream.

Talking of shenanigans, best I have a word with the Belgian. I headed to Boris’s room. The Belgian was not going to be allowed the privilege of sleep just yet. However he had showered and was in a hotel dressing gown. He was not pretty and there was not fucking way I was going to give him a cuddle. Sorry if that doesn’t sound very equal opportunities.

“He is being a cunt” said Boris in French. Ever the wordsmith.

“Listen to me Rogirst, I have no time to fuck about” I barked in French.

He grunted, surprised that we English had more than just enough frog to get a beer and sandwich. He was clearly unsettled by this.

” You either tell me what the fuck is going on, or I assume you are one of the bad guys and arrange for you to have an accident from which you will not recover do I make myself clear?” I continued

“Yes” He said sullenly in English with a thick Belgian accent

“Well” I said also in English “what the fuck is going on?”

He sighed ” look I was not involved. Well, no I was, … but not as it may seem. They shit on me.”

“Oh yeah convince me” I said

“I knew O’Hara in SL. He was shifted here suddenly and no one knew why. I thought he was CIA but he was different to the spooks I knew. I was then transferred and the word was that O’Hara was very good at getting hostages released, but I knew he never left the office. It cannot be done, you need to be a field man, so I start thinking how did he make the contacts when he did not speak to local people I ask myself. I then saw him at a one day with an Arab. I don’t like Arabs they cannot be trusted they are scum. That made me suspicious. He then asked me if I wanted to make some extra money. I said sure why not. He got me to take some messages to the Arab and to some blacks in the jungle. They are savages, huh if the Arabs is bad they is worse. Then this French woman reporter starts ringing up from France asking questions about how come so many company people from this company are taken but never Americans. I say we had two Americans taken she says yes but they were CIA. She says that everyone hates Americans yet they don’t get taken. I say what’s the fuss everyone get released ok no one has been hurt. If it was Americans they would get killed and the yanks would start getting heavy here like in Iraq and everywhere else, is that what you want?” He looked up at me hopefully.

“Its a story but you don’t convince me and I have to tell you the clocks ticking” I said.

D’ acorrd d’acorrd well she kept ringing me up after and then I was away on leave. It was merde and came back two no three weeks early unexpected, because I split up from my wife and money was very tight. I had done a deal with my brother. Are you cops?”

“No we’re not cops” I reassured him.

Alors, well he knew someone selling some drugs he could make a good profit. I had money from my father when he died so I lent him the money but he was double crossed. That bitch lost me everything I had.”

“Are you saying your wife grassed on you”

PUTAIN …the salope….I lost a lot of money all my money that whore and I was fucking sick of everything. That whore was fucking…..”

“Look Rogirst I am not interested in your wife unless it has anything to do with what has gone on here” I interjected very bluntly. I was tired and I could feel I was getting pissed off with this bastard.

“Sorry. Ok so things were bad and I came back here very quickly after left. When I get back I go to my office I found messages on my answer phone and work portable from people and about things I did not understand or know. …Arabs and niggers leaving messages it all made no sense. Then the reporter ring up again and start asking me questions again. I am pissed with everyone, so I ask her why she ring me all the time. She says that I don’t know much for the man who is the Local Intelligence Officer for the company. I didn’t know anything about this, I was general security I was a paratrooper not in intelligence. She says meet me and talk for my article. She sounded hot and I thought fuck why not I might even get her to screw me if she thinks she will get a story”

As Morrissey would say “Most people keep their brains between their legs”

“Ok then Rogirst what happened then?

Oui..yes, well, we meet she is hot and she know it. We had a nice time and got on well, she is good at her job, but What I did not know was that O’Hara and the Arab were following her and knew about our meeting. As the evening goes on She asks me all sorts of questions and something about diamonds. I think putain alors, what has this to do with me and then I remember O’Hara, Mister America in SL. Diamonds. His move, me being moved, she tells me I am intelligence officer for the company I must know what is going on. I don’t say “this is news to me and I don’t know what the fuck you are talking about”, I play along. Marianne asks me about a lot of stuff about insurance money and payoffs and I realise she thinks she has shit on me, but I know its O’Hara”

“Marianne, that’s the French Journalist?” I asked

He sighed heavily and nodded. He held his fat hands in front of him and looked at the floor. I have questions but he is flowing and this is no the time to ask. Patience. Slowly slowly catchy monkey.

“I went to O’Hara” He continued “I was going to let him know in a clever way that I knew what was going on. I said someone was asking questions and that I knew what he was doing. He says to me “What’s that Olivier, what am I doing” I say “you letting them kidnap anyone but Americans” He laughs and says “No you got it wrong Olivier, its an agreement between the company and the chiefs of the local jungle bunnies. Those were his words. He says they take a few people, we pay them so they get good money and we get our people back unharmed and we carry on production, its insurance money. Redistribution of wealth, putting money into local communities to help them develop. They get money for medicines and schools and things and we stay in business no one gets hurt. I say what about the negotiators fees and bits. He says that the company regards that as his on the ground bonus for keeping things sweet. That’s what he kept saying “keeping things sweet.” He then says, as I have done a great job keeping the nosey French bitch out of it, he will bring me into the operation officially and he can cut me in. He says “Look Olivier help me out a bit longer with the Marianne. Keep her cool, hey you get on well with her, you had good time the other night, take her to another nice restaurant, treat her well she is sexy she likes you, play your cards right and you could fuck this broad”. It was only when I was tied to the chair that I think how did he know her name and about the other night and how did he know she is sexy, how did he know about the meeting or the nice restaurant. later one of the niggers told me he had followed me. Big, fat, stupid Olivier.”

He was too fucked to cry actual tears but he was at the low point he was a broken man at that instant.

“He got you at a bad time and played you” I said in my most reassuring, new best mate way.

He looked me in the eyes “Like you are now?”

“Yes, but I am being dead straight with you. Tell me the truth and funnily enough I think all your problems will disappear, well maybe not all, but most………But…..fuck me about and they will all disappear because we will kill you before 9am”

He held eye contact “Now that I believe” and for the first time he smiled.

“So then Olivier what happened next?”

“Well O’Hara tells me to make another meet with the Marianne to give her a story that will lead her away from us and here. He told me to mention a couple of thing, drop in some names to get her interested. So I ring her to make a meet and mention the names of two Americans that had been taken in March. I thought she was fucking some bloke the way she got so excited and say when can we meet. I fix a time for that evening but she don’t show up. Next day someone says “Oh Olivier I didn’t see you but a woman rang saying she was supposed to meet you but she couldn’t make it.” I was surprised because of how excited she had been. After that I heard no more from her and over the next few weeks I do jobs with O’Hara. I go to meetings, he sorted me a new car then says hey there’s a house next to mine with a pool which is available why don you take it on, its not expensive, so I think why not. I meet a nice girl from Poland who starts working in the office. She likes me and we see a lot of each other. Nothing serious but I can tell she likes me and everything is going really well. If you know what I mean” and gave a grin.

We grinned back.

“What was a bit strange was I got the bonus money in dollars and I did not sign anything. But I just did not think maybe I did not want to think” He paused briefly “Then I hear O’Hara talking on the phone in his office saying that the internal investigators are looking into irregularities by certain members of staff. He was looking at all people who had recently changed their domestic & financial profiles.” He talks American business talk and I don’t know what he means and don’t think about it much at the start. Then I hear him saying something else to someone and then I start to think he couldn’t mean me could he? I say to O’Hara everything OK he says “sure Olivier everything’s just sweet.”

“Then he came in and said a job had come up urgently and he needed me to go down river to check something out. He needed someone he could really trust. There was a young Englishman from the army, very good, very tough, who would go with me who would protect me. I took my own gun from my drawer and put it in my pocket. That was the day it happened. We go and are down the river on the boat when we see these blacks attacking a white woman. I see her and know it is Marianne. I tell the man to take the boat in closer to help her. Then we are attacked by two other boats. We try to fight but cannot because our guns are fucked, although the Englishman tried his best and he took a few out unarmed, but they made him suffer. It was then I heard the fat boss say don’t kill him he must be alive the American says they must all be alive. Then I knew beyond all doubt”

“What happened after that?” I asked

He let out a long sigh “It was a nightmare. The first day a man, not black, came and did a video of the Englishman. He was Egyptian maybe. They were laughing because the English man was scared and twitched and could not keep his hands still. When they finished the guards beat him for fun but he says nothing. He gave them no satisfaction. I think he has only just left the army he is tough. Then they hit all of us and pissed on us. One guard was not so bad, he let us get up and walk round but the rest just left us there with hoods over our heads. After sometime and I don’t know how long one of the guards said to the Englishman your Uncle has got the money sorted so you will be going home maybe. I am sorry I have lost track of days and nights it was hot and we stink”

“Did he do a video of you and Marianne” I asked

“No he just do the English, I think later that they know I am going to die for sure”.

“The man in charge of the guards was a big fat man. He came in one day and was really cross. He hit us all and says someone has been spoiling things and that we will not be going home. He said I knew too much and that we all knew too much and that as soon as the money was in we would try to escape and not be found. Then one of the guards said he wanted to fuck Marianne and started playing with her nichons..her tits..and then tried putting his cock in her mouth but the boss shoots him and says anyone goes near her he will cut his manhood off and make him eat it. I think she was to be his and we were going to disappear.”

He hung his head, he was done in.

“What happened to the crew of your boat?” asked Boris

“They are not worth anything so they let them go”

He looked up at me with sad weary eyes

“So what happens now, do you believe me?” he asked looking very worried. I did believe him more or less. It all sort of made sense but I was tired and we all needed some kip

“I believe you enough to let you sleep and not to kill you, but you will be kept here and guarded until we can sort out a few things. OK?” I said

“OK” he nodded

“Than if it works out we will get you some clothes and see about getting you handed over to the appropriate people”

“Not O’Hara” he said with a start.

“No, maybe your embassy or consulate” I mused

“Is that really necessary, you see I don’t know how much of a problem there is after my brothers little business problem”

“I see your point” Not that I cared really, but to be honest I didn’t want any complications to come between us and the insurance payout.

Kidnapped 11 – Showtime

Monday, September 24th, 2007

The words GO GO GO are an adrenalin trigger. The rush is just out of this world. Your senses are heightened and you are in and ready to do the biz.

You are invincible.

Until some bugger shoots you that is.

But until that happens you are.

There were shouts and then a couple of screams and gunfire from the other side of the building and the bang and flash of a grenade.

Boris and I were up and off towards the building. No commands no chat.

we were only a few metres from the door when it burst open big more blokes lurched out carrying weapons. I got my man in the head, but Boris caught the second bloke in the throat. At that range the bolt went straight through him and clattered into the building somewhere. One round from the Glock ended his discomfort. I picked up one AK and removed the mag from the other before kicking into the shadows.

Up to the door.

Quick check left and right and into the building.

The essence is speed and clarity of vision.

“GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR – GET DOWN ON THE FLOOR” I shouted.

JR would know it was a rescue and should follow the instruction. Anyone else who stands up is in play. However this is assuming he is not so badly injured or drugged that he can follow instructions. This can have tragic consequences and you have to be so bloody careful you don’t pop the people you are trying to rescue. There was a sound of clattering to our left which I took to be chairs falling over.

I took right Boris left.

There were another couple of black fellas who had obviously been asleep and woken as it kicked off. A quick burst ended their thoughts of resistance.

“T2 going in”

The other door crashed open

“T1 securing outside”

I could see JR and two other blokes lying on the floor tied to chairs. Should you ever find yourself in the position of being rescued lie on the floor spread eagles with your hands open and your palms visible don’t move and expect to be treated roughly.

Boris and I cleared the room ie made sure there was no bad boys lurking and then moved back into a defensive position between then hostages and the doors. We covered the room enabling BF and Bob to move in as it was them who would deal with the hostages.

“BOSS”

It was Bob.

“BORIS COVER”

Boris moved forward slightly

“Boss we have three hostages not two” said Bob.

“How is JR?”

“Not so hot. I will take the Belgian and you do number three”

JR was only just compos mentis and was bleeding badly from cuts around his face, and I have to say the other two weren’t pretty either. They had had a right smacking from these fuck heads.

When rleaseing hostages liken this you do have to make sure they have not been booby trapped with grenades. However in this case the captors had been caught with their pants down and this was last thing they expected to happen, so we felt pretty safe. We were still cautious though.

Bf cut the bonds on JRs legs and arms and then leant forward and kissed him on the forehead. I remembered when he had done the same thing to me, when they had come for me in Z. It is impossible to tell you the sense of relief and reassurance that little kiss can give you. It is like when you are a kid and you have hurt yourself and you just want your mum to make it all right again. Now you mums not here so BF is your mother. He always joked with young recruits “I’m your mother now son” and he was, only this time he was dad.

“Hello son, how you doing?”

BF patted him on the cheek and cradled him in his arms just as he had me a few months ago but held him just that bit closer and tighter.

“I’ve been better” croaked JR”

“Best we get you home to mum”

” I knew you’d come for me ” JR croaked

“Its all right son you’ll be OK, I’ll look after you” said BF in reassuring way.

I went to look at the the third bloke could only just open his eyes and was so badly beaten that he was gargling and choking on blood in his throat. He was trying to say something in French but was just incoherent. I got him released and it was only when I picked him up I realised he had a very ample bust and was in fact a woman. Ideally we would have given her a quick once over (if you will excuse the expression) but we were in no position to do any medical checks. Rapid extraction from the area was the name of the game.

“T1 from T2 we have Three hostages not two and all require CASEVAC” – CASEVAC means casualty evacuation.

“All received and understood”

We helped the beaten hostages to get moving. They had been tied up almost constantly and had trouble using their legs. Being whacked about doesn’t help your mobility either. They were dirty and had soiled themselves and had been made to sit in their own shit and piss, plus of course, they had been subject to the amusement of their captors. All in all they were in a pretty bad way but could have been a lot worse.

Suddenly there was gun fire from the other end of the building. Shit and dust blew up around us and we hit the deck PDQ. Boris returned fire.

Where the fuck had they come from?

“GRENADE” It was Boris.

There was a flash and WHURUMPF and thud from the other end of the room which was deafening backed by quick bursts from Boris the Blade. Although there were mega clouds of dust the absence of debris made me realise that he had used a diver recall flash and not a real grenade. The noise was still deafening and the effect on the boneheads shouting at us was achieved because they stopped. Very health and safety conscious is Boris at times. There was aloud Fizzsherwishhhhhh and a smoke canister followed the grenade. The stench of cordite and smoke filled the air. God I love that smell.

Boris gave another short burst and it was time to go. We were up and heading towards the door as fast as we could dragging the hostages with us.

The lads from the OP had broken their cover and were now covering both flanks laying down short bursts of gunfire presumably from weapons reassigned from the captors.

As soon as we were out of the building we were running towards the jetty we laid down bursts of fire at the building and into the impenetrable black of the surrounding forest. We could hear the sound of the RIB.

The casualties along with BF and Bob were into the the bottom of the RIB and it was gone. Benny had it on full throttle.

We were away into the edge of the forest. There was hollering and shouts coming from all over the place and the sound of automatic gunfire. Figures were running towards the building. Time to whizz in a couple of flares into them to keep the bastards on their toes. Actually one geezer stayed on his toes a little too long when really he should have ducked and took one of the flares. I am fairly sure he did not find it and agreeable experience. Then there was the sound of an out board motor starting on the river. The engine accelerated and there was a thunderous KERBOOM as Bobs mix of flares and fuel ended any idea of an aquatic pursuit.

We made our way to the RVP with Scouse Git. There was more shouting and gunfire behind us. Then there was an almighty explosion followed by screams. It would seem somebody had found one of the booby trapped vehicles.

We were with Scouse git in no time and without standing on ceremony he raced down the track at break neck speed. He once told me that he delivered Pizzas in Liverpool to make some extra money and never had a complaint about them being cold. I believe him.

Another flare soared into the sky and there was a flash as other bits of our DIY booby traps went off.

We bounced and bucked at a fierce rate of knots until we reached the place where the VW was. Boris and I got out of the nicked Toyota pick up and into the VW. I raced out of its hiding place and down towards the place where JR had started his captivity. The hostages were hauled out of the rib and into the van. One of them had been sick but it was hard to tell which one. The lads from the OP stayed in the pick up whilst BF and Bob stuck with Benny the Boat.

We dumped all the weapons except the Glock and most of the other kit into the Rib and then Benny, BF and Bob shot off into the dark and along the river. They would dump weapons and kit along the river and burn their combats and boots etc somewhere suitable.

Boris and I drove for about 15 minutes in the VW before pulling over to clean up and change out of our combats and to check on the state of the hostages. They were pretty shell shocked. We need to get them to the hotel and cleaned up as best we could before getting JR to the airport. The Belgian would be handed over to his Consulate as soon as we knew JR and the others were clear of the country. The fly in the ointment was the woman, but I could see no reason why she should not be handed over to the appropriate consulate at the same time when we found out a bit more about her.

We ditched our kit and burnt it on a smouldering wood fire we just happened upon in a seedy part of town. Actually most of the town is seedy but this bit was worse than others.

We got back to the hotel and Scouse git and T1 boys were already back. SG had engaged the receptionist in some wild goose chase looking for a parcel that was due to have been delivered so there was no body at the reception when we walked in. JR had recovered his feet and put a baseball cap on pulled down over his face and could have been just a little the worse for wear. The Belgian was walking in a fashion but not really with it, but the woman was really done in. Boris took the two blokes up to to his room and I got her to mine.

I needed to find out who she was and what she knew but before I did that I needed to get her cleaned up as best I could. I lay her down on the bathroom floor because although cold and hard it would be easier o clean up. Now she was in the light I could see how dirty she was. Off with her clothes and boots and down to her undies. She had the resignation of somebody who had been through the mill. I gave her a fairly thorough examination and although bruised and battered could not find any serious injuries. My concern was that she had been raped which itself is bad enough but this being West Africa there are other long lasting health implications. That was something that would have to wait. I got her out of the rest of her clothes and into the bath. She sat there as the hot water from the shower ran over her.

I sat her up and washed her hair and then soaped the rest of her body. In normal circumstances this would have been dead horny because she was pretty fit woman with a very reasonable set of fun bags. But these were not ordinary circumstances.

I was washing her feet when she spoke to me in French. Jesus I almost jumped out of my skin.

“Who are you and where am I” she asked

” My name is Norman and you are in the XXXX hotel in PH” I replied

she thought for a moment

“How did I get here?” she asked

“We rescued a friend of ours and it would seem you were a hostage as well so we brought you with us”

“What do you want with me?”

“Nothing, I have checked to see if you have any serious injuries which you don’t. I want to get you clean so we can hand you over to your consulate”

“I am French” she confirmed

“How long had you been held there” I asked

She let out a big sigh.

“Only a few days there but I was held in another place for a long time”

“How did you get kidnapped?”

“I am a journalist and photographer. I was to meet a man from a company who I believed might have some information about kidnappings.”

She laughed

“I was travelling with an escort for safety. Somebody crashed in to the side of my car and there was a big thing. All these people shouting and I was going to be late. I was stressed, this was a big scoop and then somebody said they had got me a taxi. I dont know how but I got separated from the escort and got into the taxi. He drove off and then stopped and said he was picking up a friend.”

She laughed “It will never happen to me, hahaha and then these men jumped in and held a gun at my head and he drove me to a warehouse full of cars near the port.” she sighed and washed her breasts and between her legs absentmindedly

“You wouldn’t have been going to meet an American called O’Hara would you”

“No he was called Rogirst, a Belgian, the man the one who was tied up in the shed with me. Did you see him, quiet fat and going bald”

Kidnapped 10 – Ground Assigned

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Benny the boat deployed the advance party by river and they were ground assigned by 03.30 Benny was moored up near to where JR had been snatched. He would stay there until we were ready to move in.

All we had to do was wait.

Eventually I got the call from Cyclops to say the AP and Scouse Git were all in position and we were game on.

I left the hotel with my black sports bag and went to where the VW minivan was parked. It was very hot and raining fucking stair rods again. I did not go straight to the van, but walked past it and checked we it was not under surveillance. I knew I was being over cautious but you cannot be too careful. I waited until Boris came up to the vehicle and opened it and got it started. If the job had been compromised or there was any surveillance this was the time they would leap in. Nothing happened. Boris drove the minibus down the road and pulled up and I got in. A little further on we stopped and picked up BF and skinny Bob.

We drove in silence and having deliberately taken a circuitous route arrived at the RVP at 2000. Scouse Git had already dropped the Toyota pickup further into the forest about 500m from the kidnappers base and would wait there. We pulled off the road past where JR had been snatched. It had stopped raining for the moment and all was dark and the forest reverberated to the sounds of insects and critter. It was very hot and humid and the smell of the swampy forest was almost overpowering.

The vegetation was very thick and it was bloody dark, so the minibus was hidden from the road. If the van had not had the synchro gear box, we would have been well and truly stuffed, because the ground under foot was very soft indeed. it was here that we changed into combats and cammed up. This is dangerous territory, more because of Mother Nature than baddies. There is a whole host of snakes and ‘orrible creepy crawlies all just too willing to nip, bite, sting, poison and generally to do you harm and make your life V uncomfortable. Boots, gloves and some form of head gear are essential. We all had black cotton balaclavas, which although hot and itchy save your face from a thousand and one mozzies and bugs. Actual “Skin so Soft” by Max Factor is a great way to keep midgies at bay if you are on a walk, but as I have already said the perfume is a bit of give away. Lastly we did a very quick signal check with the other units. Radio traffic would be almost non existent. We would confirm when we were in position and then get a quick update from the lads in the OP but that would be it.

We left the van and silently made our way to the RIb and got in. Benny The Boat guided the boat very very slowly almost silently down the river.

Eventually Benny pulled into the bank and we could see that we were on the edge of the village. we were out of the RIB and into a defensive position and then into the cover and darkness of the trees. Benny had gone as soon as were out and anyone watching would have been forgiven for thinking they thought the saw something, but were not quire sure!

We lay in the wet slimy muddy ground and could hear noises of people listening to the radio and watching TV. There were shouts and voices and It would seem we had chosen the night of a big football match to do the biz. I must say sports commentators are the same the world over. Benny was to wait a few metres down the stream for the time being and would move up nearer to the village when it all kicked off

I was paired with Boris and were call sign T2 BF was with Skinny Bob as normal and were T3. Those two have been partners for as long as I can remember. Not gay ,lover type partners you understand, but very effective – you really don’t want to fuck them off partners. I have seen them work and they are like ugly Siamese twins, they just think as one and don’t need to speak to each other. They just know. Their job was to disable the kidnappers boats and to leave a few surprises in the vicinity of the waterfront. You don’t need high explosives to make a bang, just some distress flares or diver recall flashes and some fuel. You will forgive me for not going into too much detail about this. I would hate some kid to blow his dad’s shed up.

We slowly and carefully made our way into position on the left flank and waited for everyone to hit the sack. This takes one sentence to say, but in reality took over an hour to do. If this had been our base we would have booby traps and trip wires all over the friggin place. Fortunately we were not attacking us and we encountered nothing untoward. It was raining again and in one way this helped as it covered any noise but hindered us in so far as we were soaked and very uncomfortable. There is nothing like hot chaffed bollocks to make you appreciate the comforts of home! I notice Rambo or Arnie never get chaffed nuts.

Time to tell them we were ready and for a final signal check

“T1 from T2 signal check.”

“T2 from T3 R5”

“T1 from T3 signal check”

“T3 from T1 R5”

We were all ground assigned and ready to go.

We could see the building and there was a fair bit of activity I would have said that there were 15 bods in all, but it was a bit hard to sat because they kept coming out to piss against the wall of the building. They were all rather loud and boisterous and sounded pissed and it would rather seem the were having a kidnappers get together for a night on the lash while watching the footy.

The night suddenly reverberated to the sound of a dog barking over by the river but it stopped as suddenly there was a slight yelp and it did not bark again.

“Bob never liked barking dogs” whispered Boris.

Dogs are aright pain in the arse.

On our side of the village there was rough track. You wouldn’t want to drive your family car down here but it was fine for a 4×4. We found an ancient Toyota parked up near to where we had seen it when on our pleasure flight, however we also found two fairly new land rovers. All three vehicles were unlocked. A quick modification so the fuel line was leaking and a flare placed underneath would do nicely. We had two types of flare. One is a hand held the other is a a parachute flare which shoots into the sky. To activate a parachute flare you hold it in your hand and pull a sort of plastic loop/handle at the base downwards and that send send the rocket/flare 350m up into the air where it will burn at between 30,000 to 100,000 candles for around 30 to 40 seconds depending on the make. Now imagine that in the confines of a car. It will serious fuck your no claims bonus. I taped one to the steering column of the Toyota with a line attached from the detonation pull mechanism to the door handle. Not complicated I grant you, but anyone opening the drivers door should find it a somewhat illuminating experience. I have always liked fireworks. Sadly I did not intend to hand around and watch tonight’s display. We repeated the operation with the other vehicles.

The football match must have finished and from the yammering and hollering it would seem as if our little friends had had a fair bit to drink and were clearly pretty pissed. There were shouts, jeers and cat calls from the building. This was then followed by laughter. Not happy laughter but cruel, evil, sadistic laughter that sends shudders down your spine and makes your hair stand up. I couldn’t see what was going on but I think we all knew they were having a bit of fun at the hostages expense. Whilst your heart might tell you this is the time to go the head says wait. Why wait? well when they had finished they will not have as much if any fight in them, beside which revenge is a dish best tasted cold. So we waited. Grudgingly!

10 minutes later and things had calmed down again. One bloke left the building armed with an AK47. He looked half pissed and not best pleased at being out in the rain. He slouched towards the river. Someone called to him and he walked out of our view and almost immediately there was a clatter followed by a splash. He was now dead drunk not just a little pissed.

A few minutes later a big fella came out and called a name. No responses. He called again. We could see him shaking his head, and I am sure he was think “where the fuck is that wanker now”.

He called again and getting no reply, he shouted into the building and another unenthusiastic youth came out also armed with an AK47. I could see the big bloke pointing and presumably telling the lad to go and see where the first bloke was. The youngster didn’t want to go out because it was wet and kept shaking his head. I knew where he was coming from on that one. The big fella started shouting and cuffed him about the head. The youngster slouched out truculently. He did a tour of the buildingin what must of been record time and went back in. A few moments later he came out with the big fell who was clearly pissed off and was going to show the young un how it should be done. They walked towards us this time. They reached the track and stopped in the shadows. They didn’t say anything as they hit the floor like two sacks of spuds.

That’s how its done big man.

The crossbow is a sneaky bastard. Almost totally silent and deadly accurate to around 175 m. We moved from our cover and the two of us dragged the big bloke to the nearest cover. Fuck he was a really porker. Boris made sure he was not going to be any more of a problem in this life and then searched him. I got to the young lad who had a look of indignant surprise on his face. The bolt had hit him bang centre in the forehead just above the nose. He would never be able to wear glasses.

3 down 12ish to go.

I moved him to where he would not be seen and relieved him of his AK47 and a spare clip which was full. I was a little shocked to find he had a grenade on his belt. JR had said no pineapples.

I rejoined Boris. He had taken a handgun and two spare mags from the big bloke which transpired to be a Glock. A very nice gun and a particular favourite of mine, very handy. He had no other grenades but he did have a mobile telephone.

Time to make a broadcast to the others

“T1 from T2 we have two kills and a pineapple” I said

The response was quick from Bob ” T3 one kill and a pineapple”

“All units standby” it was Team 1 in the OP

Silence from us and just the drip of the rain from the trees and the croak of the insects.

A door had opened at the front of the building and four men staggered out with weapons at the ready. They were clearly pissed, but anyone with an AK47 needs to be treated with caution and respect. The group split up and started calling out names. After about 5 minutes of wandering around in half hearted manner they gave up and shuffled into the building.

“T1 to all units give it 10 and then move into cover with a view to strike position”

Boris took the AK47 and I had the Glock and we moved closer to the building. The idea was that we would move in slowly and ideally deal with any exterior threats before doing the electricity and going in. What we trying to avoid was a fire fight with superior numbers and firepower. As I said before, our plan was to be slow and effective so that the odds were eventually stacked in our favour.

Boris and I were only about 15m from the side door now. It opened and another bloke staggered out. He called drunkenly to someone – presumably one of the missing colleagues then staggered towards me and Boris opening the flies of his trousers as he did. He was practically on top of us with his old lad out and he started to piss on Boris. You know I said that Boris the blade was not particularly good with a knife, well that doesn’t mean to say he’s bad either.

As the stream of piss landed on Boris he stood up and said “You dirty cunt”, which wasn’t really fair, because the poor bloke didn’t know that Boris was hiding in the undergrowth and that he was pissing on someone who had no taste for water sports. This bloke was not armed at all.

We could hear voices from the river side. Loud drunken voices. Arrogant, aggressive voices. Sometimes you just know when it is all going to kick off.

CONTACT” Bobs voice came over the radio calm and steady.

“GO GO GO” from Team 1

Showtime!

Kidnapped 9 – Moving in

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

After our interesting, but very productive flight, we headed back to the hotel in the VW minibus. It was not in bad nick really, and by a stroke of luck turned out to have a synchro gear box. Now, without wishing to sound too much like what van magazine, this is VWs version of four wheel drive and could be very handy. Best we hang on to this little baby for a day or two. The lads dropped me and baby sitters off away from the Hotel and I walked back despite the rain so that we would arrive at different times. They parked the van up away from the hotel.

When I got back to the hotel the receptionist told me that an American had been to see me but had not left a message. I went up to my room and got out of my wet clothes. I sat down to watch the television only to discover that there had been a bit of bother in various parts of the city during the day. I took this to mean “Serious violence” What made me sit up, was that this included an apparent attack on police station in the waterside district where JR was being held. There was a gun battle between two factions (They call them cults) but the info was sketchy due to censorship. I dare say Cyclops would get more detailed info in London than we would here. Speak of the devil, my light viewing was interrupted by a phone call from Cyclops. The first thing he told me was that the signal from JRs mobile had moved and as far as he could tell was in the vicinity of O’Haras office. He also told me that Boris had rung him to say the shopping had arrived from the UK and that he and BF were going out to check out the weapon and to zero the sights. This means checking the sights for accuracy over certain distances so you be as accurate as possible. I told him about the local problems and that I was concerned about the local instability and that in view of the news about JRs phone we were going to local standby. In short we had the kit so were now in a position to think about an intervention or rescue.n

It was agreed that the ground force would meet after dinner. I gave the order that nobody was to shower at all from now on. I smelt more than a little aromatic already but I would have to stink. Cyclops would contact the others from a different line and pass the instructions. Cyclops also told me that O’Haras middle eastern mate was in fact a Lebanese “Businessman”, whose activities included furniture and the “Import and export” of luxury cars. He was a bit of a wheeler and dealer and Cyclops had given him the code name Arthur Daley. It had also been established that Arthur had a luxury flat in the centre of town and a mistress who lived there, the lucky little devil.

“Boss, can I ask you a question?” Asked Cyclops

“Of course you can, what is it?”

“Are you sure about going in? I am playing devils advocate here boss, but do you think it would be better to just cough up the money” Cyclops said. ” I am saying this because I have to be honest here and say I have a feeling that this is not as it all first seemed”

“I take you point Cyclops” I said “And up until last night I was not sure we would be doing the right thing, but as things unfold, I really think the margin for us to be had over or this going tits up is getting bigger and bigger. Our contact is in bed with Arthur who’s up to all sorts of naughtiness, and as things stand I would not be too shocked to find out that they are running the kidnappers”

“I just had to ask” He said

“Yeah I know I understand” I reassured him. Cyclops was right to question whether pro active was better than passive. In fact just talking it through like that reinforced my gut felling that we were dealing with a right dodgy outfit. In normal events I would strongly advise against any intervention or rescue attempts, because the most dangerous time in a kidnap situation is the snatch and the release. Any rescue has to be well thought out and executed by a well trained cohesive team. On the face of it if we coughed up the money and JR would be released. However I had doubts as to whether that would really happen in this case.

Why was I so unhappy just to pay up and go home? First off there was the discrepancies in the story about how he was kidnapped. We were told he had been in a vehicle and helped at an accident, when in fact he was guarding a boat. The there was the small question of why he was taken without an apparent fight. The guards I saw were well armed. JR is very experienced man and it is hard to see how, if armed, he could have been taken without a fire fight. Then there was the question of the sums of money. Originally O’Hara seemed happy when I talked of maybe able to stump up 10 grand but when they found JR had insurance the figure leapt to 150 K. Even by African standards that’s is a hell of a rate of inflation. Last but not least there was O’Hara’s dealings with Arthur Daley. Why would a Lebanese furniture dealer need such heavy security, and what the fuck was he doing acting as a go between for a bunch of West African kidnappers. Maybe he supplied the chairs they tied the captors to. Mind you, In this country that would be a lucrative market.

“Cyclops”

“Yes Boss”

“Make the travel arrangements back to London for the lads and two hostages I will travel back on jack as I am going going to see my sister”

“Everything is done we just needed to confirm the date and flight” He said. That’s what good about Cyclops, he takes care of the essential back room stuff so that the blokes on the ground don’t have to worry about it.

I rang O’Hara to see is there had been any developments. He was very friendly and relaxed.

“Hi Norman. I came by the hotel earlier but you were out”

“Oh it was you, the receptionist said somebody had been to see me. What time was that?”

“About 3ish”

“You must have just missed me I lied, I was invited on a pleasure flight with some scuba divers who are in the hotel”

“Yes the receptionist told me, how was the trip?”

“OK but once you’ve seen one bit of mangrove close up you’ve seen it all”

He laughed in a good natured way.

“I am sorry, but I have no further news from this side” He said

“That’s OK, In didn’t really expect any until the money is sorted” I said

“Well, thats really why I came by the hotel, you to kindda touch base and to see how are things going with the money?” He explained

“Its going well. All the arrangements are in place and I expect to be able to make funds available in the next 24 to 48 hours”

“That’s really good news, shame it is not a bit quicker, but hey, at least we can tell these goons that the money is on the way. Do you think I could stop by the hotel later and give you details of where the money needs to be paid?”.

“Yeah I don’t see why not, I will be eating early I am pretty tired and the heat is getting to me, so I don’t feel so great”

“Yeah, Africa can be a bitch if you aint used to the heat and humidity. You Brits don’t get much heat do you? Must be pretty hard for you here on your own. Do you want me to see if I can arrange some company for you? I have a contact who could arrange some stress relief for you. They are white or Middle eastern and very pretty, not like the locals”

“Thanks, but I am OK”

“You sure?……They are very willing to please you know and I mean very very willing, and very sexy……..Well if you change your mind just let me know.

“I will”

“OK right, I will see you in about half an hour or so, is that OK”

“Yeah fine I’ll see you then”

I saw O’Hara in the bar. I wanted to look hot and under the weather so I went for brisk walk round the hotel grounds to get myself looking ill at ease, actually it was more of a run and when I got back I was hot, sweaty and dishevelled. When I met O’Hara it looked like he had done the same thing, because he was sweating like a pig and looking very odd. He kept talking really quickly and sniffing. We was acting really weird. He could have done a couple of lines of coke but I think he was just under pressure and was just keeping the lid on things. He furtively gave me a piece of paper with the bank details where the money had to be paid. It was a numbered account belonging to Arthur Daley. Apparently we paid the intermediary and he paid the cash to the kidnappers. More like we paid him and he gave them a cut. The paper was crumpled and I could see the indents of written notes on it. I folded it carefully and put it to one side.

O’Hara visibly relaxed and started to loosen up. So much so in fact, that I was forced to spend another cosy evening with him, which was not what I had bargained for, but it was handy. To be fair once he got his finger out of his arse and had a few drinks he was quite good company, but that doesn’t mean I liked him anymore than I did to start with. This is one of the few countries where Guinness is brewed outside Ireland. It is pretty good although not really Guinness. O’Hara having had a few drinks, relaxed and started yaking a bit. He told me he had been in the Military but left our the bit about being a cop or that his dad worked for the CIA.

I asked about family etc and he sort of avoided the question to start with, but eventually eluded to being married and having kids etc back in the states. He said that his wife used to work for the government, he didn’t say doing what, and is now working as or for a diamond dealer. The more he relaxed the more he talked. It would seem she was doing well, and they had recently bought a new house out of town, but of course kept the apartment on in town – as you do! He showed me a photo of a very large elegant house with a Range Rover what looked like a Lexus outside. Clearly I am in the wrong business and Diamonds are a girls best friend. Mind you there are diamonds and there are Conflict Diamonds. Bought cheap and illegally in countries wishing to finance wars sold on at just under the going market rates. Well dodgy, but there are big bucks to be made. Could it be that this was the real business going on here? It would be more profitable for Arthur Daley than selling furniture and would certainly explain the security.

O’Hara was clearly getting a reasonable deal from the oil company in terms of car and house locally, but I wondered what kind of salary he got. Now then, although his missus might be quite legitimate, I had no doubts now that he was about as straight as a hair grip and any doubt was kicked into touch after he mentioned that he had a place in the Bahamas and one in the mountains near Steamboat Colorado. This is as well as his house and apartment! He also talked of a boat and a couple of Jeeps and something else. He clearly like the good things in life and unless he had won the lottery he had to be getting his money from somewhere to pay for the lifestyle. Of course, he could have been bullshitting, but I got the impression that for the first time since we had crossed, he was actually telling me the truth. When we parted he was slightly pissed. Not ratted, but happy pissed and I think he considered me his new best mate and had given me an invite to visit Steam Boat for some skiing.

I practiced a few ski turns on the way back to my room in preparation for a ski holiday I would never take in Steam boat. Just before 11pm we were altogether and there was a real air of anticipation. The surveillance team reported that O’Hara had stayed at home most of the day until late afternoon, when he drove to the Arabs house. He stayed about 90 minutes and left with a very attractive young woman. He went to his office for about 10 minutes and then home with her. He had left her there and came to see me at the hotel before going home again. Digital photos of the woman had been sent to Cyclops to see if he could come up with something. She was probably a Eastern European working girl but you never know.

I told everyone we were going in. The atmosphere immediately changed and we ceased been a group of blokes and became a military team. This is what we do. This is why we were here.

It was going to be a busy 36 hours, but at the end of it we would have two extra . We were not going to gate crash the party, because we couldn’t. We were playing a very dangerous game away from home. We would have to be more clandestine. It was a case of “slowly slowly catchy monkey”. A long time ago, a great tactician told me that people are so scared of Cancer because it is so quite and deadly. It is in there for months, years, moving in , getting bigger and stronger without you knowing, with no warning it will take over your body and become your master. Even if it doesn’t kill you immediately, it will dominate the rest if your life and for ever after you will be its servant. So, like a cancer, we were going to infiltrate the captors compound and when the time was right, quietly and ruthlessly take control.

We had weapons which you might not consider modern or very practical but they are totally silent and very very deadly. It was very dark with no moon due to the heavy rain which is a great advantage plus the rain would keep most sane people inside and if it were to persist would cover any noise of vehicle or boats we make as we moved into the location.

I outlined the basic plan of attack. It was simple. There would be three teams of two men who would actually take part in the assault. Team 1. Was a two man advance party and they would move in tonight from the river. Their job would be to keep the compound under observation and make certain preparations before the rescue tomorrow. They would keep us briefed of any movements and to fine tune the attack plan if necessary. Team 2 & 3 would move in from the flanks the next evening under the cover of darkness under the guidance and direction of team 1. Team 2 &3 would be responsible for disabling vehicles and boats. It would be these two teams that would actually enter the building to extract JR and the Belgian. Team 1 would provide covering support and deal with any enemy support that may come into the area. Extraction from the zone after the rescue would be by boat and or vehicle depending on circumstances. We have all done this type of thing before and we know what is expected and that things often don’t go quite according to plan. It is for this reason the plan is kept brief and fluid.

It was now time to check the kit, which was done in almost total silence under the watchful eye of Boris. That done it was time to acquire a Toyota 4X4 Pickup which along with the VW minivan would be our land transport.

The RIB was to be piloted by Benny the Boat. Ex Royal Marine and SBS there is not much Benny doesn’t know about boats and this kind of deployment. He is a witty bloke and very cool in a crisis. Somebody said that Benny could navigate a log into the jaws of hell without breaking into a sweat. I reckon they are right.would drop the two AP men and then hole up and monitor any radio traffic should there be any from the bad guys over the next 24 hours. The two blokes who would make up the advance party have done this more than a few times before. Quiet and reserved they tend not to say much and border on being unsociable. They slip into their Observation Positions (OP) under the cover of darkness and unleash hell on their unsuspecting targets with a quiet cold clinical precision.

Scouse Git was the man to get us the Toyota. I reminded him I wanted the whole jam jar not just the fucking wheels and radio. Being an accomplished car thief is only half his skill. He is very good driver and very accomplished off road. presummably from trying to escape the old bill in scouse land.

A little before midnight we were ready to get Benny and the advance party to the boat so that they could be deployed to their bug infested OP. Time for the final briefing session and kit check.

That done we were ready. Everyone was quiet and the aura of the assembled men was steady and resolved.

“Right Lads has anyone got any questions?”

“No sir” was the response

And then it was time.

It is this moment that bonds.

It is this moment when the poetic would call us “brothers in arms”.

But really it is the time when we all know we might not see one or all of us alive again.

“Time to go lads. Be lucky””And you boss”

We all stood up and shook hands.

The dogs of war were ready to slip the leash.

Kidnapped 8 – Icarus

Friday, September 14th, 2007

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.

Kidnapped 7 – Fox and Hounds

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

When I got back to the hotel I sent a message across to Cyclops with the info about the hut in the village to see whether he might be able to track something down. I had in mind he might be able to use Google Earth as a starter just to see if he could see anything useful. Sometimes it turns up trumps sometimes it blows out. If it blew out we would have to move in and locate the camp.

The baby sitters and surveillance car were sharing the job of watching O’Hara and we did not know when they would be back. By about 3.30pm everyone else was back at the hotel except the cars so we had a get together to check progress and to watch the video. The shopping trip had gone fairly well and they had managed to locate and hire a suitable rigid inflatable (RIB) and get supplies of nautical equipment and dive gear. Everything was in line with what a dive club would need for a safe trip. They had also hired a container to store everything in and had stocked it up accordingly.

I brought everyone up to speed with what we had been up to and then we watched the video. Getting the hotel to let me borrow a video player had proved a bit harder than you would have thought, but eventually they sorted one out for me. We sat and watched the video again. There is not much to say about the video that I hadn’t said before really. There sat JR, expressionless, looking straight at the camera, talking in a flat non emotional way. But the hands never stopped moving.

The hands.

The movements.

Suddenly I knew.

I didn’t understand but I knew.

The reason I knew but didn’t understand is because I don’t understand sign language.

The crafty bastard was saying one thing but telling us another. What a pro.

Now we needed to find someone who could tell us what he was saying. This was not going to be easy. Maybe its old age and paranoia, but you just never know who is involved with who, so we had to be very careful in who we approached to get this deciphered. I did not want to go to O’Hara for obvious reasons and I was loathe to go to the police or the authorities. They would barge in and cock things up very nicely. Hostage negotiation is a very tricky and delicate matter and rescuing a hostage is fraught with danger for rescuers and hostage.

In the end I figured that our best option was to speak to Mr Platt from the insurance company. Maybe I could appeal to his wallet and Christmas bonus.

Time was against me and there was a good chance he would have left the office for the day by the time I rang, but as it turned out, I was in luck and he was still there. Maybe he works harder than I had given him credit!

I explained to him where I was and what had happened. He listened and then asked what this had to do with him or his company. I explained in words of one syllabub that as he already knew the ransom demand would be made and that as a rule of thumb I thought it would be around the $150,000 mark, give or take. On reflection he should have known this already but I told him anyway. How would his company feel if perhaps we could secure the release of both JR and the Belgian for that sum or maybe less.

“We don’t act for the Belgian so why should we be interested?”

“But somebody does act for him?” I pointed out

“Yes, so I still don’t see what that has got to do with us” He said doggedly.

“Well, I am sure you could enter into dialogue with the company he works for or his insurance company and negotiate a contribution for brokering their clients release.” I said

“Oh I really don’t know that we could” He huffed

“Well look at it his way, you normally pay ransoms….”

“No we don’t , I explained that we …”He interjected rapidly

“Look, I know what you said Mr Platt, but it doesn’t cut any ice with me. However, if you pay us to secure the release you would be paying a legitimate security company for securing the release of yours and their client. That is bound to sit better with the powers that be plus you will actually save money” I said

“How?”

I really had not expected him to be this thick. I spelt it out in simple terms.

“You get 150 grand from the other company, which you pay us, they get their man back and you get your man back for nothing. Plus no bad guys get any money. Politically you can tell everyone who will listen that you have sent a strong message to the bringers of evil etc that crime doesn’t pay etc etc”

“You make a lot of money out of this” He said.

“Not really” I said ” Look we have a team of 10 blokes, travel and accommodation expenses and then there is kit we need to buy and hire plus we do need to get paid you know” To be honest, we would have done it for nothing for JR as he is one of us, but if you can pick up a few bob in the process all the better, and better the money goes in our pockets and than those of some murdering, kidnapping, bad assed dudes.

He said he would ring me back. I didn’t have to wait long. He rang me back in about 5 minutes and told me that we had a deal and we could discuss terms the next day. In the meantime they had an arrangement with an affiliated insurance company where we were and he understood they had someone who could help with reading the sign language.

I rang the number Platt had given me and spoke to a very helpful chap who said I could see a Miss J’kano at 8.30 the next morning.

Cyclops came back to us and said he had had some luck on the building and village but could not be positive. He gave us the name and location of a village, which he thought was the one referred to by the lady I had spoken to. He also told me that he had had contact from the surveillance team. There was not a major problem but the surveillance car was being changed and the baby sitters had taken over watching O’Hara. Apparently they had tried ringing me but could not get through, anyway they would explain all later.

I went for a little amble around the hotel to stretch my legs and on the way back into the reception stopped by the tourist brochures. There were all sorts of goodies on offer including boat trips to see turtles and wild life, and less common to look at the various off shore oil installations. Not the thing of Sir David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries I grant you, but different. For a brief moment, I had an image of some bloke doing a business pitch to his local bank manager about how he was going to get tourists to this inhospitable part of west Africa and then persuade them to part with more wedge to be bounced around in little boats to look at ugly bits of industrial ironmongery. Maybe it was the heat and humidity, but I think it was my knowledge of this country that made me find the whole thing so funny. I started to laugh out loud and drew some worried looks from other people in the lobby. I stifled my guffaws and continued looking at the leaflets and flyers. Alternatively, we could go for a hot air balloon ride. Very popular with people on safari in Kenya, but this was not Kenya. To be honest, the photo of a bunch of grinning, murderous looking Herberts with a decidedly ropey looking balloon did not do much to inspire confidence. In fact one of them looked very much like a black Richard Branson and lets face it, his ballooning efforts have often ended in disaster have they not? However there was one little thing that did catch my eye. It was for plane flights over the area with an experienced crew. I noted the name and number of the company and decided maybe we could do a bit of aerial reconnaissance.

One of the lads rang and spoke to the charter company and arranged a flight for 1pm the next day.

The surveillance car got in about 7pm. They had had a very long day but not without results.

After dropping me off, O’Hara had not gone back to his office, but had driven to a plush neighbourhood. It is easy to forget, that even in place like this, there are places where the very rich live. Despite the picture painted so far in this story there are some very rich people here. This is a land of oil. In fact it is because there are very rich people that the kidnapping business is so lucrative. Anyway O’Hara had gone calling on a man of Middle Easter origin. He was obviously very very rich and had the trappings to go with it. He had very good physical security at the house (cameras, alarms etc) as well as what appeared to be armed men around the perimeter. All the security people were white and from what they saw our lads would have said that the majority were Russians, some French and possibly a couple of Brits. His security included personal protection officers (PPO) and back ups for each of his five children as well as for him and his wives. It would seem that if any family member left the confines of the house it was in a convoy. There was a PPO and back up man in the car with the individual and this car was sandwiched between a lead vehicle and followed by a pursuit vehicle. Very pro set up, you would want to think twice before trying to snatch one of this blokes babies.

So who was this middle eastern man of mystery? Well fortunately for us there was a nice brass plaque outside the house with the gentleman’s name and the address on it. How very helpful. Having been so helpful our lads felt it only fair to stop and take a note of said details. The down side was, that in getting these details, the hire car had been compromised for surveillance purposes. It needed to be changed hence why they baby sitters had taken over the watching role.

Back to the visit by our man O’Hara. He only stayed about 10 minutes and did not look too happy when he left. They followed him to what it would seem was his house. Not as swish as the Arabs but not bad by all accounts. He did not have bodyguards but he did have a reasonable amount of security. There is nothing odd about this in this neck of the woods and despite the fact that I often pooh pooh CCTV and alarms etc in the UK, it is bloody foolish not to have this type of set up in many parts of Africa.

As I said the hire car had been compromised for surveillance and need to be changed. So rather mysteriously it suddenly developed an electrical fault. I am sure you will understand, that they had no choice, but to take it back to the car hire firm who rather reluctantly had replaced it. They were out of basic and only had a small Toyota 4×4. It was a sort of Rav4 thing, but went by a different name I think. Initially, the hire car people said they wanted to charge extra money, but that was soon kicked into touch by our lads said they would ring head office as they not happy at breaking down having only had the car 24 hours and it was giving them stick.

The info that the surveillance team on the Middle Eastern man had gathered was passed to Cyclops.

After our meet it was time to go our separate ways.

We all ate in the hotel but the lads were together and I was on my own as per out plan. I had snatched a couple of books when leaving London and was now reading a novel called “Ralphs Party” by Lisa Jewell. It is a very good book and I was well into it and rather enjoying a bit of time on my own, when my phone rang.

“Target parked at hotel entering reception may be on his way in to see you”

I could see two of the lads had left the table and were hovering at a discreet distance and one other had gone totally, it would seem they had been made aware of the situation as well. That sort of quick action is what makes a good team. There is no room for going on the lash or pissing about, because you never know when trouble will come looking for you. Sometimes its a real bummer because you really feel like necking a few beers, but this is not the time or place. You are here to work.

The next thing who should come striding in but but bloody O’Hara and for some reason he seemed surprised to see me on my own with a paper back propped up in front of me.

“Do you mind if I sit down?” He asked

“Feel free, fancy something to eat?” I said amicably

“Yeah ok, I don’t mind eating here” he said. I suspected this was because it was an American Hotel and not because the food was anything to write home about. Although to be fair the food wasn’t bad. Hark at me restaurant critic, especially when outside the luxury of the hotel there was such poverty and hardship and people starving.

He ordered some food and a drink. He was ill at ease and kept shifting about. Due to my very finely honed people skills I had worked out that he did not like me very much. Can’t think why, but I do seem to have this adverse effect on people.

“We have had a ransom demand” he said in hushed tones

“Oh really how much?” I asked

He looked around like a crap actor in a Mickey mouse spy film

“150” he whispered

“Thousand Dollars I presume” I clarified in an ordinary voice

“Yes of course” he snapped looking round furtively.

“Seems like a lot, because when we first spoke you were asking if I could raise some cash and I was talking in the realms 5 or 10 thousand”

He shifted in his seat and suddenly looked very big and very dangerous

“Look fella that’s about the going rate. I don’t make the rules or set the figures.” He dropped his voice to a hiss “If you’ve got gripes about the price, walk into the swamp and have a chat with these fuckin jungle bunnies over a cup of goddamn tea. I am just tellin you what they have asked for” his eyes were hard and business like but I detected something else. I thought it was fear but maybe it was just a hint of doubt or insecurity. Whatever it was there was a flicker and I did not want to fuel that at this stage.

“OK O’Hara keep your hair on, I get your drift, its just a lot of money that’s all” I carried on eating and he pushed his food about. “How was the demand made?”

“What?”

“How was the demand made?” I reiterated

“Through an intermediary”

“When?”

“This afternoon”

“Was it made to the company”

“Directly to me. Hostages are told to give my name and number”

“So why the intermediary?” I asked

“Well he looks after the other sides interests” O’Hara answered as if it was so obvious.

“Oh yes of course and I suppose he got hold of you at the office because JR and the other bloke had given your details”

“Gee fella I think you might be getting this at last. You’re one hell of a fast learner”

What a fucking surprise all that was. NOT. It could be coincidence of course, but I don’t suppose for a frigging instant that the demand was made at the time O’Hara was making his little house call. It would be just too much to suppose that the intermediary was from the Middle East. The lying sack of shit. But I was happy he had given us a 100% stone bonker lie that could be proved. I said nowt and carried on eating as if in contemplation.

“I see, well I will need to see what I can do about getting funds released and transferred over here. What do we do now?” I said with an air of resignation and defeat.

O’Hara visibly relaxed and ate with a little more enthusiasm.

“Well, err sure of course all that will take some days, but if you can just sit tight and let me know when the funds are available that would be great, in the meantime, I and the intermediary will enter into meaningful dialogue with the kidnappers” He smiled. “I gotta keep the routes of communication open and we have to try to work to a common goal and resolution”

I wanted say “Which means what exactly, ” but didn’t. I now had no doubts that O’Hara was running with both the fox and the hounds.

Kidnapped 6 – Meeting O’Hara

Friday, August 10th, 2007

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.”

Kidnapped 5 – Preparing To Go

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

Officially there have been over 200 reported Kidnappings in N in recent months and nobody had ever been killed. Bollocks, what about the ones the media did not know about? Like JR for instance.

I know this country well and I know how reality and the official line are always fucking poles apart. In February alone there were four people killed in one abduction. A fifth person snatched at the same time was later released but had sustained serious injuries. As it is, I know of three people who have failed to materialise after being kidnapped this year in the self same country. As it was there was no news of JRs abduction any where in the media. I wonder how the powers that be answer that little question.

Our research had established that the ransoms paid were quite a bit higher than the figures mentioned by O’Hara. Mind you, talking of O’Hara, there was still no news from him after 48 hours plus we had lost one signal from JRs positioning services. The good news was that the other had not moved. It was agreed that it was time to press ahead and that we should bite the bullet and go.

Cyclops had established that JR did indeed have what amounts to kidnap insurance. I spoke with a representative of that company. He sounded like a typical Nancy public school boy with fuck all experience of the dirty side of his business. I suspect he had never left his air conditioned office in the city for the rigours of hostage negotiation. He talked fluent jargon and got on my tits after a few minutes.

“So then Mr Platt what are you going to do to get JR released?”

He took a deep breath and launched into a speech that went like this

“Well, we will adopt a strategy in relationship to and in accordance with local enforcements agencies and other interested parties. In addition or crisis managements team will put in place our policy of support and counselling for the family of the hostage and will facilitate negations to ensure a successful resolution of the situation”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Pardon”

“What does all that mean? What are you going to do in real terms?”

“Well, as I said we will…..”

“Mr Platt” I interrupted “I am not interested in job speak. Do you have a dedicated negotiator or representative in the area?”

“Not as such”

“you mean no then.”

“Well err yes I suppose you could say that”

“Are you sending one?

“Well not exactly, there are a couple of people we use locally, but they are freelance and held on retainers. A lot depends on where the incident takes place and who is available”

“I can understand that, but who do you use to secure the release of hostages”

“Well we never get involved directly with the release and the negotiation It depend on the circumstance and the company. The negotiator is usually a third party and we pay their fees. Its very tricky you see because we never pay ransoms as such. But we arrange for funds to be made available to negotiators who pay the fees as they see fit.”

“How much do you expect to pay?” I asked

“I cant possibly tell you that” He spluttered.

“Why not?”

“Well because its err well erm not done is it?”

“I don’t know Mr Platt you’re the insurance man you tell me” I said

There was silence for a few seconds.

“It is just not done” He said flatly and firmly.

Well that was as clear as mud. So, as I understand it the insurance people don’t pay a ransom. They pay a third party a fee plus out of pocket expenses for information or whatever they want to call it. The third party resolves the issue by paying the kidnappers.

I wanted to go on and ask Mr Platt if they would pay somebody other than their usual negotiators to locate JR and secure his release but decided against it as I did not know where he and O’Hara would fit together. I didn’t suspect any naughtiness on Mr Platts part at this point, but I just did not want to overplay my hand. I got the feeling my call was interrupting his fagging of the office junior, who was probably toasting crumpets or something very Tom Brown school dayish.

 

The good news was that Tom Cook had sorted flights and hotels plus everything was in place for visas for us and they would ready for collection. We would be able to go the next day. We were to be travelling as a scuba club to look at marine life and especially for large Manta Rays and turtles which nest along the coast line. To this end we had packed bits of Mickey Mouse diving paraphernalia such as gloves, regulators, masks and a few other bits and bobs. Nothing too expensive you understand, as we did not want and really good gear to be “confiscated” by those naughty little customs chappies. It’s an old African custom you know.

With out hotel reservations sorted it was time to go shopping on t’internet and to get some goodies sent to out hotel that I really did not want to take in my luggage. I had to hope that UPS or TNT or whoever were up to getting the stuff to us pdq. It is a lottery but there is fuck all choice in these circumstances.

Although we were all travelling together, only I was going to see O’Hara. I had no intention of announcing my arrival and wanted to keep that as a surprise and to see if it acted as a catalyst. Some of the team would baby sit me and he rest would keep his nibs under surveillance. I really wanted to see what O’Hara was up to. We would be on the ground for a day or so before we started looking for JR and trouble.

Time to kiss those tear filled Estonian eyes goodbye.