Copyright © Arno Le Roux 2017.
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronically, electrostatic magnetic tape or mechanically; including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the author. Although this is a fictional work, both the locations, organisations and events are factual. The characters and times in the story line are fictional; therefore, all resemblances to actual people present or past are purely coincidental. Should you wish to contact the Author: [email protected]
About the author
South African born Arno Le Roux is affiliated with a number of charities and he has a long history with and still has some affiliations with both the Finance-, Banking- and Insurance Industries; as well as his past career in the Safety and Security Sector, where his activities revolved around crime prevention, pathology, Serious Economic Offences investigations, intelligence gathering, Riot and Crowd Control Units, commercial and military firearm & ammunition identification, etc. As a part time consultant in an advisory capacity to his past and proud career, he also holds various impressive honours and awards within these sectors. Furthermore, he is a Certified Realtor dealing in both commercial and residential properties. His passion for the mechanics of corporates and commerce, religious history, pathology and psychology are interwoven in his fiction.
“Concentrate every minute like a Roman— like a man— on doing what’s in front of you with precise and genuine seriousness, tenderly, willingly, with justice. Freeing yourself from all other distractions…” – Marcus Aurelius.
After the telecoms-, energy- and food investment sectors, the rapidly multiplying global security world, is by far – for serious investors with a large risk appetite, coming in vogue. The anxious lapping up of plots of the globe that it aims to dominate, pages one back to the frantic gold rushes of yesteryear. Investor buzz words such as ‘increasing demand for security’, ‘upbeat growth prospects’ and ‘resilient’, are all often discovered, standing at attention, in high-level investing prospectuses. Feeding off our perceptive paramount need for privacy and safety, this sector has taken on the characteristics of a growing-mutating-kicking and screaming tentacled organism, with its tentacles strangling new players with impunity.
Anne, again for a strangely but refreshing, although somewhat untimely change, found herself many timezones away from the addictive peaceful tranquility that had become home in recent years. She craved her desolate all-year warm, waterlogged personal and obscured sandcastle, with its elliptic five hectare stretch, caressed by eternal shallow foamy turquoise waves. None but her, and her experiments, were witnesses to the repeated round-the-clock rinsing of her lily white beach, caging in multiple dense green island growth layers, obscuring both the paved heli-pad and subterranean laboratory. Her natural alarm system, could be property appreciated only via satellite. What was home, was center to uncharted three-thousand meters of deep blue saline waters, skinned by a balanced mix of bellowing turquoise water as it morphed into silky white foam – from where nature’s paint brush gravitated ninety degrees straight down through the deeper royal blue waters and anchoring itself on the blackest black basin, teaming with starving eye-less creatures, who for eons, were too occupied feasting on their own kind or whatever moved when bumping into it. Rudely cut off from the rest of the ocean by tremendous pressure, they apparently decided to get back at nature, by hard-headedly resisting the temptation to evolve over eons. On the surface, and acting as a lookout post of sorts – were endlessly jagged rows of razor tipped reefs, staggered to now-and-then peer through unassuming cool splashes. From sunrise till sunset, never missing a beat, even during the darkest storms mother earth lambasted Anne’s home with on occasion, and patrolling with hungry determination, following alongside the inner deeper walls of the widening-out concentric tanned coral reefs, were Anne’s fitting versions of committed guard dogs. Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos. Experts would point out quick that baby Gray reef sharks out here, would be suffering from a severe case of homesickness. But on closer inspection, would have to admit that these ones shouldn’t rightfully occupy the waters of their cousins, nor any other waters for that matter. Nor would experts approve of six meter long ‘babies’, as the norm for mother nature’s grand design. Broad rounded snouts; with their first dorsal just in front of the free rear tips of the pectoral fins and absent interdorsal, was a fashion statement reserved only to be paraded on a this otherworldly stage of human interference of a five hectare stretch of land in the middle of virtually nowhere – that is nowhere to be paid even an authorised visited – and then, only by long-range helicopter. As it permitted safe passage to the island only by air, it allowed her the unhindered research and solitude that only the back of the world could offer. Anne was itching with curiosity as to how her new recruits chose their stock and how exactly the end-user’s certificates for the armament orders they had placed, would be issued. Thirty capable individuals had applied for a mission to replace a 12-member squad that had mysteriously disappeared into thin air recently, and things on the untamed and now also unnamed island was precarious to say the least…
“Angus I think we can turn back to the shore now. Looks like the boys were hungry. Also, I didn’t bring sunscreen, it’s going to be a hot one today.” Anne tugged twice on her wide brimmed old-Angolan camouflaged hat slightly, preventing the warming morning sun from blinding her, and turned her head to spot the beach. Proof that the eastern fireball didn’t take kindly to its ignored warnings a day before, the terrified man in the back was careful not to dare touch his blistered face or glowing swollen fore arms. Yet, he preferred the state he was in – pain for him meant he was alive. Hovering a few inches above his sun-stroked head was a too see-through baseball cap that he pirated off a presumably lost yacht that was in no apparent hurry on its way down to the curious but blind ocean-basement dwellers that would poke at it, waiting with ready and poisonous probes – to detect the slightest of heat signature before the ‘kitchen would be announced open for business’. Back at the surface, far away from the abyss where death has never learnt of alien things like sound, a petrol powered stainless steel propeller was heeding Anne’s every command and purposefully whisking oxygen back into the turquoise haze. The speedboat was already two-hundred meters east from the last few muted swearing and moaning aperitifs that found themselves roughly separated into more manageable pieces by not so sympathetic chefs. The last of the splashing of silver-grey fins had just submarined deeper to investigate how her babies were getting on in the playroom. A platoon of genetically modified and impatient swimmers were convinced that there must have been at least one snack that escaped the bezirk washing machine-like frenzy, when they were summoned to dine.
Unlike her librarian twin sister, Anne always thought of herself as the original Anne. Ironically named Anne-1 and Anne-2 by the Russian couple who ran the orphanage when they eventually discovered a way to tell the bossy twins apart – Anne-1 had a birthmark in the shape of faint wing to the left of her spine and strangely Anne-2, similar, but to the right of her spine. Anne-1 was the result of too much sun, too much of her life spent on shooting ranges and flying mercenaries in and out of Angola and lastly, of emptying packets of 20 Camel filters – that already at the age of 23 – it was said – if she had to stand-in for a coal fueled locomotive on a busy platform, no one would notice anything was amiss. Bravely having fought off skin cancer as well as lung cancer on and off for fifteen grueling years, she was still fitter than men who could be her grandsons, and as as tough as nails… old ones that could be hammered into concrete and they’d blankly refuse bending or even suffer a measure of bluntness. In as much pain as the man in the back of the fleeting boat was, he sacrificed absorbing more of the picturesque landscape, as they were fast approaching the beach – to awe Anne’s genius sidestepping of still swelling low waves that could be swelling into bigger ones.
“You ok there?”
Forcing his eyes closed as his cramped hand clamping the hovering cap accidentally banged against his burnt forehead – when they crashed through a wave he wasn’t expecting – he figured he seemed to have sinned in her cold blue eyes that darted at him as she briefly flashed her head back and instantly faced through the salty ocean spray on the vibrating windshield again. He overused the F-word in rapid-fire fashion, and she strongly disapproved. Judging from her seeming effortless steering, he was sure this time it was punishment for the second time he must have sinned, as she already burnt a warning stare in his direction the first time.
“Coping, thank you Anne.” But coping was he was not. Between a choice of one-hundred-thousand dollars and not experiencing this level of sunburn, he’d much rather be stuck with a minus sixty-five dollar bank balance. In an attempt to focus on something other than his hellish inconvenience as he shook about in the back, or having just been sentenced to deletion of his whole personal dictionary of favourite words – he was however overjoyed that he was on her side. He offered her a respectful nod and smiled, then allowed his gaze to get lost, counting the foamy low waves back to the waiting white beach sand.
“Don’t you think by finishing the hardest work early, it frees up the day and we end up being more productive Angus. Or is it just me?” Anne said, not for the first time, much in her rhetorical way. Angus nodded in forced agreement and smiled, lifted his sunglasses so she could see him, then lowered them again.
Had one not known her better, one would be pardoned for stereotyping old spectacled grey haired Anne with her peculiar solid brass walking stick by her side, as someone living out her golden years under blissful nostalgia, playing poker for cookies and page through old photo albums of people who either passed on, or whom still pass the old age home, but were too busy to visit.
Not having missed her taxing hour-long rowing session followed by a brisk 5km early run in forty years, at heart she was still the outdoor-loving farm-girl in love with flying lessons – turned sailor – of decades before. But global politics mimicked commerce and prevailing technology, and forced people like Anne into buried obscurity…
WINTER, the French Security Expo at 8am, and droves of curious, overly talkative crowds were seeking warmth. Like thousands of moths being drawn to the mesmerizing warmth of a single lonely flame, the elated visiting crowds were squashed through the bottleneck at the doorway. Anne thought of the irony of an international Security Expo held, designed with the the worst of flaws. Only a single access controlled point had been offering access, followed by a lengthy narrow passage for the masses of excited invitees.
‘For a Security Expo, they really didn’t think this one through…’ Anne thought as she pinched her handbag tighter under her arm.
“Joyeux Anniversair!” A twenty-something mother right next to her, excitedly shouted an apparent friend; whose birthday it had been, closer, and in the exultant kissing and hugging, momentarily let go of her boy’s little hand.
“Dammit!” Anne came up from a bent position where she had in a flash, pulled the woman’s toddler up by his upper arm. The little guy had tripped over the loose cuffed end of the large rubbery carpet; placed to wipe snow off the visitor’s boots, and he had almost been trampled by the fast advancing masses behind them.
“Excusez moi!?” Anne pulled at the father’s sleeve, then in a sudden reflex, blocked his blow with her bonier than expected elbow – poking a well directed stingingly sharp pain into his forearm. The humiliated father and husband; who at the time had just about enough of the pushing crowd, swung a blow in Anne’s direction, and realised too late that Anne had actually saved their son. The red-faced man was making up his mind still, on whether he should hope to relieve the intense pain with a good few deep rubs of his forearm, or whether his shin; that had an unpleasant taste of Anne’s walking stick while he was still pulling his arm back to land his blow, warranted his sympathy more.
“Merci, merci, merci…!” Both parents thanked quick responding Anne while husband was only too relieved to hide his shame in the crowd.
‘Apparently there had been a lesson or two that I missed at the boxing club over many years’. He thought, and smiled at the odd occurrence and how his friends would react on hearing of the embarrassing ordeal. He quickly changed his mind, as it wouldn’t be one of the things he would brag over a few beers with his rough mates. They drifted part from Anne as the ocean of visitors diverged between the food stalls, exhibition centre stalls and the VIP’s queueing up outside the auditorium.
“Merci!” She heard the grateful mother repeat her thankfulness over the loud humming chatter before they were swamped into the warmly dressed crowd.
To the right of Anne, having passed the first of many glamorous lit up stalls, she thought how typical it had been of most exhibitions of this nature – The endless noisy queues, housed the “fans”, while the rest were grouped in bundles, occupying the aromatic food stalls. Anne referred to these gun fans jokingly as the tyre-kickers of the arms and surveillance industries. The welcoming warmth inside had many remove their coats which hung annoyingly over their arms as they battled to cram more glossy brochures into their files, while others that had previously visited, paid for lockers to safeguard valuables and excess documentation. She passed the lively but serious looking small group of fit and tattooed attendees; displaying navy, infantry or other well earned permanent logos, who she overheard asking about delivery time frames mainly, while openly hinting at discounted prices based on volume.
‘The home of the ex-gladiators’. Anne thought while looking at the expert manner an assortment of gadgets were tried, fitted and inspected for familiar factory faults having been adapted and improved.
Some invitees were merely missing the technology and action, while others typically posed as exporters while on the payroll of government-front businesses.
'Modern infantry as well as cyber warfare insured there had been adequate (black) missions where there had been unfinished business.' She quietly thought and swallowed her smile as she saw a well tanned man in a neatly trimmed full beard folding an American Remington- then a Finnish Lapua ammunition dealer's business card lengthwise in half and pass ed it to his friend to his right. The earlier night vision stall that the man had visited, he had in similar fashion handed a card to the man to his left, but that time, folded it width-wise in half.
‘So that’s his family. I was quite specific that attachments such as family would not be a plus…’ She recognised the man from earlier when his wife and his’ gratitude were drowned by the fast propelling current of curious visitors.
“Ah! Désolé…” The man had earlier pointed his finger to a device for sale and turned to his friend to remark on the Austrian assignment of small arms displayed underneath the glass counter, but then noticed Anne behind them. He immediately apologised and pulled his two colleagues back as they were obstructing her view of the overhead TV screen on the wall, announcing the time of the naval presentation in the auditorium.
“Thank you again, Madamoiselle.” He had opened his arms wide, waiting for permission to give Anne a thank-you-hug.
“Of course, Pas de problem” (No problem) She winked and smiled at his decency and allowed for his long warm hug.
“I’m Emile… Ma’am, I’m curious, please forgive me, but are you here with your husband? I’d like to have the pleasure of both your company, maybe buy you something warm to drink or breakfast?” He politely enquired in a French accent and introduced his crew as his old school friends.
“Yes, actually I am, I’m afraid I lost him at the door, he’s an ammunition collector.” Anne lied the same lie that she used for a very long time. It wasn’t any business of the man who she was, but apparently that didn’t prevent her humour to surface.
“Tell me, I’ve seen these plastic looking ones, may I ask you something?” Her curious attempt to get information from him after what She him doing with the business cards.
“Of course, I think I owe you more than that. Please.” He nodded.
“Can they be taken apart? My Tommy never let’s me touch his guns. He says these look like tupperware… because they’re made from plastic, but that they’re very dangerous. Are these the ones with no safety catch?” Her second lie in less than a minute, and she had almost gave the game away.
“Pardon?” Emile, waved one of the Glock factory’s staff over and asked that the man hand him the largest looking one, a 9mm Glock 17L.
“Of course he’d ask for the biggest one.’ And Anne fought hard not to smile.
“It’s really not all plastic, only the receiver, or frame…, it’s called Polymer and it has hardened metal grooves inserted where the slide runs back on…” Emile pointed with his finger where the slide would run back after a shot had been discharged and pushed forward again by the recoil rod’s inherent insistence to snap back to its original form – an subsequent inserting the following round into the chamber from the magazine. He moved the slide back to commence disassembling the weapon.
“So, its really durable Polymer with hardened steel inserts only where needed…” He patiently continued pointing to the various parts including the all-in-one recoil rod and spring, and allowed for pauses in between his expert demonstration, had she any questions. His detailed information sharing ended by explaining the differences between both single-action and double action fire arms, and that the Austrian Glock had in fact a safe-action. Emile allowed Anne to hold and inspect the various parts while he continued a brief discussion with his colleagues and the salesman from the Glock factory. The discussion pivoted around semi-automatic and full-automatic military style arms.
“Ouch.” Anne uttered quietly under her breath as pushed the trigger housing pin out by utilising the end of the magazine spring, then forced into place her personal slightly modified trigger housing that hung unassumingly on her key chain.
‘At a few degrees less, the adapted trigger housing made all the difference’. Anne made sure it went by unnoticed and pocketed the other one. Within a mere few seconds the Glock 17L was fully assembled and she placed it neatly back in its case, then search on her phone for something.
“Sorry?” Anne pulled at Emile’s sleeve and jokingly stood back half a step as if to miss a blow, in case he was about to swipe his arm indiscriminately again.
Emile let out a deep laugh “You’re a fast learner.” And decided to pocket his ego and relay his meeting with her to his friends – met by a combination of frowns and smiles and finally a firm handshake by both.
‘Fast learner? You have no idea…’ Anne thought, advertising her smile.
“Merde!” Emile’s colleague pointed out to the firearm in front of her and exclaimed as he noticed she had in the shortest time possible, fully assembled it. In awe the men stared at her and alternated their looks between the assembled Glock 17L, and each other. Unseen by the men, the salesman winked at her. His old friend was back apparently.
“Oh, I was just wondering if I’d be allowed to try it on the shooting range? You know, to see how it handles?” It was a mere improvised act to suss out more about the men.
The men loudly slapped their legs in utter non-stop laughter, taking their time to compose themselves, while repeating her comment (how it handles) a few times.
“Thank you for making our day, but are you serious?” The man from the factory played along, frowning his best convincing frown and staring at the older woman.
“The Glocks are the best point-and-shoot “off the shelf” ones around Ma’am, its a fact.” Was the sales pitch which came from behind the counter, as the man had extended his arm and demonstrated the angle of a naturally free pointing hand and the angle via the wrist towards one’s forearm and target ahead.
“Ammunition for each of you, it’s on us.” And the man behind the counter placed thirteen rounds for each down in a small square transparent box that he slid across the glass counter top. A curious colleague of the factory technician heard his manager, stood closer after being waved over, and removed four targets with attacker silhouettes printed on them.
“Worst marksman-… or lady, buys the breakfast, yes…?” The younger man behind the counter remarked with a mischievous smile, while rubbing his hands. Again, the men all burst out in a fit of laughter.
“Ladies first.” Emile suggested and ushered with his hand that she continued first, around the back of the sales counter towards the closed doors that separated the busy stall from the glassed off shooting range.
“Nice to see you my old friend, it’s been too long.” Arriving back from the front end of the range, having set the targets separately, one in each of four lanes, the factory technician took position behind her. As if briefing her on shooting range procedures, he put the hearing protectors over her head, all the while memorising her armament order she was discussing.
Anne squeezed the trigger four times. Each time while she slowly exhaled, after a deep inhale in-between. Astonished looks replaced the loud chit-chat in the arms stall outside the shooting range.
A large portion of the deafening echo of four separated, three-shot-automatic-bursts rang out to the surprised audience outside, while the rest of the automatic echo bounced off the carpeted sound-absorbing walls inside, followed by total silence. The seemingly bewildered factory technician took the Glock pistol from Anne, removed the empty magazine and cleared the last round from the chamber. He then inspected the pistol by removing the slide – with his back towards the audience outside the glassed-off range. After he forced the factory-standard trigger assembly back into its original position, he pulled the slide back over the frame and showed a thumbs-up to his colleagues and wide-eyed audience outside. Outside in the shop, a button was pushed and Anne’s target glided closer.
“Ok, twelve shots, and she hit the target three times. Not bad for a beginner…” The men shared a giggle then looked up at the red electronic display that had indicated the total hit-and-miss rate for the ammunition used.
“You got the target!” The men applauded her by clapping as Anne exited, hearing protectors in hand, and answering her phone which just rang out Queen’s another One Bites The Dust. By then the men were finished and held their sides as the laughter had just become too much, and they allowed her to pass for some privacy during her call.
With Anne still on her mobile phone, the three other men strode into the range to inspect the Glock the technician had held out to show that there had been no fault with it. The uncommon three-shot-bursts, squeezed off by the older woman had the men totally baffled as it had been a known fact that the pistol had been a semi-automatic, allowing for a single discharge only, with each squeeze of the trigger.
Of all people, Anne knew that there are two kinds of people when it came to commercial and military style arms and ammunition. The one knew everything there was to know about published reloading and ballistic trajectories of bullets, even accurate data on the impact at various distances for sniping. But those were not the men, and on occasion a few Israeli and Russian women she required for recruiting. What people like Anne was looking for, were the ones skilled in applying the correct pressure to not-so-well-known points to minimise severe blood-loss, thorough knowledge of the difference between the temporary wound cavity of a gunshot wound versus the more desirable permanent damage of a short and inconspicuous blade, and lastly, the handful of creative ones, that have been amidst a conflict and have figured out for survival sake, with the assistance of a regular nail clipper or paperclip, to change a regular commercial semi-automatic automatic pistol, into a fully automatic device to invite death in a clean and repeated fashion. If these men had an idea what she had done, they would be the ones behind the dark doors she was hoping to knock on, quietly.
Just then, prior to handing each their hearing protectors, the technician motioned to his colleague outside to bring all the targets up, in case the woman had missed her’s but punched holes into theirs.
“What the…” The three French men were dumbfounded and walked right up to their targets to rub their fingers over the holes Anne had punched through. Their was nothing indiscriminate about her shooting they learned, as not a single round had been waisted. Each target had been punched no less than three times, each with well placed and most peculiar holes, in identical fashion. The lowest was, what would have been a wound cavity between the groin and inner-thigh, ensuring major blood loss – had the target been human – it would have presented a severed main artery, just below where even a low reaching bullet proof vest neglected cover. The second one had been centre-of-mass, in the heart, and third, had been positioned right between the eyes. The men stared at each other, and back at the technician again, who replied with a head shaking from side to side and almost indifferent shrugging shoulders. Turning their heads to the back, outside the protective glass where they last spotted Anne, they discovered she had apparently left during her call. Anne saw what she needed to see and she was unimpressed.
“Possibly kind men, mixed with a measure of macho-ness – Rejected…” Would be her valuation on their declined applications.
The expansive dark red and thickly carpeted auditorium that had been sparsely filled and was a “by invitation only” event, and the dimming stage spotlights had it slowly changed colour as expensively suited men slowly entered. Most were paging brochures on the latest hi-tech gadgetry and satellite tracking.
Closing a booklet on Global Positioning Systems, Anne breathed deep and sighed as she hoped to wish back the old days of improvisation, before technology replaced ingenuity and creativity. A few slow but absent minded patient wipes and her thin-framed reading spectacles were clean again. She glanced down to the glossy program and brochures on her lap, with 5 minutes remaining prior to the presentation and she continued adding the manufacturer’s details from both the muzzle suppressor booklet as well as the long range .338 Lapua Magnum ammunition brochures, to her mobile contact list.
As her old habit demanded of her, she attentively scanned the auditorium around her from right to left, looking for familiar faces as she’d been doing for many years.
Apart from a limited number of government officials; whose memory still served them well, she managed to locate two hardened ex KGB officers, a Chinese counterpart, a stand-in for Korea and a handful of mixed, South African, Greek, and English ex-naval officers, just as the projector lights bounced off the silver curtain, lighting the area then dimming again.
“I do apologise Ma’am.” A seemingly embarrassed clean-cut, thirty-something man went down on one knee.
‘Fine specimen, it really seems like someone who spends a lot of time in the sun.’ She thought and then smiled as he almost in a servant-like way started collecting what soon morphed into a heap of exhibition pamphlets, that he caused to fall from her lap as he attempted passing her.
“In a rush are we?” Anne smiled and leaned forward to assist.
“Personally I’d suggest a “small-of-back holster for better concealed carry…” An she put out her hand smiling.
“Anne.” She offered her hand.
“Angus the second.” The man replied and unusually winked at her. He repeatedly turned his head back as if looking for someone and faced her again, then pulled on his jacket behind his left hip and covered the butt of his pistol.
“You’re very observant.” He let out as his eyes darted past Anne into the mingling crowd that had formed below on the ground level, apparently still searching for someone.
“Thank you young man, if you keep your girlfriend waiting, you’re bound to bump into someone else.”
“Girlfriend? I wish my time was my own, like that.” And he kept searching.
“Mind if I…?” He pointed to the vacant seat to her right.
“Please do.” Anne, politely lifted her heavy black canvass handbag and moved it over to the empty seat on the opposite side as the lights adjusted dimmer and blacked out.
The action packed thirty minute introduction film to the newly assembled SPES-Corp that had lit up the auditorium, had the entire audience at the edge of their seats. Anne noted how familiar looks were shared back and forth as portfolio managers of hedge funds as well as private investors made frame-for-frame notes on both prospective pre- and post political-turmoil-financing opportunities.
SPES-Corp miraculously managed to pull itself up withing three grim years from infamous beginnings in Angola and other mineral rich countries, having trained and equipped rebel groups and recruited new and upcoming political activists. Although on the ground, dreadful political chaos seemingly reigned, Anne knew the process had been perfected elsewhere, and duplicated with lucrative future rewards for anxious investors and mercenary groups alike. The age of both information and disinformation had dawned, but the world had only turned slightly to make itself more comfortable for a longer deeper outside sleep…
Their infamous octopus-like acronym “GIDEON” was never boasted as being their true backbone in their promising investment prospectus, but for Anne, it was crystal clear.
athering of (I)ntelligence,
issemination of political propaganda for forced elections via campus level recruitment,
quipping and training of rebel groups, and the,
(O) And “N” that had been known only to the handful who shared the security-clearance that Anne had.
‘Overthrowing a government is such an ugly term’. Anne thought as she confirmed payment from her mobile handset to an American charismatic religious group who had been readying a small handful of missionaries who passed their Theology studies Cum-Laude.
‘Old school…’ Anne told herself.
“You’re going to fire Anne, to save money!?” Irate Angus stood, with his clenched fists pushing down hard on the bottom-end of a large rectangular concrete slab balancing on dusty building bricks, that had served as a make-shift boardroom table. A chilled breeze pushed through the concrete-pillared windowless eighth floor of an unfinished high rise office building in Sandton. Trust issues especially amongst the world’s captains of industry demanded obscure venues, away from prying eyes.
“The one person whom you trust with the timing of your future wealth, not to mention your every political and business secret, and need I mention the outranking of all of that… your lives, that she protected up to now? That’s your idea of saving money? Your idiotic inclusion of her aptness… of this ‘asset’ as a mere figure on this group’s balance sheet? Have you lost it? All of you?”
Angus put both hands deep in his coat pockets and stared down at his highly polished shoes. Having looked up again at the twelve arrogant members who demanded a greater share, he opened his black leather briefcase; that he had placed neatly on his’ side of the concrete slab, and produced a thick roll of transparent plastic.
“What… What’s that for?” The inquisitiveness of the Texan oil man got the better of him and stood up for a better look.
“We’re not scared you skinny Englishman, we know what she does on the island, the babies, the adults… we know where it is. We’ve been working ourselves stupid for a month there. We know exactly how to get there if we wanted to. Either we share her research and the profits or you both get exposed before that rising sun sets today. By the way we were supposed to meet this SPES-Corp board, they’re late, where are they? The man that had threatened Angus was still pointing in the direction of the rising sun.
“Renovations… it is a building site…” Angus nonchalantly replied to the Texan while purposely ignoring the rough looking almost seven foot ex-Speznatz soldier. The vein on the man’s neck was starting to show, and the last thing Angus wanted was going toe to toe with this Russian scar-faced giant. A brief glance as Angus inspected the man’s bear sized hands, made him realize that time was of the essence, he continued unrolling the double folded sheet of thick plastic effortlessly and walked over to the chair that the Texan had sat on, then looking at it, returned, and he pulled the sheet straight on the dusty floor behind him.
“Look over there, East.” Angus had the entire curious group face east while the larger than life Texan exchanged a nervous look with the Russian. Angus had pointed; into the blinding South African morning the sun that had just peered over the top of a high rise more than a kilometre up the road, with his mobile phone.
“I’m mere inches away from you. This, in Anne’s world, is what she’d call trust…”
“The members of SPES-Corp’s board had swapped with you. They insisted on a visit to the island, to satisfy themselves that the results of the research had been true. After a standoff with Anne, there was an altercation. We all went for a ride on the waves… But in the interest of time let me download you the express version…” Angus looked at the men who were already uneasily moving around on their chairs.
“The board members never… returned…” As Angus paused, he briefly eyed his wristwatch, then in a faster tempo continued his addressing them.
“I realise that this is not what you want to hear, but there is a reason why you entered South Africa with those passports”. He pointed to the heap of official documents from all over the world, that he asked be collected at the outset of the meeting.
“Those are the passports of the men who couldn’t make it today as the Pacific ocean had an apparent greater appeal. No doubt a great many institutions are still searching for them, and would employ vast resources to continue doing so. People don’t just vanish… Or so I’m told.
Had you all been a little less greedy, you all would have been in the Pacific on a yacht today, having been paid even more than what you set out to earn.
And ironically, the members of SPES-Corp would have been here today. You know it took Anne a while to have this place bought, demolished, re-designed, and now more than half way built. It’s probably irrelevant, but for one or some of you… It’s really not up to me… may have a clearer understanding of the need for privacy and security in matters such as our research… after today I mean.
The mutations of the various plant and animal species that you had witnessed on the island is incomparable to the babies on the other island. It’s a ‘fast-forwared’ version of your grand children, in less than a hundred years from now, should the genetically modified food or rather seed-process continue. We hold our privacy in high regard, and obviously take a threat to expose us, in a very serious light.
Yes, we are a well funded vigilante group, but we can’t afford to continue recklessly over the horizon on an unchartered route where the public is exposed in their billions, suffering all sorts of unexplained cancers. It’s up to us to let it out, but we needed proof first.” Angus again adjusted his tie.
“Better get on with it then…” As if the perplexed special forces members had a dark suspicion of the cold-hearted fate that awaited one or more, they all had secretly hoped it would be the Texan. Not knowing which direction the imminent sentence would be delivered from, all remained motionlessly glued to their seats, exchanging petrified stares. Angus walked back to his suitcase, lifted his mobile phone and dialed on speaker.
“Yes?” It was the unmistakable frail sounding voice of Anne Fouche’, and every member recognised her. Somewhere downstairs a diesel engine had switched on, and in a few seconds it had churned a series of terrible mechanical coughs, before it was heard spitting out an out-of-timing repetitive idle. Around the table the arrogant men of a few minutes before were looking at Angus and around the vast empty pillared and incomplete floor for a clue as to what would follow.
“I can tell you that it’s breezy up here on the eight floor, but I really can’t imagine…” Those were the last earthly sounds that the uneasy men around the concrete slab heard before one after the other fell either forward or back in their chairs. Some stared emotionless and still at the loosely hanging overhead electrical wires and three of them had fallen face down, connecting their faces with the slab in front of them, resulting in bone-crushing echoes.
“Pardon the theatrics Hough, but we didn’t want you around that slab.” It was Anne’s voice.
“Mind if you help Angus clean up Hugh? I’m sure it’s quite a mess over there.” Anne continued.
“Don’t you think by finishing the hardest work early, it frees up the day and we end up being more productive Angus. Or is it just me?” Anne asked. Hugh hated those words as much as he had when they disposed of the CEO’s two coral reefs west of the horrid island.
“Can’t disagree Anne… See you soon. Take care.” Angus answered as he walked over to the wide meter square gap leading all the way down past the ground floor and into the multi-level basement parking area. He pointed from the edge at the centre of the eighth floor next to where the winding stairs and the two elevator shafts would later be completed.
“That will be the atrium, decorated with a great variety of plants, undergrowth, and a palm tree all the way down there. It will be sealed off with blueish-green tinted glass from there, all the way past us and up to the eighty-eight floor up there. Almost giving the impression that it’s a tall vertical crystal protected by the enveloping building. Only from the very top however, will the full picture be clear, ironically. It’s going to be an architectural masterpiece. Come see…” The calm demeanor that Angus had displayed earlier during the distant sniping, just as he had been pointing to the deep hole many stories below while balancing precariously at the very edge, horrified the Texan who took small carefully measured steps in his direction towards the edge.
“That hole down there next to that ugly yellow concrete mixer is twelve meters deep.” Pointing far below, Angus followed the street to the entrance of the expansive basement parking area leading to the many subterranean levels.
“Almost four storeys. It’s not on the plans, the genius architect is one of ours. Shall we…?” Angus motioned with his hand back to the lifeless men on their chairs, all with horrific gaping wounds to their heads.
“You are suggesting that we push them over the edge, let them drop into that hole and cover them up with concrete?” The Texan acted as if he wasn’t sure but knew there was no other logical way for the day to progress from there.
“Well yes, we can’t exactly put them on the first place out of Johannesburg, can we now?” Angus frowned.
“Do I have a choice?” The Texan dared.
“But of course Hough, like I said that hole is very, very deep, and the concrete is almost ready. In life, we always have choices.” The Texan looked frowning at Angus, unsure whether it was underlying sarcasm during the most inopportune time.
Having coldly and severely dealt with the impending breech in security, the heavy lifeless bodies, in turn, were dragged up to the edge of the windy eighth floor, and sent plummeting to their unusual and unceremonious burial.
“Or would it sound better to congratulate you on your appointment as head of SPES-Corp?” Angus’s words turned cold as he paused after his complimentary question. Experiencing an uncomfortable itch on his throat, that had instantly morphed into a terrible hot burn, he turned facing the Texan oil mogul. The well tanned man was clasping a small pocket knife with an open blade not two inches long. The hot fire-like burn to his throat was unexplainable. Then noticing the red oozing liquid, Angus tried with both hands to put pressure on the laceration to prevent or limit the heavy spurts or bright red blood.
“I’m Angus 2. Anne sends her apologies. Now about those recordings of the location of the island…”